Friday, February 12, 2010

Christianity and the End of the Human Race

Dinesh D'Souza asked John Loftus in their recent debate something to the effect of "Why bother debunking a being that from your perspective is mythical? You don't see me spending so much energy trying to disprove the existence of unicorns."

Here's one reason. Christian belief could contribute to the end of the human experiment. I know that sounds extreme, but consider.

Assuming you are not a Christian, what things do you think are most likely to lead to the extinction of humanity? Well, one would probably be what Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell raised in their Russell-Einstein Manifesto. They wrote:

Here, then, is the problem which we present to you, stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?

Obviously mankind has not renounced war. This threat remains and it is substantial.

Another way is environmental catastrophe. Drastic environmental changes are frequently the cause of the major extinction events throughout the history of life on this planet. During the last half a billion years there have been 5 extinction events that have caused over half of the animal population to die. The consensus of climate experts is that humans are causing changes in our climate that could lead to catastrophic results. See here for a brief primer and go here for the IPCC reporting. It's not a guarantee, but it is a risk.

So what can be done to reduce the risks? On the nuclear front I think it would be great if the worlds leading power stopped threatening and attacking various countries. This can lead to further nuclear proliferation amongst fundamentalist extremist Muslim nations, as I discussed here. On the climate front we probably need to reduce our carbon emissions.

Here's the scary thing. Evangelical Christians don't care. I know because I was one. I didn't care. I also talk to evangelicals today. Most people I know are evangelicals. They don't care. Want to know why? Jesus is coming again. Why should I reduce carbon emissions? Why should I be concerned about nuclear proliferation? Is Jesus going to let that happen?

The fact is this is a rational position from their perspective. Evangelicals are a disproportionately high segment of global warming deniers (see my earlier discussion here). They are also a disproportionately high segment of war advocates against extremist Muslim nations. They are doing things that increase the likelihood of nuclear proliferation and global warming and so they are doing things that increase the likelihood of the extinction of humanity.

Since deconverting I've realized some things. There's no God that's going to clean up our messes. We destroy our environment and we are on our own. We will face the consequences. No magic man will wave his wand and make it all better. God is not protecting us from enraged Muslims smuggling nuclear weapons into our country. If we don't take responsibility and do what is necessary to reduce these risks then we could destroy ourselves. It took deconversion for me to realize this.


HispanicPundit said...

I dont think the connection is as strong as you make it. They are first and foremost social conservatives and they will follow the party to wherever that leads them. So when Republicans are against Democrat wars, Christians will be too.

Besides, most of the top neocons are Jewish by tradition. Though most are atheist in their current outlook.

Nick Gretener said...

War (aggression), environmental degradation...mankind is exerting dominance on the planet in an unhealthy manner. For tips on getting back to balance, see:

Anonymous said...

"Christian belief could contribute to the end of the human experiment."

If we are part of an experiment, doesn't that imply humanity is more than a cosmic accident due to blind chance? Are you joining the ID camp now?

You know Christianity teaches an ethic of love for the other and stewardship over God's creation, so trying to paint Christianity as a risk to the human race is a leap of nonsense. Radical love as taught by Jesus is the only hope for humanity.

DagoodS said...

I understand what Jon is saying, and would agree I see a similar attitude amongst the Christians I associated with. Not all Christians…but a large segment. Not a drive for war to invoke the Second Coming; but a lack of urgency in preventing it.

For a poor analogy, imagine two people working to live. One knows whatever she brings in; she must live upon for food, rent, etc. This results in focusing on budgets and incomes. The other equally intends to live within their means; but knows if they ever get into trouble—real financial trouble—they have access to Oprah Winfrey’s banking account to pay for their needs.

Both people can strive and work to stay within their budget; but the person who knows they have an “out” with Oprah money will have less urgency.

If a Christian believes there is a God who made the universe, and sustains this earth, and that God has a personal interest in fulfilling a plan, I do not see how they could approach concerns with the same gravity as those who do not.

If you do, I question what need for a God-explanation, if it is human-determine results?

Jon said...

Elenburg, yeah don't take "human experiment" to mean intelligence created us. But the key here is that there is a strain of Christianity, and I would not call it fringe, that just isn't concerned about the threats of nuclear proliferation or global warming. Actually I can say it was a bit of a comfort to me to grow up in that kind of a tradition. The Cold War 80's didn't cause me fear because I knew that God was on our side. That's what I'm talking about. So for our country to do provocative things or environmental degradation was not a concern.

That's not true of all Christians of course. Many Christians fight U.S. military provocation and environmental damage and I will give them credit. But I believe evangelical deconversion will swell the ranks of people fighting environmental catastrophe and militarism. It did in my case.

Anonymous said...

Like many atheists, you appear to be grouping Christians with radical Muslims to make Christians look worse. It's simply untrue. Their religious document calls for making war; ours calls for making peace.

Nobody needs to deconvert to behave responsibly as a steward of the environment or to advocate peace. Just because *you* didn't care about the environment or were a war hawk when you professed to be a believer doesn't mean all Christians are misguided on those fronts.

The fact is the worst polluters in the world were (and continue to be, even after the fall of the iron curtain) atheistic regimes.

Another fact, the previous three wars we were involved in were started by atheists, not evangelicals.

One of my atheist friends gave me a copy of Hitchen's "god is not Great: how religion poisons everything". I read it. It was one of the worst argued screeds I've ever read, and sadly you seem to be borrowing plays from his play book. The facts are clear that Christianity, and evangelicals in particular, do a disproportionate amount of good compared to other people groups. Trying to lump all religion together is disengnuous if not outright dishonest.

> There's no God that's going to clean up our messes.

I agree, God is not going to do that, but it is irrelevant to the
supposition that there is no God.

ufactor said...

As one in the evangelical camp myself, yet skeptical of those who deny global warming, I agree that as you say, a disproportional number of evangelical Christians are skeptical of global warming, a fact that has always intrigued me. However, what you failed to mention is that the global warming issue cuts both ways. Framing the question in the context of proportion, a disproportional number of non-evangelicals attribute unproven phenomena to global warning, and see global warming as a simple and straight forward scientific fact.

When you consider that John Christy, a former lead author on the IPCC was recently quoted as saying "The temperature records cannot be relied on as indicators of global change" it seems clear that the issue is not simply a case of blind faith vs. hard sciences.

Just consider what most people firmly entrenched in the global warming camp are going to think when they read of John Christy's objection. Clearly he must have some ulterior motive, perhaps he's disgruntled. Most people are going to instantly assume he's biased and look for the real reason he has joined the dark side of the global warming deniers.

How many people do you suppose, will first think "perhaps he has some data relevant to the scientific discussion that needs to be examined" instead of first bringing their own bias into evaluating his claims?

Anonymous said...

"Why bother debunking a being that from your perspective is mythical? You don't see me spending so much energy trying to disprove the existence of unicorns."

What an idiot. let me change it around a bit.

Why bother arguing for a being that from his perspective exists. You don't see me spending much energy trying to prove Dinesh exists.

"Another fact, the previous three wars we were involved in were started by atheists, not evangelicals."

You may want to restate this non-sense

"The facts are clear that Christianity, and evangelicals in particular, do a disproportionate amount of good compared to other people groups. Trying to lump all religion together is disengnuous if not outright dishonest."

Define good. If by good you mean active pursuit of denying a segment of the population the same right you enjoy, then yes I agree. if by good you mean doing incredible harm by trying to force abstinence only sex education, than I agree with you.

Shall I go on?

Anonymous said...

Ufactor wrote:
> a disproportional number
> of evangelical Christians
> are skeptical of global warming

Perhaps you mean *anthropogenic* global warming (AGW)? The evidence is clear the planet goes through warming and cooling periods, and since the little ice age ~500 years ago things have been warming. Only uninformed dolts deny that fact.

What nobody can prove is a causal effect from *human* activity, usually attributed to the burning of fossil fuels adding to the greenhouse effect w/ CO2.

I'm skeptical of AGW b/c the data is not clearly showing causal effects from *human* activity.

Jon said...

Elenburg, I am not contrasting Islam with Christianity. I'm contrasting unbelief with Christianity. I'm certainly not advocating converting Christians to Muslims.

You say just because I was a hawk that doesn't mean all Christians are. That's what I just said in the post you replied to.

The worst polluters are atheists? Take a look per capita. Muslim nations are the worst, with the United States the first non-Muslim country. China's output is about the same as ours but they have 4 times the population.

The last three wars were started by atheists you say. Let's see, there's Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Bosnia, Kuwait and Iraq, Panama, Nicaragua, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam (skipping some of the smaller ones). All initiated by the Christian United States. I really don't know what you're thinking on this one. Unless you're saying that Bush, Clinton, Reagan, Nixon, and Kennedy were atheists.

I couldn't comment on Hitchens book because I haven't read it. It might be poorly argued as you say. I agree that the supposition that there is no God to clean up our messes is not a disproof of the existence of God. It's not intended to be.

Jon said...

ufactor, I'm not so much arguing that global warming is true and man made and Christians deny it. My point is more that if it is true logically an evangelical Christian (not all Christians, elenburg) wouldn't be concerned. So if we are in fact headed towards disaster SOME Christians aren't inclined to do anything about it, and in fact will deny it for now because it's inconvenient in the short run.

ufactor said...

I think you're grouping two separate issues in the typical Evangelical mind. The first is the notion that God's sovereignty will prevent a catastrophic collapse. I think it is a fair statement to say that many evangelicals are less worried about catastrophe than other segments of society.

However, there's a difference between seeing an oncoming train and believing it won't crash into you, and believing there is no train to begin with. Evangelicals don't believe the global warming train is coming to begin with, and that's an important distinction.

You could assert the reason they are unable to perceive an actual threat because of their belief in God's protection precludes this, but I don't think this is a satisfactory answer. I think it's a general skepticism of the mainstream media coupled with the fact that most Christians (and non-Christians) don't look into issues for themselves, but simply adopt what their social group believes.