It probably won't surprise you then to know that we, our European friends, and other wealthy first-world nations share the lowest infant mortality rates of anywhere on our planet. England's is less than 0.5%. Perhaps, Claire, your pregnancy might not have fared so well in Angola, where almost 20% of newborns die before their first birthday. But since we're talking about Angola, lets look at some more statistics. There, almost 50% of children under 5 are malnourished and over 25% will die before they reach that age; less than 40% of their population has access to clean water and proper sanitation; over 10% of children under 14 have lost one or both of their parents; over 30% of children 5-14 are working, and most can expect to die by the time they turn 42. Is this the beauty you speak of? This issue is not specific to Angola, either. They are but a drop in a larger bucket of peoples who do not see the beauty you see; in fact, of the thirty countries on earth with the highest infant mortality rates, almost all are African. To boot, these same nations have the highest birth rates of anywhere else. So, if you run the numbers, its safe to say that there are a lot of unlucky parents in Africa, assuming they even survive long enough to see their children make it to their fifth birthday.
Why does your God turn a blind eye to these people?
Lets get back to the first world. We are rich. Our friends are rich. Our neighbors are rich. Places we visit are rich. Even the places we visit abroad generally tend to be wealthy tourist centers. We, the lucky civilization, sometimes have to really try to place ourselves in situations that aren't very pretty, but we all know that they exist.
Why are we more qualified for God's mercy than anyone else?
It's easy to cite Africa, however, as a cesspool of despair, so why don't we talk about what we know?
Hurricane Katrina took the lives of over 1000 God-loving, church-going, poor black people. Did they not pray enough? Claire, you say you don't go to church, but you're still alive. Does this make sense to you? This is the part where you say God works in mysterious ways.
Los Angeles is a pretty enough place. But the palm tree-lined streets of Hollywood are less than five miles from Skid Row, a world-famous human landfill where up to ten thousand under the age of 18 are addicted to crack or heroin and sell survival-sex for food and shelter, right now. Is this what you mean when you say 'there's too much beauty in the world to not believe in God?'
If the terrible loss of almost three thousand innocent mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, cousins, and friends in the September 11th attacks is not shocking enough, consider the countless volunteers who worked tirelessly to clean up ground zero only to wind up with serious pulmonary diseases, sarcoidosis, and cancer as a result of their exposure to the toxic dust below their feet. If I had a God, he would treat good people better than this. Wouldn't yours?
Some children in your neighborhoods are born with birth defects. Some wind up in trash cans. I'm not sure what to call this but it isn't beauty. This is reality, and it's happening right now in our beautiful isolated enclaves among a vast world full of misfortune.
I don't thank God that I am alright. I am no more deserving than any poor Angolan child. I am just one of the lucky ones so far.