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Perhaps Environmentalism is the New "Selling Indulgences"
One of the biggest beefs Martin Luther had with the Catholic Church back in the early 1500s was the selling of indulgences. The church would sell "get out of hell" cards, if you could just come up with the money. You could be excused of any sin, provided you could pay. People even bought the indulgences before they sinned. There was no real concept that you may need to make this up with God, or that one who is right with God will try NOT to sin. The whole focus was on avoiding punishment, and they didn't realize that Jesus had already done it for them.

Anyway, as much as the Church was lambasted for that practice, it has now come back, full force, in a different guise. And this one kind of makes me laugh. It turns out that people who buy very green products or support green organizations are more likely to cheat and steal, and less likely to be altruistic. A University of Toronto study found that these people began to think of themselves as "the good ones", and thus they were given a pass on other things that people would normally be expected to do.

In an experiment, participants were randomly assigned to select items they wanted to buy in one of two online stores. One store sold predominantly green products, the other mostly conventional items. Then, in a supposedly unrelated game, all of the participants were allocated $6, to share as they saw fit with an anonymous (and unbeknownst to them, imaginary) recipient. Subjects who had chosen items from the green store coughed up less money, on average, than their counterparts. In a second experiment, participants were again assigned to shop in either a green or conventional store. Then they performed a computer task that involved earning small sums of cash. The setup offered the opportunity to cheat and steal with impunity. The eco-shoppers were more likely to do both.

I love recycling, and I used cloth diapers. I use the backs of all my paper, running them through my printer twice. I am a green person. But I do it because I'm also CHEAP, and I hate the thought of so much landfill. However, to many environmentalism has become a religion. They begin to feel like the anointed class, because they get it while everyone else doesn't, and thus they're allowed to treat others badly.

That's the essence of the study, and it's my experience with those that I know. And I have to admit that study caused me to chuckle a bit.

But speaking of environmentalism, here's something I just don't get. What is this Audi Superbowl ad supposed to be doing? I find it hilarious, but it would NEVER in a million years make me want to buy a green car from Audi. Does it work for you? I'm totally perplexed by this, and I think I must be missing something.

Let me know what you think! Do you find that environmentalism has become a tyrannical religion? Do you understand this Audi ad? Inquiring minds want to know!


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At 11:26 AM , Blogger Angel Reuther said…

That was one of the only commercials I did see while turning the TV on quickly to see who was winning. It totally does NOT make me want to buy a car and in fact makes me sad and scared because I can see things heading this way for real and it's not funny.

I am like you in that I am adopting more and more green practices because I am cheap and also most make sense. I also want to use what God has given us wisely and take care of it. However, I think many of these people go so overboard because this is all they have. They need to save the earth because for them, it isn't temporary as it is for Christians. It's all they have.

Just my thoughts. :)


At 11:32 AM , Blogger Deborah said…

I understand the Audi ad, but probably not the way Audi executives want me to--I view it as all too close to the truth, that people are demonized for making less green choices, that we're sometimes required by the law to make green choices against our will, and that we're moving closer and closer to that kind of ridiculous government interference in our personal lives. If anything, it makes me want to avoid buying Audis of any type, because I don't want to support a company that presents government intrusiveness in a positive light. It does seem that environmentalists are religiously dogmatic and try to force others to follow their own "religion." It doesn't even matter to the global warming environmentalists that the data they've been relying on have been shown to be manipulated!

I, like you, tend to make some green choices for financial reasons, and I support taking care of our planet. But it's definitely possible to take it to an extreme, and that's what entirely too many people have done, including those who have adopted a "holier than thou" attitude because of their environmental choices.

On the other hand, there are those (few, in my experience) people who consciously make green choices for green reasons but who also avoid the whole pseudo-religious aspect of it and who manage to refrain from self-righteousness. I have respect for those people and find them inspiring in some ways.


At 12:05 PM , Blogger sarahe said…

I don't really get the ad either...but I can be a bit of a "green police"--it's just b/c I HATE waste. I recycle like crazy (I even bring the recyclables home from work so they don't get trashed!) and I compost and will use cloth diapers and all that, but it's because I'm frugal and HATE HATE HATE wasting anything. borderline hoarder here. I agree that some people think that being green is equivalent to being holy. Not true!


At 1:14 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Thanks for this post and its indirect perspective on the gospel! It made me look at the works based salvation, including my own environmentalism, in a fresh light. I know its easy for me to get caught up in my cloth diapering and bike riding habits, become proud, and forget who saved me and what He saved me from. So foolish! Thanks again for reminding me not to boast in anything this earth has to offer, especially when the offering diefies the earth!



At 3:55 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Deborah -
Not everyone who believes in being "green" is a radicalist and just because the data from the "global warming" scandal was falsified does not mean that we aren't slowly destroying the earth in other ways. I want to leave the earth better for future generations so I think it's great the government is stepping up it's green campaigns. I am so tired of people acting like the earth is ours to do with what we want. Hundreds of years from now people will think it's sad we didn't care more about the state of our planet.


At 12:41 AM , Blogger Herding Grasshoppers said…


I couldn't agree with you more.

(I didn't "get" what was supposed to be appealing about the ad, either.)

In my corner of the world, the rabid environmentalists are the most self-righteous, prideful, "religious" people you can imagine. But the inconsistencies are mind-boggling.

"Save the wet-lands" (or whales, or cockroaches), but abort the babies.


flying off in private jets to the global warming conference and wagging their fingers at normal folks for their "carbon footprints."

The same people who insist that Christians shouldn't be allowed to legislate morality have no problem with it, when it serves their own purposes.

As Christians, we are to be good stewards of what God has entrusted to us. We shouldn't be careless or wasteful.

Nor should we worship what He has created.


At 1:49 AM , Blogger Deborah said…

Anonymous @ 3:55-

Did you read my entire comment? I thought I made it clear that I don't believe that all environmentalists are radicals, but that a significant number are. I also see that I specifically said that "I support taking care of our planet." What I don't support is taking it to an extreme, which clearly is what that commercial advocated and what many environmentalists, in my experience, seem to be pushing for. I never said that the earth is ours to do with what we want. The earth is God's, and He has entrusted it to us to care for it. But we can take care of it without worshiping it or making that task the defining feature of our lives.


At 1:24 PM , Blogger Kelli said…

This commercial makes me laugh too! While funny, it is a serious thing happening in our world. People have definately made it into a religeon. In that case, people can make just about anything into a religeon!! I know that we use cloth diapers because it saves us money and is better for baby's bum. We have a garden and chickens because we love teaching our kids about where food comes from, it's fresher and healthier than store-bought food and it saves us money (again). We do shop at thrift stores because it saves us money. Mostly, if you're looking around for ways of saving money, it'll probably benefit the environment as well. So, you can kill two birds with one stone.

God created this earth and it is our job to take care of it responsibly, HOWEVER, it should not dictate our lives.

Thanks for this post!


At 2:37 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I am trying to be a good steward of what God has given us. Environmentalism makes sense only when you regard waste of resources and waste of money as both being poor stewardship.
I don't see spending big bucks on a green car as being the best idea going.


At 3:20 PM , Blogger Herding Grasshoppers said…

I wish it was a simple as saving money = saving resources, but it isn't always so. Certainly reusing things, thrift store shopping, and having our own gardens (chickens, etc.) usually works that way, but it doesn't always.

For instance, my really-green friend went on a tirade recently about toilet paper. It's made of wood chips and some recycled paper content, so its natural color should be kind of brownish. But most manufacturers add a bleaching process to make the TP white (because that's what most consumers like.)

Okay, frankly, I don't care about the color of our TP. I would buy the brown "green" TP if it were cheaper, which it should be, since they're not adding the bleaching process, but it costs more! Why is this?!

The same is true for many organic/"green" products. I'd love to buy my friend's organic milk, but it costs four times as much as "regular" milk. I just can't justify it.

I'm also accountable to be a good steward of the time and money God has given us, and spending too much of either to be "green" just doesn't add up.


At 5:33 PM , Blogger The Happy Domestic said…

I have found myself becoming (very unexpectedly, I might add) something of a green freak in my circle. I reduce-reuse-reuse-reuse, and what I can't reduce or reuse, I compost or recycle. I strongly advocate for breastfeeding and cloth diapering, cold water washing, and energy efficient practices. I drive a very energy efficient car, combine trips, and fill my car right up with passengers. I shop local, I eat whole foods and send complaints to companies that are big eco-offenders.

Unlike the majority of my Trent U. green-freak compatriots, I don't care about global warming, and I don't expect to pass on a better world to my great-grandchildren. I expect Jesus will be back in person before my life is up.

But I will have to give an account for how I cared for all that He has given me. My health, my children, my finances, my gifts and abilities, my neighbours, and even my world. Did I advance the Kingdom? Did I live out and spread God's divine order throughout creation wherever I went? I hope so.

That's why I'm a frugal, community-minded, green, alternative lifestyle health nut. (

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Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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