The Return of the Old Gods: A Challenge to Green Evangelicals

The Return of the Old Gods: A Challenge to Green Evangelicals

By Timothy Birdnow

“And the Lord spoke all these words:

I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.

(Exodus 20: 1-3)

Their names are Legion, for they are many; the Romans knew them as Juno, or Diana, or Ops. Freyr, Gerd, Idun, and Jord ruled the Norse, Dziewona and Mokosh were their names to the Slavs. The Hawaiians had Papa, the Aztecs Coatlicue, the Egyptians had Geb and Nut. The Celts had many: Cerunno, Cyhiraet, Druantia, Maeva. The ancient Canaanites had their Baal, who would cause so much trouble for the Israelites.
They are all gods and goddesses of the earth, of nature, the old rulers of the ancient world. Far older than Christianity, older even than Hinduism, worship of nature gods is a cultural element shared by every race and tribe of Man since before recorded history. They are the gods of the worldly, the gods of the Fall.
Their demands have differed, their gifts have traditionally been good fortune, magic and fertility. Often earth gods have doubled as fertility gods, and sex has often been an integral part of Gaia worship. Their rule over the world of Man lasted a long, long time, stretching back into the mists of prehistory.
That rule was broken, perhaps, on Mt. Sinai when an old man trudged down from the peak carrying stone tablets and castigating a people who had made for themselves a graven image. Carved onto those tablets was the Command quoted above, an admonition against the old gods of this Earth. To make the matter beyond dispute, it was further commanded of those ancient Hebrews:

“Thou shalt not suffer a sorceress to live. Any woman using unnatural powers or secret arts is to be put to death.” (Exodus 22:18)

Those secret arts were the magical practices of the nature worshipping people. Much later, Saul, the first King of Israel, would be cursed with madness for consulting such a practitioner.
The end of the reign of the natural gods may have come when the Man of Galilee cast the demon Legion into swine, or when He was put to death on a tree, or when He rose from the dead.
It may have come when the Emperor Constantine dreamed his momentous vision of the crucifix with the words “in hoc signo vinces,” which roughly translate “in this sign you will conquer.” It may have come at every juncture, with the blood of every martyr who preached to the worshippers of Legion, of every toiler in a savage wilderness who built and prayed and fought to survive amidst those who would kill him. But the end came, and the old gods crept back into the realm of shadows to await their opportunity.
In 1890 Sir James Frazer published the first volume of The Golden Bough. Building on the myth-collecting work of anthropologists such as Lewis Morgan, Frazer made a serious effort to compare and classify the details of disparate myths originating in very different cultures worldwide. He concluded that mythology was a type of primitive science, an attempt to explain the universe and man’s place in it. This was a break from the Enlightenment view that mythmaking was an ignorant superstition, unworthy of the man of reason. According to Jacques Barzun in his book From Dawn to Decadence:

“For 200 years myths had been dismissed as ignorant superstitions, now they were seen as expressions of important thought. That they were richly symbolic comforted both the Symbolist poets and the critics of materialism in science, while the rehabilitation of the primitive mind encouraged the renouncers of civilization. The western mind was experiencing one of its attacks of primitivism.” [emphasis added]

This primitivism had been around for some time; certainly it can be seen in Thoreau`s Walden, and philosophically it lies at the heart of Rousseau`s utopian vision with the concept of the “noble savage” free from the encumbrances of modernity. Based on a denial of the concept of Original Sin, Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury, argued at the beginning of the 18th century that Man is in a far happier and freer state when not shackled by the “arbitrary” rules and customs of civilization. It was further advanced at that time by Sir Richard Steele, and can be seen to a limited degree in John Locke and later 18th century Philosophes. Certainly the celebrity of Benjamin Franklin is attributable in no small part to his “primitive” background as a humble “Quaker” colonist and yet brilliant man of science. (Franklin had been raised an Episcopalian, and was probably a Deist as an adult, but many in Europe assumed him a Quaker.) It was thought that Franklin’s intelligence was born of his “savage” upbringing in the hinterland.
Primitivism and Utopianism lie at the heart of modern Liberalism, and most certainly are the roots of the Green movement; many Greens want to return the Earth to a mythical pristine paradise, to expunge the “plague” of industrialism and bring back the forgotten Eden which we have despoiled.
This Primitivism flies in the face of the Christian tradition of rationalism, the heritage of Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas, William of Occam, Copernicus, Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, etc., and of the older Jewish tradition of scholarship and philosophy, as well as many of the Greek philosophers such as Aristotle. This Primitivism would find a home in the 19th century works of Nietzche with his belief in the self-willed Superman and his rejection of the intellect in favor of emotionalism. It would find a home in the psychological interests of Sigmund Freud and Karl Jung, who would seek after the unconscious “primitive” non-rational parts of the human psyche while curiously rejecting the God of the Bible. It would root itself in the irrational faith in Socialism that permeated the 19th century, a faith with no empirical basis. It would be at the heart of Nazism and Fascism, a belief in a fantasy golden age of the Volk, one ruled by the old gods who gave power to the Nation and who commanded the sacrifice of blood. It would be at the heart of the strange beliefs of Marxists who faithfully awaited the worker`s paradise.
This would set the stage for the Spiritualism of the late 19th century, the rise of neopagan beliefs. In Germany in 1875 a man named Guido Von List started a cult in which he used sex rituals to raise spirits, and in a dawn ceremony he planted wine bottles in the ground in the ancient symbol of the swastika.
List’s cult was the culmination of decades of “Spiritualism,” the forerunner of the New Age channeling of spirits. It began in 1848 (the year of the Socialist Revolution in Europe) with Margaretta and Catherine Fox, two Upstate New York children who heard “ghosts” in their cellar and devised a code of knocking to communicate with them. Their fame spread across the land (even Abraham Lincoln was said to have attended one of their séances) and a new interest in cultic practices swept America and Europe. This coincided with the rise of a “psychic” in England, a man named Daniel Douglas Home, who became famous for séances and psychic readings. They were following in the footsteps of Emmanuel Swedenborg who founded the then obscure Spiritualist movement around 1744. (Home was alleged to have channeled Swedenborg in 1844.)
This was, of course, at odds with the Biblical admonition of Leviticus 20:27:

“A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood [shall be] upon them.”

But the spirit of the times was one of rebellion against the old order of Kingdom and Church, and the Enlightenment had produced such anti-Christian thought as David Hume, Voltaire, Rousseau, etc. This rebelliousness had its genesis in the Renaissance, in which a newfound appreciation for things non-Christian was acquired, and in the Protestant Reformation, in which the fragmentation of Christendom lead many to question the validity of all religion, since each sect claimed absolute truth was on their side. The bloodshed that ensued in the religious wars (for example, the British exiled Catholic Irish to Barbados as slaves and performed other atrocities against the Papist Irish, leading Jonathan Swift to write his Modest Proposal in 1729 calling for the cannibalization of Irish children) caused many Christians to be silent about their faith in order to avoid discord, and the anti-Christian forces took full advantage.
According to Historian Dr. James Hitchcock in The Secularization of the West,

“Probably no more than about a tenth of Europe’s population was seriously affected by Enlightenment ideas in the eighteenth century. (Indeed, Voltaire tried to keep those ideas from the masses. He thought they were not ready for them.) But, among the educated classes they were highly influential. By about 1770, it was fashionable to scoff at organized religion and its teachings.

“Probably no more than about a tenth of Europe’s population was seriously affected by Enlightenment ideas in the eighteenth century. (Indeed, Voltaire tried to keep those ideas from the masses. He thought they were not ready for them.) But, among the educated classes they were highly influential. By about 1770, it was fashionable to scoff at organized religion and its teachings.

Although the intellectuals of the time portrayed the churches as reactionary enemies of progress, those churches offered surprisingly feeble resistance to the Enlightenment onslaught. In England, except for a few groups like the Methodists, religion slumbered and was content with mere formal adherence. Of this situation Voltaire heartily approved. At one point he raised a storm by claiming that the Calvinist clergy of Geneva secretly agreed with him. In Catholic France the higher clergy were particularly worldly. Many of them viewed the church mainly as a career, and not a few were eager to embrace Enlightenment ideas, no matter how destructive of Christianity. It was not the last time secularism triumphed by the passivity and even active cooperation of the supposed guardians of the faith.”

Violent passions and hatred, indeed! What the anti-Christian Enlightenment thinkers did was sever human moral restraints from human passions, opening the door to the Beast of the primitive mind — the fruits of Original Sin. Primitivism led to butchery in France, in Russia, in Germany. It caused the slaughter of millions by Hitler (who, along with Rudolf Hess and other Nazis was a member of the occultic Thule Society), by Stalin, by Pol Pot. This butchery was the blood sacrifice demanded by the nature gods that Western secularism had called forth.
With the triumph of the Primitivists on the one hand, and the rise of Secular Humanists on the other, the traditional restraints of Christianity were removed, leaving a vacuum for the old gods to seize. They did not waste any time.
Wicca, the modern neo-pagan religion, was born as a result of this vacuum. Ostensibly a revival of the ancient European nature worship, it is an amalgamation of 19th century traditions. According to this account:

“Elaborate (and largely unsubstantiated) claims to ancient familial lineages aside, Wicca essentially developed as an organic and popular movement that can trace its impetus to the efforts of English civil servant and folklorist Gerald Brosseau Gardner (1884-1964) and author Doreen Valiente. Gardner himself became involved in witchcraft circa 1934, but Gardnerianism, as a sect, did not likely develop until well after the repeal of the English anti-witchcraft laws in 1951. Much of Gardner’s efforts owed itself to the works of various theorists, including anthropologist Margaret Murray, occultist Aleister Crowley, folklorist James Frazer, and poet Robert Graves. Ritual structure was further influenced by societies such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Ordo Templi Orientis, and Co-Masonry.”

The Order of the Golden Dawn was one of many such cults which sprang into existence in the late 19th and early 20th century, along with Adolf Hitler`s Thule Society which promoted a form of Theosophy, something which many of the occult organizations of the time shared in common. Guido Von List, the man who planted the wine bottles, was a forerunner to the Thule Society, and Hitler`s choice of the swastika as the symbol of National Socialism was no coincidence; he was an admirer or the Aryan dreams of List and other German cultic leaders. Aleister Crowley was a bisexual notoriously known as “the Beast,” so named by his own mother for his monstrously rebellious nature, and he was very influential in the rise of the neo-pagans in the 20th century.
(It should be pointed out that Wicca and many of the other Earth religions are not associated with the Hitler or the Thule Society. Theirs is a much more decent form of nature worship, although they share similar roots. The German visions stemmed from the worship of Man — especially the Aryan man, and of the Nietzchean vision of the self-willed Superman. The Nazis sought to accomplish this self-willing by means of Eugenics.)
Wicca, along with the rebirth of such ancient nature religions as Druidism, are at the forefront of the modern Green movement. According to Catherine Sanders, author of Wicca`s Charm:

“Since Wiccans essentially deify the earth, a key element of Wicca is having a positive impact on the environment. Wiccans have become active in environmental circles, and I discovered that many Wiccans had been spiritual seekers or raised as Christians but felt that the Church had little to say about the care of the environment.”

The goddess movement, such a large part of Wicca, leads naturally to Ecofeminism, the fusion of feminist thought with radical environmentalism. In short, earth worship is at the core of the modern environmentalist movement. Gaia Theory draws its name from the ancient Greek goddess of the Earth, and there is a touch of mysticism involved; the theory is that all life and the inorganic parts of the Earth are hopelessly interrelated to the point of forming a sort of überlife. Gaia theory is a major factor in the thinking of many environmentalists, and consequently looms large in the whole Global Warming debate.
So, too does socialism, that 19th century worship of blind economic processes, and the fusion of the two is called Ecosocialism. It is interesting to note the many socialists are involved in the “save the planet movement” — most notably Mikhail Gorbachev, former dictator of the defunct Soviet Union. Why, one may ask, would environmentalism appeal to socialists? Every action of a human being has some affect on the environment. People must eat, which means someone must use land for farming, people must drink clean water, which means disturbing lakes, rivers, and wetlands, people must breathe which means exhaling the evil greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. By the very act of existence, a person necessarily disturbs his or her environment.
A doctrine which advocates the radical reorganization of civilization must find some impetus to compel people to make those radical changes. The promise of a future utopia was not enough to convince people to allow the communist yoke to remain around their necks, so the threat of extinction is being employed. We simply MUST force obedience to government if we are to survive!
The U.S. Supreme Court declared Secular Humanism a religion in Torcaso v. Watkins in 1961, and it can be argued that the Scientism of the 19th and 20th centuries, the atheism and agnosticism of such men as Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, or Christopher Hitchens bear a striking resemblance to religious faith; they declare unequivocally that the material Universe is the only thing that is real, and this answers the eternal questions about the nature of reality and Man’s place in the cosmos. Science textbooks should replace the Bible as sacred scripture; scientists should replace priests as disseminators of knowledge about eternal matters, etc.
Materialism, at the heart of Marxism and the socialist worldview, is the essence of who we are, according to such people. A religion, any religion, must concern itself with things of this world to at least some degree, and a religion which worships the Creature rather than the Creator is doubly obligated to take actions in this world for the betterment of Mankind. The faithful materialist would naturally seek a cause for salvation, something to physically save the species. Communism failed, as has Psychology, the Nuclear Freeze Movement, Eugenics, population control, the welfare state and on and on.
Now the time has come for the environment, and Environmentalism is the perfect vehicle for promoting the materialist worldview. The sea change from conservationism to activist environmentalism occurred as a result of Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring. Before Carson, conservationists sought to preserve lands and forests, but the success of Carson’s crusade to ban DDT — which condemned millions of people in Third World countries to death by malaria — led to the birth of a new movement, one which would use the courts, legal machinations, and traditional activist techniques to achieve specific environmental goals.
With the first Earth Day in 1970 the Left had a movement uniquely poised to damage free market economies worldwide, and both socialists and neo-pagans swarmed into the movement. The collapse of the Eastern Block in the ‘80’s, followed by the rise of Global Warming theory, gave great impetus to those who believe in a command economy, as this movement had the means, the emotional appeal, and could be manipulated to produce the desired ends; the radical reorganization of Humanity.
So what we have witnessed in the Global Warming debate is a perfect storm of anti-Christian philosophies parading as science. Materialists, Socialists, and Left-leaning types found common cause with neo-pagans and anti-Christian spirituality to advocate a New World Order dressed as a movement to save the planet. A friendly media has nurtured and supported it, and it has advanced through a string of sacraments; separating trash, installing low wattage light bulbs, driving hybrid vehicles, etc.
Environmentalism is in all of the schools, and children are being frightened by end-of-the-world scenarios by the prophets of doom while having the Green ethos inculcated in them through letter-writing campaigns and “Earth friendly” checklists. The Environmentalists, heavily financed by left-wing think tanks and environmental-activist organizations, are hurrying to push through Draconian emission standards and to stifle any debate-and that debate is plentiful, indeed.
This is not settled science, nor are scientists in agreement about this matter. Increasingly it is becoming obvious that the 1degree F warming we have witnessed in the last century is related to solar cycles. Many scientists have disagreed with this notion of Anthropogenic Global Warming from the beginning; we had the Statement by Atmospheric Scientists, The Oregon Petition, the Leipzig Petiton, and the Heidelberg Appeal. The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works has a long list of scientists who have changed from believers into skeptics.
In fact, the consensus we are told exists among scientists appears to be largely hot air. Even Roger Revelle, one of the fathers of Global Warming theory and the man much touted by Al Gore in his mockumentary, came to, well, not disavow his theory, but to dismiss it as not any sort of credible threat to Mankind before he passed away. The reality is that a large body of science supports a different interpretation of the amazing 1degree rise in temperature; mainly, that normal cycles are at work. The Sun has been more active with extraordinary sunspot activity. A more active sun suggests a warmer sun, and a more active sun means a stronger solar wind to broom away cosmic rays, which means fewer clouds to reflect sunlight. Since the solar cycle has peaked the Earth`s albedo has increased, suggesting that Heinrick Svensmark`s theory about cosmic rays is correct.
Scientists have also learned that atmospheric CO2 follows a warming trend, not precedes it, and that current CO2 levels are far from unusual. They have been as much as 10 times current levels in past eras. We know the oceans have started cooling. There is evidence that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change cherry picked their data. We know that Mars, Pluto, Jupiter, and Neptune’s moon Triton are warming as well, strongly suggesting that the Sun is the culprit.
Mars is an interesting case in point; Al Gore touts Venus as an example of CO2 driven warming run amok (while ignoring the differences between Earth and Venus) but he completely disregards frozen, desiccated Mars, which has more CO2 than does Earth and should be much warmer. In fact, Mars once was much warmer, with a much denser atmosphere which has largely frozen into the permafrost and polar ice caps. Now the Martian atmosphere is too thin to trap much heat, but why did it get that way, when it was denser and composed of CO2?
All of this has come to light in recent years, and it has become obvious we don`t understand enough to make any kind of pronouncement on why the Earth has warmed 1degree. We don’t understand the effects of water vapor, of cosmic rays, of micrometeor bombardments. We know little about the effects of Milankovitch Cycles in the Earth`s orbit. We don’t fully understand the numerous solar cycles; the 200-500-year Suess Cycles, or 75-90-year Gleissberg Cycles, or 1,100-1,500-year Bond Cycles. How do lunar tides, solar tides, etc. effect our climate? How about vulcanism? Fluctuations in the Earth`s magnetic field? It seems to be fading.
Where are the carbon sinks, and how do they work? We don’t understand them at all. How much Global Warming is caused by these natural phenomena, and how much is caused by Man? 1 degree? 0.1degree? What difference does a change from 270/1000000 to 383/1000000 in CO2 levels really make in such a complex system as the Earth`s atmosphere? How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
Which brings us to the matter of Christian Environmentalism. The principal argument by Evangelicals is that the science is settled, that Man is causing an environmental catastrophe, and that, in the interest of being good stewards of God’s creation, we should be active in keeping the Earth pristine. A number of Evangelical leaders have issued a statement calling for action on Global Warming, and have created an Evangelical environmental network. They base their thinking on Genesis 1:28-29:

“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

Note that it says be fruitful and multiply, as well as replenish the earth and subdue it. It in no way mentions maintaining the Earth or saving it. In short, it does not call man to be God, and exercise Divine control for the sake of the natural world; on the contrary, it calls for Man to expand and improve things for man’s benefit.
Environmentalist Christians are in a state of error in that they have placed their trust in the powers of Man rather than the absolute control of God. They rightly believe that we should not despoil nature, but this comes out of an arrogant belief in the divine powers of Man, while ignoring the fact that God is in control of things. The salvation of souls is the purpose of life, not the preservation of the lesser parts of creation, and environmentalist Christians have confused the issue, believing they are doing the Will of God when they are ultimately feeding their own egos.
The Apostle Paul warned against this seduction:

“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified [him] not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.” (Romans 1:21-23)

The ancient Hebrews were also warned of the danger:

“But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name [is] Jealous, [is] a jealous God: Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and [one] call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice” (Exodus 34:13-15)

According to the Bible, a tree may be judged by the fruit it bears. What fruit does Environmentalism bear? It violates several of the Ten Commandments, for instance:
1. I the Lord am your God, Thou shalt not have strange gods before me. (Given the neo-paganism, the nature worship of many of those intimately involved in the movement, or the atheism of many involved, this command is clearly being violated.)
5.Thou shalt not kill. (DDT, anyone? Millions have died from malaria thanks to the ban. Many environmentalists have said quite plainly that their goal is to reduce the World’s population levels. How about the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement? Also, it should be pointed out that many people die in the Third World when America’s economy sours; those living on the margins find the aid they receive from charitable donations dries up and whatever employment they can manage is no longer needed in the downturn. The subsequent poor nutrition and lack of medicines lead to deaths which would have been avoided had the world economy remained strong. How strong can our economy remain if we freeze it at 1990 levels?)
7.Thou shalt not steal. (What are carbon taxes, cow emission taxes, industrial reduction goals, etc. other than fancy redistribution of wealth schemes ie. stealing?)
8.Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. (How about the lack of honesty coming from the Global Warming crowd? They claim that no scientists disagree with them except S. Fred Singer (remember Nancy Oreskes?). They have tried to erase the Medieval Warming Period to defend Michael Mann`s hockey stick temperature graph, all the while knowing the evidence is clear that it was warmer then than now. They accuse anyone who disagrees with them of being in the pay of Exxon-Mobil.
10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor`s house or goods. (Why is the United States supposed to be subject to Kyoto while China and India are not? Why are taxes imposed to enforce GW goals? Why are we told that what we eat, what we do, how we live is immoral because some do not have it? This entire movement is an exercise in covetousness — as indeed is most liberal thinking.)
Jesus summed the Commandments up as follows:

“you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all of your strength, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Can this be said of the Environmentalist Movement? God has clearly been an afterthought, although a Wiccan style goddess certainly pervades portions of the movement. How can condemning poor Africans to death by Malaria, or people to poverty because they don’t have access to energy and industry, or to have rolling blackouts because environmentalists don’t want new power plants built be called loving one’s neighbor?
Evangelicalism in America was born as a reaction against the creeping Modernism in the Church. It was a reaction to such concepts as Darwinian Eugenics, Freudian Psychology, the social sciences of Anthropology and Sociology (which were used to affirm a modernist worldview), the Free Love movement, etc. According to James Hitchcock in his 1982 book What is Secular Humanism:

“Gradually, Liberals at the turn of the 20th Century came to believe that all religious formulations-Scripture, creeds, confessional statements, moral principles-were the products of a developing human consciousness which changed through history.” (P. 119)

This renunciation of eternal truths led to the Fundamentalist movement of the twentieth century, which was an attempt to maintain the integrity of Christianity. They rejected the concepts of both materialism and religious misogyny; they were more concerned with eternal truths than with making friends with the world. Now it seems as if the Christian Environmentalists have decided to make friends with the world.
This Green Evangelical attempt at “relevancy,” this tossing of the ecumenical religious salad with a heavy dollop of green goddess dressing is more in line with the old-line liberal churches that long ago shook hands with the devil of Modernism. This is a turning away from the very principles on which Evangelicalism was founded. This is serving the creature over the Creator.
The Books of Daniel and Revelations both make it quite plain that environmental disasters come from the Almighty as punishment for Sin, and Christians are to have faith that God is in control. God was in control during Noah’s flood, in the environmental plagues of Egypt, in the workings of Elijah, in the great storms and snake bites which plagued the early disciples. Biblically these things are from the Lord, yet Christian environmentalists refuse to accept the notion that God is firmly in charge. In many ways, this movement sets itself up in opposition to God`s purposes. In the Old Testament, God was quite severe when Israel worshipped strange gods; He made them wander in the desert for 40 years when they made a golden calf to worship as they were coming out of Egypt, and he exiled them for 70 years to Babylon when they worshipped the nature god Baal. He exiled them for 1,882 years for their acceptance of Pan Hellenism.
In the New Testament Jesus stated “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Environmentalism glorifies another god, an ancient serpent of the earth, one whose rule was broken with the coming of the Messiah. God is not amused by the acceptance of strange gods before Him. Why do the Green Evangelicals believe otherwise?
Timothy Birdonw is proprietor of The New Birdblog.