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.