Historians of American environmentalism have long given religion either a negligible role or a negative one in the development of the field.
According to the standard view, Christianity fostered attitudes hostile or indifferent to nature, with Protestantism the worst offender.
While virtually all leading environmental figures did eventually leave organized religion, a large majority however had religious childhoods, usually in Reformed Protestant churches, and oftencounted clergy as close relatives. And although popular support for conservation and environmentalism was relatively non-denominational, Congregationalists provided the foundational ideas of conservation, while the rise and decline of environmentalism as a powerful national movement coincided withthe prevalence of Presbyterian leadership. By tracing the history of American environmentalism from a perspective that puts religion at the center rather than the margins, Mark Stoll opens up a fundamentally new and much needed narrative in environmental studies.
Inherit the Holy Mountain argues against the divide between religion and American environmentalism, demonstrating how religion necessarily provided environmentalists with deeply-embedded moral and cultural ways of viewing the world giving content, direction, and toneto the environmental causes they espoused.
The book demonstrates how individuals' denominational origins corresponded with characteristic sets of ideas about nature and the environment, with each denomination fostering a distinctive culture with its own moral framework and its own placement of humans withinthe natural world.
Stoll also demonstrates how each denomination also fostered a distinctive aesthetic reaction to nature, beginning each chapter of the book with an analysis of a representative work of art. Inherit the Holy Mountain also provides insight into the possible future of environmentalism in the United States, concluding with an examination of the current religious scene and consideration of what it may tell us.
Whatever form the response to these problems will take in the twenty-first century, Stoll says, it will look very different, with different values, goals, and styles of leadership, than it did when the children of the Reformed churches created and led it.