Sustainability in the Religious Sources of Western Culture

By: Bina Nir  

Discussions about sustainability or actually non-sustainability primarily focus on the relationship between human beings and nature. The complexity of the issue derives from the idea that humans are the masters and owners of nature. The cultural approach popular in Western civilization maintains that humans are separate from nature and dominate it; this approach shapes humanity’s attitude towards the planet, and the plants and animals that inhabit it. In this paper, I will present the cultural and religious roots of this concept in Judeo-Christian monotheism – based on the biblical text, particularly the myth of Creation in the book of Genesis. Humanity’s alienation from nature forms an axis that passes throughout the history of Western culture. It is firmly established on deep religious foundations that develop into secular modes.The separation of humanity from nature in the Judeo-Christian Creation myth is expressed in two respects. The first is the separation of the divine from nature. The second is to separate humanity from nature, place him atop a hierarchy of living creatures, and stress his ability to act as a partner in creating natural reality. This separation means the reduction of nature to an object of human will. The concept completely transformed the religious world of the ancient Near East, in which the gods were subject to nature and fate. This religious revolution, although it has undergone many transformations, is still present in our culture, and has far-reaching implications to this day.

Sustainability, Creation, Genesis, Monotheism, Foundations
Religious Foundations
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Bina Nir

Director, Honors B.A Program, Communication, The Academic College of Emeke Yezrael, Israel