The protestant legacy in man´s relationship with nature: from romantism to ecologism
sociology CEPS/INSTEAD Differdange, Luxembourg
The fact that ecologism appears earlier and has always been more successful in Northern European countries deserves a further reflexion on the relationship between protestantism and the protection of the environment and hence on the protestant ?feeling? towards nature. All the more so since the voices having celebrated the beauty and virtues of nature and wilderness from Rousseau to the romantics bears the mark of the protestant culture. If it would be absurd to attribute everything to the influence of religious development, the fact remains that new relationships with nature ? philosophical, ethical or practical relationships, esthetical schemes or legislative rules ? mainly originated from protestant areas.
This paper proposes to highlight the protestant legacy in man?s relationship with nature through the confrontation of historical argumentative considerations and contemporary empirical data (based on international ISSP and Eurobarometers surveys).
Closeness to nature and patrimonial concerns will be discussed according to the innovations brought on by the Reform and the striking expression this proximity to nature will take through the German romantic idealist view on nature and its American transcendentalist counterparts.
Empirical evidence leads to the conclusion that the common denominator to protestant areas should be regarded not so much along the lines of naturalistic inclination and Arcadian or sentimental views on nature (that differ according to respectively geographical factors and national traditions) as in the sight of the particular echo of the modern slogan ?Think globally, act locally? within this area.
In this sense the religious influence on today?s environmental attitudes has to be considered in the process of individualisation triggered by the Reform (the individual responsibility and the destruction of the catholic traditional hierarchy are two innovations that confront man to his fate) since ecological worldviews are deeply connected with the process of modernisation in western societies and can be identified with the dynamic of reflexivity developed by Giddens.