If, on any Sunday morning in America, you were to visit a Sunday school class full of small children, there are two things that are nearly guaranteed. On the wall there will be a picture or poster of Jesus with a group of children around him. And the class will end up singing the song "Jesus loves the little children." Christians are quite fond of both the imagery and the music.
The question that we should ask is a simple one. If Jesus is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving, and if Jesus loves the little children, then why do so many children live in abject poverty? So, this is the problem of evil, then? More specifically, the "problem of hunger." A paper entitled "Chronic poverty in India" describes the poverty faced by the world's children in this way:
Poverty has been described as a situation of “pronounced deprivation in well being” and being poor as “to be hungry, to lack shelter and clothing, to be sick and not cared for, to be illiterate and not schooled…Poor people are particularly vulnerable to adverse events outside their control. They are often treated badly by institutions of the state and society and excluded from voice and power in those institutions.” Using income as a measure of poverty, the World Development Report refers to the “deep poverty amid plenty” in the world and states that a fifth of the world’s people live on less than $1 a day, and 44% of them are in South Asia. [ref]
Sounds like the environment of the New Testament.
Even in the United States -- one of the wealthiest nations on earth -- poverty is a major problem. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, more than 26 million children in the United States participate in the National School Lunch Program, which provides low-cost or free lunches to children at or near the poverty level. [ref] 26 million children represents about half of all the children in the United States.
One thing that you quickly realize, if you allow yourself to think about it, is that the number of people living in abject poverty on this planet is staggering. A "fifth of the world’s people" is more than a billion people. You also realize that $1 a day means that these people are living in hopeless, wretched conditions. Think about how little food you can buy for $1. Actually in many countries, just one American dollar goes a very long way. You would probably have known that if you've ever sponsored a child. Now consider the fact that the $1 is spent on that little bit of food, so there is no money left for housing, clean water, restroom facilities, clothing, shoes, health care, education, infrastructure, etc. etc. Disease runs rampant. Starvation is common. This level of poverty is nearly unimaginable to most people in the United States, yet more than a billion people live this way today. Ironically, in many of these same countries, there's also an immense amount of wealth restricted to a small amount of people. Greed and selfishness run rampant.
Now consider the fact that, if you raise the bar to $3 a day -- still an extremely meager amount -- half of the people on the planet are living at that level of poverty. More than three billion people. As discussed in Chapter 5, 10 million children die every year as a result of abject poverty.
Where in the world is Jesus? I think a better question is this: "Where in the world are Jesus's people?" Or even, "Where in the world are you?" Or, even, "Where are the atheist organizations fighting poverty overseas?"
Here is what Jesus has to say about poverty in the Bible. If you look in Matthew chapter 6:25, you will find this amazing quote:
"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all."
Read this with the context in mind that Jesus himself was homeless and living in abject poverty. So was everyone he was speaking to.
How many people is a billion? Prepare for an emotional appeal...Take all 300 or so million people in the United States. That is a lot of people. Here it comes... Quadruple that number. That is how many people are living in abject, wretched, unimaginable poverty around the world. Ah. There it is. If Jesus loves all the little children of the world, he has a truly bizarre way to show his love. Wait, this is Jesus's fault? Somehow I thought it was our responsibility to take care of the world. Silly me!
What any normal person realizes, when looking at the facts that are plainly visible in our world, is that what Jesus said in the Bible is completely wrong. Jesus' statements about poverty in Matthew 6:25-32 are clearly false. I think it's a lot more clear that you need to contextualize the passage before you make brash, across-the-board attributions. God is not looking out for these people. Are you? God is not feeding them, nor is he clothing them like lilies. Your complaint seems to amount to, "God isn't opening their mouths and putting pre-chewed food inside, nor is he putting their clothes on for them. Therefore, he doesn't exist." God doesn't even do that with the animals, Brain. Jesus hates quite a few of the little children of the world, and he demonstrates his hatred by imprisoning them in abject poverty.
Okay, let's turn this argument around. Because you're not doing everything you possibly can do to help these poor, deprived children, you therefore are a vile person. For crying out loud. You have a website that explains how things like washing machines work. Think of how many people are dying right now that could be saved with the amount of money you pay in bandwidth and server costs every month. I guess all we can conclude is that you hate these children.
Jesus is completely wrong
This is not the first example that we have seen in the Bible where Jesus is completely wrong. So you're recapping for basically the twentieth time in twenty chapters, then? In section 1 of this book, we saw that Jesus is clearly wrong when he talks about the power of prayer. Jesus says in Matthew 21:21 for the ninth time so far:
I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."
That is obviously false. I don't feel like any comment is needed here other than: "You're wrong." Section 1 demonstrated dozens of examples that prove this statement to be incorrect. See in particular Chapter 7.
This statement is also false in John chapter 14:12:
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.
If this were true, we would have completely eradicated all diseases and eliminated all poverty centuries ago.
This statement in Mark 16:15 is provably false:
And [Jesus] said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover."
I don't even need to mention that this is not in the original Bible. Or do I?
If this were true, we would not need doctors, hospitals or pharmaceutical companies. You would not need health insurance. And we've been over this. The two billion Christian believers on planet earth today could take care of all of our medical needs for free by simply laying their hands on us. Blah.
This passage from Matthew 15:21-28 is quite bizarre:
Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession." Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said. He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs." "Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
The thing you notice is the incredible racism. Jesus equates the woman to a dog because she is not an Israelite. ...No, he didn't. He told her not to feed her children's food to the dogs. How you pulled that conclusion out is beyond me. Would God do that? No. Good thing he didn't. Imagine a world leader today equating someone to a dog because she is not of the correct nationality or religion. The negative reaction would be overwhelming. Probably.
What you realize is that, if you go through the Bible and actually read what Jesus says, he is completely wrong in quite a number of cases. The question you must ask yourself is this: If Jesus is God, why is he not perfect? You have failed in each instance to prove this.
Here is the thing that I would like to help you understand: The reason why Jesus was incorrect in so many places is easy to understand. Jesus was not God. Jesus was a normal human being who was way, way out on a limb. So you've stopped talking about hunger and children now? Now it's all about Jesus and how bad of a person he was? What about all the children dying of preventable diseases?
It's interesting that the only reason you ever refer to these children is to make an argument for atheism, and then you proceed to abandon them after you've made the point. Thank you, Mr. Brain, for merely using them as a pawn to further your propaganda. You don't really care about them, do you?
For those of us interested in a real response to your original argument, let's continue.
First off, check out my YouTube video called The Problem of Hunger: A Christian's Answer. I summarize my video by making this argument:
- Suppose you are at a banquet table. You symbolize your country. God is the patron of the banquet, and there is enough food for everyone, all the countries.
- But the rich countries push the poor countries out of the way and eat all the food. Nothing is left.
- Suddenly, the rich countries realized what they have done, and begin to shout at God, saying, "Why didn't you put enough food on the table for everyone? How can you call yourself a good patron if these people don't get to eat?"
- On the one hand, God put enough food on the Earth for everyone and commanded humans not to be selfish or covet.
- On the other hand, we humans who are more fortunate eat comfortably while they starve to death.
- So is it God's fault, who has given us all the necessary resources to solve this problem? Or is it our fault for continually ignoring him and failing to do so?
Think about these organizations:
- The Salvation Army
- World Vision
- Food For The Hungry
- Christian Disaster Relief
- Mission of Mercy
- Operation Blessing
- Christian World Adoption
- Compassion International
- World Missionary Evangelism
- International Mission Board
- Young Men's Christian Association, aka YMCA
- Habitat for Humanity
- Christian Children's Fund
- Mercy Ships
- Farndale Charity Network
- Christian Outreach for Relief & Development
- Christian Blind Mission
- Food for the Poor, Inc
So, Mr. Brain? Are you sponsoring children, paying for their well being with your pocket change? Are you donating to charities, providing these organizations with the money they so desperately need to operate? Are you doing volunteer work in inner cities, providing education, cleanup, food, medicine, and love for people who do not have the ability to do these things themselves? Do you ever spend time with homeless people, feeding them meals and providing them with clothing? Are you going on relief trips to foreign countries, helping to build schools?
If you're not doing everything you can, then you cannot make the argument that God is evil because he isn't doing everything He can.
© P-Dunn's Apologetics 2009. All rights reserved.