Monday, June 04, 2007

Modern Day Indulgences

In the 1500s, it was common practice in the Roman Catholic Church to sell indulgences. According to Catholic doctrine, indulgences are those acts performed by a penitent person to remit for any sins he/she committed. In modern times, this is done through the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). In Luther's time, however, indulgences could be bought and sold for cash. In this way, the rich could, supposedly, purchase away their sins through monetary donations to the Church.

This led Martin Luther to write his "95 Theses" protesting the sale of indulgences. Forgiveness of sins was the purview of God alone and not something priests, bishops, nor even the Pope (Leo X at that time) could sell for a price. As Luther saw things, it was the responsibility of the individual to seek Christ and gain salvation by the Grace of God alone, which, as St. Paul wrote, "Is a gift from God so that no man could boast."

Sin Credits

In those days, one could purchase "sin credits" to keep themselves out of Hell or cut their time in Purgatory. Today, we have a similar system - the buying and selling of "Pollution Credits" or "Carbon Credits" or "Carbon Offsets."

Now, anyone who buys into the notion that global warming is human-caused and mostly the fault of those who live in the United States can buy their guilt away by paying someone else to plant a tree, go solar- or wind-power for electricity, or do some other task which will supposedly offset the amount of carbon dioxide their activities might put into the atmosphere.

Like the indulgences of 500 years ago, purchasing carbon offsets merely gives the illusion that a person is really doing something about how much carbon they might put into the atmosphere. Instead of actually doing something about climate change, they purchase their guilt away and do nothing of real substance. Folks like Al Gore don't have to actually do something about their houses, cars and plane trips. They can point to how much they offset their lifestyle ("sins against the environment) through the purchase of these modern indulgences.

If you believe that global climate change is human-caused then go out and do something real about it. Don't let your opinion be overshadowed by the hypocrisy of driving in limos or large SUVs , taking trips on private jets which put more carbon per passenger into the air than regular passenger jets, or using many times the amount of electricity of the average family in a home where only a few people live. Get a smaller car (or a motorcycle or hybrid car), fly with the scheduled airlines, insulate and modernize your home. Don't just put your money where your mouth is - do something real about it and lead by example.

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