Nov 16, 2010

Does Religion really poison everything?

Ideas have consequences.  They refuse to stay on paper or merely live on in the minds of those who hear them in the lecture theatre, classroom or worship room. When it comes to matters of belief one of the tests for truth is livability; what sort of individuals and society does such a belief produce. Ravi Zacharias in his book The Real Face of Atheism has said ‘The realities of life, powerfully reinforce the viability of faith in God.’ Christopher Hitchens in his book God is not great: Religion poisons everything profoundly disagrees.

Recent evidence seems to suggest that Hitchens is on the losing side when it comes to the livability test. Toby Young in his blog in today’s Telegraph highlights the conclusion of a mammouth 5 year study into religion and it’s impact on society.  The authors of the study write in today’s USA Today:

Forty percent of worship-attending Americans volunteer regularly to help the poor and elderly, compared with 15% of Americans who never attend services. Frequent-attenders are also more likely than the never-attenders to volunteer for school and youth programs (36% vs. 15%), a neighborhood or civic group (26% vs. 13%), and for health care (21% vs. 13%). The same is true for philanthropic giving; religious Americans give more money to secular causes than do secular Americans. And the list goes on, as it is true for good deeds such as helping someone find a job, donating blood, and spending time with someone who is feeling blue.

Maybe religion doesn’t really poison everything after all.


  • Any good deed a Christian does or money he contributes to charity (even a secular one) does not count because according to the new atheists a good person would do good with or without religion. So if said person was not religious all the money he does waste tithing to church could be added onto that which goes to the secular charity, and any time he wastes devoted to church activities could be added onto his work for the homeless and disadvantaged so religion still does poison his good deeds.
    Game, Set and Match, atheists win again):

    • The point that the researchers are making is not that an atheist is not able to do good with or without religion because of course he is. The point they are making is that all of the evidence is that atheist chooses not to do good (statistically speaking of course) even when the same opportunities to serve the community are available. The question which the research does not seek to answer is ‘why?’. Perhaps the answer lies in the very worldview of atheism which sees nothing significant about human life and at least justifies the option for an atheist to choose a self-centred life.

      The atheist philosopher Kai Neilson once said in American Philosophical Quarterly ‘We have not been able to show that reason requires the moral point of view or that really rational beings unhoodwinked by myth or ideology need not be individual egoists or classical amoralists. Reason does not decide here. The picture I have painted for you is not a pleasant one. Reflection on it depresses me. Pure practical reason even with a good knowledge of the facts will not take you to morality.’

      By contrast the Christian world-view does not merely invite acts of compassion and concern but as Tim Keller in his latest book Generous Justice requires the Christian to seek the good of his neighbour and to recognise the dignity of every human life as made in the image of God.

      Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised therefore that the statistical evidence presented in the report is that Christians do more to help the homeless and disadvantaged alongside their church activities or as part of their church activities than their atheist neighbours.

      Is it too much to counter-claim that atheism is therefore the greater poison in a society?

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