Poverty is as ineradicable as the house-fly! The misguided conviction that material resources exist, or can be created by scientific and technological enterprise, to entirely eradicate poverty is a myth of global scope. Social scientists are hardly necessary to uncover the reason for this manifest paradox: scientific and technological research pursue a set of priorities set by financial interests and corporate investors. This elite technocratic minority is pursuing its own vision of middle class consumer desires and marketing entertainment. Science and technology therefore are the pet projects of a wealthy elite and their professional priorities. If scientific research does impact the lives of the masses it does so because it is tangentially related to the real interests of the generality of humankind.
A radical reordering of these priorities will be required if the burden of poverty is finally to be lifted from the world. Such an achievement demands a determined quest for appropriate values, a quest that will painfully purge humankind of both its spiritual mis-orientation and scientific structure. Religion must lead the way in setting new priorities, with humankind and the generality of the masses as its beneficiaries. The agenda must be set by the most dire and widespread of global human needs. With research topics that identify agriculture, education, sanitation, infectious disease, and other issues as the thrust of scientific and technological advancement.
Mainstream religion will be severely handicapped in contributing to this undertaking as long as it remains a prisoner to outmoded traditions, sectarian doctrines which cannot distinguish between metaphors in their scripture designed to motivate people, and stories told to 6th graders to keep them from misbehaving in the teachers absence. Contentment and mere passivity are not the same thing, and mainstream religion must learn to express the distinction which entails keeping up with modern trends in social justice and moving beyond an obsolescent past of sexual and racial prejudices.
Ascetic interpretations of mainstream religion which teach that poverty is an inherent feature of earthly life, the escape to which lies only in a world beyond, deserve to pass like the tide of eurocentric prejudices that we have passed beyond already, into the next world. Humanity no longer requires ancient religious practices to inform its scientific agendas, research values, or social priorities. To participate effectively in the struggle to bring material well-being to humanity, the religious spirit must find — in the Source of inspiration from which it originally flowed — a new commitment to life in the 21st century. New spiritual concepts and principles must be conjured up, or if none can be found then new religions must be embraced.
Religion with Authority Divine in origin; religion with Revelation satisfying in volume; religion with administration democratic in representation; religion with followers selfless in unity; religion with education first rate in its caliber and accessible globally — religion with values worthy to restructure the priorities of scientific research, is needed to answer the question of poverty.