Roger S. Gottlieb

Roger S. Gottlieb, Professor of Philosophy
Author, Public Speaker


Roger S. Gottlieb is professor of philosophy at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He is the author or editor of twenty books and more than 150 articles on environmentalism, religious life, contemporary spirituality, political philosophy, ethics, the Holocaust, feminism, and disability. He is internationally known for his work as a leading analyst and exponent of religious environmentalism, for his passionate and moving account of spirituality in an age of environmental crisis, and for his innovative and humane description of the role of religion in a democratic society. He has edited six academic book series, serves on the editorial boards of several academic journals, is contributing editor to Tikkun Magazine, and appeared online on Patheos, Huffington, Grist, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Real Clear Religion, and many others. Two of his books received Nautilus Book Awards: Engaging Voices (for fiction) and Spirituality: What it Is and Why it Matters.

Gottlieb's writings have appeared in top academic journals such as The Journal of Philosophy, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Conservation Biology and Ethics; in popular publications such as E Magazine online, The Boston Globe, and Orion Afield; and in anthologies celebrating the best of Jewish writing, environmental ethics, religious life, spirituality, the Holocaust, and disability. Widely respected for his unique range of interests, combination of personal and political passion, clarity of writing, and originality, he is probably the only American intellectual to be reviewed or interviewed in publications as disparate as San Francisco Chronicle, Environmental Ethics, The Boston Globe, Christianity Today, Philosophical Review, Journal of Harvard Divinity School, New Age Journal, Socialism and Democracy, Discover, Chronicle of Higher Education, Sierra Club Magazine, Shambhala Sun, and The American Prospect.

For many years Gottlieb has concentrated on the religious, spiritual, political and ethical dimensions of the environmental crisis. His anthology This Sacred Earth: Religion, Nature, Environment is known internationally as the first comprehensive collection on the topic. His 1999 book, A Spirituality of Resistance: Finding a Peaceful Heart and Protecting the Earth was called by Protestant theologian John Cobb "a true spiritual guide for our day," and excerpted in Tikkun and Orion Afield. A Greener Faith: Religious Environmentalism and our Planet's Future and The Oxford Handbook on Religion and Ecology, said Bob Edgar, head of the National Council of Churches, offered "a bright picture of the faith community's capacity for caring for God's creation" and that following Gottlieb's lead would help us "go a long way toward being more effective stewards of our fragile planet." Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, called it a "seminal book examining the emerging debate on environmental ethics among the world's great faith traditions." Thomas Berry, one of the world's leading ecotheologians, said it offers "superb insight" and is a "most needed guide."

Gottlieb's focus on the environmental crisis has also taken a fictional turn: Engaging Voices: Tales of Morality and Meaning in an Age of Global Warming, is a collection of related but distinct short stories exploring moral, political, intellectual, and spiritual dilemmas provoked by the environmental crisis; and also asks how, in the face of powerful emotions and deeply contested views, we can live and talk to each other.

Spirituality: What it is and Why it Matters (Oxford University Press, 2012), a unique account of spirituality from traditional religion to the present, reveals the common threads that join Mahayana Buddhism and Hasidic Judaism, the Sufi Rumi and the Catholic St. Thomas a Kempis, people of all faiths and those who are "spiritual but not religious." Gottlieb argues that spirituality is the simple but extraordinarily difficult attempt to face life's rigors and disappointments by becoming more mindful, accepting, grateful, compassionate, and lovingly connected to others. These virtues oppose both the social ego's attachment and arrogance, and any habitual, unreflective religiosity; and the path towards them can be shared equally by people inspired by belief in one God or many, the divinity of nature or the sacredness of life. Spirituality examines the promises and perils of spiritual life as understood both within and outside of traditional faiths, explains the rise of the widespread spiritual detachment from institutional religion, and offers illuminating accounts of yoga, meditation, and prayer. There are also insightful studies of spirituality's relation to modern medicine, nature and the environmental crisis, and political activism.

Political and Spiritual: Essays on Religion, Environment, Disability, and Justice brings together Gottlieb's most powerful essays on these and related themes: spiritual deep ecology, ethical theory, animal rights, the Holocaust, the environmental crisis, and the experience of disability, as well as new essays on the human meaning of technology, facing death, and a fascinating intellectual autobiography.

Morality and the Environmental Crisis (Cambridge University Press, 2019) was called by environmental ethicist Larry Rasmussen “The best book on the subject” and political theorist Paul Wapner "a generous gem of a book". Here Gottlieb describes the unprecedented moral predicament created by argues that the environmental crisis: how to be a good person when our collective and individual actions contribute to immeasurable devastation and suffering.

Drawing on an extraordinary range of sources from philosophy, political theory, global religion, ecology, and contemporary spirituality, the book explores the ethical ambiguities, challenges, and opportunities we face. As in all his writing, the book combines compassion for the difficulties of contemporary moral life with an unflinching ethical commitment to awareness and action.

As a public speaker Gottlieb combines intense analytic intelligence, a personal and humorously engaging style, and an inspiring message of personal responsibility, social change, and spiritual vision. Audiences from universities, churches, synagogues, and community and environmental organizations have found him a riveting presenter whose message resonates long after his formal presentation is done and can lead people to act as well as think and feel.