Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ridiculous Article: "Might Our Religion Be Killing Us?"

From the USA Today's Opinions section: "Might Our Religion Be Killing Us?" For those that don't feel like reading, I'll attempt to give you an objective summary. I got this from Al Mohler's blog. (While I am not Baptist like Al, I do agree with much of his social commentary.)

Oliver "Buzz" Thomas writes about how religions that promote large families could be hastening the destruction of the planet. He says that for each additional person, the planet Earth (and by extension, us) pays a big price. "There are simply too many people for the planet to sustain," he says. End objective summary.

I'm not quite sure I have much useful to say about this article, but I did want to post some of my favorite portions of it. Perhaps you will have something useful to say.

We could be the ones who get blamed for destroying [civilization].

Here's why. The hundreds of scientists who make up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned recently that the environmental crisis is more dire than originally believed. We might have reached a tipping point. Even if we stop producing harmful greenhouse gases immediately, temperatures could continue to rise and ocean levels along with them for the next 1,000 years. How much? The IPPC [sic] says by as much as 11 degrees this century with a corresponding rise in ocean levels of nearly 2 feet.

Wait, hold on a second. So if we were to somehow completely stop all emissions of greenhouse gases, temperatures and ocean levels would still rise? I must be missing something here...doesn't that mean that the planet is going to do what it's going to do, and we can't do much to stop it?

For each additional human, planet Earth (and the rest of us) pays a price. The world knows where this is all headed. In fact, we even devote an entire day — Earth Day, which we'll mark Tuesday — to promote awareness.
(bold and underline emphasis mine, italics were included in the original article)

Is he being sarcastic? Perhaps this is faulty reasoning on my part, but if he were really that concerned, shouldn't he think we should devote more than a day? He speaks of a day as if it's a long period of time. It's a long period of time for a mayfly.

I recognize that religious organizations tend to be conservative institutions. Their continued resistance to equal rights for women and gays is a good example. A woman may be president of Harvard or speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, but in the largest religious organization on the planet, women still can't get ordained as parish priests. It's even worse for gays and lesbians.

All this is to say that religion often comes late to the party — sometimes kicking and screaming, as did most Southern churches on slavery and civil rights. Only this time, we can't afford it. Not when the fate of the planet might hang in the balance.

Sometimes it is good that religion comes late to the party. In fact, sometimes religion should not attend the party at all, depending on what it's about and who's putting it on. Of course the church was wrong to turn a blind eye to (or condone) slavery and segregation. But the church should not seek to be a replica of society, only replete with crosses and Bibles. Women should not be denied the opportunity to be in high positions in secular society. However, I am talking about Christian churches. The Bible does not condone a woman to have authority over a man. It does not mean unequal rights; it means complementary roles. A woman is to submit to her husband, and a husband is to sacrifice for his wife. I'm sorry if you don't like it, but that is what the Bible says.

This last quote says to me that Thomas does not really see himself as an alien and stranger in this world. He wishes for religious people to conform themselves to the "tolerant" and "diverse" society which we are a part. But, as Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

Here's the thing. We need visionary religious and political leaders to start thinking about these problems if we are to have any chance of solving them. Not decades from now, when coastal cities could be flooding and Southern states struggling to secure enough fresh water.

There's little doubt that the human species has the ability to survive what lies ahead. There is considerable doubt, however, as to whether we have the ability to rise above our personal and tribal interests to earnestly seek the common good.

So why did he write this column then? If temperatures and ocean levels are going to go up even without man's help (first quote), and if we are going to survive anyways (last quote), why spend so much time wringing his hands about the impending end of civilization? Just to feel like he's doing something?

Perhaps I have missed the point of the article? Read it yourself if you have spare moments; there's more good stuff that I didn't quote here. Perhaps he's just saying we need to live considerately of our global neighbors? What do you think? Have I missed the point? Or has he missed the proverbial boat?

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  • Laura

    "Even if we stop producing harmful greenhouse gases immediately, temperatures could continue to rise and ocean levels along with them for the next 1,000 years."

    From what I understand of all of this, that estimate is based on the greenhouse gases we have already emitted. The point seems to be that we've already done X amount of irreversible damage, and whatever we do from now on may be irreversible as well.

    That being said, I really, really don't see what allowing women and homosexuals in the ministry has to do with conservation. Maybe Thomas feels strongly about those issues as well, but they really have nothing to do with his point about family size or environmentalism. If we're going to be stereotyping, I'd have to say that the families I know with more children actually use fewer resources per child than smaller families.

    Moreover, the U.S. birth rate is still less than the replacement rate and climbing only slightly (meaning our population would be shrinking if not for immigration). China has one of the lowest birth rates in the world. And yet the U.S. and China are some of the worst polluters of the environment. It seems obvious to me (anyone else?)that something besides family size is the real problem here.

  • Ewokgirl

    I'll never understand that argument that large families hurt the planet. In my experience, large families have fewer monetary resources due to feeding/clothing/transporting/housing so many people. Smaller families tend to be the big consumers. IMO, gluttonous consumption is our planet's biggest environmental problem right now. Maybe if we weren't so obsessed with making cheap stuff, buying that stuff inexpensively, then throwing it away, we'd find our planet in nicer shape.

    But blaming problems on large families just sounds like scapegoating. Gotta blame someone.

    I really fail to see what women's and gay rights have to do with the health of our planet, unless he's trying to say that fewer children will be produced if there are more gay couples and women working. It's a rather weak argument.