Do chimpanzees engage in religious behaviors? To date this question remains unanswered. I use methods from religious studies and anthropology of religion that demonstrate an answer in the afﬁrmative. A comprehensive review of primatology reports reveals that chimpanzees do perform ritualized patterns of behavior in response to birth, death, consortship, and elemental natural phenomena. A structuralist analysis of these patterns shows that chimpanzees deploy similar formulaic action schemas involving recombination of syntagmatic and paradigmatic behaviors across all four of these life-situations. In the course of these performances, chimpanzees decontextualize and convert everyday communicative signals to express non-ordinary emotions of wonder and awe. The patterning of chimpanzee ritual behaviors evidences all the components of a prototypical trans-species deﬁnition of religion. These ﬁndings support hypotheses that propose religious behaviors for other species, including hominins prior to Homo sapiens sapiens.
Indigenous Ways of Creating Environmental Awareness
The people of Berekum Traditional Area, Brong Ahafo region, Ghana, use their religio-cultural practices to instil and impart traditional ecologi-cal knowledge to their youth. Qualitative methodology research identiﬁed the main means by which indigenous ecological knowledge is transmitted to students: proverbs, myths, folktales, and rituals. There is evidence that indigenous methods of imparting ecological knowledge and thereby dealing with environmental problems are facing some chal-lenges that appear to have interfered with their effectiveness. These challenges may be attributed to a change in the people’s worldview resulting from cultural contact and modernity. The ﬁndings indicate that indigenous ecological knowledge is a potential resource that can complement scientiﬁc means of dealing with the region’s environmental problems.
Online Confessions of Eco-Guilt
Sarah E. Fredericks
People whose environmental concern is dominated by the impact of everyday activities such as buying and consuming food, transportation, and using water, those I name ‘everyday environmentalists’, discuss these activities online in blogs, discussion boards, and the comments sections of major news articles. In these forums, everyday environmentalists often describe their failure to live up to their own environmental standards for personal behavior using terms such as ‘guilt’ or ‘eco-sin’. This terminology, their focus on their moral and existential crises regarding their perceived sin, and the emerging patterns of responses to such confessions indicate that the framework of ‘nature religion’ can aid our understanding of this phenomenon. Such analysis suggests that a new online religious-like ritual regarding eco-confession is emerging among everyday environmentalists. Analyzing the actions of everyday environmentalists through the lens of nature religions does, however, stretch the concept of nature religion and raise questions about the online practices of everyday environmentalists.
The Human Animal and Christian Ecotheology: Reflections on Taking Biology Seriously
David James Bryant
Christian ecotheology tends to emphasize human identity with the rest of nature while also arguing that human society requires transformation through appreciation of intrinsic value in non-human nature. Since this sets up a tension between notions of humans as natural beings and as free to choose among alternative motivations, it would beneﬁt Christian ecotheology to think more consistently about implications of humanity’s belonging to nature. Science has provided compelling reasons for thinking that egoism is an incorrigible dimension of human life, thereby suggesting that abusive exploitation of nature has deeper roots than cultural constructs. This realization calls for fundamental rethinking of several traditional Christian doctrines, including the Fall, original sin, and free will. In fact, some theologies already anticipate these revisions, though more remains to be done. Moreover, Christian ecotheology’s attention to concepts of connections between humans and nature and of nature’s value remains important, but some of its emphases need to change.
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