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Religion and Climate Change: Rain Rituals in Israel, China, and Haiti

Department of Sociology, Shanghai Normal University, Shanghai 200234, China
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Religions 2020, 11(11), 554; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11110554
Received: 13 August 2020 / Revised: 16 October 2020 / Accepted: 19 October 2020 / Published: 26 October 2020
Human populations confront three distinct climate challenges: (1) seasonal climate fluctuations, (2) sporadic climate crises, and (3) long term climate change. Religious systems often attribute climate crises to the behavior of invisible spirits. They devise rituals to influence the spirits, and do so under the guidance of religious specialists. They devise two types of problem-solving rituals: anticipatory climate maintenance rituals, to request adequate rainfall in the forthcoming planting season, and climate crisis rituals for drought or inundations. The paper compares rainfall rituals in three different settings: Israel (Judaism), Northwest China (ethnic village religion), and Haiti (Vodou). Each author has done anthropological fieldwork in one or more of these settings. In terms of the guiding conceptual paradigm, the analysis applies three sequentially organized analytic operations common in anthropology: (1) detailed description of individual ethnographic systems; (2) comparison and contrast of specific elements in different systems; and (3) attempts at explanation of causal forces shaping similarities and differences. Judaism has paradoxically maintained obligatory daily prayers for rain in Israel during centuries when most Jews lived as urban minorities in the diaspora, before the founding of Israel in 1948. The Tu of Northwest China maintain separate ethnic temples for rainfall rituals not available in the Buddhist temples that all attend. The slave ancestors of Haiti, who incorporated West African rituals into Vodou, nonetheless excluded African rainfall rituals. We attribute this exclusion to slavery itself; slaves have little interest in performing rituals for the fertility of the fields of their masters. At the end of the paper, we identify the causal factors that propelled each systems into a climate-management trajectory different from that of the others. We conclude by identifying a common causal factor that exerts a power over religion in general and that has specifically influenced the climate responses of all three religious systems. View Full-Text
Keywords: Judaism; Chinese ethnic religion; Haitian Vodou; climate change; drought; rainfall rituals Judaism; Chinese ethnic religion; Haitian Vodou; climate change; drought; rainfall rituals
MDPI and ACS Style

Murray, G.; Xing, H. Religion and Climate Change: Rain Rituals in Israel, China, and Haiti. Religions 2020, 11, 554. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11110554

AMA Style

Murray G, Xing H. Religion and Climate Change: Rain Rituals in Israel, China, and Haiti. Religions. 2020; 11(11):554. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11110554

Chicago/Turabian Style

Murray, Gerald, and Haiyan Xing. 2020. "Religion and Climate Change: Rain Rituals in Israel, China, and Haiti" Religions 11, no. 11: 554. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11110554

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