Environmentalism as Religion

I have commented in the past about the similarities between the global warming hysteria and apocalyptic religion (specifically christianity), but I recently found a much better analysis of the phenomenon. This is from a speech by Michael Crichton:

I studied anthropology in college, and one of the things I learned was that certain human social structures always reappear. They can't be eliminated from society. One of those structures is religion. Today it is said we live in a secular society in which many people---the best people, the most enlightened people---do not believe in any religion. But I think that you cannot eliminate religion from the psyche of mankind. If you suppress it in one form, it merely re-emerges in another form. You can not believe in God, but you still have to believe in something that gives meaning to your life, and shapes your sense of the world. Such a belief is religious.

Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it's a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.

There's an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there's a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.

Eden, the fall of man, the loss of grace, the coming doomsday---these are deeply held mythic structures. They are profoundly conservative beliefs. They may even be hard-wired in the brain, for all I know. I certainly don't want to talk anybody out of them, as I don't want to talk anybody out of a belief that Jesus Christ is the son of God who rose from the dead. But the reason I don't want to talk anybody out of these beliefs is that I know that I can't talk anybody out of them. These are not facts that can be argued. These are issues of faith.

And so it is, sadly, with environmentalism. Increasingly it seems facts aren't necessary, because the tenets of environmentalism are all about belief. It's about whether you are going to be a sinner, or saved. Whether you are going to be one of the people on the side of salvation, or on the side of doom. Whether you are going to be one of us, or one of them.

Having taken this passage out of the context of a speech, I encourage you to read the whole thing. Also its a really good speech.

Share this

These are not facts that can

These are not facts that can be argued.

Of course they can, and they can be argued successfully. I was a devout Roman Catholic well into adulthood and the persuaded by argument that there is no good reason to posit God and no good reason to conclude there was anything supernatural about Jesus.

There are many religious individuals who know these things and still cling to faith, but the arguments *can* prevail.

I particularly relish the

I particularly relish the fact that the big threat is global Warming i.e. we'll all roast in Hell.

Read Bryan Caplan on

Read Bryan Caplan on Rational Irrationality: People tend to be irrational in matters of public policy because the cost to the individual of his own irrationality is negligible.

You don't get any better policy public than the environmental whackos by being informed, you get the same policies they get. So why should the individual invest rational thought in public policy matters?

If people bore more of the costs of their individual decisons a lot of environmental irrationality would go away.

You mean that you'd advocate

You mean that you'd advocate global reparations for the former residents of submerged atolls?

Crichton's gone more than a little loopy lately.  The real analogue to religion these days isn't environmentalism (though some do wrap it up in Gaia-mysticism and try to make it one); the religions of the non-religious are astrology, new-age crystal energies and feng shui.  And how could he ignore the suicidal attitudes of the "peace" movement?  These people are offering themselves for crucifixion.

If all it takes to invalidate a body of fact is to have some people get mystical or fanatic about them, both the right and Libertarians are screwed too.  You really don't want to see the other edge of that particular sword.

On the other hand, the

On the other hand, the "facts" that he alludes to are out there, since he was able to find them. They are not being suppressed.

He speaks a bit like a preacher himself, actually. He has "all these facts" and he "just wants to share them with people" (I'm not quoting but paraphrasing). Yet he launches these statements in a venue (the Commonwealth Club) which he knows is not one in which he can actually present this kind of information. A bit disingenuous.

I don't think there is such a great reason to abandon concern for the environment. I think everyone would agree we need to learn more. (And I don't miss second-hand smoke in public places, regardless of whether it is or isn't the source of disease.)

You mean that you’d

You mean that you’d advocate global reparations for the former residents of submerged atolls?

Only if the behavior of some group(s) could be clearly identified as a primary contributing factor to the atoll submerging. If that were true then it wouldn't be different in principle from collecting damages from a company that accidentally levels your house.

Sure, there is no global

Sure, there is no global warming, the US governament says so. And hey, even if it is real, it's a good thing, because midwest will produce more food.

Those extra cyclones and hurricanes are just a co-incidence and UN:s desperate attemps for less pollution are thorn in the good industrialists side.

There is an another, different, more acceptable religion than environmentalism, some people call it commerce or trade, some capitalism. The name is not important, the ideals are. There is one holy object in this religion, dressed in many forms like £, € or $. And the capital idea is owning, having, keeping. The golden rule "Who has the gold, makes the rule" is a good indicator why the religion is so popular, the holy seremony can be seen in all mass media, urging you to purchase and own. Do it.

And then, there is a magic word: competitiveness. In sake of national competitiveness the ministers and leaders will sacrifice their workers, to gain that edge...

And yes, the environmentalism is a dangerous religion, it threatens the national interest. you see, if you would get clean tab water, like I do in Finland, you might accidentally drink it, instead of buying coca-cola or perriere... think about it, the national economy would collapse. So spend your heart out!

how do these idiots find

how do these idiots find this site?

isilpa, I am puzzled. You


I am puzzled.

You seem to be hostile to trade, but I am having trouble seeing any more moral alternatives.

Trade is the voluntary exchange of property between two or more individuals.

Now if one wishes to replace trade with something more wholesome, there are really three alternatives.

1) Don't transfer any property at all. Every person manufactures what ever goods they need for their own consumption themselves. In other words, each person produces all their own food, own water, own clothes, medicines, houses, tools, etc. Obviously, this would lead to everyone living miserable brutish lives. We cannot all grow our own food, and it would be expecially cruel to those who suffer paralysis or ill health for obvious reasons. So, I assume that you reject that notion.

2)Don't exchange property, but give that which you have to others without recompense. This is certainly an option, and I will return to it in a bit.

3)Replace voluntary exchanges with involuntary exchanges. There, a person who wants a bit of property, through force, stealth, or trickery takes a piece of property from someone else without that other person's consent. Clearly, in this case, the person who takes the property is exploiting his or her victim. Again, I assume that you reject that notion with certain provisos. I presume that you probably opposed to theft by individuals, but as a satisfied resident of Finland, you approve of coercive property transfers when carried out by the state.

Now, many people don't like markets - fear them actually - because they are afraid that there will come a day when they willnot have something to trade in exchange for something they really want. It could be a day when you need a surgeon you cannot afford, or the day when you cannot buy food so must give up your underwater-basketweaving classes. Certainly, these are real fears; if my house burned down, I could not afford to buy another. I could die and deprive my wife of the support she needs to care for herself and our two children. Fate is capricious, and many of us are one event from being made destitute. For such cases, there are two institutions that people have devised that are free of coercion:
1) By selling and buying insurance, by which risk is distributed over a large number of people capable of absorbing the costs, or
2) Charity, wherein people give foods and services to others without recompense (which is option 2 above).

When one somehow implies that trade is wrong, one must also make the same implication about charity because if one is not free to exchange goods with another person, how can they be free to make a gift?

Your clumsy claims otherwise notwithstanding, there is nothing immoral about allowing people to use their property as they see fit and through voluntary exchange of goods and services increasing their wealth. It more than anything else has led to prosperity, happiness and human comfort. My wife would have been born stillborn without the benefits of trade. My daughter could face a serious risk of death in childbirth. I would probably have died from malnutrition, or have been crippled from manual labor. To sneer and dismiss these things strikes me as being a bit fanatical.

(PS: please do not confuse state sponsored capitalism with free trade. The two are very different things. When states establish tariffs to protect local industries or wage wars open markets or resources for exploitation, that is something known as mercantilism which is not free trade since it is predicated on preventing people from entering into voluntary exchanges or even witholding their goods from the market. To my eye, state action is, and has always been inherently immoral because it aexists solely to coerce people)

To sneer and dismiss these

To sneer and dismiss these things strikes me as being a bit fanatical.

You're sincere and well-thought out response is probably wasted on sipila, I think.

For a very non-religious

For a very non-religious take on one issue of great interest to everyone who thinks the environment is important, read this:


I'd like to see anyone find theological tendencies there.