In a time when modern science and scholarship have begun to cast doubts on traditional faith, many on the left, right, and center are increasingly abandoning traditional religion. While most such people on the center-right are content simply not to believe, many on the left continue to cling to the salvationist ethos. In the past, that impulse was satiated with communistic reveries. If religion was the opiate of the masses, socialism was the heroin of the secular leftist.
That no longer seems, at least outwardly, to be the case. With a worldwide record of abject failure, socialism lost its claim to the miraculous. Despite this, the left's desire for cosmic justice remained unfilled; it was only a matter of time before something stepped into the teleological breach.
That something is radical environmentalism. In a fantastic essay at his site Number Watch, John Brignell shows how extreme environmentalism has become a secular religion. The comparisons are striking and ought to give pause to any agnostic or atheist wary of the influence of religion on society. Even if you don't share Bridgnell's view of religion, this is an essay worth reading. Here's a small excerpt:
It is in the nature of religion to be authoritarian and proscriptive. Essential to this is the concept of sin – a transgression in thought or deed of theological principles.
Original sin in the older religions derived from one of the founts of life on earth – sex. The new religion goes even further back to the very basis of all life – carbon. Perhaps the fundamental human fear is fear of life itself. The amazing propensity of carbon to form compounds of unlimited complexity made the existence of life possible, while its dioxide is the primary foodstuff, the very start of the food chain. Every item of nutriment you consume started out as atmospheric carbon dioxide. It is therefore the ideal candidate for original sin, since no one can escape dependence on it. This manna that gave us life is now regularly branded in media headlines as “pollution” and “toxic”: surely one of the most perverse dysphemisms in the history of language.
The corrective to sin in religion is absolution, and the power of most religions comes from their claim to have the monopoly on absolution. So it is with the new godless religion. Furthermore, it is in the nature of religion to create false markets. In the time of Chaucer the Pardoner sold papal indulgences, which freed the prosperous from the consequences of sin. Likewise, the new pardoners sell carbon offsets. As in so much of both ancient and modern society these activities divert effort from wealth creation and so act as a drag on the economy. They also grant to the rich a comfort that is not available to the poor – a sure road to success. [...]
Religions vary in their treatment of unbelievers, from disregard to slaughter. The new religion relies at present on verbal assault and character assassination, though there are those who would go further. They call the infidels “deniers” – a cheap and quite despicable verbal reference to the Holocaust. There is a sustained campaign to deny the deniers any sort of public platform for their views.
Apostates are universally even more reviled than infidels. They have turned their backs on the true faith, whichever that might happen to be. Partial apostates, or heretics, are even more loathed and through the ages have been subjected to the most appalling punishments and deaths. In the case of the “sceptical environmentalist”, Bjorn Lomborg, he is of the faith. In fact he is a serial believer; accepting, for example, that eating celery causes two percent of all cancers and, of course, that global warming is man made, but he rejects the sacrificing of humanity to the belief. This is unacceptable! What are a few million deaths from dirty water, mosquito bites and other hazards so long as people can be made to conform? So far he has only been assaulted with insults and custard pies. Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace, broke with the movement over its growing anti-human, anti-scientific tendencies and drift into extremism. The last straw for him was the campaign against chlorine, not only an essential component of human life but also the basis of one of the most dramatically life-saving hygienic interventions. He has, consequently, been subjected to a prolonged campaign of vilification, described as an eco-Judas, turncoat and traitor. Every minor commentator or blogger who manifests disbelief can expect to be the target of abuse from self-appointed protectors of the creed.
Read the rest.