Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing
without revealing his plan
to his servants the prophets.
From the Old Testament, The Ten Commandments – Exodus 20
And God spoke all these words:
- “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
- “You shall have no other gods beforeme.
- “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
- “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
- “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
- “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
- “You shall not murder.
- “You shall not commit adultery.
- “You shall not steal.
- “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
- “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
These 10 commandments are practical rules for all society, and are the basis for a just society, a society respecting all human dignity and relationships among people, as well as the private property of individuals and families.
But what of all the death and suffering caused by religion?
Good question, but a question that lets your own unbelief off the hook for much of that death and suffering. So let me approach the question from a different angle and ask about all of the good that can be attributed to religion, and in particular the Judeo/Christian religion.
In addressing these issues I will rely on two books that treat these issues much better than I could possibly hope to myself. The two books were written by D. James Kennedy, a theologian and an intellectual who I have the upmost respect for:
Born of humble origins, the Church has made more changes on earth for the good than any other movement or force in history. Some highlights, which I take from Kennedy’s book What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?:
- Hospitals, which essentially began during the Middle Ages.
- Universities, which also began during the Middle Ages. In addition, most of the world’s greatest universities were started by Christians for Christian purposes.
- Literacy and education for the masses.
- Capitalism and free-enterprise.
- Representative government, particularly as it has been seen in the American experiment.
- The separation of political powers.
- Civil liberties.
- The abolition of slavery, both in antiquity and in more modern times.
- Modern science.
- The discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus.
- The elevation of women.
- Benevolence and charity; the good Samaritan ethic.
- Higher standards of justice.
- The elevation of the common man.
- The condemnation of adultery, homosexuality, and other sexual perversions. This has helped to preserve the human race, and has spared many from heartache.
- High regard for human life.
- The civilization of many barbarian and primitive cultures.
- The codifying and setting to writing of many of the world’s languages.
- Greater development of art and music. The inspiration for the greatest works of art.
- The countless changed lives transformed from liabilities into assets to society because of the gospel.
- The eternal salvation of countless souls.
And a summary taken from Kennedy’s book What If The Bible Had Never Been Written? … and I quote directly:
“When a young lady who was not a Christian heard about this book, ‘What If The Bible Had Never Been Written?’, she immediately said, “Oh the Bible has been nothing but oppressive towards women.” This sentiment is often repeated in our biblically illiterate times. The truth is, the Bible has improved the treatment of women. Show me a country where women are treated well where the Bible has not gone first. You can’t because it doesn’t exist. In fact, chivalry — where women became protected and cherished – was started by the Church in the Middle Ages. When hundreds of men on the Titanic voluntarily gave up their lives so that women and children could use the lifeboats, they were following a centuries-old, cultural norm that the Bible had established. However, since the Bible has lost sway among many people in our culture today, I daresay if the Titanic were to sink now, I doubt if most men would so readily give up on trying to get into a lifeboat.
The young lady’s opposition to the Bible (which she had never bothered to read) is far to typical today. I comes from the school of ignorant thought that says Christianity is sexist, homophobic, racist, anti-science, anti-progress, and several other negative things.
What if the Bible had never been written? Consider the implications of such a scenario. There would be no salvation, no Salvation Army, no YMCA, virtually no charity, no modern science, no Red Cross. There would likely be no hospitals, for hospitals as we know them were born in the Christian era, and Christians have build hundreds of hospitals all over the globe. There would probably be no universities; they were created in the Middle Ages in order to reconcile Christian theology with the writings of Aristotle. There would probably be no capitalism, no accounting, no free enterprise. Millions of people would have been killed off by STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) – without any kind of inhibition against sexual promiscuity. Literacy and education might well have been the exclusive domain of the elite. Many of the languages around the world would never have been written down because there would have been no motive to do so. Many of the barbarians of the world over would never have been civilized. Cannibalism and human sacrifice and the abandonment of children would still be widespread, even as abortion and infanticide plague us as we continue to move away from the Bible. Slavery might still be practiced, as it is in pockets of the world where the Bible is forbidden. And we might not even be in the New World – as Columbus clearly stated it was the Lord who inspired him to make his historic voyage. If the Bible had never been written, there would be no Mother Teresas, no David Livingstones, no Isaac Newtons, no William Wilberforces, no George Washingtons, no Lincolns, no Dantes, no Miltons, no Shakespears, no Dickensons. Above all, if the Bible had never been written, we would be cut off from God, groping in darkness without hope.
But the Bible has been written, and we can embrace its wonderful message of the love of God, which is so great that He gave His only begotten Son that we may have eternal life. Because the Bible has been written, the wonderful story of how Jesus came to seek and save the lost has gone out into all the world and has transformed millions of lives and scores of cultures and nations.”
Thank you Dr. Kennedy for your bringing these historical facts to my attention so many years ago. And thank you Dr. Kennedy for your bringing these ‘what ifs’ to my curiosity so many years ago as well.
So now back to the question: But what of all the death and suffering caused by religion?
I don’t deny the death and suffering caused by religion over the centuries. What I deny is using that death and suffering as an excuse for my own disbelief, and as an excuse for living a life as I please, choosing my own moral boundaries — or none at all.
I read somewhere, I think it might have been Kennedy, that more people have died from atheism than in all of the so called religious (Christian) wars of the last 2000+ years since the founding of the Church … and this in the span of just 70 years of the 20th century in the form of world wide Communism; and, more deaths by an estimated 7 to 10 times!
So I am willing to shoulder my share of responsibility for the deaths caused by my “Christian Wars.” Are you willing to step up and shoulder your share of responsibility for the deaths caused by your unbelief?
So again I’m thinking … Maybe We Should Pay More Attention To The Bible
Don Johnson – May 2013