This week instead of hearing from me yet again, we have a few words from Helen Arnopp, our Hon Treasurer…..
‘I hope you are all keeping well in these unusual times.
Firstly, I would like to thank you all for your generosity by subscribing to Carrigaline Union for this year. As you can appreciate without our fundraising efforts and rental income, it is now not possible to balance the Union’s finances. Our receipts for the first 7 months of this year are approximately €10,000 less than in 2019
As you are aware the Diocese operates a Fair Share system for gathering funds from each parish and pools these funds to pay for the Diocese Ministry including Canon Elaine. These funds are what keeps our Ministry alive in the Diocese. Carrigaline Union pays our Fair Share in 4 instalments at the end of February, May, August and November with the quarterly payment of €18,892.00 due on 31st August. I only have enough money to pay €8,892 leaving €10,000 owing to the Diocese.
Again, I know that you have all been very generous over the past number of months, but to allow our ministry to continue, we will have to find innovative ways to cover the gap which the shortfall in our rental income and fundraising has made.
Kindly therefore I would appeal to you all to continue to give as generously as you can to ensure we can meet the financial challenges of our lovely Union.’
Random Notes CCCLIV
About 25 years ago I bought a book by Carl Sagan, titled “The Demon-Haunted World.” The book, made up of numerous essays previously published separately, and subdivided in three sections, is a plea for rational thinking. An astrophysicist and science communicator, Sagan is probably best known here for his TV series “Cosmos,” and, later, the book and movie “Contact.” A notable passage in “The Demon-Haunted World” reads as follows and it is worth quoting in full:
“I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness… The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.”
The rest of the book is a plea for rational thinking and a skeptical approach to outlandish statements – Sagan famously said “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” The book goes on to argue for a robust education system so that school children are able to understand the world around them and separate reality from fantasy. Sagan also pleaded for the ethical application of science. Sadly, recent events in the USA and elsewhere suggest that elements of Sagan’s foreboding have become reality.
Sagan was fascinated by the relationship between belief and science (a theme explored in “Contact”) but he was not an atheist. On the existence of God, he said, “An atheist is someone who is certain that God does not exist, someone who has compelling evidence against the existence of God. I know of no such compelling
evidence. Because God can be relegated to remote times and places and to ultimate causes, we would have to know a great deal more about the universe than we do now to be sure that no such God exists. To be certain of the existence of God and to be certain of the nonexistence of God seem to me to be the confident extremes in a subject so riddled with doubt and uncertainty as to inspire very little confidence indeed.”
Finally, Sagan’s views on the environment might be seen as a justification for the current eco-congregation initiative. An appeal, “Preserving and Cherishing the Earth”, signed by Sagan with other scientists in 1990, stated that, “the historical record makes clear that religious teaching, example, and leadership are powerfully able to influence personal conduct and commitment… Thus, there is a vital role for religion and science.“