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  • Perhaps we should take the date of the Weekly seriously. While the last paragraph is worthy, though limited, the path thereto is risible. It does not help in any way. It is factually and morally beyond the pale.

    The first paragraph refers to a book—here is more detail:

    The world without us
    Author: Alan Weisman
    Publisher: New York : Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, 2007.
    Database: WorldCat
    Journalist Weisman offers an original approach to questions of humanity's impact on the planet. Drawing on the expertise of engineers, atmospheric scientists, art conservators, zoologists, oil refiners, marine biologists, astrophysicists, religious leaders, and paleontologists, he illustrates what the planet might be like today if humans disappeared. He explains how our massive infrastructure would collapse and finally vanish without human presence; which everyday items may become immortalized as fossils; how copper pipes and wiring would be crushed into mere seams of reddish rock; why some of our earliest buildings might be the last architecture left; and how plastic, bronze sculpture, radio waves, and some man-made molecules may be our most lasting gifts to the universe. As he shows which human devastations are indelible, and which examples of our highest art and culture would endure longest, Weisman's narrative ultimately drives toward a radical but persuasive solution that needn't depend on our demise.—From publisher description.
    I have not read this book, the above comes from WorldCat, but it appears that the author gives steps we could take to reduce our impact on the environment. Bp Daniel is not interested in them. Of course, even without our own stupidity, we might be eliminated by many other events. There have been five other extinction events which have nearly wiped out all life on the planet. (As envisaged fancifully in Genesis chapters 6 -9.) We are responsible for the sixth, which is occurring now. Sixth Extinction We could do something about it! But run-away global warming might not just remove our civilization, it could—but only could, we do not know—remove us and all life. We should look at the hell of the planet Venus and be concerned.

    Bp Daniel is only concerned with a segue into his own theme. He says the scenario “perhaps contains a hint of reality.” What he means by that is obscure. Then we get an unbelievable sentence.

    The Biblical witness and the Good News of Jesus then goes on unflinchingly to point directly to the willful distrust of God (i.e., sinfulness) that has infected our kind since Adam and Eve and ensuing damage and destruction.
    Now, this kind of emphasis was useful in giving the church social control of people. There is not the slightest justification for this nonsense. I know some people talk of our ‘brokenness’ to avoid being caught with historical and biological nonsense. But this does not explain what is broken and when. But to tie a description of human behaviour to Adam and Eve is factually wrong, and shows awful ignorance of the Bible. The Garden of Eden story, which is aetiological in intent, has nothing at all to do with any Fall. This is basic Biblical knowledge. Nor is there the slightest historical evidence for a decrease in moral behaviour: theere is instead indisputable evidence that our moral attitudes and behaviour have progressed greatly over the ages. If we forget about Adam and Eve, what possible evidence is there of any Fall? We know an awful lot more about our ancestors than the biblical writers possibly could.

    The use of the word “infected” suggests some kind of inherited genetic defect—or transmitted disease. What? What? What? It is difficult to believe anyone could write that today. Does it derive from Augustine’s ideas of original sin? Surely he is not adopting the outlandish view, once suggested, that our genetic stock (in modern terms, our DNA) was “infected”? If he is not, what in the name of all rationality IS he suggesting?? The evidence is strong that children have a good moral sense from the age of three to ten months! Apart from an actually inherited fear of “the other”, children have to learn to be bad.

    This might be defensible, if he was suggesting that some things which have been treated as moral faults, should be seen as disorders, diseases. Certainly addiction is a physical change in the brain. It has to be treated as such. So too, being gay or lesbian is not a (im?)moral choice, it is a genetic inheritance.

    But if we think that bad behaviour is a disease with which we are infected, then it cannot be punished. To suggest that God punishes us for a disease we have inherited from Adam and Eve is WICKED. I discuss some of the passages in the bible which specifically reject any view that we are punished for anything our ancestors did. (See 8 March). We must categorically deny that we are responsible for what they did. There is involved the ancient idea of corporate personality, that groups are to be seen as composite. So that whole households, whole kinship groups, were killed for the fault of one man. See Joshua 7:22-26.

    Then Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan son of Zerah ... with his sons and daughters, with his oxen, donkeys and sheep ... And all Israel stoned him to death; they burned them ([including his sons and daughters] withy fire, cast stones on them.”
    We know today this is ignorant and wrong. And yet Bp Daniel thinks God does this?? I am appalled!

    [The paragraph that was here is being rewritten

    And what warrant is there for equating sinfulness with “distrust” of God? This is weird theologically. Moreover it is symptomatic of a flight from morality in the church. Jesus preached about the Kingdom of God, the opportunity it offered and the moral demands it made. This has been confused with the idea of Jesus as King—barely a New Testament idea!

    The glaring fault of the creeds is the way they leap from the birth of Jesus (only found in Matthew and Luke) to his condemnation and death. It is not to be wondered at if at this time of year we concentrate on this. But there is a lot more! A lot more! We need to read the gospel of Mark for the life of Jesus, and that of Luke for the teachings.

    There is far too much emphasis on the life to come, and too little on this world. One wonders why people think God bothered to make this world at all, or made us mortals. This emphasis on the future may help us put off instant gratification, but otherwise makes planning difficult. This is the world we are living in now. This is the world we should care about.

    I cannot go into the details here, but there are passages in the gospels that suggest that our duties to our fellow humans takes precedence over our religious duties. We may think of Matthew 5:23-24:

    So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother has something aginst you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. RSV
    In Matthew 25:31-46, the sheep are separated from the goats by one criterion only, did they feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, give the naked clothing, visit prisoners in prison? Not whether they trusted God or not. (Of course, this cannot be pressed too hard, and there are problems with the ideas and language in the passage. It is not in Luke, hence probably not in Q. But if it is later, all the more significant.) As I noted, Bp Daniel rightly emphasizes this behavior in his fourth paragraph.

    What is of most concern is that the way in which the concept of sinfulness is separated from any concept of morality or ethics. It is described in terms of subjection to an absolute— and therefore arbitrary— monarch. Not really what citizens or residents of a democracy should choose for their imagery. The biblical writers knew no better. They used the only concepts they had. But those concepts are completely inadequate. We can no more use antiquated political images than we can use false biological and historical statements. It worries people, but it must be faced that the Bible is often factually wrong, and morally indefensible. If we do not admit this, we cannot gain real insight from it, and will be caught defending the indefensible.