Though some religious activists were present at the environmental movement's inception, the greening of American faith took off in the past decade. "The work first emerged among mainline Protestant and liberal Jews and Catholics," says the Rev. Fletcher Harper, executive director of GreenFaith. "They were looking to reassert a religious voice for the common good and social justice after 30 years of a conservative evangelical take on public issues." Some evangelicals have since joined the movement, with leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention recently declaring that they'd been "too timid" on climate change.
At the same time, religion remains a dividing line in public opinion on the environment. Despite polling by progressive groups on support for climate legislation, a recent Pew survey found that just a third of white evangelicals believe global warming is caused by humans. And only 39 percent of black Protestants accept the evidence for human-caused climate change. The group most convinced that humans are to blame? Those unaffiliated with any religious tradition.