The Rich, the Poor and the Role of Religion

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Like so many others, I, too, was deeply touched and saddened to see this picture, showing this little boy working. As I read through many of the comments on Facebook – there were about 2,400 of them – I was touched once again; this time, by the overwhelming sympathy for the child and outrage at the kind of world we’ve allowed to be built around us and at the magnitude of the injustices and cruelty that’s going on in our world. The expressions of empathy for the child and anger and disgust at a system that forces people to make their children work at such young age gives me hope about my fellow humans and makes me feel not alone. One woman even gave her phone number and asked anyone who knows the boy to contact her so she could send him money.

This reminded me of the time when I posted the picture of a little boy in Gaza crying because he had lost his mother to Israeli bombing of their apartment building, which Obama repeatedly defended, as his job required, by saying “Israel has the right to defend itself”. A woman wrote in her comment: “I wish I could bathe him, feed him and hold him in my arms making him feel loved until he falls asleep in my arms”. That, too, brought tears to my eyes. It didn’t take much, of course, after seeing pictures of the devastation and dead children with survivors crying.

But, as I read through dozens of the comments about this little boy who has to work at such young age, I noticed that so many people were asking God to help him, to have mercy on him or to bless him. Some took a slightly different approach and said that “God will help him”. This is when I realized, once again, as I have many times before, about the power of religion as a pacifier. When you believe that some omnipotent and omniscient being with an infinite wisdom and best judgement will right the wrongs and take care of the needy and remedy injustices, and that if there is something wrong with the world, there is a reason for it that we mortals can’t understand and that we should leave things to His infinitely wise and sound judgement, then, there is no need for our action. It makes us feel better that it’s not our job to make things right or to fight against injustices. And when we feel better after we were just outraged and touched, we don’t have the urge to act anymore.

I’m not naive. I don’t expect the billionaires and multimillionaires who are benefiting from the economic system that leads to such atrocities to try to change the system. In fact, I expect them to try to prevent change at all cost, which they promptly and smartly do by employing demagogues like Obama to pacify minorities while he goes to war in several countries for the rich who put him in office, so they can get even richer than they already are. Religion has no vital role to play with them. Money is their religion and money is what they use to buy Heaven and Earth, promising to the poor a good blessed life in the “other world” because this one has already been spoken for and it’s officially and legally theirs. Fair is fair: this world is theirs and the next belongs to the poor. And here is where the real power of religion exhibits itself: that the poor buy it!

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