I asked the young interlocutor, “Do you really mean that? Or is this a piece of hyperbole thrown out in frustration?”
Personally, I don’t get it.
Yes, I know so-called Christians that do not represent Christ well. (I’m sure that I don’t sometimes.) But does atheism produce Elizabeth Elliott’s? Does atheism produce David Livingston’s and William Wilberforces’s and John Newton’s, Eric Liddel’s, and Rich Mullins’s (who though he could have been filthy rich, was living on $25,000 a year and poured all of his music royalties into an Indian reservation in Arizona and teaching music to children?) Does Atheism produce Amy Carmichael’s (started dozens of orphanages all over India and served the poor there without furlough for 58 years? Does atheism produce more admirable, altruistic citizens of the planet than theism and Christianity? I don’t think so.
We become what we worship and the preponderance of evidence is that atheism, with notable exceptions tends to produce less than safe citizens of the planet. My friend had mentioned the Crusades, an admitted black mark against the Church and Christianity, but I would argue that they happened precisely because the church had lost the Bible and was not being guided by the teachings of Christ. On the other hand, the atheistic societies of China, the Soviet Union, Cambodia, and North Korea killed millions and millions as a direct application of their godless worldview.
In A.D. 133 Aristides, a teacher of Philosophy presented a defense of Christianity to the Emperor Hadrian. Here’s his record of what the teaching of Christ was producing:
“Now the Christians, O King … have the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ himself engraven on their hearts, and they observe, looking for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. They commit neither adultery nor fornication; nor do they bear false witness. They do not deny a deposit, nor covet other men’s goods; they honor father and mother, and love their neighbors; they give right judgment; and they do not worship idols in the form of man. They do not unto others that which they would not have done unto themselves. They comfort such as wrong them, and make friends of them. They labor to do good to their enemies … As for their servants or handmaids, or their children if any of them has any, they persuade them to become Christians for the love that they have towards them; and when they have become so, they call them without distinction ‘brethren.'”
They despise not the widow, and grieve not the orphan. He that hath distributeth liberally to him that hath not. If they see a stranger, they bring him under their roof and rejoice over him as if it were their own brother; for they call themselves brethren, not after the flesh, but after the spirit and in God. …
And if there is among them a man that is poor and needy, and they have not an abundance of necessities, they fast two or three days that they may supply the needy with their necessary food.”
cited in John Piper’s A Godward Life, page 303-304.
- Does atheism produce such people?
- Does atheism even aim to produce such people?
With all of its flaws, the church does.
People who follow the example of Jesus do. Yes, the church fails, sometimes fails miserably. But the point is, she succeeds far more often than does atheism and atheism doesn’t even aim at the target. Christianity and every church that I have helped to plant over the last 20 years (well over 250 that I have worked with) aims to produce exactly what Aristides told Hadrain.
So despite all the answers I don’t have, and all the things I can’t explain, I will hold on to Christ, because He and the church that He founded are the worlds greatest hope and the best thing that ever happened to the world.
Christianity has literally circled the globe with schools, shelters, hospitals, orphanages, AIDS clinics, and a hundred other benevolences and acts of love for those it seeks to win to Christ? Does atheism produce anything close to even an approximation of this? Again, I don’t think so.
Even atheist Matthew Paris has admitted that Africa needs God and Christianity. Read about his brutal honesty about coming to the realization as an atheist that Christianity is helpful to Africa. See this article from 2008 : http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/matthew_parris/article5400568.ece
You can also google a PDF link to the same article:
The verdict of history is clear. Here is a short post from a couple of years ago that touched on the historical reality: https://chosenrebel.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/who-and-why-did-anyone-follow-jesus/