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The Gospel of Protecting the Environment

Global warming has given rise to an eerily religious campaign in which Christians and nonbelievers join hand in hand to make the rest of humanity repent for its environmental sins. Climate change should not become another tool in the hands of anti-capitalists. Instead it is with industry and scientific progress that man can best combat his changing natural world.

Writing for The Huffington Post, Reverend Chuck Currie, a United Church of Christ minister, claims that over the last decade a consensus has emerged among Christians of every inclination “that stewardship over Creation, granted to humanity in Genesis, includes protecting the environment and reversing the damage created by human caused global climate change.” He warns that politicians who don’t take environmentalism seriously risk alienating religious voters.

Currie cites Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople, who has taken the lead among senior religious leaders in his concern for Creation. “To commit a crime against the natural world is a sin,” he proclaimed in 1997.

For humans to cause species to become extinct and to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation … for humans to degrade the integrity of earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the earth of its natural forests, or destroying its wetlands … for humans to injure other humans with disease … for humans to contaminate the earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life, with poisonous substances … these are sins.

According to the reverend, when God gave humanity dominion over the earth, he was not given control over Creation to do as he pleased.

Thus the environmentalist gospel marches on. Global warming has given the antagonists of capitalism and industry new reason to preach a return to primitivism. Whether they are secular or religious doesn’t matter, evidenced by The Huffington Post‘s publication of the reverend’s essay. What they have in common is a belief that humanity is, or ought to be, humbled by the world as it appears to him and not dare shape it in his own image.

As early as 1995, in the conservative Acton Institute’s Religion & Liberty, Robert H. Nelson, a professor of environmental policy, warned against what he described as “The Ecological Gospel.” He recognized that “the wide fears of recent years about global warming [...] have more to do with religion than science.”

According to those who preach the ecological gospel, the modern age “has not meant the advance of mankind, but has instead plunged human beings into evil ways.” They denounce consumer society and like to think of human beings as a “cancer” on the planet. Our “addiction to growth,” they insist, “will destroy us all.”

The heating of the earth, global warming alarmists tell us, will melt the polar ice caps, raise the seas and thereby cause widespread flooding. Higher temperatures will parch the land, creating famine. Global warming will alter the normal weather patterns of the earth, bringing on drought. Perhaps it will encourage insects and bacteria, spreading disease. Flooding, famine, drought, pestilence, all are the traditional instruments of a wrathful God imposing a just punishment on a world of many sinners.

“In environmental theology, the traditional Judeo-Christian categories of good and evil have been replaced by ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’,” a phenomena that is all the more powerful today as companies “go green” while more and more “eco-friendly” products turn up in our shopping carts.

People seem willing to forget that it was industrialism, chemicals, electricity and synthetics that made Western civilization prosperous and unique. The modern man exploited the earth. He recognized that nature was to be simultaneously obeyed and commanded.

Denouncing industry and the progress that it has brought man is not the way to overcome climate change. Yet, as Nelson dreaded, “environmental policies often are not shaped by pragmatic concerns of how to improve human welfare. Instead, [they] follow a logic grounded in an environmental theology” which loves everything “natural” and abhors all that is anti-nature.

Rather than letting energy companies free to develop better fuels, governments across the developed world are subsidizing ethanol, solar panels, windmills—all uneconomical sources of energy that cost the taxpayers dearly. While energy prices are skyrocketing, consumer products too will become more expensive as lawmakers seek to tax and ban everything that pollutes.

The majority of the people, “who simply want a clean and attractive environment,” according to Nelson, “are paying a high price—many tens of billions of dollars—for their current willingness to leave much of environmental policy making to those people who see it as a religious crusade.”

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