There are many things in life that we can attribute as “Gods will”. Often it is during a time of tragedy or loss where something profound happens that seems too choreographed to just be a coincidence. While I am certain I could find a recent example based in reality of this, my first thought on this subject is about one of my favorite movies; Signs. <Spoiler Alert> In the 2002 suspenseful movie, the Hess family finds crop circles on their farm and the story evolves from there. One of the core subplots is how Reverend Graham Hess’ (Mel Gibson) wife tragically dies as the result of a driver falling asleep at the wheel. That driver (played by writer and director M. Night Shyamalan who appears in all of his films like Hitchcock) talks about the tragedy and how “it was like it was meant to be” based on exactly when he fell asleep and exactly where she was walking. As the film unfolds, it becomes perfectly clear that the death of the reverends wife was Gods will and restores the reverends faith.
In my opinion having faith and believing in a higher power is a good thing. Where things often get tricky is when we hand over or excuse behavior and circumstances and say it must have been Gods will. Certainly there are constraints based on where and when you were born, but most people seem to be accepting of recognizing that they control their own choices and destiny. For example, if I eat tons of processed foods and never exercise it would be challenging for me to convince most people that being overweight was God’s plan for me. If I never change my furnace filter and my kids develop asthma, it is logical that I would need to take accountability as opposed to attributing a higher power.
When it comes to discussing man’s impact on the climate, God is often referred to as the ultimate keeper of the earth. The current chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, James M. Inhofe, is a very vocal opponent of the idea of man having any role in our changing climate. Inhofe has his own book on the subject, has given countless floor speeches, and the core of his argument can be summed up by one of his statements , “God’s still up there and the arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.” The notion that man cannot change the climate and only God has the power to do so is an interesting stance and one that is refuted by nearly every organized religion.
The core problem with the argument is that it removes accountability from mankind for caring for the earth. There are numerous ways to defeat this argument. One is to take a walk through history and look at the ozone hole problems. In the mid 1970’s there was widespread concern about the depletion of the ozone layer, the concerns were based in scientific fact that had proven that the use of manmade halogen atoms (halocarbon refrigerants, solvents, propellants, and foam-blowing agents) were destroying the ozone layer. It was and is also well understood that the ozone layer is what protects us from ultraviolet-B radiation and increases would lead to more widespread skin cancer and other health complications. Until 1987, there was strong opposition by the halocarbon industry to regulatory changes and the politicians they funded followed suit. After the discovery of the hole in the ozone and an EPA leadership change, the U.S. government’s attitude began to shift as well and in 1987 forty three nations signed the Montreal Protocol which phased out the use of most destructive halocarbons. So, in that example, we had a manmade substance which was known to cause destruction put a hole in the ozone layer which is still on the mend today. What if we had just argued that the use of halocarbons was our god given right and if the ozone layer goes away, it must be god’s doing?
I am on board with Inhofe talking about the death of his son in a plane crash while he was taking his first solo flight in 2013 being God’s will. But to throw our hands up in the air and pass accountability on to a higher power regarding the destruction of our climate is a disingenuous cop out. And when that person is the top recipient of funding from the oil industry, very little that they say should be taken seriously.