Most people almost instinctually try their best to be responsible stewards of this earth's valuable natural resources. But the abrasive approach and militant tactics of many who fill the ranks of the environmentally conscious have led me to believe that the movement has gradually devolved into a kind of Religion. In fact, if we look closely at some of the social initiatives and assorted orbiting causes that are championed by the so called "green movement", one may discern some eerie similarities with some less well organized religions.
I received confirmation of my suspicions that this Religion had become a widespread phenomenon only a few days ago, when I witnessed what surely must have been one of its disciples indignantly refusing a plastic bag from a grocer who kindly offered to bag her purchases. The customer seemed horrified that this clueless shop owner had not been duly briefed on how plastic bags are a known contributor to the destruction of our fragile planet. This was followed by an even sterner reprimand to the callous philistine for being so blissfully out of touch with the widely accepted new creed.
Upon closer examination, I realized that -- like any other self respecting Religion -- the necessary building blocks and quasi-spiritual tenets that ensure its survival are also present in this well entrenched belief system.
There is, for example, Mother Earth, the Religion's primary object of devotion, sometimes also referred to as Mother Nature. According to garden variety environmentalists, this God must be worshiped and respected. The more hard core adherents believe that it should also be feared, for it is a rather unpredictable deity which indiscriminately indulges its thirst for wholesale revenge; ergo the standard compulsory tithes (or sacrifices) to appease its rather capricious wrath.
These tithes usually take the form of carbon offsets, veiled pecuniary fines for the unrepentant souls who insist on purchasing SUV's and don't follow the prescribed emission standards, the purchase of energy efficient light fixtures, and even compulsory dietary regulations for the newly initiated, to name a few. On occasion one finds followers like Dave Chameides -- what one may call a true believer, presently residing in Los Angeles -- whose devotion extends to storing garbage in his house to protect the eco-system. This Religion also boasts of a collectively agreed upon narrative that those claiming fidelity are encouraged to learn and propagate. This narrative speaks of a hope of man's future atonement for the sin of pollution against mother earth, and contains specific doctrines which, when properly followed, offer a return to the pristine form nature once possessed prior to humanity's entry into the scene. Conversely if these doctrines are ignored, the narrative renders its respective vision of apocalypse, should remedial action and repentance not be soon forthcoming. The evils of famine, Global Warming, wars and rumors of wars, are but mere preemptory signs pointing to this final judgment. Naturally, this Religion is not bereft of a divine mission to indoctrinate the unwashed masses. Albeit pursued by different denominations, they all share an equal affinity for a common worldview that essentially brands humanity as the enemy. To cite two recent examples, there's PETA's recent plea to ice-cream moguls Ben & Jerry's to stop exploiting dairy cows and consider using human milk for their product, or the report by the Food Climate Research Network decreeing that meat ought to eventually be rationed to avoid "run-away climate change".
And finally, this Religion commissions many who are entrusted with the task of providing spiritual oversight of the faithful.
This cadre of self appointed high priests is mostly composed of heads from diverse orders, ranging from traditional fellowships like the National Audubon Society to more radical splinter factions like Greenpeace and Earth First, who tend to practice less conventional methods of evangelization. Their directives are designed to keep disciples abreast of the Religion's current precepts and edicts -- which are best followed blindly. They are also charged with dispensing the occasional harbinger of perdition against those who persist in willful defiance. Additionally, they openly recruit the government to back their demands for restitution by infidels who fail to voluntarily adhere to such mandates, which makes this particular Religion one in which the so called wall of separation is virtually nonexistent. Ultimately all of these different alliances answer to the one presiding representative of the deity here on earth; his name is Al Gore -- the current prime mover of this spiritual revolution of sorts, from whom foundational precepts and oracles emanate on an almost daily basis.
But come to think of it, it is really a misnomer to call this movement a Religion, rather than what it should properly be labeled as: a cult.