Is Rick Santorum a Pagan?

All the press coverage over Rick Santorum’s idiotic suggestions that mainline Protestants aren’t Christians, or that President Obama isn’t a Christian, or that prenatal care increases abortion rates, or that people who favor prenatal care favor eugenics, have obscured his equally idiotic attacks on environmentalism:

Santorum said that he was referring not to the president’s faith but to environmentalism.

“Well, I was talking about the radical environmentalists,” he told Schieffer. “That’s what I was talking about: Energy, this idea that man is here to serve the Earth, as opposed to husband its resources and be good stewards of the Earth. And I think that is a phony ideal. I don’t believe that that’s what we’re here to do – that man is here to use the resources and use them wisely, to care for the Earth, to be a steward of the Earth, but we’re not here to serve the Earth.

“The Earth is not the objective,” Santorum said. “Man is the objective. I think a lot of radical environmentalists have it upside-down.”

We’ve heard a lot about Santorum’s supposed deep religiosity, but if he really believes that “man is the objective,” then it might be better to term him a pagan, or at least an atheist.  The touchstone of any religious worldview is that humanity is not the measure of all things: there are bigger and more important things in the universe than human beings, and thus that humility is part and parcel of an ethically appropriate worldview.  If that’s what Santorum means by people who believe that man is supposed to “serve the Earth,” then in fact he is attacking most major religions.

In fact, the religious idea of humanity understanding its limitations is the essential idea of being the “steward of the earth.”  In Genesis, God’s command to Adam to rule over the earth is not for Adam’s sake: it is to preserve it for God’s sake.  We are servants of a higher power, who commands us to hold something in trust for Him (Her/It: Your Mileage May Vary).  So of course we should not regard the Earth as simply something to satisfy our wants.  Being a steward is not the same as being a tyrant.  As I have written before, the Rabbis understood this: our right to rule over the Earth is only to the extent that we act as the Image of God.  Santorum might not understand this, but It Is Not About Us.

I suppose it is superfluous to add that whatever “radical environmentalism” might mean, it is nowhere to be found in President Obama’s environmental policy.  Wanting to mitigate and adapt to catastrophic climate change might be many things, but it is not radical.  Unless of course, one regards as “radical” acting upon a scientific theory that has been repeatedly proved and accepted by virtually every scientist on the planet.  Which might even be Santorum’s definition.

So I don’t know whether Santorum is a pagan, or an atheist.  What is clear is that like most of the religious Right, he’s unconversant with the most basic ideas of what he claims to be his faith.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

21 thoughts on “Is Rick Santorum a Pagan?”

  1. Actually, you can demolish his quasi-argument from an earlier clause:

    as opposed to husband its resources and be good stewards of the Earth.

    Does a good steward engage in behaviors that result in extending the Florida Keys near Tallahassee? How about behaviors that result in flooding out millions of impoverished Bangladeshis?

    Or does a good steward recognize that there are climatic changes going on that will result in those things (and many others as bad), and without regard to responsibility act to mitigate those impending catastrophes?

    1. “The Earth is not the objective,” Santorum said. “Man is the objective. I think a lot of radical environmentalists have it upside-down.” Rick is all about Man (and only Man). You husband the resources towards Wall ST and let the good stewards of K Street guide you to Manifest Destiny. Then Man’s only important garden lettuce grows.

      “man is here to use the resources and use them wisely, to care for the Earth, to be a steward of the Earth, but we’re not here to serve the Earth.”.

      See, Earth is here for Man to use up until it can’t be used any more. You know; like workers or women. Then comes Armageddon. Problem solved!

      Those radical environmentalists think they’re Gardeners or something. They’re obviously wrong. God didn’t make us so we could actually understand anything.

      Rick’s a grifter with delusions of popeness. He’s making money, wallowing in attention, and preaching to the choir. Happy Rick. What a creep.

  2. “We have not inherited the earth from out ancestors; we are borrowing it from our descendants.” If one wants a human-centered view of our relationship to our planet’s resources, independent of any responsibility to a Higher Being, this idea from the 1970s will do nicely. Even if you believe that “man is the objective,” control of carbon dioxide emissions and the acidification of the oceans is an imperative, since generations unborn will suffer from the present generation’s folly. Even under the notion that “the earth is not the objective,” Santorum’s doctrine fails badly.

  3. An “idea from the 1970s” only in the sense that it was in the 70s that enviros started quoting an old Amish saying.

    Isn’t it odd that all the folks who whine about the debt we’re supposedly inflicting on our grandchildren aren’t worried about the planet we’re leaving them with?

  4. The religious right has been arguing for years that environmentalists are pagans because they worship the earth. Santorum is blowing hard on a well-worn dog whistle that Zasloff doesn’t hear.

    Here’s Sen. James Inhofe, on Pat Robertson’s TV show:

    ROBERTSON: What is the agenda of the radical Left? They talk about – aren’t environmental concerns sort of like a god to them?

    INHOFE: Look, Pat, I don’t have to tell you about reading the Scriptures, but one of mine that I’ve always enjoyed is Romans 1, 22 and 23. You quit worshipping God and start worshipping the creation — the creeping things, the four-legged beasts, the birds and all that. That’s their god. That’s what they worship. If you read Romans 1:25, it says, ‘and they gave up their God and started worshipping the creation.’ That’s what we are looking at now, that’s what’s going on. And we can’t let it happen.

    http://theshepherdsvoice.org/news/the_growing_threat_of_far-left_environmentalism.html

    The verses that the wingnuts really, really like are Genesis 9:1-3 —

    1. And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.
    2. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.
    3. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.

    1. Robertson: What is the agenda of the Radical Left?

      Inhofe: “…And if we know, according to the Wharton School of Economics, that it costs the average family of four $2,715 a year if we were to buy onto the Kyoto treaty (commits industrialized nations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by around 5.2 percent below their 1990 levels, over the next decade), then what would be the motivation? I think you can find that in a couple of statements that were made, one by Jacques Chirac, who said this is the first step toward international governance. And Margo Walstrom of the European Union — she is the environmentalist over there — she said it is not about climate change, but it’s about leveling the playing field for business, worldwide. Those are the liberals who were behind it, and I think it is a wake-up call. And I am glad you talk about it now and then.”

      Like always, “it’s all about business, Boys”.

  5. A good enough post on Santorum for the most part, but I recommend your taking the time to learn something about Pagans before you start using the term so loosely, especially in a derogatory fashion. Santorum comes closer to a devotee of Sauron than being a Pagan.

  6. Yes, polytheistic religion (“paganism” to Jews and Christians) tends to be fairly respectful of nature in principle, though of course practice can be otherwise. The view that “Man is the measure of all things” was the product of some of the pre-Socratic philosophers, and was never the consensus view. It comes the fore only with the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, and is the central (albeit largely unexpressed) philosophical dogma underlying all forms of economic analysis.

    The “deep ecologists,” whose thought wss given political expression by Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance, reflect a rejection of that tradition and a move back toward a more reverent stance. For myself, I give humans preference over mountains; my concern for the planet is practical rather than reverent. The problem with the Enlightement/economist view of the world is that its analysis of what’s good for humans tends to be partial and short-sighted. Reverence may be a good heuristic, even for those who don’t worship Gaia.

  7. When you get back to work after a long weekend, and there are dozens of e-mails to be answered and you have a huge pile of documents to get through with very little time to get through them, and you feel totally snowed under, you will soon have a new expression for how overwhelmed you are: “Man, I feel like I’ve been doing opposition research on Rick Santorum!”

  8. Wanting to mitigate and adapt to catastrophic climate change might be many things, but it is not radical.
    This is a side note, but is there any evidence Obama wants to do any of these things?

      1. No, because all carbon is not equal, which is the operative premise of Capt. Trade. In a nutshell, the reason is that we know that all economically recoverable gas and oil WILL. be extracted And burned. Our only hope for avoiding the worst climate disruption … If it even can be avoided at this point, given the frightening number of positive feedback sources that we may already have tripped into cycling against us …. Is to get off coal NOW and to eschew alt fuels like tar sands (xL pipeline) and shale, along with other exotic ways to liberate massive releases of heat trapping potential (fracking ourselves to death).

        Thus, Capt. Trade is a fraud when applied to a natural product of combustion in a way that SOx and NOX are not. Given the tiny share of non-fossil energy running around (and nat gas is not nearly as much less carbon emitting as we used to think), Capt Trade at a national level is simply a way to create a new financial instrument bubble.

        capt. trade is who you call when you DON’T want to do anything about climate disruption but want to act as if you do.

          1. First, A small but significant 0.5% Tobin tax with the proceeds directed to hold harmless the poorer 90% who will greatly feel the pain of what we have to do to get a grip on climate.

            There is no way to address the problem within the energy sector only, because the energy sector undergirds all others. If you create a backstop to avoid crushing the poor and middle classes, you can then

            1) outlaw coal exports

            2) nationalize the electric grid … The transmission and distribution network, not the plants. Operate this critical backbone of the national infrastructure in the public interest, not for the benefit of the giant utilities.

            3) require each state to adopt a differential return on investment rate rule that, instead of rewarding utilities for giant lumps of capital turned into rate base, rewards them for their net portfolio carbon efficiency. That is, whereas utilites have been lavished with giant return rates (12-14% is not uncommon, even though there is essentially no risk in utilities except for self-imposed ones) for all capital invested, a country serious about climate would give ratepayers an enhanced return on low carbon and carbon free generation, and no return on high carbon (coal).

            And

            4) adopt utility efficiency minimums that rise like the Japanese version of Energy Star …. That is, instead of allowing anyone who meets the threshold once to keep their Energy Star rating until the next standard review, ratchet the standard up each year so that only the top 20% get the bonus ROI from the state rate commissions, and the bottom 20% pay ROI penalties. This will cause a serious boom in combined heat and power installations, which is vital.

  9. Santorum also completely misses that creation is like another Scripture. If you would know more of the Creator, regard [His] creation.

    The Lord found the creation good at each stage of its making — on the first day and the second, and on all the other days, well before humanity was created – which clearly indicates that creation is good and blessed in and of itself without regard to man (sic).

    It was also pronounced good with “man” in it, so that tells us something about our commanded role.

    If you believe in that sort of thing.

  10. if he really believes that “man is the objective,” then it might be better to term him a pagan, or at least an atheist.

    New market religion: Non-Secular Objectivism.
    What’s next? Are Fundy Christians going to re-baptize Ayn Rand?

  11. “If you would know more of the Creator, regard [His] creation.”

    This is what mainstream Protesttantism believes. It’s how the natural sciences emerged from philosophy and theology. But fundies reject it out of hand. They believe in faith. Reason is a snare of the devil.

  12. I think he’s a cultist. He is not completely rational about what he believes. There is some mind control going on with his children. I think this is true of a lot of extremely religious people.

  13. I deeply disagree. I doubt that anybody is reading comments on this post from days ago, but I will make my opinion known anyway.
    In the Jewish and Christian traditions, God makes Adam to be a steward of Nature for God (or Nature’s God in the Enlightenment spirituality of the U.S. Declaration of Independence: your mileage may vary) and not for Nature itself. To be a steward of Nature for God involves understanding the limits of humanity with respect to controlling nature and the dignity of all Nature, but it does NOT involve preserving Mother Earth (or in Newt Gingrich’s case: Sister Moon) for her own sake at the expense of human development, which is “an objective,” from a certain point of view.

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