Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Why Respect Religion?

The latest issue of Canadian Humanist News has this quote from American journalist H. L. Mencken:

"The most curious social convention of the great age in which we live is the one to the effect that religious opinions should be respected. Its evil effects must be plain enough to everyone."

Mencken's warning seems appropriate when we read this utterly ridiculous opinion piece by Cardinal George Pell of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, Australia.

Pell claims that global warming is "nonsense" purveyed by "zealots" who paint "extreme scenarios to frighten us". Pell knows that global warming is nonsense, because "January also was unusually cool".

But the worst is yet to come. In arguing against human causation for global warming, Pell states, "We know that enormous climate changes have occurred in world history, e.g. the Ice Ages and Noah’s flood, where human causation could only be negligible."

That's right. Cardinal Pell thinks that Noah's flood was an actual, historical event.

Can someone explain to me why this kind of moronic religious commentary deserves any respect at all?

15 comments:

Pseudonym said...

The problem here is confusing Pell with religion in general.

As I understand it, Pell is an extreme case, even amongst Australian Catholics. True, it's a blight on Catholicism that people like him make it into positions of leadership, but let's not kid ourselves; it's not like the typical Australian Catholic gets a say in the matter.

His opinions on science are clearly wrong, and deserve no respect. I'm with you 100% on that one.

But when you find a religious leader who agrees that global warming is an important issue, and who believes that evolution is a fact of nature and should be taught in biology classes without any confusing pseudoscience alongside it, then that person is an ally. Whether or not you agree with their religion, that person deserves our respect. (Carl Sagan wrote a couple of essays on the topic in his last book, Billions and Billions; I pretty much agree with everything he said about that.)

But it must go both ways. Atheists such as Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers should also deserve respect from religious allies. If you disrespect them, they're allowed to disrespect you in return.

llewelly said...

NCDC says: GLOBAL AVERAGE TEMPERATURE FOR JANUARY HIGHEST ON RECORD, , which is the first google hit. So, while one month is certainly not an indicator of a trend, he's not only wrong about global warming in general, he's wrong about January. (Unless he thinks Austrailia is 'global' . )

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Um. Did a Catholic Cardinal just admit that humans had absolutely nothing to do with God flooding the earth and killing all the living?

Anonymous said...

As an interesting footnote, the biblical flood myth may have been inspired by a real event. It is corroborated by flood myths in neighbouring cultures (e.g. the epic of gilgamesh). When Sir Leonard Wooley was excavating the Babylonian city or Ur, he found layers with evidence of human activity, under which there was a eleven-foot layer of silt, under which there was more evidence of human inhabitants (It's in his book "Ur of the Chaldees). The idea is that at the end of the ice age glacial melts caused massive flooding in the river valleys of the cradle of civilization, wiping out Ur's previous inhabitants and inspiring the various flood myths of the region. (Note that I am in no way endorsing this Cardinal's statement. I think it's ironic that he refers to the flood and the ice age as seperate events, given that the hypothesized real flood was nothing more than the final melt of the ice age)

P.S. I just checked wikipedia... here's what I'm talking about:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deluge_(mythology)#Local_flood_theory

Anonymous said...

Funny, last time I read the bible I go the impression that the great flood was caused by humans... because we angered this all-mighty, all-loving, all-knowing and non-existing deity.

Joshua said...

Because if we don't grovel obsequiously, nobody will ever respect us!

MBL said...

He not only thinks that the Flood was a historical event, but he thinks human influence on it was "negligible."

God might disagree. I'm pretty sure he thinks the whole thing was our fault. :-)

Stegve said...

>> Pell states, "We know that enormous climate changes have occurred in world history, e.g. the Ice Ages and Noah’s flood, where human causation could only be negligible." <<

And Noah's flood wiped out essentially all of humanity. Is that something Pell sees as an acceptable outcome of global warming?

tristero said...

I agree with pseudonym but go further. Pell's comments are not religious but political. He is using his position to confuse the two, which many christianists do.

His religion deserves respect. His attempts to hide from criticism by invoking religious belief deserve contempt.

TheBrummell said...

His religion deserves respect.

Why?

Whether or not you agree with their religion, that person deserves our respect.

Agreed. I have yet to meet a person I chose not to respect. I have yet to meet a belief that I chose to respect before meeting the associated evidence.

Belief =/= person

Pell states, "We know that enormous climate changes have occurred in world history, e.g. the Ice Ages and Noah’s flood...

So, in Pell's mind, both the Flood and the Ice Ages occurred at some time in the past. This is a new one for me. Does he think perhaps that the glaciers came before or after the flood, close enough to be either a cause or a consequence? What a very odd place that man's imagination must be.

Brownian said...

I've made a slight edit:

"We have been subjected to a lot of nonsense about [hell] as some zealots have been painting extreme scenarios to frighten us."

Sound familiar to anyone?

ckerst said...

it's a blight on Catholicism that people like him make it into positions of leadership, but let's not kid ourselves; it's not like the typical Australian Catholic gets a say in the matter.******************
You do have a say in the matter, you either agree and continue to support this nonsense with your donations or you don't agree in which case you are not really a catholic and need to go find the belief system that fits what you really think. The same argument goes for birth control. They don't kick people out of the club for disagreeing with the dogma on birth control because they don't want to lose the income. What kind of a religion is that?

Pseudonym said...

ckerst:

You do have a say in the matter, you either agree and continue to support this nonsense with your donations or you don't agree in which case you are not really a catholic and need to go find the belief system that fits what you really think.

I guess. One might say the same, on the other hand, about the United States and the current President. Plenty disagree with him, even strongly, but very few are choosing to withhold taxes or emigrate.

The same argument goes for birth control.

Once again, I think that the Roman Catholic position on birth control is highly wrong when applied to less educated populations. However, amongst more affluent/educated Catholics, the solution is simple: ignore it, because it'll eventually pass.

SLC said...

Appparently, the good cardinal didn't get the messsage from his boss, Dr. Ratzinger who some time ago warned against taking the bible literally.

InformationPile said...

I had a similar discussion on Digital Point Forums recently. There is also a blog post on this issue.

The Internet Guy: Wikipedia has no respect for Religion

Very surprising to me. The discussion raged on for many days, and it still does on Digital Point

You can comment on this issue and Digg it on Wikipedia on Digg

Wikipedia, which is a major source of information on the internet, has no respect for any religious beliefs whatsoever. Whether it comes to Piss Christ (derogatory), or images of Prophet Muhammad (insulting), Wikipedia has everything, without any discretion! Come, join our debate, and discuss if this position held by Wikipedia is correct or not?