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We either responsibly exploit our natural resources or settle for less health care,
education and lower pensions. A choice of automatic opposition to resource development
is one option, if that’s what we collectively want. But that choice should be understood
as a public policy question with consequences, not as a religious one of no cost.
(Gordon Gibson – December 31, 2012)
Society has “invented a new religion.” Thus spoke former Quebec premier Lucien Bouchard recently. He described that as the belief that man is wrecking the planet and that the world should return to a more natural state.
Mr. Bouchard was speaking with some frustration of widespread and almost knee-jerk opposition to developing natural resources. Bingo! He’s on to something. The Church of Green?
Religions have certain characteristics. They consist of a body of belief based on faith (as, for example, in God). This faith is not to be challenged, distinguishing religions from other belief sets. Scientific theories, for a counterexample, must always be questioned. Not so with religion. Unwavering faith is the hallmark.
Religions of the sort decried by Mr. Bouchard have high priests who can speak ex cathedra and gain immediate belief. David Suzuki, Al Gore and Amory Lovins, among others, have this otherworldly gravitas. They have their religious orders. Just as there are Jesuits and Benedictines, there are Greenpeace and the Sierra Club.
Religion has an enormous usefulness to many individuals. But there’s more. Religion is, by its nature, absolutist. Because it embodies the Truth, one should not deviate. Of course we all sin, but deliberate tradeoffs are not permissible. It’s not allowed to do a little bit of evil to become a little bit rich, and especially not great evil for great wealth.
Such absolute rules can work fine for individuals. They can do as they wish and take the consequences. It’s where religion is imported to govern the doings of the collective – of a society – that the trouble begins.
For the longest time, Christianity ruled the public affairs of the Western world, just as Islam does in many parts today. In the West, however, conventional religion has long been banned from the affairs of government. This is inevitable once you have a functioning democracy that respects the individual, because individuals vary so greatly in their beliefs and wants.
For the rest of this column, please go to the Globe and Mail website: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/absolutism-in-the-church-of-green/article6773233/?ord=1