Nature and Western Religion
Run by School of History, Law and Social Sciences
20.000 Credits or 10.000 ECTS Credits
Overall aims and purpose
Students will be introduced to various aspects of the relationship between religion and the perception of nature in the Western world. Considering the accusation that Christian thought has been instrumental in creating present-day environmental problems, the module will examine Christianity’s historical relationship with the natural world. Attention will be given to the human relationship with nature presented in biblical texts and medieval Christian theology, as well as the development of alternative religious responses to contemporary environmentalism such as those associated with the Gaia hypothesis. The module will additionally seek to demonstrate how, with regard to specific issues such as climate change and nuclear technology, political and religious aspects of the debate have become deeply intertwined.
In 1967 Lynn White published an influential article accusing Christianity of being significantly responsible for the environmental problems beginning to be perceived in the West. The module will consider the responses of Christianity to this suggestion and will examine its historical relationship with the natural world. Focus will also be placed upon a variety of other interactions between religion and environmentalism that have taken place in the Western world, including those associated with James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis. Specific areas of environmental concern, such as climate change and nuclear technology will be considered in terms of their relationship with religious discussion and attention will be given to the complex interaction of politics, environmentalism and religion within this area of debate.
D- - D +. Submitted work is adequate and shows an acceptable level of competence as follows:
Generally accurate but with omissions and errors. Assertions are made without clear supporting evidence or reasoning. Has structure but is lacking in clarity and therefore relies on the reader to make links and assumptions. Draws on a relatively narrow range of material.
Good C- - C +. Submitted work is competent throughout and occasionally distinguished by superior style, approach and choice of supporting materials. It demonstrates: Good structure and logically developed arguments. At least in parts draws on material that has been sourced and assessed as a result of independent study, or in a way unique to the student. Assertions are, in the main, backed by evidence and sound reasoning. Accuracy and presentation in an appropriate academic style.
Very Good B- - B+. Submitted work is competent throughout and distinguished by superior style, approach and choice of supporting materials. It demonstrates: Very good structure and logically developed arguments. Draws on material that has been sourced and assessed as a result of independent study, or in a way unique to the student. Assertions are backed by evidence and sound reasoning. Accuracy and presentation in an appropriate academic style.
A - - A*. Submitted work is of an outstanding quality and excellent in one or more of the following ways: Has originality of exposition with the student’s own thinking being readily apparent. Provides clear evidence of extensive and relevant independent study. Arguments are laid down with clarity and provide the reader with successive stages of consideration to reach conclusions.
assess the relative merits of Christian and western pagan views of the natural world
consider the social and political background to contemporary debates about environmentalism in the church
engage with the strengths and weaknesses of various medieval models of the human-nature relationship
critically assess the ethical value of biblical portrayals of nature
critically assess the value of Gaia theory for environmental thought
Teaching and Learning Strategy
Courses including this module
Optional in courses:
- M1V5: LLB Law with Philosophy and Religion year 3 (LLB/LPR)