During the past few days, I’ve watched a movie and read a book on two major problems that the world is facing today. I am absolutely shocked, terrified, and scared, of the present state of the world. It’s much, much worse than I ever thought. I really feel that if humanity does not do anything towards finding an answer to these problems, our descendants may not live to see the next millenium.
The first of these problems is global warming. I watched An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary by Al Gore, which was very informative and convincing. Everyone knows what global warming is, of course, and knows that it’s happening right now. What you might not know is the extent and severity of the problem. In the movie, there is a graph that shows a strong correlation between CO2 levels and global temperature. And there’s another graph that shows current CO2 levels are the highest in 650,000 years. Think about that. This means that global warming is almost entirely humanity’s fault. In the latest report from the UN Intergovenmental Panel on Climate Change (2007), it is predicted that global temperatures will increase by 1.8 to 6.4 C and sea levels will rise by 18 to 59 cm by the year 2100. Those who are not scared by these numbers should try multiplying them by 10, and they will see that maybe my prediction about surviving until the next millenium does not seem so far-fetched anymore.
The second of these problems is religious conflict. The book that I read was The End of Faith : Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris. Again, religious conflict is a very well-known problem. 9/11 and the India-Pakistan disputes are two of the most familiar cases. Although some may say that most conflicts result from political and/or economical reasons, but even if you remove those factors, conflicts will happen anyway. For example, all 19 of the 9/11 terrorists were college-educated men from middle-class families, but they still chose the path of terrorism. Why? Because they held beliefs that they will be rewarded in the afterlife, beliefs without evidence or reason. Furthermore, we are not allowed to fully criticize their actions because we have been taught to respect other people’s beliefs. There is an undeserved wall of respect surrounding religion that prevents us from discussing it. Were it any other subject, such unreasonable beliefs would be dismissed in an instant. If I say that I believe that unicorns exist, for example, everyone would be right to condemn me as crazy, because there is absolutely no evidence for unicorns at all. However, when you turn to religion, suddenly unreasonable and outright crackpot beliefs are given credit and respect. If you think about it, there is no reason whatsoever to treat religion differently from any other subjects. It is these religious beliefs that breed discrimination ("Our religion is the only right one, all others are wrong and will go to hell"), and ultimately, conflict as is seen throughout history and will be seen in the near future. Of course, I am not advocating that we should erase religions from the world right away, for the simple reason that it’s impossible. I’m just saying that we should stop giving religions undeserved respect, and start discussing religions using reasonable and evidence-based thinking.
The first step to solving any problem is to become aware that there is a problem. Many people in the world still do not realize the magnitude of these two problems that we are facing. I would like to spread the word as far as I could, that this emergency is urgent and it needs the cooperation of everyone. If we are still ignoring these crises, the question won’t be which one we will solve first, but rather which one will kill us first.