The Ways of Nature as Religious Authority

Finally, for some religions, the natural world itself is the highest religious authority and the model upon which humans should base their lives.

A second religion indigenous to China—Daoism, whose founder is the legendary Lao Tzu (604 b.c.e., traditional birth date)—does not rely primarily on people or texts for authority, even though it is the source of the famous Dao De Jing. Rather, the Dao itself, the natural cosmic law that cannot be put into words but governs everything is the authority to which humans and everything else should submit and which they should imitate in every act of living. All human woe is said to derive from ignoring cosmic natural law and trying to impose human norms upon it. A wise person observes nature and trains until he or she can follow its ways in complete spontaneity, no matter where that may lead.

Finally, Shinto, the indigenous religion of Japan, is famous for not regarding texts as important. Ritual traditions and the cultivation of beauty are its primary means of expressing itself. Priests know how to perform the beautiful rituals and maintain beautiful temples, often located in places of great natural beauty, but they are not regarded as religious authorities or leaders either. Rather, the delightful natural world itself is of supreme value. It is the sacred source of all life and nothing human can compete with it for value.

This model of religion that orients itself more to the ways of the natural world than to texts or people is also common among indigenous religions around the world.

They commonly have a keen understanding of and appreciation for nature and regard the entire natural world as sacred, of ultimate value.

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