"We use all our time for work and to improve our village," he says.Christians and Muslims in neighboring towns have reacted with anger and sometimes violence (throwing a grenade at one point.) Why? There's only one thing worse than when you ignore religious authority; it's when you ignore religious authority and you're obviously flourishing as a result. We can anticipate the reaction: "Well money isn't everything. Or sanitation. Or literacy. Or our kids getting an education." But that's obvious sour grapes when the world isn't turning out the way certain people insist it should. And it seems like a lot of their neighbors are in fact "getting it".
One reason the people of Awra Amba are able to work so hard is that they do not follow organized religion.
In neighboring Christian and Muslim villages, residents respect the Sabbath and holidays. "They have quite frequent religious days, so on those days, they don't go to [do] farming work," says sociologist Ashenafi Alemu of Ethiopia's University of Gondar. "But for Awra Amba, this is not the case. They work every day."
The lack of religion is not the only competitive advantage for Awra Amba. The village invests a lot of energy in educating its children and diversifying its economy. It also embraces gender equality. You will see women here doing what is traditionally considered "men's work," like plowing, which effectively doubles the workforce.
Important take-home that's so obvious it's often overlooked: your beliefs affect the world. Bad beliefs make it worse. Good beliefs make it better. We can measure this. So the challenge is, how (concretely!) is your life better because of your rationalism? How is your local secular community working out? I set up a friendly competition with Dallas and Denver over their meetup member numbers, but it's about something more important than that, and bravo to Awra Amba for giving us an example.