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A nature religion is a religious movement that believes the natural world is an embodiment of divinity, sacredness or spiritual power. Nature religions include indigenous religions practiced in various parts of the world by cultures who consider the environment to be imbued with spirits and other sacred entities. It also includes contemporary Pagan faiths such as Wicca, Neo-Druidism and the Goddess movement, which are primarily concentrated in Europe and North America.
The term "nature religion" was first coined by the American religious studies scholar Catherine Albanese, who used it in her work Nature Religion in America: From the Algonkian Indians to the New Age (1991) and later went on to use it in other studies. Following on from Albanese's development of the term it has since been used by other academics working in the discipline.
Catherine Albanese described nature religion as "a symbolic center and the cluster of beliefs, behaviours, and values that encircles it", deeming it to be useful for shining a light on aspects of history that are rarely viewed as religious. In a paper of his on the subject, the Canadian religious studies scholar Peter Beyer described "nature religion" as a "useful analytical abstraction" to refer to "any religious belief or practice in which devotees consider nature to be the embodiment of divinity, sacredness, transcendence, spiritual power, or whatever cognate term one wishes to use". He went on to note that in this way nature religion was not an "identifiable religious tradition" such as Buddhism or Christianity are, but that it instead covers "a range of religious and quasi-religious movements, groups and social networks whose participants may or may not identify with one of the many constructed religions of global society which referred to many other nature religion."
"[I]ncluded under the heading of nature religion would be modern witchcraft/Wicca and Neo-Paganism, various revitalised aboriginal spiritual traditions, movements that appropriate aspects of aboriginal spirituality but consist mostly of non-aboriginals, neo-shamanistic groups, various portions of environmental movements, some feminist movements, certain 'New Age' movements, and movement within traditional religions such as Christian creation spirituality. This list could vary somewhat and I certainly do not want to suggest that such classification is an unambiguous matter."
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