The New “Religion of Nature”

Pilgrimage to Henry's "planting site"

Pilgrimage to Henry’s “planting site”

Henry David Thoreau, the sauntering naturalist/philosopher of Concord, can be a wise trail guide for the journey beyond God.  While re-reading Robert Richardson’s excellent biography of the Walden hermit, this quote splashed me with lake water (since I was recently walking around Walden, I could almost feel that refreshment):

“[In Thoreau] we see a crucial moment in the shift from the old religion of God to the new religion of nature, and the beginnings of the modern views of nature as sacred, and her pollution as profane.”

I would add a few qualifiers:  from ancient times, Native Peoples and Pagans have considered Nature as sacred (though they imagine a Great Spirit or many gods and goddesses active in the world), AND, the way forward may PASS THROUGH a “Religion of Nature” stage. . .however, I would present that Thoreau and the rest of us do not aim for a new Religion, but a new Relationship. . .with Nature.

One last comment on the quote:  wouldn’t it be wonderful if it really was a common modern viewpoint that the pollution of Nature is “profane”? Many religions continue to lag behind the modern understanding of “protecting/preserving the earth” since many faith traditions cannot and will not let go of the explicit or implicit notion that “there is a better world” yet to come.  This is why we need new heretics like Thoreau, and why my little book still seems to appeal to contemporary saunterers!



2 thoughts on “The New “Religion of Nature”

  1. For many years, I kept a copy of Walden on my desk and referred to it often. I still have a copy among the relatively few books on my shelf. No American writer has more successfully distilled his thoughts into a single volume. Jack

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