Why do people call climate change a religion?

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Here is a linguistic oddity. When climate change “skeptics” start attacking belief in climate change, they will often claim that climate change has become some kind of religion.

This use of language is worth de-constructing. “Religion” is being used pejoratively. But why is this?

Let’s consider the reverse. Have you ever heard someone use the word “science” pejoratively?

“Belief in reincarnation has become like a science”; “belief in the Virgin Mary is no longer religious, it is a science”. Somehow it lacks pizazz, and it simply ends up lending credibility to absurd beliefs.

Yet, when people say “Belief in climate change has become like a religion” it is an obvious attack on the credibility of climate science.

The problem is that the person making the claim is implicitly assuming that his readers think religion lacks credibility.

I mean, think about it. If religion is credible, then calling climate change a religion would not be a criticism in the first place.

So, why then do an assortment of conservative politicians and pundits, most of them supposedly devout Christians, go around calling climate change a religion?

Is this a Freudian slip, or have they simply not grasped the assumptions that underly the pejorative use of the word “religion”?

Here is a random example I have plucked form Twitter:

Mr. Patriot tells us that climate change is a “religion” to liberals. Common sense, it seems, tells us not to go in for this religion stuff. A closer look at his Twitter profile tells us that he is Catholic, which means that he regularly gets a priest to pour wine down his throat. This wine then literally becomes the blood of Jesus. So much for common sense.

And, of course, there is the alternative: the religious type who reassures Christians that climate science is not a religion. Yes, dear Christian, don’t worry: unlike Christianity, climate change actually has some evidence to back it up. As always, people line up the evidence that should force them to change their beliefs, but fail to draw the obvious conclusion.

Oh, and here is Ted Cruz, a contender for the Republic nomination for the 2016 Presidential elections:

Much of the global warming hysteria is pushed forth as a religious truth that no facts can dare contravene.

Again, these are puzzling words. Cruz is a reactionary Christian, who seems to be all in favour of religious truths that no facts can dare contravene.

So, why do so many conservative Christian now use words such as “religious truth” pejoratively?

The answer is probably given by Steven Pinker in a recent piece in the Boston Globe:

Perhaps the greatest discovery in human history — one that is prior to every other discovery — is that our traditional sources of belief are in fact generators of error and should be dismissed as grounds for knowledge. These include faith, revelation, dogma, authority, charisma, augury, prophesy, intuition, clairvoyance, conventional wisdom, and subjective certainty.

Men such as Ted Cruz may believe in Jesus, but they have likely long since given up the idea that religions are a guide to finding new knowledge. In this respect the Enlightenment has succeeded. Almost no one turns to God for answers when it comes to the potential impact of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide. The Bible, Koran, and every other holy book, are notably silent on the issue.

So, the easiest way for conservative climate change “skeptics” to discredit climate science is to call it religion. Perhaps we should welcome this. It is simply the latest sign of the continued erosion of the credibility of religion in the western world.


8 thoughts on “Why do people call climate change a religion?

    Hans Erren said:
    March 26, 2015 at 7:00 am

    Unless we repent our wicked ways, it will be the end of the world as we know it, critics of this future armageddon are tarred. If it walks like a duck…


      Robert Wilson said:
      March 26, 2015 at 9:37 am

      I guess responding to what the post is saying would be too much for you.


    Hans Erren said:
    March 26, 2015 at 9:40 pm

    Hi Please don’t be offensive to your only reacting contributor. But indeed I must admit, I was a bit terse in my reaction.

    You are wondering how a right-wing orthodox religious group can smear global warming science as a religion without casting doubt on their own religion. Well the explanation is simple: the global warming religion is a false religion. Although myself an atheist skeptic, the majority of my fellow skeptics are orthodox protestant or roman catholic (see e.g. W.M. Briggs).

    A common name for the left in Holland is, already since the eighties, “the green church” or “the leftist church”. So the climate scare movement fits in smoothly. Let me sum up some key religious elements: There is a central tenet, a term coined by the late Stephen Schneider in 2010. People rejecting this tenet are called deniers and are cast out of the community. There are prophets and prophecies, mass gatherings and apologists. There is a central close-nit authority (IPCC) that carefully orchestrates the dogma in Holy Scripture “The Reports”. All publicationsthat are not endorsed in The Reports are considered heretic. There is an end of the world belief. And there is salvation if we change our wicked ways. The green religion fills the gap that ex-religious people fell into when they mass abandoned christianity in the 70’s, coinciding with the publication of “limits to growth”.


      Robert Wilson said:
      March 26, 2015 at 9:50 pm

      By these fatuous standards anything is a religion.


        Hans Erren said:
        March 27, 2015 at 6:54 am

        Lol, there even is an inquisition!!


    Arthur said:
    March 30, 2015 at 1:10 am
    Warren Pearce said:
    April 2, 2015 at 10:53 am

    Maybe it’s because for some religious believers who have little respect for alternative faiths, calling something a religion is an effective insult. That is, it is not the religion. From this view, only a religion should be treated as a religion, anything else would be illogical.


    Chris said:
    April 27, 2015 at 11:32 am

    I always wondered why God made a big deal about not eating prawn cocktails but didn’t mention penicillin.


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