The New Atheists believe Christianity is not only false, but evil. They repeatedly point to the maltreatment of Galileo, the atrocities of the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Salem witch trials in past history, as well as the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in today’s world, as evidence of the cruelty of Christianity.
People have undoubtedly done horrific things in the name of Christ. But why should Christianity take the blame when it is people who are doing the opposite of what Jesus taught? Did Jesus favor burning witches? Did Jesus encourage his followers to torture heretics? Of course not. In fact, Jesus taught the exact opposite. He told them to love their enemies (Matthew 5:44), to reach out to those whom society considers untouchable (Matthew 8:3), and to lay down their lives for others (John 15:13). If people really did live like Jesus, violence would likely be a thing of the past.
But when atheism is adopted as the prevailing philosophy for a particular culture, how does it fare? Individual atheists can be good people (and many are), but atheism as a philosophy has caused more misery and bloodshed than any other fundamental worldview. Specifically, the number of people slaughtered by twentieth-century atheistic regimes, such as Communist China, Communist Russia, and Nazi Germany, is more than one hundred million people.*1 There is no close second place. David Berlinski, a secular Jew who received his PhD from Princeton University, believes that one of the main reasons for such atrocities is the absence of ultimate accountability: “What Hitler did not believe and what Stalin did not believe and what Mao did not believe and what the SS did not believe and what the Gestapo did not believe . . . was that God was watching what they were doing.”*2
While Christians have certainly done some bad things, the legacy of Christianity has been overwhelmingly positive. Christians built the first hospitals, started the Red Cross, led the movement to end slavery, invented the university, and pioneered modern science. When we trace the movements that have led to the most profound liberation for humanity, we find the Gospel at the heart of almost all of them.
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.Matthew 5:44-45
1. Dinesh D’Souza, What’s So Great about Christianity (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2007), 207.2. David Berlinski, The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions (New York: Crown Forum, 2008), 26.
–Taken from More than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell