The second most fun thing about starting a cult is that you getting to make up a cool title for yourself, something like “the Reincarnate Lord,” “Scion of the Ages,” or “Hank the Demigod of South Dakota.” The most fun thing about a starting a cult, however, is that you can make yourself seem really holy by saying God told you to do all the sinful stuff you had pretty much already decided you were going to do.
For example, Joseph Smith wouldn’t have seemed terribly sanctified if he’d told people, prior to founding the Latter Day Saints, that he really wanted to invite countless women into his bed. But after several years of convincing the Mormon faithful that God was speaking through him, it sounded way holier when he told a few high-ranking Mormons that God’s newest commandment was for him to begin practicing polygamy.
Like most sinful men, Smith surely spent years of his life filled with the desire to sleep with multiple women. Considering that the first-century apostles were called to endure beatings, imprisonment, and death, I’m sure it was nothing but good luck and pure coincidence that God’s cross of choice for the Mormon prophet to bear just so happened to be hewn from the stuff of his lustful fantasies.
The Cult of Doomsday Environmentalism
One of the most thriving cults in the world today is the cult of doomsday environmentalism. By “the cult of doomsday environmentalism,” of course, I don’t mean those who desire less worldwide dependence on fossil fuels or those who are convinced that anthropogenic climate change is a real and serious issue. Rather, I mean those who treat the topic of climate science like a religion, where environmental stability is God, the various methods that serve this stability are the Ten Commandments, their interpretation of climate data is the Bible, and all who reject this divine revelation should be punished.
In many ways, doomsday environmentalism shares key features with more explicitly religious cult groups. The green cult has its own worship practices similar to those of other devotees, chief among them screaming that we’ll all be underwater by tea time next Tuesday even after they’ve falsely predicted the death of the inhabitable earth more frequently than the Jehovah’s Witnesses have falsely prophesied the end of times. Likewise, followers of this cult also share an affinity for using religion as a way to bless one’s less-than-holy desires, namely the selfish desire to not mess up your perfect life with needy, money-and-time-consuming offspring.
In a recent article for NPR, Jennifer Ludden profiles several people who have “reconsidered” their procreative plans due to the environmental disaster they believe is rapidly approaching. Chief among her subjects is Berman Institute of Bioethics philosopher Travis Reader, who talked his wife out of her lifelong desire for a big family based on the belief that climate change will reduce the earth to an uninhabitable hellhole as early as 2036.
Speaking of his proposed tax penalties for having children, Rieder says, “Children, in a kind of cold way of looking at it, are an externality. We as parents, we as family members, we get the good. And the world, the community, pays the cost.” In other words, “I’ve read the latest climate data given from the Almighty and the new revelation is that not having kids makes you righteous.”
I’m Just Lying to Myself and Everyone Else
While I can’t see into a man’s heart, I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that no one in the history of the universe has ever been pulled kicking and screaming to the conclusion that the children he has wanted to sire all his life are nothing but poor-people-murdering factories of carbon emissions. When there are buckets of evidence showing the present is the best time in human history to have children, as David Harsanyi shows, the only compelling reason to embrace the doomsdayers’ radical interpretation of the data is because it pairs well with your aversion to sucking the snot of a toddler’s nose with one of those demon hoses your sister uses on the twins.
Likewise, when Rieder argues that viewing a potential child as the future climate change savior is “ethically problematic” because it sees children as a means to an end, it’s safe to assume these aren’t the words of a man who has been forced to acknowledge barrenness as the lesser of two evils. Rather, these are the words of a man who is using philosophical mumbo jumbo to sanctify a preexisting lack of interest in parenthood, just as plenty of cult leaders before have used theological gobbledygook to justify acting on the hormones that were raging in their loins long before God supposedly began speaking to them.
So why would NPR publish such a cynical spin on climate predictions? Mostly likely because “Breaking news: not having children is actually super-selfless, you guys” is a rather appealing headline to those afflicted with guilty consciences concerning their unwillingness to give up the lives they want for the sake of children.
It’s a way of saying, “Hey, wasn’t it great when we told about how young, sexually active single women are way more liberated than their married counterparts? Did you adore that radio broadcast where we implied that our demographically suicidal birth rates are a sign of our superiority over those gross African countries where men expect their wives to have more than 1.2 children? Didn’t you just love that heartbreaking story about those poor women in Texas who can’t get quality access to abortions because the mean old Lone Star State won’t force pro-life doctors to practice them? Well, then you’re in luck, because our latest story proves you can instantly sanctify your refusal to give up anything in order to have children!”
But That Would Interfere with My Weed Habit
Are you tired of feeling guilty because you don’t want to move to the suburbs and lose instant access to Tristan’s Artisanal Yak Soap Shoppe beneath your studio apartment? Are you sick of your parents dropping hints that it’s time for you to settle down even though you’ve still got seven good years of sexual libertinism (and three good syphilis scares) left in the tank? Are you certain that no child could possibly give you the spiritual and emotional fulfillment you get from Drunk Yoga?
Well, then, you’re in luck. The climate change prophets have shown us the way to salvation. Instead of saying, “I’m not having children because I’m selfish,” just say “I’m not having children because of climate change.” Speak the new words of holiness, and the very desire that you were sure made you a sinner actually makes you a saint.
If religious folks want to show that they truly serve God and not men, it’s always a good idea to kick a preacher to the curb the second he says, “I’ve just received new revelation that ever-so-conveniently requires me to do this sinful thing I’ve always wanted to do.”
Likewise, if those who genuinely believe climate change poses a monumental threat to the human race want to show the other side they are rational people motivated by genuine science, they should be equally dismissive of any doomsday cult member who says, “I just read the latest batch of divinely inspired climate data and it looks like I have to give up the dream of fathering those money-devouring, diaper-wearing poop machines that I clearly never wanted in the first place.”