Is There Never Enough?


Anthony Judge – TRANSCEND Media Service

Religious Doublespeak on Population and Poverty


The newly elected Pope has now achieved a major worldwide media success through his visit to Latin America, on the occasion of World Youth Day 2013, culminating in an iconic celebration of a Mass with 3 million people on the beach of Rio de Janeiro. His widely noted message was a preoccupation with poverty. Commentators remark with appreciation that a new tone appears to have been set.

For the Catholic Church the media coverage contrasts beneficially with a much publicised range of internal problems relating to homosexuality, corruption and sexual abuse. It is questionable whether these issues have been appropriately addressed, rather than set aside, whatever the implications that this may be the case. Indications of a new approach are carefully framed as consistent with old policies — raising the question as to what exactly is new rather than a skillful excercise in re-imaging for Catholics desperate for some uplifting good news.

Rio de Janeiro has only recently been host to a new Earth Summit (United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, 2012) , deliberately organized there 20 years after the pioneering United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. During that period the world population has increased from 5,478,009,489 to 7,052,135,305 (Population of the entire world, yearly, 1950 – 2100, Geohive). Many of the issues of concern in 1992 remain far from resolved in 2012 — despite the Millenium Development Goals articulated at the UN Millennium Summit (New York, 2000). Critical issues widely noted include: extreme poverty and hunger, universal primary education, gender equality and empowering women, child mortality rates, maternal health, diseases, environmental sustainability, housing, water, pollution, unemployment, corruption and conflict.

Given that the increase in population appears to exacerbate these issues in many ways, it is appropriate to continue to explore the role of religions in engendering those issues as emerging crises. Given the key role of Christianity in the governance of the world’s superpowers, its responsibly merits particular attention — specifically that of the Catholic Church, in the light of its framing of that authority (and its unique diplomatic involvement in international debate on population issues).

This exploration develops aspects of arguments made previously (Begetting: challenges and responsibilities of overpopulation, 2007; Root Irresponsibility for Major World Problems: the unexamined role of Abrahamic faiths in sustaining unrestrained population growth, 2007; United Nations Overpopulation Denial Conference: exploring the underside of climate change, 2009; Mapping the Global Underground Articulating: Insightful Population Constraint Consideration (IPCC), 2010).

The challenge is to set such arguments within a context which recognizes the meaning variously associated with religious perspectives by their adherents — without deprecating unduly the subtlety of such insights. These are potentially comparable to the most radical insights of physics regarding the nature of reality — if only in the understanding of those adherents. As with any worldview, however, the question is how those promoting its unique value themselves provide for criticism of it from other perspectives, as argued separately (Guidelines for Critical Dialogue between Worldviews: as exemplified by the need for non-antisemitic dialogue with Israelis? 2006).

Of potentially greater concern is that it is unclear that “rational” arguments now have any credible outcome — irrespective of the level of crisis, the quality of the analysis, or the nature of the evidence presented. This has been made clear by the climate change debate. The very assumption that a set of arguments can be assembled in support of a “rational” strategic outcome is now questionable, as separately discussed (Ungovernability of Sustainable Global Democracy? 2011; The Consensus Delusion, 2011). With respect to the credibility of arguments, the narrow sense of “faith-based” governance now extends to encompass the arguments in which people have faith (Future Challenge of Faith-based Governance, 2003)

The wording of the title is deliberately ambiguous, inviting various interpretations. Alternatives might have been: There is Never Enough, or Is There Ever Enough? The concern in what follows is with the nature of the doublespeak in which religions seemingly engage in order to disguise the life-endangering policies they promote.


Mass distraction enabling Mass destruction?
Denial of “overpopulation” as a problematic factor
Overpopulation denial as promoted by religions and fellow-travellers
Deficient analytic capacity of religions
Blame-gaming: always someone else’s responsibility
Withholding aid as a means of saving future lives?
Hypocrisy of current Papal focus on poverty?
Challenge for a poverty-focused Pope
Towards a realistic simulation of religious population policies and consequences
LETS indulge the impoverished!?



This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 5 Aug 2013.

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