Edited by Joshua D. Sarnoff
Chapter 9: Behind the wall: global climate change and American religion
The United States (US) remains the most religious developed nation in the world. Roughly three-quarters of all Americans attend worship services fairly regularly; equal amounts believe in God. The country’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, has as many members as the top 20 large national environmental groups combined. Whether or not Jesus (or Moses, Mohammed, Buddha or Joseph Smith) would drive an SUV matters immensely in this most modern of nations that still announces ‘In God We Trust’. How Americans with a religious faith have understood and acted upon the nation’s largest environmental challenge – that of dangerous, anthropogenic global climate change – is the focus of this chapter. But in addition to its local and historical interest, this chapter more broadly seeks to emphasize the important relationship between religious beliefs and societal decisions regarding climate change. These relationships will dramatically affect not only national policies, but the willingness of countries to adopt and implement international climate change obligations. It is important to note that most American religious activity and denominational actions take place, somewhat like Jewish life in Czarist times, beyond the pale, walled off from public policy or public news reporting. It is no surprise then that most people are unaware that in recent times much climate change-related activity has been going on in the diverse, and often noisy, neighborhood of American religious belief and political activism.
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