‘Our Only Heaven’

Nature Veneration, Quest Religion, and Pro-Environment Behavior


  • Bernard Daley Zaleha University of California, Santa Cruz




Pantheism, nature veneration, biospheric, humanistic, egoistic, pro-environment, metapersonal


Utilizing the Pure Pantheism/Dualistic Theism/Nihilistic Atheism sacrality scale as a heuristic, I survey sociological/social psychological studies assessing whether people’s values and religious worldviews affect the likelihood of pro-environment behavior. One set of studies divides environmental values into three types: (1) self-interest (or egoistic) values; (2) humanistic altruism, and (3) biospheric altruism. Another study analyzes three types of self-construal as pro-environment indicators: (1) independent, (2) interdependent, and (3) metapersonal. Analyzing these models in light of the tripartite social psychological model of (1) religion as means; (2) religion as an end unto itself; and (3) religion as quest, I demonstrate that both the biospheric and metapersonal orientations, and perceptions that tend toward the pantheistic end of the sacrality scale, are the strongest predictors of pro-environment behavior. Put simply, nature veneration is predictive of pro-environmental behavior. I further argue that available data make the testing of this hypothesis worth pursuing whether naturevenerating religions are growing in the United States and beyond.

Author Biography

Bernard Daley Zaleha, University of California, Santa Cruz

Bernard Daley Zaleha is currently a Ph.D. student in the environmental sociology of religion at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He earned in M.A. in Sociology at U.C. Santa Cruz in 2011, and his M.A. in Religion and Nature at the University of Florida in 2008, writing his thesis on American pantheism. He received his Juris Doctor from Lewis and Clark Law School in 1987 and was an environmental litigator and activist for 17 years. He served as the national Vice President of the Sierra Club from 2004-2006. His articles include “Nature and Nature Religion” and “Environment and Ecology in American Religion Since the Mid-Nineteenth Century” in the Encyclopedia of Religion in America, and “James Nash as Christian Deep Ecologist: Forging a New Eco-theology for the Third Millennium,” published in the Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture.


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How to Cite

Zaleha, B. D. (2013). ‘Our Only Heaven’: Nature Veneration, Quest Religion, and Pro-Environment Behavior. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 7(2), 131–153. https://doi.org/10.1558/jsrnc.v7i2.131