God's Territory

Alpha God: The Psychology of Religious Violence and Oppression - Hector A. Garcia 2015

God's Territory

“It's about our D and A. Descendants and ancestors. We are the descendants and we are the ancestors. D and A, our DNA, our blood, our flesh and our bone, is made up of the metals and the minerals and the liquids of the earth. We are the earth. We truly, literally and figuratively are the earth.” —John Trudell, Native American activist

Science shows us that we are indeed made of the earth, of its minerals and liquids and metals. But life also requires useable energy. Energy is what makes earth material able to organize and perform the functions required for life. Energy is the very thing that sustains organizational integrity, keeping organic beings from dissolving back into the strata while living. All life forms derive this energy from the sun. Humans draw upon sun energy captured in plants and other animals—this makes humans truly sun energy as well as truly earth.

Because useable sun energy on earth is finite, life competes for it. The notion of territory is a kind of quale that energy-requiring beings project onto geographic space, signifying the right to utilize energy resources within specified boundaries. This right is won through competition. In this chapter we will therefore discuss territory not only in terms of tracts of earth but also in terms of competition for the vital resources they contain. And yet again, if we take scripture at face value, we face an indeterminable contradiction—here, the idea of the Abrahamic god, who exists in an ethereal plane and requires neither the earth nor the earth's yield to survive, showing such zealous interest in territory. The ultimate answer for this bestial concern can once again be traced back to our own evolutionary history.


To understand the innate, animalistic quality of God's territoriality, we must revisit its origins. We begin with the matter of marking territory, a behavior that a vast number of species engage in using sound (e.g., bird song, monkey vocalizations), visual threat displays, or scent (by way of urine, droppings, or specialized scent glands). Males (and sometimes females) may patrol their demarcated territories and will defend them by force if necessary. Often, however, territorial displays or markers allow individuals to avert costly violence; they serve as warnings for competitors to stay away, and thus avoid potentially damaging physical conflict. When these markers are ignored, the invading individual is typically willing to risk violent confrontation for the potential gain of appropriating some desired resource: food, water, or females. When conflict does arise and the challenger is victorious, he will mark the territory as his, covering all traces of his predecessor.

Human beings are intensely territorial. Today there are 192 countries in the world, all with delineated borders, all patrolled and defended by armed men (and the occasional woman). Countries are distinguished by national flags, which serve as visual cues conveying information about dominance, territorial control, and in-group loyalty. The American flag, for example, is suffused with symbolic meaning of this sort: the thirteen red and white stripes symbolize the thirteen colonies that rebelled against their dominator, the Kingdom of Great Britain, to gain control of its territories; the fifty stars represent the collective territories that now share in-group commitment, particularly in alliance against outsiders. By way of symbolism, the flag says in essence: This is how we won it—and this is the loyalty we share against any usurpers. As such, flags often serve to warn outsiders. Further, flags of all nations across the ages have had a central role in military campaigns and are used to mark territory acquired in war. Last, flags are regarded as sacrosanct, and their desecration provokes outrage and sometimes violence, much in the manner of religious symbols.

Not surprisingly, religious symbols often serve the same function as flags or even earlier forms of marking—to communicate dominance over territory, including that which is acquired through conflict. During the bloody Spanish conquests of the Americas, Spanish forces staked crosses all throughout the New World, rather explicitly claiming territory for the Catholic Church. Upon capturing a city, the Conquistadors went about methodically smashing idols, dismantling altars, and leveling the religious temples of the indigenous peoples they dominated. They planted crosses and erected cathedrals atop the ruins, flooding their claims with Catholic iconography—all to provide the conquered nations a clear sign of the new male god's dominance. This took place in virtually every indigenous community with which they had contact, from the tip of South America northward to California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. A good example is the Metropolitan Cathedral of Mexico City, the largest and oldest cathedral of the Americas. This towering, gilded, stone temple was built to demonstrate the superiority of the Christian god over the resident gods of the Aztec people after the Spanish conquered the capital city of their civilization, Tenochtitlán. To emphasize the point, the cathedral was built atop the demolished Templo Mayor (Major Temple) of the Aztec—a temple dedicated to the male gods of war and rain—using the former temple's stones. The Spanish often boasted about the power of their god to the dignitaries of the civilizations they subjugated and warned the Indians to fear, submit to, and worship their god in the place of all other religious figures. Crosses were described to the natives as the superior (male) god's marker.1

The practice of destroying and effectively marking over the resident gods’ markers was not new to the conquistadors. Yahweh, for example, is reported to have commanded Judaic tribes to obliterate any accoutrements of conquered religions: “Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles” (Exod. 34:13).

Islam is no exception, and members of the more radical factions have followed the same patterns, albeit in more recent history. The Buddhas of Bamiyan in central Afghanistan were the largest standing statues of the Buddha in the world. They were carved into the side of a mountain in the sixth century in Bamiyan, an ancient city along the Silk Road that was once a thriving Buddhist religious center. When the territory was conquered during the Islamist invasions of the seventh century, the statues were left intact by the invaders. However, when over a millennium later the Taliban came to power exhorting Sharia law, a set of religious precepts espousing particularly exaggerated forms of male dominance, these giant (male) figures were deemed a threat and subsequently destroyed with rockets and dynamite, despite outcry from around the world. The leader of the Taliban Mullah Mohammed Omar was quoted as stating, “Muslims should be proud of smashing idols. It has given praise to God that we have destroyed them.”2

In an evolutionary context, it is consistent that a religion based on a dominant male god and represented by a dominant male prophet should seek to destroy the effigy of another deified male. Similarly, in July 2012 factional warfare in Mali resulted in victory for the Islamist Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA), along with its ally Ansar Dine (translated, Defenders of Faith). Shortly after their victory, the Ansar Dine began taking sledge hammers and pickaxes to seven ancient World Heritage site mausolea in Timbuktu, some that had been standing since the fourteenth century. The shrines were dedicated to local (male) saints and deceased (male) sages which the militants reportedly took issue with, declaring them “haram” or displeasing to Allah. The shrines and the cultural treasures inside were smashed to pieces.3

While religious symbols are erected and dismantled to demonstrate territorial dominance much in the manner of national flags, they appear to take the conveyance of power a step further by exaggerating male dominance through God as a means to dissuade would-be invaders. In other words, dominant men may be fearsome, but dominant gods possess the power to smash dominant men like ants; no small threat in the minds of believers. Because humans descend from ancestors for whom alliances with powerful males served as an effective deterrent to potential aggressors, claiming alliance with a being of great power is intuitively meaningful, particularly when that being is portrayed as a dominant man operating by familiar evolutionary rules.

Territory is central to the narrative of Genesis, the foundational credo of the three great Abrahamic faiths. Stripped down, the narrative recapitulates ancient patterns of male-typical territoriality. In the story we have a dominant male (God) ruling over a resource-laden territory (the Garden of Eden). In this world another lesser male (Adam) emerges and defies the rules of the dominant male's (God's) territory by taking food (fruit from the tree of life). As we have discussed, different interpretations of that forbidden fruit exist, but all have evolutionary significance. The fruit has been described variously as food, as sex, as knowledge, and as the presumption to God's position of power—“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God” (Gen. 3:5). Suffice it to say, dominant males generally prefer to have control over all such privileges. For his transgressions, the lesser male (Adam) is punished with pain and death—God making Adam mortal is tantamount to killing him. Conceivably the story of Genesis could involve a narrative wholly foreign to animal notions of male dominance, but remove the parentheticals above and the story, once again, could just have easily occurred among chimpanzees in the forests of Gombe.

Another theme central to Christianity and Islam is the rivalry between God and Satan over their respective territories. As the story goes, Lucifer, like Adam, was banished from God's territory for aspiring to the ascendancy of his throne, and now resides in a less bountiful territory, the depths of the pit, or hell. Like any good rival, however, Lucifer is said to lie in wait, anticipating the moment when he can rise to challenge God once more.

The god described as having concern for his own territories also has concern for the territories of the dominant men who represent him. The Old Testament does not lack for references to territory. In the Mosaic covenant described in Exodus, a dominant male (God) comes to an agreement with his subordinates (the Israelites) that they will obey his commandment to not philander with rival males (e.g., the gods of Canaan). In return the dominant male (God) agrees to win territory for his subordinates, displace resident competitors, and protect that land from potential rivals:

Obey what I command you today. I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites…. I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory, and no one will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before the LORD your God. (Exod. 34:11, 24)

Similarly, after Moses's death, God placed Moses's son Joshua in power and through him granted vast territories to early Judaic tribes and protected those territories from rivals:

I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. (Josh. 1:3—6)

God continued the allocation of land to Joshua in his old age, supporting Joshua in conquest as he deposed dominant male rulers and appropriated their lands, defining his new territorial boundaries with great precision:

When Joshua had grown old, the LORD said to him, “You are now very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over. This is the land that remains: all the regions of the Philistines and Geshurites, from the Shihor River on the east of Egypt to the territory of Ekron on the north, all of it counted as Canaanite though held by the five Philistine rulers in Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron; the territory of the Avvites on the south; all the land of the Canaanites, from Arah of the Sidonians as far as Aphek and the border of the Amorites; the area of Byblos; and all Lebanon to the east, from Baal Gad below mount Hermon to Lebo Hamath. As for all the inhabitants of the mountain regions from Lebanon to Misrephoth Maim, that is, all the Sidonians, I myself will drive them out before the Israelites. Be sure to allocate this land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have instructed you, and divide it as an inheritance among the nine tribes and half of the tribe of Manasseh.” (Josh. 13:1—7)

In each of these examples Yahweh, a dominant male God, references a sequence of evolutionary scripts—promising to secure territory for his subordinates in exchange for obeisance, subservience, and loyalty. Here he promises a lush and bountiful territory, provisioned with rain from the heavens—but he warns the Israelites not to make submissive displays to other gods, or he'll kill them by causing drought and starvation:

Observe therefore all the commands I am giving you today, so that you may have the strength to go in and take over the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, and so that you may live long in the land the LORD swore to your ancestors to give to them and their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey. The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land the LORD your God cares for; the eyes of the LORD your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.

So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul—then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.

Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the LORD's anger will burn against you, and he will shut up the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the LORD is giving you. (Deut. 11:8—18).

To summarize my point thus far, humans have evolved in a social environment in which powerful males often led the way into new territories, helped secure the material resources therein, and provided protection over those territories from other male raiders. Historically these men have been backed by man-based gods. A Martian anthropologist with an outsider's perspective would study the territorial behaviors of monkeys, apes, and humans and find the same pattern of acquiring, granting, and protecting territory in the biblical god with no difficulty.

However, the power of God as a dominant ape goes beyond that of most other male primates, in that when he defines territories on the earthly plane, they become holy lands. For the Abrahamic faiths, this notion of holy land culminates in Jerusalem as in no other place in the world, and its holiness correlates to its number of territorial dissections. Contemporary Jerusalem is partitioned off by the three Abrahamic faiths, each with a shrine deemed intensely sacred. Muslims, for example, have the Dome of the Rock, the spot at which Muhammad is believed to have ascended into heaven. Christians have the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus is said to have been buried. Jews stake claim to the Wailing Wall and the Foundation Stone—purportedly representing the very place where God began creating the entire universe. In addition, there are shared holy sites contested for by Jews, Christians, and Muslims—won and lost by each over the years—such as the Tomb of King David, which is now controlled by the Jews.

But like all human territories, the holy lands also have practical significance that betrays their human origins. Jerusalem is strategically located between three great land masses and serves as passage between Europe, Asia, and Africa. It is at the center of trade routes by land and sea through the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, and the Indian Ocean. In the modern world, it is a central point of nations with rich petroleum and natural gas resources. Not surprisingly, for thousands of years control of the region has been the ambition of powerful kings and other (usually male) political figures willing to stake their claims by force of arms.


That human conflict over territory should concern energy resources (such as food, petroleum, etc.) stirs little controversy. From the small-scale raids of hunter-gatherers to nations that fight for trade routes, economic sanctions, or oil, the connection of warfare to resource competition is usually demonstrable even when obscured by national pride, ideology, religion, or other propaganda designed to motivate the masses to arms. But energy is only half the story. For beings fated to decline and die, programmed by nature to reproduce themselves into the future, conflict over territory also concerns sex. Sexual motivation for territorial violence is less obvious in humans than in nonhuman animals, and perceiving it generally requires, again, making the natural seem strange. To accomplish this, we shall start with the behaviors of nonhuman primates and work our way to men and their man-based gods.

In the rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo, orangutans live semisolitary lives with adult females living in slightly overlapping territories subsumed within the larger territory of a dominant male with whom the females preferentially mate.4 Subadult males are often capable of reproduction but delay developing secondary sex characteristics such as face flanges in order to duck the violent attention of dominant males. These lesser males are usually transient, traveling outside the peripheries of larger, flanged, and more aggressive adult males’ territories. Sometimes subadults will sneak into a dominant male's territory and force copulation on the females. Primatologists have argued that this behavior is tantamount to rape. While the designation rape has generated some controversy, primatologist Birutė Galdikas's field observations leave little question:

Rape occurred when a male attempted to copulate or copulated with a female who resisted his efforts to position her for intromission. A female's struggle ranged in intensity and duration all the way from brief tussles with squalling and some pushing and slapping at the male's hand to protracted violent fights in which the female struggled through the length of copulation, emitting loud rape-grunts and bit the male whenever she could.5

Rape also occurs when a mature, flanged male invades another's territory when the resident male is out of sight. Apparently, territorial status is important to orangutan females, who usually (though not always) resist copulations with males from outside territories. Anthropologist John Mitani's research estimated that 90 percent of copulations with the resident, flanged males were consensual, whereas only 34 percent of the copulations with nonresident flanged males were—in other words, 66 percent were forced.6 Generally, a mature male will make a long call with his laryngeal sacs as a warning for rival males to stay outside his borders. When his resonant bellows are ignored, competition, while not typically fatal, can be fierce and injurious, resulting in lacerations, missing eyes, and severed digits. When one flanged male overthrows another, he gains sexual access to the females within the displaced male's former territory.

Similarly, baboons vie for territory on the savannah, deserts, and steppes of Africa. The field of play is savage, and each competitor comes armed with five-inch canines (longer than a lion's). Rival troops of baboons fight for resources, such as preferred grazing land or watering holes. Chasing, biting, and bloodletting characterize the frays. Occasionally gangs of baboons will even target humans—attacking tourist caravans by opening car doors, jumping into windows, and stealing sandwiches and cookies, which the duly intimidated tourists usually surrender. So while it would not be fair to say that all competition has sex as its primary motivation, male baboons do battle for females, which they steal away from other males in combat. The dominant male adds stolen females to his harem, the members of which he strives to keep cloistered, fiercely battling any rival intent on stealing them. Other male primates also fight each other for sexual privilege, which is often conferred by controlling territory.

For a sophisticated level of organized warfare we look to chimpanzees, one species among few in the animal kingdom that engage in large-scale, organized coalitional violence—others include ants, dolphins, wolves, hyenas, lions, and humans. Every chimp knows when the war party is forming. The normally boisterous troop goes chillingly silent and tense, while visibly projecting a sense of shared intention. After a time the almost exclusively male squad sets out single file in the direction of the group borders, using a stereotyped gait reserved only for patrols. At the edge of their territorial boundary they start scanning the trees, looking out across valleys, listening for sounds of the enemy. When they find a lone male or a smaller party, they literally tear their victims to pieces—stomping them, hitting them, biting them, ripping off faces and genitals with their teeth, and sometimes even drinking their blood. If they encounter females with infants, the infants are killed. Sometimes the chimps will attack and even kill females, but by far most killings are reserved for male competitors.7

The relationship between organized warfare and mating is a bit more complicated among chimpanzees. Some primatologists have even concluded that patrolling efforts are not for mating purposes per se because males at times attack females and almost never mate with their victims.8 However, groups successful at systematically killing off males from other troops over time expand their territorial range and increase the number of available females through transfer,9 that is, through immigration to the larger group. Further, attacks on females are rare, and the characteristics of female targets when they do occur suggest reproductive strategy—younger females in estrus without infants usually endure the least aggression, while females out of cycle with offspring endure the most. This pattern is likely based on the female's reproductive value;10 younger females without infants make good transfers (and likely good mating prospects over time), whereas older females with infants may compete for food resources and bring potential future rivals.11

Not only do females tend to be absorbed by groups successful at exterminating males from neighboring groups,12 but increased territory from successful raids actually leads to higher reproductive rates among the aggressor group's females.13 Further, research has found that mating frequencies are positively correlated with the number of patrols.14

It is worth mentioning that alpha-male chimpanzees patrol relatively infrequently, whereas middle- to low-ranking males patrol more often.15 Alphas tend to prefer to mate-guard, as they likely have more to gain, evolutionarily speaking, by staying home with their females than by risking their lives on patrol. It is probably not a coincidence that dominant male humans—such as kings, generals, and presidents—rarely, if ever, go directly into combat alongside the lower-ranking males of their society. In sum, in those species that are closest to us genetically and in which the style of intergroup coalitional aggression most closely resembles our own, sex is inextricable from violent competition for territory.

To observe how these ancient primate scripts play out in humans we have only to look to competitive sports arenas, which spill over with violence, sex, and territory. Take, for example, American football—which in many ways is a metaphor for primate warfare. Here we have groups of males (the players) forming coalitions (teams) to compete for, acquire, and defend territory using aggression. The object of the game is to breach lines of defense and penetrate into enemy territory. As in real warfare, men in this sport break bones and achieve glory, and they generally have enhanced mating prospects—à la team groupies, or access to high-profile females such as actresses or models. They also get paid enormous sums of money to play—ostensibly a reflection of the value we place on a game reenacting ancient scenarios that titillate our evolved design. Lining the playing fields where male coalitions fight for dominance, we find groups of human females in their sexual prime—attractive, scantily clad women literally cheering on the violence. Why is it that cheerleaders are rarely ever men, never post-menopausal women, and not ever stifled in Victorian-style outfits? These women brim with sexuality, and their buxom, toned physiques spill over the paltry scraps of fabric purposefully designed to scarcely cover them. This isn't the only sport in which this occurs—combat sports such as boxing or mixed martial arts also follow this tradition, with almost-naked females prancing around the ring before every round of Gombe-esque male-on-male bloody pugilism. Not only is the combination of sexually viable females and male competition a familiar one, but the sports term score (or homerun for that matter) is often a metaphor in American slang for acquiring sex with a novel woman.

Carry competition forward to the human out-group, and violent competition goes from symbolic to actual killing and from sexual metaphor to mass rape, following the ancient legacy of male mate competition. The idea that rape may have provided evolutionary advantages to male humans has not gone without criticism. But again one must avoid the naturalistic fallacy—that is, the idea that because rape is rooted in the evolutionary past it is good, desirable, or tolerable. Like warfare, it is none of these things, and as a morally detestable act it deserves unflinching examination.

Rape has accompanied warfare in virtually all armed conflicts. Like a firestorm, Genghis Khan (translated as Universal Lord) seared his way across Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa, amassing the largest contiguous empire in human history. The philosophy underlying the biggest territorial acquisition known to humankind? “Happiness lies in conquering your enemies, in driving them in front of you, in taking their property, in savoring their despair, in raping their wives and daughters.”16 Following the battle of Okinawa in WWII, it was reported that US troops raped 1,336 women during their first ten days in the city of Kanagawa.17 When the Japanese army marched across China during WWII, they stopped in Nanking and slaughtered the men before proceeding to rape tens of thousands of Chinese women, including girls, pregnant women, and elderly women. Some estimate the rape toll at between two hundred thousand and eight hundred thousand, leading the massacre to be called the Rape of Nanking.18 Estimates of rape by Russia's Red Army in Berlin alone soar to one hundred thirty thousand, and across Germany to two million.19 Rape was committed as enthusiastically as killing during the Rwandan genocide:

One day an official declared, “A woman on her back has no ethnic group.” After those words men would capture girls and take them to their fields for sex. Many others feared their wives’ reproaches and raped the girls right in the middle of the killing in the marshes, without even hiding from their comrades behind the papyrus.20

During the Bosnian War, rape was committed across opposing ethnic forces. The Serbs conducted a massive campaign of rape against Muslim Bosnian girls and women, some as part of their stratagem for ethnic cleansing. Many women were intentionally impregnated and forced to go full-term as a strategy to populate the Bosnian genome with Chetnik blood.21

Nor has religious warfare bypassed rape. During the Thirty Years’ War (1618—1648), sectarian violence between Christians ravaged Europe, with rivaling denominations hotly competing for territories in Switzerland, Bavaria, Sweden, Germany, Bohemia, Hungary, and France. Rape was pandemic throughout this struggle. Of the scope of this rape Will Durant has remarked that, “armies fed by appropriating the grains and fruits and cattle of the fields…and recompensed with the rage to plunder and the ecstasy of killing and rape…. The right of a soldier to rape was taken for granted.”22 As David Smith remarks of wartime rape, “Examples could be multiplied indefinitely.”23 Once again we trace the ancient patterns of male primate mate competition in humans—males invading other males’ territory, engaging in violent competition, and acquiring sex with resident females.


The biblical decrees of God retain a significant legacy in Western notions of morality, and are not only deeply embedded in our moral psychology but also mirrored in many of our legal standards (as in the case of murder and theft and the Ten Commandments). For some, God and religion are in fact synonymous with moral righteousness. For these reasons one might suppose that the Judeo-Christian god and his patriarchal representatives would unequivocally repudiate sexual assault—an illegal act considered morally reprehensible across the world's Christian nations. Not so. Although we have touched upon God-sanctioned rape before, some might be astonished to hear the extent to which these endorsements occur in biblical warfare.

In the story of Judges, men from the tribe of Benjamin tried to kill a Levite man in Gibeah (a hill in or near Jerusalem), and ended up gang-raping and killing his concubine (Judges 19:25). As an act of revenge (here, like men, God punishes the rape of in-group members) God instructs the Israelites to march into the territory of Gibeah and slaughter the tribe of Benjamin (Judges 20:21). The Israelites did as they were told and killed twenty-five thousand men. After this they returned and slaughtered the women, children, and animals of Benjamin: “The men of Israel went back to Benjamin and put all the towns to the sword, including the animals and everything else they found. All the towns they came across they set on fire” (Judges 20:48). Six hundred Benjamites survived by retreating to the forests, but all were male soldiers. At some point the Israelites realized that the shortage of women they had created among the Benjamites was threatening the long-term survival of the broader Israelite tribe, which they ultimately sought to preserve. But the Israelites had sworn a sacred oath to God not to give any of their daughters in marriage to the Benjamites, and the oath posed a dilemma. However, the solution was clear to the assembly of patriarchs who formed a war party to invade Jabesh (believed to be east of the river Jordan), murder all the male inhabitants, commit mass infanticide, kill all the women who had ever had sex, and keep all the virgins as spoils of war:

So the assembly sent twelve thousand fighting men with instructions to go to Jabesh Gilead and put to the sword those living there, including the women and children. “This is what you are to do,” they said. “Kill every male and every woman who is not a virgin.” They found among the people living in Jabesh-Gilead four hundred young women who had never slept with a man, and they took them to the camp at Shiloh in Canaan. (Judges 21:10—12)

The Israelites gave the stolen virgins to the Benjamites—recall that male chimps perform roughly the same strategy of killing males, infants, and often older females, while letting the younger females live—but there were still not enough women to go around. To address this next impasse, the Israelites instructed the Benjamites to ambush a festival in Shiloh and steal the women festivalgoers:

“The Benjamite survivors must have heirs,” they said, “so that a tribe of Israel will not be wiped out. We can't give them our daughters as wives, since we Israelites have taken this oath: ’Cursed be anyone who gives a wife to a Benjamite.’ But look, there is the annual festival of the LORD in Shiloh, which lies north of Bethel, east of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.” So they instructed the Benjamites, saying, “Go and hide in the vineyards and watch. When the young women of Shiloh come out to join in the dancing, rush from the vineyards and each of you seize one of them to be your wife. Then return to the land of Benjamin.” (Judges 21:17—21)

All of this woman-stealing, of course, really ends up being mass rape. That is, women generally don't have consensual sex with those who murder their entire families, or kidnap them, although there are exceptions to the latter.

The book of Numbers tells another story of revenge, carnage, and rape. God commanded Moses to take vengeance on the people of Midian (believed to be on the shore of Aqaba on the Red Sea), ostensibly for worshipping other gods. The Israelites advanced into Midian territory and did as instructed, killing every man in Midian but capturing women as plunder:

The Israelites captured the Midianite women and children and took all the Midianite herds, flocks and goods as plunder. They burned all the towns where the Midianites had settled, as well as all their camps. They took all the plunder and spoils, including the people and animals, and brought the captives, spoils and plunder to Moses. (Num. 31:9—12)

Moses, however, was furious. Not for the murder and plunder, but because his men had allowed the women to live. As a compromise, Moses ordered that all the boys and nonvirgins be slaughtered and the virgins be preserved for their uses:

Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man. (Num. 31:17—18).

From here God commands Moses and his priest Eleazar to divide the spoils—including sheep, cattle, donkeys, and thirty-two thousand virgins—among the men who fought in battle and other tribal members. They also set apart a percentage of the spoils as tribute to God. That tribute, conveniently for Eleazar, was given to him as God's representative, and to members of Levi's clan who were the caretakers of God's shrine (Num. 31:25—41).

The rape and killing just described proliferated in the biblical age, much as they do in contemporary warfare. When the Israelites marched through the territory of a rival and that group refused to surrender, the Israelites were instructed to appropriate that city. From there God had instructions for the spoils:

When the LORD your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the LORD your God gives you from your enemies. This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby. (Deut. 20:13—15).

Further instructions are given unapologetically: “When you go to war against your enemies and the LORD your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife” (Deut. 21:10—11). Thus the Bible is straightforward in recommending that men take advantage of territorial conquest to claim nubile women, putting the direction to do so into the mouth of God himself.

Islam was also founded upon territorial gain and sexual ambition. Like the prophets of Judeo-Christianity, Muhammad was himself a dominant male. He had numerous wives, at least one of which, Rayhana, was won in the battle of the Banu Qurayza in which all the men of her tribe, including her husband, were slaughtered. Muhammad was also a skilled military tactician who managed to unite many fractious nomadic tribes of Arabia and their desert gods under one supreme god, consolidating territories across Arabia. The fact that Muhammad was able to accomplish this so rapidly has made him much admired among historians and political scientists—but Muhammad had two (evolutionary) aces in his pocket. Not only were women like Rayhana taken as spoils of war across Muhammad's campaigns, but men who died in battle were also promised a luxuriant male fantasy: a lush garden attended by virgins said to never age (Koran 78:33)—a tempting prize for men programmed to prefer quantity, youthfulness, and parental certainty. Muhammad, it seems, understood the evolved motivations of men.

Over fourteen hundred years later we continue to see groups of young men, ignited by the dominant male imperatives indemnified by their religion, following the same stereotyped paths of primate male mate competition. The “Islamic State” or ISIS, a radical group of Islamic militants mostly in Iraq and Syria, have killed their way across the desert territories of the Middle East, beheading their male rivals and capturing thousands of their rivals’ women and young girls. After their capture, ISIS raped them, sold them into forced marriages or sexual slavery, and murdered those (many of whom were pregnant) who refused to be sold.24 They also forced the women belonging to outside religions (such as the Yazidi) to convert to Islam.25 Based in Nigeria, another militant Islamist group called Boko Haram carried out similar strategies in their attempts to convert Nigeria to an Islamic state. Between 2009 and 2014 these men killed over 5000 civilians, mostly males, and kidnapped hundreds of women and schoolgirls.26 Their name, Boko Haram, translates as Western education is sin. By now we have come to understand how education poses a direct threat to despotic male rule. One can presume that part of the perceived threat may also be its close association with the relative sexual independence of Western women, which is so thoroughly at odds with the brand of Islam these young males seek to propagate and with the male sexual dominion it aspires to privilege.


All of the above examples demonstrate that male territoriality can be dangerous. In both secular and religious forms, it brings violence and human suffering. But it holds greater dangers still. While tracts of earth can be conceptualized as the prizes of male mate competition, and the fields of combat as where the vital resources for survival and reproduction are won or lost, the earth is also an intricately balanced ecological system that sustains all life in the biosphere. Collectively, human actions have begun to destroy that balance, and male territoriality plays a key role in this. This is especially true when men, in their relentless drive to compete with other men, seek to control and expend natural resources, ultimately to enact the numbers strategy of reproduction. As we might expect from religious canon already steeped in dominant male privilege, we find that man's style of relating to the natural world is prescribed in the Bible. When such patterns are given divine legitimacy, they carry forward to social policy and become difficult to extricate, further placing humans and all other life-forms in a precarious ecological position. To understand religion's role in ecological ruin, a reframing of territorial space is in order.

The Earth as Ecosystem

An ecosystem is a dynamic community of organisms interacting with the inorganic substrate of the earth. Ecosystems usually emerge within specific borders, but many argue that the entire earth is an ecosystem. Ecologists studying ecosystems examine things like soil production, nutrient cycles (how minerals and sun energy are processed through this living web of life), and how the life-giving functions of the earth are balanced and sustained. Plants play an essential role in the web of life. They use photosynthesis to convert radiation from the sun into expendable energy, which is utilized by animals that eat plants (herbivores) and by the carnivorous animals that in turn eat the plant-eaters. Plants also consume carbon dioxide and release oxygen, supporting all terrestrial life forms with breathable air. Just as plants are central to this biosphere, so is the soil that nourishes them. We have come to understand that the fertile earth that men so endeavor to territorialize is actually a vast megalopolis of microscopic, interacting life forms. In his book The Legacy, Canadian scientist and environmental activist David Suzuki introduces us to the denizens of soil:

In a teaspoon of soil we may find hundreds of million to 3 billion bacteria and a million fungi, like yeast and moulds. There is a veritable zoo of creatures in soil, from microscopic fungi, bacteria, yeast, protozoa, rotifers, and roundworms to creatures on the edge of visibility, such as mites and springtails, to the larger woodlice, earthworms, beetles, centipedes, slugs, snails, and ants, and finally to the giants, including moles rabbits, and other rodents. The different groups perform services that keep the soil alive. Bacteria and fungi decompose matter into detritus, which earthworms ingest and excrete as soil nutrient. Worms rummage through the massive amounts of soil, enabling water, air, and organic material to percolate into the matrix.27

The more we learn about ecology, the more we understand how systems-level functioning within organismic communities is essential to continued life. When one part of the system is impacted, ripples are felt through the entire system. We are also beginning to understand the detrimental impact of human action on the ecosystem.

Centuries ago, British economist Thomas Malthus (1766—1834)—who influenced Darwin's thinking tremendously—theorized that the population size of a given species will ultimately be kept in check by the environment. When a population increases beyond sustainable levels, it will begin to decline as result of resource depletion and starvation, at which time the surrounding ecosystem's life-giving resources will begin to rebound.28 Malthus's theory has shown immense reliability over time—with one notable exception. Although humans are bound by biology, their evolved capacity to learn and create technology has been a game-changer in the biological world. Whereas other organisms’ adaptations are predicated (principally) by differential survival, humans have managed to create technology that allows them to adapt within the course of a single lifetime. Rather than dying out when food cannot be found, they have managed to master food production like no other animal using various methods of agriculture and animal domestication.

Technology has given humans advantages in other areas, too: rather than developing immunity to disease slowly over generations, humans have created vaccines; rather than slowly developing weapons from their own bodies, they have developed spears, gunpowder, and nuclear arms; rather than developing thick fur, they have mastered fire and invented clothing; and so on. As a result, human populations have veritably exploded around the globe, unchecked and with overwhelming acceleration. To put the growth curve into perspective, consider a statement from the Science Summit on World Populations:

It took hundreds of thousands of years for our species to reach a population level of 10 million, only 10,000 years ago. This number grew to 100 million people about 2,000 years ago and to 2.5 billion by 1950. Within less than the span of a single lifetime, it has more than doubled to 5.5 billion in 1993.29

By March 2012 the human population had swelled to seven billion, with billions more projected into the near future. Scholars from virtually every scientific field have warned that our unbridled, exponential growth is ultimately unsustainable. Humans, though ingenious, are not immune to Malthusian processes. We have managed to commandeer the world's natural resources, but the biosphere remains finite, as do the life-giving assets it contains. In 1798, Malthus made an ominous prediction for humans in his influential work An Essay on the Principle of Population:

The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world.30

So far we have managed to skirt Malthus's grave prediction. Technology has allowed us to keep pace with the growing demands of larger and larger human populations, all of which have placed an increasingly heavy burden onto the biosphere. Our agricultural methods have disrupted the earth's nitrogen and phosphorous cycles and polluted our land, rivers, lakes, and oceans, decimating species in the process. Our addictive consumption of fossil fuels has transferred billions of tons of carbon from the earth into the atmosphere, causing global temperatures to rise and polar icecaps to melt. Our insatiable need for space has resulted in deforestation and habitat loss. Overall, it is estimated that human consumption is responsible for the loss of fifty thousand species to extinction every year. In place of forests we have built strip malls, freeways, parking lots, and suburban sprawl. By trowelling the world over in concrete, we are slowly beginning to exterminate the very organisms (plants) that provide us with breathable air. All combined, our consumptive primate behaviors are ripping apart the web of life to which we belong and on which we utterly depend for existence.

Male Competition and Resource Consumption

It is important to understand that human population growth is propelled by the growth of ever more complex human economies, the demands of which are met by extracting resources from the natural environment to produce goods and services. For these and other reasons, economic growth (in its current form) has often been pitted against environmental sustainability. Accordingly, human enterprises that regulate economies—such as governments, the financial sector, and corporations—are typically beholden to growth and resistant to any change diverting production and consumption patterns. In theory, the philosophies underwriting economic policy could either hasten or inhibit the destructive environmental impact of economic growth. However, when these policies are influenced by the psychology of male mate competition, we see predictably negative results. To make sense of this influence, we must reflect on how male-typical strategies evolved.

Across the history of our species, homicide and warfare have made male survival an especially tenuous affair for men. Understanding the pressures of male violence helps to illuminate the logic behind patterns of resource acquisition; in an uncertain world, it is a sensible evolutionary strategy to acquire as much territory as you can—and disseminate as many offspring as you can—before you are killed by another male. Territory brings with it survival resources (i.e., food and/or the wealth to ensure a continued food supply), which are used by men as fuel to power their resource-hungry numbers strategy of reproduction.

Lest we unfairly place all the blame on men, research shows that women across cultures—seeking survival, status, and stability for themselves and their children—tend to value resource acquisition in potential mates.31 Accordingly, in environments with higher ratios of men to women, where there is greater mate competition, men save less and incur more debt to make more immediate expenditures and discount large future financial gains for smaller immediate ones.32 In other words, the greater the level of mate competition, the more willing men are to engage in financial risk to accrue resources likely to increase reproductive success in the short term. Where male sex ratios are higher, women also expect men to spend more money on them in their mating efforts.33 Dominant men, who are more successful at acquiring and expending resources, are more adept at mate competition. There is virtually no ceiling on the benefit of organic resources (or their mediators—financial wealth, status, power, etc.) to male reproductive success, providing enormous incentive for men to continually push the boundaries of economic growth.

When we expand our focus to the scale of nations, there are further connections to be found between male competition and environmental sustainability. Researcher Bryan Husted, for example, has examined how national cultures impact sustainable economic development.34 In his worldwide study, several cultural dimensions were found to predict the environmental sustainability of economic policy. The details of the research are revealing, particularly the predictor variables, which appear to echo the ideologies of religious dominance.

First, Husted investigated the impact of gendered values on environmental policy, using a masculinity-femininity dimension that differentiates between masculine values based on competitiveness, ambition, power, and materialism and feminine values emphasizing relationships and quality of life. He found that countries endorsing more masculine values showed less social and institutional capacity for environmental sustainability.35

Husted also examined the impact of power distance, which refers to “the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.”36 He found that countries with high power-distance were also less likely to espouse environmentally sustainable economic policy.

It should come as no particular surprise that the tenor of religion in a given society tends to vary according to differences in power distance. Religions in low power distance societies tend to stress the equality of believers, whereas religions in high power distance societies are characterized by religious hierarchy.37 It is also notable that in societies with more feminine values, more women are elected to political office, and religions tend to focus on fellow humans rather than God or gods.38 This implies that feminine values foster both religious and political ideals based more on equality than on dominance. Recall that religion based on a dominant male god advises men to have “dominion” over the earth and “subdue” it (Gen 1:28), and has all other life forms submitting in fear and dread of men: “The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea” (Gen 9:2). In this light masculine psychology, and its impact on the religions that undergird the policies of nations, seems to glorify differences in power between men and the rest of the natural world.

Husted goes on to argue that in high-power-distance countries respect for authority suppresses debate about social issues, including those concerning the environment. He adds that high power distance is related to paternalism, where “Paternalism is a system by which superiors provide favors to subordinates in return for their loyalty” and that in such systems, “Decisions are not made on the basis of merit, but on the basis of a balance of favors to subordinates and loyalty to superiors.”39 In other words, systems based more extensively on maintaining alliances with dominants are associated with greater power differentials and reduced environmental sustainability.

Other researchers also found that countries with high power distance and high masculine values, as well as lower educational attainment, show a diminished capacity for environmental sustainability.40 These researchers argue that the negative relationship of power distance to sustainability is related to the fact that the abuse (or illegal use) of power often goes unchallenged by those with less power.41 It is not difficult to see how education gives individuals the intellectual basis to challenge power distance and how religions that prohibit questioning—with concepts such as “sinful knowledge”—could be used to undercut any popular challenge to inequitable resource access and use.

Interestingly, the researchers interpreted the impact of high masculine value this way: “Since people in feminine cultures emphasize values, as typical female members do, such as caring for others, interdependence and quality of life, as compared to goal achievement, they tend to care about public goods, including the environment, which is so vital to the well-being of other members in the society.”42 In saying this, they echo a sentiment expressed by the ecofeminist movement, proponents of which would argue that since both women and the natural environment have been “colonized and exploited” by the forces of male dominance, they can more easily establish a sense of unanimity with nature, furthered by the fact that both women and nature create and sustain life. That feminine metaphors for the earth have endured for millennia seems to support this theory, at least in terms of the gendered expectations that such projections imply. Of the power of such comparisons, one feminist philosopher aptly writes:

In these metaphors, man mediates his engagement with the world through a representation of it as Woman and metaphorically transposes his relation to Woman on to his relation to the world. Many of the metaphors are transcultural and transhistorical. Man speaks of conquering the mountain as he would woman, or raping the land, of his plough penetrating a female earth so that he can sow his seed therein.43

If this is true—if men cognitively frame their relationship to the natural environment in a gendered fashion—then patterned masculinity can be targeted in our efforts to reverse the destructive ecological impact of human economies. Because religions based on male competition also impact the environment, they too can serve as points of leverage.

In sum, the research cited above finds that hierarchical, male-driven societies tend to behave in ways detrimental to the worldwide ecosystem. Gods who emphasize power, control, and unquestioning obedience also behave in ways detrimental to the worldwide ecosystem by provoking destructive, domineering approaches to the natural world. This is not to say that religions cause environmental destruction directly. However, once ideologies based on male competition become embedded in religion, they may be difficult to extricate, particularly when hierarchical (male) power is buffered by norms that prohibit questioning.

Religious Rapacity: An Alternate View

Some religious dogmas, such as man's dominion and imago Dei, are rather explicit in their gendered, domineering approach to the natural world. Man's dominion proclaims man's God-given right to dominate the natural world and expropriate its resources. Once again, God is said to have commanded (italics mine), “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28). Imago Dei gives man the divine right to domineer, as the only creature in the worldwide biosphere created directly in the image of God. Together, imago Dei and man's dominion affirm a patterned male approach to the natural world based on consumption and control. In doing so they may inadvertently sacralize an unsustainable economic philosophy and, ultimately, overpopulation.

The Spanish conquest of the Americas exemplifies this ethos of consumptive control. In 1598, conquistador Juan de Oñate—the Spaniard who chopped off the feet of his male Indian rivals at Acoma—formally took possession of the lands of New Mexico. He proclaimed the acquisition in the name of a dominant male God, thus imparting himself with the status of God, declaring his power over life and death and laying claim to every last resource from the seized territory:

I take and seize tenancy and possession, real and actual, civil and natural, one, two, and three times, one two and three times, one two and three times, and all the times by right I can and should, at this said Rio del Norte, without excepting anything and without limitations, including the mountains, rivers, valleys, meadows, pastures, and waters. In his name I also take possession of all the other lands, pueblos, cities, towns, castles, fortified and unfortified houses which are not established in the kingdoms and provinces of New Mexico, those neighboring and adjacent thereto, and those which may be established in the future, together with their mountains, rivers, fisheries, waters, pastures, valleys, meadows, springs, and ores of gold, silver, copper, mercury, tin, iron, precious stones, salt, morales, alum, and all the lodes of whatever sort, quality or condition they may be, together with the native Indians in each and every one of the provinces, with civil and criminal jurisdiction, power of life and death, over high and low, from the leaves of the trees in the forests to the stones and sands of the river, and from the stones and sands of the river to the leaves in the forests…. O holy cross, divine gate of heaven and altar of the only and essential sacrifice of the blood and body of the Son of God, pathway of saints and emblem of their glory, open the gates of heaven to these infidels. Found churches and alters where the body and blood of the Son of God may be offered; open to use a way of peace and safety for their conversion, and give to our king and me, in his royal name, the peaceful possession of these kingdoms and provinces. Amen.”44

The Spanish not only claimed the riches of the “New World” but extracted them and funneled them back to Spain in a torrent. With this wealth the Spanish crown built plantations, colonies, and cathedrals across the Americas and monopolized the women of those lands, ultimately creating entire continents of mestizos, or people of mixed Spanish and Indian blood. Notably, the Spaniards were not alone in their rapacity. The major civilizations they conquered—including the Aztecs, Mayans, and Incas—were also imperialistic societies run by despotic men who were regarded as deities (i.e., societies of high power distance). They too seized land from the surrounding weaker societies and from them extracted gold, jade, corn, chocolate, fruit, game, and women, all in quantities immensely disproportionate to the leftovers they tossed to subjects from the heights of their stone temples. The war gods of the pre-Columbian Americas imparted to their rulers the legitimacy to take from the earth vast riches, just as the Christian god did for the Spanish. Had Mesoamerican civilizations been possessed of the right technologies, they might well be razing the environment in the present day, with the edicts of their male gods fueling the dozers.

When Cortez rode into Mexico City, toppling Aztec shrines and replacing them with cathedrals, he also exchanged Aztec political rulers with those of the Catholic Church and gave the Mexicans a new, dominant-male godhead. Under the aegis of the Christian god, Cortez and the Church discharged their offspring en masse across vast territories—in the genes of a transcontinental Mestizo race and in the minds of converted Catholics. Today, the Catholic Church owns more territory than any multinational corporation in the world. Upon their vast landholdings now tread a vast army of peoples who, not incidentally, call themselves God's children. This could not have been accomplished without the driving force of the Church's masculinized psychology, infused as it is with power, ambition, and the lust for material wealth.

Of course, the Church's edict outlawing contraception, with its heavy-handed use of a classic evolutionary numbers strategy, has helped, too. Is this really because the Church believes that life starts at fertilization? Like many dominant men before them, leaders of the Church have coded reproductive privilege into law, forbidding contraception for the sake of progeny, power, and economic growth. Mexico City is now the most populated city in the Western hemisphere. The earth beneath it is straining under the weight of its massive population, and the basin atop which the city sits is literally sinking from overuse of the aquifer flowing beneath. Brazil, another devoutly Catholic nation, harbors grossly overpopulated cities plagued by violent crime and grinding poverty and supports economic policy that is effectively uprooting the Amazonian rainforest (where we get most of our planet's breathable air) in order to feed populations that continue to swell. With the aid of religion, masculine psychology is accelerating humankind precariously closer to a Malthusian end.

Male competition appears—with religion and economics entwined—not only in the Conquista but across historical epochs. When these factors appear together, they consistently bring a formula for human overpopulation. The doctrine of Manifest Destiny, for instance, shaped the US government's expansionist policy during the country's conquest of America's western territories. In an 1845 article in the Democratic Review, where the term was coined, westward expansion was equated with “the fulfillment of our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions” (with Providence referring, of course, to the guiding hand of God).

Moreover, we continue to see the Abrahamic religions play a role in shaping policy supporting male reproductive prerogatives. In 2012, President Barack Obama mandated that insurance companies cover contraception. The mandate resulted in outcry from American religious factions, resulting in a congressional hearing to debate whether the mandate violated the tenets of religious freedom. Despite the clear impact of contraceptive policy on the lives of women, the congressional panel was comprised of all male religious leaders including a Catholic bishop, a Lutheran reverend, an Evangelical professor of moral philosophy, a rabbi, and a Baptist professor of ethics. Committee chairman Darrell Issa denied the request to have a woman serve on the panel. Representative Carolyn Maloney walked out of the hearing after saying, “I look at this panel, and I don't see one single individual representing the tens of millions of women across the country…. Where are the women?”45

Once again, it's worth reckoning how strongly our stances on public policy are driven by ideologies tied to our reproductive biology—even though this connection is not immediately apparent. Our ideologies can either drive us forward at full throttle or divert us from a path fraught with suffering. The vision of God as a dominant male that became so much a part of Abrahamic philosophy arose from its utility. His story originated in an age where strong men often raped, plundered, and committed genocide in their ascent to positions of power. In an environment characterized by the utmost brutality, it paid to have a powerful male god who could protect you in battle, reward you with women, and assign all the earth's life-forms to a subordinate status so that you might use them as resources to enact short-term reproductive strategies.

By being uniquely created in God's image, we have become separate from other life-forms, a distancing that, as we have learned from our studies of in-group—out-group psychology, makes it easier for us to destroy them. But in reality the divisions we place between ourselves and the outside world are false, and the ideologies that promote such divisions are unstable over the long term. David Suzuki spoke with the First Nations aboriginal people that he worked with in Canada, whose moral philosophy is now recapitulated by modern science:

And, they showed me, there is no environment out there and we are here. We are created by the earth by the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat. And, the energy in our bodies, it comes from the sun. We are the environment, whatever we do to the environment, we do directly to ourselves.46

Ideology of this kind provides a radical contrast to that of man's dominion and imago Dei. Though this First Nations perspective is scientifically sensible in recognizing the very real interdependencies between all life on this planet, I doubt whether this kind of sentiment will take hold on our collective psyche through secular paths alone. Humans are motivated by emotion, and emotions are much more the domain of religion than the cold abstractions of science or philosophy. Faced with impending destruction of the biosphere, and with large-scale violence, there is a need to embrace both secular and religious ideologies that recognize the earth's interdependencies in order to sustain life as we know it. This will require abandoning stances based on the evolutionary imperatives of dominant men, with their long history of conquering territory and exploiting women and their native lands for short-term reproductive gains. Recognizing these patterns is the first crucial step to enacting change.