The latest rage among those who are “spiritual but not religious” is animism. That is the religion associated with what used to be called “primitive tribes,” the view that animals, plants, bodies of water, and natural forces are animated by spirits, which must be placated and worshiped.
Yesterday we blogged about medical students who vowed to honor “indigenous ways of healing”; that is to say, the natural remedies and incantations as practiced by animistic healers. You may remember how the city of Toledo, Ohio, in a 2019 referendum that won 61% of the vote, proclaimed that Lake Erie was legally a “person” with “rights” that should protect it from industrial pollution. New Zealand, India, Columbia, and Bolivia have passed laws defining rivers as persons. Ecuador has affirmed the rights of “Mother Nature” in its constitution. Then there are the various lawsuits maintaining that elephants, chimpanzees, and other animals should be considered persons, an effort that has not so far borne fruit in the U.S. but that has had some success in the European Union, India, and South America. A child in the womb is not a person, according to many of these advocates, but an animal or a river is.