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Religion and climate change denial: Anthropological perspectives

1:00pm-1:10pm on Saturday 3 April

Times shown are in GMT (UTC +0) up to the 27th March. For events on or after 28th March times are in BST (UTC +1).

This talk discusses religious motivations for climate change denial, drawing on immersive ethnographic research collected within an Exclusive Brethren fishing community in Gamrie, NE Scotland. Dr Joe Webster suggests that Scots-Brethren objections to climate activism need to be understood within a local theological context which positions the present as ‘the last of the last days’. The result, Webster argues, is not only a denial that climate change is occurring, but a folk-theological reimagination of environmentalist politics as a demonic conspiracy to institute a world-ending false salvationist religion. By offering a critique of deprivation theory and cognitive dissonance theory (which reduce apocalyptic religion to poverty or pathology), Webster contends that properly accounting for the millenarian motivations of climate change deniers requires a concomitant understanding the moral motivations of such individuals, and the communities in which they live. During a time of increasing polarisation, the broader intellectual ‘payoff’ of this anthropological willingness to listen to (and even learn from) the ‘culturally repugnant other’ are clear: a renewed ability to communicate with social groups who, despite appearing to stand at the margins of society, are powerfully influencing political policy.

Dr Joe Webster is a Lecturer in the Study of Religion in the Faculty of Divinity, and an anthropologist specialising in the study of contemporary Protestant fundamentalism and apocalypticism in Scotland.

This talk is part of the Quick Bites // Religion and Theology at Lunchtime series.

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This content will be available on the Faculty of Divinity YouTube channel

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Additional Information

Age: Adults, Young Adults 12 – 18
Timing: Available on Demand, Live Stream
Cost: Free
Theme: Society, Environment

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