A provocative essay from the Austrian Jesuit Robert Deinhammer, S.J., courtsey of Mirada Global:
The vital need to protect the planet’s ecosystems in a comprehensive and sustainable manner is —unfortunately— often undermined by events that derive from within the environmental movements themselves that manifest themselves in a kind of ideology. It is a pseudo-religion that is not really new and which we could call “ecoreligion”.
Ecoreligion generates a massive deficiency in rationality, and entails profound changes in our traditional understanding of ourselves as well as of the world. “Nature”, or “Mother Earth”, are good and even in some way “holy”, whereas human beings are evil, since they try to dominate nature and wish to exploit it. According to this line of thought, the natural course of the world should be disturbed as little as possible. On the contrary, human beings ought to adapt to nature, should “respect” it and even “reconcile” themselves with “her”.
The difference between humans and animals practically vanishes in areas such as the animal rights movement and the advocacy of veganism or vegetarianism. In ecoreligion, we can in general detect a strong skepticism towards science and technology, a skepticism that is often allied with a new romanticism and with spiritualism. That is why it seems to me that one root of such ecoreligion is misanthropy arising from disenchantment. Basically, everything would be better if there were no human beings in the world. In many cases, behind this phenomenon there might be a hidden, repressed but subtly ongoing longing to die.
Ecoreligion presents a serious challenge to Christian faith and its proclamation. Christian faith requires a certain conception of the world and humanity, which is diametrically opposed to the basis of ecoreligion. According to Christian faith, the world is God’s creation; it is thus a good and worthy entity, but it is only a penultimate reality. Nature cannot represent an absolute value. And faith conceives the Biblical creation of man as the image and likeness of God. Seen from the point of view of philosophy, this image and likeness derives from man’s personality and capacity to reason, whereas, from the point of view of theology, human persons owe their unique position to their constant inclusion in the life of the triune God: man is filled with the love of the Father to the Son which is the Holy Spirit.Man is a part of nature, but at the same time he surpasses the frontiers of nature. Only in this way is he enabled to take responsibility for nature. The moral requirement to protect the environment would be meaningless, if man were incapable of entering into a distanced relationship to nature.
The Christian proclamation of faith appeals to critical reason, for only the dynamic of a critical reason can distinguish faith from superstition. Therefore, the proclamation of faith must simultaneously critically review all irrational beliefs. It is a witness to faith to criticize the devastating exploitation and abuse of the environment, but at the same time, we are called to oppose an ecoreligion that offers no genuine service either to humanity or to nature itself.
Also available in Spanish.