Environmental Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God

BreakPoint | by Chuck Colson | Sep. 17, 2009

If we can’t convince people to change their behavior to save the planet, maybe God can. Or so one atheist thinks. These are discouraging times for environmentalists. The momentum to adopt sweeping measures to combat man-made global warming has slowed, even ground to a halt in some places.

Australia and New Zealand, for example, have rejected and repealed their attempts to reduce CO2 emissions. And the French public is up in arms over the government’s plan to impose a “carbon tax.”

Even after all the scare stories, people are having second thoughts about the cost of—or even the need for—reducing greenhouse gas emissions. What’s needed, according to one prominent environmentalist, is a more reliable source of motivation—that is, religious belief.

At the British Science Association Festival, Lord May, the group’s president, said that population growth, climate change, and other environmental offenses “threaten our existence on this planet.”

This litany is a familiar one whose power, judging by recent events, has diminished. May, the former chief science adviser to the British government, told attendees that better motivation for changing behavior is needed.

So what better motivator than religion? May noted that “religion had historically played a major role in policing social behavior through the notion of a supernatural ‘enforcer.’” Since “religion may have helped protect human society from itself in the past,” it may be able to do it again by invoking this “supernatural punisher.”

Actually, what May wants isn’t so much the threat of punishment as the respect for authority and the obedience produced by religion, Christianity in particular. If people won’t reduce their carbon emissions for the sake of Mother Earth, perhaps they will do so for their Heavenly Father.

Mind you, Lord May is an “avowed atheist.” Still, as the British magazine Spiked summed it up, “desperate times call for desperate measures.”

For people who believe that “we are already exceeding the ecological footprint which Earth could sustain,” having others invoke a non-existent deity is a small price to pay for averting catastrophe.

The transparent cynicism of this appeal is almost amusing—what’s not is the willingness of religious people, including some Christians, to play along.

In providing a religious rationale for the policies of people like Lord May, they are not, as they suppose, caring for creation. As Robert Acuff pointed recently pointed out at our new website, ColsonCenter.org, the kind of environmentalism espoused by May and others is a kind of idolatry. It elevates the creation above the Creator—and everything else.

As I have said before on BreakPoint, for this kind of environmentalism, the problem is people. “Nature” can only thrive if human beings are diminished. It’s why a new study by the London School of Economics, revealingly entitled “Fewer Emitters, Lower Emissions, Less Cost,” concludes that contraception is the most cost-effective way to reduce global warming.

Christians ought to have no part in promoting this kind of anti-human environmentalism. If May and company desire the aid of a deity, well, their own idol will just have to do.

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