Friday, February 28, 2014

Common Ground?

An accusation that Christians make against atheists is that the Stalin’s purges, Hitler’s destruction of European Jewry, Pol Pot, etc were caused by atheism. Atheists commonly retort by pointing to the Spanish Inquisition, the Reverend Jim Jones, the persecution of gays by Evangelicals, the protections afforded by Evangelicals to bullies in schools, and the like. Atheists may have the greater number of victims, but the religious have had to work harder, not having the advantages of modern technology for most of their history.

An examination of the examples given by both sides shows that human beings with or without religion give into systemic violence, scapegoating, conformity for the sake of conformity. Neither religion nor liberation from religion make a person good by whatever definitions of good, religion, or liberation. Christianity might have an edge over most forms of atheism with its Doctrine of the Fall and the consequent corruption moral and otherwise of human beings. Does recognition of humanity’s depravity justify belief in God and the angels?

A system of beliefs, Christian or otherwise, does not provide protection from iniquity and fanaticism. Intentions count for little or nothing. Each of us is responsible before God for his or her actions, as a Christian might say, even if many cede this responsibility at the first opportunity to beliefs, employers, governments, churches, and so on. Does truth make some choices inescapable? Is this another use of truth? Truth as a means to avoid responsibility and be a holy terror with a clear conscience?

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