Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Corona, Climate, Religion: The Desire for Sacrifice


From the very start of the pandemic, corona and climate change have always been mentioned in the same breath. Indeed, the parallels are unmistakable. In both cases it is a matter of invisible threats from natural phenomena. In both cases, the discussion is shaped by scientists with data and modelings that are difficult to follow, as they demonstrate the need to limit personal freedoms. In both cases, large parts of the population submit to these prohibitions and limitations on freedom. In both cases, we have seen radical movements emerge, like Fridays for Future, Extinction Rebellion, and Zero-Covid, that demand even more extreme measures, reminiscent of charismatic conversion cults and chiliastic sects. In both cases, “deniers” and “skeptics” are denounced as dangers who stand in the way of preventing a catastrophe. After the COVID lockdown, a climate lockdown will take place, with the one transitioning into the other seamlessly.

Niklas Luhmann distinguished between system and environment. The social system “society” only includes what is communicated inside the social system. “Climate” and “corona” are in themselves not part of society, but the communication about them certainly is. The manner in which they are discussed tells us as much about the society that addresses them as do the communications concerning natural phenomena. The communication about climate and corona displays religious elements. In the climate and corona politics we find four classical figures from the history of religion:


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