Brendan W. Clark ’21
Professor Roger S. Gottlieb will lecture on spirituality in the environmental crisis this Wednesday, Mar. 11. Gottlieb, a philosophy professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, is this year’s distinguished visiting fellow at the Leonard Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. The lecture will take place at 4:30 p.m. in the Terrace Rooms of Mather Hall.
Gottlieb spoke with the Tripod about his upcoming lecture, characterizing his approach to the environmental crisis as a “non-eclectic, non-denominational form of spirituality.” Gottlieb described his own path to understanding his philosophical position, self-identifying himself as a “Marxist and a socialist.” Gottlieb added that his experiences as a “hippie and a radical” in the 1960s deeply informed his outlook on religion and its place in public life.
As to his own struggles with faith, Gottlieb notes the difficulty of maintaining the tranquility of faith amidst the chaos of the environmental crisis, adding “how am I supposed to achieve calm when the conditions for life on Earth are being destroyed?” Gottlieb’s lecture is titled “What’s Truth Got to Do With It? Fascism, Honesty and Religious Environmentalism.” To best understand the environmental crisis, Gottlieb encourages an understanding of “Marxism as well as capitalism,” to fully grasp the breadth of issues.
Speaking to his own faith background, Gottlieb acknowledged that he was “raised almost as a reformed Jew,” although noted that religion in the 1950s “didn’t have much of anything to offer.” His interest in environmentalism began in the early 1990s, when he was asked to prepare a comprehensive textbook on the environmental crisis entitled This Sacred Earth: Religion, Nature, Environment. At first, he was “scared to face the truth” of climate change, though eventually he became invested in the book and its mission. Gottlieb is also the “editor of twenty books and more than 150 articles,” according to his biography on WPI’s website, with one of his most recent being Morality and the Environmental Crisis.
As to his outlook on religion, Gottlieb encourages a dual approach, noting that we must “appreciate the wisdom of religion and its stupidity at the same time.” Gottlieb noted that, even so, “religion has a fundamental place in life to play.” Gottlieb continued, understanding the truth of religion as being one subject to constant change. “All religions are true and false at the same time,” he added. Gottlieb told the Tripod that if all could understand this, civil discourse may be in a better place.
Further, because he was “not theologically wedded to any one religion,” Gottlieb added that he felt he could “better understand religion in its totality.” As a distinguished fellow this spring at Trinity, Gottlieb will spend the week “engaging with faculty, students, and members of the community in a variety of settings.” Among the events Gottlieb will undertake are a Wednesday lecture and dinner.
Director of the Leonard Greenberg for the Study of Religion in Public Life Mark Silk told the Tripod that he “couldn’t be more delighted to have Roger Gottlieb on campus this week. The country’s leading environmental philosopher, he brings a unique moral and spiritual sensitivity to the analysis of what has become the greatest challenge to human civilization in history.”