Government & Gaia: Religions of the Non-Religious
Updated: Nov 3, 2019
One of the immutable truths I learned through my degree in anthropology is that religion permeates all of human culture. Mankind indeed appears to actually be hardwired to believe in God—see the book Why God Won't Go Away, which delves into human brain biology. But as Western society moves further from Judeo-Christian beliefs and traditional religion, we witness a curious phenomenon as nature abhors a vacuum. As I've said many times, non-religious people tend to have very religious views.
What usually happens when people reject religious systems and practices is not that they become non-religious, but rather that they simply substitute non-traditional religious views. A core tenet of the human condition is a search for meaning, higher truth, and something greater than ourselves. The vast majority of humanity, both past and present, turn to theology for these answers. A smaller segment of mankind turn to philosophy, while a tiny percentage turn to science. The myth in the Western world is that religious views are dead as education and scientific progress have made them irrelevant. It is true that departure from traditional religious systems is a growing trend in the West, but these apostates aren't turning to atheism, they're simply making God in their own image and crafting custom religious views which conveniently fit their biases, opinions, personality, and lifestyle. Actually, more and more "non-religious" people are accepting New-Age beliefs and even reverting to ancient pagan beliefs. There's truly nothing new under the sun.
But there is a small segment of Westerners who reject spirituality in any form, cling to materialism, and erroneously think themselves free of faith altogether. Of course the absence of faith is impossible as part of the human condition is mortality—a finite existence which by definition excludes the possibility of omniscience. In other words, an incredible amount of the historical and operational knowledge any given human has accumulated is based on 2nd or 3rd hand accounts given to them, which means that the vast majority of their knowledge is based on faith. Atheism itself cannot be labeled as an absence of religious views, but rather as a religious view about the absence of God. This view is taken on faith, not fact as there is no possible way to disprove the existence of God—though that doesn't discourage them from trying.
But while this small group of Westerners rejects spirituality and takes offense with even being labeled as "religious," their human condition remains. Their search for meaning and higher truth persists despite their rejection of the more traditional answers. This leads to some rather curious substitutes which usually include government and Gaia. I have had discussions with many, many self-professing atheists and if you talk to any of them long enough, eventually you'll find one of their core beliefs is in a central government. Government is their god substitute—it is the answer to every problem. Of course a god substitute isn't the extent of the religious practices and beliefs of an atheist. In fact, your average atheist is more evangelistic about their beliefs than your average Christian, Jew or Muslim. They form churches (clubs), have preachers (academics), give to causes that advance atheism, and are notoriously elitist and fundamentalist in their views—they believe that they are right and everyone else is wrong. And not just wrong, but primitive, uneducated, or unintelligent. It's difficult to find a more condescending group of people.
But atheism constitutes an exceedingly small portion of the population and contrary to popular belief, this group is not growing. Atheism actually peaked in the 1970's and has been on the downward trend ever since. The reason people believe the category is gaining adherents is because surveys typically do not distinguish between "non-religious," "agnostic," and "atheist" responses. The former group is definitely growing, but the latter subset of that group is actually in decline, though there have been some recent upticks which put the current number at around 3% of the population (compared to roughly one-third of Americans who identify as non-religious). However, while atheism remains a very niche group, the non-religious category is exploding. Rejection of traditional religious views is definitely in vogue these days (and one of the tell-tale signs of the imminent collapse of a society). So likewise, there is an explosion of popular religious view substitutes. One of the most popular substitutes is environmentalism. The late Michael Crichton—famous for his science fiction writing, but also a Harvard graduate in anthropology and a medical doctor—pointed out this Western penchant for religious environmentalism in a famous 2003 speech. This recent religious trend is a form of Gaia worship repackaged for the modern age. The prominent views found in this group are either based on a reverence and sense of holiness of "Mother Earth" or else an evolutionary worldview which concludes that man is a blip on the universe's timeline and therefore should leave it just as he found it.
Both of these views tend to downplay the significance of humanity and elevate the importance of nature. This is in stark contrast to a biblical worldview which clearly states that man is the centerpiece of all creation and all else in the universe was created to benefit and aid him. Indeed, God Himself utterly destroyed the earth once with a flood for man's ultimate benefit, and He'll do it again with fire. Literally from Genesis to Revelation, God demonstrates His willingness to sacrifice His creation for mankind. From the killing of an animal to clothe Adam and Eve, to the destruction of plants, animals and environment in the ten plagues of Egypt and the absolute devastation of the environment that occurs before the return of Christ, scripture makes no idol of mother nature.
But an idol it has become to those in the "non-religious" category, and that cultural movement has influenced even those within the religious community—even within Christianity. That is not to say that the Bible instructs mankind to callously destroy the environment, but the cultural worship of it has produced a lot of fanaticism, many false predictions, and very few positive results. All the while, when you boil down the arguments and proposed policies to their most basic levels, they all call for the destruction of man. In order to "save" the environment, humanity's numbers must be controlled—and preferably reduced. This worldview is antithetical to a biblical one in which God's clear directive to mankind was to be fruitful and multiply—to fill the face of the earth and to subdue it. Now the environmentalist religion of course cannot be complete without their own version of prophets. Millennials won't remember the overpopulation doomsday prophecies by environmentalists (which Crichton recalls during his speech) as they weren't born yet. They also won't remember the peak oil prophecies, or the global cooling prophecies of the 1970's. They are simply unaware of the lengthy list of utter predictive failure offered by environmentalists over the past half century (check out this list of 7, or this list of 18, or this list of 107 failed predictions), and therefore are all too eager to believe the current narrative of catastrophe. Of course the current doomsday prophecy of the religious environmentalist is climate change, or more accurately, Anthropogenic Global Warming—the idea that humanity is the primary cause of temperature changes across the globe and that those changes will have extinction-level consequences. Once again, mankind is the problem, once again, destroying mankind is the solution. Whether they realize it or not (and most adherents honestly don't), the "solutions" proposed by the alarmists inevitably have a dire impact on the quality of life of humanity, particularly the global poor. However the current environmental narrative has already failed the major test of science—predictive ability—in spectacular ways. But just like any religious sidewalk prophet worth their salt, environmentalists' modus operandi is not to acknowledge that the data does not support the thesis and therefore revise it (that's the scientific method), but rather to simply push the day of reckoning out a bit further. As Michael Crichton said in his speech, facts cannot change an environmentalist's mind—it is a matter of religious belief.
This religious fervor has reached such epic proportions that the alarmists are now more and more calling for criminal prosecution of anyone (including scientists) who dare to speak against AGW or publish scientific literature which doesn't toe the politically correct ideological line (here's just one recent example from Canada). This despite the mounting scientific evidence that challenges this notion (see here, or here for recent studies). If this kind of religious persecution sounds familiar, it's because the Catholic Church practiced similar censoring, most famously with Galileo. Now it's the non-religious crowd, which typically ridicules the church for such behavior, who is calling for an ideological monopoly and enforcement by the universal church substitute—the government. The irony and hypocrisy here is pretty rich, but just goes to show that you can take the man out of religion, but you can't take religion out of the man.