THE WORLD-POPULATION is presently about 6 billion— that is, 6,000,000,000— and increasing rapidly. In poor countries like Ethiopia and Somalia— the most outstanding examples— famine and starvation cast their ominous shadows over millions of people, and it is easy to imagine it becoming much more widespread. Even with this awful reality, however, people continue to procreate uncontrollably, though this is probably Nature's blind urge to ensure the survival of the species.

Any solutions to the global environmental problems must be carried out coincidentally with drastic population control and reduction. According to environmental expert David Suzuki, the birth of each extra person in an industrialized country is more disastrous than the birth of 50 people in undeveloped countries like Bangladesh, for example. It is people in industrialized countries who produce the bulk of the carbon-dioxide and CFC's that are causing the Greenhouse Effect and the depletion of the Ozone Layer.

Over-population causes misery in many forms: pollution, starvation, deforestation, water-shortage, land-degradation and war. Whoever opposes birth-control unspokenly supports war, as war is one of the outcomes of overpopulation. We have only to look back over history to see what happens when a country's population becomes too big to be supported by that country: people will not just lie down and die of starvation if they can see plenty and to spare in the next country's fields, will they? We can also see it in the animal world, with rabbits, mice and locusts as examples. They know nothing about contraception, and look what happens with them!

Pope John-Paul II is notorious for opposing contraception; he denounces it continuously. His stand is a classic example of how Christianity, in particular, has opposed Science— and not just Science, but Common Sense— through the ages. Why does he behave in such an irrational and irresponsible manner? We are not talking about Abortion here, which Buddhists, Hindus and Jains also oppose, as Abortion is murder; life begins at the moment of conception, when the three elements of sperm, ovum and incoming-consciousness come together. Contraception, however, is just a matter of preventing the three elements coming together and conception taking place; there is no killing involved. And today, with numerous forms of contraception available, governments can and must afford to carry out birth-control programs; the costs are minimal compared with the alternative costs of over-population.

The Pope says that contraception is unnatural. Well, yes, it is unnatural; no-one denies this. But why single out and condemn contraception on this basis, when so much else about us is unnatural? If he is going to use that as his rationale for condemning it, he should be consistent and not live in a building of any kind, not use any form of transport, not eat cooked food, and not wear clothes. Nor should he use a toilet, but should perform the bodily functions of excretion just where and when the feeling to do so comes upon him, like animals. Maybe he is harking back to the time in the Bible, when ‘God’ told ‘Adam and Eve’ (Genesis 1:28): "Be fruitful, and multiply". Well, in the early days of man’s history, prolific reproduction was a necessity as mortality rates were very high and life short; but that is hardly so today, and in fact, the opposite is needed: not increase but decrease! Such exhortations must be understood in context and not applied for eternity. But if this biblical injunction is the Pope’s reason for opposing birth-control, why is he himself celibate? From where did the Catholic Church get the priestly practice of celibacy? The Jews did not practice it. I can think of no passage in the New Testament where Jesus spoke directly about celibacy, or encouraged it, let alone made it a rule for his disciples (except one passage about eunuchs). Maybe it is one of the many influences of Indian thought on early Christianity. Incidentally, some of the Popes were not celibate, but openly had wives and children. (The history of the Papacy, like the history of Christianity as a whole, is very interesting!)

It is fortunate that the Popes of our time do not have the power over people’s lives that earlier Popes had. Now many Catholics pay no heed to the Church’s ideas about birth-control, and hopefully more of them will listen to the Voice of Reason instead of to the Voice of Popish Dogma. It is imperative now to face facts if the human race is to avoid annihilating itself or devolve into an inferior condition. We can no longer insulate ourselves in ignorance and superstition, but must see how we— each one of us— con-tribute to the problems besetting the Whole of Humanity. The Whole is made up of parts, and the parts are people, like you and I. We must accept responsibility before it’s too late to do anything. We do not live alone in the world; the world is not our personal property, but belongs to us all, for a while; we share it with others now, and will pass it on to those who will come after us. Is it not in our own interests to think about things and take care of them?

The solutions to the problems facing us lie not only with Science but also with Religion, which still exerts a very powerful influence over our lives, as shown above. Albert Einstein wrote: "The religion of the future will be a Cosmic Religion. It should transcend a Personal God, and avoid dogmas and theology. Covering both the Natural and the Spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense of all things, Natural and Spiritual, as a meaningful unity". He also wrote, in the same work:

"Though I have asserted that in truth a legitimate conflict between religion and science cannot exist I must nevertheless qualify this assertion once again on an essential point, with reference to the actual content of historical religions. This qualification has to do with the concept of God. During the youthful period of mankind’s spiritual evolution human fantasy created gods in man’s own image, who, by the operations of their will were supposed to determine, or at any rate to influence, the phenomenal world. Man sought to alter the disposition of these gods in his own favor by means of magic and prayer. The idea of God in religions taught at present is a sublimation of that old conception of the gods. Its anthropomorphic character is shown, for instance, by the fact that men appeal to the Divine Being in prayers and plead for the fulfillment of their wishes".

And further: "The main source of the present-day conflicts between the spheres of religion and of science lies in this concept of a personal God. It is the aim of science to establish general rules which determine the reciprocal connection of objects and events in time and space. For these rules, or laws of nature, absolutely general validity is required— not proven. It is mainly a program, and faith in the possibility of its accomplishment in principle is only founded on partial successes. But hardly anyone could be found who would deny these partial successes and ascribe them to human self-deception. The fact that on the basis of such laws we are able to predict the temporal behavior of phenomena in certain domains with great precision and certainty is deeply embedded in the consciousness of the modern man, even though he may have grasped very little of the contents of those laws. He need only consider that planetary courses within the solar system may be calculated in advance with great exactitude on the basis of a limited number of simple laws. In a similar way, though not with the same precision, it is possible to calculate in advance the mode of operation of an electric motor, a transmission system, or of a wireless apparatus, even when dealing with a novel development.

"To be sure, when the number of factors coming into play in a phenomenological complex is too large, scientific method in most cases fails us. One need only think of the weather, in which case even prediction only a few days ahead is impossible. Nevertheless, no-one doubts we are confronted with a causal connection whose causal components are in the main known to us. Occurrences in this domain are beyond the reach of exact prediction because of the variety of factors in operation, not because of any lack of order in nature".

Again: "The more a man is imbued with the ordered regularity of all events the firmer becomes his conviction that there is no room left by the side of this ordered regularity for causes of a different nature. For him neither the rule of human nor the rule of divine will exists as an independent cause of natural events. To be sure, the doctrine of a personal God interfering with natural events could never be refuted, in the real sense, by science, for this doctrine can always take refuge in those domains in which scientific knowledge has not yet been able to set foot.

"But I am persuaded that such behavior on the part of the representatives of religion would not only be unworthy but also fatal. For a doctrine which is able to maintain itself not in clear light but only in the dark, will of necessity lose its effect on mankind, with incalculable harm to human progress. In their struggle for the ethical good, teachers of religion must have the stature to give up the doctrine of a personal God, that is, give up that source of fear and hope which in the past placed such vast power in the hands of priests. In their labors they will have to avail themselves of those forces which are capable of cultivating the Good, the True and the Beautiful in humanity itself. This is, to be sure, a more difficult but an incomparably more worthy task. After religious teachers accomplish the refining process indicated they will surely recognize with joy that true religion has been ennobled and made more profound by scientific knowledge".

Still further on, he says: "If it is one of the goals of religion to liberate mankind as far as possible from the bondage of egocentric cravings, desires, and fears, scientific reasoning can aid religion in yet another sense. Although it is true that it is the goal of science to discover rules which permit the association and foretelling of facts, this is not its only aim. It also seeks to reduce the connections discovered to the smallest possible number of mutually independent conceptual elements. It is in this striving after the rational unification of the manifold that it encounters its greatest successes, even though it is precisely this attempt which causes it to run the greatest risk of falling a prey to illusions. But whoever has undergone the intense experience of successful advances made in this domain, is moved by profound reverence for the rationality made manifest in existence. By way of the understanding he achieves a far-reaching emancipation from the shackles of personal hopes and desires, and thereby attains that humble attitude of mind towards the grandeur of reason incarnate in existence, and which, in its profoundest depths, is inaccessible to man. This attitude, however, appears to me to be religious in the highest sense of the word. And so it seems to me that science not only purifies the religious impulse of the dross of its anthropomorphism, but also contributes to a religious spiritualization of our understanding of life.

"The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge. In this sense I believe that the priest must become a teacher if he wishes to do justice to his lofty educational mission".

[I have quoted Einstein at length here in order to share something of his thoughts with others who might otherwise not be aware of them].

Nowadays, people are becoming aware that this Earth of ours functions as a Whole, and is affected by all the living things on it— especially by humans, with their propensity for destruction. Until recently, very few people cared about pollution, deforestation, or the slaughter of wildlife — to the point of extinction, in many cases. But now, faced with the reality that we are all directly involved with what is happening, people are beginning to awaken from their apathy, and realize that if the boat sinks, we will all go down with it. However, it will take a great deal more to keep them awake and inspire them to participate in doing something positive to counter the effects of centuries of neglect and exploitation. Now we must see beyond the narrow barriers we have created, must understand the ‘human-ness’ we have in common with others, must move towards the ‘Cosmic Religion’ that Einstein envisaged; it is imperative to do so!

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