Chapter 5: Spiritual Anthropologies and Sustainability

Chapter 5 Discussion Questions

Spiritual Anthropologies: Sin, Grace, Dukkha, Biophilia  & Death-o-phobia


Reflection Questions:

    • What is the relationship between human finitude, anxiety, sin, and pride according to Niebuhr? Evaluate his point of view from the standpoint of your own experience.
    • Compare and contrast the Christian and Buddhist views of the human situation presented by Niebuhr and Loy. Are these views compatible?

Discussion Questions:

    1. What is sin?
    2. Do you ever use the terms “sin” or “sinner” in reference to yourself? If not, what terms do you use to refer to things you do that you think are wrong or bad (or things you do not do that you think you should have done)?
    3. What relevance does the Niebuhr reading have for how we think about and treat the environment?
    4. How well does the concept “sin” fit into modern psychological analysis?
    5. What is dukkha?
    6. Do you think the “individual predicament” Loy describes from a Buddhist perspective contains parallels to the collective situation as Loy suggests? Why or why not?
    7. What does Loy mean when he says that “traditional societies did not realize [a] distinction between nature and social convention,” and that such cultures enjoyed “a collective sense of meaning that we’ve lost today” (259)?
    8. Once again, what is autonomy? Do you consider it good to be autonomous?

Study Questions:

    1. According to Niebuhr, why does anxiety often lead to sin?
    2. What function does belief in the devil have in Christian thought?
    3. What is the “ideological taint”?
    4. Why, according to Niebuhr, is anxiety “the internal precondition of sin”?
    5. What are the major points that Niebuhr makes about pride in a person’s life?
    6. What does Niebuhr mean when he argues that ignorance is often the consequence of sin?
    7. Why does the self not deserve unconditional devotion, according to Niebuhr?
    8. What, according to Niebuhr, is the relationship between dishonesty and pride?
    9. What similarities do you see between the Niebuhr and Snow readings? Must one believe in God to overcome the fear of death?
    10. Why does Loy say that the “Buddhist solution to the human predicament is not to get rid of the self”?
    11. What is a bodhisattva, and what role might a bodhisattva have in relation to the welfare of the environment?
    12. What similarities are there in the way Loy’s Buddhist and Niebuhr’s Christian views address the illusions of the self?


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Religion and Environmental Values in America Copyright © 2019 by Gregory E Hitzhusen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.