Before attending the January Term class "Green Religion," students may not have considered their trips to shopping malls as "sacred" experiences.
"Shopping has replaced religion in the modern world for many people," said Marie Pagliarini, a religious studies professor who taught the monthlong class. "Malls are designed to seduce and mesmerizeâ€¦going there becomes a pilgrimage for many people."
Learning that something as secular as consumerism can have a religious dimension helped students reflect on their own lifestyle choices and how they impact the environment, according to Pagliarini.
"We really played with the idea of religion and spirituality and broadened their definitions," she said.
The "Green Religion" class explored the relationship between the environmental crisis and religion. Reading essays from the book "This Sacred Earth: Religion, Nature, and Environment," Pagliarini led the students in seminar-style discussions about how the world's religions are addressing environmental destruction.
For instance, the students watched the film "Is God Green?" which looks at the radical changes made by some evangelical Christian leaders who are now teaching that it is a sin to damage the environment because it is God's creation.
The class also considered emerging green spiritualities such as Ecofeminism and Environmental Paganism.
Solving the environmental crisis will ultimately require more than science and technology, the students learned. Religious people around the world will have to transform their conception of what is sacred on the planet.
"This is a spiritual problem that will require a spiritual solution," said Pagliarini.
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