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Tilburg University
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Religion and nature

Hindus in diaspora
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Religion and nature

In Religious Studies, the link between religion and nature, or, reversely, between nature and religion, is often associated with far-away times and places. But presently it has become evident that research into their connectedness not only yields vital insights into the emergence of religious concepts and practices, but also into the persisting and continuing inspiration that people find in ultimate concerns. This appears to be even more so in today’s world in which both nature and religion are subject to dramatic changes in the manner these are experienced, manipulated, re-formulated and even re-invented both individually and collectively. Such changes in interpretation and application necessitate a new academic discourse, even more so since religious traditions are being mined for contemporary activist mobilisation.


Nature, as a field of religious inspiration, is recognised as a vital source for meaning-making, aesthetic delight, and a sense of belonging .At the same time, nature is being made, exploited, controlled and feared. As a corollary, a rapidly expanding domain has emerged in which the correlations between religion and nature are under investigation:

  • What images, derived from natural phenomena, the embeddedness in the natural environment, the rhythm of the seasons and the constellations in the sky, the world of animals, and elementary forces, have found their way into religions?
  • What cosmological, mythological, and narrative traditions form a basis for cultural concepts and practices?
  • How is this relation to be traced in ritual, calendric festivities, and magical practices?
  • And how does such a nexus impact non-religious meaning-making, ethics, economics, and today’s environmental movements?; and in those cases where religious traditions are being mined for the contemporary mobilisation of ecological self-restraint and environmental awareness, what caveats should be voiced by the historian of religion? More …