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

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:

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:

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?

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1. Rush Limbaugh, The Way Things Ought To Be (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), pp. 153.

2. Ibid.

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.