When I tweeted a series sarcastically contrasting the how atheism and Christianity motivate (or doesn’t motivate ) people to do good, and resposted it on my blog, I had totally forgotten about my promise to try not to mock and belittle atheists.
Well, longtime commentor Ron pointed it out, and I had to admit my failing.
That said, the premise of my tweets and post is not rendered void. So here in this post, I will attempt to rephrase what I intended to say in a non-sarcastic, non-snarking manner.
It is often pointed out by polemics – especially those of the atheistic vein – that many bad things are done in the name of religion, or at least inspired by religion.
However, if religion is really so bad, then why is it still so prevalent even in our modern, scientific age of rationalism and humanism? Why hasn’t religion been disacarded as a force for evil, a detriment to human civilization and survival?
There are many competing and complementary explanations, but how about this – in all the self-smug polemics, critics forget that religion inspires people to do good in a way that secularism and atheism somehow do not.
For example, many a former drug addict or alcoholic who has reformed his ways – and even turned into a model citizen who works to rescue other from the same trap – attributes the change to realizing the existence of a loving and forgiving God.
Many a convict – hardened criminals, career lawbreakers, death-row inmates – has been so stricken with remorse upon discovering Jesus Christ that they renounced their former ways and transformed into a model prisoner, encouraging others to accept the love and forgiveness of God and humanizing an otherwise bleak and forlorn environment.
Many a suicidal person, distraught over the hopelessness and ennui of it all, has found new meaning and hope and joy in life after reading the Bible (or even a snippet of it in an evangelical tract), hearing a preacher’s message, or simply through the lovingkindness of Christ expressed through a believer.
Many an invidual has given up a safe home, a comfortable life, and a promising career in order to serve in (very often) religious or religiously-linked/inspired charities. Even if they do not personally head out to disease-infested wilds or poverty-stricken slums or wartorn battlegrounds to minister God’s love to the needy, at the very least they sacrifice their own hard earnings to support such work through church offerings or charities – the latter often inspired and named after well-loved parables and personalities of the Bible: Loaves & Fishes, Samaritan’s Purse, Barnabas Aid, Faith & Light, Our Father’s House.
Many a former prisoner of war – brutalized, dehumanized, pushed to the brink of death by their oppressors – has turned around and offered full, unconditional forgiveness to their torturers… Because of the example of Jesus and the Apostles so long ago and the countless saints and martyrs of the faith since.
Now take each of the above, and imagine replacing Christianity with the uncertainty of agnosticism or the blithe existentialism of atheism. Doesn’t quite work, does it?
For all talk that “If only people abandoned foolish and cruel religion, the world would be a better place!”, unbelief simply fails to provide a meaningful replacement.
Therefore I wager that religion – Christianity in particular – has been overwhelmingly a force that inspires good rather than evil. Hospitals, charities, legal and philosophical concepts, personal crusades, countless little decisions made every day – how much worse off the world would be without any number of institutions and effects inspired by Christianity! (And of course, if self-proclaimed Christians truly adhered to the teachings of the Bible and the example of Jesus, not one of them would ever commit evil – least of all in the name of God.)
And last but not least, it continues to be my personal belief that, whatever the Communist regimes were or were not – whether their gross atrocities against humanity were directly inspired by their de facto atheism or not – at the very least, their outright rejection of religion contributed to their ability to ignore and intentionally trample on human rights.
After all, when there is no God but man – when man makes his own ultimate morals, rules and laws – and when such commands as “Thou shall not murder” and “Love thy neighbor; love thy enemy” are tossed out along with all the other
Religion – no matter how illogical, scientifically baseless or outright absurd the teachings may be – has been the dam that for millenia held back the flood human evil from engulfing all of humanity.