Religion and the Energy Crisis
When faced with the daunting specter of world energy issues and environmental crisis, it
is natural to focus on finding solutions to our problems of sustainability and pollution. Before jumping into a frenzied search for solutions, however, it is necessary to take a hard look at precisely why we care to solve this problem in the first place. This is a much broader question, rooted in culture, philosophy, ethics, and religion. How we as a species deal with our spirituality has a great impact on our obligations to each other, to the world we live in, and to future generations.
Looking at the potential harmfulness of the energy crisis, it is remarkable that more
people are not concerned about changing lifestyles and conserving resources. Our high rate of growth and energy production are causing widespread climate change, poisoning our air and resulting in the extinction of species. Humanity cannot continue to consume energy at the present rate given the limited supply of fossil fuels and the consequences of pollution, yet there seems to be a problem in cultivating widespread public concern for these issues. Even if the average American does not know the specifics of the matter, most everyone is aware of global warming, dying species, and the fossil fuel problem, so the lack of motivation does not stem from ignorance. There is some other factor contributing to the motivation problem, one that goes much deeper into human nature.
The basic problem faced in cultivating concern about the environment is one of
selfishness. In our modern secular society people are encouraged to be self serving, seeking individual success. They are valued for what they are able to accomplish for themselves, with the assumption being that many individuals working independently will result in success for the whole (Dorff 95). This obsession with success and progress has become the religion of the modern world, its primary concern. Many people blame this attitude for a growing sense of spiritual emptiness in our society, a void that has been filled with growthism and selfishness, and could be better solved by the incorporation of spirituality (Brockelman 36). This apparently godless attitude, however, does appear even in the religious traditions which claim to shun it.
One of the most basic moral values is that of liberty, the ability to exercise some amount
of control over your individual life. When given the liberty to make choices, people are given the possibility of selfishness. This concept has many different definitions and implementations across the world, but all agree that on some level it is good to preserve liberty and bad to impede it. Eastern religious traditions seek a release from the suffering of life and the limitations of the individual personality, defining freedom as complete independence from the material world.
Semitic religions, on the other hand, tend to look at freedom through the concept of free...