Jul 232008

At the OCON 2008 conference, one of the predictions made by Dr. Yaron Brook and Dr. Onkar Ghate was the coming convergence of religion and environmentalism in the US.

This is been mentioned in news stories in the past, and further evidence of this can be found in this recent story from the July 18, 2008 New York Times:

Pope Warns on Environment

Pope Benedict XVI used his first major address at the Roman Catholic Church’s youth festival here [Sydney, Australia] on Thursday to warn that the world was being scarred and its natural resources used up by humanity’s “insatiable consumption.”

In a broad criticism of consumer culture, before a crowd of more than 140,000, Pope Benedict reinforced the Vatican’s growing concern with protecting the environment, a theme he has addressed before.

Although environmentalism and religion would seem to be fairly disparate ideologies, Drs. Brook and Ghate point out that the two could easily unite in an “unholy marriage” in which each strengthens the other.

For instance, many of the radical environmentalists believe they have failed in their attempts to change the culture. Although they had hoped that their ideas would cause Americans to renounce industrial society, this simply hasn’t happened. Americans are not willing to sacrifice their current level of material prosperty for a nebulous ecological concept such as “Gaia”. On the other hand, they might be willing to renounce material prosperity if their religion preaches that such material prosperity is immoral. And some radical environmentalists are starting to recognize this fact.

Similarly, many of the younger religionists are moving beyond a concern with traditional “social conservative” issues (such as abortion and gay marriage) and onto causes more typically associated with the secular left, such as “economic justice” and environmentalism. They frame environmentalism in terms of “stewardship” over God’s creation (the Earth).

Religion also thrives on guilt. If people start to feel guilty for productive activities in the material world necessary for physical survival, then religion could gain much more power over the human spirit. Hence, there is a strong possibility of a synergy between environmentalism and religion, especially in the younger generation.

As Brook and Ghate note, what unites the environmentalists and religionists is the “don’t move” approach. The environmentalists favor a “don’t move” approach towards the material world. They want mankind to maintain a static relationship relative to the natural world. Any kind of change made to improve man’s lot is viewed as disrupting this desirable “harmony” and therefore wrong.

Similarly, the religionists advocate a “don’t move” approach towards man’s mind. Obedience to authority is preferred over an independent mind that asks questions and is willing to challenge authority.

A union of religion and environmentalism could therefore form a powerful ideology which preaches that your very existence is a sin and that you should therefore feel guilty for merely wanting to live.

Fortunately, most Americans do not feel that way, at least not yet. But if this ideology ever gains a foothold in the American psyche, then we will be in deep trouble. Such an ideology would kill the innovative American spirit that has created computers, antibiotics, and factories, bring material progress to a halt, and return us to the horrors of a medieval existence, where life was “nasty, brutish, and short”.

Hence, this is why it’s important for humans to explicitly recognize that it’s morally proper to want to live, that it’s right to exercise our minds in order to better our lives, and that it’s right to utilize natural resources according to our rational judgment for human benefit.

And this is why I’m proud to wear my Objective Standard t-shirt that reads, “Exploit the Earth Or Die“. (Only $19.95!)

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