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Environmental Justice Activism: A Transformative, Contemporary Nature Religion

Abstract

Our in-depth study of 12, spiritual but not religious (SBNR), participants arrested to protect nature as sacred presents a case to consider the religious and spiritual meanings of contemporary environmental and ecology movements. Through a lived religious approach to participants’ narratives of environmental justice (ENVJ) activism, this paper identified four themes—reconstructing self and nature, re-envisioning social and moral life, living with vulnerability, and practices of spiritual and cultural work—whose meanings evidenced transformative spiritual effects on participants identity, ethics, coping, and ways of participating in society. Findings present a case to argue that although ENVJ activism resembles a SBNR phenomenon and satisfies criteria of an implicit religion, it most closely aligns with a contemporary nature religion whose substantive essence is an immanent sense of nature as sacred.

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Correspondence to Paul Deal.

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Deal, P., O’Grady, K. Environmental Justice Activism: A Transformative, Contemporary Nature Religion. Rev Relig Res 62, 315–332 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13644-020-00409-y

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Keywords

  • Lived religion
  • Environmental activism
  • Sacred
  • Spiritual but not religious
  • Implicit religion
  • Nature religion