My impression (of course I only move in limited circles, usually three times before I lie down) is that this past Earth Day was a relatively muted celebration. The Greenies were observing in private, while we Spoilers of the Earth were having a big old time whooping it up over tired Al Gore jokes.
So I think I’ll pile on a little more. But in a serious vein.
One of the most common responses I’ve met when talking religion with non-Christians (and liberal Christians) is, “I can’t believe in your angry God. Your doctrine of Original Sin offends me. My God is a God of love. My God would never condemn a baby for something Adam and Eve did.”
And it occurred to me, “Well, what do environmentalists believe about sin and guilt?”
By and large (no doubt there are gradations and exceptions) Greens seem to worship nature, at least for practical purposes. And if they don’t, they place supreme ethical value on treatment of the environment, in the same way a Christian reverences the commandments of the Bible. Speaking as an outsider, I can certainly say that I come away from their sermonizing with a strong feeling of having been preached at.
So how compassionate is their “scientific” moral system?
First of all, they believe in Original Sin. They believe that every human being (most particularly every human being in the western world) is a miserable sinner. By our very existence, we are consuming precious resources and generating unnecessary waste that is destroying Mother Earth. For all the emphasis on self-esteem in our schools, students are taught a contradictory message at the same time—the message that they don’t really deserve to be alive, and that they are killing seals and squirrels every time they turn on their Play Stations.
So they are in the condition of being sinners through their very existence. Through birth, and not through any choice of their own.
(By the way, it fascinates me that many people who don’t accept the idea that humans are special creations of God, nevertheless insist that there is an essential difference between humans and animals, so that, although [they insist] humans are merely animals, nevertheless that particular animal, unlike all others, is capable of doing things that lack the “natural” imprimatur.)
And how is atonement to be made under the environmental sin system? One can reduce, re-use and recycle, but that really doesn’t wash sin away. The great Carbon Footprint hangs over the sinner’s head his whole life long, a sin-debt he can never repay. Even if he were to move to the woods and live off the soil, would that really settle the books? Even if all of us went back to nature, would that really cover over our transgression? Wouldn’t there still be too many of us, polluting the air and the earth and the water without benefit of recycling centers or sewage facilities?
No, the only way to atone for environmental sin is to die. But even in our coffins, sin follows. Think of the waste of our funeral customs, and the chemicals our embalmed bodies inject into the earth! What about cremation? Well, that’s air pollution, isn’t it?
There is no full atonement in the Green Religion.
But they do have indulgences. Carbon credits, driving hybrid cars, solar water heaters, these help to ease the troubled conscience, so that the environmental Pharisee may say, “Thank God I am not as other men, even this (Re)publican.” The Energy Star label is the papal certificate that remits a thousand years in Purgatory.
So here is how the two religions stack up, in my opinion:
Christianity—Original sin, but full atonement available through the finished work of Christ.
Environmentalism—Original sin, with lifelong guilt and limited indulgences.
Which moral code is more tenderhearted?