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Religion and Ecology




Admission Requirements

Completion of required first year courses on sustainability: Global Challenges 2: Earth and Global Challenges 4: Energy.


Religions express worldviews and values; they motivate people and justify behavior. In the context of sustainability, these aspects – values and views of nature, perceptions and practices – are relevant. In this course we will study various voices on ecology and religion/ spirituality to acquire a deeper understanding of the nature of human religious traditions, worldviews and values, and possible ways of addressing ecological concerns.

In recent decades we have seen a ‘greening of faith’. Concerned people have explored environmental motives in their own traditions, and thus rethought their worldview, their values, and their understanding of humanity’s place in nature. Some have called for a new religion or spirituality. We will study a plea for ‘Dark Green Religion’, as a non-traditional spirituality that seeks value in nature, as well as engagements of Christianity, Islam and Asian religious traditions with ecological challenges. Studying various religious and non-religious reflections on ecology will provide us with an opportunity to understand human religions and to reflect upon various sources of knowledge, values and motivation in the modern world.

Course Objectives

By the end of this course, students should expect to have acquired

  1. a clearer understanding of the nature of religion and religious traditions;
  2. a greater awareness of the multiplicity of and within religions;
  3. An intellectual, philosophical, understanding of the interplay of science, secular culture, religion, and ecological challenges in the contemporary world,

By the end of this course, students should have developed their skills

  1. in analysis and oral presentation by presenting their analysis of a particular position on religion and ecology;
  2. in analysis and academic writing by reflecting critically on a philosophical and evocative text;
  3. in analysis, academic writing, and forming a grounded opinion, by presenting their analysis of the main themes of the course and a well-argued articulation of their own perspective on these issues.

Mode of Instruction

The course will combine lectures (on the study of religion, particular religious traditions in the contemporary world, and on key issues in ‘religion and ecology’), seminars with class discussions on literature, presentations by students followed by discussions, and two reflective essays to be written by each student.


Assessment: Participation
Percentage: 10 %
Deadline: Ongoing

Assessment: Reflective essay
Percentage: 25%
Deadline: Sept 12, 15.59 PM, via blackboard/ Safe Assign

Assessment: Presentation (10-15’each)
Percentage: 25 %
Deadline: Dates to be decided in 1st class

Assessment: Concluding essay
Percentage: 40%
Deadline: Oct. 20, 21.59; via blackboard/ Safe Assign


  • Bron Taylor, Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future. Berkeley: University of California Press, 20210. Isbn 978-0-520-26100-6 (pbk, $ 29.95)

  • Articles and other materials will be listed in blackboard and provided as far as possible via Leiden University Libraries.

Contact Information

Prof.dr. W.B. Drees, Leiden University Institute for Religious Studies:

Weekly Overview

Themes by week and sessions:

  1. Religion and Ecology
  • Religion and Religions as Object of Study

  • Religion, Science and Nature: Secularization and Naturalism

    1. Dark Green Religion: A Radical Break?
  • Radical Environmentalism and the Human individual

  • Dark Green Religion and the Planetary Future

    1. The Greening of Christianity: Guilt and Redemption?
  • Christianity in Today’s World

  • Christianity and Ecology: Presentations and Discussions

    1. Green Islam
  • Islam in Today’s World and the Rise of Green Islam

  • Islam and Ecology: Presentations and Discussions

    1. Asian Religions: Light from the East?
  • Asian Religions Today

  • Asian Religions and Ecology: Presentations and Discussions

    1. Religions and Ecology: A Global Movement?
  • From the Parliament of the World’s Religions to the Earth Charter

  • Interreligious Events and Declarations: Presentations and Discussions

    1. Reflections
  • Religions Transformed by Ecology?

  • Ecological Ethics: Science, Politics, or Religion?

    1. Reading week: Finalize concluding essay

Preparation for first session

Read the assigned literature (see the syllabus and blackboard):

  • Bron Taylor, Dark Green Religion, Preface (ix-xiv) & pp. 1-4.

  • Willem B. Drees, “Hunting a Snark? Religion in ‘Religion and Science’”, a selection from Drees, Religion and Science in Context: A Guide to the Debates.