The Bishop of Clifton's pastoral letter was read out at Mass today and concentrated on the environment and why we must all save the Ozone Layer. I overheard words like 'rubbish' being muttered on my way out of church, and not in the context of the need to recycle either. In a year that has seen Christians persecuted and murdered in Iraq, India and countless other countries, when our own country passed the HFE bill with the blessing of many Christian MPs, was there really no more pressing issue on which Bishop Declan could have made a stand?
Don't get me wrong, I am not against caring for the environment - we are the stewards of creation after all and I don't believe God gave us this beautiful world to abuse. What I do object to is the transformation of environmentalism into a quasi-religious cult. When I was at school, we were indoctrinated in the religion of 'The Environment' with fundamentalist zeal. At one point, our art project consisted of designing posters on an environmental issue, geography covered global warming, the hole in the Ozone Layer and deforestation, spiced up with comments like: "We have to teach Africans to stop having so many children" and in music classes we were taught hymns to the environment. I can still remember a few lines:
There's an otter pottering about down there / With his tail in the water and his nose in the air
Save the animals, don't let them die / If you've got any money you can at least try.
Africa! Africa! Please save all the animals in Africa!
As a result of my (not exactly unreasonable) questions about the apocalyptic vision we were having rammed down our throats, I was made to feel like a heretic. "The climate's getting hotter, is it?" It was a particularly chilly winter and we had woken up that morning to ice on the inside of the dormitory window. "Is that a promise?"
"We're all going to die!" wailed one of my class mates. "We'll be like little pieces of butter sizzling in an enormous frying pan! Is that what you want?!"
It is difficult not to smile, remembering it all, but it was no laughing matter. Children aged ten and younger were terrorised into believing that we were all condemned to an earthly hell of indescribable misery and torture, from which (in spite of all the insistence on the need to recycle aluminium cans and not eat at McDonalds) none of us could possibly escape. People like Dawkins condemn teaching children about Hell, but the secularist, environmentalist hell was more terrifying and merciless than the darkest circle of Dante's Inferno, because of its supposed inevitability and its punishment of both innocent and guilty.
I want my children to respect the natural world, but I do not want them to live in a state of fear and state-induced guilt about their presence in it.
h/t to Mulier Fortis for the cartoon.