The Unsung Hymns of the Church

Suffering and Servitude

Somewhere in the world, I imagine there must be secret classrooms. In these classrooms, they gather together the most ardent of the young atheists and teach them that religious people are dangerous. Muslims blow up buildings, Christians are responsible for all colonization and murderous crusades, and the Jews steal land from indigenous people. As always, I will only speak for the Christians–and what I do know is that these young atheists go on to edit Wikipedia articles and post on Internet forums, denying the sufferings of Christians, along with all the benevolent work they have done, and do, throughout the world.

Though I can only speak for the Christians, I have decided that they should be spoken for.

When judging a religion, we cannot judge it simply by the aggregate sum of the actions committed in its name. I also affirm that we cannot perpetually disown people who do shameful things as “not true followers” of that religion. However, it is not difficult to discern a set of behaviours that are distinctive of a religion’s adherents, and to see how they have played out throughout history. In other words, we have to ask ourselves: how are people of this religion different from people in general? The truth is that Christians have suffered intensely throughout history, and they have done an incredible amount of good—even after you adjust for the disagreement on what is “good.” It is true that Christians were involved in the Crusades, and in the Spanish inquisition. However, this is hardly the most important thing about them.

Were the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition uniquely religious events? The Crusades were military campaigns, fought primarily with Muslims who were growing their empire. Had Christianity never existed, would the denizens of Europe not have waged war against them? No doubt, many of the details would have been different, and wrongs were certainly committed—but I do not believe the mere existence of these military campaigns tells us a great deal about Christianity. What of the Inquisition? This was undeniably a religious event, but can it be divorced from the trend of a ruling body forcing its ideology upon the people? When religion is conflated with culture, the actions of people group are branded with that religion—but people, on the grand scale, do not behave that differently from each other.

Christians are, and have been, an intensely persecuted people group. We have heard much about the Spanish Inquisition, which resulted in an upper bound estimate of 5,000 dead. Yet in Communist Russia alone, an estimated 21,000,000 Russian Orthodox Christians were murdered, not including those of other denominations. There have been inflammatory suggestions that Hitler was a Christian, but this is as preposterous as it gets, as if I could just as easily paint myself a different colour and defame an entire race with my crimes. In the Nazi Christianity, Jesus was not even a Jew. It was the “Confessing Church” that was persecuted, and it was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who conspired to assassinate Hitler—though even this action, he did not justify. Being a Christian will get you tortured and killed in a great many countries around the world today, and there is no shortage of personal accounts in affirmation of this.

As to the benevolence of Christians, it cannot be denied that they are responsible for a great deal of charitable and humanitarian work. One may protest that these acts are mere self-righteousness, but even if this were true (and overall, I am not convinced that it is), they would still be charitable and humane acts. Granted, this is not a game of numbers—but the numbers are there. If the reader cannot find examples, he surely will not accept any that I provide! As someone within the church, I have seen this first hand, and I know that it is something I have not found in such abundance outside of the church. Perhaps the most important gauge for me, however, is my own life. Though I have lost many opportunities to act as I ought, I believe that I am different in this respect than I otherwise might have been.

If I were an intellectually secure atheist, I would not attempt to slander and discredit both the good deeds and sufferings of Christians. Yet this is precisely what militant atheists do. To what end? Is Christianity more likely to be true just because its adherents suffer, or do good deeds? The atheist must answer in the negative. Why then the denial? Isn’t it enough to believe that there are no fairies at the bottom of the garden, without having to believe that they are harmful?

Whether or not it is true, Christianity motivates people to do good things, and in many parts of the world, it has a high price.

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