In chapter 20 of their recent book Did God Really Command Genocide? Coming to Terms with the Justice of God, Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan take up the question, “Does Religion Cause Violence?” This is by now a well-worn trope of new atheist accusation, typically stated without explaining what “religion” is, or how it is uniquely violence-producing in comparison to any other sphere of human activity (politics, sports, business, living in neighboring countries, etc.). Christopher Hitchens famously claimed that “religion poisons everything,” and Richard Dawkins asserts that religion is “one of the world’s great evils.” Other authors have made similar claims, but with more scholarly effort (e.g., Charles Kimball and Regina Schwartz).(1) At the same time, these critics (apparently willfully) overlook the overwhelmingly positive influences of religion (especially Christianity) in modern society, as well as Western civilization as a whole. Even honest non-Christians–at least those not driven by a hatred of religion–freely admit these influences, as Copan and Flannagan illustrate. [Read more…]
“Religion poisons everything. As well as a menace to civilization, it has become a threat to human survival.” – Christopher Hitchens (1)
We are often told that religion, including Christianity, is the cause of great evil in the world—that in the words of Christopher Hitchens, “religion poisons everything.” It is claimed that if religion is removed violence will be greatly diminished. In his book, “God Is Not Great,” the late Hitchens outlined in the second chapter, entitled “Religion Kills,” various conflicts and atrocities that he blamed on religion. (2)
I’m leaving aside the question of whether one can be good without God. I’m also not going to counter with the argument that atheist belief systems have been responsible for a greater share of evil and death, or enter the debate over whether communist states were atheist. I’m also going to avoid bringing up the thorny issue that if an atheist claims religion is evil they are committing themselves to a system of absolute moral standards.
Instead, let’s do a thought experiment. What if you had a magic ray gun that could remove someone’s religious beliefs instantly? Imagine further that you had a way to spread the effects of this ray gun over the entire earth, so that every person on the planet was struck, and no longer had any religious belief. Would all war and evil instantly disappear? Would we wake up to a world without wars, robbery, rape? [Read more…]
A Review of The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief by Larry Alex Taunton
Larry Taunton takes ideas seriously. The Founder and Executive Director of Fixed Point Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to the public defense of the Christian faith, Taunton has personally engaged some of Christianity’s most imposing antagonists. The Grace Effect opens with Taunton and Christopher Hitchens in a restaurant debating Hitchens’s insistence that the world would be a better place without Christianity. Taunton meets Hitchens’s arguments just fine, but he only relates the scene to set the stage for his real rejoinder, who lives, breathes, and transcends mere dialectics.
Sasha survived Odessa Orphanage #17 with her sweetness of soul intact until age ten, at which point Larry and the Taunton family arrived in Ukraine to adopt her. The odyssey, which forms the bulk of the narrative and which Taunton relates with remarkably kind wit, brings him square up against the institutionalized corruption, iron-souled indifference, and wholesale societal decay that have been the inexorable constants of Sasha’s life up to this point. Some say the region suffers from a “Communist hangover,” but that doesn’t fully capture the social ruin. The human catastrophe of today’s former Soviet bloc was neither self-inflicted nor short-lived, and, as inevitably happens, it’s the children who take the worst of it. The effects are legion: [Read more…]