Original Sin & the Environment

I was devastated when I first learned about original sin. No matter how good you are or what you do, you can’t overcome the sin carried by all humans. Fortunately, there is a way to redemption. Many in today’s world have rejected this religious concept and some have rejected religion altogether. At least they think so.

If you believe in nothing, you fall for anything

But humans are hardwired to believe in something beyond themselves. The non-religious or the un-religious often develop some very rigorous dogmas of their own. Sometimes they are deadly godless quasi-religions such as Nazism or communism. More often in our own times they are variations of difficult to define new age beliefs. Some people are attracted to these sorts of things because they can fill in whatever they want while still enjoying the safety net of spirituality.

Excessive purity is a perversion

IMO, one of the most pernicious perversions of religion was/is the type of exclusive, bigoted purity (BTW – I avoid using the term puritan because that implies a particular time, place and people.) that declares the very nature of humanity as evil and holds out almost no chance of redemption. We have had outbreaks of this throughout history and it is a deadly disease.

I always thought that if God was almighty he could take care of himself without the faithful on earth having to kill or torture people in his name and a just God surely doesn’t reward those that do. But many of the purists evidently have less confidence in the Almighty than I do and feel he needs their humble human violent interventions. Good people have to oppose this perversion of faith w/o necessarily attacking the God that these misguided people purport to represent.

There is no possibility of redemption in most secular variations of original sin

Unfortunately, secular quasi-religions can also be intolerant, deadly and human-hating and they can and do produce a secular version of original sin. In the Marxist version, your “sin” relates to the class and Marxist theology allowed whole classes of people to be consigned to Gulags, no matter their individual behaviors or attributes. The Nazis did this based on races, as they defined them.

Your carbon footprint = your sin?

The concept of original sin is becoming prevalent in some of the deeper green environmental circles and is manifest most clearly in the concept of the “carbon footprint.” The whole idea of global warming maps closely with original sin. According to the more extreme interpretations, all humans are guilty of greenhouse gas. In a modern version of the medieval mortification of the flesh, you can reduce your “sin” but there is nothing you can do to avoid it. The best thing you could have done for mother earth was never to have been born and some people have advocated holding you accountable for your own carbon footprint and those of your descendants. We could paraphrase Exodus 20:5 by saying that it visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and forth generations, but this modern religion goes on forever. And it is even expanding to include our pets. Yes, owning a big dog may be worse than driving an SUV. Ironically, I think the idea that the human species should voluntarily vacate the planet sits better with some people than the idea that they would have to get rid of their dogs or cats.

Similar to what I wrote about religion a few paragraphs above, good people have to oppose this perversion of environmentalism w/o rejecting the concept that these misguided miscreants purport to represent.

Humans are part of nature and what we do becomes part of nature

Human beings are not some kind of blight on nature that should be extirpated. Humans are an integral part of nature as it exists today. As part of nature, we have the responsibility to use wisely the intelligence given us by nature and natures God. This also means using wisely those natural resources available on this earth. We must firmly and forcefully reject the idea that humans should deny their own right to continued existence on the earth, understanding that having humans on earth means that the earth will be altered by us. This is what every plant and animal does.

I always admit that I don’t have any original ideas and I don’t have any new ideas. I found something I wrote six years ago while sitting in forest shelter to avoid the rain. It has the advantage of being more spontaneous and I really cannot improve on it so I copied it below with a few minor edits.

I have been wandering forests for my entire adult life, most of my adolescence and some of my childhood. I have learned to identify the trees, soil types, & topography. I love forests, but my thinking about them has changed. I used to like to wander lonely as a cloud. I didn’t want to see the signs of human kind in my forests. Maybe that was because there was little chance I would get my wish.

Nature without people is just plain lonely

I have changed my mind. I don’t really like wilderness in the sense of land without man. There was plenty of that in the countless eons before man and there will be plenty more after we are gone. Will “time” stop with nobody left to count the minutes, hours, days and years? It might sound arrogant to say that man is the measure of nature, but it is even more arrogant and downright ignorant for any human to say that he can understand nature in any other way. Raw nature is nasty, cold and incompressible. No human can respect nature in its natural state and it really doesn’t matter if we do. There is nothing the human race can do to add or detract from nature. If we managed what we arrogantly fear (but couldn’t really do) – if we destroyed the entire surface of the Earth, would that make any difference to a nature that encompasses an endless universe of worlds without end with billions of years at its disposal? Is there anything any of us could do that will make a difference a billion years hence?

What can we do to harm nature? In the long run – nothing

It would make a difference to humans in the here and now. We can only add or detract from the human interpretation of nature. Now I am happy to see signs of “good” human intervention and sometimes even the results of a bad intervention healed. More than a century ago, a great man-made catastrophe transformed Northern Wisconsin. The great Peshtigo fire burned everything from the middle of the state to Lake Michigan. You can still see the signs in the type of vegetation and soils. We now call it old growth, but it results directly from inadvertent “bad” human intervention. The people living now benefit from this horrible tragedy of which most of them are unaware. Sitting in alone in a forest shelter in a downpour puts things in perspective.