A Purloined Letter from the Green Raven:
After a long period of emotional struggle, my family decided to alter our celebration of the weekly Jewish holiday of Shabbat fairly significantly. To allow ourselves to be authentic and honest in our atheist/humanist beliefs, we've begun to piece together a completely non-theistic way of celebrating our connection with each other and with our world. We started out by putting out a bowl of paper whites, those tiny stars at the end of such bold stalks, then riffed our way to what I hope will soon feel solid.
Some elements of our celebration are direct descendants of traditional Jewish practice. Others are practices we’ve developed over time, such as powering down for the evening by keeping the lights and radio off—a practice inspired by Melinda. Much of our service was totally new, involving meaningful poetry, meditation, and the sharing of some of the best moments of our week. We wanted to have this weekly dinner partly because Shabbat has been such a meaningful part of our lives for so long. We also wanted to put into words the fact that we have a responsibility to the world: to justice, to deep respect for others, to the end of poverty, to the healing of the environment.
Just as I was thinking about the links between my family's pseudo-religious practice of Not-Shabbat (any suggestions for a real name?), fellow caped crusader JessTrev forwarded the link to a New York Times article about the Eco-Nuns of New York. Although I share neither their specific religious beliefs nor their traditions, I immediately identified with Sister Faith's explanation for the sisters' green commitments: “It’s a question of stewardship…, of responsibility."
As a collector of pictures of nuns in habits doing everything from hula-hooping to sledding, I was also thrilled to hear that the sisters are "looking into a company that makes habits that are 100 percent organic cotton, and which uses labor practices that are fair.”
Then, I came across an article in this month's Orion about this link between environmentalism and religion. In his essay "Climate Revelations," self-professed atheist Auden Shendler see links between his global warming activism and the perspectives of many religious thinkers. Acknowledging that religion has a more poetic way of addressing the issues, he states that "both are an effort to pursue the divinization, the making sacred of the world and of ourselves. That’s couched in religious terms, but pagans like me might simply call that state of grace 'global sustainability.'" He ends with a point that leaves me immensely hopeful: that there is "a desire within humanity to live in a dignified world." Working to address climate change, he feels, "offers us a shot at just this dignity."
Although there are other parts of this article which trouble me, I am profoundly moved by the implications of humanity's natural and common desire for a "dignified world." It should, it seems to me, include not just activism about climate change and other environmental concerns but also activism against hunger and homelessness, for better health care, for aging with honor, for larger questions of kindness and justice.
How about you? How much has "religious" thinking—be it God-centered or non-theistic ethical thought—inspired you to feel responsible for the earth and its inhabitants? Does your spiritual practice reinforce your commitments? How much has it motivated you to act?