And God said unto them . . . replenish the Earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over . . . every living thing. — Genesis 1:28
Fundamentalist religious beliefs about dominating the Earth and having an afterlife are a serious threat to the future of the planet.
To fundamentalists, “This world is not my home (I’m just a-passing through),” as the old hymn puts it. If the Earth is not your home, and paradise awaits, you apparently can be rewarded for ensuring this planet becomes hell on earth by denying climate change, overpopulating the planet and despoiling other species’ habitats.
This cavalier viewpoint was perfectly illustrated by an absurdist conversation on Fox News this past Sunday, where three co-hosts approvingly cited the views of Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy for touting his faith and saying that America needs to “abandon climate religion.” Ramaswamy, a Hindu who is nevertheless essentially a Christian nationalist, promotes the idea that those who work to mitigate climate change are part of a “new secular religion” and derides what he calls “climate-ism.”
Co-host Rachel Campos-Duffy criticized Democrats for being less religious than Republicans, saying: “For them, where we live right now, Earth is it. So everything’s on the line here for them. They think, as you said, they can perfect this Earth. Those of us who have faith don’t believe that.”
Religion-based anti-environmentalism is nothing new in the Republican Party, as exemplified by the anti-environmentalist and fundamentalist James G. Watt, who controversially served as secretary of the interior under President Reagan, and was the prototypical fox guarding the chicken coop. Watt, who attacked and endangered decades of preservationist policies, famously told the Washington Post: “My responsibility is to follow the Scriptures, which call upon us to occupy the land until Jesus returns.” He scared the nation when he told the House Interior Committee: “I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns; whatever it is we have to manage with a skill to leave the resources needed for future generations.” (Later, in his career as a lobbyist, this man of God ended up being convicted of withholding documents.)
We saw a replay of such appointments under President Trump, who made Ryan Zinke, an anti-environmentalist Lutheran, secretary of the interior, and former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who called climate change a “hoax,” head of the Environmental Protection Agency. The two appointees regularly attended Trump’s cabinet bible studies run by Ralph Drollinger, including one about the “false religion of radical environmentalism.”
Writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman once wrote in a poem, “What you think may guide our acts / But it does not alter facts.” Unfortunately, these zealous religious beliefs are leading to inaction and bad actions in denying climate change. However, such beliefs cannot alter the facts that show that our planet is in dire trouble from human-made climate change.
We can’t afford to let religious crazies run the show. Those of us who haven’t abandoned our reason have to realize that the only afterlife that should concern any of us is leaving our descendants and planet a secure and pleasant future.
Come to think of it, Fox’s Campos-Duffy presented the realist’s position rather well. Where we live right now, Earth, is it. Everything is on the line for us.