Avatar and Nature Spirituality



Book reviews have begun to appear and additional ones will be posted here as they are published. Please alert Bron Taylor to any you are aware of that do not appear here. There are also a growing number of reader reviews at Amazon, a few of which appear below. The reviews show that the book is found to be valuable by scholars and non-scholars alike.
Lisa H. Sideris
in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion
78/3 (September 2010), pp. 865-69 (doi: 10.1093/jaarel/lfq043).
Dark Green Religion [is] one of the most thought-provoking, useful, and enlightening books I have read on religious environmentalism . . . I know of no other scholar working in this field who is as conversant as Taylor in science, history of science, environmental history, and environmental literature, nor are there many who can present all these data in a style with such broad appeal. Taylor's book is a major achievement. It has changed my thinking about the realm of religious environmentalism, and the relationship between science and religion—in ways that I am still struggling to sort out. Unabridged Review
Christopher Key Chapple
Nova Religion
14/4 (2011), pp. 133-35.
This ambitious work seeks to set forth a new religious tradition characterized by its central concern for the fate of the planet. Seeking a postmodern, non-theistic response to the problems foisted upon the globe by rapacious human activity, Bron Taylor rejects the notion that standard theology can face up to the challenge of fixing the myriad stresses that currently imperil the Earth's ecosystems. Instead, he proposes a new sensory and sensible model that ensures sustainability without the trappings of religious structures and in situations. . . . [O]ne cannot dispute the basics of Taylor's argument. . . . Taylor makes a good case that the knowledge of scientists and the inspiration of poets can help people overcome their distance from the natural order and that individuals can learn to chart a more Earth-friendly course. Unabridged Review
Roger Gottlieb
in Worldviews 15 (2011), pp. 120-122.
Dark Green Religion is intelligent, well-written, and very much worth reading. Taylor's personal encounters with a number of his subjects enrich the text rather than distract from it; his initial decision to employ a flexible and open-textured attitude towards what constitutes a "religion" keeps him from wasting time on quibbles of definition; and his overall argument is completely sound: a deep sense of love, respect, awe, and ultimate importance, connected to widely respected key texts, honored teachers/elders, and moral imperatives, simply is a religion. Unabridged Review
Seth Clippard
in ARC: The Journal of the McGill University Faculty of Religious Studies (2010).
Dark Green Religion is a rare combination of depth, breadth, and readability. Bron Taylor argues successfully for examining nature religion as a single, though diverse tradition on par with other more traditional religions [providing] a unique contribution to the field of religion and ecology [and] opening new avenues for scholars outside of religious studies. Dark Green Religion is an academic work, not a manifesto on the green spiritual revolution [but] Taylor buttresses his writing with a wit and personal voice that brings an added dimension to his analysis. The central questions Taylor raises . . . are not only worthy of careful consideration, they provide a nexus for a new horizon of humanities research. Unabridged Review
Richard Duus
in PsycCritiques 55/42 (2010).
Dark Green Religion. . . is a passionately written book that is ambitious in breadth and intent [but written] in a way that is accessible to the general reader [and is] successful in bringing together the bricolage of materials to give a visible shape to dark green religion. He is convincing in the assertion that nature religion is a significant social force that will inevitably continue to grow in influence and social power. . . . Those sympathetic and not so sympathetic to nature religion will find this book of interest. Unabridged Review
The Rising Tide of Evo-Eco Spirituality, by Michael Dowd & Connie Barlow, 29 March 2010. (See also their 1 April 2010 podcast, "Dark Green Religion, Neo-Humanism, and More," which about the book and developments pertinent to it).

Dark Green Religion is an essential manual for any and all whose sense of ultimacy is deeply rooted in the natural world. It is also for those on the outside who may be curious about the rising tide of reverence for nature. Taylor coined the term "dark green religion" (DGR) to distinguish the nature-centric from those doctrinally committed to revering a presumed creative force distinct from its creation. DGR thus fosters a kinship with all creatures and a deep sense of ecological belonging; we are moved to act in behalf of this living planet and its evolutionary legacy because we relate to our fellow creatures as family and feel Earth as our larger body. In contrast, "green" religion peaks with environmental stewardship: a sense of duty to preserve and protect God's Creation or to preserve the natural resources crucial for the species that matters most.

The author is astonishingly adept at exploring the breadth of people and philosophies in this still-disjunct movement. He introduces a simple set of categories to ensure that both the scientifically inclined and the magico-mystics are recognized as valid participants within this emergent cultural phenomenon. The writing is smooth and engaging, sometimes eloquent: yes, it is a popular book; yes it is scholarly. Thoreau and Abbey and Carson and Hill will, of course, be encountered in these pages. But so will Disney's Lion King and Pocahontas. The within-chapter section heads make it very easy to dip in and out of this book, to savor it in installments, and then to return for later reference.

In the final chapter Bron Taylor draws some well-supported conclusions. Among them:
Dark green religion is no phantom. Although unrecognized by the Parliament of World Religions, it is as widespread as most religions, more significant than some, and growing more rapidly than many others. It has neither a priesthood nor institutions officially devoted to its promotion. Nor does it have an officially adopted sacred text. It does have, however, revered elders, creative leadership, and texts its adherents consider sacred. (p. 217)
[L]ike an anthropologist from an entirely different planet, I have somehow stumbled across a new global earth tribe, one largely unnoticed by other scholarly observers. The tribe is unnamed and little noticed because the scholarly fashion is to stress national, regional, ethnic, and gender differences rather than the commonalities, connections, and bridges. But everywhere I find the same thing: people with widely different backgrounds sharing 'dark green' perceptions and values. They may be a minority. They sometimes feel isolated and alone. But as best they can, in their own ways, and against long odds, they stand up for life. (p. 220)
Five Star Review of Dark Green Religion
by Editor B at the Humid Beings website, 11 October 2010
Here's a rarity — an academic book that is also a page-turner, at least for me. I couldn't put it down. This is a broad survey of an emergent global phenomenon which might be called earth worship or nature spirituality or "dark green religion." Bron Taylor defines religion broadly and looks a range of cultures and subcultures, from radical environmentalism to surfing to Disney films and many more. I was a bit disappointed that contemporary Paganism got such scant coverage — only about two and a half pages plus some scattered references. Perhaps that's because Taylor seems preoccupied with folks who don't explicitly consider themselves to be practicing "religion" in the most familiar sense of the word. The term "dark" in the title is supposed to connote a sense of potential peril, but according to the author that mostly seems to be in the eyes of Abrahamic practitioners. He hints early in the book that he might examine the potential dangers of ecofascism, but this is never really explored in depth. I suspect there may be a resonance between racism and "dark green religion," especially in Europe, that bears a closer look. But I quibble. This is a good one which I recommend to anyone interested in ecology or religion. My rating, 5 of 5 stars.
Spirituality and Practice
by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, 8 March 2010.

Bron Taylor is Professor of Religion and Nature at the University of Florida. He is editor-in-chief of the multi-volume Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature and editor of Ecological Resistance Movements: The Global Emergence of Radical and Popular Environmentalism. In this ambitious and intellectually exciting work, Taylor explores the origins, growth, and dynamics of "dark green religion" in which "nature is sacred, has intrinsic value, and is therefore due reverent care." He then identifies and discuses four types of dark green religion: 1) Spiritual Animism, 2) Naturalistic Animism, 3) Gaian Spirituality, and 4) Gaian Naturalism.

In a trenchant review of Dark Green Religion in North America, he spends quite a bit of time with Henry David Thoreau whose philosophy and relationship to the natural world entailed eight central themes, including an appreciation for the simple, natural, and undomesticated (free) life and the wisdom of nature. Taylor also comments on the perceptions and writings of naturalist John Burroughs and John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club.

The variety of Dark Green Religion is revealed in the author's treatment of radical environmentalism — the writings of Edward Abbey, the animistic spirituality of David Abram, and the impact of Paul Watson's Greenpeace whose members are willing to break laws to defend nature; surfing spirituality which melds balance, water, wind, connection, communion, and healing; a survey of green documentaries and films including Pocahontas and Happy Feet (and we could add the mammoth box-office hit Avatar); a potpourri section about dark green religion in the arts, sciences, and letters; and a chapter showing how this phenomenon has escaped its countercultural origins and become a contender with a global outreach.

This is an important book in which Bron Taylor makes a convincing case for dark green religion as sensuous, sensible, and sustainable. Marching under a banner of environmental ethics, these pioneers have a rich and deep vision of a sacred world where kinship and interdependence are both honored and enacted. Taylor predicts the continued growth of dark green religion within a global context as more and more people realize the need for "a harbinger of hope."
Religious Expressions of Environmental Resistance in an Increasingly Globalized and Complex World: To What End are we Defining a New Religion? By Simon Appolloni, The Religion Beat, The University of Toronto, Wednesday, 17 March 2007.

This essay begins by discussing a case in the United Kingdom, wherein a judge ruled that an individual's religious rights were violated for practicing what was, using the terminology of my book, dark green religion. The author draws heavily on my book while advancing a perspective about such spirituality.

Not to be missed is Bernard Zaleha's comment in response. In an earlier, analogous case in the USA, he successfully used a religious freedom-based clam to win a legal settlement from his law firm, after it fired him 1992 for refusing to resign from a Sierra Club position. Zaleha considered his work with the club a (dark green) religious obligation.

After Zaleha's comment, I reply as well, in an effort to prevent some misperceptions his essay might otherwise precipitate.