Addressing The Question of Global Warming, physicist and mathematician Freeman Dyson recently wrote in The New York Review of Books:

There is a worldwide secular religion which we may call environmentalism, holding that we are stewards of the earth, that despoiling the planet with waste products of our luxurious living is a sin, and that the path of righteousness is to live as frugally as possible. … Environmentalism has replaced socialism as the leading secular religion.

As if trying to prove Dyson’s point, the Associated Press reported last week:

First, it was a ban on plastic grocery bags, and then on mixing recycling with compost. Now the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is asking residents to go without meat on Mondays.

The measure passed Tuesday urges “all restaurants, grocery stores and schools to offer a greater variety of plant-based options to improve the health of San Francisco residents and visitors and to increase the awareness of the impact a green diet would be on our planet.”

Why meatless Mondays? Was another day of the week already taken? Besides dietary restrictions, Emory University economics professor Paul Rubin identifies some other ways environmentalism now resembles a religion:

  • There is a holy day—Earth Day.
  • There is no prayer, but there are self-sacrificing rituals that are not particularly useful, such as recycling. Recycling paper to save trees, for example, makes no sense since the effect will be to reduce the number of trees planted in the long run.
  • There are no temples, but there are sacred structures. As I walk around the Emory campus, I am continually confronted with recycling bins, and instead of one trash can I am faced with several for different sorts of trash. Universities are centers of the environmental religion, and such structures are increasingly common. While people have worshiped many things, we may be the first to build shrines to garbage.
  • Environmentalism is a proselytizing religion. Skeptics are not merely people unconvinced by the evidence: They are treated as evil sinners. I probably would not write this article if I did not have tenure.

Of course the First Amendment protects us from any City Council making a similar proclamation for Friday Fasts, but as a secular religion we are not protected from the environmentalist’s crusade. In fact, if they get their top policy priority through, cap-and-tax energy legislation, it would cost the average family-of-four almost $3,000 per year, cause 2.5 million net job losses by 2035, and a produce a cumulative gross domestic product (GDP) loss of $9.4 trillion between 2012 and 2035. Now that is quite a tithe!