This post is the first in what might become a series of collaborative works between myself and the author of Incongruous Circumspection. This particular post is an analysis of Vision Forum‘s Doug Phillips’ article on Earth Day. It’s rather lengthy. While I am an atheist, Incongruous Circumspection is a Christian whose beliefs differ drastically from the Christianity of Doug Phillips or Vision Forum. Both Incongruous Circumspection and I identify as environmentalists, though we differ a bit in perspective.
My words will be this color while Incongruous Circumspection’s will take on this hue. Doug Phillips’ words will be black.
Have you ever heard of a “straw man” fallacy? It’s where you misstate your opponent’s argument and then knock it down. Here is an example of a straw man argument:
“Evolutionists think that man came into being through random chance! That’s crazy!”
See, the problem with this is that evolutionary scientists do NOT think man came into being through random chance. They think man evolved through natural selection, which has nothingto do with random chance. This is a straw man fallacy – you restate your opponent’s argument in a ridiculous way, and then easily knock it down.
Vision Forum does this with its opponents time and again. It blasts atheists, humanists, feminists, and environmentalists, but from its portrayals of these groups it becomes painfully obvious that Vision Forum doesn’t actually know anything about them. In fact, I would argue that the only thing Vision Forum is good at is completely misstating its opponents’ arguments and beliefs.
As you read what I have to say, keep in mind that I was raised on Vision Forum’s views and literature and am today an atheist, humanist, feminist, and environmentalist.
A Christian Response to Earth Day
(A Christian, of course, by Dougy’s Standards)
By Doug Phillips
All men are religious because all men have an object of worship. All men have faith in something. In the end, men will either worship and serve the creature, or they will worship and serve the Creator. But they will worship something.
Doug Phillips and his ilk LOVE to cast a discussion as containing only two sides. It makes it much easier to compare their view of evil to what they see as obvious righteousness or holiness. There is absolutely no room for equivocation or color. Life is completely black or white.
Okay, we need to get some definitions straight here. Religion
: the service and worship of God or the supernatural; commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance.
Worship: reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power or an act of expressing such reverence; a form of religious practice with its creed and ritual; extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem
So first off, not all men are religious (or women either, believe it or not). In order to be religious, a person must believe in the existence of a God or the supernatural. I don’t. I am not religious. Second, there seem to be two main ways that the word “worship” can be used. The first has religious connotations and is directed to a deity. The second has no religious connotations whatsoever and involves “respect” or “admiration” or “devotion to an object of esteem.” I think that Phillips is likely playing fast and loose with these two meanings, using the word “worship” not in the sense of respect but rather using it to imply religious connotations.
I look at what Dougy says here and take issue with his use of the word “all”. Again, in order to formulate arguments to control his followers and sell stuff on his website, Doug has to generalize all his reasoning. Us against them is a favorite of his. In this case, “all” is merely to ascertain the acquiescent up and down head jiggle he so achingly desires. The problem is, it isn’t true. There are many who just don’t care.
Even so, there is a grain of truth in what Phillips says. All men have ideals and things they value and work towards, whether they are religious or not. Some people, both Christians and atheists, serve only themselves. I personally am a humanist, which means that I believe in human potential and improving the world for humankind. I would prefer to serve my fellow humans rather than to serve some sort of imaginary deity. There are, however, also Christian humanists, who believe that God values humans and wants them to use their abilities to make the world a better place for all of humankind. So while we all do have ideals and things we value, it is nowhere near as simple as “all men either worship God or they worship the creature.”
In the 18th century, many (you can’t argue with “many”!) began to worship the mind.
Much of the material of Vision Forum and those that preach their controlling teachings of patriarchy and the subordination of women contains the idea that “to think or reason is evil”. After all, man’s heart is wicked and deceitful. Only the Bible matters. What is not contained in the Bible is inherently evil.
The followers never stop to question why the leaders and the men and women that swallow this crap whole, get to use extra-biblical sources and reasoning (asinine faulty logic that disagrees with even Biblical references it pretends to tout) to prove their arguments.
The religion of that day was rationalism. In the 19th century, this god morphed into scientism. But science failed to provide the answers to ultimate questions. The men of the 20th century looked for a more immediate solution to the problems of humanity — they chose to worship the State. This failed. Statism proved to be a harsh taskmaster. In the absence of any real solutions from rationalism, scientism, and statism, men fixed their attention on a new god — or rather, an ancient God that just needed a new facelift.
That god is the earth.
Wha? Vision Forum is just making stuff up here. As for rationalism and science, the mind and our senses are all we have. Therefore, rationalism, which is simply using our brains, makes sense, and science, which is simply using our senses to learn about the world around us, also makes sense.
Now, rationalism and science have not “failed” as Phillips claims. In fact, rationalism and science are what brought us vaccines, modern medicine, and fertilizers that increased crop yields and cut down on starvation. God never brought us any of this. Rationalism and science did.
I would simply add that Doug is acting as if science has completed its course in the history of men when, in reality, science continues to discover new realms and clarify mistakes of the past, as well as solidify old theories as fact.
As for “statism,” it is true that many humans have turned to the state to fix problems that we see. And you know what? It’s worked a whole heck of a lot better than looking to God. The state has curtailed child labor, guaranteed equal rights for all (Brown v. Board of education anyone?), brought about universal schooling, decreased poverty through welfare and other programs, decreased the infant mortality rate, and, in many countries, provided citizens of all stripes with health care. “Statism” has not failed (and I don’t think it’s fair to give it an “ism” anyway). If they’re referring to communism when they say it was a “harsh taskmaster,” I would point out that the Soviet Union suffered from totalitarianism more than anything else, and no one ever thought totalitarianism was a good idea.
My view of statism is a bit different. Government was built up as the epitome of evil while I was growing up. I distrusted anyone in a black suit that drove a black SUV and had a white, translucent earpiece.
As an example, a few years back, my wife and I ran a daycare and saw firsthand what our American welfare system has done to the livelihood and the work ethic of the poorest in our society. It has elevated their livelihood quite well. To starve in America today is a rarity, and yet still happens. But it hasn’t pulled people who depend on welfare out of the doldrums and propped them back on their feet to be successful, independent of the state.
Sure, everyone can use government for that purpose and I have taken advantage of it myself. But I find fault in the nature of our welfare system as being too easy to take advantage of, losing sight of its true initial purpose – to be a fallback for the poor.
On the other hand, I am convinced that much of Christianity has failed mankind. They have lost sight of the purpose of the religion which is to show others love. Love by doing service is a great way to start. Instead, we are wrapped up in our theological differences and care only for the minds of those we agree with, rather than the lives of all.
Finally, mankind has found a new “god,” and that “god” is the earth? This makes no sense whatsoever. “God” is a supernatural concept; the earth is the physical place we live on. There’s a difference there. Mankind did realize at some point that the earth was something that we could destroy, and indeed were in the process of destroying, and that this was a bad idea. Seriously, we had rivers that had so much trash in them that when lit on fire they burned for days. Smog so thick you couldn’t see ten feet in front of you? Environmentalism is about protecting the earth so that we can live healthy lives and so that our civilization can survive, not about “worshiping” it or making it into a “god.”
Some people do worship the earth, though they have been doing it for thousands of years. Tribal types.
21st-century men are earth worshipers. They are sanitized pantheists. Of course, they don’t call themselves pantheists or earth worshipers, but religious devotion to the material world is the essence of this modern faith.
This religious devotion to the material world as god comes in many shapes and sizes, but it has become ubiquitous in our culture. The new pantheism is at the heart of the green movement. It is reflected in the priorities of Hollywood, in the agenda of politicians, and in the curriculum of the government schools. It is found in the marketing campaign of Madison Avenue, in the reality TV shows of cable television, and sadly, even in pulpits across the nation. The worship of the creation has become a defining undercurrent in our culture, even as it is reshaping many of the cultures of the modern world.
These two paragraphs don’t make a lick of sense. Since Phillips simply makes assertions without examples or proof, there is nothing to refute here. Except to say that what they’re saying is NOT true. First, “earth worshipers”? Really? Not sure where he’s even getting that. Secondly, environmentalism is not at all universal to our culture, and even if it was, it’s not about worshiping anything, it’s about protecting our environment so that we can have healthy lives today and a good future tomorrow. Also, materialism is totally different from and unrelated to environmentalism. Also, didn’t Phillips earlier say that man either worships the Creator or the creature? If that’s so, how is man suddenly worshiping the earth? Phillips is contradicting even himself.
And this is one reason why this Friday, April 22, millions of people (perhaps billions) representing the countries of the United Nations will stop to celebrate the high holy day of this religion as they pay homage to the earth God. Of Earth Day, evolutionary anthropologist Margaret Meade once explained that:
EARTH DAY is the first holy day which transcends all national borders, yet preserves all geographical integrities, spans mountains and oceans and time belts, and yet brings people all over the world into one resonating accord, is devoted to the preservation of the harmony in nature and yet draws upon the triumphs of technology, the measurement of time, and instantaneous communication through space. EARTH DAY draws on astronomical phenomena in a new way — which is also the most ancient way — by using the vernal Equinox, the time when the Sun crosses the equator making the length of night and day equal in all parts of the earth. To this point in the annual calendar, EARTH DAY attaches no local or divisive set of symbols, no statement of the truth or superiority of one way of life over another.
Nice quote mining. I do agree that one thing that is cool about earth day is that it unites everybody. Most holidays are specific to a religion or a location or a nation. Earth day is about the universals that bind us all – such as the earth that we live on. And I think we can all agree that the earth, which provides us with food and warmth and everything else, is something that we need to protect. Or at least I thought so until I read this article.
Should Christians care about the earth? Not only must we care about it, we have a holy duty to engage the earth. The difference between the objectives of biblical Christianity and radical environmentalism can be found in the religious assumptions of both groups.
Dougy is a huge Dominionist in the sense that we need to “subdue” the earth. To him, that means that we can do whatever we want because we were given that permission by God himself. He’ll give a head fake to the idea that we need to be careful with the earth, but its more about a PR campaign so he doesn’t get accused of what he REALLY believes. Watch some of his stuff sometime. The guy would dune buggy on the last anthill on earth if he was given the chance (yeah…I just used “dune buggy” as a verb).
Four Lies of the Radical Environmentalist Movement
With Earth Day comes billions of dollars worth of environmentalist propaganda driven by their religious worldview. Some of the themes you can expect to hear repeated this year include the following:
1.The Earth Is Our Mother: The very expression “Mother Earth” is popular parlance in our culture and reflects the old pagan longing to worship the physical world. Modern environmentalists, with their devotion to the idea that man is just another life-form to spring from the womb of the earth on the evolutionary journey of life, speak openly about earth being the mother of man.
I do not think it means what you think it means. “The earth is our mother” is something that is said figuratively. It means that we cannot live without the earth, that we cannot survive without the earth, that we cannot flourish without the earth, and therefore, we should protect the earth.
I second that!
2.Human Life Has No Greater Intrinsic Value Than Animal Life: The notion that man is an insignificant blip in the universe and that our planet is almost as insignificant as man is an oft-repeated concept of the modern environmentalist movement. Radical environmentalists complain about the carbon footprints of humans, and the sin of “Speciesism” — man discriminating against lower life-forms.
This is true. Mankind is an insignificant blip. Heck, we’ve been on earth what, a couple million years? And of that written human history only goes back six or eight thousand years. To put that in perspective, dinosaurs were on the earth for a hundred and fifty million years. As for the supposed “sin” of speciesism, this argument is simply made by animal rights activists, not environmentalists as a whole, and it is in essence no more than an argument that “owning” animals, who are sentient beings just as we are, is akin to slavery.
3.The Greatest Crisis Facing Humans is the Despoiling of the Earth: From the media campaigns of former Vice President Al Gore, to the film agenda of Avatar, radical environmentalists want you to believe that the single greatest problem facing humanity is the environmental destruction of earth.
This is also true. We are destroying our environment. We cannot live without our environment. If this continues, famine and disease will spread, natural disasters will increase, and wars over resources will proliferate. Not good.
I disagree with Libby Anne here, but my disagreement is only reflective of the debate about anthropogenic global warming/climate change (AGW) in society as a whole. I see our world as cleaner today than it was 30 – 40 years ago and yet there is room for improvement.
4.Absent a Radical Shift in Private Practice and Public Policy, the Environmental Crisis Will Lead to the End of Life on Earth: Modern pantheists care deeply about the future. One thing is clear: Radical environmentalists have their own eschatology. They see the end of the world coming because of nuclear waste, global warming, the loss of rainforest in the Amazon, or any of a host of perceived environmental hazards.
This is slightly drastic, but it is in some sense true. Mankind really could go extinct. It happened to the dinosaurs. However, I don’t think that will actually happen, and I don’t think most environmentalists think it will either. I think it more likely that we will see a lot of death and huge changes in the civilizations of the world, which will then stabilize with very different standards of living and way of life.
Doug makes a grave error here and one that is quite offensive. He tries to portray that all love for the earth is a reaction based on the calamitous possibilities of what man can do. I see what man can do as I drive down the highway. I don’t want to jump into the Mississippi and accidentally swallow the water. I see washing machines in creeks and bicycle tires in lakes and ponds. I love the earth and desire for it to be clean. And I will gladly be lumped in with those who don’t want the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.
As it seems, Dougy Boy wants the rainforest obliterated.
Four Christian Assumptions About the Earth
1.The Earth is Witness to the Power and Authority of God the Creator Who Alone May Be Worshipped: The Bible teaches that the very existence of the earth is a reminder to all men of the eternal power and Godhood of Christ, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:20). It reminds us that as long as the earth continues, the promises of God will remain faithful (Genesis 8:22; Deuteronomy 7:9). Significantly, the Bible warns us that the consequence for man rejecting the witness of creation is that he worships creation itself (Romans 1:22-25).
As an atheist, I totally disagree with this one. I see the earth as evidence of our past and of evolution. In fact, I find nothing about the earth that points to God. “The witness of creation?” Nope, sorry, actually I look at the earth and find it pointing me in the opposite direction.
As a Christian, I agree. Staring at the stars, I get a true sense of God’s handiwork. But I don’t see that as an argument against taking care of the earth or even celebrating it. And I really think Dougy is stretching a bit with the Romans 1:22 – 25 reference. The author is talking about images that are different from the true God. Those images happen to be an animal or creeping thing. Nothing to do with worshiping the creation as he purports.
2.The Earth Was Made for the Glory of God and the Benefit of Man Who Was Made the Pinnacle of Creation and of Infinitely Greater Value than Animals or the Earth Itself: Man is the pinnacle of creation and has more eternal value than the earth or any of the creatures who live on it (Psalm 8:5). Man is not a carbon footprint; he is the image-bearer of God. This means that the most “insignificant” human life (insignificant only in the eyes of man) is of inestimably greater value than that of a blue whale, a snail darter, a spotted owl, a mountain, or a tree.
I don’t think this is true either. Mankind is not a “pinnacle” of anything. Mankind evolved just like the animals. We happen to have evolved a lot of higher brain function, but that is the only thing that makes us different. Now because I am human, I value human life more than that of animals; similarly, I think that if I were a fox I would probably value fox life over that of other animals.
I don’t get it. What is Doug arguing here? I agree about the status of man but I don’t see how that means we cannot try our darndest to take care of God’s creation. Sure, a blue whale wasn’t fashioned in the image of God, but who cares? Should we kill the last one and burn the fat in our lamps?
3.The Earth Has Been Placed under Man who Has a Moral Obligation to Subdue it and to Exercise Wise Stewardship over the Earth: Man is God’s appointed steward on earth, and his core mission is to be His agent of dominion over it. Toward this end, God has placed all things under man to be used for his benefit and to be carefully stewarded and cultivated for God’s glory. “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet” (Psalm 8:6).
Again, no. We were never “given” the earth by a “god.” However, the stewardship idea does make sense – we need to protect and care for the earth, not destroy it. So far, man has proved to be a terrible steward of the earth!
What the…?!! Are you serious? Ok. Not surprised. And here, Doug’s Dominionist crap rears its ugly head. He says environmentalists worship the earth. I imagined he would argue the opposite for Christians and say that we need to worship God and bring others to Christ, but no, he claims that our “core mission” is to be God’s agent of dominion over the earth? And he pulls that stupid little sing-songy Psalms verse to prove it? Foolishness. Child’s play. Let’s just hope that Dougy isn’t a quiverful type, believing in spiritual dominion too…er…oops…doh!
4.The Earth is Not the Problem: The reason why the earth suffers is because of man’s sin that has plunged the earth into judgment. Man brought death and judgment to earth. In fact, the whole creation is groaning and waiting redemption (Romans 8:22-23). Despite the righteous judgment of God on earth, He is merciful and promises the continuation of the seasons and the fundamental stability of the planet until the end of time (Genesis 8:22), at which there will be a new heaven and new earth (2 Peter 3:13).
Um, right. Man’s sin released the carbon dioxide into the air and chemicals into the water and chopped down huge rain forests resulting in land erosion. Oh wait. That wasn’t man’s sin, that was man. Nice try.
He’s correct on what the verses say but wrong on the application and even contradicts himself, as well. Doug says the earth is groaning, waiting to be redeemed, wallowing in its demise due to man’s sin, and yet he then says that God will take care of it anyway. Seems to me you can’t have it both ways. But, I may be accused of splitting hairs on that one, so, let me approach it a bit differently.
Doug implies here that the earth is not perfect and that is the fault of sin, not man’s doing. Libby Anne alluded to that. The problem is, the logical furtherance of his argument is to do nothing. To shrug one’s shoulders and blame the earth’s condition on man’s sin. I’m sure glad Dougy has never been in charge of anything important. If he was, rivers would still be black sludge and there would be no trees in Brazil.
All men are religious because all men have an object of worship. In the end, they will worship and serve the creature, or they will worship and serve the Creator. But they will worship something.
Uh….not cool. Don’t repeat the introduction as your conclusion.
You see the bait and switch with the word “worship”? We either worship the creator or the creature, Phillips says. By what definition of the word “worship”? Phillips is intentionally confusing the two definitions. Here, let me prove it. By the same definition of the word “worship” Phillips uses to be able to claim that someone can “worship the creature” (hold esteem and respect for), Phillips worships the family and worships the Old Confederacy. You see what I’m saying? Phillips is intentionally trying to confuse his reader by playing fast and loose with the word “worship.”
Earth Day, and the radical environmental movement that spawned this high holy day of pantheism, are at war with the Gospel because they perpetuate false worship. The Christian response to the idolatry of Earth Day might be reduced to this simple thought: Jesus Christ is the Creator, and He alone is to be worshiped. He created man as the pinnacle of creation and determined that humans would be the only part of creation to be made in the very image of God, and that man as the image-bearer of God would rule over the earth.
If there’s a war going on between environmentalism and Christianity, there are a lot of people who have been left out of the loop about it. Plenty of liberal Christians are environmentalists, and they see no conflict between seeking to protect and serving God. In fact, for them the two are linked. Furthermore, environmentalists don’t give a crap about whether someone is religious or not. Environmentalists come from all walks of life and all religious beliefs. Rather than being united by who they pray to, they are united by the value they place on protecting the earth, which is necessary for life and survival. Also, just to be clear, environmentalists don’t pray to the earth. They don’t think it’s a deity. Any “worship” taking place is devoid of religious meaning or trappings and is relegated to respect and esteem.
On a practical level, this means that Christians need to stop allowing the radical environmentalist movement to define the issue. We must cease from being the tail and become the head on the question of our duties, privileges, and responsibilities vis-a-viscreation. The Bible has a great deal to say about our use of the resources of the world and our relationship to the earth. Of all people, Christians who honor the Creator should have a passion for creation. We are losing the debate through subversion, silence, lack of vision, and because of the Christian community’s fear of the God-ordained, perpetually valid, creation precept called “The Dominion Mandate.” This mandate directs man to rule over the earth, subduing it and taking dominion over it for his benefit and for God’s glory. Implicit to the Dominion Mandate is the duty of man to cultivate, wisely manage, and carefully steward the planet.
I think we get down to the root of what is going down here. Phillips calls for Christians to “cultivate, wisely manage, and carefully steward the planet.” Wait. That’s what the environmentalists want to do! So can’t we just work together? No, and here’s why. Phillips also says that Christians need to “subdue the earth and take dominion over it.” Phillips believes that God has given the earth to mankind for his good and pleasure. “There’s a coal vein over there? God must have put it there for us to power our houses! Quick, dig it up and use it! What, doing so will cause damage to the earth? Well if that’s so, then why would God have put it there? Get the bulldozers!” Phillips doesn’t want to think long term. He doesn’t want to think about the damage human action could cause to the environment. Instead, it’s all about “taking” and “subduing.” Sounds a bit selfish to me, and quite a bit short sighted.
The Dominion Mandate? What a stupid idea. Wow. He’s completely religious-ized a simple descriptive idea in the Bible. Dumber n’ a box ‘o rocks.
Finally, man’s problems will never be solved through the elevation of human reason, the power of science, or the interventions of the state. Nor will rescuing the biosphere of planet earth save man or ensure him a future on this planet. You cannot save the earth. But human beings can be saved. And the only hope of salvation is found in Jesus Christ — the Creator! It is this Creator through whom we live and breathe and who by the very power of His word holds the worlds together. He will someday establish a new heaven and a new earth and will bring all of His people into Glory.
On the contrary, human reason, science, and the state have done much to solve man’s problems. What has God done? Oh, that’s right – nothing, except perhaps provide people with emotional comfort. No thanks, I’ll keep my human reason, science, and the state; I’d prefer not to return to the Middle Ages, when women lived in fear of death in childbirth, whole families fell to the plague, crop failure resulted in starvation, and I would have been burned at the stake for heresy.
I do think, though, that we find another main root of the conflict here. Phillips doesn’t care about the earth, because it will someday be gone. In fact, he believes that God will someday destroy the earth and make a new one, and that God has in the mean time given humankind the earth to use, to meet their needs, and to satisfy them. The earth is temporary and unimportant. It does not matter. All that matters are invisible human souls.
Environmentalists, in contrast, care about the earth very much, because without it we die. Environmentalists don’t put their faith in the assumption God is about to return and make us a new earth. Environmentalists are instead aware that this is what we’ve got, and we had better take care of it responsibly. They understand that humankind’s good is inextricably linked to the health of our home planet. This isn’t about “worship” or a “new god.” This is about being aware of reality and acting responsibly.
There is also a fundamental conflict here between humanists and fundamentalists. Humanists believe in man’s potential; fundamentalists say man has no potential and is crap. Humanists believe in reason and science, which have time and again improved the life of mankind; fundamentalists believe in superstition, in a stone age religious text riddled with errors and atrocities, and in attempts to petition the aid of an invisible deity. Humanists believe that man’s life in the here and now matters and that we should work to improve it for everyone; fundamentalists don’t give a crap about man’s life in the present, as we’re going to have a glorious afterlife after we die.
I am a humanist, and as a humanist, I strive to do what I can to make life better for all people in the here and now. One of the ways to make life better for people is to protect the environment. Destroying the environment has disastrous consequences, and climate change may lead to the starvation, disease, death, war, and upheaval. I’d like to avoid that if possible. This isn’t “worshiping” the earth, this is compassion, altruism, service, and love.
Let me finish with a question for Christians. Can you say for sure how long it will before Jesus returns and destroys the earth and makes a new one? No? Then isn’t taking care of the earth in the meantime, and making sure that the earth has a healthy future, a good idea? The reality is that Christians have been forecasting Christ’s eminent return for the past two thousand years. It hasn’t happened yet. What if Christ waits another two thousand years? Scientists have predicted that the effects of human-induced climate change will be seen in the next few hundred years, and that the effects will be disastrous as ecosystems are destroyed, cities are inundated with water, droughts spread, and new diseases proliferate. Do you really want to bet on Christ returning within the next fifty or a hundred years, knowing what your descendants will face if he doesn’t?
Environmentalism is not about religion or lack of it. Environmentalism is about valuing human life and wanting to ensure the survival of future generations. Somehow, Vision Forum has completely missed that. You see what I meant in my introduction? Vision Forum would prefer to set up and knock down straw men of their opponents’ views rather than actually engaging real arguments and issues.
I value the human soul. But not at the expense of the earth. Dougy Boy sees an either/or argument here. It’s either Jesus Christ or the earth. I am an environmentalist that doesn’t believe in AGW in the least. I don’t believe in any calamitous happenings in the here and now, nor the future, as being the effects of man. I love God and his Son and yet adore and love the earth as well. I see no conflict.
That being said, to then destroy our current earth, though we are here for just a fleeting moment is utter foolishness.