“I confess to Almighty God” and to my readers, that I’m a carbon ‘sinner’. In meeting this considerable challenge, I have contemplated the limits of my capacity for rationality in the realm of anthropogenic global warming (AGW).
I have been prompted and to some extent, exonerated by this interesting video featured in The Guardian. It’s theme concerns Atheism and Rationality. As is often the case with The Guardian, the comments section cam be rather more edifying than the original article:
I like to consider myself as a thinking Christian who happens to be fascinated by science…who isn’t?
In the Theist / Christian mindset, there are various personal, emotional, social and spiritual consequences of making the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ decision.
The spectrum of spiritual consequences will depend on the individual’s specific religious tradition, convictions and beliefs which will be coloured by the essence of their life experience.
To help me illustrate this, I’ve picked up on the thread of flying and it’s perceived pro’s and con’s.
So, for example is it…
Q: Rational to fly from London to Berlin?
A: Yes, because it’s cheaper than driving.
A: Yes, because it’s the fastest and most efficient mode of transport.
This list of benefits could be extended to include other factors such as safety and convenience. This author is not overlooking other factors. Clearly, a family emergency could have moral, social and other benefits. However, I would argue that this would represent the exception rather than the rule.
So, let’s consider the same question without the constraint of the intellect. And let’s bring into one’s thinking a degree more sensitivity and consideration for the well being of others and the world’s natural systems and services.
Q: Rational to fly?
A: No, because it adds to the individual and humanity’s collective ecological footprint. Adding further CO2 emissions which are exacerbating climate change. With adverse effects for health, environment, air quality, biodiversity, all forms of life, our weather and the very natural resources that I, my descendants and the wider web of human and other life are fundamentally dependent upon.
In general, the consequence of doing something ‘wrong’ should be addressed and reconciled in the individual’s mind and heart, the conscience being the place where these deeper thoughts and reflections meet.
You will note that I used the word “should” which can be interpreted on the one hand as guilt and on the other, as the examination of one’s conscience. In my response, I didn’t surrender entirely my intellect but deployed it in a more holistic fashion.
What I am positing here is that if an individual relies *only* on the dimension of their intellect that inhabits the shallower and more immediate, material plane, she/he is far less likely to take a course of action that is both good for her/him *and* the wider world.
In the Christian life – thinking feeling, behaving – there exists this premise of surrendering one’s intellect. This being the process that helps us to give way to quiet prayer and mediation. In the scenario that I have painted, this is not for the purpose of denying human caused Climate change. Sadly, this is the disposition of too many ‘cultural’ Christians and Christian fundamentalists.
It saddens me that so many people who self-identify as Christian can not or will not join the moral dots between environmental justice and social justice. Yet this attitude prevails in a great many churches and across the spectrum of denominations and traditions. Too many masters of nature and not enough servants.
So, I am both minded and called to reflect more deeply. This may take the form of prayer, meditation, journaling, blogging etc. Spiritual and cerebral processes that help to make up a form of inner dialogue. Counterintuively, this process helps us remain ‘alive’ to wider, social and environmental needs. You might call this ‘eco-spitituality’, something that helped our anscestors remain connected with nature. A way of being and doing that modern civilization has bred and taught us to unlearn.
If we can learn to slow down and give our brains a rest, we allow ourselves a spiritual and heartfelt encounter that brings us closer to the nature of ourselves, our family, the world we live in and the gift of life itself. That is s good place to meet God and the living universe that conceived our beautiful home, Mother Earth.
As a society or group of societies (British and Western), I think we attribute too much importance on the island of individuality. A realm
that is oriented towards consumption, short term gratification and waste. There is so much more under the iceberg, yet we are collectively destroying that too, in the spiritual and ecological sense.
In a sense, it is not rationality in the deepest sense. What rational person, society or civilisation would deliberately set out to burn their own house down? Yet that is exactly what we are doing. We, the sum of 7 billion souls.
The collective mind of humanity has brought great advances to our civilisation but in its shadow lurk a great many real and existential threats, climate change being but one of them.
In conclusion, I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t seek to be rational. In this unsettling era of popular nationalism, we could actually do with politicians and people who are rather more thoughtful, rational, insightful and reflective.
Yet, this is just one aspect of being human. As individuals, we each have a range of faculties and resources that we can draw upon. These can help to empower and enrich our emotional, behavioral and spiritual intellect.
Just as Theists do not have some kind of spiritual or moral superiority, nor do Atheists have the monopoly on rational thinking. To suggest either is dogmatic and breeds unnecessary division, conflict and hurt.
ALL people, regardless of their spiritual, religious or personal beliefs can work, live and love together.
Peace and love.