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Bill Moyers: There is no tomorrow

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  • Robert G. Seeberger
    http://www.startribune.com/stories/562/5211218.html One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has
    Message 1 of 79 , Jan 31, 2005
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      One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the
      delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to
      sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office and in Congress. For the
      first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of
      power in Washington.

      Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues
      hold stoutly to a worldview despite being contradicted by what is
      generally accepted as reality. When ideology and theology couple,
      their offspring are not always bad but they are always blind. And
      there is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the

      Remember James Watt, President Ronald Reagan's first secretary of the
      interior? My favorite online environmental journal, the ever-engaging
      Grist, reminded us recently of how James Watt told the U.S. Congress
      that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the
      imminent return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony he said, "after
      the last tree is felled, Christ will come back."

      Beltway elites snickered. The press corps didn't know what he was
      talking about. But James Watt was serious. So were his compatriots out
      across the country. They are the people who believe the Bible is
      literally true -- one-third of the American electorate, if a recent
      Gallup poll is accurate. In this past election several million good
      and decent citizens went to the polls believing in the rapture index.

      That's right -- the rapture index. Google it and you will find that
      the best-selling books in America today are the 12 volumes of the
      "Left Behind" series written by the Christian fundamentalist and
      religious-right warrior Timothy LaHaye. These true believers subscribe
      to a fantastical theology concocted in the 19th century by a couple of
      immigrant preachers who took disparate passages from the Bible and
      wove them into a narrative that has captivated the imagination of
      millions of Americans.

      Its outline is rather simple, if bizarre (the British writer George
      Monbiot recently did a brilliant dissection of it and I am indebted to
      him for adding to my own understanding): Once Israel has occupied the
      rest of its "biblical lands," legions of the antichrist will attack
      it, triggering a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon.

      As the Jews who have not been converted are burned, the messiah will
      return for the rapture. True believers will be lifted out of their
      clothes and transported to Heaven, where, seated next to the right
      hand of God, they will watch their political and religious opponents
      suffer plagues of boils, sores, locusts and frogs during the several
      years of tribulation that follow.

      I'm not making this up. Like Monbiot, I've read the literature. I've
      reported on these people, following some of them from Texas to the
      West Bank. They are sincere, serious and polite as they tell you they
      feel called to help bring the rapture on as fulfillment of biblical
      prophecy. That's why they have declared solidarity with Israel and the
      Jewish settlements and backed up their support with money and
      volunteers. It's why the invasion of Iraq for them was a warm-up act,
      predicted in the Book of Revelations where four angels "which are
      bound in the great river Euphrates will be released to slay the third
      part of man." A war with Islam in the Middle East is not something to
      be feared but welcomed -- an essential conflagration on the road to
      redemption. The last time I Googled it, the rapture index stood at
      144 -- just one point below the critical threshold when the whole
      thing will blow, the son of God will return, the righteous will enter
      Heaven and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire.

      So what does this mean for public policy and the environment? Go to
      Grist to read a remarkable work of reporting by the journalist Glenn
      Scherer -- "The Road to Environmental Apocalypse." Read it and you
      will see how millions of Christian fundamentalists may believe that
      environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually
      welcomed -- even hastened -- as a sign of the coming apocalypse.

      As Grist makes clear, we're not talking about a handful of fringe
      lawmakers who hold or are beholden to these beliefs. Nearly half the
      U.S. Congress before the recent election -- 231 legislators in total
      and more since the election -- are backed by the religious right.

      Forty-five senators and 186 members of the 108th Congress earned 80 to
      100 percent approval ratings from the three most influential Christian
      right advocacy groups. They include Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist,
      Assistant Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Conference Chair Rick
      Santorum of Pennsylvania, Policy Chair Jon Kyl of Arizona, House
      Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Whip Roy Blunt. The only Democrat
      to score 100 percent with the Christian coalition was Sen. Zell Miller
      of Georgia, who recently quoted from the biblical book of Amos on the
      Senate floor: "The days will come, sayeth the Lord God, that I will
      send a famine in the land." He seemed to be relishing the thought.

      And why not? There's a constituency for it. A 2002 Time-CNN poll found
      that 59 percent of Americans believe that the prophecies found in the
      book of Revelations are going to come true. Nearly one-quarter think
      the Bible predicted the 9/11 attacks. Drive across the country with
      your radio tuned to the more than 1,600 Christian radio stations, or
      in the motel turn on some of the 250 Christian TV stations, and you
      can hear some of this end-time gospel. And you will come to understand
      why people under the spell of such potent prophecies cannot be
      expected, as Grist puts it, "to worry about the environment. Why care
      about the earth, when the droughts, floods, famine and pestilence
      brought by ecological collapse are signs of the apocalypse foretold in
      the Bible? Why care about global climate change when you and yours
      will be rescued in the rapture? And why care about converting from oil
      to solar when the same God who performed the miracle of the loaves and
      fishes can whip up a few billion barrels of light crude with a word?"

      Because these people believe that until Christ does return, the Lord
      will provide. One of their texts is a high school history book,
      "America's Providential History." You'll find there these words: "The
      secular or socialist has a limited-resource mentality and views the
      world as a pie ... that needs to be cut up so everyone can get a
      piece." However, "[t]he Christian knows that the potential in God is
      unlimited and that there is no shortage of resources in God's earth
      ... while many secularists view the world as overpopulated, Christians
      know that God has made the earth sufficiently large with plenty of
      resources to accommodate all of the people."

      No wonder Karl Rove goes around the White House whistling that
      militant hymn, "Onward Christian Soldiers." He turned out millions of
      the foot soldiers on Nov. 2, including many who have made the
      apocalypse a powerful driving force in modern American politics.

      It is hard for the journalist to report a story like this with any
      credibility. So let me put it on a personal level. I myself don't know
      how to be in this world without expecting a confident future and
      getting up every morning to do what I can to bring it about. So I have
      always been an optimist. Now, however, I think of my friend on Wall
      Street whom I once asked: "What do you think of the market?"I'm
      optimistic," he answered. "Then why do you look so worried?" And he
      answered: "Because I am not sure my optimism is justified."

      I'm not, either. Once upon a time I agreed with Eric Chivian and the
      Center for Health and the Global Environment that people will protect
      the natural environment when they realize its importance to their
      health and to the health and lives of their children. Now I am not so
      sure. It's not that I don't want to believe that -- it's just that I
      read the news and connect the dots.

      I read that the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection
      Agency has declared the election a mandate for President Bush on the
      environment. This for an administration:

      � That wants to rewrite the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the
      Endangered Species Act protecting rare plant and animal species and
      their habitats, as well as the National Environmental Policy Act,
      which requires the government to judge beforehand whether actions
      might damage natural resources.

      � That wants to relax pollution limits for ozone; eliminate vehicle
      tailpipe inspections, and ease pollution standards for cars,
      sport-utility vehicles and diesel-powered big trucks and heavy

      � That wants a new international audit law to allow corporations to
      keep certain information about environmental problems secret from the

      � That wants to drop all its new-source review suits against
      polluting, coal-fired power plants and weaken consent decrees reached
      earlier with coal companies.

      � That wants to open the Arctic [National] Wildlife Refuge to drilling
      and increase drilling in Padre Island National Seashore, the longest
      stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world and the last great
      coastal wild land in America.

      I read the news just this week and learned how the Environmental
      Protection Agency had planned to spend $9 million -- $2 million of it
      from the administration's friends at the American Chemistry Council --
      to pay poor families to continue to use pesticides in their homes.
      These pesticides have been linked to neurological damage in children,
      but instead of ordering an end to their use, the government and the
      industry were going to offer the families $970 each, as well as a
      camcorder and children's clothing, to serve as guinea pigs for the

      I read all this in the news.

      I read the news just last night and learned that the administration's
      friends at the International Policy Network, which is supported by
      Exxon Mobil and others of like mind, have issued a new report that
      climate change is "a myth, sea levels are not rising" [and] scientists
      who believe catastrophe is possible are "an embarrassment."

      I not only read the news but the fine print of the recent
      appropriations bill passed by Congress, with the obscure (and obscene)
      riders attached to it: a clause removing all endangered species
      protections from pesticides; language prohibiting judicial review for
      a forest in Oregon; a waiver of environmental review for grazing
      permits on public lands; a rider pressed by developers to weaken
      protection for crucial habitats in California.

      I read all this and look up at the pictures on my desk, next to the
      computer -- pictures of my grandchildren. I see the future looking
      back at me from those photographs and I say, "Father, forgive us, for
      we know not what we do." And then I am stopped short by the thought:
      "That's not right. We do know what we are doing. We are stealing their
      future. Betraying their trust. Despoiling their world."

      And I ask myself: Why? Is it because we don't care? Because we are
      greedy? Because we have lost our capacity for outrage, our ability to
      sustain indignation at injustice?

      What has happened to our moral imagination?

      On the heath Lear asks Gloucester: "How do you see the world?" And
      Gloucester, who is blind, answers: "I see it feelingly.'"

      I see it feelingly.

      The news is not good these days. I can tell you, though, that as a
      journalist I know the news is never the end of the story. The news can
      be the truth that sets us free -- not only to feel but to fight for
      the future we want. And the will to fight is the antidote to despair,
      the cure for cynicism, and the answer to those faces looking back at
      me from those photographs on my desk. What we need is what the ancient
      Israelites called hochma -- the science of the heart ... the capacity
      to see, to feel and then to act as if the future depended on you.

      Believe me, it does.

      Bill Moyers was host until recently of the weekly public affairs
      series "NOW with Bill Moyers" on PBS. This article is adapted from
      AlterNet, where it first appeared. The text is taken from Moyers'
      remarks upon receiving the Global Environmental Citizen Award from the
      Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical


      Newsworthy Maru


    • Warren Ockrassa
      ... From the perspective of the microorganisms? Certainly from the human point of view such things are pestilence. But from a survival, life-over-all
      Message 79 of 79 , Apr 19, 2005
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        On Apr 19, 2005, at 12:03 AM, KZK wrote:

        > Nick Arnett wrote:
        >> Warren Ockrassa wrote:
        >>> That's a good point. I'd ask you to think about something else,
        >>> though -- why do you consider yourself religious? I mean, if you
        >>> have some kind of faith, *why* do you have that faith?
        >> Well, there's the question. An honest answer has to include, "I
        >> don't know." I choose to regard it as an undeserved gift. A
        >> self-centered answer is, "I'm happier." A non-rational answer is,
        >> "It feels true."
        >> A quasi-evidentiary answer is that it has survived the millenia.
        > So has malaria and the clap. Are they forces of "good" too?

        From the perspective of the microorganisms?

        Certainly from the human point of view such things are pestilence. But
        from a survival, life-over-all perspective, they're working.

        I think it was Carl Sagan who commented that yeast has been very
        successful over the millennia -- it's taught the apex predators on
        Earth how to replicate itself for myriad purposes, some of which
        include intimate infections, some of which we regard as beneficent,
        some of which are of debatable value.

        Alfred Nobel was forever torn over his invention. Dynamite was -- and
        is -- good for lots of positive applications, as well as more than a
        few negative ones. Does that mean that dynamite was and is
        incontrovertibly evil, or even arguably so? Or is it safer to suggest
        that it's the human capacity for finding a cloud in virtually every
        silver lining that's really to blame?

        I can be very harsh on religion; I know that. But I also recognize that
        *faith* -- not necessarily religion -- has been a source of solace for
        untold millions, possibly billions, has given meaning to lives that
        otherwise might have seemed unnecessarily nasty, short and brutish.

        Nick and I have traded a few Buddhist ideas. I'm not officially
        Buddhist -- never taken a refuge vow -- but I do like some of the
        philosophies of the system; I like how it's non-theist and doesn't have
        a specific doctrine of a soul. One of its major adherents has said more
        than once that to the extent science uncovers new realities about the
        world, it is Buddhism that will have to change to suit itself to our
        increased understandings.

        The reason I bring it up is that a core tenet of Buddhism is that
        suffering should be reduced. If someone's faith in a deity reduces that
        person's suffering *and* does not contribute to the suffering of
        others, I find it hard to see that faith as invalid, worthy of mockery
        or something that needs to be "outgrown" or discarded.

        Scientific findings have also been used to great evil over the
        centuries. Should we argue for discarding the scientific method and its
        fruits? In order to be consistent with the message that religion is a
        source of evil and should be cast aside, that question becomes very
        important, doesn't it?

        Warren Ockrassa, Publisher/Editor, nightwares Books
        Current work in progress "The Seven-Year Mirror"

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