If human civilization is to survive the ten great threats now bearing down upon it, it will demand a concerted effort by all the world’s great religions and belief systems, a leading science writer says.
Massive risks in the form of ecological collapse, resource depletion, weapons of mass destruction, climate change, global poisoning, food insecurity, pandemic disease, overpopulation and uncontrollable new technologies menace the human future as never before, says Julian Cribb, author of ‘Surviving the 21st Century’ (Springer International 2017).
“The scientific evidence for these threats is incontrovertible,” he says. “What is needed now is for people who believe in a future for humanity to come together to ensure it has one – and the great faiths represent a potent and influential element in our civilization.
“One thing most faiths have in common is a desire to improve the human condition. With the fate of civilization balanced on a razor’s edge this century due to the confluence of man-made existential threats, there is an opportunity for the religious community of the world to help lead us out of danger.
“However, people of faith have to agree on the absolute priority of this task – and to set aside their differences of belief in working together to achieve it.”
Mr Cribb said that the recent statement by religious and faith leaders at the Paris COP22 climate talks in November highlighted the preparedness of the world’s great beliefs to come together on at least one existential threat – climate change.
“Leaders of Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Jain, Sikh, Quaker, Christian Orthodox, Brahma Kumaris, Interfaith and Aboriginal faiths from around the world called for urgent action by all governments on climate and environmental destruction. They urged the world to abandon the use of fossil fuels and called for disinvestment in them.”
In 2015, the Roman Catholic leader, Pope Francis, linked science with theology in an unprecedented call to his congregation to save the planet in his encyclical, Laudato Si. This has inspired leaders from other faiths to make similar calls.
“All the world’s great faiths are approaching a consensus on what needs to be done about climate change and environmental destruction,” Cribb says. “They are contributing the moral dimension to the facts demonstrated by science.
“What needs to happen next is a similar unity of thought and purpose on weapons of mass destruction, global poisoning, restraining population growth and the excessive resource demands it causes, and dangerous new technologies like killer robots and artificial intelligence.
“In other words, we need a consensus among the two thirds of Earth’s citizens who hold a religious belief that the survival and wellbeing of humanity, and the planet on which it lives, is a priority on which all can agree.”
Mr Cribb said 99 per cent of species that ever existed since the earth was formed were extinct – and there was nothing in nature that exempted the human species from this possibility.
“Until the present time, the main threats to humans were from predators, disease, famine or natural cataclysms. Today, as Britain’s Astronomer Royal Martin Rees has pointed out, the greatest threat to humanity and our civilisation is from ourselves.
“Many people are reluctant to admit the scale of the risks which now surround us, and the way these are combining to magnify the level of threat. But ignoring a danger is no way to avoid it. Only by clearly understanding it can we together develop solutions to it.”
The world’s great faiths have a critical role to play in ensuring that human civilization not only survives the 21st century but also emerges from it more unified, caring, peaceable and wise, he says.
“It is up to people of faith, as well as governments, businesses, ordinary citizens – women especially – to reframe human aspirations around how we can overcome the ten great existential threats we have created and how to advance civilization to safer, more secure future.”
Details of how the four great belief systems – money, politics, religion and the human narrative – can advance the cause of human survival are presented in Chapter 9 of “Surviving the 21st Century”.