Why do Evangelicals Reject Climate Change?
A Pew poll discovered 66% of American evangelicals don’t believe in man made climate change compared to 36% of the non-evangelical population who don’t. Several reasons for this difference have been offered according to evangelical writer Katharine Hayhoe in the Inquiring Minds podcast. She claims the conservative community has misrepresented climate change to the evangelical community and evangelicals have bought into it. She writes, “I feel that we have been lied to” “We have been given information about climate change that is not true.” “Evangelicals tend to be more politically conservative and can be quite distrusting of scientists (believing incorrectly that they are a bunch of atheists).” It seems to me conservatives and evangelicals have a common denominator, God.
A recent documentary about climate change, Years of Living Dangerously, claims “Evangelicals just want to avoid conflict.” They don’t want to blame themselves or other evangelicals “for dead crops, shrinking herds, lost jobs, and foreclosed mortgages.” Not all these assumptions are true but religious spokespersons spread such claims to gullible fans, often on Fox News. By attributing these climate changes to divine power, evangelicals readily admit there is nothing they can or should do about them. After all, its God’s will that the “end times” are approaching. They believe, climate change, if it exists, will be the match that ignites end times flames. Moderate Christians don’t agree with this philosophy; they are more concerned with maintaining their religious beliefs against what they believe is an onslaught of aggressive and immoral atheism.
Simply put, political affiliation is the single most determinate factor predicting one’s acceptance or rejection of climate change. Conservative republicans don’t buy into anthropomorphic climate change and liberal democrats do. It follows that progressive democrats are more likely to be freethinkers. They have open minds concerning the possibility of change and the challenges it poses. Evangelicals rather not oppose the inevitability of the end times.
Fox News has made its stand clear and dances to music composed by rich conservative manipulators looking for votes. It makes me wonder if other news outlets, like MSNBC, can effectively counter Fox News’s efforts in convincing its viewers to hate Obama and everything he supports? So far other news outlets have had only modest success in convincing people climate change is real. Unlike Fox News, they present both sides of the issue. This is tantamount to giving equal time and authority to creationists and evolutionists during interviews when in reality, the theory of evolution is well established and creationism has been thoroughly debunked for over one hundred years.
Why do so many people reject climate change? According to Hayhoe, the first is: Most of the facts are already in and there are not many new facts to attract attention. Hayhoe is wrong. Additional new evidence is constantly being published. Climate change may be old news to evangelicals who have already made up their minds. They don’t wish to revisit the subject, especially with new evidence. Evangelicals are convinced that evangelical scientists have already determined that climate change is not happening so they stopped reading, listening and worrying about it. After all, evangelical scientists would not lie to their own evangelical community, but an atheist scientist would. The second reason is one that has plagued humankind since the first primitive brains evolved. If something happens slowly, humans tend not to notice it. Like when viewing consecutive frames in a movie film or the plodding slowness of evolution, simple minds cannot see the subtle change and are unable to react. Like a frog sitting in a pan of slowly heating water, humans do not notice the temperature increase and climate change. When evangelical scientists advise there is no danger, and when respected politicians laugh it away as just a waste of money proposed by a communist and Muslim president, it is not any wonder that 64% of evangelicals deny there is a danger.
A third reason Evangelicals are not concerned with climate change is: If it is true the whole earth is burning, then the fire must be divinely created. Bible passages predict the end times are near, even over due. Scientific confirmation of climate change is abundant, but among nonscientific, poorly educated evangelicals, it is absent or ignored in favor of trusting one’s pastor. Biblical interpretations are notoriously variable within the varieties of Christianity and “know it all” religious leaders can easily justify their favorite biases.
Katharine Hayhoe and Sir John Houghton, who claims to be a former professor of atmospheric physics, believe church leaders have betrayed their congregations. They claim bible verse does not eliminate the possibility of anthropomorphic climate changes. Hopefully, their moderating voices are convincing the evangelical community that climate change is real, although it’s happening slowly. Fewer people believe in bible verse end times today than they did ten years ago. Creation myths are gradually losing out to evolution evidence; medical treatment is favored over a total reliance on prayer. The tide is changing, but slowly.
Hayhoe and Houghton believe there is a growing trend among evangelicals to exam scientific claims more thoroughly. I’m skeptical. Beliefs arrived at without scientific evidence are almost impossible to refute with scientific evidence. Reputable evangelical scientists such as geneticist Francis Collins, will not and cannot totally let go of superstition. His conversion to Evangelical Christianity came at a low point in his personal life and he has been unable rid his scientific mind of that emotional experience. Collins, Hayhoe and Houghton cling to a belief in God, although there is no scientific evidence to substantiate their belief. But, when it comes to climate change and the overwhelming scientific evidence that climate change is real, they have conceded to science.
The evangelical religious community allied with Radical conservatism will continue to disbelieve in climate change for the reasons presented above. Their distrust and hate for our current president has been drilled into them so thoroughly it remains to be seen whether scientific and reasonable minds will ever prevail for that section of the population. Unfortunately, it will take a considerable number of climate change disasters to get their attention and their support. Some say it is already too late.