Let’s Make Earth Day A Religious Holiday

On April 22, millions will dutifully engage in the now-familiar rituals and incantations of America’s fastest-growing religion.

In public places, they will gather to listen to sermons…about the sins of human selfishness, about redemption through self-abasement, about the duty to exercise stewardship of the earth.

In schools, they will indoctrinate their children in the gospel according to John…John Muir, that is.

In their homes, they will engage in symbolic acts of self-denial…by digging through germ-laden garbage for recyclables, by denying themselves the pleasures of eating meat, and by setting their thermostats below the sinful level of human comfort.

The cause for this mass religious outpouring is, of course, Earth Day. In just a few decades, it has become an unofficial holy day, displacing in the hearts of our countrymen (and in the memories of those who publish calendars) such reactionary occasions as Jefferson’s birthday.

This once bothered me. As a journalist, I’ve investigated environmental scares, from ozone depletion to global warming to pesticides on food. All proved to be unconscionable bunkum.

But fear is easier to peddle than facts. Today, carcinogenic corporations are the stock heavies in Julia Roberts films and children’s cartoons.

The rise of environmentalism isn’t surprising. A culture taught to venerate Eden as its Ideal couldn’t sustain sympathy for such icons of capitalism and technology as Manhattan or Microsoft.

So I’ve bowed to the inevitable triumph of faith over reason. Since environmentalism has become our national religion anyway, I now urge Congress to declare Earth Day an official religious holiday.

This is no frivolous proposal. Consider the common characteristics of religions, and ask yourself if environmentalism qualifies:

* Religions typically claim that human nature is selfish and sinful. So does environmentalism. John Muir, co-founder of the Sierra Club, denounced men as “selfish, conceited creatures.” George Perkins Marsh, another founding father of environmentalism, described men as “brute destroyers” who “destroy the balance which nature has established.” To some environmentalists, people are–at best–a trivial part of a vast “ecosystem,” no more important than lizards, trees, or rocks.

* Religions traditionally criticize human reason, and extol faith. So does environmentalism. In his book, Earth in the Balance, former Vice President Al Gore excoriates our “rational, detached, scientific intellect” as “too often arrogant, unfeeling, uncaring.” His book’s closing paragraph is a pious call to faith.

* Religions require people to sacrifice their happiness to something larger. So does environmentalism. Do you have personal plans for your future? Scrap them now: “We must make the rescue of the environment the central organizing principle of civilization,” Al Gore writes. He would demand “wrenching” changes “that will affect almost every aspect of our lives together on this planet.”

This malignant view of man and his works has won millions of converts. A 1997 survey published in American Demographics found that fully a fourth of all Americans “see nature as sacred, want to stop corporate polluters, are suspicious of big business, are interested in voluntary simplicity, and are willing to pay to clean up the environment and stop global warming.”

That’s amazing growth for a new faith in just three decades. At this rate, environmentalism will supplant all rival religions in a few more years.

So why fight it? Environmentalism is already a fixture of federal, state, and local laws, enforced by an army of bureaucrats. Declaring Earth Day to be an official religious holiday will simply acknowledge the obvious.

As for those few who cringe at this prospect–take heart. Once environmentalism becomes officially recognized as a religion, at least we’ll have some First Amendment protections.

We may even be able to insist–on grounds of separation of church and state–that the government stop shoving environmentalism down our throats, through smothering regulations, public school indoctrination, and insufferable sermons from politicians such as Al Gore.