In prehistoric times humans lived by hunting and gathering. Their lives were governed by strict taboos that dictated which animals were to be hunted and when. Religion involved the natural forces and the earth was honoured as the mother and nurturer of all life. Prehistoric humans did not own the land but belonged to the land just as the animals they hunted.

Some 10.000 years ago people began to settle, built villages and farm the land. Forest was cleared to make way for the cultivation of rice, wheat and pasture for animals such as cattle. It was during that time that individuals began to acquire and own land and animals. These changes led to the development of the patriarchal culture, which favoured and still favours the dominion of man over nature and man over woman. As the human population grew and farming plots multiplied, along came increased warfare and the emergence of warrior sky gods. While early agrarian societies retained some reverence of nature, eventually they succumbed to the aggression of “revealed” sky-god religions. Women, land and livestock became property owned by man.

The monotheistic, aggressive, patriarchal religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam succeeded in erasing all nature consciousness. Man was no longer part of nature but master of nature. In addition these patriarchal religions preached that this world was unimportant and promised an everlasting future world to those who obeyed their laws – god and soul were separate from earth and body. A few powerful priests and kings ruled the masses and most people did not rise against oppression since they could expect amends in the thereafter.

The bible provides ample evidence of the war against nature:

“Be fruitful and increase in numbers and fill the Earth. The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands…” Genesis 9:1,2,3.

Fundamentalist Christians insist that the myth of Adam and Eve is a historical fact and that humans are the pinnacle of creation. They ignore the overwhelming evidence for evolution and the geological evidence of the earth’s age. Humans share 98.8% of their DNA with chimpanzees; this is not ideology or faith but a scientific fact. Looking back into the history of life on earth makes one realize how insignificant we are in the scheme of things. We are just one of millions of species yet we pose the biggest threat to life on earth. Our growing numbers are destroying pristine forests, polluting and plundering oceans and poisoning the air that we breathe. While our numbers increase, natural habitat and resources diminish. e.g. Madagascar has lost 90% of its original forests. In addition, indigenous tribes living in the forests are displaced, infected with diseases, exploited and even killed.

In America, the National Wildlife Federation has received vitriolic letters from “pro lifers” for its support of family planning in third world countries. The Pope preaches that couples who use artificial contraception are shutting themselves from god and are opposing his will. At the same time, millions of already born children around the world are dying from starvation and disease.

For religious fundamentalists, protecting endangered species and saving the environment is a waste of time and resources. By recognising environmental issues they would risk coming face to face with evolution and the fact that all life on earth is interrelated. Why should we put effort into saving Siberian tigers and ancient trees when so many “babies” are “murdered” by abortion, after all didn’t god create all the other species for humans to use and abuse? Since fundamentalist Christians believe that Jesus will return on judgement day and lift the righteous to heaven, they see no point in preserving the planet.

We should not worry about filthy air, toxic rivers and global warming, the earth is a temporary residence destined to be destroyed on judgement day. Why bother saving frogs and reptiles, didn’t god curse the snake for leading Eve to partake from the tree of knowledge? Who cares if there will be no more oxygen to breathe after the last tree has been cut down! All we have to do is have faith in Jesus and all our problems will be solved!

A certain cardinal had this to say on earth day 1990:

“The earth exists for the human person and not vice versa….The focus must be on the sacredness of the human person…not on snails and whales.”

But does religion hold human life sacred?

The god of the Old Testament commands his followers to commit wholesale massacre of tribes who worshiped other gods. Likewise, the Koran commands true believers to destroy the unbelievers. The Inquisition and the crusades are well documented. Religious fanaticism is responsible for sexism, homophobia, mutilations, oppression, torture, executions, genocide and ethnic cleansing.

By S Smith