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Austin Cline

Poverty & Religion

By January 12, 2006

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That poverty and hunger are world-wide problems is undeniable. The causes are often pretty clear. So what is to be done about it? Of particular interest is what major religions are trying to do about it. Why do major religious leaders spend more time complaining about other religions or gay marriage than about hungry children?

The Beast describes various facts about world poverty, such as:

1. Half the world — nearly three billion people — live on less than two dollars a day.

4. Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen.

13. According to UNICEF, 30,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.”

He then argues:

Poverty is not, and cannot be written off as God’s will. Poverty can, and must be eliminated. Man must charter his course, away from the cruel crutches of poverty. Only then can we truly deem ourselves worthy of our intellectual and scientific pursuits.

Every major religion, as far as I know, emphasizes the importance of feeding the hungry. In every major religion, feeding the hungry is treated as a positive moral virtue. The only reason then that so many people go hungry and die of hunger is because adherents of these religions are failing to live up to what their religion teaches. Yet, at the same time, these same adherents insist that their religion is necessary for proper moral behavior.


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