Thursday, March 01, 2007

Environmentalism as Earth Worship

Last week, my wife and I toured one of the few area preschools not associated with a church. We knew it was a bit hippy-dippy but we also knew it had a good reputation. Everything was going well until the school day began with all the children sitting around in a circle. They use this time to tell a multi-culturally approved story and sing a song, which was fine by me. But then, at the end, they placed a globe in the center of the circle and proceeded to worship it.

O.k., they didn’t worship it. They said some mumbo jumbo about loving and caring for Mother Earth and then began the school day. But I was left with the feeling of having just unwittingly prayed to someone else’s god – not something you expect from a secular school.

In one of those odd convergences, I have since read two references to Earth worship as the new secular religion. First, Amba mentioned the phenomenon in her post about the Oscars. Then today I read an article from American Thinker, also about the Oscars, that made the same point:

The belief in man-made catastrophic global warming, or what Gore kept dubbing the "climate crisis," (any bad weather will do, as in this year's extremely cold winter) is the new secular religion and Gore its preacher. And Hollywood has become the locus for its devotees.

Amba even jokingly called An Inconvenient Truth Hollywood’s answer to The Passion of the Christ. And I have to say, there’s some real truth there.

Science aside (and I do believe the science), it is primitively religious to believe that natural disasters are a punishment for man’s sins – in this case our wastefulness. And our penance? Acts of self-denial of course.

Where the religious man fasts, the environmentalist gives up his large car or green lawn or toilet that flushes properly. Where the religious man gives alms, the environmentalist plants a tree. Sunday communion at church vs. Sundays communing with nature.

It’s all right there, the parallels strikingly clear. And it’s not too much of a surprise. After all, there is nothing more taxing than being an atheist. We’re all keenly aware of our minuteness and inclined to find solace in that which is greater than us. For secularists, there is no higher power more worldly than the world itself.

And, instead of being supported by an ancient holy book, environmentalists can point to science and know they are grounded in reality. Expect the problem is, once you start seeing all actions and reactions as inextricably linked to a higher power, you’ve crossed over into faith. And faith meshes poorly with science.

The challenge for environmentalists is to keep their minds open to new science. Some things we consider environmentally unfriendly today may turn out to be not so bad. Some of our solutions may turn out to be worthless. If the environmentalist movement can roll with the punches, then their religious-esque rituals are harmless. If they become rutted in their beliefs, we’ll make little environmental progress.

The challenge for the rest of us is to not fall into the trap of conflating all environmentalism with some kind of Gaia worship (as this article from the American Policy Group does). I can easily see the braying nimrods of the right using this Earth Worship meme as a means to discredit all attempts at environmental protection and improvement. We can’t let such idiocy take hold.

As for me, looks like the boy is going to be attending a nice mainline Protestant preschool – where worship is called worship. And where the monthly tuition is actually affordable.

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