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Dark Green Religion and Stephen Colbert's Quest for a New Faith

Posted: 03/31/11 08:17 AM ET

Religion scholar to the stars and fellow HuffPost blogger Steven Prothero was back on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report this week. His mission: to help Stephen Colbert, who had given up Catholicism for lent, to find a new religion.

Amusing as the banter was, unfortunately, they never really got to an answer. So, I thought, what about the phenomenon I focused on in my book Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future? How would it shape up as a candidate? More importantly, is it funny enough, or better yet, sexy enough, to convince Colbert?

I'll make the case, but first, what the heck is dark green religion?

Dark green religion is a form of nature religion, where nature is sacred, valuable in itself, and worthy of reverent care and protection. It takes place largely outside of the world's predominant religions but it is nevertheless growing rapidly. Those involved in it generally promote green lifestyles and politics. Some have even gone so far as to commit civil disobedience in their efforts to halt what they see as the desecration of nature.

So far, it sounds neither funny nor sexy!

But dark green religion has features that Colbert may find attractive. So, taking inspiration from David Letterman and his top 10 lists, here are the top 10 reasons why dark green religion might be just what Colbert is looking for -- the first two of which the right-wing host may especially like:

1. It is patriotic, since the American homeland is a sacred place and its defense a religious duty.
2. It was born in America with little influence from foreign religions, whether they originated in the Middle East, Europe or Asia.

But the coolist part is what you get to do with dark green nature religion:

3. Visit national parks
4. Be smug, for example, by eating organic veggies and driving a Prius.
5. Believe in evolution and make fun of those who do not.
6. Go fishing, hunting, surfing or hiking, rather than to church.
7. Eat magic mushrooms
8. Talk to the animals (see #7)
9. Utter the four most satisfying words in the English language -- "I told you so" -- after every apocalyptic environmental prediction comes true, and
10. Make love in the woods as if there is no tomorrow (see #9).

There is, of course, significant exaggeration in my flippant list of reasons why dark green religion might be appealing. But perhaps such a list will be enough to arouse Colbert's curiosity, and drive him to a more scholarly and nuanced analysis of the phenomenon, as he shops for a new religion in our increasingly diverse spiritual marketplace. Perhaps the same goes for some The Huffington Post readers.

 
 
 

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