Calvinism Without God

American Environmentalism as Implicit Calvinism


  • Robert H Nelson School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park





Environmentalism has emerged as an important part of the American public debate since the 1960s. It challenges the longstanding implicit faith in economic progress as the path of salvation of the world. The exercise of human scientific and economic mastery is instead seen as frequently doing great damage to the natural world, including to the global climate and the endangerment of whole species of plants and animals. To a greater degree than most environmentalists realize, the real roots of their thinking lie in Christian (and Jewish) sources. One might describe environmentalism as an implicit Christianity—a religion in disguise. In the United States, reflecting the large historic influence of Puritanism on the intellectual and political life of the nation, American environmentalism is an implicit Calvinism. This has been a major contributing factor to its wide success and impact there. Assessing the future prospects for American environmentalism will require the development of a more complete understanding of its deeply religious essence.


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How to Cite

Nelson, R. H. (2014). Calvinism Without God: American Environmentalism as Implicit Calvinism. Implicit Religion, 17(3), 249–273.




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