‘Climate justice campaign resembles a pagan cult’


A chara, – One wonders what useful purpose is Maria Steen seeking to serve in her bizarre article “Climate justice campaign has become a pagan cult” (Opinion & Analysis, September 28th). Good people of all traditions are strenuously cutting emissions and planting more trees in the hope of saving this and future generations from runaway climate breakdown. Some are pagan, some are atheist. Many are Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or Buddhist. Many more are Christian. One is Pope Francis, who writes in his encyclical letter, Laudato Si, “‘The work of the Church seeks not only to remind everyone of the duty to care for nature, but at the same time she must above all protect mankind from self-destruction”.

Jesus Christ tells his followers to pray to His and our Father, “may Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”.

What does it say about those of us who are Christian if we are party to creating, not heaven on earth, but a hell on earth?

As the feast day of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology, approaches on October 4th, it may serve us all better if we were to come together, respecting our diversity, to care for our common home, as Pope Francis advises. At present, Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists and Quakers work together, to care for the earth, our common home, in Eco Congregation Ireland (ECI). Parishes are encouraged in ECI to make care of creation a part of their worship of the Creator. For more, see ecocongregationireland.com. – Yours, etc,

The Very Rev


Dean of Waterford;


Curate Assistant,

Christ Church Cathedral,


Sir, – I can only assume Maria Steen’s piece is a poor attempt at a joke! – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – I must take issue with the tone and language used by Maria Steen in her article.

Ms Steen compares those of us who campaign for climate justice as members of a “pagan cult”. She describes the practice of abstaining from meat to reduce carbon emissions as “quasi-religious”. She describes the forecasts of environmental destruction as “prophesies” and “lurid warnings”. She goes on to dismiss the work of David Attenborough and declares with certainty that the world won’t be ending “any time soon”. Ms Steen invokes St Patrick who defied the “pagan druids” and bemoans the Catholic bishops for not doing the same by “jumping on board the solar-powered climate-justice bandwagon”. Does she have the same view with regard to Pope Francis’s interest in climate justice? Dismissing the ideas of others as “pagan” has a long tradition in the western world. Ms Steen’s article is reminiscent of the early Christian world as it made the transition from being a marginalised “cult” itself to the dominant religion in Europe. The words of the “pagan” Roman writer Symmachus are more apt than ever: “We gaze up at the same stars; the sky covers us all; the same universe encompasses us. What does it matter what wisdom a person uses to seek the truth?” – Is mise,



Co Cork.

Sir, – One might be tempted to say that Maria Steen’s piece smacks of cult envy, but the movement to halt climate breakdown is no cult. It is based on science and evidence, not faith, revelation or dogma. Ms Steen’s thinking clearly demonstrates that belief in a life and a world beyond these can devalue this life and this world, the only ones we know we have.

One does not have to look far in the Bible to find licence for earthly subjugation. The God of the Bible commands us to “subdue” the earth. This very mandate was cited recently by politicians in the United States and Poland to justify environmental destruction. Thankfully Pope Francis is more enlightened and accepts the science concerning climate breakdown. In his encyclical Laudato Si, he wrote: “For human beings . . . to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; for human beings to contaminate the earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life – these are sins.” He shows great concern for what is happening to “our common home”, stating that “the climate is a common good” and that, “Humanity is called to recognise the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it.” He laments the loss of biodiversity, stating that, “The earth’s resources are also being plundered because of short-sighted approaches to the economy, commerce and production.”

Ms Steen cites “ritual sacrifices” as one of the hallmarks of paganism. The Bible (the Old Testament in particular) is littered with references to ritual sacrifices to placate a psychopathic, tribalistic, vengeful god (who incidentally visits a great flood, plagues, fires and pestilence on people). The hell of the Bible is a fiction, but many of our fellow human beings, particularly the poor in developing countries, have experienced a very real hell as a result of climate breakdown and many more will if we do not take drastic action. Most religious and non-religious people understand this. We are all in this together. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Sir, – Maria Steen shows an amazing lack of understanding of the scientific evidence outlining the effects of climate change and its consequences.

We will have nine billion people inhabiting the planet by 2050. If we continue to do business as usual these inhabitants will be deprived of the basics needs of food, water and shelter for their existence. Climate justice is about protecting our planet so that future generations will have sustainable development.

To consign these high ideals to the realm of pagans, pantheists and preachers of doom is absurd. Such thinking is best consigned to the recycling bin. – Yours,etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – Maria Steen on climate change! Perhaps next week you’ll give such a privileged place on your Opinion pages to some other layperson’s ad hominem attack on, say, the medical profession, in which we’ll be told not to worry about measles, as vaccination is a doomsday ritual of the cult of Asclepius. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – I am indebted to Maria Steen. Just when you think modern Ireland has turned a corner, rejected religious diktats, and embraced social inclusion and liberal values, someone pops up decrying climate change activists as pagans.

Ms Steen has reminded us the fight against reactionary Ireland has still to be won. – Yours, etc,



Co Donegal.

A chara, – Maria Steen labours under the illusion that nature and humans are locked into an eternal zero-sum contest, so that a gain for one can only mean a loss for the other. The children assembling on our streets are centuries ahead in their understanding of the fundamental interconnection of all life, and the total dependency of our species on planetary life-support systems. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 7.

Sir, – Climate predictions are not divined from tea leaves or tree rings, like the doomsday prophecies Ms Steen cites. They are not secretly come upon by shamans or druids. They are sophisticated predictions arrived upon following the transparent gathering of data and knowledge by scientists and technicians all around the world. They incorporate expertise from a variety of fields from geology, to oceanography, to atmospheric science, to microbiology and so on. They leverage the most innovative technologies available to humankind and they have come to consensus on one of the most widely studied phenomenons in the history of humankind. The climate is changing because of the sum actions of our people. How we proceed from here cannot be so accurately predicted, but we will all be poorer for the self-serving attitude that people like Maria Steen encapsulate. – Yours, etc,



Co Donegal.

Sir, – I feel I have to congratulate The Irish Times on the breadth of opinion regularly offered. However, having read Maria Steen’s column, I am relieved that I don’t have to believe everything I read. – Yours, etc,



Co Donegal.