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How the Religious Right Is Fueling Climate Change Denial

Radical religious activists promote anti-science bills, in part, because they also seek to undermine the teaching of evolution.

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It also tells us – on the firm foundation of Holy Scriptures – that policies intended to slow the pace of climate change represent a "dangerous expansion of government control over private life". It also alerts us that the environmental movement is "un-Biblical" – indeed, a new and false religion. If the Cornwall Declaration seems like a tough read, you can get what you need from the organization's DVD series: "Resisting the Green Dragon: A Biblical Response to one of the Greatest Deceptions of our Day."

Now, this isn't the theology of every religion in America, or of every strain of  Christianity; not by a long stretch. Most Christians accept climate science and believe in protecting the environment, and many of them do so for religious as well as scientific reasons. But theirs is not the theology that holds sway in the upper reaches of the Republican party, or moves your average climate science denier Chuck. As  Rick Santorum explained at an energy summit in Colorado:

"We were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the Earth … for our benefit not for the Earth's benefit."

Why does this theology of science denial have such power? For one thing, it gives its adherents something to throw back in the face of all those obnoxious "elites", which they think are telling them what to do with their lives. There's no need to master the facts if all you need is to learn a few words of scripture.

But, perhaps, more to the point is that this kind of religion works for Chuck because it allows him to disguise the extraordinary selfishness of his position in a cloak of sanctimony. Translated into the kind of language that you can take to the shopping mall, it says that God wants you to squeeze whatever you can out of the earth – and to hell with the grandkids.

I hear plenty of cynicism about the choice facing people this Tuesday, 6 November. Some say that it really doesn't matter who gets elected. It is true that Obama has largely kept climate change out of the campaign. But it is delusional to imagine that Obama is just the same as Romney and the Republican party on this issue.  Paul Ryan is on record as a world-class climate science denierMitt Romney's press secretary has been a shill for oil companies.

Romney's proposals on energy policy and climate issues, so far as they can be discerned, are indistinguishable from those of the fossil fuel industry. And anyone who thinks that Republican party policies won't be informed by some of that old-time religion simply hasn't been listening to what its candidates have to say about women, reproductive rights, and what they speciously call "religious liberty".

There is a choice. And even if  you don't think it matters, your grandkids will.

Katherine Stewart is the author of "The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children" (PublicAffairs). Visit her Web site or follow her on Twitter @kathsstewart.
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