Greener Than Thou

I’ve long known of my power to commit wickedness against the environment. Like most people of a certain age, I … Continued

I’ve long known of my power to commit wickedness against the environment.

Like most people of a certain age, I can’t look at the plastic yokes of a six-pack without thinking of the strangulation of sea gulls or the deformation of turtles. Ever since elementary school ecology lessons, I’ve shuddered at the site of non-sorted recyclables and felt true shame when I see a light left on through the night.

Finally major organized religion is offering its services and calling all those ugly bad feelings we have a name: SIN.

The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, in article headlined “New Forms of Social Sin,” quoted Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti, the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, as saying that “ecological offenses” are on the list as modern evils.

Meanwhile, this week the Southern Baptists, arguably one of the most conservative and traditional groups in the nation, said that they have a biblical duty to stop global warming.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a religious issue if we didn’t have zealotry. Look no further than the ELF, the Earth Liberation Front, who last week claimed responsibility for burning down three luxury homes that were being sold as “green.” Not green enough! sayest the ELVES!

“Built green? Nope, BLACK!” read the spray-painted bed sheet firefighters found draped over a fence in the cul-de-sac where two other model homes were also aflame, each 4,000 square feet and dubbed green.”

As an agnostic who has already spent years feeling guilty for, despite my best efforts, destroying this beautiful earth, I worry for these new converts to environmental shame. Can they handle this sin? It’s one thing to feel bad for the sea gulls and the oceans. But if questions of heaven and hell get tied up in recycling and polluting, I fear it could turn this whole green movement upside down. Will pollution become like other sin, something secret that one does and takes pleasure from? Will desire for a large carbon foot print swell now that it is verboten? Will governors suddenly be caught on wiretaps discussing their littering fetishes?

What happens when the mundane daily shame about trash sorting is elevated to sin and conscientiousnesses about green house gases becomes biblical duty? The track record, not so good.

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  • thebob.bob

    I’m happy to see that the Southern Babtists have come to see the ecological light. But, I’m a bit confused. As I understand it the SB’s have a personal relationship with JC, they speak to him and he speaks to them. He told them (and GW apparently) that mankind was too puny to effect the earth’s climate, that only his dad could do that, that only atheist scientists and godless pagen earth-loving hippies believed in Global warming, that it was controversial and that the jury was still out (oh wait, that was JC’s chosen one, GW). So if, NOW global climate change is real, if NOW it’s god’s work to save the planet then…..someone was lying to someone or someone wasn’t listening very well and someone’s got some ‘splaining to do!Maybe the Flying Spaghetti Monster can save us?

  • nall92

    someone please explain to me how th vatican can make ‘changes’ to the bible?

  • A. Thorn

    George in Alaska:”The data used to support the “hottest year in history” really only goes back to 1980 or so for reliable data. Top that off with one of the coldest winters lately – the Green people will tell you how hot it is, NEVER how cold it was – and what you have is a cycle with a certain amount of equilibrium.”Sigh…yes, we won’t ever, ever say how cold it was. How could we?! That would defeat our point! Oh wait, no, it doesn’t, because most climatologists use an average annual temperature to show an increase in temperature, where a colder-than-normal winter can be counterbalanced, or even outweighed completely by a hotter-than-normal summer. Average temperature over the entire earth for the past dozen years or so has shown an increase in global temperatures. It’s not about whether it is cold or warm in Bangor, Maine. It’s about the global environment.And the system very rarely has equilibrium in it. I think any reasonable climatologist would acknowledge that there are definitely times of global temperature increase and decrease. But that doesn’t mean there is an equilibrium. It just means that it fluctuates based on environmental factors at the time. A large volcanic eruption that spews ash into the atmosphere that covers the whole world can cause temperatures to drop, even if we can’t see the particles. Scientists try to factor those into the equations, with varying degrees of success.But, even with the randomness of the global temperature scale from summer to winter, there has been a fairly sharp increase in global temperatures over the past few years. Whether this will be the downfall of the entire planet or not is certainly a debate, but it’s not the right debate to have, and it’s not the one most scientists want you to have. They would argue that even small changes in global temperature can have severe impacts on certain ecologies, from the tropics to the polar regions. It doesn’t mean extinction of everything, but a few species are likely not going to be able to react in time to avoid extinction or a severe reduction in populations.but, the fact remains that scientists continue to gather data, and we may not know the long-term consequences until it’s too late. The reasonable action to take, in that kind of situation, should be one of caution. If we even MIGHT be causing large-scale environmental problems, shouldn’t we veer towards the side of caution, and work to reduce our impact? If the scientists were wrong, we’re still using less fossil fuels and we can keep the limited supplies around for longer. If the scientists were right, then we’ve already taken steps to counteract the damage.

  • A. Thorn

    Brambleton:I agree, to a point. We try to create ‘green’ alternatives without fully knowing what goes on behind the scenes that produces them. The Hybrid batteries is a good example of this. It takes a lot of resources to make them, and disposing of them can lead to other environmental damage.Hydrogen cars are another example. The point of those is to reduce the emission of CO2, a greenhouse gas. However, water vapor is also a greenhouse gas, and generally it is a stronger one than CO2 is. If we all switch to Hydrogen cars, we have no idea what that would do to the climate. And it’s not something that I see talked about a lot.But there are changes that can be done even by people who don’t want to rush to be green that would reduce their consumption/pollution rates. Drive a diesel car (mine can get up to about 52 mpg, and doesn’t skimp on pickup), drive cars instead of SUVs if you don’t really need the big honkin’ behemoth, in the summer, bike/walk around the neighborhood instead of driving 50 miles to go hiking, switch to energy-efficient light bulbs. There are a number of ways to cut down on the pollution that we spew that is just direct reduction, not replacing one type of pollution for another. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be going green, it just means we need to really think about what we’re doing.

  • Athena

    ELF doesn’t speak for the entire environmental movement. They’re the radical fringe. They’re the environmentalists’ version of abortion clinic bombers, or PETA, or some of the White Supremacists. They’re good fodder for the media to trot out to paint everyone who believes in that particular cause with a broad brush of “see how crazy they are?” OTOH, it’s nice of the SBC’s and Catholics to finally come around to what us Pagans have been saying for quite a while – that we have to take care of our planet. For all of you who are going to drag out the old “worship the creation, not the creator” canard, to us, it’s the SAME THING.

  • Mark In Irvine

    Frankly, I don’t see this as “new sins”, but rather as new examples of old sins in a new environment: “too rich” = “avarice”; “drug pushers” = “thou shall not kill (i.e., hurt your neighbor)”, and so on; “environmental pollution” = “thou shall not steal (the resources that God gave us from others, by making them unusable by others for your own profit (implicating avarice, etc.). Nothing has changed except the scope of the ways that humans can screw up. IMHO.

  • Mike54

    I doubt that any of you know what knowlegeable scientists have to say about the strength and weaknesses of global warming predictions. The only info we have ready access to is being presented by politicians, beurocrats and media. The first two thrive on the politics of fear (on both sides of the isle) and the media wants an office which dictates only presenting the most dramatic side of a story.I am a chemical engineer. The science I have seen suggests that we should be wise how we invest in CO2 reductions. Let’s spend on things that really work rather than on things that just make us feel good. Just because a change is directionally good does not mean it is worth our time or resources. Cost effectiveness guided by science should rule the day.

  • TJ

    If this means I’ll be seeing fewer massive SUVs with I encourage you all to start counting Jesus fish and the types of cars that you see them attached to. It’s great fun.

  • So-Cal Michael

    The old Christian Coalition is crumbling like stale cake so, voila, let’s jump on the green bandwagon so we don’t totally lose all that tithing from the next generation of christian robots who believe the world is 5,000 years old.Can’t you people be honest about anything anymore?

  • Freak

    George in Alaska, I made a general comment regarding religious programming, and believers in general – including the ELF believers and anybody who believes instead of thinks.Your ignorance of that is just … stunning.Perhaps you, like many of the people making noise about this global warming issue, “believe” it to be wrong, where others believe global warming to be true. Since most won’t bother actually reading the research, and just knee-jerk at it through their beliefs … how else are they to be controlled?If the various church leaders of the various religions and political leaders and what have you actually want to do anything about this – whether it needs doing or not – they have to come at it through the mindless beliefs of the population.This is how things are done. People in your crowd trumpet their beliefs in it being false, the manipulators have to minimize the size of your crowd and enlarge the size of the believers in the other crowd.Try to see past your insipid minless beliefs once in a while. I can hardly believe you missed this. And screw global warming anyway, if it is something that is happening and humanity is helping it to happen faster, we can count on you to make sure it continues that way. If it’s all false, then you remain useless anyway.

  • spiderman2

    GLOBAL BURNING. That is what they should worry about. Stupidity rules this world.

  • Schultz

    Spidey, Did you grow up aspiring to be the cartoon character with the long hair, robe and a sandwich board sign proclaiming that the end is near? Your folks must be very proud of your accomplishment.

  • George in Alaska

    Freak – First, before posting comments you really should take your medication.Second, NOBODY tells me what to believe. Where I live there is no English speaking church, no TV (I do not get it) and all I have is what I can read or get on the internet. Most of the information I get comes from a scientist with whom I work. Of course there is the greenhouse effect, but is the planet’s warming caused by humans and their by-products? My understanding, which is subject to INTELLIGENT (can you handle that?) correction, is that it has been slowly warming for some time. On top of that, there is no truly reliable data going back very far, so to generalize on trends over the past several years far into the future to depict the end of life at the poles and equator for a number of species may be premature. BUT, we should not take chances, agreed, and I personally do what I can to see that I do not contribute in what “experts” tell us may be practices detrimental to the ecology. I live in a part of the US that is perhaps more sensitive to the ecology than anyplace in the lower 48 – near Bristol Bay and the Pebble Mine (not to mention ANWR to the north and the oil & gas fields. Now, don’t forget the meds.

  • Jihadist

    Spiderman2 and Speed123, What is really going on with the Vatican? Perhaps the Vatican is on to something in being finally environmental aware to state it as one of the new seven “contemporary” sins being identified to add on to the Seven Deadly Sins. Don’t ask me why they won’t say it as an “irresponsibility” to add to environmental degradation. I love some of the temporal punishments for the Seven Deadly Sins which could be considered to be applied to sinners of the new sin of enviromental degradation. For those sinners who burn tracts of forests for golf courses and amusement parks, we can smother them in fire and brimstone. This punishment was for “lust” originally, but if we look at it as cremation, it would be more environmental friendly – no land taken up for human bodies, and as ash, recycled back into nature.Or, we can throw sinner who kill animals in the wild or at home, including newts and goldfishes in snake pits. This punishment for “sloth” would be good and better over fines or short jail terms.For those sinners who wantonly pollute rivers and lakes, we can put them in freezing water. Time to used this original punishment for “envy” useful again.Of course, those sinners who live in sloth at home and in the office giving plenty of co-habitation to coachroaches and rats, should be made to eat rats, toads and poisonous snakes to make the punishment for “gluttony” useful again. Declaring something sinful is not enough, wheter mortal, venial or environmental. There must be also temporal punishment as effective deterrences, no? I just hope our own ulema don’t get this idea to identify new “transgressions” from the Vatican’s new listing of seven additional sins. It is interesting that apart from the environment, the Vatican also listed as a sin, cloning as well as genetic engineering “manipulating” the DNA. Even the Iranian ayotallahs allow for stem-cell research, including on human embryos. Since I’m not a scientist in the DNA field, and I don’t throw around rubbbish indiscriminately, at least I am not in danger of losing my mortal soul if I don’t repent for what I’ve done by according to the Vatican’s criteria. God help us all. We have to deal with enough transgressions by our fellow Muslims against us, and the interesting punishments some meted out (stonings, beheadings, hangings) for what they deem to be transgressions. We don’t need our clergy/ulema to tell us what are new sins/transgressions they came out with. We need to look at their sins/transgressions for the things they do and said to us, and claiming it to be in the name of God and for God. “J”

  • Freak

    How else are you going to program the believers into doing anything? You can’t use logic, not really, they’ve shown their vulnerability to illogic simply by being believers.No, you have to use blackmail. Tell them they’re going to hell if they turn the heat up past 68 or the ac down past 78.Of course, every night they can be cleansed of their sins simply by begging for it. But you can blackmail some of them.

  • spiderman2

    Jihadist, didn’t I said that the Vatican is the seat of satan? You have not been listening. Im not against caring for the environment but if a certain church preach it, I have suspicions that satan is just around the corner.

  • CML

    What happens is Catholics already stressed by the requirements pushed upon them by the Church become disgusted and disgruntled with all the rules! This is why Catholics are leaving the Church and they are having trouble finding people to join their religious orders. Absolutely ridiculous.

  • George in Alaska

    Freak – Ever heard of Thomas Acquinas? He put faith and reason together. But then you may not have read it, no pictures; it’s a chapter book.

  • Ictus

    Because I am epileptic I have never been able to get a driver’s license. Many years ago I took to riding a bicycle to work, I’ve been doing it for 30 years now.These past 18 months I’ve been living and working in the great white north (Wisconsin) in a very bicycle-friendly town, Madison. Even here though, the biggest danger I face is the average driver, angry at me for riding on His roads, making him have to deal with me being on the road.I’ve come to the conclusion that nobody who drives a car really cares about the environment if it interferes with his ability to blow off the harm he’s causing by driving that car. If the driver’s comfort and convenience is disturbed in any way, screw the bicyclist.And these are your basic Good People. They care about each other, they worry about the environment (they say they do), they separate the trash.If they won’t modify their behavior in something as obvious and real-world as driving, what makes you think they’ll modify their behavior in something they only believe in?I don’t. We’re going to try, we’re going to do a lot of talking and arguing, but nothing is really going to happen until your average human American is directly impacted by the consequences of his/her polluting life.It’s sad.

  • kstp

    There has always been an understanding that stewardship of the earth was part of every Christian’s duty. This is nothing new, it has just been given the vocabulary of more recent preoccupations. This idea of stewardship is based on the notion that we should love and care for the earth God put in our care. There is nothing sinister about this. The emphasis is not on ‘sin’ but on ‘love’.

  • Jihadist

    Hi Spiderman2,Ahhh, thanks for the tip. I’ll be looking for Satan himself coming around the corner near Starbucks, and also for Satan’s little helpers hiding out here and there. I wonder what Speed123 has to say as a Catholic on this not caring for the environment as “sin”, and if or whether this is some sort of Papal Bull for all. Regards

  • Brambleton

    The problem with this blind rush to be green, is that nobody really understands HOW to be green. Of course, how could they?We’re told that big, gas guzzling cars are the big polluter – that we should all be driving hybrids. Nobody follows up with the fact that hybrids are no better than conventional vehicles unless you’re driving in the city. Nobody explains the environmental impact of constructing a hybrid battery – from extraction, to shipping, to constructing, to shipping again, to final construction, to shipping yet again.And what about gas powered lawn mowers? If you’re not using electric, you’re polluting the air more than if you were taking a Sunday drive in your Humvee. Did you know that you could drive your car 95 miles before it would generate the same level of emissions as one hour’s use of a gas power lawn mower? Funny, we never hear about that.I’m not going to stop driving my car, because I need it to live. (Sorry, Ictus, not all of us live in Madison WI where biking to work is a possibility). But I will continue to help the Earth as much as possible – whether it be recycling, using an electric lawn mower, buying energy saving appliances, etc. Maybe it we all just did the best we could – maybe that would be enough.

  • George in Alaska

    FREAK – the ignorance of your comment is amazing. Do you really think that one Monsignor and board for the Southern Baptists really speaks for all of their people? The are just larger governing bodies trying to get on the “Green” band wagon to be politically correct, for whatever reason. However, you are right on one account; it is illogical for ANYONE to buy into the rhetoric of the the current Green movement that, oops, there goes the ozone layer and that the earth will be so much hotter than ever in history. The greenhouse effect is a naturally occurring event and only recently has man perhaps had any effect on it. The data used to support the “hottest year in history” really only goes back to 1980 or so for reliable data. Top that off with one of the coldest winters lately – the Green people will tell you how hot it is, NEVER how cold it was – and what you have is a cycle with a certain amount of equilibrium. Where are the predictions that have been made about the sharp increase of the earth’s temperature now? They have not come to fruition and the Green people simply ignore it and keep coming up with new ones. Here in Alaska, those who espouse “Greenology” are often looked at like they need treatment. Being cognizant of the environment in small ways, not polluting, recycling, etc. is critical for the overall future of it, but to predict the sure demise of our atmosphere on shoddy data is irresponsible. Too bad so many intelligent people are taking it hook line and sinker without looking OBJECTIVELY at the facts.

  • Ginger K.

    Who was it who said “love of money is the root of all evil”? Money is what’s motivating the climate change deniers. God forbid taking care of the Earth should cut into someone’s quarterly profits. Maybe because these people believe the Earth was created 4,000 years ago, they are incapable of thinking in the long term.

  • Bill K.

    Lazy reporting by the media…..Archbishop Girotti is not proclaiming new Church doctrine. In this article he was appealing to Catholics to use the sacrament of confession. The English-speaking media picked this up and twisted the meaning of the interview. I doubt if any of the news media has actually read the article in the L’Osservatore Romano.

  • Robert G

    Well if the global warming computer models were right we all would be sinning every time we exhale CO2. Go thing global warming is just a scam to steal money from thy neighbor.

  • Michael D. Houst

    So now it’s a sin for Catholics to pollute or use non-green technologies.The church adopts yet another teaching of neo-pagans. They stole the holidays, and now they are stealing the concepts; yet they’ve persecuted and reviled pagans for millenia.A round-about confession from the Catholic Church that they are NOT the only way to salvation.Isn’t it funny that the Wiccans and their progenitors had some of it right before Jesus was even born?