Without getting into whether there are or aren't gods, I'd like to do some research on you guys.
Atheists in my experience, without an exception to date, are an environmentally-minded crowd. They tend to vehemently oppose anything that looks like industrial wrecking of nature, believing as they do that this Earth is the only one we've got and that no higher power will stop us from mortally wounding it.
Many atheists will also bring this up against religion: the whole dominion of the earth, the expectation of the end times and the new earth, the call to be hard-working and industrious, the call to have children (overpopulation), and the idea that god wouldn't allow us to affect the climate, etc. etc. To many it seems religion has a "whatever, it's all going to be destroyed anyway" attitude.
But I know religious people aplenty, however, who think the Creator is to be seen in nature and NOT in man-made things, and therefore removing the influence of nature from people could be seen as pulling them away from the influence of god. There are certainly many people of faith who felt called to protect the environment or work in environmental conservation.
How do your beliefs affect your attitude about the environment?
For those of any faith, how does your faith affect your regard for the environment, or does it at all? For those who in the "this is the only life I've got" crowd, how do you feel about it? If you call yourself an environmentalist, what is the reason?
Would it be a fair assessment to say that this discussion has revealed the following?
1. Non-believers tend to be very passionate about the environment, preferring to "play it safe" about what might harm the environment. They are less concerned about how rules controlling the environment affect the economy or the political climate.
2. The believers are less concerned about the environment, but mainly because they are more concerned about the threat of socialism they see as coupled with more environmental control. They fear the slide into socialism more than the threat of ecological devastation, and the opposite is true of atheists.
That's the vibe I'm getting.
Hence, belief plays a role, even if a subconscious one. The nonbeliever worries about the environment more because they know there is no barrier to us destroying the planet through nuclear war, breaking ecological balance irrecoverably, or climate change. So they take the threat seriously. I don't see believers taking the threat seriously, perhaps because on their view, god is going to destroy the earth himself. So we can't beat him to the punch.
Yet there are plenty of nature-loving religious people, even if they just enjoy creation as an aspect of its creator. It's nice to find that common ground, and I'm interested in why they think nature is valuable and if that motivates them to care for it.
Brad, I think that your general conclusion is probably correct. Non-believers probably lean toward being "greener" than believers. But it may be more complicated than just what people believe about the existence (or not) of god(s). As a very general rule, (in the United States anyway), believers tend to associate themselves with conservative politics and non-believers tend toward progressive or liberal politics. If a person joins the Republican party because they prefer the Republican position on some issue such as abortion, gun control, or taxation, they end up adopting other Republican issues by osmosis (such as a laissez-fair attitude toward the environment) The opposite is also true. Ethnic minorities, gay people, environmentalists, non-believers, etc., tend to associate themselves with the Democratic party, because that is the party that agrees with them on certain issues. The gay folks end up supporting pro-environmental policies and the environmentalists end up supporting gay rights. Speaking for myself, I am a progressive and a liberal, but not because I am an atheist. I'm a lefty because, in the United States, it is the party (at the moment) that is most concerned with social justice and the environment. But by supporting the Democratic Party's position on things that I care about, I unavoidably end up supporting its position on things that I don't care about so much, i.e., taxation.
That's seems a fair and deeper assessment.
I lean toward Kevin's view that neither theism nor atheism imply environmental concern, carelessness, or panic. I think association is a part of it -- at least, I can't think of another reason that feminists (say) tend to oppose nuclear power!
But that would lead us to the question of why these things got associated.
On the (Christian and Jewish) theist side, we have mankind starting out as gardeners; a belief that the natural world is not divine (so we can muck about with it) but is a good creation by the God who loves it (so we shouldn't muck about with it the wrong way). This would explain Christian/Jewish environmentalism, but not carelessness. (Are we more careless? We talk about it less. Not the same thing.)
We can also explain why Christians and Jews shouldn't be in a panic about the ozone layer -- worrying doesn't help; see the Beatitudes -- but we seem to manage it a lot anyway on a variety of issues.
**On the other side... I'm reading An Anxious Age by Joseph Bottum. It's largely about the development of a prominent group without a clear name, which I'd say is white American post-Protestant progressives (WAPPPs?). His thesis is that post-Protestant is a crucial part: this group has the moral fervor of their mainline Protestant ancestors but without the mainline Protestantism. They value being -- OK? justified? good people? elect? -- and, like their ancestors, are justified by their belief (not in Christ, but in the right views). (Contrast with Judaism and even Catholicism, which give relatively more weight to actions.) Like Paul, they wrestle not against flesh and blood but against "principalities and powers in the air." But their powers are isms: racism, sexism, environmental degradation, hegemony, income inequality, &c. Abstractions, not devils. More evil than devils: devils, in their view, don't exist.
This to me would explain why conservatives keep looking at global warming/climate change/climate disruption and saying, it's a religion! It has the same struggle as in another religion, and the same guilt and relief of guilt inherited from the church. But members don't like hearing that, and say: it's not a religion, because it has no supernatural elements.
It's clear to me both sides are on to something. WAPPP's are obviously right in pointing out they don't embrace the supernatural. Conservatives are right in pointing out the similarities. We may not have known them, or known how to express them. But there they are, and I think we get the difference in fervor on environmental issues between theists and WAPPPs (not atheists in general). For theists, environmental concerns follow from core beliefs. For these progressives, they form part of the very definition of good and evil, and by believing this, you thereby justify yourself.
tl;dr: just read the paragraph with the **.
No, I'd say the discussion has
a) provided a tiny sample space of Internet-using men from one culture (Western) and two religious perspectives (atheist and Christian), and can't be generalized; and
b) has shown that in this tiny sample, some atheists think of themselves as playing it safe with the environment and others not (you) and some don't (Andrew); and that these Christians show the attitude you describe (you'd find more in my circle of acquaintances in meatspace).
I value what you're trying to do -- make general conclusions from an informal survey -- but I don't think we're there yet.
I attended a pop culture convention once. I was surprised to find that over half the lectures attempted to say something objective about the real world in a sort of scientific way. Almost all failed; the authors weren't rigorous enough.
Two stood out. One tried to prove that women are more polite than men by a survey; I'll skip details. Her work failed -- though she didn't realize it -- because of a tiny sample space.
Another showed two images: cover of a Boy Scout fieldbook, and a Nazi Youth poster. The audience reacted with head-shaking: yep, the Boy Scouts sure are fascist.
But they weren't counting up similarities and differences. They were querying their own reactions, which were already predisposed (I judge) to dislike the Boy Scouts. So naturally they saw the images as similar.
I counted up similarities: a central figure, young, male, blond, holding a rod, looking to the side.
Differences: BSA manual had other figures. The rod was a tool not a symbol. Figure was not smiling. There were multiple other figures of indeterminate race. Scenes of nature and activity. More colors. Overall, the BSA directed your attention to individuals doing activity, and the Nazi poster directed your attention to one individual and his government's symbol.
My point here is that you have be careful you're measuring data, not your own expectations. Back to the first study. When the author found that men were more sensitive to rudeness than women (by a statistically insignificant margin), she theorized that women were actually more sensitive but were too polite to say anything. That is, she ended up concluding her expectation as well.
So what's right?
I definitely think that as we look into this, there is a pattern to be found. It may even be the one Brad proposes. I want to think about it some more.
*sigh* If anyone accuses me of being disrespectful on this site, let this be a reminder I grant great dignity to the strangers on here ... I am dignifying even this outburst with a response.
There's no need for personal attacks unless it just makes you feel better. I don't mind, but it lowers the intelligence of your argument.
I don't know why you're so intent on finding something, anything, to blame the religious on. But, it's getting fucking old.
I think it's pretty clear that I started this to explore the common ground of religious people who think we should cherish nature, and the nonbelievers who also see it that way. Was curious to see if there were those on this site who, as I mentioned I've met some in real life, feel there is something special in nature worth protecting. Wanted to see what you guys would say about environmentalism as related to belief. If I knocked religion, it was because the religious side really disappointed the expectation that they'd offer religious reasons why we should think about the earth. I didn't begin with the aim to bash religion.
I think when I talk to religious people, the environment could be an excellent starting point of agreement. Perhaps they see a hint of god in it. I see the same and call it something even better.
Also many, including you, seem to find this thread entertaining, so how is it getting old?
I was not blaming organized religion exclusively for damaging the environment.
Personally I blame the baby boomers for the current state of affairs. It has nothing to do with believers vs non-believers and everything to do with that fucked up generation.
About this, I'd like to hear more. I too blame the baby boomers for many, many things. I'd like to hear your evidence/theory on this. Are you talking overpopulation, the way they did business, them being the locus of globalization? Sounds like we may agree about where some of Americas environmental problems come from.
I can see all that you're saying about the baby boomers. I've thought the same myself. I would also say they stood on the shoulders of generations of people who were trying to give their kids a better life (better education, better homes, better material things, better cars, more stuff, better healthcare, etc.) ... but they took it to the extreme. Now we've got the multinational megacorps, trade with China, etc. etc. I'm one of those of my generations whose parents thought they'd be thrilled to inherit that fine cherry dining room table ... only we don't want the mortgage and 2.5 kids. We want to roam the world with a backpack and gather experience rather than stuff.
The babyboomers are the generation that saw their kids worse off than themselves, rather than better. You may not agree with all that, but that's my take.
You say you want a common point of interest, and then ignore anything which might be and keep stuffing your own preconceived notions. The very fucking definition of a straw man, you keep telling other people what they believe, and then condemning them for it. If you want a conversation, then fucking listen to what they're saying instead of waiting for your turn to tell them what they believe.
Are you serious? I conceded that I'd learned something and found common agreement with Nick H, Andrew, Kevin, Steve Dallas, and Travis Spuhler, Will, and Tesh. And I've listened and agreed with YOUR words on this very post.
It's you, Mr. Shane, who I haven't seen to give a grain of ground or listen. I think you're projecting your behavior on me.
In fact, you've done what you've accused me of. Several times already you have told me what I believe, a few posts down and in this one) and now are berating me for it.
Your objection has reached the terminal point of absurdity, but nice try. But I did listen to it and think over it.