Many have hailed Christianity as to be a good force in the world. Atheist writer John Steinrucken says that “the glue that has held Western civilization together over the centuries is the Judeo-Christian tradition” and that even his own “open secular thought, depends on the continuance within our society of the Judeo-Christian tradition.” (1)
The Human Rights Watch likewise comments that “religion was the prime mover behind campaigns for human rights. The role of US and English Protestant churches in the anti-slavery campaigns, in the Congo reform movement, and in solidarity with Armenian victims in the late days of the Ottoman Empire belong to the best chapters of the history of the human rights movement” (2). David Marshall also chimes in:
“Not only “can” Christianity be credited for the abolition of slavery, it is, by historians who have read the data – nicely preserved in Rodney Stark’s For the Glory of God, among other sources (3). The ethics of Christianity, through the efforts of Christians such as William Wilberforce, was the drive behind the abolishment of the human slave trade.
But it was also modern science that Christianity gave us, as philosopher Samples explains: “A relative latecomer on the scene of human intellectual history, modern science emerged in full form in Christian Europe around the middle of the seventeenth century” (4). And in agreement Efron explains:
“To be fair, the claim that Christianity led to modern science captures something true and important. Generations of historians and sociologists have discovered many ways in which Christians, Christian beliefs, and Christian institutions played crucial roles in fashioning the tenets, methods and institutions of what in time became modern science…today almost all historians agree that Christianity (Catholicism as well as Protestantism) moved early-modern intellectuals to study nature systematically” (5).
However, beyond Christianity’s nurturing of science, John Stott, a cleric, theologian and who was rated by Time Magazine as one of the most influential people to have ever lived (6) had this to say:
“Later still they [Christians] abolished the slave trade and freed the slaves, and they improved the conditions of workers in mills and mines and of prisoners in gaols. They protected children from commercial exploitation in the factories of the West and from ritual prostitution in the temples of the East. Today they bring leprosy sufferers… modern methods of reconstructive surgery and rehabilitation. They care for the blind and the deaf, the orphaned and the widowed, the sick and the dying. They get alongside junkies and stay alongside them during the traumatic period of withdrawal. They set themselves against racism and political oppression. They get involved in the urban scene, the inner cities, the slums and the ghettos, and raise their protest against inhuman conditions in which so many are doomed to live. They seek in whatever way they can to express their solidarity with the poor and hungry, the deprived and the disadvantaged. I am not claiming that all… at all times have given their lives in such service. But a sufficiently large number have done so to make their record noteworthy.” (7)
This Greg Easterbrooks finds as undeniable: “Set aside whether or not God exists: it is beyond doubt that religion is at the core of much of the world’s philanthropy” (8).
But why? What drives Christians to involve themselves in these efforts? This is a good question to which John Blanchard answers:
“If we assume for the sake of argument that there is a God who created man, gave him a unique dignity, instilled in him a sense of human solidarity, commanded him to behave in a responsible, generous and compassionate way towards others and told him of an afterlife which relates in some way to life lived here on earth, would we not expect those who believe these things to respond in ways which would contribute to the welfare of others?” (9)
1. Bishop, J. 2016. Atheist John Steinrucken – Why Christianity is Great. Available.
2. Marthoz, J. & Saunders, J. Religion and the Human Rights Movement. Available.
3. Marshall, D. The Case for the Prosecution (mostly) Fails.
4. Samples, K. 2013. Does Science Deserve Its Pedestal? Available.
5. Efron, N. 2010. Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths About Science and Religion. p. 80.
6. Graham, B. 2005. The lives and ideas of the world’s most influential people.
7. Stott, J. 1984. Issues Facing Christians Today. p. 19.
8. Greg Easterbrooks quoted by Garrison in The New Atheist Crusaders and Their Unholy Grail (2008), p. 106.
9. Blanchard, J. 2002. Does God Believe in Atheists? p. 259.