Environmentalism and Religion – Too Many Similarities?

Posted on July 1, 2010 by


My stance on religion has varied through time. In my youth, I was a Christian by default (after my parents christened me), and I don’t think I ever thought much about what that meant. I never remember attending church aside from the occasional wedding or funeral. In the final few years of school, I attended a boarding school where Sunday mass was compulsory; however by this stage I was becoming increasingly less religious. Through university I happily agreed with anyone who talked down on religion for its conflict with science, its belief in miracles, and I saw it as the ideology behind the world’s major conflicts. I came across atheism and for several years proclaimed myself an atheist until I later realized that atheism is a religion of its own and falters through its own intolerance of other religions – one of my primary criticisms of religion. I didn’t want to be atheist, I was just happy being proudly un-religious. That is until recently, when I realized I am increasingly part of the new religious movement; environmentalism.

A browse of Wikipedia on religion gives a number of phrases easily applied to sustainability or environmentalism. It ‘centers on a deity or an ultimate truth’. It ‘entails specific behaviors’ or ‘personal practices related to a communal faith’. It is ‘a way of life or life stance’. It ‘relates to one’s primary worldview and how it dictates one’s thoughts and actions’. It includes ‘causes, principles and activities believed in with zeal or conscientious devotion concerning points or matters of ethics or conscience’. Any of these phrases can easily be applied to sustainability or environmentalism; Mother Earth as the deity, environmentalism as the ultimate truth, sustainability as the way of life. I think there are many similarities which make me both question and worry. Is environmentalism the pursuit of a higher level of consciousness or ‘the opiate of the masses’ as Karl Marx described religion?

I for one would like environmentalism to remain distinctly non-religious in a number of ways, although naturally it will always have some similarities. I don’t want to look down on people when they buy iPods or fly in airplanes. I don’t want to pretend I am happier in my lifestyle choices than others, or get angry at people who don’t believe in climate change. I worry environmentalists will tire of arguing with people who do not believe as they do, and will resort to exaggerations or the promotion of alarmist fear-mongering to frighten people into submission. Fear, rather than hope, plays far too great a role in Christianity, and I don’t want this to be the case for environmentalism. I would prefer to continue to do my best to do what I think is right, continue to learn more of the truth and debate with facts, and hopefully people will be inspired, question their own belief of the truth and maybe in the long run, begin to look to the future with hope. To help ensure that environmentalism remains unreligious, I have drafted up Ten Commandments for environmentalists to follow:

  1. Thou shall not endlessly preach your belief
  2. Thou shall not argue with false or exaggerated facts
  3. Thou shall not frown on other lifestyles or lifestyle choices
  4. Thou shall not exclude opposing arguments from being voiced
  5. Thou shall not implement policy against the will of the democratic majority
  6. Thou shall not exaggerate your own happiness
  7. Thou shall not spread fear
  8. Thou shall not fight wars with countries that do not conform to your doctrine
  9. Thou shall not put superstition above fact
  10. Thou shall not follow in blind faith

Follow these commandments, and environmentalism will remain for the greater good of society.