Year 4, Month 5, Day 15: Shut Up He Explained

This study is red-hot, and most newspapers aren’t going to touch it. But the Central Michigan Morning Sun’s Eric Baerren takes it on. Good for him:

Will Christianity destroy humanity? Is it making the End Times a self-fulfilling prophesy?

That’s only a half-fair assessment. To be truthful, religious beliefs don’t shape people’s general attitudes. They only reflect them. People who are prone to hating homosexuals, for instance, are prone to find reason in their religious tomes for doing it.

A study a few years back found that 76 percent of Republican voters believe that the end of times will come soon, kicking off one final epic conflict between God and the Antichrist. After God wins, he’ll clean up the planet and all of God’s believers get to spend eternity in paradise. Growing up, I attended a church attended by people who believe this. It was also in a part of the state notable for using religion as an excuse to rave on about the Apocalypse. And, let’s be clear about what this means: About 35 percent of the electorate is reliably Republican. If the poll is accurate, that means that the percentage of the American electorate who believes that the Biblical end is near is about 25 percent.

People who believe in the End Times are also statistically more prone to opposing things intended to curb climate change, which is the point of this. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Conservatism is underpinned by a fear of change, and doing things to mitigate climate change means changing the way we do things. If you fear change, then you don’t want to do that, so naturally you find excuses not to like denying climate change or pretending that it’s all part of God’s plan.

Damn hard to get all this into 175 words. May 3:

While it’s true that religious beliefs don’t necessarily direct individual attitudes, it is indisputable that they can profoundly shape a society. Western civilization has been steeped for centuries in Christian theology; regardless of whether particular men and women believe in a Biblical apocalypse, there is no doubt that New Testament conceptions of time, progress and eschatology have steered our nominally secular society towards a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In every aspect of our culture — symphonies, movies, fairy tales — we observe “ways of ending” similar to those in the Book of Revelations: a dramatic final conflict, and a happy resolution. Study of other cultures shows that these models of closure are by no means universal.

End-times Christian opposition to significant action on climate change is only the visible face of a broader societal inability to imagine any other way to end our collective story. Believers see themselves living happily ever after; climate scientists, however, are much less sanguine about the coming centuries of life on Earth if we fail to address the unsettling facts of a runaway greenhouse effect.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 2, Day 22: The Fire This Time

USA Today links the sensitive fee-fees of the god-botherers to the environmental crisis in a touching piece entitled, “God and Climate Change.”

Today, new prophets tell us that our modern sins will lead to rising seas, stronger hurricanes and longer droughts. If we don’t reform our sinful ways, global catastrophe on a biblical scale looms. Billy Graham could hardly have said it better.

Hearing God’s call

In traditional Christian theology, there are two direct ways to access the thinking of God: the “Book of the Bible” and the “Book of Nature.”

Until Charles Darwin, Christians believed that the earth was not much changed from its creation about 6,000 years ago, meaning the design of the natural world offered a glimpse into the mind of God. John Calvin would thus write that God “daily discloses himself in the whole workmanship of the universe.” The plant and animal kingdoms are “burning lamps” that “shine for us … the glory of its author.” To eliminate a species or damage the earth is to limit our knowledge of God.

In some ways, environmentalism should be seen as a secularized version of Calvinism, minus God. Obama has brought God back into the environmental conversation, even if his theological knowledge is incomplete.

Go ahead. Tell me I’m angry. Tell me something I don’t know. February 14:

To the extent that their creeds encourage them to act in the interests of our collective survival, religious believers are important participants in the struggle against devastating climate change. But the sword of faith cuts both ways; the fact is that most major world religions deny the reality and finality of the world, viewing it instead as an illusory prelude to a hypothetical afterlife. Whether in the extreme form of those eagerly anticipating the fiery Armageddon described in Revelations, or in the less apocalyptic thinking of religious liberals who simply wish that death wasn’t so, um, deadly, these eschatologies are ultimately incompatible with the idea of long-term sustainability.

Climate change is a global phenomenon unintentionally created by human behavior and detected by human perceptions; it won’t be solved by the prayers of the faithful but by the concerted work of billions of humans seeking to preserve their shared planetary heritage.

Warren Senders

Someone who really should know better…

…sent me this stupid chain email:

An atheist was seated next to a little girl on an airplane and he turned to her and said, “Do you want to talk? Flights go quicker if you strike up a conversation with your fellow passenger.”

The little girl, who had just started to read her book, replied to the total stranger, “What would you want to talk about?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” said the atheist. “How about why there is no God, or no Heaven or Hell, or no life after death?” as he smiled smugly.

“Okay,” she said. “Those could be interesting topics but let me ask you a question first. A horse, a cow, and a deer all eat the same stuff – grass. Yet a deer excretes little pellets, while a cow turns out a flat patty, but a horse produces clumps. Why do you suppose that is?”

The atheist, visibly surprised by the little girl’s intelligence, thinks about it and says, “Hmmm, I have no idea.” To which the little girl replies, “Do you really feel qualified to discuss God, Heaven and Hell, or life after death, when you don’t know shit?”

And then she went back to reading her book.

Ha Ha Ha!!!

Christians 1, Atheists 0.


I sent back the following:

And the atheist said, “I don’t know everything about animal digestion, but we can ask a scientist who does.” Fortunately the person in the seat behind them was a zoologist specializing in digestive processes, who was able to supply them with the needed information.

The little girl then turned to a Priest, a Mullah, a Rabbi and a Pandit who were conveniently seated elsewhere on the plane and asked them about deities, heaven, hell, and life after death. Naturally they could not agree on anything beyond the “irrefutable fact” that everyone else’s views were wrong.

A religious riot broke out on the plane that ended when competing eschatological factions beat one another into bloody pulp, terrorizing the other passengers. All participants were arrested. Unfortunately the little girl was severely injured in the fray and has not yet regained consciousness.

No answer to her concerns was ever provided, although the questions about shit were both answerable and answered.

Year 2, Month 12, Day 30: May He Touch You With His Noodly Appendage

The Mankato Free Press (Mankato, MN) runs a piece about an evangelical Christian with some scientific background who is attempting to win over her flock:

Hallelujah to spreading the word about climate change.

That’s what climatologist, and evangelical Christian, Katharine Hayhoe is doing.

She doesn’t think being a scientist and Christian cancel each other out. She has chosen to be vocal about her trust in scientific data while retaining her beliefs as a Christian. She is married to an evangelical pastor and is the daughter of missionaries.

And she has a lot of guts for putting herself out there to spread the word about how real global warming is. It can’t be easy to be a scientist in the South where in the past few years conservative Christians have been claiming climate change is a hoax.

Her own words give a clear impression of how levelheaded she is: “People ask me if I believe in global warming. I tell them, ‘No, I don’t,’ because belief is faith; faith is the evidence of things not seen. Science is evidence of things seen. To have an open mind, we have to use the brains that God gave us to look at the science.”

Well. Every little bit helps; if she can get this community to wake the hell up, more power to her. Only if our species survives can we gradually wean the majority of humans away from the delusions of religion. The Mankato Free Press has a 275-word limit, so I let myself expand a bit.

Sent December 26:

When fundamentalist Christians deny measurable reality in their rejection of global climate change, they undercut their own credibility. The commonly accepted picture of evangelicals is that they are almost pathologically vehement in their rejection of science and scientific thinking; while a few do believe planetary warming exists, these folks are readier to attribute it to an impending Armageddon rather than the greenhouse effect, an empirically verifiable phenomenon caused by too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Most “true believers” have no problem accepting the evidence of science when it does not pose immediate conflicts with their biblical ideology. They vaccinate their children against polio, ride in airplanes, use the telephone and the internet, share photographs, drink pasteurized milk and in most respects confirm the validity and efficacy of scientific methods. What makes climate change so different?

Simply: the fact that Republican politics relies on oil companies for money — but on fundamentalist Christians for votes. Preparing for the threat of runaway climate change will require a dramatic change in America’s energy economy which will mean reduced profits for Big Oil. These corporate malefactors have responded by heavily funding a great deal of disinformation in our media — and conservative Christians have swallowed it, hook, line and sinker.

Kudos to Katharine Hayhoe for her readiness to spread the word, and her readiness to express the urgency of the crisis from the perspective of her faith.

Warren Senders