The Mother Earth Cult

By Pipes, Sally | Chief Executive (U.S.), September 1998 | Go to article overview

The Mother Earth Cult


Pipes, Sally, Chief Executive (U.S.)


As spring turned into summer, the Washington Post provided insight into a movement that may mark a change of theological seasons. The piece profiled the Druids England's Stonehenge, the Jerusalem of paganism from which they had been barred since Baroness Thatcher's 1 980s. Seems British Prime Minister Tony Blair, more in line with the times, made good on a campaign promise to allow the Druids access to their sacred site.

Chalk up 25,000 pagan votes for Blair. While Christianity continues to decline in England, the pagans are adding members and gaining respectability. "When I moved from Roman Catholic to Druid in 1980, this was considered incredibly weird," 57-year-old Chris Turner told the Washington Post. "But today, when I explain that I worship the power resonating up through the Earth, people [ask] 'How should I celebrate the equinox?"'

And it's not just England where a general pantheism-the belief that God is manifested in nature, not set apart from it-is taking off. Type "pantheism" or "paganism" into your favorite Internet search vehicle and you'll find thousands of Web pages dedicated to the worship of Mother Earth. The spirit of pantheism pervades the environmental movement, which sees humans as pernicious interlopers in an otherwise sacred environment. The problem is that, unlike Star Trek's explorers, we humans fail to obey the "prime directive" of not altering foreign environments.

The return of pantheism is not really new, nor should it be unexpected. Alexis de Tocqueville noted in the 1830s that "pantheism has made great progress in our age." De Tocqueville predicted that among the systems of philosophy, pantheism is "one of those most fitted to seduce the human mind in democratic times," since "it fosters [the masses'] pride while it soothes the indolence of their minds." But he warned, "Against it all who abide in their attachment to the true greatness of man should combine and struggle."

The problem isn't that such thinking exists. A free society encourages, indeed thrives on, ideological and even theological diversity. The challenge is to recognize pantheism where it creeps, often in universities, and expose its fundamental anti-humanism.

The place where pantheism is doing the most damage is in environmental policy. This system of belief would seem to place humans inside the cosmos, and hence, our actions would be part of the oneness of the universe. But it never seems to work out this way. As a result, protecting flies takes precedence over building a $470 million hospital in California. …

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