Calvinism Without God: American Environmentalism as Implicit Calvinism

Implicit Religion, 2014

26 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2016

See all articles by Robert H. Nelson

Robert H. Nelson

University of Maryland - School of Public Policy

Date Written: December 1, 2014


This article in the British Journal Implicit Religion argues that American environmentalism is a secularization of the powerful Calvinist tradition in American history. Environmentalism has a real God but the presence of this God is disguised in secular language. When environmentalists write of human beings raping and assaulting the earth, they are repeating the Calvinist message of the c corruption of fallen human beings. When they call for curbing consumption and other ways of reducing the human impact on the earth, they are again following in the Calvinist tradition of asceticism, discipline and rational self restraint. When they predict environmental calamities if human beings do not reform their ways, Calvinism also predicted that the wrath of God would fall upon human beings who defied his commands. American environmentalism is a genuine Calvinist religion that sought a wider audience by seeming to disassociate itself from the traditional messages and institutional forms of Calvinism, becoming instead an "implicit religion."

Keywords: Environmentalism, Calvinism, implicit religion, secularization

JEL Classification: B15, B25, N00, Q3, Z10

Suggested Citation

Nelson, Robert H., Calvinism Without God: American Environmentalism as Implicit Calvinism (December 1, 2014). Implicit Religion, 2014, Available at SSRN:

Robert H. Nelson (Contact Author)

University of Maryland - School of Public Policy ( email )

College Park, MD 20742-1815
United States
301-405-6345 (Phone)
301-718-4377 (Fax)

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