Religion and spirituality in environmental direct action
Bronislaw Szerszynski and Emma Tomalin
This chapter introduces the environmental direct action movement, particularly developed in Britain for specific political and cultural reasons. It explores the tensions between the spiritual and the secular in this movement, in the context of a critique, broadly shared within the movement, of mainstream Western religion as hierarchical and ecologically malign. The chapter focuses on a detailed qualitative research regarding environmental direct activists in the 1990s. Environmental direct action shares with organised religion the characteristic of reflecting what Paul Tillich called the 'ultimate concern' of the individual. Whilst for some activists their ultimate concern is articulated in a secular way, for many others it is expressed in the language of spirituality, in terms of belief in the sacredness of the Earth or of love for the Mother Earth goddess. The chapter also explores the uses of the 'de-regulated religion' in three dimensions of direct action, namely beliefs, identity and action.