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?
That is an interesting article that makes some valid points that I agree with (even though it is from the Wall Street Journal). I do consider myself to be an environmentalist but I also recognize that some environmentalist "dogma", for lack of a better term, makes no sense. I would be crucified by some of my friends for saying this, but we really should get behind nuclear power. At least until alternative energy sources are capable of replacing it. Beats the hell out of coal.
I really don't know where I stand on nuclear power. They're talking about building a fourth nuclear plant here in Taiwan. If they don't, there will be a 10% power deficit and we'll have to start buying electricity from China. So it becomes not just an environmental worry, but a political one. On the other hand, the first 3 were build by foreign companies. This would be the first that Taiwan is building itself, and I won't even take my car to a Taiwanese mechanic because of their propensity to cut corners and do everything as cheaply as possible.
The other side of that is that Taiwan's population is shrinking, and I can't help but think with fewer people and a little attention to efficiency we could find a 10% power savings somehow. But solar and wind only accounts for like 2-3% of all power generated here, so I understand that's not a viable option. Every electronic device here has a tag that rates its power consumption, so if you buy a dehumidifier, refrigerator, or light, you can buy one that's super efficient with electricity. idk, it's a hard topic for me.
Nuclear is great, but once you build a nuclear plant, it's kind of there forever. In Tennessee the nuclear plant was way out in BFE where no one even saw it. In Taiwan, the nuclear plant might ruin one of my favorite beaches. I have absolutely no say or vote, so I'm curious to see what will happen.
At the same time, if they build a nuclear plant along the same plans as the ones as used in the US, Germany and other Western nations, they produce some of the safest/cleanest energy there is.
I know the anti-nuclear crowd love to point out certain disasters, especially the most recent Japanese ones. But I'd say, rather than look at the Japanese situation as such a disaster, understand just what it took to create that disaster: one of the larger earthquakes on record, plus aftershocks and whatnot. THEN they got hit with massive waves from tsunami effects.
There has also been recent talks about Germany shutting more of their own reactors down. The environmental crowd hail this as a win for them, but the real reason they're getting shut down?? Security issues.
Yeah, I think the worry over a disastrous meltdown is overblown. I don't really worry about that if it is stringently constructed and operated.
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.
I would say that the believers aren't going to get as passionate about environmentalism because they believe in an extra layer of protection. "Will God allow us to destroy His creation" "Are we strong enough to destroy God's creation"
Socialism is just a way for them to stay in the argument
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 **.