This week in Ireland, many column inches have been consumed by commentary on recent remarks made by one of our parliamentarians. In denying the existence of anthropogenic climate change, Danny Healy-Rae stated the following:
“I’m basing my views on facts. The facts are there and history proves it. We had the Ice Age. We had Noah’s Ark. We had all those stories.”
It is quite shocking to many Irish people that one of our legislators bases his decisions on such ignorant and uninformed opinions. To get a better understanding of his world-view, the short video below of a contribution from Mr Healy-Rae to a parliamentary debate, is well worth watching. I think we can assume that when he mentions “combustable engines”, he is actually referring to combustion engines, rather than devices designed to habitually incinerate themselves.
While these views are clearly detached from reality in several important respects, we can also wonder where exactly the very many Roman Catholics in Ireland would find fault with this kind tortured logic. Do most Catholics disagree with Mr Healy-Rea because they believe that their god is incapable of controlling the weather? If not, do they instead believe that their god is perfectly capable of adjusting the climate but simply prefers to watch climate disasters unfold instead? Perhaps Yahweh is just apathetic and couldn’t be bothered taking an interest?
No credible scientist disputes the fact that the climate on our planet has changed significantly over geological time scales. No credible scientist disputes the fact that many substantial changes in climate have not been man-made. No credible scientist disputes the fact that some of the climate changes that humans have not contributed to, have nevertheless directly caused many human deaths. For example, the Toba Catastrophe Theory proposes that a global winter 75,000 years ago, which caused the death of all but 10,000 humans worldwide, was actually the result of a super-volcano eruption.
Practising Roman Catholics who are embarrassed by Danny Healy-Rae might consider what the role of their god was during such climate disasters. Was Yahweh impotent in the face of such deadly climate change or was he malevolent in deciding not to avert such natural disasters? We were able to consider this issue in relation to a more contemporary natural disaster, when Ecuador was struck by an earthquake in April of this year, killing more than 600 people.
Much like in Ireland, the predominant religion in Ecuador is Catholicism. So when the earthquake began, there is no doubt that there were very many small children, praying to Mary and Jesus in absolute terror. If the Catholic world-view of Danny Healy-Rae is correct, Mary and Jesus listened carefully to these prayers and decided that the best outcome for many of these innocent children, was a slow and agonising death.
Catechism 302 is clear on this point. The Roman Catholic god has a plan for this world, which is called “Divine Providence”. So if an innocent child suffers a slow and agonising death while praying to Mary and Jesus for mercy, this outcome is all part of god’s plan. The world-view of Danny Healy-Rae is entirely consistent with this position. When he states, “I believe that god above is in charge of the weather”, he seems to be simply accepting the insistence in Catechism 268 that god is omnipotent.
In defence of Danny Healy-Rae then, his position on theodicy simply accepts the Roman Catholic Catechism without obfuscation or sophistry. I think he’s terribly deluded … but at least he has thought about the implications of his Catholic beliefs. To my mind, the more difficult question arises for the Roman Catholics who are laughing at the comments of Danny Healy-Rae. Why have children say Catholic prayers at all, when the Catholic god is happy to watch the natural world that he himself created, causing the slow and agonising death of innocent children, even while they recite those prayers?
National Committee, Atheist Ireland
Secretary, Atheist Alliance International