Sharing Eden

I’ve just received a copy of Sharing Eden (website and further details). It’s a beautiful little book, and as far as I know unique – at least until our own book comes out! – in that it sets out multiple religious views on the environment in parallel, neither synthesising them into something virtually meaningless, nor asserting that their own religion’s view, and it alone, is the one to follow.

It is written by Natan Levy (for Judaism), David Shreeve (for Christianity) and Harifyah Haleem (for Islam) and takes the form of a set of short trios of reflections on the main topics of the sustainability debate, showing how insights from each religion speak to each issue.

What I found most fascinating was that though the three approaches overlap considerably – not least because in the case of Christianity and Judaism we draw on common texts – but vary in subtle ways. There are things that come out of the other traditions that we can broadly affirm, but might struggle to justify from our own.

Just one example to illustrate this:

“According to another interpretation, God was speaking [in Genesis 1:26] to the whole of creation, to all of nature. In that case, ‘Let us make man in our image’ means, ‘Let each of you contribute something.’ The fox and the dove, the tiger and the sheep, the spider and the bee each contributed a small part—as did the angels and the devils. We humans contain all the parts.”
—Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

By destroying even the smallest part of nature, we are deeply and truly destroying some component of our own humanity. However, comprising so many different pieces and parts, as we do, it can be hard to hold perspective. Saving tree frogs is important, but the loggers also need to feed their families…

This reading of Genesis doesn’t fit into Christian theology as far as I can see, but the idea of interconnectedness is certainly consonant with our thinking (and that of Islam too, I believe.)

So – a very encouraging and helpful project, and I hope it inspires those in each of the three traditions to collaborate more in environmental thought.


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One response to “Sharing Eden

  1. There is also the book Faith in Conservation: New Approaches to Religions and the Environment by Martin Palmer and Victoria Finlay which includes comprehensive Faith Statements on ecology for all the main world religions. The Statements are also available on the Alliance of Religions and Conservation website

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