Why save a world that’s going to end soon?


My friend Bill Elwell called my attention to this article on The Raw Story web site.

The United States has failed to take action to mitigate climate change thanks in part to the large number of religious Americans who believe the world has a set expiration date.

Research by David C. Barker of the University of Pittsburgh and David H. Bearce of the University of Colorado uncovered that belief in the biblical end-times was a motivating factor behind resistance to curbing climate change.

“[T]he fact that such an overwhelming percentage of Republican citizens profess a belief in the Second Coming (76 percent in 2006, according to our sample) suggests that governmental attempts to curb greenhouse emissions would encounter stiff resistance even if every Democrat in the country wanted to curb them,” Barker and Bearce wrote in their study, which will be published in the June issue of Political Science Quarterly.

The study, based on data from the 2007 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, uncovered that belief in the “Second Coming” of Jesus reduced the probability of strongly supporting government action on climate change by 12 percent when controlling for a number of demographic and cultural factors.  When the effects of party affiliation, political ideology, and media distrust were removed from the analysis, the belief in the “Second Coming” increased this effect by almost 20 percent.

“[I]t stands to reason that most nonbelievers would support preserving the Earth for future generations, but that end-times believers would rationally perceive such efforts to be ultimately futile, and hence ill-advised,” Barker and Bearce explained.

That very sentiment has been expressed by federal legislators.  Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) said in 2010 that he opposed action on climate change because “the Earth will end only when God declares it to be over.” He is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy.

Though the two researchers cautioned their study was not intended to predict future policy outcomes, they said their study suggested it was unlikely the United States would take action on climate change while so many Americans, particularly Republicans, believed in the coming end-times.

“That is, because of institutions such as the Electoral College, the winner-take-all representation mechanism, and the Senate filibuster, as well as the geographic distribution of partisanship to modern partisan polarization, minority interests often successfully block majority preferences,” Barker and Bearce wrote. “Thus, even if the median voter supports policies designed to slow global warming, legislation to effect such change could find itself dead on arrival if the median Republican voter strongly resists public policy environmentalism at least in part because of end-times beliefs.”

via The Raw Story.

I wonder how end-times believers in Congress would answer the following questions.

  • If you believe God warned humanity when the End Times were coming, why did He not do so in a straightforward way instead in metaphorical language in the books of Revelations and Daniel?
  • Since there have been many false predictions that the End Times were imminent, how confident are you that the current predictions are correct?
  • If you believe the imminence of the End Times makes it unnecessary to plan for global climate change, do you apply this philosophy to government generally?  Why worry, for example, about depletion of the Social Security trust fund if the world isn’t going to exist by the time it is depleted?
  • If you believe the End Times are imminent, does that mean that you make no personal provision for the future?  Shouldn’t you be cleaning out your savings accounts and giving the proceeds to the poor, as Jesus recommended?
  • What do you make of Matthew 24: 32 (“Watch, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man will come”)?

I remember how, when John F. Kennedy was running for President in 1960, he liked to tell a story about the legislative assembly in colonial Massachusetts.   The chamber was shaken by an earthquake, and some of the legislators panicked, thinking the End Times had come.  But the leader of the assembly calmed them saying, “Gentlemen, be seated.  Either it is the End or it is not.  If it is not, there is no cause for alarm.  If it is the End, I prefer to face it at my post, doing my duty.”

Click on The climate crisis in three easy charts for background information.


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3 Responses to “Why save a world that’s going to end soon?”

  1. Notes To Ponder Says:

    As much as I loathe religion blocking all manner of common sense, I think climate apathy has more to do with the almighty dollar than the “almighty”


  2. Adnan R. Amin Says:

    This is so intriguing! I mean, I (as a Muslim) believe in End of the World too. But it isn’t supposed to impede our daily lives or efforts to make the world better. The End, I hold, is beyond human realm. Thanks for the great post.


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