Friday, March 10, 2006

Is environmentalism a Religion

It is rare to read anything on global warming that gives you facts and reasons rather than hot air. For this reason, I was very pleased to read a long article in this week's Spectator magazine by Lord Lawson, the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer. (You can read the article here for free if you register but it will only be around for a week).

This blog is not the place to debate global warming but I found the last paragraph especially interesting:

It is, I suspect, no accident that it is in Europe that climate change absolutism has found the most fertile soil. For it is Europe that has become the most secular society in the world, where the traditional religions have the weakest popular hold. Yet people still feel the need for the comfort and higher values that religion can provide; and it is the quasi-religion of green alarmism and what has been termed global salvationism of which the climate change issue is the most striking example, but by no means the only one which has filled the vacuum, with reasoned questioning of its mantras regarded as a form of blasphemy. But that can be no basis for rational policy-making.

A similar point about the close connection between environmentalism and religion was made by Bryan Appleyard in his book Understanding the Present. I am suspicious of anthropological explanations for religion but it does seem to be a basic human need. And like all needs it can be quenched in the short term by junk alternatives. Food is a real need that can be met by a Big Mac. We all have a sex drive and that can be sated with pornography. Good nutricious food or a loving monogamous relationship are (almost everyone agrees) better than the junk alternatives. But they are also harder work. We should therefore not be surprised that as Europe turns away from the hard, narrow road of real Christianity, it has started to binge on the easy alternatives like environmentalism, consumerism and celebrity worship.

That is not to say that the environment is not an important issue. In fact, it is far to important to be left to environmentalists.

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