Should religions be allowed to threaten humanity?
Throughout recorded history religions of all kinds have given comfort, sometimes protection and even meaning to life. They have undeniably helped change the course of history, albeit often by default, and they have also brought much sorrow. During their centuries of development they birthed precepts framed to ensure the survival of the species, like the Jewish command to go forth and multiply and both Christian and Jewish rules against sodomy because it hindered the procreation principle and thus, unsurprisingly, was proscribed by the Old Testament and the new, not for godly reasons but social reasons, which clearly no longer apply today. But are the religions today not guilty of perpetuating precepts that were framed centuries ago that in the light of developments over that time threaten all humanity because the global equilibrium between man and Nature has changed dramatically, perhaps even to a point of bringing us to a crossroad?
We all know, for example, that Nature in the cosmic sense is utterly indifferent to man’s proposes, and that the risks, part Nature, part human, have grown to threaten our arrogant composure. Population growth is one of those paradigm shifts that now cause growing pressures on scarce water resources, for example, that have already led to tensions in south-east Asia and the sub Continent, which may spill over into war. But what role in all this do we see religions playing?
Latest figures suggest that the cry from over 200 million women worldwide goes out for easy access to artificial birth control measures, and to their credit the Gates Foundation has pledged about $240 million in grants to help achieve this. The sorrow of girls in their early teens forced into marriage and early child birth is unimaginable, often leading to death in childbirth and lost economic opportunities because the females have been denied the opportunity to develop their full potential. Surely, any opposition to artificial birth control, which comes mainly from Christian and Islamic forces, is one of the main ingredients threatening a man-Nature-driven dystopian future.
We must be careful not to fall into the doom-laden Malthusian trap about population growth problems and must remember that in climate science nothing is simple or certain but the sums are starkly harrowing. According to a most credentialed group of climate scientists: “No plausible programme on emission reductions alone can prevent climate disaster.” Just how disastrous can be shown from geological history. The most notorious climate calamity was 252 million years ago, when carbon warmed the planet by 5 deg C, which accelerated when that warming triggered the release of methane in the Arctic and ended with 97% extinction of all life forms.
A 5 deg C warmer planet would cause at least half as many more wars as we have today and scientists say that for every half degree rise in temperatures societies will see between a 10% and 20% rise in the likelihood of war. To meet the Paris goals by 2050, carbon emissions from energy and industry must fall by half each decade and emissions from land use, including flatulent cows and horses, will have to approach zero. Humanity must surely change its ways to become more responsible over its environment and that must surely include those religious forces whose current, obstructive stance is irresponsible.