Wonderful Wonderful Copenhagen?

The world’s leaders are soon to meet in Copenhagen to work on a new agreement to reduce carbon emissions in order to stop the global warming. All of this while we’re learning that, in fact, the global temperature has actually been cooling for the last ten years, that advocates of the global warming theory have been suppressing evidence of the MWP—medieval warm period, and leading global warming scientists have been caught tampering with evidence, destroying statistics and bullying climate change skeptics.

What interests me about the global warming issue is the religious dimension. By this I am not thinking of ‘earth spirituality’ or even a proper Christian theology of stewardship. Instead I can’t help seeing that the crusade against global warming is, well, just that: a crusade. In other words, it is a religious battle, and if it is a religious battle, then it is a religion.

Does not the ‘green machine’ have all the hallmarks of a religious quest? First there is the unassailable dogma that all the devotees must believe. Global warming is happening. To doubt this ‘truth’ is to commit heresy. To be a ‘global warming denier’ is compared to being a ‘holocaust denier’. Heretics will be ostracized, persecuted and burned.

Necessary for all good religious cults, the dogma is preached under the cloud of a serious apocalyptic fervor. Lord Stern—the English ‘expert’ says Copenhagen is ‘the world’s last chance to avoid catastrophe’. The Prince of Wales has said the world only has ‘eighteen months’ to avoid disaster. If these men were holding cardboard signs on the street corner we’d give them a wide berth. Is the wild-eyed apocalyptic fervor of the AGW crowd any different from that of any other religious cult? Every apocalyptic madman has a well reasoned argument and what seems to him a watertight case.

This dogma is produced, proven and preached by the clergy of the AGW Crusade: the scientists. They are the lords of knowledge, like scholar monks, they devote their lives to arcane research, they are the ones who guard the secrets of the inner sanctum. They compile the evidence, distribute the word, organize the conferences and seminars. They interpret the word for others. They are the priests and the evangelists of the faith—making sure that more and more are converted and committed every day.

The hierarchy supports them. The men and women of power and prestige oversee the operation and ensure its respectability and success. Archbishop Al Gore, Cardinal Lord Stern of England, and at the top of the list the Defender of the Faith: none other than Charles, Prince of Wales.

I exaggerate to make my point, but what interests me most is that, just like any other religious sect or cult, the AGW religion is consistent and logical within its own basic assumptions. It fulfills the same needs that any religion does: as long as you stay within the orthodoxy, not only does the crusade make sense, but like any religion, it gives you a way to look at the whole world and make sense of everything. Furthermore, it gives you a mission and a purpose. It gives you a group of committed people to which you can belong. On a dark night when the fear kicks in, it gives you not only a focus for your fear, but someone to blame.

If this is a correct analysis; if the AGW crusade is a kind of religion, it is worth asking where it comes from. First, I think, in a secular society it has filled a void. I would love to know how many AGW crusaders are actually devotees of a conventional religion. There is no way to know this, but I suspect most of them are non-religious. I only make this guess because the words and worldview they present seems distinctly secular. If my hunch is correct then the poor souls have found solace in a religion they do not even know is a religion.

G.K.Chesterton said, “Every debate is a theological debate.” If the AGW crusade is a sort of religion, then what is its underlying theological premise? It’s the religion of the secular, humanist. The secularist rejects Christianity, but doesn’t necessarily espouse radical atheism. Most of them drift therefore into a vague sort of immanentism– a sort of “God within” theology. “God is within each one of us!” they cry. Did not Jesus himself say, “The kingdom of God is within you?” This merges into a sentimental pantheism, “God is all around us. God is within nature” soon becomes, “God is nature.” There are some in the green movement for whom this theology has become explicit. For most it is an unconscious position held by people who have not only never had a theological thought in their lives but wouldn’t know that such a kind of thinking was even possible.

What is the proper Catholic response to the AGW Crusade? As usual, it is a response of common sense and a simple morality that springs from what we believe. God created our world and us. We should love the created world because it is a generous and abundant gift from God. The world is beautiful. We shouldn’t mess it up, and if we do, we should clean up our mess.

In the order of creation we are called to be faithful and careful stewards of the natural world. This means that while we may enjoy the world’s bounty, we’re not supposed to be wasteful. We should not be grossly materialistic. We should share with those who have less than we do. We shouldn’t steal their resources for our wealth. As good stewards we should save and plan for the future. We should not make material things into idols. We should live this way individually, corporately, politically and in the economic realm.

The Christian response is that we should love all things according to their intrinsic worth. We should love and treasure the creation, but we should love the creator more.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07215093180074844386 the Egyptian

    You can hear the wind whistling out of that balloon, now can't you. Global Baloney, what a bunch of zealots, their religion is crumbling around them, just like the 3rd Reichon that topic you may enjoy this ;>)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGdbHW9Nlds

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06099710022837092250 El Cuervito Azul

    Hello Father,"The scientists. They are the lords of knowledge… They are the priests and the evangelists of the faith…"I read this post with interest because I am, in a way, one of the scientific clergy of whom you speak. Not much of one, perhaps a lector or maybe even a deacon; but it puts bread on my table and it has its moments as an enjoyable trade.I applaud your conclusion but hesitate to agree with your argument. Erudite and elegant name-calling is still name-calling, and I think it creates a subtle feeling distrust amongst the faithful towards natural scientists, as well as those who, not having been evangelised by the Church, at least try to grab onto some righteous life-path and end up crusading for the environment. Hey, there are worse things to crusade for…But this kind of argument is divisive and, in my humble opinion, Father, cannot serve the greater good. I feel distrusted in my own parish by my own brethren in Christ because I am a biologist, and those scientists who are not already going to church for Christ are certainly not likely to be interested in learning about Him if all they meet is hostility and prejudice amongst His followers.Yes, we do devote our lives to arcane research, and we do seek the secrets of the inner sanctum. It is we who compile the evidence, distribute the findings, and organize conferences and seminars. Is this bad? Wouldn't it be wonderful to have all of this intellectual and spiritual energy properly illuminated with the Gospel? Why then are we ridiculed? God has created many scientists and called them to help maintain His awesome creation; the human hand of many natural resource scientists went into growing the wheat for communion wafers, the grapes for the wine, and even insuring the purity of the water with which it is mixed in the chalice. In an ideal world, there would not be such estrangement between faith in God and knowledge of His world.An overgrown devotion to nature in place of God is indeed a symptom of an overly secular society: and so where is the Church to evangelise it? I know I am as much as part of the Church as you are, and I confess I haven't converted many (*ahem* any) people lately; and of course, being surrounded by scientists, you can imagine I have some prejudices to overcome (perhaps a prayer for my efforts, Father?). But here we have a popular movement attempting to do what is right and just, for the simple reason that it is right and just. In other words, these are Christians who don't seem to have been well informed about Christ. If scientists and environmentalists are branded in the minds of the faithful as enemies of God, I think it quite diminishes their chances of ever being well informed about Christ.I request that you take care to avoid incitement of prejudice against scientists and those whose only familiarity with God comes through appreciation of His mighty works, which are good. One way to forge ties with them, I think, is to promote our Christian social doctrine relating to stewardship of the environment, which may serve as a nice bridge to bring them to discover the rest of Christian social doctrine, from which they can go on into the beauties of all Christian doctrine, through which they will eventually find themselves with Christ. Indeed, is not this a God-given opportunity? Let us make care for His worldly exterior creation a means to bring people to the care of His interior spiritual creation.Or at the very least, I don't think being a Christian necessitates that I live under brown skies and within endless pavement. Everyone should have the chance to see that a lily is better clothed than Solomon.Well, I said my bit. Cheers.With all my courtesy,fjg

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17552414136133947686 craig

    I'm all in favor of Christians finding common ground with environmentalists. The problem is that Christians prioritize those creatures made in His image over other parts of God's creation, while secular environmentalists generally do the reverse. Christians do not desire brown skies and endless pavement (nor every woman barefoot and pregnant with her twentieth child either); those accusations are simply political slander and spin.It is right and just to criticize edifice complexes on the part of capitalist developers. But when the proposed solution is to treat humanity as an infectious blight on Mother Gaia, as so many have done, Christians need to get off the bus and redirect their energies toward evangelizing the Church's social doctrine and not the atheist left's. Theirs comes with an awful lot of evil by-products that no Christian should countenance.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16142633311407145793 Wine in the Water

    The religious dimension expands beyond just the attributes you have spelled out here. The recent e-mail revelations certainly impugn the character of several Climate scientists. And the GW lobby has certainly been guilty of bullying dissenters and doubters and squelching debate on the topic. But what we are seeing now is a group of doubters who are trying to use this to discredit climate change whole cloth. – Because a couple of scientists demonstrate questionable ethics and integrity, the thousands of others are discredited as well. – Because many non-scientists have the impression that global warming is a linear graph, the fact that we are within a short-term cooling period disproves the existence of an overall warming trend. – Because some people are religious about GCC, the science has no foundation.And so on. This kind of over-reaching attempts at discrediting should be all to familiar to we Christians who live in the modern era:- Evolution disproves the existence of God.- The world is more than 7000 years old so the entire Bible is discredited.- The Eucharist does not undergo a physical molecular change, therefore the Real Presence is bunk.- All we have to do is look at the Crusades to see that Christianity is inherently blood-thirsty and power-hungry.- That one anti-abortionist who shot an abortionist proves that the pro-life movement is not truly pro-life.It's old hat. To the extent that parts of the GW lobby are religious in their devotion to the cause, there are others who react in a very typical way of doubters to a faith, who react to the GW crowd just as many atheists do to Christianity.I work in the energy efficiency field. So you might say that I am a believer. But I am not a true believer. I believe in the existence of human-caused global climate change, but find that many people are way over-selling it. In fact, I've been pushing my own organization to distance its own work from carbon and GW, not because it isn't true, but because the "true believers" are tainting it and I worry about us getting impugned by association .. just like is starting to happen now with climate scientists.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17552414136133947686 craig

    I don't buy the notion that it's those meanie Christians, conservatives, and oil companies who are to blame for discrediting AGW/"climate change". AGW scientists have done that all by themselves.I've been an engineer for twenty years, and the first thing every science/engineering major learns in school is "show your work". Before we spend trillions of dollars remediating against global warming and remaking society to undo the last 150 years of industrialization, it seems only reasonable to demand a thorough and open accounting of how the result was arrived at and what assumptions were made along the way, so there can be full public confidence in the decision. Many have been saying for a long time that "trust us, we're scientists" is insufficient for a problem of this alleged magnitude.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07632714882132276803 George Weis

    BRAVO! Nuff said.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01567728278490585110 La gallina

    Just a couple of years ago I was a borderline-environmentalist, slightly new age, wannabe hippie. (Hey, I was born in a hippie commune. It took a while to get that out of my system.)I wanted to stay as far away from God and Christianity as possible, as my former hippie parents had become born-again Christians in the 70s, and the End Times and that creepy "Left Behind" movie were huge parts of my childhood.But as a borderline environmentalist I discovered the exact same fervor, fear, and psychological pressure to go along with it all that I had seen in church growing up. That's why I was only ever borderline. All of the "green" friends I ever had have had a fierce hatred of religion. Yet, they were absolutely filled with zeal in preaching their message. Father Longnecker is not criticizing the scientific world. He's pointing out the dangers of the bogus scientific world, and the starry-eyed zealots who jump on bandwagons. What's this I hear about a list of 31,000 scientists who don't believe in global warming, 26,000 of whom are PhDs?