It seems was only a matter of time before multi-culturalism combined with environmentalist religious extremism to produce a new official religion. It appears that time has come for Bolivia, which according to reporter John Vidal, writing in The Guardian (UK), is on the cusp of establishing a New Law of Mother Earth, whose eleven commandments are to replace the apparently outdated Ten Commandments foundational to the Judeo/Christian Western ethic.
Vidal writes the new law grew out of "a complete restructuring of the Bolivian legal system following a change of constitution in 2009 [and] has been heavily influenced by a resurgent indigenous Andean spiritual world view which places the environment and the earth deity known as the Pachamama at the centre of all life." The Law of Mother Earth will establish 11 rights for the natural world, including the rights to life and existence, to keep "vital cycles and processes free from human alteration, to pure water and clean air, the right to balance, to not to be polluted and the right not to have cellular structures modified." The most intriguing right: "The right to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities."
The New Law states that Pachamama, who is an earth goddess worshiped by some indigenous people of Bolivia, "is sacred, fertile and the source of life that feeds and cares for all living beings in her womb. She is in permanent balance, harmony and communication with the cosmos. She is comprised of all ecosystems and living beings, and their self-organization."
The new legislation, which is actually based on a very ancient pantheistic worldview, has instantly become a cause célèbre among South American and US leftist environmentalists, many of whom are already worshipers of Mother Earth as symbolized by the goddess Gaia, some of whose multitudinous and reverential depictions may be found here. For instance, Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca, among other Bolivian officials, is absolutely euphoric over the prospect of pantheism returning to Bolivia's peoples, saying Bolivia's traditional indigenous respect for the Pachamama was vital to prevent climate change. He rhapsodizes, "Our grandparents taught us that we belong to a big family of plants and animals. We believe that everything in the planet forms part of a big family. We indigenous people can contribute to solving the energy, climate, food and financial crises with our values." His and other environmentalists' transcendent ecstasies may prove to be premature as the "New Law's" effects take shape. It would be well if they pause and take heed of the consequences of a radical transformation of Bolivian society based on a pantheistic creed not generally held by a populace which is about ninety-seven percent Christian. Bolivia is profoundly Catholic, and while the church has always been accommodating to local indigenous beliefs, it certainly does not support the worship of Pachamama or any other earth goddess. And it has good reasons for not doing so, for worship of the earth has serious drawbacks.
What are the worrisome dimensions accompanying the establishment of the New Law?
First, there is the matter of separation of Church and state. The New Law is inseparable from the worship of Pachamama, whose worship will require the establishment of a governmental priesthood, a class of rulers whose spiritual connection to the goddess will entitle them to make decrees for the rest of the mortals residing on Pachamama's nurturing breast.
Just as bad, with one fell swoop, the entire Western philosophical and religious foundations for the scientific and industrial revolutions, both of which combined have been a miraculous means of elevating countless millions above poverty, have been overturned. The idea that humans are dominant over rather subservient to nature is jettisoned along with the idea that God is separate from creation, that creation is orderly and that humanity is the steward rather than the worshiper of earth and all creation.
When earth and the entire universe are sacralized and the elements which comprise the universe, such as the earth itself, the stars, the moon, and other created material objects are seen as gods and goddesses, the foundations of both the scientific and industrial revolutions disappear. In their place is erected a new temple of pantheism is erected, one whose high priests will ensure a return to pre-industrial standards of living.
Once all material matter is deemed sacred, Mother Earth cannot be disturbed unless propitiated. Mere mortals, who are now to be totally undifferentiated in quality from Mother Earth and all her other creatures, may not plow her breast without proper sacrifices and ritualistic observances. They must not dig into her bowels without propitiatory rites. They must establish new sacred groves, lakes, and springs in order to honor the gods and goddesses who are to dwell in such places undisturbed by humanity. They must practice sexual rituals in order her life giving cycle be perpetually renewed. A priestly caste must be established in order to determine what rituals and sacrifices should be enforced.
Further, the tragedies now ascribed to either impersonal process and or the inscrutable ways of God will be deemed evidence of Mother Earth's disfavor toward those who have violated her being and disturbed her right to be balanced. High priests will determine how her anger might be assuaged and balance restored. Who knows what will be required to mollify the earth goddess -- perhaps human sacrifice in order to keep the population down?
One thing is probable; namely, that the governmental high priests of Pachamama will immediately look askance at Bolivia's considerable mineral industry, currently responsible for about one third of the economy, as digging in Mother Earth's bowels will cause her to have indigestion and will break the New Commandment establishing "the right to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities."
The consequences of the forced conversion to pantheism will not be immediately apparent, as the pantheistic indigenous culture characterized by Pachamama currently cohabits with Christianity.
But religious ideological abstractions have a way of percolating down through the entire societal structure, conforming the entire populace to a rigid set of do's and don'ts established by the new ruling class of priests, especially a priestly caste now to be in lockstep with a government which will enforce Pachamama's decrees.
When and if enforced, the results of the New Law will go beyond Luddism's wildest dreams, enabling a complete savaging of the Western ideal of industrial and scientific progress and ensuring a return to a subsistence economy typical of pantheistic cultures; namely, a pre-industrial economy comprised of gatherers, herders and farmers.
Those living in the USA should not delude themselves into thinking the pantheistic leanings of the governmental of Bolivia will not have an impact here. For already, some within the environmental movement such as the extreme Greens and PETA have moved beyond the movement's initial laudatory phase, which addressed truly serious concerns about pollution, into a religious extremism which sees humanity as a despoiling marauder whose penchant for violating Mother Earth/Gaia must be severely curtailed or even eradicated, even if such curtailment involves a Malthusian reduction of the population.
In brief, embracing the premises and enforcing the New Law, in whatever country it is supported, will establish a dystopia far removed from the utopian dreams of environmentalists; who, ironically, are presently enjoying the fruits of the industrial and scientific revolution even while they attack its foundations.
Fay Voshell is a free lance writer residing in Wilmington, DE. She is a cum laude graduate of the University of Delaware and holds an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, where she was awarded the Charles Hodge Prize for excellence in systematic theology.