The subject of religion is fraught with emotion. People become incensed if you do not agree with their way of thinking or if you ridicule their particular beliefs. No one wants to have their faith denigrated, but it is legitimate to point out how much more religious communities around the world could be doing to combat extreme poverty. Each year billions of dollars flow into churches and ministries that could be used to save the lives of those who are at risk. The leadership within each denomination must make responsible decisions regarding how to best allocate those funds.

What is a more important use for that money than to save human lives? Is it more important to buy a church bus to take “fun trips” to Branson? Is it more important to remodel the church kitchen so that bigger dinners can be served to obese middle class worshippers while 18,000 children die from hunger related causes each day? Is it more important to invest in the latest expensive technology to expand your outreach to potential members who enjoy a standard of living that is the envy of the world, while one out of every six humans on earth struggle to survive in abject poverty?

Too often religion becomes a series of rituals instead of a compassionate way of life. Maybe we should focus less on holy water and more on providing safe drinking water for humanity. Perhaps as we take communion and eat the bread that represents the body of Christ we could consider those who are literally starving to death without bread to eat. Religion has always employed guilt in order to sway individuals into accepting their particular set of beliefs, so why is there no guilt felt over the 10,950,000 extreme poverty deaths each year? Is there nothing to feel guilty about as we sit in beautiful stained glass, climate controlled sanctuaries with overflowing collection plates while each year millions of children die in the dirt covered in flies?

Throughout history religious faith has had a profound effect on cultures and societies. Sometimes the results have been positive and at others times they have been quite negative. However, in today’s modern world, the religious community has an unprecedented opportunity to be a driving force for change that can literally mean the difference between life and death for those trapped in poverty. It is not enough to just offer words of hope or encouragement. Dying people need more than just dogma and philosophy. They must have nutritious food and safe water. They require medical care including vaccines. They need proper sanitation and shelter. They deserve real solutions to life threatening problems.

There is enormous power generated when like-minded people come together for a common cause and preventing the needless deaths of innocent children is certainly deserving of such an effort. The world’s religions must be at the forefront in the battle to improve the lives of the poorest one billion people on earth. Religion has the money and the manpower to dramatically change the lives of millions of human beings who deserve the right to live with dignity, in peace and in good health.

If all religions would embrace the tenets and beliefs they share and focus less on their differences they could pull together and work in harmony for the good of those who desperately need their help. Too often theological beliefs break down along ethnic lines or by geographical regions with intolerance being the outcome. The major religions waste both time and money competing with each other. If even a small portion of that effort could be redirected towards actually helping people who are without hope it would be a tremendous benefit to humanity.

It cannot be denied that religion is a dominate influence in the world, but it must be understood that this authority can be used for good or bad. If the followers of a particular faith show sensitivity towards those who seem different from them, if they demonstrate concern for those who believe in ways that are difficult to understand, if they are still willing to reach out and help these fellow human beings than they are truly living their faith. They embody the essence of what religion should be about: LOVE. But if they are preoccupied with converting as many people as possible to their way of thinking without any regard for the suffering in those lives, if they are only focused on numbers and not on humanity, if they refuse to help those who do not agree with them, then they are compromising the effort to lift up those who are struggling to stay alive.

It is difficult to understand how someone who professes to believe in any of the world’s great religions can go about their lives and totally ignore the horrific suffering of a billion people. Where is the compassion? Where is the unselfishness? Where is the love? How can people claim to follow the teachings of their God, but still look the other way as millions die needlessly each year? Does their faith not implore them to take care of the sick and the needy? Does their faith not call them to action in order to relieve the suffering of their brothers and sisters? Does their faith not require them to save the life of a dying child?






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