Sunday, March 28, 2010

The path to hell is paved with good intentions, part X

There are lots of great people who are Catholics. I'm particularly impressed by the association of 59,000 nuns who work in hospitals and the Catholic hospital association, both of which defied doctrinaire America bishops to support healthcare reform.

But with apologies to such people, I think the church they serve has not served them well.

The Catholic Church has done far worse than put generations of innocent boys in the hands of criminal priests; than order its devotees to disobey American laws; than continually interfere in American elections while hanging on to its tax-exempt status.

The worst sin of this religion--committed with the best of intentions, ironically--is ecocide, caused by the Pope's opposition to all forms of population control (all forms that work, certainly).

Some facts anyone can verify through reputable sources:

1. The world's population has doubled--doubled--since 1966.

2. One billion humans can't get enough to eat and drink daily.

3. 16,000 children die every day from starvation-related causes. That's one every 5 seconds.

4. Mexico's population exploded from 20 million in 1940 to over 100 million in 2000. That's the true source of illegal immigration--not any "job magnet."

5. Haiti's population exploded from 3 million in 1950 to 10 million today (including a flood of Haitian illegals in the Dominican Republic). This has made the country far, far more vulnerable to hurricanes and earthquakes.

Not all of these are entirely the Pope's fault, of course. Islam fosters just as high a birthrate, and, like Catholicism, its huge numbers give its doctrines great leverage.

All institutions that oppose population control do so in the name of life and holy commandments. That's why it's so ironic that the product of this kindness is so much starvation and death.

And they're taking the planet with them. For example, the Haitians have chopped down 98% of their country's trees. Now every rainstorm washes more of Haiti's topsoil into the sea. Haiti's becoming a desert. A desert with 10 million mouths to feed. As goes Haiti today, so goes more countries tomorrow.

Biologists report that the world is experiencing the biggest mass extinction of species of animals and plants since the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago.

That makes the Catholic Church+Islam+all other churches that oppose population control the equivalent in destructiveness to an asteroid hurtling into our atmosphere at 30,000 miles an hour, hitting our planet with the force of thousands of H-bombs--only in slo-mo, taking decades to do what the asteroid did in days.

Catholics and others dismiss accusations like this out of hand. What overpopulation, they say. We just need to move the food around better, they say. They're in denial. We're using our technology mostly to destroy the planet's ability to support us. For example, our fishing fleets are marvels of technology. They work amazingly well until the last fish is gone.

You can't bring back the dodo, the emu, the passenger pigeon. They're gone forever. You can't bring back overpumped wells after the porous aquifer collapses. You can't reverse desertification once the topsoil's gone (Greece did this over 2,000 years ago when it cut down its trees to fuel kilns; it has yet to recover). Our vaunted agricultural technology is poisoning rivers and coastal waters, exhausting the soil, depending on cloned plant species that are more and more vulnerable to different plagues.

Everything looks great to the average American, but the scientific community has been freaking out for decades, while ordinary citizens just say, like Scarlett O'Hara, "Ah'll think about it tomorrow." Or they villify anyone who disturbs their fantasy that we can do as we please, forever, without consequence. But if we don't fix this today, Nature will tomorrow.

You aren't going to like tomorrow.

Of course to the truly religious my indictment is immaterial. For them this life is an eyeblink compared to eternity. So what if their policies trash the planet? What does that matter compared to following God's commandments? This is how a love of eternity can foster indifference to life.

Some religions teach that Man has dominion over the Earth. Others, that we have Stewardship--an enormous responsibility.

The Catholic Church's leadership has opted for dominion. With so many followers, it will make all of us pay for its folly.


Sean said...

From an article I read yesterday, James Lovelock takes the stance that as a race, it's practically hopeless for us fix the problems associated with global warming:

Global warming, loss of topsoil (such as in Haiti) from deforestation, starvation.... these all seem explicitly tied to overpopulation. Indeed, it would seem that we're doomed, but is there really a root cause to this as simple as Catholicism and Islam?

If anything, it's our ability as humans to adapt and evolve very quickly that's dooming us for a collision course with fate. As much as I'd like to blame the Catholic church for over-population, I think human sympathy deserves even more blame. Just as preventing natural forest fires will eventually cause an enormous forest fire to blaze out of control, our efforts for human survival have become so effective that now we fear the great forest fire that will *really* hurt. Much of the worlds population has avoided starvation due to the development of improved agricultural practices developed here in the USA. The discovery of medicines in the last 100 years has meant that billions of people are now here (instead of dead or not even born).

The combination of 24-hour media and 1st world country governments simply will not allow suffering on an enormous scale to go unattended. I think it's because human nature (sympathy) will not let us sit by and watch other people die. And while I disagree with the catholic church on the issue of birth control techniques, I believe that their beliefs are motivated out of sympathy for human life.

With all the other forest-fires being stamped out, the role of catholics & condoms are just another small, stamped out, forest fire.

Ehkzu said... my entry's title states, I credit these religions with good intentions. And those good intentions certainly spring from "human sympathy."

In programming terms (object-oriented programming, to be specific), you could say that the Catholic Church is an instantiation of the class "sympathy."

But it's a perverse instantiation. For example, priestly celibacy sprang from the church leadership's desire to hang onto the church's vast property holdings. Then that morphed into a spiritual principle.

If I were organizing a religion I'd require priests to be married with children. The reasons should be obvious.

My question is--what is the difference between a person or institution that does great harm out of good intentions, and one that does so out of evil ones?

Take a drunk driver who's a sweetheart, really--but who gets accidentally T-bones a schoolbus, killing a dozen children.

Now compare that with a profoundly evil monster who murders a dozen children.

From a punishment viewpoint I suppose the one with the evil intent deserves more punishment.

But from the viewpoint of protecting society, each is equally dangerous, and society needs equally to protect itself from them.

Same goes for the Catholic Church. It doesn't just advocate for its POV (point of view). It relentlessly hectors governments where it has influence, and that influence goes far beyond limitless procreation.

For example, in Latin American countries it has forced 12 year old girls raped by their own fathers to carry the fetus to term. It's hard to see that as other than evil.

Catholic rituals are mostly beautiful, along with the cathedrals and art and a lot of music inspired by Catholic ritual. There's something special about institutions that stretch back so far.

Perhaps the solution is akin to what King Henry VIII did a few centuries ago: break away, preserve the rituals, but update the infrastructure--priestly celibacy, Papal infallibility and more. I attended Episcopal churches as a kid and it seemed to work pretty well without a Pope.

As for whether our survival instincts doom us, given 24X7 news bringing all the world's suffering into our living rooms--it may. I doubt anyone can be sure.

But while human sympathy is one of our most fundamental instincts, human ruthlessness is just as fundamental.

Those twin traits kept the tribe going--sympathy within the tribe, ruthlessness without.

The way the Catholic church has protected its pedophile priests--and its reputation--for centuries is a perfect example of that ruthlessness.

So I can only hope that this ruthlessness might save us and our planet from the destructive results of our sympathies.

Moms Hugs said...

I have really enjoyed reading your thoughtful blog, including comments!

As a "cradle Catholic" I can't agree with you more on the role the church has played in population growth around the world. My mother, a devout Catholic, had 6 kids. After my 2nd child, she told me to get on the pill, saying if men could have babies, the Pope would make BC pills a sacrament to be given out at Mass, and that priests have NO clue what it takes to have, feed, clothe & educate children. She was much more powerful than the Pope - each of her kids had only 2 kids.

There is a religious movement called "Quiver" who are having 8-12 kids in the belief they're needed to fight the Muslims. I can only hope their kids rebel when they discover their existence is due to political expediency.

Human innovations have also enabled out-of-control population growth by increasing food supplies world wide. Natural selection has not been able to operate with such interference. The practical effect is being left with natural disasters & disease to cull out weaker members of our species. Frankly, most in the USA would die of murder, mayhem & famine if we should ever lose our ability to transport food from producers to warehouses to retailers... all very dependent on fuel sources of course!

We must reverse course of medical research focusing on longevity for many reasons. Water, food & medical supplies - plus costs of care - of an aging population are burdens on our society. Living longer has no appeal for me, and I for one would greatly appreciate being able to have my life shortened with legal & medical assistance.