This must be an example of the intellectual rigor of Joseph Ratzinger. The Pope has claimed that atheism is responsible for the destruction of the environment. Now all we have to do is figure out how to implement his brilliant solution to the environmental crisis.
What I wrote is, of course, not actually an argument that the Pope is wrong. I will respond to that now. For full context, here are the Pope’s (translated) remarks.
The earth is a precious gift of the Creator, who has designed its intrinsic order, thus giving us guidelines to which we must hold ourselves as stewards of his creation. From this awareness, the Church considers questions linked to the environment and its safeguarding as profoundly linked with the topic of integral human development. I referred to these questions several times in my last encyclical “Caritas in Veritate,” reminding of the pressing moral need for renewed solidarity” (49) not only in relations between countries, but also between individuals, as the natural environment is given by God to everyone, and its use entails a personal responsibility towards the whole of humanity, in particular, towards the poor and future generations (Cf. 48).
I actually agree with a few of these sentences. Environmental questions are profoundly linked to human progress, and responsibility at a personal, national and international level will be required. And it’s very true that the poor (people and nations) will be impacted the most by environmental change. But he seems to be saying that the only good reason to take care of the natural world is because it belongs to God, who be very upset if we break it. There are much better, less culturally relative motivations for this.
Is it not true that inconsiderate use of creation begins where God is marginalized or also where is[sic] existence is denied? If the human creature’s relationship with the Creator weakens, matter is reduced to egoistic possession, man becomes the “final authority,” and the objective of existence is reduced to a feverish race to possess the most possible.
I honestly don’t know where to begin with this one. No, that is not true. Just look at the environmental debate in the United States. The “Drill Baby Drill” mantra is coming from people who could hardly be described as having marginalized their religion, for the simple fact that they don’t think we will be having future generations to protect! Jesus could come back any day you know. Why plan ahead? And yes, this tends not to include (many) American Catholics, but that’s exactly why I said these remarks are culturally relative.
Let’s look at the other end. According to Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index, these are the world’s top ten sustainable countries. Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Costa Rica, Austria, New Zealand, Latvia, Colombia, and France. It follows that these are clearly the most religious countries in the world.
It’s really this simple: there are large numbers of people who think a) the Earth and in fact all creation was designed just for them, b) God will always be there for us and would never let our Earth become unlivable, that optionally, c) Jesus could come back and bring about the Rapture any day now, and most of all, d) that believing something regardless of, or contrary to, the evidence makes you a good person. The consequences are predictable. The Earth is an endless resource, global warming is a myth, it was all put here just for us, and we’ll all be divided into the Saved and the Damned within the next few decades so it really doesn’t matter how hard we screw this planet up. This is what happens when you take Christianity to its logical conclusion, and since being environmentally responsible takes real effort, it’s not difficult to take the idea this far.
Together we can build an integral human development beneficial to present and future peoples, a development inspired by the values of charity in truth. For this to happen it is indispensable that the present model of global development be transformed through a greater and shared responsibility for creation: This is demanded not only by environmental emergencies, but also by the scandal of hunger and poverty.
These remarks make the pontiff a hypocrite. I am glad the Pope considers hunger and poverty to be a scandal, and acknowledges the environmental importance of addressing them. Of course, overpopulation is one of the biggest causes of hunger and poverty, as well as unsustainably large population growth. But what is the Pope’s position on how to slow down population growth? Well, here’s what he said about condoms while in Africa several months ago:
Speaking to reporters on his way to Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde, the Pope said HIV/Aids was “a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which can even increase the problem”.
The solution lies in a “spiritual and human awakening” and “friendship for those who suffer”, the AFP news agency quotes him as saying.
Condom use is associated with reduction of 80% in the transmission of AIDS. In no way does it increase the risk. If the Pope is willing to spread such disinformation about using condoms to prevent exposure to AIDS, you can probably guess his position on using condoms to reduce population growth.
All in all, the Pope’s remarks are wrong and useless. He fails to understand the true nature of the problem, does not address the actual underlying causes, offers no concrete solutions whatsoever, and approaches the whole discussion from a position of dogma and not science. He doesn’t even say “try to bike to work more often.” This is all from a guy who thinks that secularism will lead to a conquest of nature, but believes in the book that says this:
Genesis 1:26 (KJV)
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.