Is Christianity Ruining The Environment?
Before Christians get all riled up at the subtitle, I should probably write a disclaimer. I don’t mean that going to church and being a Christian is bad for the environment. I mean that the culture itself is, and I will validate that opinion, so maintain an open mind and hear me out.
First of all, the impact of Christianity on Western culture simply cannot be understated. During the 500s, the spread of Catholicism started to give the Papacy more political power and St. Benedict’s Monastic Rule made monasteries form into a powerful religious force. Since then, the role of Christianity in the West has assured that the influence of Christianity has affected nearly every facet of life, secular or otherwise.
This piece, though, is about one part of Christian attitude in particular. In The Quantum Society, Danah Zohar makes the argument for a new type of society that operates with the individual recognizance of a capitalistic society and the working-together attitude of a collectivist or communal one (a happy medium that I happen to agree with). There is a brief mention of Christianity when she discusses what the new society must have in order to function in the world that is forming around us:
It must be “green.” To meet the awesome threat posed to the earth’s environment by the waste products of industrial civilization, we need a social reality that is at one with the natural world around us. Both Christianity and mechanism assumed a dichotomy between human beings and the material world and between culture and nature. We must transcend this with a sense that human social goals can and should evolve in harmony with the wider living and geophysical context within which society is embedded.
The dichotomy that she talks about is that humans are somehow separate from nature. This is reinforced by the underlying feeling in the West (and in other regions of the world occasionally, too, but not to as great of an extent) that we are somehow above or “better” than the rest of nature, other species, etc. The Christian religion has influenced this and pervaded our thinking by saying that we are placed here to rule over the rest of nature, as well as being made in the image of an all-powerful being, as seen in Genesis 1:26:
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
That has proved extremely pervasive. Even in environmentalism, we talk about “saving the environment.” Nature doesn’t need us to save it! The nature of nature is change and adaptability. We aren’t hurting nature — we’re changing it, and we’re changing it so that we can’t live in it. If we managed to kill ourselves, nature would continue on without us. Saying that we’re damaging it is sort of silly; we should be more honest about our environmental motivations. We certainly aren’t above nature in some way.
However, the attitude that we are has spawned a consumerist mantra that we can take and take from our natural resources for centuries without any ill effects. Note, please, that I’m not even talking about human-influenced global warming — although, if you don’t believe humans influence global warming, you’re defying logic — I’m talking about mining, drilling, burning, cutting, over farming, poisoning and consuming our way to extinction. Scientists, for years, have told us of our planet’s limitations. We just haven’t listened. Is the attitude that we are above nature partly to blame?