It is impossible to believe that a loving God would want millions of innocent children to die slow agonizing deaths as part of some master plan for the human race. These deaths are not God’s doing, but his followers certainly play a part in letting it happen.

It must first be stated that faith-based initiatives and organizations play a vital role in improving the lives of those who are ravaged by poverty. A wide range of religious programs are in place to aid in the struggle to save the lives of those who would surely die without help. Churches provide food, water, medical care and educational opportunities. Missionaries often commit their entire lives in service to the poor. Churches sponsor orphanages which ensure the safety and well-being of children who have no place else to go. Hospitals are often built and maintained by various faiths. Religions of all types perform countless good works that benefit humanity.

However, it is also true that religion can be a severe hindrance in the effort to combat extreme poverty. Too often money that is donated in good faith to a ministry is used for less than altruistic purposes. How many evangelists plead for your dollars each day on TV? Although a few may have pet projects that possibly do good somewhere in the world, it is just as likely that the money you put into their pockets stays right there.

Too many churches aim for quantity instead of quality. They want to grow bigger instead of growing more compassionate. They want to focus on souls even as lives are being lost. Feeding a soul may seem important but so is feeding a starving child. To pour money into building ever bigger high-tech sanctuaries that have to be heated and air-conditioned is a ridiculous use of funds when one out of every six humans on earth is living in squalor and degradation.

In recent years, with the explosion of bad publicity regarding many in the clergy, there seems to be a loss of focus concerning exactly what the proper role should be for religious leaders. Ministers have been accused of misappropriation of funds, consorting with prostitutes, inappropriate sexual conduct with male and female church members and extra marital affairs. Priests who should be protecting little boys and girls have instead been molesting them and stealing their childhoods, and all of these moral indiscretions and criminal acts occurred while 25,000 helpless children quietly died from extreme poverty each day.

Among all the other problems that are inherent in the modern clergy, faith healing is a particularly egregious form of fraud because it robs the vulnerable of both money and hope. First of all, it is difficult to understand why anyone would be foolish enough to send their money to a faith healer who has to wear glasses. Secondly, it is quite obvious that the conditions that are supposedly healed are never visible to the naked eye. When was the last time you saw one of these self-proclaimed vessels of God restore a child’s legs mangled by a landmine? Instead of sending money to evangelists who claim to heal the sick, that money should go to humanitarian aid organizations that actually do heal people. Those resources could be used for vaccinations, providing medication for treatable illnesses and for research to find cures for diseases that wipe out entire families.

Because religious fraud is so rampant it is important for everyone to consider the validity of their own beliefs. Whatever your particular faith might happen to be, does it allow you to ignore the suffering of millions? Does it instruct you to care? Does it encourage you to take responsibility for your fellow-man? Does your faith lead you to take action on behalf of those who cannot help themselves?

Obviously, religion tends to focus on “the afterlife”, but isn’t it possible that we could also pay at least some attention to those who are suffering in “this life”? One way to immediately begin to help those whose lives hang in the balance is to adjust the amount you donate to your church. If you currently tithe 10% of your income consider cutting back to 5% and giving the other half to an international relief agency that can use that money to provide food, water, shelter and medical care for children who are on the brink of death. After all, do you seriously believe that God would mind if you used that money to save dying babies?

People of faith often state that they believe everything happens for a reason. In this case the reason that more than nine million innocent children die from extreme poverty each year is because we allow it to happen.

Religion brings in massive amounts of tax-free cash which could be used to save millions of lives; however, it is unfortunately spent in less than benevolent ways. Too often huge sums of money are squandered building mega churches that lose personal touch with individual members. Donations are used to buy buses and vans that waste fuel, time and money on frivolous trips that produce nothing of substance. Precious funds go to develop outreach programs that too often reach out only to those who are already doing well, and – worst of all – fortunes are spent building religious schools to indoctrinate the young into believing that their particular faith is the only true path to righteousness, thereby creating an attitude of intolerance towards those who believe differently.

Religious faith, for better or worse, is one of the most powerful forces in the world. Therefore, that energy must be harnessed in a positive way. Our petty differences cannot keep us from joining in the fight to save millions of lives each year. We must learn to be tolerant and have respect for the beliefs of others just as we expect the same from them. The major faiths must learn to work together instead of competing with each other. The point of religion is not to see who can convince more comfortable middle class people to come to their church rather than going to another church. This is not a game where the faith with the most converts wins. If we insist on keeping score in some way than we should be counting the bodies of the children that are dying at a heartbreaking rate while we waste time with theological debates. Sincere religious faith should compel us to take care of those in need.

Shouldn’t your beliefs stress hope and charity?

Shouldn’t compassion for the poor be at the foundation of every faith?

Shouldn‘t religion equal love?




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