Church may be for some people, but not everyone

Thu, 14 Mar 2013 | norman

Is the belief that Someone Else is going to clean up your mess harmful?

I have a daughter and a son. My daughter is caring and nurturing. And I think that growing up believing that there is a Big Guy looking out for everyone, sort of in her own image, would be comforting at least, and inspiring at best. I think it would be good for her, and indirectly good for other people too, because it might help motivate her to care for them too.

I am trying to raise her to respect the beliefs of other people though, and understand that while what she believes might be true, other people with different beliefs feel the same way about what they believe.

My son is at the age where he believes that the Sun, the Moon and the Earth all revolve around himself. He will grow out of it. He enjoys Lego, and, in my biassed parental opinion, I think he's quite good at it. He is technically minded, and creative. Like most little boys, he likes robots and cars. As he grows older, he is more likely than his sister to be among the part of humanity that works on the technical aspects of getting us through the immense challenges of the next fifty to one hundred years.

I think it would be an injustice to him, and a disservice to the rest of humanity, if he grew up believing there is a Kind Old Guy in the sky, or the more modern Benevolent Force that permeates the universe, who is responsible, in part or in full, for the things that happen around us, and who will come and rescue us before, or perhaps just after, it all hits the fan.

I want him to understand that we humans might be the smartest animals on the planet, but we are motivated by short-sighted, selfish urges. Our efforts are often misguided. We are sometimes pathetically optimistic, and sometimes tragically fatalistic. We do the wrong thing. Or we do nothing. Or we just don't do enough.

I want him to understand that if anything is going to get us through a very difficult century, it will only be ourselves. And if we can work in a coordinated, consistent effort, proportional to and appropriate for the magnitude of the challenge that is already underway, then the better we will do.

Humanity is threatened directly by the repercussions of its own behaviour: its historical and ongoing pollution and degradation of the environment that supports it; its ever-growing population size; its escalating consumption levels; the depletion of some of its food sources; the climate change exacerbated by its fossil-fuel use and agriculture.

It is people like my daughter who could help us to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and keep working towards a better future. It is people like my son who may be able to mitigate the damage, and possibly see us through to a wiser world.

But a belief that anyone or anything other than ourselves might make things better, will not help them, or us.

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