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Study Questions: Environmentalism As Religion

After reading Paul H. Rubin's article, "Environmentalism As Religion," get into groups of four and complete the following:


  1. How effective a comparison does Rubin make between environmentalism and religion?  Why? Point out three specific ways in which the comparison is, or is not, effective, and explain these.
  2. Rubin refers to himself as an "environmental skeptic."  What does he mean by this?  What are the politics and the values of someone who calls himself an "environmental skeptic"?
  3. Discuss the major difference between an analogy and a comparison.  Do you believe Rubin's "comparison" between religion and environmentalism is sincere?  Why?


One person at a time, select one of the advertisements from your topic and rename the ad,

“The Religion of __________.”

Fill in this blank by discussing with your peers how the ad has the potential to promote a “religious movement” of ideas and/or values. What does the ad proselytize (or seem to proselytize)?

Paul Rubin points out several material ways in which environmentalism acts like a religion:  a tribal identity; a high holy day; taboo behavior; rituals; sacred places; etc.  Can you find similar ways of comparing the normative propaganda of your ad to a religion?  (Note:  You don’t have to choose the same traits as Rubin; there are plenty of other ways to compare something to a religion.)


Now that everyone in the group has discussed how one of their examples illustrates the proselytizing of a norm, open up the discussion about your broader essay topics:

  1. Where do we look for your advertisements’ normative propaganda in real life?  In what settings and situations is it evident?  Which of these is the most complex or unexpected?  Why?
  2. How do you intend to incorporate your answers to Question 1 into the body of your essay?  What are some of the consequences for us socially, culturally, and/or politically of advocating these norms?
  3. What sorts of research are required to support or illustrate your answers to Questions #1 and #2? Brainstorm some ways to make your sources (or use of them) more scholarly.
Last Updated: 01/15/2016


Karl J. Sherlock
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