In recent decades, there has been a significant reassessment of Columbus’ voyages to a few of the islands situated in what is now called the Caribbean Sea, and later to parts of present-day South and Central America. Prior to this reassessment, the majority view of these and subsequent events was expressed from the narrow Eurocentric perspective, which regarded them as an unmitigatedly beneficial discovery that allowed the enlightened Europeans to broaden their influence so that it became more global, thus leading to the dissemination of their superior scientific knowledge, Christian religion, material inventions, deadly and destructive weapons, communicable diseases, and other “benefits” to all the other inhabitants of the world, who were not as advanced or enlightened as the conquering Europeans. I do not wish to repeat these criticisms, since others have written about them at length. Instead, I wish to consider another important matter that has generally been overlooked.
What is true of all native peoples in all parts of the world prior to Columbus’ voyage of discovery is that all of them, whether they lived in the Americas, Africa, Australia, or Asia, existed in balance and harmony with their natural environment. Certainly they were subjected to the occasional ravages of disease, war, famine, and predatory animals, but these and other natural checks served to limit their populations so they did not exceed the capacity of their environment to support both human and non-human life. Many of these native peoples practised animistic religions, for which they were criticized, and sometimes severely punished, by Christian missionaries, or they worshipped and revered certain animals, places, or Nature in general.
Besides worshipping or regarding as sacred certain animals or plants, it was also common for so-called primitive peoples to worship what many people would regard as inanimate things, such as mountains, rivers, woods, forests, hills, oceans, lakes, the Sun, Moon, or other celestial objects. If one believes that a certain place, hill, mountain, river, stream, animal, plant, or tree is sacred, then clearly one will protect it and make sure that others do not cause any harm to it. But wherever Christians have voyaged or settled, they have disparaged these religious beliefs as pagan and immoral, and thus have sought to eradicate them. Assured in the conviction that theirs is the only true religion, Christians have been implacable in eradicating any form of what they have called pagan worship. However, these beliefs prevented the native people from doing things that harmed these parts of the natural environment, precisely because they regarded them as sacred. In stark contrast, Christians did not believe, as the natives did, in the sacred nature of these things, and so they have not been restrained or shown any moderation in their pursuit of material and monetary gain. In other words, Christians have had no qualms in levelling mountains, polluting or damming rivers, cutting down ancient trees, razing forests, or killing, hunting, or capturing animals in vast quantities, since, according to their holy book, everything that exists on the Earth was put there expressly for their use and enjoyment, to do with as they please.
What is true of the great majority of native peoples is that they did not regard themselves as being above Nature and other living creatures. This is not to say that they did not hunt and kill other animals; but they did so in a spirit of respect, reverence, and gratitude for the animal that gave up its life so that they might be nourished and their bodies sustained for a little while longer. Into this harmonious balance and respect for Nature came the haughty and supercilious Europeans, who taught the natives that their beliefs were wrong and that they must instead worship their God and the One True Religion, namely, Christianity. When we look at the subsequent histories of all the lands where Christians have settled and multiplied, or wherever their beliefs, practices, and religion have significantly influenced the way of life of the native people, what we find is that, in every single case, the former balance with Nature in which the native people lived has been disrupted, and in many cases very seriously violated. The frequency of these events leads one to suspect that they were not at all accidental. As controversial and polemical as it will be, we need to ask the following question: Of all the major world religions, why has Christianity been so highly destructive of Nature and the natural environment? For until now, the question of Christianity’s harmful effects has been considered only or primarily from a narrow human perspective, so that only its harmful effects on human beings have been considered.
To give an example, at the time they occurred, I do not believe there were any other humans besides Christians who would have been capable of killing passenger pigeons and the buffalo that roamed the plains of North America in such vast quantities, so that both of them became extinct. Moreover, these Christians did not kill these animals with the intention of eating them, but for other, less justifiable reasons. These were by no means isolated examples of the callous disregard with which Christians have treated all non-human forms of life. For the general Christian attitude is that the natural world, both living and non-living, exists solely for us humans to use, exploit, consume, transform, and manipulate for our very narrow advantage.
Since, according to Christian teaching, God took on a human form – and not the form of a monkey, whale, eagle, dolphin, shark, tiger, lion, bear, ostrich, bird, insect, fish, reptile, tree, or plant, as is recounted in some native tales and religions – it logically follows that we humans are therefore specially favoured among all of God’s creatures, since God sent His Son into the world to save humans – but not any other creatures – from the flames of eternal damnation. From these facts, it is clear that Christianity, in contrast to many other religions, is a profoundly human-centric religion.
Just as the geocentric view of the Universe mistakenly placed the Earth at the centre of the Universe, Christianity has mistakenly placed humans at the centre, or rather at the summit, of God’s Creation. Given this fundamental belief, it is not at all surprising, then, that the fervent believers in Jesus’ divinity should have caused such great natural destruction wherever they have settled and multiplied, for they have been taught from a very young age to regard themselves as being set apart from, and superior to, the rest of God’s Creation. This sentiment is explicitly expressed in the often-quoted Biblical passage in the book of Genesis which declares, “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
Even the desire to save every human being is primarily a Christian desire and practice. Whereas before, most people around the world regarded death as an integral and unavoidable part of life, and therefore not something to be feared, Christians regarded death and killing, at least of other human beings, as evil, and therefore things to be avoided and prevented by all possible means. This has also upset the natural balance that formerly existed in most parts of the world, by greatly increasing the human population, in many cases to the point where human overpopulation has caused considerable environmental degradation, while it poses a serious threat to the continued existence of many other species. In one society after another, Christians have sought to eradicate traditional practices, including warfare, ritual murder, suicide, human sacrifice, infanticide, such as by abandoning unwanted or deformed babies, the starvation of the elderly, and so forth, all of which had the beneficial effect – at least when viewed from the holistic perspective – of keeping the human population within sustainable limits. And then to preach, as many Christians do, that the use of any form of birth control is wrong, is clearly not only a foolish but an immoral teaching, since these constantly increasing human numbers will have the inevitable effect of diminishing the non-human part of God’s Creation, in many cases to the point of extinction.
Thus, considered from the holistic perspective, wherein humans are merely one of a vast number of different parts of the interconnected Web of Life, the primary Christian sin is the belief that Jesus was divine, which fundamental belief gave rise to the belief that all human beings also partake of God’s divine nature, and therefore it is wrong to kill any human being, or use measures to prevent human life from being conceived and born. But by thus favouring and elevating all human creatures over all the many other of God’s great and glorious creatures, we humans have committed the Deadly Sin of Pride, which pride will lead to our downfall, and ultimately to our destruction, if we do not speedily recognize and correct it.
 In the case of the buffalo, the white settlers sought to destroy them because, as some of them correctly understood, the natives who lived in these areas depended vitally on this animal for their survival. Coveting their lands, the white people therefore sought to destroy the natives’ society and their traditional way of life, while making them dependent on, and thus subservient to, the white man.