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Friday, March 24, 2006


I'll be getting back to the usual POD analysis in the next post, but today I want to get a little philosophical and address an interesting side issue. It takes a bit of a tangent to fully explain, so please bear with me for a moment.

Lou Grinzo was the one who got me thinking, when he wrote this:
I am sick to death of the people like Kunstler and the other Apocalypticons telling us how humanity has never faced anything this serious, and then predicting in minute detail how freakin' awful things will be. How do they know? Why are they so intent on making these moralistic arguments about the downfall of modern civilization, etc.?
My friend Bart from was wondering about the same thing:
Where do fatalistic and Doomer ideas come from?
Now, let me take that tangent.

I grew up in the U.S., but have lived much of my adult life in an extremely non-Christian society (Japan). This makes the deep, ingrained Christianity of the U.S. stand out in high relief to me. It is one of the most prominent features of the reverse culture shock I experience when I return to the U.S.

Note that by "deep Christianity" I don't mean Pat Robertson, or people going to mega-churches, or the Bible Belt; that's "surface Christianity". Deep Christianity is the Christianity which is embedded into the very fabric of secular America. Generally, Americans never notice this because it's like the air they breath; I never did when I grew up there. But if you live for a while in a culture which doesn't have that Christian substrate, it's very obvious when you go back home.

Here's an example, to help you see vividly what I mean. This is a photo from the world famous penis festival at Tagata Jinja in Aichi, Japan:

This is not a joke. It is a solemn and ancient fertility rite of a pagan religion.

Due to their resourcefulness, the Japanese were one of the few peoples on the earth to resist the onslaught of Christian missionaries, and preserve these old rites. But in ancient times, they were practiced by all peoples. Herodotus speaks of a rite he witnessed in Egypt where a woman publicly copulated with a goat -- the goat being ritually regarded as the incarnation of a god. Public buildings and shrines in Rome were adorned with massive phallic sculptures and motifs. People wore phalluses around their neck, much like people wear crosses today.

Now, the U.S. is ostensibly a country of religious freedom, but what would happen if (say) some neo-paganists marched a giant pink penis down the streets of Chicago as part of their religious observations?

Well...the American public can't even handle 0.5 seconds of Janet Jackson's nipple in the form of a TV microdot, so it's clear that the "perps" would be arrested and, in all likelihood, convicted as sex offenders. But what would be the reason? It couldn't be Christianity because that would be tantamount to enforcing a state religion. So America invents secular euphemisms to cover this Christianity. They say the penis is "inappropriate" or "indecent" or "obscene".

This is what I mean by "deep Christianity" -- blatantly Christian behavior, morals and thought processes by people who claim to be uninfluenced by, or even antagonistic toward, Christianity.

There are lots of other examples of this phenomenon, but let's return to the topic of peak oil.

My claim is that peak oil doomers are subconsciously influenced by the apocalyptic doctrines of Christianity. It's part of their "deep Christianity". Of course, they will vehemently deny this -- just like all the American atheists and agnostics who would frantically dial the police to report an "obscene" penis parade their child saw out the window in Chicago. Deep, subconscious Christianity is passed off as "common sense", or even as normality itself.

But the connections are there if you have the eye for them. Consider this:
I don't know if this is a boost for PO but last night I heard Pat Robertson of all people, telling his TV audience that he recently read the book "Twilight in the Desert" by Matthew Simmons. He went on to tell about the how the Saudi's are doing everything to keep their production numbers up but once the oil fields peak, we are all in trouble. Source
What an amazing coincidence! We're on the same wavelength about the "End Times", Brother Simmons! To the untrained eye, this appears to be some roundabout, accidental connection between geology and theology, but in fact the connection is very short and direct. Simmons and Robertson are simply preaching different versions of the "Apocalypse" -- a meme which has been burned indelibly into their subconscious minds by the ambient culture of America.

Similarly, consider Professor Deffeyes' comments in a recent interview:
Q: Where is the economic impact of peak oil going to be felt acutely and when?

Geologists like to look back in time, and I'm not that good at futurology. I borrow the analogy of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: war, famine, pestilence and death.Source
Where did he get that analogy come from? Yup, you guessed it: THE BIBLE (Revelation 6:1-8).

Contrast this with the thinking of the Japanese. They don't even have the concept of the "End Times" or the "Apocalypse" (a biblically derived term) or "Armageddon" (another biblically derived term), except as an exotic foreign import. They're not coming to the playing field with the psychological baggage -- inculcated into them from birth by the ambient religious culture -- that the wicked will be punished for their sins when the world comes to an end on Judgment Day.

In the West, the collapse of Rome casts a very long shadow. Westerners look back on the Roman ruins, and worry "That could be us. It happened once before, and it could happen again. We're decadent like they were." This too harks back to the Bible. America is the new Rome, the decadent harlot of revelation:
18:2 And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.

18:3 For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.

18:4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.

18:5 For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.

18:6 Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double.

18:7 How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.

18:8 Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.

18:9 And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning,

18:10 Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.

18:11 And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more:

18:12 The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble,

18:13 And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.

18:14 And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all.

18:15 The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing,

18:16 And saying, Alas, alas that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls!

18:17 For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off,

18:18 And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city!(Rev. 18:2-18)
Tell me that isn't Kunstler in a nutshell, right there.

In the East, there was no Rome, and nobody pays attention to the Bible, so this whole strain of thought doesn't have any impact. It sounds weird and foreign. Japan never collapsed (and neither did China). The Japanese don't look back on their history and see ominous ruins, from which they are supposed to draw moral lessons about the wages of sin and excess. Instead, they look back and see Horyuji, the oldest wooden structure in the world:
When you've got a wooden building which has been standing continuously for 1300 years, the idea that "everything must eventually collapse" doesn't seem so convincing.
-- by JD


At Friday, March 24, 2006 at 6:08:00 AM PST, Blogger HedgeFund said...

The point of today's post was ...? Was it to slam the Judeo-Christian worldview (your "Deep Christianity")? Are you promoting the "Star Trek" worldview of how someday mankind will "evolve" out of its greed & selfish behavior? Surely, you're not that naive. I'm not and I own almost the entire Star Trek collection.

Death & taxes are truly safe bets for the future, and another large scale war or two is probably a safe bet as well -- that whole history repeating itself *thing*.

Eventually, NYC will get hit with a hurricane, Seattle will get hit with a Tidal Wave, California will get hit with the big earthquake, and eventually the lava caldera under Yellowstone will blow. So, sometime over the next 10,000 years, the doom-and-gloom crowd will eventually be right.

In the meantime, lets get back to a more relevant topic for 2006 -- oil. I believe that there's a good chance the human ingenuity will once again rise to the challenge of expensive energy and invent numerous alternatives to our present dependence on cheap, light, sweet crude. What's hard to figure out is the future price oil. What's the latest on CO2 EOR? What's really up in the Saudi oil fields? Are the Mexicans overstating their recent deep water find? If Boone Pickens is off on his supply cap forecast of 85 mbpd, how about his demand forecast of 125 mbpd by 2020? What price will oil need to be in order to induce production anywhere near 125 mbpd? These are questions relevant to my life that I look to your blog to help me answer.

I suggest sticking with what you know (Hint: it's not religion or prophesy). Let the silly peak-oil, doom-and-gloom crowd discredit themselves. Don't destroy your own credibility and that of your blog with low value added posts opining on the impact of biblical prophesy on American culture.

At Friday, March 24, 2006 at 6:24:00 AM PST, Blogger Markku said...

Death & taxes are truly safe bets for the future, and another large scale war or two is probably a safe bet as well -- that whole history repeating itself *thing*.

Don't be so sure about death. Check out The Law of Accelerating Returns.

At Friday, March 24, 2006 at 6:55:00 AM PST, Blogger Joel123 said...

Very interesting post. I think it is hugely on topic.

My two cents. I agree with the author's comments about Christian apocalyptic thinking being embedded in secular Western culture. However, apocalyptic visions predate Chrisianity and even Judaism. The oldest human civilizational records are replete with flood myths. My own theory: Look at the Southeast Asian tsumani . This type of thing, along with earthquakes, volcanoes etc, has happened over and over again over the millenia and has indeed wiped out whole communities ie the known world at the time. IMHO, this is one of the basis of apocalyptic fear.

At Friday, March 24, 2006 at 7:00:00 AM PST, Blogger Dan Harris said...

I don't think it is "deep Christianity" that drives it. Rather, I think it is a "deep" desire of writers and the media to stand out and to sell copies.

At Friday, March 24, 2006 at 7:30:00 AM PST, Blogger John O'Neill said...

Insightful -- this is one of your best posts, JD.

At Friday, March 24, 2006 at 7:55:00 AM PST, Blogger JDDEBUNKED said...

"They're not coming to the playing field with the psychological baggage -- inculcated into them from birth by the ambient religious culture -- that the wicked will be punished for their sins when the world comes to an end on Judgment Day."

This is a succinct and literate (if not unoriginal) interpretation of a major difference between Japanese and American culture and thinking.

For those of you unfamiliar with Japan, the country has had its share of doomsday think (e.g. Aoum, Pana Wave Laboratory, etc.) but these have been tiny cults whose membership would equal only an insignificant fraction of any Sunday's gathering of Evangelical Christians (a true doomsday cult if there ever was one) at a Texas mega-church. The vast majority of Japanese are unencumbered by this type of thinking.

Whether or not this absence of "psychological baggage" (i.e. Christian doomthink) would translate to a better solution to a supposed crisis imposed by a lack of oil is speculation. Having lived many years in both countries, however, I think the absence of this "baggage" would facilitate a more logical and civically orderly response in Japan than in the US.

At Friday, March 24, 2006 at 1:50:00 PM PST, Blogger Roland said...

LOL! So true. Love the writing style.

At Friday, March 24, 2006 at 2:08:00 PM PST, Blogger GermanDom said...

I also think it was hugely on topic. The question here is, not what's going on with the geology, politics or economics of peak oil but in the mind.

And I wouldn't be too concerned about whether you want to call it a Judeo-Christian worldview or whatever. The fact is that THE WEST has a definite way of thinking, meaning that the subconcious givens are deaply rooted in our cultural heritage - Greek philosophy, Roman law, Germanic sex roles, semitic apocalism.

And a Christian sense of time. There is a beginning, middle and End to history. Our very calendar denotes that. We don't date it according to who's ruling like the ancients did or even according to when history began like some cultures do. We date it to the birth of Christ, the middle.

Peak Oil will bring crisis no doubt. Will it be apocalytic? It will certainly be a matter of interpretation. Rome lived on, for instance, in the Byzantine Empire. The view from the eastern half of the Empire had nothing to do with an apocalyptic fall. Byzantium wasn't sacked until the Italians got to it in 1200. Kunstler sees only Rome being sacked by the Vandals and Goths and forgets the example of Byzantium.

So let him doom and gloom. For my part, I am almost certain that the down slope will be awful bumpy. Poverty, dysfunktion, systems collapse and general crisis will rule the day. I have a very hard time in believing that this time we'll be able create a safe landing.

Die Off? I doubt it.

At Friday, March 24, 2006 at 6:59:00 PM PST, Blogger nukeengineer said...

Ask the residents of Nanking circa 1938 what they thought about Japan and the "apocalypse."


At Friday, March 24, 2006 at 11:02:00 PM PST, Blogger Fat Man said...

Horyu-Ji Temple, which is the edifice I think you pictured, was built originally in 607, and is 1400 years old, although most wooden structures of any age must have their structural elements replaced periodically.

That is old, but the lands around the Mediterranean have many famous buildings that are older.

Rome, the eternal city features the Pantheon, which was built in 123 C.E. by the Emperor Hadrian (1880 years old) and Hadrian's mausoleum (n/k/a Castle of Saint Angelo) which is a mere 17 years newer, and a few structures which are newer, but more than 1400 years old such as Santa Costanza and San Stefano Rotondo. Also to be found in italy are the Baptistry of the Orthodox at Ravenna and San Lorenzo Maggiore in Milan both of which are more than 1500 years old.

Then, if were go over to the New Rome, f/k/a Byzantium, also Constantinople, n/k/a Istanbul, we find the Hagia Sophia built in 536 (1470 years ago), and a few other bulidings of slightly lesser age.

From there to Egypt where the Pyramids still stand after 45 centuries. When the New Testemant was written, the Pyramids were older than the Pantheon is now. Of course, back then buildings like the Parthenon stood intact and were quite old.

At Saturday, March 25, 2006 at 3:37:00 AM PST, Blogger Roland said...

I think the point is that wooden buildings are very easy to destroy (all it takes is one match!) and for one to stand for 1400 years demonstrates great political/social stability in a place.

European stone monuments aren't really a good comparison — try burning down the pyramids.

At Saturday, March 25, 2006 at 5:25:00 AM PST, Blogger Sam Charles Norton said...

Good post - and I agree about the embedded nature of Christianity in the west. You might find what I wrote on the topic of interest:

The theological roots of apocalyptic language lie in an anger against the status quo - and we now instinctively reach for the same language when we are angry with the present political arrangements, even if (superficially) Christianity has been cast off.

At Saturday, March 25, 2006 at 6:54:00 AM PST, Blogger mh497 said...

Interesting idea, but it seems to me that many of the serious doomsters are either just plain die-hard pessimists in general or people with other agendas who have embraced peak oil doom as the solution to their various pet peaves.

Kunstler hated suburbia (and apparently hates the average American as his blog writing smacks of intellectual elitism) and Heinberg felt civilization was going to hell long before peak oil hit their raders, while Savinar I think is an intelligent kid who was looking for an excuse not to have to practice law. (Judging by people I know who do, he probably made the right decision..)

Keep up the fight.

At Saturday, March 25, 2006 at 1:10:00 PM PST, Blogger popmonkey said...

there's one thing that bothers me with both this post and many of the comments.

you guys have your heads in the sand if you think that america is becoming more secular. the opposite is the reality. christianity is *so* not cast off. in fact we're in worse shape now than ever before.

that's why i think this post is so important. it is these christian ideals that are causing the most problems in america, and the islam ideas causing the most problems in the middle east and asia.

it's not just the apocalypse thing either (although i have a fellow motorcyclist friend who recently revealed that he's part of a "revelation is coming in the next few years" congregation!), it's also the way we fight for "our way of life". it's a small step from saying "we will defend our religion" to "we will defend our way of life" flawed as either could be.

has anyone here seen Richard Dawkin's (he of Selfish Gene and Extended Phenotype fame) "Root of All Evil?"? it's a bit heavy handed but a very brave BBC 2 parter about the destructive role of religion in both shallow and deep ways. highly recommended although i don't think dawkins took it far enough.

very good post JD. i disagree with hedgefund. this post is extremely topical and part of the whole debunking theory. hedgefund seems a typical american who only cares about the now. we need to care about the now, the tomorrow, and the future if we're to make rational decision.

At Saturday, March 25, 2006 at 3:32:00 PM PST, Blogger Roland said...

This passage from Sam's blog was interesting:

“Within the mainline Jewish writings of this period ... there is virtually no evidence that Jews were expecting the end of the space-time universe. There is abundant evidence that they knew a good metaphor when they saw one, and used cosmic imagery to bring out the full theological significance of cataclysmic socio-political events. There is almost nothing to suggest that they followed the Stoics into the belief that the world itself would come to an end; and there is almost everything to suggest that they did not.”

In other words, it's only present-day people who are too stupid to tell the difference between allegory and prophecy.

I know I sound like Howard "Americans are idiots" Kunstler, but seriously ... if the ancient hebrews could tell that the Book of Revelation was an allegory, it's a bit of a sad indictment of the millions of inhabitants of the world's most technologically advanced society who take it all seriously, 2000 years later.

I guess special effects make explosions and cataclysms and stuff easier for people to visualize these days.

At Sunday, March 26, 2006 at 9:42:00 AM PST, Blogger russ said...


After reading this post and your bicycle post it is obvious to me that any real energy-efficiency developments can only come from the East.

I'm sure we'll still crank out cool, loud, big stuff like rockets, movies, Heavy Earth Moving Equipment. But asking us to come up with any energy conservation policy or product is hopeless.

The US just needs to sit back and let the Japanese do the heavy lifting. They'll figure it out and we'll gladly pay them in speedboats (or something).

At Monday, March 27, 2006 at 9:38:00 AM PST, Blogger Albertus Magnus said...


Excellent point!

I'd have a few minor corrections...primarily point out before someone with a religious chip on their shoulder does so in a more hostile way. One of my hobbies deals with studying apocalyptic and eschatological based heresies in Christianity, so if you don't mind, I'll add some mostly useless trivia to the discussion.

First off, despite the two being severely intermingled in modern consciousness, the word you're after is eschatological, not apocalyptic. These two genres almost always go hand in hand, and so the point is very obscure, but "apocalyptic" refers to uncovering the hidden..."peeking behind the curtain" so to speak. Technically, Dante's Divine Comedy is Apocalyptic, even though it has little to do with the end times.

Dante aside, though, the vast majority of apocalyptic writing does have to do with the end times, likely because, as you point out, JD, we tend to be obsessed with them.

The second point has already been made by others, but neither apocalyptic nor eschatological thought is unique to, nor original to Christianity. Christianity got both through Judaism, but it doesn't start there. It actually seems to be fairly prevalent in humanity, although it isn't universal, as you point out. The Aztecs, for instance, thought their sacrifices forestalled the end-times.

That pedantry aside, eschatological thought in the US almost certainly has its roots in Christianity. There just aren't that many neo-Aztec religious types running about, and Christianity has had an extreme eschatological focus from the beginning. From the Gospels, it's evident Jesus thought the end times were right around the corner, and that expectation has continued in fits and starts ever since. It is pervasive, and was largely responsible for the slow progress of technology following the fall of Rome (largely thanks to Augustine of Hippo) and we probably owe our getting out of that funk as early as we did to Joachim of Fiore, who faced charges of heresy (although he wasn't convicted) related to his convictions that the end of the world was not, in fact, nigh. Fortunately for us, he caught the imagination of many later mediaeval thinkers, and we kicked our collective buttocks out of the millenial funk we were in.

Let's not fall back into that!

Good post, JD!!!

At Monday, March 27, 2006 at 12:50:00 PM PST, Blogger Jay Denari said...

Hi, JD,

We don't agree on some things, but we definitely agree on this idea.

... if the ancient hebrews could tell that the Book of Revelation was an allegory, it's a bit of a sad indictment of the millions of inhabitants of the world's most technologically advanced society who take it all seriously, 2000 years later.

Actually, I like to think (maybe too optimistically) that MANY of us do know it's allegory. Personally, I ascribe to the idea that it was partly a symbolic expression of strongly anti-Roman political attitudes. The whole idea that those tales were meant literally is a relatively new one, dating back a little over 100 years.

As Albertus noted, the people who wrote them saw them as events in THEIR near future, with some good reason. Being a small culture recently conquered by Rome (a pagan society much more like Japan than modern Xian society is), facing internal upheaval, and having seen their own failed attempt at imperialism under the Maccabeean dynasty, New Testament Judea was ripe for doomsaying. And they got it.

If you look at Judaic history as the Bible describes it (regardless of whether the events are true), it's a history of major psychological trauma -- global flood, conquest by one empire after another, forced migration & slavery, brutality at the hands of their own god, etc. In the hands of several Xian leaders, that trauma continued well into modern history, so it should surprise no one that some people would still be immersed in thought patterns that reflect people trapped in traumatic/abusive situations.

While many of today's doomsayers overtly reject the religious elements of that abused outlook, there are plenty of other events that can be interpreted as apocalyptic for those who haven't yet recognized the OTHER elements of their thought processes that are still mired in it. Let's face it -- our society IS pretty steeped in addictive and abusive behavior.

The problem today is that too many people are unwilling to see that a theology that might have been appropriate for an ancient time and place becomes entirely unworkable when forced to stretch to encompass one billion people, especially when the texts have since been distorted by people with specific agendas. I think part of the fundy attitude is a subconscious recognition but denial of that fact -- Underneath they're really afraid they're WRONG, and they need civilization to fall to "prove them right" and to get revenge on their abusers.

That self-centered attitude has little to do with the repeatability of natural events like hurricanes, quakes, or even global flood myths, but it DOES tend to see any disaster as "evidence" for its own validity.

At Tuesday, March 28, 2006 at 4:09:00 AM PST, Blogger Albertus Magnus said...

The problem today is that too many people are unwilling to see that a theology that might have been appropriate for an ancient time and place becomes entirely unworkable when forced to stretch to encompass one billion people, especially when the texts have since been distorted by people with specific agendas.

Hi Jay,

Actually, the theology being used today (and for the last few centuries) is relatively new. Odd as it may seem, fundamentalism is a modern aberration, associated, as you seem to be alluding to, with periods of stress and change.

You can read some very good material on this in Karen Armstrong's _The Battle for God_ and Jack Spong's _Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism_.

At Friday, March 31, 2006 at 8:04:00 AM PST, Blogger Artie said...

"...they will vehemently deny this -- just like all the American atheists and agnostics who would frantically dial the police to report an "obscene" penis parade..."

First, let me congratulate you for making an astute, long-overdue observation on the peak oil phenomenon. The similarities between the PO doom 'n' gloomers and the "left behind" crowd is striking.

As a agnostic, I would take issue with the quote above, simply because I would find a "penis parade" just another gratuitious manifestation of "free speech," much like a plastic nativity scene or a Howard Stern dissertation on bowel movements.

Anyway, I do appreciate your making the connection between the PO handwringing and the "drill or die." Makes you wonder if Kunstler, Savinar, et al are on the Bil Oil payroll!

Good stuff, keep it up.

At Friday, March 31, 2006 at 8:05:00 AM PST, Blogger Artie said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Saturday, April 1, 2006 at 11:33:00 AM PST, Blogger sofistek said...

I'm not sure what this article is meant to prove, if anything. Even if there were similarities between the doomer scenarios and christian apocalyptic scenarios, the similarity doesn't invalidate either. If you don't go for the apocalypse (I don't) the similarity doesn't mean the peak oil doomer scenario is invalid. Look at the arguments for the scenario and try to invalidate them directly, rather than by comparison with something you think is wacky.

At Saturday, April 1, 2006 at 12:25:00 PM PST, Blogger sofistek said...

After hypothesising on where the doomer thinking comes from, perhaps you'd like to try your hand at the thinking of those I've seen on this blog who believe that humans are bound to come up with some answer to our energy problems?

At Tuesday, April 4, 2006 at 2:48:00 AM PDT, Blogger Corey said...

"Japan never collapsed (and neither did China)."

Huh? You might want to crack those history books again there JD.

At Tuesday, April 4, 2006 at 8:18:00 AM PDT, Blogger Floccina said...

Then why does the Japanese government have an energy policy even more absurd than our government’s energy policy?

At Sunday, April 9, 2006 at 10:47:00 AM PDT, Blogger Unknown said...

I think your post has a basic and fundamental error: you don't consider that that same Judeo-Christian approach to life that is so eager for an Apocalypse is the same that created the conditions for it.

Believing in an Apocalypse means believing that time is a straight line that has a beginning and an ending, and that our role in history (actually, what "history" is) is to fulfill the will of God - eventually leading to the deserved and long awaited Apocalypse (when, don't forget it, the Goods will be separated from the Bads).
This is the (mental, ethical, moral, existential) attitude that allowed the (Judeo-Christian) civilization to get to the doming position of the world like it is doing now: but this is also the same attitude that condemned it to the final Apocalypse, as it was already contained ("in nuce") in the beginning.

Other views of the World (for example a "circular" one) don't have this "Apocalyptic twist": but they don't lead to (or help the human race in the) discovery of the jet engine, the Internet and the nuclear bomb (note that I'm not saying one is better then the other - they are all part of the human nature)

Peak Oil - at least to me - doesn't mean that I "have faith that" we will all be eaten alive by the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse: it will mean that we will have less and less resources to fuel our (Judeo-Christian) religion of perpetual growth and dominance of the nature (because God gave it to us) and to maintain all the gizmons we felt compelled to build in order to "realize ourselves" and we could easily make thanks to fossils fuels.

Then, maybe, WE will become the Horseman of the Apocalypse - trying to maintain an unsustainable world.

At Thursday, November 2, 2006 at 8:33:00 AM PST, Blogger TraderGordo said...

I'm probably in the minority among your readers - I am a Christian. But I am not offended by your comments, there may be some truth in your observation. The Bible does teach the end of the world as we know it, and it does state that there will be a huge future tribulation involving almost total world chaos.

What it does NOT say is when it will happen, nor is there any link with peak oil. If anything, its just one of many reminders of potential world disaster. As others have pointed out, this isn't unique to Christianity. Nor are huge disasters mere ideas - we have had all sorts of plagues, world wars, natural disasters, even enormous meteor impacts in the past, so it is not inconceivable that we will have even bigger problems in the future. In fact many would say its inevitable. I think some people get all worked up about things because they live otherwise boring lives and they like attention or they like the exciting feeling they get from being a sensationalist or alarmist. I would imaging this is not unlike the exciting feeling others seek via drugs or racing or extreme sports.

Personally I believe we will overcome the challenges associated with peak oil, and I actually believe we will end up much better off as a result of the changes and innovations that will result. I believe the world will be substantially more productive after we perfect renewable energy and general efficiency.

For what its worth, I bet the majority of peak oil doom & gloomers out there are NOT Christians. Its just a hunch though. It seems to me that most Christians, and indeed the United States in general - are not concerned about global warming or peak oil. Christians are generally more associated with conservatives & Republicans, but its the more liberal folks, Democrats, that are generally all worked about about things like global warming and peak oil and forcing the government into disasterous medling to "fix" problems that the free market is often better off "fixing".

At Tuesday, April 24, 2007 at 10:30:00 AM PDT, Blogger leif said...

"Due to their resourcefulness, the Japanese were one of the few peoples on the earth to resist the onslaught of Christian missionaries, and preserve these old rites."

I like your site, but let me point out that there was in fact a large Japanese Christian population that was tortured, murdered and nearly wiped out.

From 300,000 in 1600, only a handful were able to survive secretly for 250 years.

Just to point out a needless anti-Christian bias, I think that underground survival points to a lot more "resourcefulness" than giant penis statues.

At Thursday, March 20, 2008 at 12:29:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an intersting post. I live in Texas, so most of us here are Baptist. I am not however, I am agnostic. I am because of many things and what you said further reinforces this. The world as a whole does not follow one God. So how can he exist, when most of the world does not believe in him. I do not know the answer. While I think you have touched the surface of doomers. I think that there is more to it than meets the eye. Stories and films like MadMax fet people thinking. Sci Fi and Fantasy as well. Many aspects fo our lives, really. Why do some of us do it, for the same reason some murder others.

Also your comparison to Rome is poor.
I am a bit of a Historian and while Japan was small and was pretty much untouched in those days. Rome on the other hand was an empire that most of the world knew of as the symbol of power. Anyways, we here in the U.S. are the same in many aspects. However I do not think that our time to fall from grace has yet to come. None the less a good blog all 'round.

At Saturday, June 21, 2008 at 5:32:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually the Chinese empire "fell" many times, but it was always rebuilt. The Western Roman empire was never rebuilt, while when the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) fell in 1453, it was rebuild in Muslim form as the Ottoman Empire.

One of the Ottoman Sultan's titles was "Qaysar-i Rum" (that's "Caesar of Rome" in Ottoman Turkish).

At Friday, April 17, 2009 at 7:52:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am an ex-doomer. At one point, I took Kunstler seriously. However, I eventually arrived (independently) at the same conclusion this blog has arrived at.

Kunstler is right about one thing, North America is a spectacular clusterfuck. Suburbia is the greatest misallocation of resources the world has ever known. However, the argument that taking away a big chunk of the oil that is wasted on discretionary air travel, short range, unplanned car travel, importing plastic crap from china, and growing spectacular quantities of meat will cause the breakdown of society is completely baseless.

Even though Kunstler et. Al are probably right about the oil consumption -> GDP connection, and are right in claiming that the current model of the perpetual growth economy doesn't work without perpetual growth, he fails to remember that humans got along in steady-state economies just fine.

The real danger is bailouts. The transition to a steady state/decline economy would be a case of "when times get tough, the tough get going", except for the bailout factor.

At Monday, March 22, 2010 at 6:59:00 AM PDT, Blogger Steve Sainsbury said...

Interestingly as a British Pagan, totally uninfluenced by christianity, I find the apocalyptic peak oil argument a bit shallow and not well thought out. We can adapt and will do under economic pressures brought on by the end of cheap oil. So it's positive action that is needed. For my part I'm spearheading the revival of a particular British railway, I can't do more than that. If we all do our bit NOW to ease the transition to a post-oil world it will make it a lot easier.

How long before Hollywood discovers Peak Oil? And what outcome do you suppose they'll show? Apocalypse or happier societies living closer to the land?


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