Green Prophets, Climate Saints and Eco-Bodhisattvas: The Climate Minute

In honor of the summer solstice, we got thinking about how the onrush of climate change demands rethinking of our moral, ethical and perhaps even religious stance to life. Should we treat the sun as a god? Who would be our saints?

Recently we posted discussion on how reasonable a solar deity actually is, because the sun:

  • is real
  • created us
  • sustains our life
  • teaches us how to live
  • inspires awe.

Discussing new religions, or at least new moral philosophies, can seem presumptuous or even ridiculous. However, religions are human creations and there is a long American tradition of spiritual innovation. The book "Restless Souls" make the connection of modern day "New Age" religions to a history going back to the founding of our country as a place of religious freedom. Further, Reza Aslan's's book "Zealot" makes the case that the success of the Catholic Church was Saint Paul's accommodation of the revolutionary teachings of Christ to the Roman hunger for a personal connection to the divine. Go figure.

Climate change is an overwhelming, all pervasive inevitability that humans will need to come to terms with. The sooner and more constructively this happens the better. An earth-based religion that honors the gift, teachings and demands of the planetary ecological system is not far fetched and could help people justify and rationalize the necessary actions that face us. Centering such beliefs on the power of the sun (and moon etc) is pragmatic and foundational for other aspects of new thinking.

The problem with a solar deity is that it is impersonal. In the time of the Caesars, Roman religion was transactional, and mostly involved sacrificing a goat to Jupiter. People wanted something more personal and found it in a church with a human god-figure and a saint's holiday every day. Buddhism is one of the world's great religions, described as the world's only logical, intellectual religion. However the very austerity of practices like Zen soon called out more personal connections. The Bodhisattva was a kind human who delayed entry to Nirvana to help others on the path. Even today, evangelical Christian seek a 'personal Jesus.'

So if we are constructing an earth based religion with solar deity, we probably need some more human connection to the awe inspiring profundity of life. Fortunately, we do have humanity in the core of the philosophy. The solar deity in fact does have multiple prophets calling us to our senses and predicting the future. The prophets have names like Bill McKibben, Al Gore, Katharine Hayhoe and Michael Mann. Do not be fooled by their humanity. Even Elijah was human. In fact, these green prophets have been rejected in their own lands.

We have among us eco-bodhisattvas- meet Greta Thunberg who sailed across the Atlantic instead of using fossil fuels. If you liked Joan of Arc, you will love Greta. She has already suffered the fires of hatred from overbearing men. We have tribal elders who can teach us ways to preserve the land. We have climate saints- consider Eunice Foote, who discovered the role of CO2. We have Seraphim, Cherubim, Angels and Archangels among us, all the people who are standing strong today against Line 3, or in Cancer Ally, or stood against Dakota Access. We have hero's galore to construct a pantheon of humans to help us relate to the planet. We just need to think of them in the right way.

So there you have an idea. The implication of climate change is so profound as to force us to rethink our beliefs at a nearly religious level. The Sun is a worthwhile deity, and we can construct a pantheon of green prophets, climate saints and eco-bodhisattvas to guide us on the way to a better relationship with the planet.

The reading list:

David Christian: The history of our world in 18 minutes

What is a Bodhisattva?


Because we recognize the necessity of personal accountability for our actions, because we accept responsibility for a building a durable future and because we believe it is our patriotic duty as citizens to speak out, we must insist the United States transform it’s energy sector, over the next decade, under a just and equitable plan, that uses regulations, investments and a price on carbon to safeguard our collective future.

Thanks for listening.

…Ted McIntyre

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