Poverty and Religion in Africa: Correlation is not cause and effect!

It began with us talking about aliens and whether they exist or not. But I never saw how this conversation would turn into a discussion of poverty and its supposed relationship with religion. Yes, I saw an article once that purported to investigate and elaborate this phenomenon, “That the poorest nations are the most religious.” The unfounded, confounding, and uninformed supposition being that religiosity causes poverty. Nothing could be further from the truth. But then, I need to support this claim.


My friend was beginning to doubt his religion and what it was doing for him. He felt that it was not only proving futile but may actually be detrimental to his and Zimbabwe’s health. He quoted Patrick Chinamasa who said Zimbabwe was becoming a miracle state and not much else. The observations by the minister are well made and meant to help. But coming from the very corrupt man who is killing the country and benefiting from it was hard to believe. A smart tactic of passing on the blame to something else that is plausible enough. And yes, as far as Zimbabweans are relying on their religion and not economic work they are getting lost. Yet, one wonders what else is left when the government squeezes everything out of you and introduces ad-hoc economic measures that worsen the situation and increase the wealth gap. In short, hardworking Zimbabweans are earning as little as $1 a day for a day spent in hard labor. Working hard is not helping, a working smart is not helping, only corruption is paying off. And even then, it’s only helping a handful. In a hopeless situation, where would one turn for hope? More work? If one does not turn to something for hope one may as well commit suicide.


At this point I want to say, I would like to see the numbers on the suicide rates in religious countries and the suicide rates in the not so religious countries. This will definitely show the power of religion when it comes to the will to live in the face of hardship.


Yes, so what is there if one is condemned to poverty and hardship? I know that I wanted to learn French and Chinese when I was growing up. I also had a mind to play the piano. However, without teachers, exposure, and without the internet to help, I was left with a second-rate experience with the languages and only a yearning for piano. I might have been a protégé by now, speaking various languages, traveling and playing the piano. However, I can tell you that I know a lot about farming, about bending my back, and about being resilient in the face of hardship. While others my age – millennials – in western countries learned to program, play instruments, speak different languages and so on. And a lot of these millennials who are my peers aren’t religious but they believe in therapy more than anything else I know.

I content that Africa has the most hardworking and resilient people of the entire globe. I can speak for Zimbabwe in particular! I also content that being religious does not cause poverty because I was born and raised in Zimbabwe and I understand my relationship then and now with religion and poverty. My family didn’t have much but we had our God and we had our moral values. Since money, smoking weed, freedoms, and pleasure could not give meaning to our lives because we could not have much of any of these, we found meaning in religion. I understand according to many its backward and irrational to believe in religion. However, after coming to the US I have had time to explore. You can check out my journey and dance with religion. I discovered that so many people claim to be rational and claim to have been enlightened enough to call religion bull-shit. However these same people have so many physical ailments, and I am willing to content that maybe their souls are suffering and now it’s manifesting in the body. Sometimes it’s not the body that needs chemotherapy, or surgery, Beyoncé suggested sometimes “It’s the soul that needs surgery.” I am not preaching, far be it from me, I am simply contending and everyone is afforded that right.


Yet, its not just Africa in question but across the globe, the poorest nations and areas have shown to be inhabited by religious people. Even in the USA they recently blamed the election of Donal Trump to White males but also to the poor regions of the country who are supposedly ignorant as shown by their belief in religion and their voting for Trump. (All views I strongly disagree with.) One phenomenon to note is that wealth is generational in many places. In other words, once left behind it is difficult to catch up. The countries that caught up in history are Russia – at the cost of the lives of its people who died in droves racing to catch up in 10years. And China at the cost of enslaving its people and destroying its environment! The rest of the world that does not enslave others, or destroy its environment remains poor from generation to generation. These people need something to keep them hopeful in the midst of economic struggle. Religion as Sir John Lubbock said, is the hope of many.


No, I know religion does not cause poverty. Because of the analysis above and because many religious people are wealthy and many non-religious people are poor. I know religion does not cause poverty because my family was well off and religious and then the economy in Zimbabwe turned upside down and we were now poor but still religious. I know religion does not cause poverty because some of the people who claim it does, such as Patrick Chinamasa and some of those in the West are the same people reaping off the poor and their lack of religion allows them to commit these injustices without batting an eyelid. I know religion does not cause poverty because I am religious and like many students my age I am poor. So poverty did not single us out because of our religiosity but it caught all of us up because our parents aren’t wealthy. Otherwise, the other students who have wealthy parents are well off. And there you go, its generational.


Have hope Africa, and keep on believing in truth and love. Please do not believe in wealth and greed. Don’t believe in destroying other people’s livelihoods in order to have a good GDP. Don’t start measuring life in GDP but keep working on keeping a strong meaningful foundation of love and religion. Don’t let anyone ever lie to you that religion causes poverty! Poverty is caused by many things, from other people taking away your opportunities to being unable to exploit the ones you actually receive!


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Allen Matsika

Born and raised in the small town in the land of milk and honey in south central Africa, I moved to the USA to study philosophy. The hope was to understand where humanity had lost its way. I took a historical perspective on the trajectory of western thought and was especially struck by Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War. The memorable description of human nature in that book contributed greatly to my understanding of the human condition.

Life is a misery to be endured until we die. Even those with terminal illnesses find times of respite and laugh and enjoy their lives. So too is mortality a terminal illness. We will all die, I for one am glad this is so. But before that day I will define myself, I will not go without giving everything I have got, and I will love with all my heart.

I am proud to be an Afropolitan; a world citizen of African descend. I am called Allen and I love writing, eating, and singing in the shower!

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