Faith & Economics
NUMBER 78, Fall 2021
Economic and Environmental Religion: The Work of Robert H. Nelson
Abstract: This article contextualizes and assesses Robert H. Nelson’s writing on economics and religion, following his sudden death at a conference in Finland in 2018. Despite his Scandinavian Lutheran background, he always operated as an outsider – never identifying with any religious institution. He viewed religion as expressing our ultimate concerns. This led him first to read economics as religion, and to a series of books and articles about this. He saw environmentalism as the major contemporary competitor to economics and he wrote another series of books and articles on the religious nature of environmentalism. In the process, Nelson asked important questions about the nature of religion, economics, and environmentalism. As a non-specialist in these fields, his command of the details was sometimes shaky, but he had an excellent sense of the big-picture relationships. His most significant contribution is perhaps his analysis of environmental religion and some of the policy publications arising from this. He was particularly proud of a book finished towards the end of his life on philosophical arguments for God.