Philosophy 106 Paper 1; Is Christianity Good?

Posted: October 20, 2010 in Bible Related, Essays and Papers, History Related, Social Concerns
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Is Christianity Good?

 

            As it is with any religion in the world, Christianity and Biblical doctrine are becoming increasingly viewed as harmful for the American society and the world population. As a result, the popularity of rejecting Christianity, as a catalyst for a healthy society, is growing. But  in analyzing Christianity’s teachings and its effects on the global population in both the past and present, it is evident that Christianity has a final cause of being ultimately healthy as an institution for society as a whole, generating hope and promoting a healthy lifestyle for its followers.

            It is important to first stress that this essay is addressing Christianity as taught from the Bible. Because Christianity is a religion to whom anyone can associate themselves with and self-proclaim themselves to be Christian, allowing what is and what is not Christianity to become obscure. Just as a human claiming they are a dolphin does not in any way make them a dolphin, a man or woman calling themselves a Christian does make them a Christian. Christianity ultimately comes from the principle agent of Jesus Christ as taught from the Bible. So the Bible’s instruction and doctrine is ultimately Christianity’s source, and is the instrumental agent in this investigation.

            Christianity has a formal cause in that it is healthy for society, developing intimate personal relationships on a global scale. The Bible consistently instructs its followers to put others before themselves, to genuinely love strangers, and to treat others with respect and gentleness (Matt. 7:12, 1Corinthians 10:33, Romans 12:9). It’s a concept of selflessness that’s induction can be witnessed as assisting agents today in the over five million full-time missionaries world wide.[1] By these same principles, Christianity promotes equality in society, by instructing followers to put others before themselves, help the poor, do good public deeds, etc. (Philippians 2:4, Psalm 10:12) It should not be overlooked that Christianity was behind the abolition of slavery world wide (sign I), the civil rights movement (sign II), education of the common people (sign III) and the advent of hospitals (sign IV), all of which benefit society as a whole.

            One might object that Christianity, as with other religions, is harmful to society when one considers all the violence and wars waged in the name of religion. Assigned to Christianity, many stamp the Crusades, Hitler, witch hunts and the Spanish Inquisition as examples in history which prove just that. These claims, however, show a lack of knowledge of historical facts. For example, many people believe the Crusades were an attempt by Christians to forcefully spread Christianity into the Middle East. Anyone who knows history accurately will tell you that originally after the collapse of the Roman Empire the Middle East was predominantly Christian. When Islam arrived on the scene in the 7th century, they waged war on the Christians, decimating the Christian population and advanced as far northwest as Italy and into Spain. Muslims also began to turn away, rob and often murder Christian pilgrims trying to visit Jerusalem. The Crusades were essentially Europe’s (Christianity’s) response to these actions.[2] Likewise, Hitler was openly against Christianity, and the witch hunts and Spanish Inquisition casualties were very low, yet shockingly exaggerated by those who use these events in history to affirm religion is harmful. Despite the fact that in more recent history, anti-religious regimes have inflicted much more damage to the human population. For example, the Chinese PRC was responsible for the deaths of over 35 million people from 1949 to 1987. The scientific atheist USSR, which from 1917 to 1987 was responsible for the democide of 61,911,000 people. But the record for the most murderous regime in the history of mankind goes to China’s atheist Mao Zedong regime which is estimated to be responsible for the death of some 70 million people.[3] Anyone who knows their history accurately, knows most wars claimed to be caused by religion are almost always instead the result of politics, greed, territory, and racial differences. In fact, statistics show that only 7 % of wars in world history can accurately be attributed to religion.[4]

            This is not to say that what happened during the witch hunts, crusades, etc, were not horrible and wrong. As said before, the focus of this essay is on Christianity as taught from the Bible. And per Biblical doctrine, Christians are supposed to love their neighbor and their enemy, forgive others, help those in need, etc (Matthew 5:44, Hebrews 10:24, Colossians 4:13). The wrong doing in these historical events are not taught, nor condoned by Jesus Christ as taught in the bible. Therefore, the establishment of Christianity should not be blamed for a person’s wrong doing in the name of the faith. True Christianity, as is taught biblically, is again rather more appropriately witnessed in the millions of missionaries worldwide educating people, building homes, digging fresh water wells, and other inductions. It is more evident as a peace generating cause, not a cause for violence and hate. In Africa, a continent with a long history of violence and poverty, counseling agent Matthew Parris, an atheist and a retired member of Parliament wrote; “I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.” [5]

            Christianity also has a formal cause in that it supports healthy families. The Bible promotes proper treatment of children by parents, and parents by children, and proper spousal treatment (Titus 2:6-7, Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 5:33). Christianity has long since been tied to marriage and families. In fact, marriage and family is considered to be the institution established for the proper care and rearing of children. Christianity is actually credited for introducing exclusive heterosexual monogamous love into marriage for the sole purpose of raising children into the Roman Empire. Christianity taught that family life was the center from which all of life’s most important fulfillments are met. It should also not be overlooked that historically, prior to Christianity, most cultures viewed marriage as arranged partnerships determined by family, as is often still the case in cultures today. Christianity however introduced the notion that marriage is a decision made of love, as the Bible says a man should love his wife as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25),  and that the spousal partner we choose was made for us by God. This indicated that the marriage relationship should be one of long lasting intimate companionship that was destined to be. Christianity therefore exalted love into marriage as no other culture or religion had done previously. Christianity enstrengthened family to be the strong influence that it is in modern society.

            Recently, American society is seeing a change in what is considered a healthy family structure. Our culture becomes more and more open to divorce, homosexual marriage and parenting, and single parent rearing, which do not coincide with the Christian view of a healthy family structure of father, mother, and children. Because Christianity teaches otherwise, it is objected to as being damaging to society. But the statistics from counseling agents say otherwise. Studies and research from the US Dept of Health, the US Dept of Justice, the Urban Institute, and the NARTH association all show dramatically increased levels of drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, violent behavior, criminal behavior, low self esteem, and suicide in children raised in divorced, single parent, and homosexual parent households.[6] It is evident that proper development in children comes from proper parenting that begins with having both a mother and father, which Christianity supports. Not to be overlooked either is Christianity’s opposition to abortion. Much can be argued about abortion, and whether it is ethical or not. But the fact remains that 42 million babies are aborted each year in the world,[7] and there is no way to ethically justify that much loss of life. Placing a high value on life and the treatment of the life of other’s has always been a hallmark of Christianity.

            Christianity has a formal cause in that it promotes healthy lifestyles. Becoming more spiritually active always translates into reduced stress levels. Biblical doctrine also teaches its followers not to do drugs, get drunk, not to be a glutton, not to be sexually promiscuous, etc. These teachings all encompass what is a healthy lifestyle. And it all boils down to one particular verse in the bible, 1 Corinthians 6:19, that our bodies are the Lord’s temple. Therefore, when we do not live healthy lifestyles and damage our bodies we are essentially showing God we do not respect His temple. This motivates Christians to live healthy lifestyles.

            A common objection to Christianity is that it is an obstruction to scientific progress, in which such obstructing would be harmful to society. This misconception comes from Christian disbelief in evolution theory and opposition to some ethically questionable medical research and experimentation. These factors are but a miniscule portion of what could be called the scientific progress of mankind as a whole. This is, once again, another situation in which knowing your history accurately would render this opposition invalid. Johannes Kepler discovered the three laws of planetary motion, and was a Christian. Sir Isaac Newton, co-inventor of calculus, was a Christian. Louis Paseur, the father of microbiology, is a Christian. James Maxwell, who discovered the laws of electricity and magnetism, is a Christian. Raymond Damadian, inventor of the MRI, is a Christian. And that is to name just a handful of the thousands of Christian scientists that have contributed greatly to the scientific progress of mankind. It is evident that Christianity is not obstructing scientific progress, and is therefore not harming the well being of society.

            Morality and ethics is another formal cause of Christianity that is important to society. Teaching that murder, theft, lying, and adultery are wrong, but that charity, sharing, and honesty are right. These teachings are indeed appropriate for a healthy functioning society, though many argue that religion should not be required for such moral and ethical behavior in society. The fact is, that without an abstract and immaterial constant Being (God),the principle agent, to state what is right and wrong, then right and wrong is left up to personal opinion or convention. In other words, right and wrong is subjective and can change as personal experience or cultures progress. What is right and wrong must remain absolute regardless, and that is what we find in the teachings of Christianity as the principle agent of God provides teaching and law that is absolute and timeless. If you believe that religion is not needed to do good, you have to ask yourself, how do you really know what is good? But if a God, who can only do good (Psalm 116:5), instructs you on what is good, then you can be positive as to what is truly right and wrong.

 

            Most importantly as a formal cause, Christianity offers hope and a purpose in life (Hebrews 6:19, Romans 5:4). When the world is full of pain, death, and despair, Christianity offers a hope that transcends the confines of this world, overcoming anything and everything in life, providing eternal life and salvation to all those who follow Jesus as their Lord (Philippians 1:11). Hope is optimism for a better future that’s positive impact on society cannot be disputed. Hope is attributed to overall well-being and health in people, and positively affects physical and mental performance. Hope is unquestionably healthy for society and the world, and Christianity offers a hope like no other.

            It seems to be forgotten that the American society we live in, which provides the freedoms and liberties that give people the right to question religion and its impact on society and the right to choose to abolish it from the public, was founded by Christians. The roots of this country’s economy, law, politics, and morals are so influenced by Christianity that counseling agents, such as Philosopher Jurgen Habermas wrote; “Christianity and nothing else is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights and democracy, the benchmarks of Western civilization. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source.”[8] J. M. Roberts wrote in Triumph of the West, “We could none of us today be what we are if a handful of Jews nearly two thousand years ago had they not believed that they had known a great teacher, seen him crucified, dead, buried, then rise again.”[9] And as Dinesh D’Souza wrote in What’s So Great About Christianity?, “Believer and non-believer alike should respect Christianity as the movement that created our civilization.”[10]

No one can disagree that hope, peace, love, equality, and family are all beneficial to society and the world. Christianity not only encompasses all these factors but brings them together into one lifestyle and faith. It is therefore safe to say as a final cause, that in a world full of hatred, despair, and pain, Christianity is good.


[1] Per Todd M. Johnson, the director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, there are 4.19 million missionaries in Christian countries, 1.31 million in non-Christian countries, not including part-time missionaries, as of 2005; http://www.globalchristianity.org.

[2] Antonio Santosuosso, Barbarians, Marauders and Infidels, The Ways of Medieval Warfare (New York: NY, MJF Books, 2004)

[3] Jung Chang and John Halliday, Mao: The Unknown Story (New York: Knopf, 2005).

[4] Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod, Encyclopedia of Wars (Facts On File, Inc. 2005)

[5] Matthew Parris, As an Atheist, I truly believe that Africa needs God, Dec 27th, 2008 http://www.timesonline.com

[8] Jurgen Habermas, “A Time of Transition.”

[9] J.M. Roberts, The Triumph of the West (Boston: Little, Brown, 1985) pg 37.

[10] Dinesh D’Souza, What’s So Great About Christianity (Washington DC, Regnery Publishing, Inc. 2007) pg 45.

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Comments
  1. matthew2262 says:

    “There are no Christians, as far as I know, blowing up buildings. I am not aware of any Christian suicide bombers. I am not aware of any major Christian denomination that believes the penalty for apostasy is death. I have mixed feelings about the decline of Christianity, in so far as Christianity might be a bulwark against something worse.” -Rchard Dawkins

    Ruth Gledhill, Scandal and schism leave Christians praying for a ‘new Reformation’, The Times (UK), 2 April 2010.

  2. matthew2262 says:

    “Throughout the history of the Western world, the Scriptures have been the greatest instigators of revolt against the worst forms of tyranny.” T.H. Huxley

    J. Stephen Lang, “1001 Things You’ve Always Wanted to Know About the Bible.” Pg. 292

  3. matthew2262 says:

    “Yet virtually all the secular ideas that non-believers value have Christian origins. To pretend otherwise is to toss the substance of those ideas away.”

    “It was theologians and religiously minded philosophers who developed the concepts of individual and human rights. Same with progress, reason and equality before the law: it is fantasy to suggest these values emerged out of thin air once people started questioning God.”

    “Yet many modern human rights activists seem to believe that human rights sprang forth, full-bodied and with a virgin birth, in United Nations treaties in the mid-20th century.

    “Nothing could be further from the truth. The idea of human rights was founded centuries ago on Christian assumptions, advanced by biblical argument, and advocated by theologians. Modern supporters of human rights have merely picked up a set of well-refined ethical and moral arguments.”

    “Of course, it could not be otherwise. The modern world is shaped by 3000 years of philosophical evolution. And for half that time the dominant moral philosophy in the Western world has been a Christian one. For most of our history, all the great thinkers have been religious.”

    “So our secular liberalism will inevitably owe a huge amount to its Christian origins.”

    “Ideas do not exist in a vacuum. If we imagine they were invented yesterday, they will be easy to discard tomorrow. So why are modern atheist agitators so eager to shed Western civilisation’s Christian legacy? Their reasoning – that atheism is attractive not only because it’s accurate but because religion is morally bad – ironically resembles the simplistic good-versus-evil propaganda of history’s most dangerous religious fanatics.”

    “Surely, to argue for atheism, there is no logical need to denigrate past Christian accomplishment.”

    “If atheists feel they must rip up everything that came before them, they will destroy the very foundations of that secularism.”

    -Chris Berg, http://www.theage.com.au

    Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/the-godless-delusion-20120414-1x0ee.html#ixzz1sPCPrGtQ

  4. matthew2262 says:

    “. . . the very notion of physical law is a theological one in the first place, a fact that makes many scientists squirm. Isaac Newton first got the idea of absolute, universal, perfect, immutable laws from the Christian doctrine that God created the world and ordered it in a rational way. Christians envisage God as upholding the natural order from beyond the universe, while physicists think of their laws as inhabiting an abstract transcendent realm of perfect mathematical relationships.” — Paul Davies, “Taking Science on Faith,” New York Times – See more at: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/10/did_christianit078281.html#sthash.VLmMwmJN.dpuf

  5. matthew2262 says:

    “Indeed, a distinctive feature of the Scientific Revolution is that, unlike other scientific programmes and cultures, it is driven, often explicitly, by religious considerations: Christianity set the agenda for natural philosophy in many respects and projected it forward in a way quite different from that of any scientific culture. Moreover, when the standing of religion as a source of knowledge about the world, and cognitive values generally, came to be threatened, it was not science that posed the threat but history.” — S. Graukoger, The Emergence of a Modern Scientific Culture, p. 3 – See more at: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/10/did_christianit078281.html#sthash.VLmMwmJN.dpuf

  6. matthew2262 says:

    “[F]aith in the possibility of science, generated antecedently to the development of modern scientific theory, is an unconscious derivative from medieval theology.” — Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World, p. 19. – See more at: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/10/did_christianit078281.html#sthash.VLmMwmJN.dpuf

  7. matthew2262 says:

    “Recent scholarship, most of it conducted by secular academics, has established that religious belief was entirely compatible with scientific progress, even encouraging it in many cases.” — K. Giberson and F. Collins, The Language of Science and Faith – See more at: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/10/did_christianit078281.html#sthash.VLmMwmJN.dpuf

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