The world is horrified by the destruction of the 1st-century Temple of Baalshamin at Palmyra in Syria by Islamic State militants. Their apparent justification is that is pre-dates Islam, and is therefore idolatrous. It is a greater loss to the heritage of the world, and Syria in particular, than the statues in English churches destroyed by iconoclastic Puritans in the English civil war of the 17th century, although the religious motivation of both seems to be comparable. What are we to make of the destruction of the habitat of villages in Zambia, by the Vedanta mining company? This was not a work of art, but it was maintained by the local people to provide for themselves and their families. The destruction was not deliberate, but through casual negligence; it was not done in the name of religion, but in the pursuit of another powerful human motivation – wealth. The services of this religion are called shareholders’ meetings, at which offerings are presented, called profits. As in many religions, a portion of the offerings is accepted by the priests, the directors, but another portion is received by the congregation, the shareholders. The poisoning of the aquifers and rivers of the Chingola region in the pursuit of wealth is not only vandalism, destruction of the habitat tended by local people since time immemorial, but barbarism, since it spreads illness and death. Newspaper reports do not even mention the names of the people responsible; surely the directors should meet the people affected by their activities, and agree how the land can be used for their benefit – even if that means leaving the copper and cobalt in the ground until a method can be found of extracting it without causing harm.
This is only one example; similar spills of oil and other poisonous substances, or damage caused in other ways such as extracting too much water, are happening around the planet. This ‘religion’ is as dangerous as so-called Islamic State, and should be checked before it kills and injures more men, women and children.