Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Voices of Religion

"The Beauty of the Earth"
- At the Desert Retreat House -

Tomorrow Pope Francis is due to issue his long-awaited encyclical about “caring for the environment” – a religious voice to be sounded around the world about how human beings have abused and oppressed our Mother Earth and the dangers we face as a species if we do not change our ways and take better care of the gift of creation bestowed upon us.

This upcoming “voice of religion” is proving to be quite challenging to some of our newly announced presidential contenders- especially those who are Roman Catholics. Many have said they will not follow the leadings of their own pope- they will basically ignore his voice. When it comes to matters of the environment and climate change, they say that the Pope ought to stick to religion and leave science alone.

For some people, as long as someone like a pope says his prayers, stays in the church, talks about how to behave in the bedroom, and clearly defines the tenets of orthodox belief he is on solid ground - leave the rest to the politicians 

Just this morning I read what I considered to be a somewhat entertaining comment Jeb Bush made yesterday in opposition to to the Pope’s upcoming environmental message: (Mr. Bush is, in fact, a Roman Catholic):

I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and should not deal with things that end up in the political realm.

I think I found this comment so amusing because almost every legitimate scientist in the world has noted that unless we do some serious course correction about matters like climate change, burning fossil fuel, ocean preservation, and planet-wide water usage there will be no planet that is inhabitable for human beings in the days to come.  I agree totally that religion should help make us better as people, and I cant imagine a better way religion can help us to do that than to contribute to solutions to help keep this earth alive so that we will have a planet on which we can indeed live those better lives.

More and more people are turning away from religion today because the voice of religion that they hear is shrill and judgmental- TV preachers condemning gay people and decrying same-sex marriage, voices that claim that their path to religion is the only way  to the truth. I myself turn my back on that kind of religion.

But there are many other religious voices not being heard out in the public forum nowadays- voices of kindness, inclusion and compassion.  In fact, as I see it, the voice of the vast (if not silent) majority of many religious believers is currently being sounded throughout the world by a pope who calls us all to gently care for Mother Earth, to respect the dignity of every human being and to care for the needs of others.

As I see it any voice that is raised in respect for the preservation of the beauty of creation and in defense of the dignity of others is the authentic voice of all religions - it is voice of the Christ, the voice of the Buddha, the authentic voice of the Prophet Muhammad. This is the voice I want to heed, it is a voice that will indeed make us all better people.

There are of course many who will choose to ignore this “authentic” voice of religion, even those who claim to be religious people will not listen to this voice because they do not want it to interfere with the status quo (and of course, if you start limiting how you use the environment you will indeed be placing limits on the almighty “profit margin”).

People who claim that they want the world to be more religious and pray that this nation might live in a way that is more consistent with “Christian values” ought to be more careful about what they pray for.


  1. I was pleased to hear the Pope speak regarding the problems of the environment as a spiritual and moral concern. This gives the concerns of many a legitimacy which in the eyes of others they would not have if not for it being in harmony with the Popes insights and instruction.

    This Pope is a breath of fresh air and is doing something useful unlike some of his predecessors.