A Political Theology for the Anthropocene

Authored by: Michael S. Hogue

The Routledge Handbook of Religious Naturalism

Print publication date:  February  2018
Online publication date:  February  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138292079
eBook ISBN: 9781315228907
Adobe ISBN:


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Any new constructive work on religious naturalism must engage the realities and uncertainties of life in the Anthropocene. 1 By “constructive” I refer to work that is theologically articulated, morally charged, and politically engaged. By “religious naturalism” I refer to the generative integration of naturalistic interpretations of religion and religious interpretations of nature. The “Anthropocene,” which literally means “human age,” signifies two ideas. First, it signals that the Earth has moved beyond the historical epoch known as the Holocene, which began roughly 12,000 years ago. This is an unsettling idea, for by providing climatic conditions necessary to agriculture and social settlement, the Holocene made it possible for human civilization to develop. The normal CO2 range during the Holocene fluctuated between 260 and 285 ppm. But we have just crossed over to 400 ppm, and given the way the carbon cycle works, no matter how much or how quickly we reduce greenhouse gas emissions, no one alive today will see CO2 levels drop below this level. The second idea signaled by the term Anthropocene is at least as disturbing. It is the claim “that human activity is largely responsible for this exit from the Holocene ... that humankind has become a global geological force in its own right” (Steffen 2011: 843). In other words, the point is not only that we have exited the Holocene, but that we booted ourselves out the door. While the Holocene provided a hospitable climatic niche conducive to the development of complex human civilization, the climatic chaos of the Anthropocene promises to make for a very different kind of experience. Life in the Anthropocene will be more uncertain, less predictable, and increasingly insecure.

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