With Earth Day fast approaching (April 22), Americans might want to consider how environmentalism is becoming a new form of religion. They also might want to ask: Why is it OK to teach environmental religion in public schools, while the teaching of Judaism, Christianity and other traditional religions is not constitutionally permitted?

Environmentalism has, indeed, become an article of religious faith. As Joel Garreau, a former Washington Post editor, wrote in 2010, “faith-based environmentalism increasingly sports saints, sins, prophets, predictions, heretics, sacraments and rituals.”

Some argue that a religion must have a God, disqualifying environmentalism. Yet, as the great American psychologist and philosopher William James observed in his 1902 classic, “The Varieties of Religious Experience,” it is not necessary to “positively assume a God” in order to have a religion. James insisted that “godless or quasi-godless creeds” also can qualify as religions, which – given its devout belief system and the fervor of its adherents – clearly would include today’s environmentalism.

Paul Tillich, the greatest American theologian of the 20th century, similarly defined religion as a comprehensive belief system that seeks to answer questions of “ultimate concern” to human existence. For Tillich, it was characteristic of our time that “the most important religious movements are developing outside of (official) religion.”

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