After spending some time intently focused on nuclear weapons, my ground breaking research has made an amazing discovery.
Nuclear weapons are depressing!
Seriously though, is this really true? Is it nuclear weapons that are depressing, or something else?
Nukes Are Wonderful!
As example, imagine that a giant asteroid was headed for Earth and we succeeded in diverting it with nuclear weapons launched in to space. In such a case, nuclear weapons wouldn’t be depressing, they’d be a very much appreciated civilization saving tool, right?
As example, imagine that a fleet of alien spaceships were about to invade and eat us and we turned them back with nuclear weapons. In such a case, nuclear weapons wouldn’t be depressing, they’d be our savior!
So, it seems nuclear weapons are not automatically depressing in and of themselves. I suppose they may conceivably have some constructive use in some situation. They are after all just mechanical objects with no evil intent.
We Have Met The Enemy And He Is…. Uh oh!
It seems that what’s depressing is not so much nuclear weapons, but their creators. You know, the human condition.
What kind of creature creates a huge gun, sticks that gun in it’s own mouth, and then becomes bored with the gun and largely forgets about it? Only the human creature can accomplish such a remarkable feat of self defeating absurdity.
I read recently that over 99% of all species ever to live on Earth have gone extinct. When any species fails to successfully adapt to it’s environment Mother Nature says, “Ok, time’s up, you’re outta here.”
What must Mother Nature be thinking about us these days? Is our time about up? Are we soon to be outta here?
From the perspective of a humanist and activist, it’s hard not to be depressed by the possibility that we may fail to control nuclear weapons before they destroy us. It seems almost essential to the activist experience that we feel at least some of this pain.
From a broader more philosophical perspective, should I be depressed that everything that has a beginning also has an end, and that there’s really no chance that human beings will escape this formula? Wouldn’t it be rational to make peace with that which can not be changed?
Finding The Right Balance
Perhaps sustaining nuclear weapons activism in one’s life requires a careful blend of both humanist attachment and philosophical detachment.
If we are to be activists we have to have some level of attachment to the notion that the human species should continue to survive.
And if we are to be activists we may also need to preserve a degree of philosophical detachment, so that we don’t become emotionally exhausted and depressed, and then give up to escape that pain.
As is so often true in life, it’s probably not attachment or detachment that is the issue, but rather the balance between the two.
What is the relationship between Catholic belief and action in regards to nuclear weapons?
First, please understand that I am not a theologian, priest, spokesman for the Catholic Church, or any kind of expert on anything. To some definitions, I may not even be Catholic. This article does not seek to define Catholicism for anybody else, it only shares my own view.
The Apostle John may have expressed the Catholic perspective most concisely when he said….
God is love.
Three simple words, which could perhaps be all any serious person really needs?
God is love.
Love is an act of surrender.
Love is an action.
God is love. And love is action. Therefore God is an action.
To put it another way…
The most credible expression of our beliefs is not what we think or say, but what we do.
From this perspective, the implications for our relationship with nuclear weapons seems clear.
The real question is, what are we going to do about it? How will we make our beliefs credible by taking the leap from the talking of the talk to the walking of the walk?
If God is love, and love is action…
What action will we take?
I believe the Pope’s recent speech on nuclear weapons illustrates a challenge facing the Catholic community at large on this subject, including this typist.
As you read his speech, note how the Pope’s moral clarity is sharp and right on target, but there is no call to any specific bold practical real world action. We are not asked to do anything but pray.
I’m not dismissing the power of prayer, but doesn’t it seem likely that God is most likely to help those who are already attempting to help themselves? Isn’t God’s first response to our prayer likely to be…
“Ok, but what are you already doing about this? What action have you taken?”
From the perspective of this article, Catholic doctrine on nuclear weapons becomes most credible and powerful when it is connected directly to practical real world action.
A great example of this is Catholic Charities, the 2nd leading provider of social services to the needy in the United States, topped only by the federal government. What an impressive and entirely credible statement of Catholic philosophy!
Catholic Charities is a great example of moral theory being translated in to big bold practical real world action.
I believe that a similar powerful connection between Catholic theory and action can be accomplished on a large scale in the nuclear weapons arena.
Catholics could save the world by connecting their theory to action in the form of a billion dollar a year marketing fund for amplifying the Pope’s teachings on nuclear weapons.
If we are going to do the talking of the talk on nuclear weapons, let us do so on the very largest scale that we are capable of.
The philosophy is there. A Church structure which ties a billion Catholics together is there. A billion Catholics can clearly raise a billion dollars, so the money is there too.
All that’s left is establishing a connection between the philosophy, the structure and the money. All that’s left is the conversion of the talking of the talk in to the walking of the walk.
What if we could elect someone to the U.S. Congress who proudly declared themselves to be a single issue politician focused exclusively on nuclear weapons?
We can guess this would most likely be possible for a seat in the House of Representatives from a left leaning district. A candidate in such a district might make the following case to voters.
FOCUS THE POWER: Freshman members of the House have very little power. Thus, it makes sense to have the Representative focus all of their influence on a single important issue, such as the ever imminent existential threat to everything we hold dear, that is, nuclear weapons.
NO FUND RAISING: The candidate promises to spend none of their time in office raising money. This means the Representative will have a lot more time available, and voters will get every minute of it. It would also mean that when voters are ready to return to a multi-issue Representative the single issue candidate will not have a lock on the seat.
FEED THE MEDIA: Single issue candidates who proudly state they will work on no other issue will be interesting to the media, which will raise the Representatives profile and influence beyond that of the typical freshman Representative.
A HISTORIC VOTE: The candidate can impress upon voters that this is their opportunity to do something historic.
A UNITY ISSUE: The candidate can impress upon voters that nuclear weapons are a topic which has the potential to transcend partisan divides and unite the country.
Here’s an inspiring and informative Ted Talk about nuclear weapons by Erika Gregory, Managing Director of N Square, a group working to “bring new ideas, new people, and new perspectives to nuclear arms control.”
Here’s a response to the Pope’s recent speech on nuclear weapons. Video and full text of the Pope’s remarks are available here.
First, let’s all give a big thumbs up to the Pope for speaking publicly about the threat of nuclear weapons.
Simply the fact that he addressed the subject at all puts him way ahead of the American politicians currently running for President, who appear to consider a President’s most awesome responsibility not really worthy of discussion.
Next, as is typically true of Catholic communications, the Pope’s speech is intelligent, articulate and well intended. I appreciated that the Pope would clearly state that the possession of nuclear weapons is immoral.
And let we American taxpaying voters recall that here in the United States, it is we the free citizens who own these civilization ending weapons. They don’t belong to the President or the military, they belong to us.
And now, on to the constructive complaints…
As seems typical of the Pope’s speeches, he is eloquent when addressing moral theory in a general manner, but seems somehow reluctant to offer detailed suggestions on how his moral teachings might be implemented.
In my view, the missing call to action undermines the credibility of the Pope’s message. If the threat really is as serious as the Pope says, and it surely is, shouldn’t we be doing something about it?
What action does the Pope suggest? Prayer? Is that it? Are we supposed to beg God to do that which we ourselves should be doing? I’m reminded here of that stern over the top of her glasses look my Mom used to give me when I was acting the fool, and can almost hear God replying to our prayers with words along the lines of, “Get back to me when you’re serious…“
Personally, I would have been far more impressed if the Pope had used the speech to rally the audience and his followers around some specific action plan.
Maybe something like this?
There are a billion Catholics on this planet.
Suppose each Catholic donated one dollar a year to a Catholic nuclear weapons fund? The Vatican would then have a budget of one billion dollars a year to fund a global marketing campaign aimed at amplifying the Pope’s teachings on nuclear weapons.
Ok, so even a dollar a year would be burden on some poorer Catholics in the third world, so the richer Catholics in the developed world could make up the difference. There are something like 70 million registered Catholics in the United States, sounds like a good place to start. At just $14 per year, or a bit over a dollar a month, American Catholics could pay the entire bill by themselves.
Should the Vatican start such a fund I will personally donate $100, and I haven’t been to Mass in 50 years (this post helps explain why). C’mon you guys, call my bluff, make me pay up!
The Pope called upon politicians to act, as he should. But why doesn’t he act? Not just talk, act. The Pope has more followers than the populations of the United States and Russia combined, and he surely has more credibility than the current leaders of either of these nations.
Given that the Catholic Church owns a global real estate empire that must be worth billions to trillions of dollars, is it really so hard for the Pope to ask his followers for one dollar a year?
A billion dollars a year to spread the Pope’s message on nuclear weapons. Why not?
Dear brothers and sisters in the Vatican, the wonderful sounding talking of the talk is only credible when it is seen to be directly connected to the walking of the walk. You have vast power at your finger tips. Please use it. Thank you.
In November 2019 the Pope visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan and gave a speech declaring the possession of nuclear weapons to be immoral.
Video of the Pope’s speech and the full text of his remarks are included below.
Full Text Of The Pope’s Speech On Nuclear Weapons (from the Vatican website)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This place makes us deeply aware of the pain and horror that we human beings are capable of inflicting upon one another. The damaged cross and statue of Our Lady recently discovered in the Cathedral of Nagasaki remind us once more of the unspeakable horror suffered in the flesh by the victims of the bombing and their families.
One of the deepest longings of the human heart is for security, peace and stability. The possession of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction is not the answer to this desire; indeed they seem always to thwart it. Our world is marked by a perverse dichotomy that tries to defend and ensure stability and peace through a false sense of security sustained by a mentality of fear and mistrust, one that ends up poisoning relationships between peoples and obstructing any form of dialogue.
Peace and international stability are incompatible with attempts to build upon the fear of mutual destruction or the threat of total annihilation. They can be achieved only on the basis of a global ethic of solidarity and cooperation in the service of a future shaped by interdependence and shared responsibility in the whole human family of today and tomorrow.
Here in this city which witnessed the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences of a nuclear attack, our attempts to speak out against the arms race will never be enough. The arms race wastes precious resources that could be better used to benefit the integral development of peoples and to protect the natural environment. In a world where millions of children and families live in inhumane conditions, the money that is squandered and the fortunes made through the manufacture, upgrading, maintenance and sale of ever more destructive weapons, are an affront crying out to heaven.
A world of peace, free from nuclear weapons, is the aspiration of millions of men and women everywhere. To make this ideal a reality calls for involvement on the part of all: individuals, religious communities and civil society, countries that possess nuclear weapons and those that do not, the military and private sectors, and international organizations. Our response to the threat of nuclear weapons must be joint and concerted, inspired by the arduous yet constant effort to build mutual trust and thus surmount the current climate of distrust. In 1963, Saint John XXIII, writing in his Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris, in addition to urging the prohibition of atomic weapons (cf. No. 112), stated that authentic and lasting international peace cannot rest on a balance of military power, but only upon mutual trust (cf. No. 113).
There is a need to break down the climate of distrust that risks leading to a dismantling of the international arms control framework. We are witnessing an erosion of multilateralism which is all the more serious in light of the growth of new forms of military technology. Such an approach seems highly incongruous in today’s context of interconnectedness; it represents a situation that urgently calls for the attention and commitment of all leaders.
For her part, the Catholic Church is irrevocably committed to promoting peace between peoples and nations. This is a duty to which the Church feels bound before God and every man and woman in our world. We must never grow weary of working to support the principal international legal instruments of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, including the Treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons. Last July, the bishops of Japan launched an appeal for the abolition of nuclear arms, and each August the Church in Japan holds a ten-day prayer meeting for peace. May prayer, tireless work in support of agreements and insistence on dialogue be the most powerful “weapons” in which we put our trust and the inspiration of our efforts to build a world of justice and solidarity that can offer an authentic assurance of peace.
Convinced as I am that a world without nuclear weapons is possible and necessary, I ask political leaders not to forget that these weapons cannot protect us from current threats to national and international security. We need to ponder the catastrophic impact of their deployment, especially from a humanitarian and environmental standpoint, and reject heightening a climate of fear, mistrust and hostility fomented by nuclear doctrines. The current state of our planet requires a serious reflection on how its resources can be employed in light of the complex and difficult implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in order to achieve the goal of an integrated human development. Saint Paul VII suggested as much in 1964, when he proposed the establishment of a Global Fund to assist those most impoverished peoples, drawn partially from military expeditures (cf. Declaration to Journalists, 4 December 1964; Populorum Progressio, 51).
All of this necessarily calls for the creation of tools for ensuring trust and reciprocal development, and counts on leaders capable of rising to these occasions. It is a task that concerns and challenges every one of us. No one can be indifferent to the pain of millions of men and women whose sufferings trouble our consciences today. No one can turn a deaf ear to the plea of our brothers and sisters in need. No one can turn a blind eye to the ruin caused by a culture incapable of dialogue.
I ask you to join in praying each day for the conversion of hearts and for the triumph of a culture of life, reconciliation and fraternity. A fraternity that can recognize and respect diversity in the quest for a common destiny.
I know that some here are not Catholics, but I am certain that we can all make our own the prayer for peace attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace: where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
In this striking place of remembrance that stirs us from our indifference, it is all the more meaningful that we turn to God with trust, asking him to teach us to be effective instruments of peace and to make every effort not to repeat the mistakes of the past.
May you and your families, and this entire nation, know the blessings of prosperity and social harmony!