Goffs School Religious Studies

Topic 2 – Religion and the Environment

Religion and the environment

Key words:

  • Environment: the surroundings in which plants and animals live and on which they depend for survival.
  • Natural resources: naturally occurring materials. such as oil and fertile land, which can be used by humans.
  • Global warming: the theory that the earths atmosphere is warming because of human activity, such as burning fossil fuels.
  • Pollution: releasing harmful substances into the air, sea or earth.
  • Conservation: protecting and preserving natural resources, animal life and the environment.
  • Dominion: in the Bible God gave humans dominion (power) to subdue and use the earth.
  • Stewardship: some Christians believe God gave humanity the responsibility of looking after the earth.

Christianity

  • Christian’s believe that God created the world. This means the natural environment is His creation and should be protected.
  • Some Christians believe that Genesis in the Bible tells the story of the world’s creation. In Genesis, God creates the world in six days:
  • Day 1: The heavens, the earth, light and darkness.
  • Day 2: Heaven
  • Day 3: Dry land, the seas, and vegetation. (Thus, Christians would be against air, sea and land pollution and deforestation).
  • Day 4: The sun, the moon and the stars.
  • Day 5: Living creatures in the water, birds in the air. (Thus, Christians may be against overfishing, endangering sea and bird species).
  • Day 6: Land animals and people. (As above, all living creatures are created by God and should be cared for),
  • Day 7: God “rested”. (Perhaps this indicates that the environment should be protected and cared for).
  • At the end of each day the Bible says that God looked at His creation and ‘it was good’. The environment is ‘good’.
  • The Bible also states that God gave man ‘dominion’ the earth and animals. This suggests God placed man in charge of the world. Some Christians see this as indicating our responsibility to protect the environment. Others see it as giving humanity the right to use (and even abuse) it for our benefit!
  • God told man to subdue the animals. Perhaps this means humanity can control nature.
  • God also asked Adam to look after the Garden of Eden. Perhaps Adam is man and Eden is the environment.
  • Christians may refer to Jesus’ Parable of the Gold Coins when defending the environment. Jesus said you should invest wisely and this will be good for the future. The same argument can be applied to looking after the environment.
  • Christians may feel that if they are bad and damage the environment, they will be sent to hell on Judgement Day. This is day when God judges the good and the bad.
  • Remember that God made man in His image. Therefore, some Christians see humanity as more important than animals and the rest of the natural world.
  • Some Christians say the Psalm 8 (in the Bible) suggests we are ‘second to the angels’ and are more important than the environment.
  • Other Christians believe in Stewardship. This means we should steward ‘look after’ the natural environment. A bit like shepherds and priests/vicars look after their ‘flocks’.
  • Some Christians join organisations like Christian Ecology Link, A Rocha and Operation Noah in order to help protect the environment.

Buddhism and the Environment

  • The environment is made up of living things; therefore, it is against the 1st precept (abstain from harming life) to harm the environment.
  • Using natural resources without replacing them may be seen as breaking the 2nd precept (abstain from taking what is not given). You should replant trees, for example.
  • Polluting the Earth goes against Right Action, which is part of the Eight Fold Path.
  • If your job involves pollution, over-fishing or destroying natural habitats, it will go against Right Livelihood.
  • As the environment is made up of living things, humanity should show it metta (loving kindness) and care for the natural world.
  • Conservation (preserving and protecting the environment and animal species) could also be seen as metta.
  • Destroying the environment will lead to bad karma. For example, if we burn fossil fuels we will pollute the environment and make the Earth less habitable.
  • Buddhists would argue that following the three Rs (reducing, reusing and recycling) will lead to good karma and rebirth.

Religion and Infertility Treatment

  • In fertility treatment help those that cannot have children (infertile) have children.
  • It can be done through IVF (in vitro fertilisation) where the sperm and egg and put together outside the womb (in a laboratory).
  • AID – artificial insemination by donor – where sperm is place on the neck of the womb. (Some religious believers see this as adultery as the donor is not married to the mother).
  • AIH – artificial insemination by husband – as above, but by a husband and not a donor.
  • Donated eggs – fertile women can donate eggs to infertile couples. They use the man’s sperm, the donated egg and place the fertilised egg in the woman’s womb.(Some religious believers dislike this as a third person is involved who is not married to the couple).
  • Surrogacy – where a woman has a baby for another couple. The fertilised egg or embryo is taken from the couple and placed in the surrogate woman’s womb. (Some religions are again uneasy with the third person being involved.

Christian beliefs against infertility treatment

  • It’s playing God. Only he can give life.
  • The Bible says God ‘closed Hannah’s womb’ (1 Samuel). This suggests infertility is God’s will.
  • AID, donated eggs and surrogate all involved a third or unmarried person. This could be seen as ‘adultery’. The 10 Commandments state, Thou shall not commit adultery’.
  • IVF can be seen as unnatural and as playing God.
  • The Catholic Church is against IVF as spare embryos are destroyed in the process. The embryos are seen as life.
  • Many Christians believe in ‘ensoulment’, which means the soul enters the cells at conception. Thus any medical fertility treatment that destroys of damages embryos is sinful, even murder, ‘Thou shall not kill’.

Christian arguments for infertility treatment

  • Jesus healed the sick and unwell. Perhaps infertility treatment can be seen as healing and would be encouraged by Jesus.
  • God gave us the knowledge to create infertility treatments. Therefore, we should use that knowledge for good reasons.
  • Jesus performed miracles and, perhaps, infertility treatments can be seen as modern miracles.
  • Allowing couples to have children is a loving thing to do. Perhaps the idea of ‘love your neighbour’ means we should help childless couples have children if that’s what they really want.
  • Christianity sees loving families as really important. If infertility treatment creates more loving families, it is a good thing.

Buddhism and infertility treatment

  • Some Buddhists believe that infertility is result of bad karma in this life or previous lives.
  • Some Buddhists may object to IVF as the destruction of spare embryos goes against the 1st Precept – not to harm any living thing.
  • Somebody wanting a child may be seen as craving (or showing attachment), which would lead to suffering.
  • Wanting a child despite not being able to could also be seen as greed or selfish want (one of the three poisons).
  • Other Buddhists may accept infertility treatment as an act of metta (loving kindness).
  • They may see infertility treatment as compassionate (karuna).
  • Many Buddhists would argue that so long as the family cares for the child, it is acceptable.
  • The fertility doctor may gain good karma and a good rebirth.
  • If the fertility treatment creates a loving family; this will have positive karma for the rest of society.

Transplants and religion

Christianity

  • Christianity sees organ transplants as saving lives, which is a good thing.
  • Christianity sees life as ‘sacred’ and Christians believe in the ‘sanctity of Life’, which means that all life is Holy and special. It should saved.
  • Jesus healed the sick. Transplants do the same and Jesus would approve.
  • Some may argue that transplant surgery is a modern miracle and God-given.
  • God gave doctors the knowledge to carry our transplants. This should be used.
  • Man is created in ‘God’s image’. You are saving this image with transplants. Also, the Bible says the ‘body is a temple of the Holt Spirit’, which is protected by transplants.
  • Some individual Christians may have reservations about how their bodies are used and whether those who receive them may sin.

Buddhists and transplants

  • Giving an organ can be seen as dana – generousity.
  • Giving an organ, however, must be done with the Right Intention. For example, to help someone and not for money.
  • Donating an organ can be seen as metta – loving kindness.
  • Donating an organ may lead to good karma and a good rebirth.
  • It helps someone else be symbolically ‘reborn’.
  • Buddhists believe in anicca (impermanence), which suggests that it is pointless ‘keeping’ your organs when dead as they will eventually rot. Donate them instead.

Islam and transplants

  • Most Muslims are in favour of transplants.
  • The Muslim Council of Britain advises Muslims to carry UK Donor Cards, which means doctors can use their bodies if there is an accident.
  • Allah gave doctors the knowledge and intelligence to transplant organs.
  • It saves a life. Life is also sacred to Muslims as it was created by Allah.
  • However, some Muslims are uneasy with dead bodies being cut up. A body should be buried, intact, as soon as possible, as the body will rise again at Judgement Day when Allah will send the deceased to Paradise or Hell. Importantly, the body must be in tact. If it has been cut up, this will be evident.
  • A minority of Christians and Muslims may see transplants as playing God and interfering with God’s plans.
  • Most Muslims see transplants of the ‘lesser of two evils’ when it comes to Judgement Day. Saving a life is far more important.

Blood Transfusion

  • All major religions are for blood transfusion. For Christians and Muslims the same arguments are used as were used for transplants.
  • However, Jahovah Witnesses are against blood transfusions.
  • Jehovah Witnesses believe the Bible says blood transfusions are wrong. For example, Leviticus says that ‘the life of a creature is in the blood’. Therefore, a transfusion is taking someone elses blood.