Sunday, September 13, 2009

Making a problem worse

I want to use this post to give a concrete example of how "innocent" religious belief can really hurt.

I recently visited Kenya. As some of you may know, Kenya is currently experiencing a serious drought. The annual rains failed. Food and water are scarce, animals and people are dying. Some farmers have lost most of their herds. The government is giving out emergency food rations to the people. While I was there, some organisation issued a report ranking the "water wealth" of countries, meaning the amount of fresh water available per person. Kenya ranked at the absolute bottom, dead last. They are the most "water-poor" nation on Earth.

So I was talking with some of the Maasai tribesmen. They still live a traditional lifestyle, in huts made of animal dung and plant materials, herding sheep, cows and goats, etc. They have been devastated by the drought, with many of their animals already dead. They (at least the ones I talked to) are now Christians. The guy was explaining to me that they don't use birth control or family planning. He said that his god decides how many children he will have. So if he has more children, it's the will of his god.

Isn't that terrible? Here they are, in the middle of a multi-year drought, when there isn't enough food or water to feed the people that already exist, and these people are making the problem worse by just having as many kids as possible because their imaginary friend wills it! Options for controlling their numbers are available, but they won't use them because their imaginary friend doesn't like it! For every child born (above the replacement rate), Kenya becomes even more water-poor. For every child born, there is even less food to go around per person. You get the idea, right?

Here is a link to a recent article about the problem. Note that the guy in the story has 16 kids. Also note the closing quote about their imaginary friend.