Myth: We cannot possibly cause harm to God's most magnificent creation.
Fact: Both scripture and science warn against harming the earth.
Not one text in the entire Bible supports this theory. It is a
completely unsubstantiated claim. There is, however, broad scriptural evidence
that supports the opposite conclusion: God expects humans to protect and
hold sacred the works of his creation.
Perhaps the most famous and widely quoted exposition of this conservative
theory comes from Rush Limbaugh. "My views on the environment are
rooted in my belief in Creation," he writes. "I refuse to believe
that people, who are themselves the result of Creation, can destroy the
most magnificent creation of the entire universe." (1)
This is one of the largest non sequiturs you will ever find;
Rush does not explain why being a creation of God protects it from destruction.
The assertion is false on its very face; humans obviously do destroy
God's handiwork, as they did at Prince William Sound, Love Canal, the 1991 Kuwaiti
oil fires and Chernobyl. Despite these obvious examples, Rush continues: "I
don't believe... that nature is oh-so precariously balanced. I don't believe
that the earth and her ecosystem are fragile..." (2) Later, he bemoans
the fact that "there is no mention of a supreme being or Creator"
in environmentalist accounts, and that this
illustrates the profound gulf between the people of theology
and many in the scientific community. No allowances are made here
at all for God. This is why modern, politicized science offends
so many people. To take God's most perfect creation and debase it
like this [by claiming we can harm the planet] is insulting not only
to humans, but to God. (3)
Now, one might wonder why Rush thinks he can speak for God, especially
when Rush himself fails to cite a single Biblical text in support of this
viewpoint. Of course, no such Biblical text exists. Conservatives are free
to search their Bibles for one, but the exercise will prove fruitless,
and will only drive home the realization that the above viewpoint is simply
an opinion, and a badly unsubstantiated one at that. Compare the
total lack of Biblical support for this opinion to the broad Biblical
support for the pro-environmental position outlined below:
- The earth and all life within it are creations of God, and he has pronounced
them sacred and good. (Genesis 1)
- His works of nature are praised everywhere as wonderful. (Psalms 104:24-30,
Psalms 145:9,16-17, Psalms 148, Job 12:7-10)
- He loves and cares for all that he has made, even noticing when each
sparrow falls. (Matthew 10:29)
- Abuse of nature can be seen as abuse of God's handiwork, especially
since God empathizes with even the least of his creations. (Matthew 25:40,45)
- Israel was told that defiling the land was considered a sin, because
God resided in the land with his people. (Numbers 35:33-34, Numbers 5:1-5,
Leviticus 15:31, Deuteronomy 23:9-14)
- For this reason, one of the greatest and most frequent themes in Old
Testament law is distinguishing between clean and unclean behavior. (Leviticus
- God repeatedly promised to take care of the land's fruitfulness, prosperity,
and abundance -- if the people obeyed his Covenant, which included
a long list of rules on cleanliness. (Leviticus 26:3-45)
- God allowed Israel to consume what resources from the land they needed,
but he ordered Israel not to waste them. (Deuteronomy 20:19-20)
- In fact, God promised to destroy those who destroyed the earth. (Revelations
- At no point does God allow people to kill and destroy freely, with
the assurance that he will clean up their damage after them. Rather, bad
actions lead to bad consequences -- "a bad tree cannot bear good fruit."
- Following this line of thinking to its conclusion, the consequences
of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)
Recall that the two greatest commandments that Jesus gave were "Love
the Lord your God with all your heart" and "Love your neighbor
as yourself." This is mirrored in the Bible's philosophies on the
environment. The first commandment can be seen in the passage, "Do
not pollute the land where you are... Do not defile the land where you
live and where I dwell, for I, the Lord, dwell among the Israelites."
(4) The second commandment can be seen in the passage, "Do not do
anything that endangers your neighbor's life." (5)
It's not just that Rush has no Biblical evidence to back up his beliefs;
he also contradicts himself. On one hand, he says, "Sorry... the earth
is not fragile." On the other hand, he writes:
For a study in contrasts, look at the level of man-made
pollution in countries with totalitarian regimes. Pollution in
Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union is horrendous. If you go
there you will see dead, not dying, forests. You will see three-eyed
fish in streams... No environmental reporting was allowed by those
in power in those countries. They didn't want the truth to come
To show you just how bad Rush's theory really is, just compare it to
murder within the world's population. God does not give us permission to
murder people, on the logic that the world's human population is so large
and forgiving that it will always generate more people. What if everyone
bought into this philosophy? The result would be a soaring murder rate.
The analogy of murder is much more closely related to the problem of
pollution than it first appears. The truth is, pollution kills.
In 1975, the National Cancer Institute conducted a massive county-by-county
study of cancer in the United States, to locate the "cancer hotspots"
in the nation. Dr. Glenn Paulson, of the New Jersey Department of Environmental
Protection, summed up the results this way: "If you know where the
chemical industry is, you know where the cancer hotspots are." In
fact, the NCI investigators found that all citizens living around
the chemical industry suffered higher death rates, whether they worked
in the health-threatening plants or not.(7) Similar correlations can be
found between toxic waste sites and several types of cancer, and nuclear
sites and breast cancer. (8)
Unfortunately, industry free from environmental regulations kills a
certain percentage of the population, and inflicts poorer health upon us
all. Even the killing of one innocent human being is wrong, a principle
all conservatives would certainly agree with. But conservatives are also
quick to denounce moral relativism, which makes this a beautiful example
of their hypocrisy over the issue: is it moral to kill a certain percentage
of the population just so we all can enjoy the comforts of capitalism?
Return to Overview
1. Rush Limbaugh, The Way Things Ought To Be (New York:
Simon & Schuster, 1993), pp. 153.
3. Rush Limbaugh, See, I Told You So (New York: Simon &
Schuster, 1994), pp. 191-2.
4. Numbers 35:33-4.
5. Leviticus 19:16.
6. The Way Things Ought to Be, pp. 157-8.
7. Ibid., pp. 162-3.
8 Quoted in Stuart Auerbach, "N.J.'s Chemical Belt Takes Its Toll:
$4 Billion Industry Tied to Nation's Highest Cancer Death Rate," Washington
Post, February 3, 1976, pp. A1, A5.
9. Toxic waste sites: Jack Griffith, R.C. Duncan, W.B. Riggan, A.C.
Pellom, "Cancer Mortality in U.S. Counties with Hazardous Waste Sites
and Ground Water Pollution," Archives of Environmental Health,
Vol. 44, No. 2, 69-74, Mar-Apr 1989. Nuclear mortality rates: Drs. Ernest
Sternglass, Jay Gould and Joseph Mangano, using data from a 1990 National
Cancer Institute study of cancer mortality rates near nuclear facilities.