Three Environmentally Friendly Mainstream Religions, and One Improving One

On the heels of yesterday’s news that Muslims now outnumber Catholics worldwide, my thoughts turned to my lackluster efforts towards an undergraduate degree (I’ll point out I succeeded) and a course I took on world religions. While only recently have Baptists or Catholics really gotten into green living, some belief systems have been at it for a long, long time.

2001064013981272830_rs.jpgAdherents of Cao Daism in Vietnam. Image from KC Hulsey on Flickr

1. Jainism.

2004913679471590752_rs.jpgNear Karnataka, India. From ????¢???????

Jainism, an ascetic tradition with 8.2 million followers in India, is based on some very simple precepts (forgive my oversimplification): every living thing has a soul. Ahisma–nonviolence–is the basis of right faith, action, and conduct. Limit your possessions and live a life of usefulness to yourself and others. Followers are usually vegetarian, and don’t have the issues with…how to be polite…overconsumption…that plague modern lifestyles. It’s not horribly unusual to see Jains in India carry a brush with which to clear an area they’re planning to sit on, as they don’t want to cause injury to any living thing.

2. Buddhism

2002218224551242237_rs.jpgImake from _ashka on Flickr

One of the central concepts of Buddhism is the”eightfold noble path,” and the two of the eight guidelines that make Buddhism so earth-friendly are “right (complete) understanding” and “right action”– clearly the intent is for both an ethical but also complex understanding of one’s surroundings. This of course applies to spiritual concerns, but as Buddhism blurs the line between religion and philosophy, it is applies by followers on a broader base as well.

3. Hinduism

2003305038731389752_rs.jpgImage from hpk on Flickr

While there’s some debate over this– Hinduism also may, as many Western religions have come to allow in practice– allow a non-sustainable lifestyle, but the focus on leading a simple life and not disturbing nature’s checks and balances positions many adherents to live a green lifestyle for non-green reasons.

And credit where credit is due… Catholicism

Image from Amundn on Flickr

They’ve been historically driving waste and consumption, and for all I know in my purely arbitrary picking, may not even be the fastset-improving religion on environmental issues. But since polluting the earth is now one of the new seven deadly sins, I have to applaud.