In this introduction to Religion and Ecology, the second week we're going to be looking at the nature of religious ecology, which we're describing as orienting, grounding, nurturing, and transforming. In this first section of this week, we're going to be looking at what is religion. We're trying to establish a common vocabulary here. This could be a whole course in itself. But we're trying to say religion is not monotheism. Religion has a sense of diversity. A Western definition of religion is monotheistic, but Buddhism and Confucianism and Daoism, there's no creator god. It's a very different religious landscape. Nor is religion simply institutions or dogma, or rules, or even punishment. Again, we have to take our Western glasses off and look at the world's religions, and ask, what then is religion broadly speaking, across the spectrum? One of the early students of religion was Rudolf Otto, who had a very powerful book called "The Idea of the Holy." Here he was describing the experience of religion as an encounter with the numinous, with something that's awesome and inspires reverence, but also dread and fear. So awe and fear are how the numinous was defined by Otto. Another great thinker and psychologist was William James and his book, "Varieties of Religious Experience," again gave us a sense of the tremendous diversity, but also the signature mark of religion is it's personal experience around the world. Ninian Smart, a historian of world religions, gave us a further discussion of the dimensions of religion in his book, "Worldviews: Cross-cultural Explorations of Human Beliefs." Now these various dimensions we can describe as we just have, as experiential and as personal, they could be views of nature, the Grand Canyon, of sunset and so on that inspires that numinous experience. But as well, religion takes shape in a social order and a political order. So there's something communal and group-oriented about religion. And inevitably, this leads to power dynamics, political power, and other types of power. But religion is grounded in ritual. All around the world there are rites of passage, of birth, of coming of age, a confirmation ritual, or of marriage, and certainly of death. So ritual surrounds human life with a sense of how do we negotiate these rites of passage or the rites of a daily passage from sunrise to sunset. In addition, religion has a tremendous sense of myth and history intertwined. Narrative and story are crucial to what religion is and why it inspires action in people. This mythic and historical sense, the Passover, coming out of Egypt re-enacted each year and the Seder. This is part of the great history of the Jewish tradition, for example. Religious inspiration and revelation is also clearly expressed in scriptures and it's why these are so much studied and so much debated and so much commentary. That includes the Torah in the Jewish tradition, the Gospels in the New Testament, in the Christian tradition, the Qur'an in the Islamic tradition and all the Buddhist scriptures, the Confucian scriptures, the Daoist scriptures and so on. Tremendous sense of the holiness of the written word. This leads us well to ethical practices. What are the precepts of people for how they guide their life, their social relations, their family relations and so on. And we're going to also talk about their relations with nature. And finally, but maybe most importantly, a dimension that isn't always understood about religion, is it's cosmological orientation. Every religion gives us a sense of we're part of the universe. How did we get here? Where are we going? This is part of the cosmological dimension of religion. Now Ronald Dworkin was a professor at NYU, a law professor, indeed. And he has a very rich definition of religion. "A religious attitude involves moral and cosmic convictions beyond simply a belief in god: that people have an innate, inescapable responsibility to make something valuable of their lives and that the natural universe is gloriously, mysteriously wonderful." It's a marvelous definition. And we have as well developed our own definition. "In its comprehensive form, religion involves a recognition that there is something beyond the human that cannot be named or defined fully, yet calls us to value life, both its material constituents and its living expressions." Now one of the things we should attend to is religion and spirituality. Many people say, well, I'm spiritual and not religious, and so on. Fair enough. But it's important to realize that spirituality actually emerged within the world's religions. We have a Franciscan spirituality inspired by Saint Francis. We have an Ignatian spirituality inspired by the Jesuit Saint Ignatius. And these made distinctive imprints in the traditions of the Franciscan monks and the Jesuits. Within religions, there's also all kinds of spiritual directions. Learning to meditate, to discern, and so on. So spirituality is not exactly something apart from the world's religions. And in fact, we also have even large scale sensibilities of cosmic spiritualities beyond the world's religions. Now, Einstein, the famous scientists, of course, had a wonderful saying, where he said, "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science." This insight into the mystery of life has given rise to religion. That was in his statement, what I believe. As well, we have nature spirituality such as Henry David Thoreau and John Muir, who saw the redwoods as cathedrals and was deeply inspired by Yosemite and the West. As well, artists wanted to capture the beauty and complexity of nature, especially some of the Impressionists like Monet with this feeling for light on haystacks, on landscapes, and Van Gogh with his remarkable Starry Night and that sense of a vital force infusing all of nature. And we have a long tradition of nature writers, especially in our contemporary period here in the US, Annie Dillard and "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" lit up that sense. You can live in a bioregion and be deeply in relationship to something larger than yourself. Terry Tempest Williams, one of the iconic women writers, "Refuge" describing what happened in the Great Salt Lake when her mother died, and that relationship with nature that was so powerful for her. So religion then is vast, it's complex, it has spiritual dimensions, it has cosmic sensibilities, and it's something that we will explore even deeper in this course.