I was recently engaged in a discussion with an atheist. As we conversed, one thought kept crossing my mind, “Why are atheists so bent on convincing people there is no God?” For me this has always been puzzling especially when I consider Pascal’s Wager. For those who don’t know, Pascal’s Wager essentially suggests that it is safer to believe in God than it is not to. What that means is that when it comes to atheism versus Christianity, if the atheist is correct, then both the Christian and the atheist have the same destiny – nothingness, no life after death. However, if the Christian is correct, then their destinies are actually quite opposite – the atheist goes to hell; the Christian goes to heaven. Not only that, but even if an atheist is adamant about their position, why would they attempt to change a Christian’s mind on what they believe? At least a Christian has hope of eternity with Christ and belief that there is much more than just this life. So I had to ask the atheist, “What is your motivation for convincing others of atheism?” He claimed that religion actually does more harm to the world than good, and that he wished to rid the world of this apparent disease – a viewpoint not uncommon among atheists. The question then remains, are atheists correct? Would the world be a better place without the likes of Christianity? Obviously my short answer is “No!” however, I will happily explain why.
First and foremost, suggesting that religion (specifically Christianity) is harmful, would be a misunderstanding of the teachings of Christianity. Often times, I hear people referencing the crusades as an argument to affirm the horror that Christianity causes. The problem with this argument is that it is an attack on an event, not on the teachings. There is nothing in the Christian doctrine (that is Biblically based) that condones such an event. Actions like this are not congruent with the character of Christ and therefore, we cannot suggest that Christianity as a whole operates in this way. A true follower of Christ is one that imitates him and acts in accordance with his character. This would be true for any situation. If I claimed to be a police officer and continuously broke the law, people would know that I was not a police officer, but rather, a criminal – the same goes for Christians. Simply claiming to be Christian means nothing. Instead, it is the actions of a person that defines who they are. So when Christianity teaches to “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44), “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39), “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12:31), “consider others better than yourself” (Philippians 2:3), etc. how can we say that it causes more harm than good? It would appear to me that the very heart of the Christian message is to love, even when it is most tempting to hate!
Secondly, I have a question for the atheist – what is good? Does good exist in the atheist worldview? If so, who decided it was good? The most common answer I have received is that “good is what benefits the sustainability and the progression of human society”. However, this answer produces another question… “So what?” Sure, on paper this can seem like a pretty rational statement, but why should anyone care about what benefits society? Especially when it requires sacrifice on their part? Should people then be obligated to sacrifice themselves for the betterment of society and human life? If there is no life after death, if there is no accountability, if there is no purpose to one’s life or even to the lives of all humans, why should anyone care to prolong this futile, finite existence? What makes that better than living completely and utterly for one’s own benefit? According to this worldview, there is no such thing as a greater good or objective good. Good becomes completely relative to each and every person. So it would then seem to me if we live by an atheist worldview this could actually produce a more harmful reality than Christianity. If everyone were to believe that there was no eternal accountability or meaning for their actions, then it would potentially cause people to start living entirely for what benefits themselves; having no regard for others around them. Whereas, in the Christian realm, there is teaching about sacrificial living and counting others greater than ourselves. So that being said, would the world actually be better off without Christianity?
Ultimately when one says that Christianity is harmful to society, or to the human race, it is out of ignorance. This belief comes out of failure to recognize all the good that Christianity has done for the world, while emphasizing the negative events that have occurred with the gross misrepresentation of what Christ stands for. The reality is that Christianity is often on the forefront of engaging the hurting world. Many organizations bearing the name of Christ are continuously giving sacrificially to a world that is desperate. Would it really be “liberating” to rid the world of these organizations? To the atheist, it shouldn’t matter, at best. The attitude of the atheist should be one of indifference, because ultimately we live, we die, and that’s it – good and bad, are irrelevant. Therefore, even if Christianity was harmful, it would not be justifiable from the seat of an atheist to condemn it.
By Dustin Huguet – Youth and Young adults pastor at Seaview Pentecostal Assembly in White Rock, BC