Monday, May 13, 2013

Good Religion, Bad Religion & The Environment

Fundamentalism is likely helping to kill this planet. A disinterest in this world, and an over-concentration on End Times theology combines to help facilitate a general malaise about environmental issues. Fundamentalism hides an inchoate gnosticism, wherein the next life is the only one we live for, and everyone looks forward to a time when the world is completely recreated, erasing any sense that what we do in this world matters. For if the world is just going to be completely re-created, nothing we do in this world has any real permanent impact FOR this world.

Combine this with an over-simplistic and literalistic approach to Creation, and you have a very deadly combination. I'm a rather conservative guy, but I believe something needs to be done about global warming, and I think market forces can be used to help facilitate positive change. But rather than conservatives using their (I think correct) methods to solve this problem, the ignore it or worse. That is due in large part to the influence of fundamentalists.

Atheistic humanism is no solution to the problem, however. As Dostoesvky rightly pointed out at length in his books, survival is not motivation enough to actually produce results. Convincing people that their lives or the lives of future generations depend upon their actions will not really move them to action. People seek to live for something more than life. If there is nothing more than life itself, then they will not have the proper motivation to do anything at all. Giving them a sense that their actions in this world matter ULTIMATELY will make a difference in a way no secular philosophy ever can. People need a mission, they need something to actually fight for. This is why the combat motif in the Bible is so important. The sense that we have an enemy out there and we really are empowered to do something about it speaks to our need for, and experience of, meaning. Environmentalists problem is the opposite of fundamentalists: they are too worldly. Looking at global warming as the offshoot of human greed and selfishness, and seeing these forces as part of the larger spiritual conflict with evil, is the only way to really get people moving. Abandoning the language of religion, you abandon the very power by which you can actually make a difference.

Non-hierarchical, and liberal interpretations of Creation can help spur people to action as well. If we look just at Genesis 2, where humanity is created to be caretakers of the garden in which they were placed, where the very purpose of creation is not humanity itself, but the world God made to house humanity, can give us a sense of divine mission, and rightly so. Adam was created to tend the Garden. Christians are supposed to be freed from the sin of Adam. Doesn't it make sense, then, that a redeemed person will take up the job that Adam lost, and start tending the garden as we were always intended to do?

There are some liberal theologians who have taken up this cause, unfortunately they are too tightly connected to leftist politics to come up with the kind of solutions that would really make a difference. Until zeal starts getting properly directed, we are in trouble. Good religion could help restore balance to the planet, bad religion is likely to destroy it.

1 comment:

  1. The part about survival alone not being a sufficient motivation to live reminded me of this Dostoevsky quote:

    "Let me tell you that mankind could survive without the English, without the Germans, and most certainly without the Russians; that it could subsist without science and even without bread. But it is impossible to do without beauty because then there would be nothing left for us to do in the world!"

    Dostoevsky "Demons".