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WorldWatch
First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
By Orson Scott Card May 25, 2008

Obama's Real Religion

In all the flap about Obama's reckless comments about Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela not posing a threat to the U.S. because they're small and spend less on their military than we do, one statement he made has gone virtually unnoticed.

Yes, it's important to realize that we have a presidential candidate who actually believes that the Soviet Union once told the U.S. "We're going to wipe you off the planet" (they never did).

Is it as important as Gerald Ford's gaffe when he declared that Poland was a free country -- back when it was under Russian domination? Let's not forget that Gerald Ford lost that election.

And it's disturbing that he seems not to understand that it's Iran's declared willingness to unilaterally initiate nuclear war against a civilian population, for religious reasons, and without regard for retaliation, that makes them a far greater threat than the Soviet Union's vast nuclear power ever was.

But if Obama gets the whole ignorant-of-history-and-world-affairs vote, he'll win by a landslide.

No, what troubles me most is what he said right after that, while campaigning in Oregon: "We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times ... and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK."

"That's not leadership," Obama declared. "That's not going to happen."

What's not going to happen? Us continuing to drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes at 72 degrees? Or other nations saying OK?

We already know, from Obama's comments at a private meeting with big-pocket donors in San Francisco, that he's an elitist who sneers at the common people who cling to religion and guns because they're bitter about job losses twenty years ago.

But what this statement reveals is that Obama's real religion has nothing to do with Reverend Wright.

Obama is a true believer in the religion of Environmentalism.

Not the science of the environment. Where that science survives, it provides us with a vital service; and it doesn't take any faith to believe in the findings of genuine scientists doing science properly.

No, I'm speaking of the religion. It's not an organized religion (though the U.N. did organize the great testament of faith in the utterly unproven doctrine of human-caused global warming), but neither was the English Puritanism that it so strongly resembles.

But don't take it from me. Take it from Freeman Dyson.

For those who don't know his work, Dyson is a scientist and a great imaginer of possibilities. Half the science fiction of the past thirty years has been based on ideas that Dyson sprays out casually; but the man doesn't believe his own speculations, he remembers clearly the difference between solid science and "cool idea" conversations.

That's what puritan environmentalists have forgotten.

I've actually met Freeman Dyson, at a conference on science, religion, and science fiction held by the Templeton Foundation in London a few years ago.

There were some extremely bright scientists there. I'm not saying that Freeman Dyson was the smartest person in the room. I'm just saying that as long as he was there, I was definitely not the smartest one.

Yet I found him to be a softspoken, genial man who never pontificated, never even spoke critically of other people's ideas.

So it makes it all the more impressive -- to me at least -- that in a recent review in the New York Review of Books, he wrote the following paragraphs that refer specifically to the Religion of Environmentalism:

"All the books that I have seen about the science and economics of global warming ... miss the main point. The main point is religious rather than scientific.

"There is a worldwide secular religion which we may call environmentalism, holding that we are stewards of the earth, that despoiling the planet with waste products of our luxurious living is a sin, and that the path of righteousness is to live as frugally as possible.

"The ethics of environmentalism are being taught to children in kindergartens, schools, and colleges all over the world.

"Environmentalism has replaced socialism as the leading secular religion. And the ethics of environmentalism are fundamentally sound. Scientists and economists can agree with Buddhist monks and Christian activists that ruthless destruction of natural habitats is evil and careful preservation of birds and butterflies is good.

"The worldwide community of environmentalists -- most of whom are not scientists -- holds the moral high ground, and is guiding human societies toward a hopeful future. Environmentalism, as a religion of hope and respect for nature, is here to stay. This is a religion that we can all share, whether or not we believe that global warming is harmful.

"Unfortunately, some members of the environmental movement have also adopted as an article of faith the belief that global warming is the greatest threat to the ecology of our planet. That is one reason why the arguments about global warming have become bitter and passionate.

"Much of the public has come to believe that anyone who is skeptical about the dangers of global warming is an enemy of the environment. The skeptics now have the difficult task of convincing the public that the opposite is true.

"Many of the skeptics are passionate environmentalists. They are horrified to see the obsession with global warming distracting public attention from what they see as more serious and more immediate dangers to the planet, including problems of nuclear weaponry, environmental degradation, and social injustice.

"Whether they turn out to be right or wrong, their arguments on these issues deserve to be heard." (See http://www.nybooks.com/articles/21494.)

These paragraphs were sent to me by a friend who is seen how much heat I've taken for calling Environmentalism a religion and for pointing out that the claims of human-caused global warming are faith-based rather than science-based. He thought -- correctly -- that I would find it vastly reassuring to know that Freeman Dyson agrees with me.

Right down to the point that I am, in fact, a passionate environmentalist -- but one who thinks that it's the science, not the religion, that will lead us to solutions of real problems.

Barack Obama's comments, however, reveal him to be in the religious-faith category. The Environmental Puritans believe that any opposition to their dogmas is heresy, and that anything that doesn't match their vision of how humans should live is a sin.

Since their vision of how humans should live is "without making any difference in how the world would be without humans," we are all, alas, sinners. However, some are more sinful than others, and the United States is the most sinful of all.

No, not China, because the Environmental Puritans, like the rest of the world, expect America to live by a higher standard than other nations. Fair enough -- we claim to be a special nation, and so we should meet a higher standard.

Still, the Environmental Puritans agree with the ayatollahs on this one point: America is the Great Satan. And Obama echoes that view when he refers to our gasoline consumption, our eating, and our air-conditioning and heating as if they were sins for which we are accountable to the rest of the world.

The conservative ex-Republican in me immediately wants to reply sharply that what we drive, eat, and air-condition is the business of no other nation, and I don't want a president who thinks it is.

In fact, though, it is everybody's business how much petroleum we use up, because we're sucking up a huge portion of the world's supply and when it's all gone, we will have used far more than our share.

It's the tone of his remark that I find repulsive. Because the "eating" part is what gives him away.

We have fed the world, through direct sales of our crops, through American-born technologies, and through the Green Revolution in which American scientists have played a disproportionately strong part.

If we overeat (an arguable concept, by the way; America did not invent obesity, even if we're unusually good at it) it's because we respond to plenty according to the biological imperative of the beast. Those who have a genetic disposition to overeat or to pack on pounds are, in fact, behaving exactly according to our evolutionary nature. So much for their love of nature -- apparently human beings are the only animals forbidden to act according to their evolutionary history.

When Obama says we eat too much -- we, whose surpluses feed so many nations that when we cut back a little on food production in order to make ethanol it causes near famine elsewhere -- what is he suggesting?

Is he saying that, as president, he would put us all on a diet?

Is he going to wave his hand and make people whose genes predispose them to gain weight suddenly have the metabolism of naturally skinny people? Can't wait for that change!

Or is he simply going to ration food, so we don't eat so much? What, exactly, is his solution to the problem of environmentally sinful America?

The problem of our vast overuse of and overdependence on oil is a real one -- and a dangerous one. We fund our worst enemies because we need so much oil; we pollute our environment; and our use of cars kills us at the rate of 835 a week; and we face a devastating economic crisis if we don't have non-petroleum energy sources already in place when the oil ends.

The correct solution to the oil problem, according to the Puritans, is to have fewer humans. Now, I haven't noticed them volunteering to lessen the population starting with themselves; nor have I seen their heroes bicycling everywhere (environmental ayatollah Al Gore's plane being a legendary instance).

But they do systematically resist every solution that doesn't involve wrecking the American economy and destroying the American way of life.

No insecticides! But also no genetically altered crops with enhanced resistance to insects and disease!

No coal-fired power plants! But also no clean nuclear plants! (Even though France has proven that standardized nuclear power is safe and relatively cheap.)

Yes, you can build windmill farms -- but you can't put them anywhere.

Solar collectors? Excellent -- but don't put them anywhere, either, because they interfere with the natural ecology -- even in the barest desert. (God forbid that lizards should have more shade.)

Collect solar power in space and beam it to Earth? Fine -- except that you are forbidden to actually receive the power anywhere because it's too dangerous.

Hydroelectric power? Great idea -- except that you can't build a dam anywhere because it transforms a surface environment to an underwater one, which, naturally, annoys the squirrels. Squirrels, being natural nonsinners, take precedence over evil, sinful humans, the only animal that is forbidden to act according to its nature.

Electric cars and public transportation? Great idea -- but not until after we've converted all power plants to non-carbon-emitting fuels. (Never mind that it can only ever happen the other way, converting to electric cars immediately, so they're already in place when the oil runs out or, as I hope, we stop buying it because we've met the need in other ways.)

It's so Calvinist, so Jonathan Edwards. To the environmentalists, the only reason we aren't a spider suspended by God's will over the fires of hell is that spiders are natural and don't deserve to be punished.

We have to do something -- the Environmentalists are right about that. But they are so puritan that there isn't actually anything that you are allowed to do because all the solutions are also sinful.

And if you challenge them on precisely this point, they get a smug, pious expression on their faces and chant their mantras: "sustainable," "renewable." It's just that anything you try to do that is sustainable and renewable, they'll hold up in the courts for years.

Until you finally begin to suspect that the goal of the purest of the puritans is gotterdammerung, apocalypse, the environmental armageddon: The collapse of the world economic order, the abandonment of advanced technology, and the death of nine-tenths of the human race.

Only when we are reduced to half a billion people, or less, will we finally have a chance of being saved -- in the view of the Puritan Environmentalists.

That is the religion whose doctrine Obama is quoting when he says, "We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times ... and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK."

In point of fact, I don't think Obama really understands the implications of his statement -- any more than he understood what he was saying when he said he'd sit down and talk with Iran, Cuba, and other enemies like Hamas and Hezbollah, or than he knew how clueless he was when he declared that Iran was less of a threat than the Soviet Union because it was smaller.

Nor are Hillary Clinton and John McCain noticeably smarter in the area of environmentalism. They have all swallowed the dogmas of this puritan religion without realizing how little of it is based on science -- and how much of it is openly contradicted by scientific findings, if they would permit themselves to examine it.

But only Obama is reciting the mantras. He seems to have internalized these ideas without ever consulting sources critical of the dogmas. It's hardly a surprise when your research brings you to certain conclusions -- if you only study the writings of the true believers.

Isn't that why fanatical Islamists insist that the only good education is to study the Quran -- and nothing else.

Isn't that why Al Gore invited only true believers in anthropogenic global warming to testify when he held Senate hearings on the subject?

Obama is not a leader of the Environmental Puritans. He's one of the sheep.

But isn't that even scarier?

Here's the odd thing: George W. Bush, in his personal life, in the home he lives in when he's not at the White House, is easily the most environmentally conscious president we've ever had.

But he is excoriated as the personification of environmental evil, because he thinks that maintaining the economy is also important. Puritans don't have to think of real-world consequences. They simply demand perfection.

The frightening thing is that Obama might follow their agenda. The result would be strangulation of the economy without any serious plan for the only alternatives that are known to work -- nuclear power, hydroelectric power, windmill farms -- because they are also "sinful."

If I thought he would translate his beliefs into a program to get our petroleum use down to zero -- a program as intelligently managed and intensive as the ones that created the interstate freeway system and got us to the moon -- then I wouldn't be alarmed.

But the true believers don't want technological solutions. They really don't. They will talk Obama out of any such ideas -- and Obama has shown us that he listens to them -- uncritically, without understanding the real-world implications of their dogmas.

The Environmental Puritan movement is anti-American to the core. You can't follow their advice while being president of the United States -- we don't need an anti-American president.

Mr. Obama, it's a good thing to have plenty to eat, to have vehicles that do the work we need them to do, to have homes and workplaces that are cool in summer and warm in winter. Through all of human history these have been the goals that all have aspired to, and we have achieved them.

The rest of the world imitates or envies us, because we live, technologically, the way they would like to live.

Now we're finding out that the means we've used are finite, exhaustible, and environmentally harmful. It doesn't mean that our achievements are evil. It only means we have to keep searching for alternative methods of continuing to achieve them, and making those same benefits available to everyone.

But you don't get to that goal by declaring that other nations have a right to judge us, and that our achievements are in themselves wrong. If eating, driving, and heating and cooling our buildings are sins to you, you have damned the whole human race.

Let me guess, though, where Obama's thermostat is set. You can't run for president and have people see you sweat.


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