How has environmentalism gained such religious fervor? Is it that, having shucked off traditional religion, we have to believe in something?
American Millennials, those souls between 18 to 36 years old, appear to be losing their faith. Recent reports from the Pew Center on the Study of Religion tell us that there has been a sharp decline in religious affiliation among this age group.
Belief abhors a vacuum, and it seems that we have a new religion to fill the recent gap. Certainly environmentalism has ardent believers. Many of the most ardent followers are our public school teachers, who, while not allowed to discuss their own religious views, are encouraged to advance the new Green religion.
Millennials were in school when the new Save the Planet curriculum made its splash. With the decline of religious practice among millennials and the rise of environmentalism is there some correlation between these new trends? How has environmentalism gained such religious fervor? Is it that, having shucked off traditional religion, we have to believe in something? While public education has largely eliminated the study of religions in schools, it has made a curriculum leap to incorporate environmental disasters and global climate change in the textbooks.
The curriculum is a handy tool to advance its tenets, and new religion is having a field day. School classrooms and spaces are full of the new religion's slogans: "Go Green or Go Home!'' ''Save The Earth or Die With It!" and ''Let's save our mother Earth."
This new faith has few requirements. You don't have to memorize prayers, just some bumper-sticker slogans. It has its own national holiday, Earth Day, which is widely celebrated in our schools. You don't have to follow dietary rules, though adherents prefer you eat little or no meat, since animals rank right up there with humans. You can illicitly enjoy the pleasures of the body, be a political anarchist, run a shadowy business, and still be an environmentalist. Just as long as you recycle. Many are fervent about "recycling" the unborn in the name of preserving the Earth.
You can vote for politicians who are ready to eliminate coal miners' jobs and sanctimoniously wag a finger at China and India for their levels of air pollution. You are morally superior. And heretics of this new religion are called deniers.
Not that concern for environment is not an important issue. Still, environmentalism is an easy virtue. You can drive your environmentally friendly Prius and frown at women with SUVs driving their big families to church. But the real kicker in environmental religion is man and woman -- the major villains of global warming and climate change. A strange religion, sort of like James Jones' commune, which prefers few human beings left alive.
Environmentalism had gone through radical changes in a few decades. The sun-god worship switches back from too little sun (a looming ice age according to Time Magazine in the late 1970s) to the 1990s when the panic was about too much sun (global warming today). Plucking one set of data, reporters consider this past summer the "hottest summer on record." Others claim we have had 15 years of cooling temperatures. Concerned that people might notice that global warming is going backward, the high priests of Environmentalism came up with a new and safer and more marketable term: climate change.
Any religion worth its salt has to have a mechanism to get out its dogmas. In addition to our public schools and colleges, the environmentalists have many media megaphones. NBCUniversal owns The Weather Channel and you may have noticed that on the 6:30 news there is almost always a breathy report of a major storm front from El Nino attacking the West Coast or downpours in Dallas, and dramatic videos of glaciers melting somewhere.
One dogma, however, is becoming increasingly embarrassing to the Green faithful. The "absolute truth" that fossil fuels are causing the seas to rise and air to destroy our lungs demands the adherents to fight, march and politic for a cleaner source of keeping us, as needed, both cool and warm. They demand a cleaner source of energy. On the other hand, they are ready to go to the barricades to suppress our development of the cleanest and cheapest source of energy: nuclear energy.
Governments are usually quick to take advantage of a crisis, whether real or imagined. They are always ready to solidify their power and increase their employment numbers by the rolling-out of a new agency. As the President's former chief of staff famously said, "You never let a serious crisis go to waste."
Standby for the U.S. Department of Weather.
KEVIN AND MARILYN RYAN, EDITORS OF "WHY I'M STILL A CATHOLIC," WORSHIP AT ST. LAWRENCE CHURCH IN BROOKLINE, MASS.
- Kevin and Marilyn Ryan, editors of "Why I'm Still a Catholic," worship at St. Lawrence Church in Brookline, Mass.