Often times as we embark upon our spiritual journey, we will undoubtedly encounter a popular narrative within theology that calls for individuals to give up on the materialistic world and instead focus on some heavenly palace that awaits all of us in the after-life. This narrative exists regardless whether it’s a polytheistic religion or even a monotheistic one.
The idea that an afterlife awaits us is what causes humans to forsake the planet in front of them and choose to invest energy into obtaining enough credits to pass through the heavenly gate and achieve eternal happiness. This is not a bad thing as religion often prescribes a set of rules to ensure one qualifies for entry into heaven. A person will therefore strive to perform good deeds such as giving to charity and volunteering for the needy as a way to earn brownie points for God. The problem with this behavior is that it completely relies on religious rhetoric as the arbiter of what is morally acceptable as good deeds and most major religions do not emphasize the protection of the environment as a requirement for heaven. It is after all difficult to both promote the idea to protect the planet and to let go of all materialistic possessions as it creates a paradox of needing to let go and to protect at the same time.
Religion also promotes the idea of individual accountability, whereby each person will be judged solely for his deeds and sins in front of God. This idea directly contradicts with the idea of environmental protection which is rooted in societal accountability where it requires the entire community to behave in a certain way to ensure that our planet is able to equally benefit each member of the community without being destroyed. Take recycling for example, if you look at recycling in Japan which is culturally indoctrinated into its citizens, they are able to create a society that recycles almost every waste product they encounter. They are able to socially engineer their citizens to behave in this way because of they sense of community and the need to preserve their country together. This is only possible in a country like Japan where the citizens are groomed to believe in a sense of community where customs dictate that an individual should put the community ahead of himself.
Where religion destroys the environment the most is by creating divisions among people living on this planet. Due to the human ego and the need to push our own sets of ideologies onto another, humans end up bickering over who has the mightier God that has resulted in centuries of war between people. The side effect of war is often the destruction of the environment, whether it is due to weapons unleashed on the other side or even resources taken from Earth for self-defense, the destruction of this planet does not escape the hand of war. The division between people also creates a situation where land occupied by an ‘enemy’ can be taken for granted. Humans would rather burn everything to the ground than allowing someone from a different faith to continue living peacefully.
Although religion has been a great treasure for humanity in forcing humans as a species to leap forward, the protection of the environment has sadly been pushed aside by the founders of the religion most likely due to the fact that the teachings were developed at a time when environmental protection was not something that could be fathomed by the people at that time. As we now live in an era where the destruction of the planet is becoming more real every single day, perhaps it’s time for religion to step up and create the need to protect our beautiful planet.
Kage is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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