One of the most used arguments against Christianity is that the Church, Christians and Religion in general have done some some terrible things throughout the ages. Unfortunately any honest person would have to agree. Religious people have been involved in some seriously terrible atrocities and scandals that drag religion through the mud.
But if we explore the history of atheism we see that atheism has got it’s own skeletons in it’s closet. But many of the new Atheists are reticent to admit the wrongs of atheism’s past. Paul Copan in his book Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God says this about the New Atheists unwillingness to own up to atheism’s checkered past:
The New Atheists aren’t willing to own up to atrocities committed in the name of atheism by Stalin, Pol Pot, or Mao Zedong, yet they expect Christians to own up to all barbarous acts performed in Jesus’s name. In one debate, Dennett refused to connect Stalin’s brutality and inhumanity with his hard-core atheism. In fact, he claimed that Stalin was a kind of “religious” figure! In September 2009, I attended a debate between Hitchens and Dinesh D’Souza in Orlando. Hitchens refused to admit that Stalin killed “in the name of atheism.” Somehow Stalin, who had once attended a Russian Orthodox seminary but later came to convincingly repudiate Christianity, was still “religious” after all. Yet Hitchens insisted that a religious residue still stayed with him. So atheism wasn’t the culprit. Yet in another debate, Hitchens was pressed to make the seemingly rare confession: “It has to be said that some of my non-believing forbears seized the opportunity to behave the same way [as immoral religious persons], sure.
Why do the New Atheists find it hard to own up to the atrocities that atheists have committed. Copan offers this analysis:
I think the reason it’s difficult, if not impossible, for these New Atheists to acknowledge immorality in the name of atheism is because it would take much wind out of their sails when criticizing religion. If we’d stop to ask, “Would Jesus approve of the Inquisition or persecuting Jews?” the question answers itself. As a counterillustration, what about serial murderer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer? Dahmer reasoned, “If it all happens naturalistically, what’s the need for a God? Can’t I set my own rules? Who owns me? I own myself.” He wondered, if there’s no God and we all just came “from the slime,” then “what’s the point of trying to modify your behavior to keep it within acceptable ranges?”
What a chilling paragraph!
What can Christians say about the Church and or Christians doing terrible things in the name of Jesus? We can point to numerous things. But I will only give two:
1. God hates hypocritical religion. All through out the Bible there is hypocritical religion and God judges this sin harshly. So when we think of our hatred of the church doing bad things we must remember that Gods hatred burns even hotter than ours and his anger towards these atrocities will one day come to bear on the perpetrators if they haven’t repented.
2. Jesus said there will be wolves among the sheep. There will be people in the church who will look like Christians but really they aren’t and these people may do things that are absolutely unspeakable. This doesn’t mean that the church gets off on a technicality but it does mean that churches should be very careful before putting people into leadership.
Both Atheism and Christianity have a checkered history. This fact points us to the sinfulness of all humanity and our need for a saviour.
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