Choose the 1 billion people from the world's population living in the
countries with the lowest standards of living (about 40 countries).
This year about 40 million babies will be born to parents among these
1 billion. Of the 40 million, a bit less than 9 million will have died
before their 5th birthdays. That is a Holocaust every 3.5 years, an
Armenian earthquake every week, more than a dozen crowded jumbo jet
crashes every day, and all young children with no control at all over
their fates. (The numbers also refer only to children born in a single
year; multiply by 5 to get total current rates.) Most of their deaths
are quite slow and unpleasant (starvation and disease), and the vast
majority (>95%) could be prevented by quite modest nutrition, sanitation,
and simple medical care.
Some of you will have read the above paragraph in my postings to other
news groups in other contexts. Here, however, the question arises of
how can we make religious sense out of the suffering and death of so
many innocents (innocent in a very literal sense; the oldest of the
children discussed above can, at best, only dimly begin to grasp concepts
such as right and wrong). The difficulty of squaring these facts with
the idea of an omnipotent God of love and mercy has been raised and
discussed here (many times, no doubt) before. However, even if one
leaves aside such a view of God, there is still the question of what
religious significance/interpretation/importance we should attach to
My answer is in my .signature file. What is yours?
(Ref: statistics from World Health Organization, reported in Science.)
Ed Turner "Suffering alone exists, none who suffer;
phoenix!elturner The deed there is, but no doer thereof;
Nirvana is, but no one seeking it;
The Path there is, but none who travel it."
elturner@phoenix.Princeton.EDU - The Visuddhimagga (16)