Belief

Does God Hate Climate Change?

Democrat lawmaker is trying to sell environmental legislation as "God's work" -- but is he pandering to religion to push progressive legislation?

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

During a 17-minute long speech on the senate floor Wednesday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R-HI) cited an interesting source to urge his colleagues to get serious about climate change: the Bible.

“I was recently at a Senate meeting where I heard a member of our Senate community say, ‘God won’t allow us to ruin our planet,’” Whitehouse said.

Sen. Whitehouse, an Episcopalian, chastised other lawmakers for using religion to abdicate responsibility when it comes to protecting our planet. The Hawaii senator dismissed the notion that “God … won’t allow us to ruin our planet” as completely removed from reality.

“The statement that refers to God is couched in religious terms, but is it really an expression of religious inquiry? I think not. It is less an expression of religious thinking than it is of magical thinking,” Whitehouse explained. “The statement that God won’t allow us to ruin our planet sweeps aside ethics, responsibilities, consequences, duties, even awareness.” 

The senator also referred to Biblical passages to challenge his colleagues’ religious rhetoric. For example, he pointed to Galatians 6:7, which reads, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” To put this in plain English, Whitehouse remarked, “We are here to do God's work. He's not here to do ours.”

 Whitehouse continued, reminding lawmakers that science and religion are not mutually exclusive, explaining, "If we believe in an all-powerful God, then we must then believe that God gave us this earth, and we must in turn believe that God gave us its laws of gravity, of chemistry, of physics.” Of course, this should go without saying. But as the Huffington Post’s Michael McAuliff points out, too many members of Congress still use religious hysteria to advance their agenda, at the cost of science and logic:

Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) recently called evolution a lie from the pit of hell, and … the Science Committee is weighing ways to exert political control on the National Science Foundation. Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) has quoted scripture to deny that climate change will destroy the earth. 

With so much ignorance in Congress hiding behind the mask of religion, a stronghold in American politics, it’s understandable why Whitehouse would feel the need to argue on the divine playing field—especially with our planet at stake. But at least one atheist writer disagreed with the senator’s strategy. In particular, Staks Rosch, an atheist advocate questioned the idea that, “We are here to do God's work. He's not here to do ours.” Rosch responded, “No Senator, you are not here to do God’s work; you are there to do the work of your constituents as outlined in the very secular United State Constitution.”

Rosch’s criticism invokes one of the biggest concerns of the American atheist movement—that religion continues finding ways to creep into our government. Rosch argues that Whitehouse’s speech “crosses the line between church and state,” even if for the right reasons.

So does appealing to religion to advance progressive ideas do more harm or good? Watch Senator Whitehouse’s speech and decide for yourself:

Steven Hsieh is an editorial assistant at AlterNet and writer based in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter @stevenjhsieh.

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