Monday, November 03, 2014

Christianity Is the Cause of Good

Monroe County
In teaching philosophy of religion I occasionally meet a student who testifies that the reason they left Christianity for atheism is because "religions are evil and cause evil." I tell them that, as someone who is "religious" (we do need to define that word), I don't see this. Here's what I see.

I see atheistic regimes in the 20th century committing mass genocide in their attempts to wipe out religion. (See here, e.g.)

I see atheism as internally conflicted about "morality," with many philosophical atheists (intellectuals) agreeing that, on atheism, morality doesn't even exist (because on philosophical materialism one can't derive "ought" from "is.") At least were I an atheist I would have a Sartrean nihilism regarding the absurdity of trying to make a "better" world by engaging in revolutionary activity.

Becoming a follower of Jesus has made me morally better than I was when I was a practical atheist. A further result of following Jesus is ongoing transformation into greater and greater Christlikeness, adding to this the reality that, while we are on the way, none of us have yet fully arrived. I have seen this in countless Jesus-followers over the year.

I see Christians, not atheist, as the great helping people of the world. While it's true that there are Christians who have persecuted others for their own gain, many risk and sacrifice to help others. The belief that one day we who are in Christ will live forever with Christ, coupled with the Jesus model of love and sacrificial giving to the point of even losing your life, has led many Christians, historically and today, to risk their lives for the sake of redeeming others.

Eric Metaxas points this out in his recent article "Running Toward the Plague." He writes: "It shouldn’t come as a surprise that many of the doctors waging war on Ebola in Africa are Christians. It’s a story as old as the faith itself."

In the Great Plague of 250-270 AD in the Roman Empire as many as 5,000 people died every day in Rome alone. During the time Christians in the Empire were being persecuted, as well as dying by the plague. But "unlike everybody else, they cared for the victims of the plague, including their pagan neighbors."  

This kind of thing has been documented through history; viz., Christians moving towards suffering people while others move away from them. It's happening today in West Africa. Christian missionaries and Christ-inspired doctors and nurses are battling ebola and treating the sick while the a-religious are mostly not around. "A recent article in Slate acknowledged that many of the people fighting the Ebola epidemic in West Africa were missionaries. The writer, Brian Palmer, admitted that he “[didn’t] feel good about missionary medicine, even though [he couldn’t] fully articulate why.” He knew that he shouldn’t feel this way but he did."

Back in the 4th century the emperor Julian the Apostate say this, too, and said: “the impious Galileans support not only their own poor but ours as well.”

Surely there are some atheists who would risk their lives for the sake of others. But the claim of pop-trendy atheists that religion is the root cause of evil is naive and untrue.