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.