Climate science skeptics for Jesus

In a column in the Guardian, Katherine Steward explores the reasoning that leads so many on the Religious Right to deny that human activity plays a role in global warming. She writes:

What does religion have to do with climate science? Radical religious activists promote the anti-science bills, in part, because they also seek to undermine the teaching of evolution – another issue that supposedly has "two sides", so schools should "teach the controversy". Now, you don't have to believe that Earth was created in six hectic days in order to be skeptical about climate science, but a large number of climate science deniers also happen to be evolution deniers.

What exactly is the theology of climate science denial? The Cornwall Alliance – a coalition whose list of signatories could double as a directory of major players in the religious right – has a produced a declaration asserting, as a matter of theology, that "there is no convincing scientific evidence that human contribution to greenhouse gases is causing dangerous global warming."

It also tells us – on the firm foundation of Holy Scriptures – that policies intended to slow the pace of climate change represent a "dangerous expansion of government control over private life". It also alerts us that the environmental movement is "un-Biblical" – indeed, a new and false religion. If the Cornwall Declaration seems like a tough read, you can get what you need from the organization's DVD series: "Resisting the Green Dragon: A Biblical Response to one of the Greatest Deceptions of our Day."

Now, this isn't the theology of every religion in America, or of every strain of Christianity; not by a long stretch. Most Christians accept climate science and believe in protecting the environment, and many of them do so for religious as well as scientific reasons. But theirs is not the theology that holds sway in the upper reaches of the Republican party..."

Is there any chance that storms like Sandy will lead conservative Christians to abandon the anti-science ideology that now flourishes in their ranks?

Comments (6)

Very little chance.

I think there's too much cognitive dissonance w/ conservative Evangelical concepts of the Sovereignty of God ("Only God Decides When the World Ends"), AND a deeply-held belief in the USA---and the USA's consumer-driven (climate changing!) lifestyle---as "God's Chosen Nation". Add to that, a deep suspicion of secular science as inherently anti-Christian.

Sadly, it all adds up to the "River in Egypt" (even when local rivers wash away their own houses and churches!).

JC Fisher

If they do manage to recognize global warming as a reality, they will repackage it as the just vengeance of an angry God. And somehow tie it to queers and abortion.

Bill Dilworth

A train of thought I've heard is that the climate change deniers don't think God would do anything that's ultimately destructive of his creation, since he promised Noah he would not destroy all life again. They also think that since God gave man "dominion" over the earth, we're free to do whatever we want to it.

I doubt Sandy will change any minds, though possibly (hopefully?) it might make believers just a little more willing to make more noise about it and demand some action from our government. Unfortunately, though, the fragility of the economic situation makes it less, rather than more, likely that any legislation that might "make it more difficult/expensive for business to do business" will pass anytime soon. We can only hope.

Sarah Ridgway

"A train of thought I've heard is that the climate change deniers don't think God would do anything that's ultimately destructive of his creation, since he promised Noah he would not destroy all life again."

That seems odd, since AFAIR God only promised not to drown all life again, and the book of Revelation (which these people presumably read as a sort of long range weather forecast) is all about destroying the vast majority of life on Earth, if taken literally.

But it's also odd given than I don't recall predictions of global warming claiming that it will end all life on the planet. Kill lots of people, animals, and plants - check. Make life for the survivors unpleasant in the extreme - check. Killing everybody and everything? I haven't seen that. Maybe I don't read the right sources.

It's just weird that this type of Christian doesn't think that anything less than extinction is worth getting worked up about, or changing our ways.


The Cornwall Alliance's site is an eye-opener as far as these people's ignorance goes. Its "Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming" states "We believe Earth and its ecosystems—created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence —are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory." I'm old enough to remember the horrible state of the environment in the 1960s, and also to remember that our nation's lakes and rivers weren't robust self-correcting systems that healed themselves, but that we had to stop abusing them for them to get as good as they are now (which isn't perfect, anyway).

Their list of things that they deny includes, "We deny that carbon dioxide—essential to all plant growth—is a pollutant." That's like writing, "We deny that water -- essential to human life and well being -- causes drowning."

Bill Dilworth

May I offer a different perspective, please?

I think storms like Sandy, the tornado in Joplin, and this summer's drought/heat wave in the middle of the country, will have an accumulative effect on the deniers' reputations. They will be discredited by the facts blowing down our homes and pouring into our doorways.

I heard the city mayor of Norfolk, VA, talk about possibly abandoning the first line of homes nearest the bay in order to build a stormwall that will withstand surges: in effect, he is abandoning a portion of the landscape and surrendering it to the sea. Such is the case in the UK and many Pacific nations.

The deniers look increasingly ridiculous as try to morph with the facts to maintain face, but it just isn't going to work. Soon, they will be regarded as we regard members of the Flat Earth Society.

Kevin McGrane

What must never be forgotten is that there's money to be made by those who deny climate change and evolution. It's so easy to "sucker" folks into sending in a few bucks for this or that, as long as it's done for God.

Lan Green

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