Origins of Modern Environmental Religion

by Lewis Loflin

Modern environmentalism in 2008 has several origins. It's a syncretism of varying beliefs with three broad influences. Environmentalism is a social and religious movement that has no interest in science, but will use it to bolster its dogma. Science aside, we must look at its main influences to understand what it's really about.

In the economic sense it's mainly socialism and its ranks have been filled with disgruntled Marxists since the fall of communism in the 1990s. In other cases it's used to attack capitalism by blaming it for the "ecological" crisis. Yet oddly while the US and Europe are attacked for polluting the earth, the New York Times reports (11-14-08), U.N. Reports Pollution Threat in Asia as "Brown clouds" made up of toxic chemicals are blotting out the sun in large parts of Asia." Yet the environmental left refuses to single out communist China and other third-world countries. Their attacks on capitalism often reveals their real agenda. But that is often not all that's involved.

Another facet is the decline in Christianity as a faith and the failure of atheism and Humanism to sway the emotions of the many "unchurched" wanting something to devote their live to. Socialism for many of the "godless' stood as pseudo-religion in itself according to critics. They want the atheism and they want to feel good and have purpose in life too. Socialism failed and the associated atheism alone didn't cut it.

In 1967 Professor Lynn White wrote The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis and defines the religious basis of the modern ecological movement. Since the 1960s and the rise of the "counter-culture", environmentalists have predicted one failed doomsday scenario after another that should have wiped out the earth dozens of times.

It was ice ages in the 1970s, the failed prophecies of The Population Bomb by Paul R. Ehrlich (1968), ozone holes, acid rain, and the modern craze of man-made global warming. Like Christian fundamentalists rewriting their prophecies every few years to fit the real world, the computer model doomsday prophets reprogram their computers and try again. And we thought Hal Lindsey and his constant revisions and updates to The Late Great Planet Earth was a farce. Eco-extremists are discrediting science in the way Lindsey discredits Christianity.

To quote Ronald Bailey author of Eco-Scam (1993), in regards to Ehrlich, Lester Brown, Carl Sagan and other eco-doomsayers, "As soon as one predicted disaster doesn't occur, the doomsayers skip to another...why don't [they] see that, in the aggregate, things are getting better? Why do they always think we're at a turning point -- or at the end of the road?" Crisis sells, reason doesn't sell, and selling religion requires crisis. See How Alarmists undermine Science and Theology

White's ideas are as follows and explains the anti-Christian hatred of environmentalists of today and the religious basis of environmentalism:

What people do about their ecology depends on what they think about themselves in relation to things around them. Human ecology is deeply conditioned by beliefs about our nature and destiny--that is, by religion.
The victory of Christianity over paganism was the greatest psychic revolution in the history of our culture...Our daily habits of action, for example, are dominated by an implicit faith in perpetual progress which was unknown either to Greco-Roman antiquity or to the Orient. It is rooted in, and is indefensible apart from, Judeo-Christian theology.

According to White, many of the ancients thought in terms of "cyclical notion of time" (Aristotle) while Christianity (from Judaism) introduced "a concept of time as non-repetitive and linear." Thus we could progress to some kind of end, and there was a beginning. As he points out in Christianity and Judaism God transcends nature and man, created in the "image of God" also both rules and transcends nature. To quote,

Christianity, in absolute contrast to ancient paganism and Asia's religions (except, perhaps, Zoroastrianism), not only established a dualism of man and nature but also insisted that it is God's will that man exploit nature for his proper ends....

White goes into why the Greek East never progressed and stayed primitive and never advanced (as did Eastern religions in general), and could point out the split in 1054 AD was about more than just theology. The East of coarse preserved much of the knowledge of ancient Greece, but couldn't use it outside mystical speculation. Natural theology was the study of nature to understand God. To quote,

The Greeks believed that sin was intellectual blindness, and that salvation was found in illumination, orthodoxy--that is, clear thinking. The Latins, on the other hand, felt that sin was moral evil, and that salvation was to be found in right conduct. Eastern theology has been intellectualist...The implications of Christianity for the conquest of nature would emerge more easily in the Western atmosphere... the Greek East, nature was conceived primarily as a symbolic system through which God speaks to men...The view of nature was essentially artistic rather than scientific. While Byzantium preserved and copied great numbers of ancient Greek scientific texts, science as we conceive it could scarcely flourish...

In the West instead of nature being a type of mystical "communication" with God, the West wanted to understand how nature worked to understand the Creator or "mind of God." Nature was seen more as a machine. As White sees it,

...modern science is an extrapolation of natural theology and, second, that modern technology is at least partly to be explained as an Occidental, voluntarist realization of the Christian dogma of man's transcendence of, and rightful master over, nature.

But, as we now recognize, somewhat over a century ago science and technology--hitherto quite separate activities--joined to give mankind powers which, to judge by many of the ecologic effects, are out of control. If so, Christianity bears a huge burden of guilt.

But guilt for what? For saving the lives of millions by inventing vaccines? To increase human knowledge and education with the printing press? White like many radical anti-modernists is another disgruntled atheist wondering into pantheistic mysticism. There is no God as Christians and Jews understand it, only the material world that pantheists impart a religious mysticism. While he tries to downplay his disdain for the transcendent Judeo-Christian God, he regards the whole human race of no more importance than bugs. He remarks,

What we do about ecology depends on our ideas of the man-nature relationship. More science and more technology are not going to get us out of the present ecologic crisis until we find a new religion...(a religion that will)...depose man from his monarchy over creation and set up a democracy of all God's creatures.

For a rebuttal of White see

Lynn Townsend White, Jr. (April 29, 1907 - March 30, 1987) was a professor of medieval history at Princeton, Stanford and, for many years, University of California, Los Angeles. He was president of Mills College, Oakland from 1943 to 1958. White's main area of research and inquiry was the role of technological invention in the Middle Ages.

He believed that the Middle Ages were a decisive period in the genesis of Western technological supremacy, and that the "activist character" of medieval Western Christianity provided the "psychic foundations" of technological inventiveness. He also conjectured that the Christian Middle Ages were the root of ecological crisis in the 20th century, and wrote a highly influential article, "The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis", published in the journal Science in 1967. Wiki

Moving Beyond Kyoto: A Responsible Approach to Climate Change

US Senator Chuck Hagel 7 September 2000:

We must view climate change not in a vacuum, but with the perspective that the world is interconnected in every way. There is a certain balance that must be pursued so that all nations, especially developing nations, are allowed to create opportunities for growth and prosperity. It is essential that we encourage and assist the development of emerging democracies and market economics. This means that productive capacity. which will require energy resources, must be part of the climate change equation.

The Kyoto Protocol is more about energy than it is about the environment. It is about restricting and controlling energy production and use. As nations prosper, the world becomes more peaceful and free. When there is freedom, peace and prosperity there is less conflict, poverty, hunger and war. That is in the interest of all peoples. We must be acutely mindful of this reality and not allow climate change decisions by a few to control and impede the progress for a better life and future for others. This will not work. This will only produce a more dangerous and unstable world.


  » Webmaster   » Bristol VA/TN   » Hobby Electronics
  » Environmentalism   » US Constitution   » Religious Themes

Gateway Pages for this website:
  » Archive 1   » Archive 2   » Archive 3   » Archive 4
  » Archive 5   » Archive 6   » Archive 7
  » Archive 8   » Archive 9