Religion at its best helps humans to form loving, supportive communities, and helps each person to connect to something larger than himself. Religion at its worst separates groups into the “us” that have the Truth, and the “them” that live in ignorance, and deserve judgement.
Religion at its best is complementary to science. At its worst, it is stupidly contradictory. It is disheartening that the leadership of the Republican Party in the United States is currently dominated by arrogant, anti-intellectual, religious bigots. The Conservative Party in Canada is also burdened by similar types. David Suzuki laments here. Some quotes from the article follow.
Rick Santorum just seems out of touch on every issue, from rights for women and gays to the environment. He’s referred to climate change as a “hoax” and once said, “We were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the Earth, to use it wisely and steward it wisely, but for our benefit not for the Earth’s benefit.”
This amounts to saying that playing with fire is for my fun, not for my house’s fun, and ignoring the fact that if I accidentally burn my house down I will suffer the consequences.
Some of these people put their misguided beliefs above rational thought. Republican senator James Inhofe, one of the more vocal and active climate change deniers in U.S. politics, recently said, “God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”
What is arrogant is the belief that God will save us no matter what we do. Jumping off a cliff in the belief that God will save you is irresponsible, and so is continuing to destroy our environment without a second thought, expecting that God will protect us from the consequences.
That statement is in keeping with the Cornwall Alliance’s Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming, which has been signed by a range of religious leaders, media people, and even some who work in climate science, such as Roy Spencer, David Legates, and Ross McKitrick.
It says, in part, “We believe Earth and its ecosystems — created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence — are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception.” It also states that reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide and fossil fuel use will “greatly increase the price of energy and harm economies.”
I certainly agree with part of this statement. I do believe that earth’s ecosystem is robust enough and resilient enough that it will survive no matter what we do. What is at issue is whether human society will survive in its present form, or whether we will be relegated to a few bands of hunter-gatherers again. Contemplate for a moment the magnitude of human suffering that would accompany a collapse of human population and the state of the economy will plunge down the priority list.
And then there was this claim from Arizona Senator Sylvia Allen: “This Earth’s … been here 6,000 years, long before anybody had environmental laws, and somehow it hasn’t been done away with. …”
We all wake up every morning, year after year, until one day we don’t. And that’s the way human society is headed if we don’t get our act together soon. And understanding a bit about science is essential to getting our act together, which underlies how important education, particularly science education, is for our collective survival.