“Participation in religion seems to make people more likely to suppress self-interest in favor of group norms,” according to a new study by British Columbia social psychologist and author Ara Norenzayan. As Sojourners reports, Norenzayan's findings indicate that faith is often the strongest motivator in developing concern for the climate 'by encouraging cooperation and preventing the exploitation of scarce resources, like water.' Connecting the historical dots between the faith-based abolitionists movements and contemporary movements spearheaded by faith leaders such as Blessed Tomorrow leader and founder of Greenfaith, Rev. Harper Fletcher, Sojourners examines the use of 'sacred values' in the current discussion surrounding climate change.
While people of faith may be the driving force behind seeking solutions, 'It is faith leaders who are driving the moral argument for climate change.' Citing the works of Pope Francis, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist leaders, Sojourners highlights the influence of these faith leaders on the general public when it comes to discussions of climate or any issue that affects a wider community. As Rev. Harper shared, “Faith communities are communities of compassion and of concern and of love. They are ultimately not ideologically driven communities. They are communities that are driven by those deepest values”
Jeremy Deaton | Sojourners
As it turns out, the faith community may have a marked advantage when it comes to dealing with global warming. According to University of British Columbia social psychologist and author Ara Norenzayan, religion primes cooperation. In his work, Norenzayan has found religious societies to be more cooperative than non-religious societies — particularly where a group's survival is threatened.
“Participation in religion seems to make people more likely to suppress self-interest in favor of group norms,” Norenzayan told me. He believes religion may have underwritten the growth of large societies by encouraging cooperation and preventing the exploitation of scarce resources, like water.
Indeed, the faith community has become a leading voice on climate change. Last year saw the first-ever papal encyclical dedicated wholly to the environment, along with declarations on climate change from Buddhist, Muslim, and Jewish leaders. The Dalai Lama said climate change is a matter of the “survival of humanity,” and the Episcopal Church pledged to divest from fossil fuels. Religious groups have been clamoring for climate action ever since.
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