John Loftus recently posted the following dark-humored picture on facebook.
As can be expected, many people chimed in in full agreement with how wicked God would be, and how brutally ironic it would be to answer the vultures hunger with a starving child.
As a Christian I’ve gotten used to these kinds of “thumb-in-the-eye” jabs at God’s goodness. So I’m not surprised. I’m even a little amused. I have a dark humor myself.
But getting down to business let’s be clear: there is plenty of food for that child if it weren’t for other humans getting in the way of it. We do not have a food-production problem we have a food-distribution problem. The earth is not overpopulated and it’s not projected to be overpopulated any time soon (unless you cook the numbers, see “How to Lie with Statistics”), our food production capabilities are more than enough to address the needs of all the countries, including third world countries. Look at the political regimes, religious standing, and the family life of the countries where starvation is the worst, and invariably you will find serious socio-political problems that make it very very difficult for people to freely use the land to produce the food to feed the people. It’s no accident that mass starvation in Russia was preceded by a communist takeover, or that malnutrition and social poverty reign in places like Somalia where the free-trade of western civilization has been forced out through years of tribalistic warfare and exclusivistic forms of Islam.
The strongest correlates with escaping poverty range from the “duh” obvious to the politically incorrect.
1) Don’t drink or do drugs–these are expensive addictive behaviors that don’t serve the lower economic classes very well.
2) Get married–traditional marriage correlates strongly with high income and material success. Theorists disagree over why this is so, but for whatever reason, married couples tend to do better at investing, saving, and generating income. Practically, this means that poverty is more common when folks decline traditional marriage or family in favor of a “serious boyfriend” or a child out of wedlock. On a related note be good to your family of origin, you never know when you might have to move back in with your parents one day, or you might need your children or siblings to take care of you in the event of a break down, injury, or old age.
3) Join a church (not just any church but a catholic or established evangelical church or even a mormon church)–poverty is very common among nominal believers or followers of Hinduism Buddhism where indifference is praised as a virtue in the west. While secularism is not itself a very strong correlate, secular governance correlates strongly with poverty in China, Russia, North Vietnam, North Korea, Fascist Italy (p.s., I mean “secular governance” in the strict sense–not in the sense of Sweden or Norway that have deeply Christian heritage, and state religions, etc.) Nowadays, in Western Europe for example, secularism is sort of the “leisure activity” of centuries of judeo-Christian heritage where free-trade and human rights are part of our cultural DNA. Genuinely atheistic governments are a stronger example of what secular governance really looks like, and the picture is gaunt and corrupt.
4) Get an education (assuming one has access to it). Education is broadly good and worthwhile for its own sake BUT, not just any book-learning will put food on your plate. Seek a useful education too, not just a humanities core or something that won’t necessarily translate into hirability. I’m a huge advocates of liberal arts and the humanities, but first things first. Everyone should have some job-ready skills so they can earn some money to feed their family. Some Philosophy majors (like myself) or English majors, might do well to get a minor in business, or get certified in a craft on the side, or seek a different major altogether such as teaching English as a second language, or Internet Technology, or Computer Programming, or food service.
And last but not least,
5) Move out of the desert–this should go without saying but if you live where there are few resources to live on, find a way to move elsewhere. Central and Northern Africa is often overrun by tribal and islamist warfare, but there are liable to be neighboring countries with better resources well-south of the Sahara. Better to be a migrant worker than native and jobless. Move in SE asia and indonesia move away from flood planes where a lifetime of work is liable to be washed away with the next big rain. In Haiti, move to neighboring Islands where the government is more stable, the economy is stronger, and there is a better chance of digging out a sustenance.
To Loftus and others who dwell on the Problem of Evil, I would say to keep lamenting poverty all you want, and keep blaming God for it, but God put us people in charge of a lot of it (Gen 1:26ff). People are equally or more to blame since we’ve forbidden or scandalized some of the most historically reliable answers to this classic problem.
All of this is easier said than done. And coming from the comfort of my living room couch it sounds light and airy, like ivory tower intellectualism that has no need to touch ground. But even we affluent Americans (or anyone with internet access, money in the wallet, and food on the table) can help solve poverty locally by earning our money, investing it carefully, sharing it wisely, and seeking tactful means of sponsoring non-profits and NGO’s that feed the hungry–often by bypassing the extra “middle-men” in third-world governments who are liable take a cut of the profits.