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NOW: God and Global Warming

For those of you following the story of how members of the evangelical movement have been working to preserve the environment, our colleagues at NOW have recently featured a story entitled, "God and Global Warming," viewable in full on the NOW Web site. Here is the episode listing:

"In August, NOW traveled with an unlikely alliance of Evangelical Christians and leading scientists to witness the breathtaking effects of global warming on Alaska's rapidly changing environment. Though many in the evangelical community feel recognition of global warming is in opposition to their mission, the week-long trip inspired new thinking on the relationship between science and religion, and on our moral responsibility to protect the planet. Travel with NOW and the expeditionary group on a breathtaking and surprising journey to find common ground between earth and sky."

The story features Reverend Richard Cizik, Vice President for Governmental Affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals, who was also profiled in "Is God Green?" a MOYERS ON AMERICA special which aired last year.


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One must remember that up to a point, especially Genesis, everything written is hearsay. However, Man is supposed to be the one with the brain as opposed to all other creatures on earth, thus the ability to control and use the fruits of the earth to the benefit of all. Not exploit or destroy them. Many years ago it was called common sense! Globel warming is in all probability a natural occuring cycle of earth, we, with increased population and useless, uncaring, exploitation of earths resources are speeding the process up. We should have started paying attention 17 yrs. ago when scientists first started to acquire the knowledge of this happening.

Religious conservatives in the United States view resource extraction as an inalienable right. Our natural resources are under growing threat from a torrent of new laws that encourage mining on federal land, weaken protection for species, habitat and wetlands, accelerate deforestation, and promote drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, one of earth’s few remaining pristine areas.

For millennia, peoples of nearly all cultures have been taught that humans are special in the eyes of their god or gods, and that the world is made for their benefit and use. This is made clear in Genesis 1:1, which states:

God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

To further prove our superiority, and denigrate all other living things, God goes on to say:

Of all visible creatures only man is "able to know and love his creator." He is "the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake," and he alone is called to share, by knowledge and love, in God's own life. It was for this end that he was created, and this is the fundamental reason for his dignity. (Catechism of the Catholic Church #356)

The bible is extremely clear on the point that the Earth’s resources were put here for our benefit, for us to exploit, for us to use as we wish.

Then there is the Biblical admonition to increase in number to fill the earth. When written, in times when death rates were high, the population small and resources abundant, this mandate was easily justified. With over 6 billion people now calling earth home, the divine mandate to multiply might now be viewed in a different light from when promulgated 2000 years ago. Yet the Church remains unyielding. The official Church position was reaffirmed in 1995 by Pope John Paul II, who condemned all artificial contraception as a “conspiracy against life.” To their credit, 80% of Catholic couples in their reproductive years ignore the Pope on this issue; sex provides a powerful incentive to discount the ramblings of a celibate old man. But the Church’s position has real and tragic consequences, even if the laity rebel.

In Latin America and Africa, Bishops officially object to the use of condoms, instead recommending abstinence to prevent AIDS. The Bishops steadfastly hold this view even in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 26 million people are infected with AIDS, and more than 3 million more new infections occur each year. In Zambia, nearly 20% of the adult population is infected. Still, the Bishops loyally follow the Pope’s mandate.

But a rapidly-spreading AIDS epidemic is certainly not the only consequence of religious morality imposed on the question of family planning. Unwanted pregnancies in poor countries condemn women to an unrelenting cycle of poverty. Only when women gain control over their reproductive destiny and have access to education can the cycle be broken. But the Church, with a concerted campaign against condom distribution, actively seeks to prevent women from gaining such control. This policy contributes directly to the suffering of millions of people relegated to hunger, disease and illiteracy. The war against contraception, without concern for short-term suffering and the long-term consequences for human survival, is another sign that religious morality is deeply and tragically flawed.

This explicit religious mandate to exploit natural resources remains clear and unambiguous, in spite of recent efforts to harmonize religion and environmental sciences by numerous academic and international organizations, including The Forum on Religion and Ecology, the largest international multi-religious project of its kind, and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, founded in 1936 by the Vatican to promote scientific progress compatible with the Church’s teachings.

The argument used by those seeking reconciliation between religion and environmental protection point to the integrity of all creation, or reverence for all things created by god, insisting that religion and concern for the environment are not only compatible, but have been so all along. Those are welcomed sentiments. In fact, as is frequently the case, the Bible contains contradictory passages about the natural world, reasonably allowing for such an interpretation. Old passages can also simply be reinterpreted to fit the facts or to be compatible with newly adopted ideas. Pope John Paul XXIII said in 1961:

Genesis relates how God gave two commandments to our first parents: to transmit human life—‘Increase and multiply’—and to bring nature into their service—‘Fill the Earth, and subdue it.’ These two commandments are complementary. Nothing is said in the second of these commandments about destroying nature. On the contrary, it must be brought into the services of human life.

But the harsh facts of human history belie this benign revisionist interpretation of the meaning of “subdue,” and the preponderance of unambiguous passages in the Bible giving mankind dominion over nature’s bounty argue against any idea that religion is environmentalism in disguise.


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