Bookbeat: October 2005

Encyclopedia or Religion and Nature, Edited by Bron TaylorEncyclopedia of Religion and Nature

edited by Bron R. Taylor, Department of Religion (Thoemmes Continuum, 2005)

Religion, says Bron Taylor, has evolved with human beings from nature, and in turn, religion plays a role in the ways humans relate to and transform nature. The effort to understand these reciprocal dynamics led UF’s Samuel S. Hill Eminent Scholar of Religion and Christian Ethics to create a two-volume encyclopedia that draws together the emerging discipline of religion and nature.

“Part of constructing this field is re-conceptualizing what we understand religion to be,” Taylor says. “If religion is most fundamentally about belonging and connecting, which is clear when we look at the roots of the word, then religion need not only be about connecting to divine beings. It can also be related to people’s felt connection to the biosphere. Indeed, whenever human beings rely on metaphors of the sacred to describe what they most deeply feel, then we are in the orbit of religion, and quite often, this has a lot to do with nature.”

As editor-in-chief of the world’s first Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature, Taylor’s vision was to build an interdisciplinary work that explores the relationships among human beings, their environments and their religions, and to do so by drawing together voices from the natural sciences, the social sciences and the humanities. The encyclopedia, he explains, provides a place where scholars from a wide array of disciplines can wrestle together about the religious dimensions of human-nature relations.

“For example, atmospheric scientist James Lovelock [originator of the Gaia hypothesis] has an entry in which he describes his surprise at the extent to which people resonated with what he understood to be a scientific theory in a spiritual or religious way. He confesses in his entry that he has come to value that way of looking at it.”

Bron TaylorEver since medieval historian Lynn White published his 1967 Science article blaming monotheistic religions in general and the dominant streams of Christianity in particular for fostering environmentally destructive attitudes and behaviors, there has been robust scholarly debate about the role of religion in transforming ecosystems. Until Taylor began his encyclopedia there had been no place to bring together such a debate, track its evolution, and suggest further research.

The encyclopedia has 1,000 entries with 520 contributors from around world, including 11 religion faculty members and students from UF. “One of the things I’m proudest of is that this is an international encyclopedia,” Taylor says. “Places that often get short shift, such as Africa, did not. There are entries on the religious aspects of such activities as mountain climbing and surfing. There is an entry on space and the way many astronauts have been transformed religiously by their experiences.”

Taylor arrived at UF in 2002, recruited to help establish the university’s unique graduate program in religion and nature. His research is in religious ethics and religion and political mobilization, with extensive fieldwork exploring grassroots environmental movements. Apart from the encyclopedia, Taylor is leading an initiative to establish an International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture and will be the editor of its new journal, which will begin publishing in 2007.

—Michal Meyer

The Handbook of Attitudes edited by Dolores AlbarracinHandbook of Attitudes

edited by Dolores Albarracín, Department of Psychology
(Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005)

This new handbook presents, synthesizes, and integrates the existing knowledge of methods, theories, and data in attitudes. The editors’ goal is to promote an understanding of the broader principles underlying attitudes across several disciplines. Divided into three parts: one on definitions and methods; another on the relations of attitudes with beliefs, behavior, and affect; and a final one that integrates these relations into the broader areas of cognitive processes, communication and persuasion, social influence, and applications, the handbook also features an innovative chapter on implicit versus explicit attitudes.


Selbstkritik der Moderne by Thomas BiebricherSelbstkritik der Moderne. Habermas und Foucault im Vergleich (Self-Critique of Modernity: Habermas and Foucault in Comparison)

by Thomas Biebricher, Department of Political Science

(Campus Verlag, 2005)

Michel Foucault (1926–1984) and Juergen Habermas (1929–) are considered the most influential philosophers/social scientists of our time. While both agree on many political issues and share a diffuse leftist sentiment, in their works they have pursued different paths in constructing critical approaches to society, morals, science as well as politics and democracy.

The book is a comparative study of the major works of both authors. It analyses and compares the ‘critiques’ that they have developed over time and places them in historical and critical context.

—Author Summary

The Gospel of Thomas edited by Benjamin John HebbelthwaiteThe Gospel of Thomas in English, Haitian Creole and French

edited by Benjamin John Hebblethwaite, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures
(Classic Editions
, 2005)

The Gospel of Thomas was discovered in 1945 with a cache of books in Nag Hammadi, Egypt. The Christian and Gnostic books had been hidden on a hillside for 1,600 years. The Gospel of Thomas is of immense value because it dates from the same period as the canonical gospels and because it is a remarkable record of what numerous scholars claim are the actual teachings of Jesus.

This book is designed for general readers, students and scholars of English, French and, for the first time, Haitian Creole. This volume is an excellent tool for accelerated learning and for diving into the depth of the Apostle Thomas’ tradition.


The Shadowlands of Conduct by Beth RosensonThe Shadowlands of Conduct: Ethics and State Politics

Beth Rosenson, Department of Political Science
(Georgetown University Press, 2005)

The linking of ethics and politics is an issue that affects every American—especially when it comes to state politics, where the cynical might say ethics can never survive. Scandals have been ubiquitous since the beginning of the Republic, but it wasn’t until 1954 that ethical self-regulation began to move legislatively beyond bribery statutes to address deeper issues—those which, in New York Governor Thomas Dewey’s words, skulked in the “shadowlands of conduct.” Rosenson begins her exploration with that moment when New York became the first state to enact a general ethics law, setting standards and guidelines for behavior. She examines the many laws that have been enacted since and the reasons that many of these laws came into being.


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