RELIGION

Sheldon Whitehouse: God Won't Save Us From Climate Catastrophe

05/08/2013 08:51 pm ET | Updated May 09, 2013

WASHINGTON -- God will not save us, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) declared in a Senate floor speech on climate change Wednesday that sounded more like a sermon than a political appeal.

Whitehouse has made it his personal mission for more than a year to highlight the catastrophic consequences of climate change every week. His zeal became downright evangelical Wednesday evening, apparently inspired by hearing a fellow senator assert that God won't let people ruin the planet.

In a powerful 17-minute speech, Whitehouse argued that such sentiments amounted to "magical thinking" and smug arrogance that do not gibe with the Bible, let alone reason.

"If we believe in an all-powerful God, then we must then believe that God gave us this earth, and we must in turn believe that God gave us its laws of gravity, of chemistry, of physics," Whitehouse said.

"We must also believe that God gave us our human powers of intellect and reason. He gives us these powers so that we his children can learn and understand earth's natural laws," Whitehouse said.

What intellect tells people is that they are polluting the planet and causing it to warm with foreseeable, catastrophic consequences, Whitehouse contended. He said it was senseless to ignore what the God of knowledge has enabled people to learn.

"We learn these natural laws, and we apply them to build and create, and we prosper," Whitehouse said. "So why then, when we ignore his plain, natural laws, when we ignore the obvious conclusions to be drawn by our God-given intellect and reason, why then would God, the tidy-up God, drop in and spare us?"

Although Whitehouse did not name names, some of his Senate colleagues could be counted as targets of his speech, including Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who recently said on the floor that he didn't know what humans have done to Mother Nature.

Climate science deniers are more vocal in the House, where Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) recently called evolution a lie from the pit of hell, and where the Science Committee is weighing ways to exert political control on the National Science Foundation. Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) has quoted scripture to deny that climate change will destroy the earth.

Whitehouse suggested that such anti-science attitudes are anything but humble or religious.

"We are here to do God's work. He's not here to do ours," Whitehouse said. "How arrogant -- how very far from humility -- would be the self-satisfied, smug assurance that God, a tidy-up-after-us God will come and clean up our mess?"

"Hope for a nanny God, who will with a miracle grant us amnesty from our folly -- that's not aligned with either history or the text of the Bible," Whitehouse said.

The senator, who is an Episcopalian, also quoted extensively from the Bible and cited an oft-told joking parable of a man left his salvation in God's hands, only to perish because he spurned human help.

Watch Whitehouse's speech above.

Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.

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