In a previous post I shared information about bad/crazy things religious people have done (and the craziness of the conflicting varieties of Christianities) in an effort to level the playing field when dealing with someone as crazy as “The Discomfiter” whom I assume to be a Christian in atheist clothing bent on showing how crazy atheists can be.
I was not condemning all Christians, nor would I suggest that a person should disbelieve in Christianity because of its failures. I disbelieved in Christianity after examining the Bible and also after acknowledging goodness, love, and wisdom in people other than Christians.
But some have pointed out to me the insanity of some atheist murderers and sex fiends, like Stalin, Mao, and the Marquis de Sade or even Jeffrey Dahmer who said he was an atheist when he committed his crimes, and also asked me to address the good that some Christians have done.
On charity and Christianity, or for that matter, civilization and Christianity, there are diverse opinions. But most would agree that Christianityʼs contributions in the arts and sciences peaked a while back. Today anyone of any religion or none can produce wonderful music, or impressive scientific research.
On health care/hospitals, itʼs true, in the early 1800s, religion was still the monopoly provider. And the hospitals themselves were each devoted to preaching the religion of a specific religious sect, and could turn away whomever they wished on that basis, or forbid the sick from being visited by ministers or rabbis of a rival sect while at the hospital but had to endure preachments made by that sectʼs ministers. Also in the early 1800s that system was failing—remember Dickens?—and the response came swiftly. Think of Florence Nightingale (a universalist Christian, a view others deemed heretical, who taught that hospitals should admit anyone regardless of beliefs and also allow them access to whatever minister or rabbi they wished), or think of the Red Cross (the American Red Cross was founded by Clara Barton a universalist Christian, while the International Red Cross was founded by Andre Dunant—a gay man), Jane Addams and Hull House. New kinds of private, nonprofit organizations sprang up, as did unprecedented forms of government activity. Itʼs worth noting that most of the replacement institutions were not “lifestance organizations.” They werenʼt other churches or fraternal groups. Indeed, they tended not to be the kind of organizations that sorted their members by lifestance at all. In a word, they were secular.
Dr. Albert Schweitzer, who spent years in Africa as a doctor and helped to publicize the plight of suffering Africans, was a liberal Christian and author of The Search of the Historical Jesus in which he concluded that Jesus was a man who preached that the world was going to end soon. And, Helen Keller (the woman who lost her sight and hearing to a bout with Scarlet Fever when she was very young, but who learned how to communicate via touch, and who proved an inspiration to generations of people suffering from severe disabilities) was both a Swedenborgian, and a member of the American Humanist Society.
TODAY, a vast number of charities (including organizations devoted to finding cures for diverse diseases) are secular, or of a non-Evangelical Christian variety. There is the American Cancer Society, The Heart Association, The Will Rogers Institute, and many others. Thereʼs the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that Gates poured 30 billion into, and his friend Warren Buffet poured a little bit more than 30 billion into. (Both of those men being reticent and reluctant to connect themselves with religion.)
In fact, if it were not for a host of scientists, engineers and agriculturalists—who happened to be either lapsed churchgoers, unorthodox Christians, heretics, apostates, infidels, freethinkers, agnostics, or atheists—and their successes in the fields of agricultural and medical science, hundreds of millions would have starved to death or suffered innumerable diseases this past century. Those agricultural and medical scientists “multiplied more loaves of bread” and “prevented/healed more diseases” in the past hundred years than Christianity has in the past two thousand.
Likewise, TODAY, institutions of higher learning are mostly secular and non-Evangelical.
Richard Dawkins, an atheist, also has made a remark I find interesting: “If all the achievements of scientists were wiped out tomorrow, there would be no doctors but witch doctors, no transport faster than horses, no computers, no printed books, no agriculture beyond subsistence peasant farming. If all the achievements of theologians were wiped out tomorrow, would anyone notice the smallest difference?” [quoted in The Guardian]
As for famous atheists who have been mass murderers, yes they have. But they were driven not only by selfish ideals, but also religious-like ones, like promises of a “workerʼs paradise,” or a holy book be it a “Communist Manifesto,” or in the case of Maoism, a “Little Red Book” with “verses” his people had to memorize. Such ideals and practices seem to motivate human primates en masse. Absolute certainty is certainly a huge temptation. Add the fact that the states and churches of Europe pounded the message into peopleʼs heads for centuries, “Obey!” People were fed up with that. And Marx was fed up with the system of state and church that was using and abusing people as interchangeable parts in factories, the same factories that Marxʼs religious counterpart, William Blake called, “Satanʼs mills.” As for Hitler and Stalin, apparently they both wanted to become priests in their youth. And Stalin it appears was well versed enough in the Bible to be aware of the story of the betrayal of Christ by someone near him, and killed anyone he feared might one day become his Judas. Mao arose during the confusion and upheavals of a World War. The Kymer Rouge I have read arose partly in response to Americaʼs war in Vietnam, especially illegal secret bombing missions conducted by the U.S. on the Cambodian-Viet Nam boarder. What Iʼm saying is that the history of human primates on this planet seems to have explanations of complex and varied sorts.
I think we were lucky that when Europe was going up in flames during the wars between Christian nation-states following the Reformation, they didnʼt have modern weaponry. That “Thirty Years War” has been compared to World War 1 without the modern weapons. Of course the Christian west had the advantage of guns and steel and was able to exert control over a lot of the world for a couple centuries (not to mention the advantages that the “germs” carried by westerners to the New World, brought the conquerors).
About serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, I read that he was raised Christian and in his youth attended a fundamentalist Christian school. He reverted back to his childhood faith in prison. Iʼm sure his victims wished he had reverted sooner. Perhaps the portrayal in his school of atheists as evil teachers of total irresponsibility made him think thatʼs all any atheist could or should be, and maybe he pawned off his own inclinations on “atheism,” as an excuse, based on such teachings. Honestly, I donʼt know many atheists in America who would agree that a great way to make friends is to keep peopleʼs heads in your freezer.