Saturday, 19 April 2014

The connection between religion and global warming


It is a fact: the majority of global warming denialists come from the Liberal side of the political spectrum (do not confuse it with small l liberalism; the Australian Liberals are similar to the American Republicans). It is also a fact that global warming denialists have, more often than not, deep religious beliefs. The question I am often asked to answer when I suggest both of the above facts is what connection lies between global warming denialism and religion. It seems as if I got a fine example to provide my hypothesis with today.
Our Attorney General, George Brandis, opened his mouth yet again. The guy is not content with repeatedly calling Edward Snowden a traitor, despite the fact American law has a very specific definition for treason that Snowden is most definitely not guilty of; neither is he content with threatening to impose pro copyright monopoly legislation in Australia while members of his office are running open dialog with the copyright monopoly (but refuse to include the general public); no, our Defender of the Law now went out to call those advocating for action on climate change "believers" and to condemn the way they are trying to silence denialists (see here and here for coverage).

First, I need to provide explanations for why Liberals are so fond of climate change denialism. I can provide two. To start with, Liberals tend to populate the higher echelons of our class system, and are therefore in a position to lose more from us changing the way we live in order to accommodate for global warming. One can delude oneself into all sorts of nonsense when one is convinced that one is to lose something.
More importantly, the whole Liberal view of the world relies on principles of laissez-faire economics, thus advocating for small and passive governments whose main job - only job - is to ensure the private sector is allowed to reign supreme over the market. However, if the Liberals were to accept what science is telling us about global warming and the action dealing with it requires then they would, in effect, admit that the principles at the very core of their ideology are wrong. It is therefore much easier for them to deny global warming than to admit being wrong.
We can see this phenomenon in areas unrelated to global warming. Check, for example, the Liberals ongoing criticism of Labor's handling of the 2008 financial crisis. Most experts praise Labor's policy for saving Australia from the worst of the crisis' wrath, but the Liberals continuously focus on how Labor stopped running a surplus budget in order to support its policies.

I am yet to explain what any of this has to do with religion.
My hypothesis there is simple. In order for the Liberals to delude themselves into global warming denialism, making themselves look and feel like the folk who insisted the world was flat or the earth stands at the centre of our universe despite all the facts at hand, they need to be well practiced in delusion. They need to have acquired skills in taking things for granted despite evidence to the contrary or lack of. And it is there that religion provides the perfect training ground for those seeking to delude themselves further.
I have often argued that religion is a cancer to society, a cancer that prevents us from staring at the challenges facing us in the eye. One can witness it in stem cell research as well as the way we conduct our so called War on Drugs. In the case of global warming, though, things are much worse. If we do not start acting soon, it looks highly likely the religion as a cancer metaphor would apply to us in a much more accurate fashion.


Image by John Scalzi, Creative Commons licence

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