GCRI Hosts Discussion Of Religion & GCR

On Friday 28 September 2012, GCRI hosted the first of what looks to be an ongoing series of discussions among a group of religion scholars. The discussion covered several topics, including an extended discussion of the inevitability of catastrophe.

Meeting participants included Hassan Hussain of UCLA & Columbia University, Jun Zhuang of University at Buffalo, and Seth Baum, Tony Barrett, Mark Fusco, and Jacob Haqq-Misra, all of GCRI.

The group observed that some religious communities view catastrophe as inevitable, such as in ideas about apocalypse. These communities are thus focused more on enduring the catastrophe than preventing it. Several instances were cited:

• The phenomenon in the United States of “preppers” who take measures like stockpiling food and water in anticipation of catastrophes and are sometime motivated by religious considerations.

• Communities in war-torn Iraq who may feel like apocalypse is already upon them, and feel helpless to improve their dire conditions.

• Mormons are instructed to stockpile three months of food in preparation for end times as discussed in Revelations. There’s even a dedicated blog.

• Though perhaps not of religious origin, another interesting case is the massive underground bunker recently built in Shanghai, reportedly capable of housing 200,000 people.

The theme of preventing vs. enduring catastrophe can be found in other contexts too. Indeed, the previous day’s discussion of nuclear war had considered the idea that the U.S. government is not adequately preparing to endure nuclear winter because it is focused on preventing nuclear war. Similarly, climate change communities have often avoided discussing the need to adapt to climatic changes because doing so amounted to ‘admitting defeat’ on preventing climate change through reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

We welcome comments and suggestions on these topics. Comments will be considered in future meetings of the religion & GCR discussion group.

This post was written by
Seth Baum is Executive Director of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute.
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