Saturday, September 15, 2007

India, Poverty, and Religion

To say that something is 'ridiculous' is to say that those who accept it may be legitimately subject to 'ridicule'.

This is ridiculous.

In India, some people are upset about a plan to build a canal across a shallow stretch of land that goes from India to Sri Lanka.

Because of this land bridge, ships that sail from one side of India (including the Suez Canal) to ports on the other side of India have to go around Sri Lanka - adding time and expense to the journey - which takes an extra 36 hours per trip.

And we're not talking about a Panama Canal project here. It's a $560 million project that will easily pay for itself in economic benefit.

The problem rests with India's Hindu population. They do not want the canal built because doing so will deface what they say is the remnants of a bridge built by their god Lord Ram and an army of monkeys.

Delhi drops canal threat to sacred Hindu bridge

This is a clear example of ridiculous beliefs doing real-world harm.

At least, in this case, the harm does not involve killing or maiming people (at least not yet), which makes this a case that it is still easier to laugh at. However, the monkey-bridge people are still causing real harm. Preserving their money bridge means that a lot of very poor people will have to pay more for goods and have fewer jobs available than they otherwise would have.

It is one thing for a religion to pay its own money to promote its religious beliefs. It is another when a group of monkey-bridge people demand that others suffer economic harm for something so ridiculous.

In effect, there is little difference between what the money-bridge people are demanding and between them arguing for a 'religous tax' on the people of India and several other countries in the region to support their religion.

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