Environment

Ode to a Fallen Empire

We all have a responsibility to seek the real truth and reality, free from bias.

Todd Daniel
Terra’s Hell

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Imagine living at a time in history when your entire world falls apart in just three years. That’s what happened when the Spaniards invaded the Aztec Empire in 1519. It’s bad enough that your capital city was under siege, and starving, but then came smallpox, which wiped out 25 percent of the population.

The Spaniards not only had superior technology, but they formed alliances with the Aztec’s enemies to defeat the Empire. The Spaniards came to the New World for only one reason — to plunder the wealth of the inhabitants. As the Spanish were raping and plundering their conquered territory, the Franciscan missionaries came a year later to begin teaching the indigenous people about Jesus. So, while their land and wealth were being stolen, the people of Mexico were given the gift of a Christian conversion. The practice of exploiting and converting continued into the years of New World slavery. By the 1800s, the full-scale conversion of American slaves was underway. They were taught the importance of being obedient to your master, which was an easy sell since the Bible is pro-slavery.

Fast forward a few hundred years and the Russian Orthodox Church was siding with the White Army in the Russian Civil War, against the Communists. When the commies won the war they weren’t too happy with the Christian church. As a youngster, I got an earful about how the communists were godless and planned to take over the world. But I was never told about the corruption of the Russian church and how Christians sided with troops loyal to the Tsar. And fast forward to the Spanish Civil War, where the church was again siding with the conservative Nationalists, who fought against the Republican liberals, union members, and communists. So, once again, we see the church aligning itself with the bourgeoisie, landowners, and the wealthy. When history tells about the 6,800 Catholic clergymen who were murdered during the war, is it that unexpected?

Mother America

So, it’s not surprising that the Christian evangelical church is siding with the capitalists in modern America. Am I the only one who notices the irony? Jesus was humble, lived a simple life, and said it was difficult for a rich man to get into Heaven. Yet the Republican Party is all about money, and engineering the government to benefit the wealthy. Then there is the issue of guns and violence. Jesus was the great peacemaker and was anti-violence, yet “God and Guns” is the mantra for much of the U.S. population. As God-fearing Americans load and reload, I’m wondering if anyone remembers that talk about “love your enemies” and “turn the other cheek.” And to me, a gun shows a lack of faith — isn’t God supposed to protect His children?

In the modern church, I see many other contradictions as well. It’s mind-boggling to me that any Christian can support Donald Trump. He is the guy who was having a sexual affair with a porn star, while his wife was at home pregnant with their fifth child. He’s the guy who had an affair with a Playboy Bunny, boasted about grabbing women by the pussy, and who walked into women’s dressing rooms during beauty pageants. The man cannot recite a single Bible verse and plays golf on Sunday mornings, yet I hear people tell me that he’s “anointed by God” and “chosen by God.” The paradox is that Christian fundamentalists are quick to pull Bible verses to go after the gay community, but Trump gets a free pass when he appoints a woman, Paula White, as his spiritual advisor, which goes against 1 Timothy 2:12, a verse that says women are not allowed to teach in the church, not have authority over a man, and must remain silent (KJV).

Cognitive Bias

As I was driving home on Friday I was listening to a caller on a radio talk show. Instead of saying that Trump was “called by God,” the evangelicals have had to quickly modify their story. The caller said that God only needed Trump for four years to load the courts with three conservative Supreme Court Justices and 300 right-leaning federal judges.

Cognitive bias is where you force real-world events to fit the reality you want. When the evidence against a person’s belief becomes overwhelming, they will often just change the story. The biggest example of this is young-earth creationist Ken Ham, who insists that dinosaurs and humans lived together, and he even built a full-scale mockup of Noah’s Ark and put dinosaurs on it! In reality, there is a 65 million year gap between dinosaurs and humans.

Change Reality or Just Deny It?

While extreme cognitive bias simply changes a person’s reality, a lighter form is far more common. This is where you just brush off, play down, or deny a fact that challenges your religious or political view. I see this often with evolution and climate change. People tell me that evolution and climate change are both “unproven” or “just theories,” even though the evidence to support them is overwhelming. In the case of evolution, I know it challenges the Genesis creation story, and it has been a “bee in the bonnet” of the Christian church for 160 years. But when it comes to climate change, I don’t understand the continued resistance. Again, I guess it goes against religious beliefs, or maybe the problem seems too big to correct, so it’s easier to brush it off. I will say that if someone denies climate change or evolution, I now see them as a science denier. And, again, it’s hypocritical because these same people enjoy the benefits of science every time they go to the doctor or get into their car.

A global pandemic only comes around about once a century, so we are living in a unique time. If you can witness what the COVID virus is doing to humanity and still deny evolution, you have boggled my mind. Sure, you can always throw out a conspiracy theory, which is a common coping mechanism for the weak-minded, or you can just say that a supreme being made it, which would make God a jerk.

As I write this a large portion of the U.S. population believes the election was “stolen” from President Trump. These far-right people constantly criticize the competence of Democrats, but now they are suggesting that the Democratic Party conducted a massive cheating operation that was so brilliant that it didn’t even leave evidence. Again, this is where the cognitive bias becomes absurd.

How to Respond

All of us should try to continually pursue the real truth and reality, and not just bend or change facts to fit our beliefs. After all, MAYBE YOUR BELIEFS COULD BE WRONG! I always try to be an open-minded person. When President Trump did something good, like prison reform, securing a trade deal with China, or helping with the UAE-Israel peace deal, I commended him. But when he pulled out of the Paris Agreement, I was livid. After all, one of the reasons Trump got elected was because he bragged about his great negotiating skills. But in reality, the only thing “great” about Donald Trump is his ability to be the poster boy for the Dunning-Kruger effect, which states that incompetent people think they’re the best at everything.

Over half my life I attended church and I remember how angry my Sunday School teachers would get if I asked a difficult question. I wasn’t trying to trip anyone up, I was just a Curious George. In my college years, a teacher simply said, “Your question sounds like heresy.” In other words, SHUT UP, Todd. In more recent years, when I’ve had political or religious discussions people respond by “oh wow,” or “I can’t believe you’d say that,” or, they just say “OH MY TODD,” and, thus, the name of my main blog — ohmytodd.org.

So, I really don’t know how to talk to a person that has a political or religious belief system that is harmful to environmentalism. How can I reason with a science denier, when saving the environment is all about science?

One interesting development is that Christianity in America is in full-scale decline. Whether you look at statistics from the Pew Research Center or Gallup Inc. you’ll see that church membership across the nation is decreasing every year. I don’t want to see the Christian church go, but what I do want to see is the end of the corrupted religious institutions that ally themselves with Big Business, millionaires, and Wall Street. What I’d love to see instead is a new movement that follows the teachings and examples set by Jesus, rather than cherry-picking the Bible to fit a right-wing agenda. And as young people continue to leave the church in droves I hope our country will become more accepting of science and the environmental realities that we must face.

Green New Deal

When I see overweight, middle-aged white males attacking visionaries like Greta Thunberg and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez I am heartbroken because these young women are brave and courageous. But all I hear are things like “Greta is coached by her parents.” and “AOC was a former bartender.” SO FUCKING WHAT? Then I have to hear the argument about how the Green New Deal will take away jobs, make utility bills rise, and cost the government trillions of dollars. Are you kidding? We still import a lot of oil and energy self-sufficiency would bring these foreign jobs back home. In regards to the cost to the government, the price of combating constant wildfires and constant hurricanes, as well as other environmental impacts, will eventually cost more than any green investment. Instead of conversations constantly attacking and belittling the Green New Deal, people could say, “It’s a good start and gives our country a positive direction.”

So, when Vice President Pence says that climate change is just something “that liberals are interested in,” I hope the fly flies right into his mouth. All of Pence’s sanctimonious behavior is unimpressive to me and will mean little when our cities are underwater and our agricultural system is destroyed. So, Mr. Vice President, you can walk out of football games and not have lunch alone with women, but nature DOES NOT CARE about your self-righteous antics. Nature is completely driven by physics and how we as a people choose to live and behave will directly impact the quality of the Earth and quality of life for future generations.

If you want to come out of your intellectually biased haze and seek the real truth, I always encourage seekers to start by visiting the Union of Concerned Scientists website. They lay out the issues facing our world in simple, easy-to-understand language.

Conclusion

If you find yourself denying or changing facts to fit your worldview, maybe that view needs a second look. If you want to really understand the history of your religion, I encourage you to study the work of Bart D. Ehrman, a New Testament scholar. Guess what, he will tell you things you might not want to hear, but maybe it’s time you listened.

I don’t want to be the guy who goes around peeling off Band-Aids, but I’m not going to sit idle while “reality,” is continually beaten down, distorted, and denied. As I’ve said before, I’m that ratty little kid in the parable, “The Emperor Has No Clothes.” I’m sorry if I hurt anyone’s feelings, but I will never, ever be silenced.

Originally published in my personal blog, We Live on a Planet.

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Todd Daniel
Terra’s Hell

Mother Earth screams, yet few people hear except for the poets and idealists. I write about my planetary home. Newsletter ver: https://terrashell.substack.com/