Religion and the Environment: Caring for our Common Home

Ilia Mehr Bakhsh ’23

Religion and Deputy Editor

Religion utilizes the greatest feature of the human nature: storytelling. Through religious guidance, and the acceptance of religious ideologies, we reach salvation. Yet, we fall short on following many points of guidance on how to live on Earth provided by religious texts.

Religion has you believe that all is good in God’s creation, that every natural thing is as a result of the beauty of God’s giving hands: “God saw all that he made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:13). Therefore, many religions advocate for the preservation, and protection of Earth and its resources.

Christians believe that Earth belongs to God and that humans are stewards in charge of its care: “God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). To articulate the views of the Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II indicated in the Evangelical Vitae, “the dominion granted to man by the created is not an absolute power, nor can one speak of a freedom to ‘use and misuse,’ or to dispose of things as one pleases.”

Jesuit leaders reiterate the messages of care for Earth under one of four Universal Apostolic preferences: “to care for our Common Home.” On the central website of the Society of Jesus, it indicates, “our faith is one that wants creation to be cherished and renewed.” The Church is adamant that faith in God is to respect and care for God’s creations, such as Earth and its resources.

Other who identify with the Abrahamic faiths also recognize the human responsibility to care for God’s creations. In Judaism, human responsibility over the preservation of Earth and its resources is a part of the Jewish concept known as bal tashchit, or “do not destroy,” forbidding needles destruction: “The Earth is the Lord’s and fullness thereof” (Psalm 24:1). This verse is the assertion of God’s ownership over Earth, and it expresses that nay act that damages Earth is against the property of God. There is common ground among all Abrahamic faiths that humanity is responsible for the preservation of Earth, not corruption.

Islam, another Abrahamic faith, addresses issues such as over-consumption of Earth’s resources. The Qur’an, Islam’s Holy Scripture, indicates that humans should “eat and drink; but waste not by excess, for Allah love the not the wasters.” (Al-A’raf 7:31).

The Qur’an also addresses Earth as God’s gracious gift, and calls on people to cease corruption, and cease misuse of Earth’s resources: “And do good as Allah has been good to you. And do not seek to cause
corruption in the earth. Allah does not love the corrupters” (Al Qasas 28:77). Islam stands firm that any threat to God’s creation is an act of forgetting the gift of Earth which humans are granted.

At the Apostolic Journey of Pope Francis to Malta, the Pope stated in his address, “The environment in which we live is a gift from heaven… the protection of the environment and the promotion of social Justice prepare for the future and are optimal ways to… shield [young people] from the temptations of indifference and lack of commitment.” Earth faces its greatest threat of climate change due to the corruption, and overconsumption of its resources.

It is important to be committed individually to do our best to protect our environment, and to raise awareness on environmen- tal issues, just as many religions guide their follower to preserve, and protect our Common Home.

Photo Credit: Jesuit.org