Atheists Claim That Belief in God Has Disastrous Social Implications
This argument contends that belief in a lie (i.e., that God exists) leads inextricably to disastrous social consequences done "in the name of God"—from wars to slavery to loss of any kind of a truly liberal social conscience. More misery, so the argument goes, is caused per cubic inch by misguided religionists espousing a belief in God as a pretext for the imposition of the worst possible social conditions.
This misery has crossed cultures and spanned all generations. Jews kill Arabs, Protestants kill Catholics, Muslim sectarians kill Muslim sectarians, and evangelicals kill abortionists. Islam has its jihads, Christianity has its crusades, Hinduism has its caste system, and the world groans and travails as a result.
A Christian Response
First, an initial comment on strategy: Many well-meaning Christians think the way to attack this argument is to show that what the atheist says happened in the history of the Christian church really did not happen or can be explained or understood in a different way "once all the facts are known." This is a disastrous defense strategy. One who takes this approach will harm the strength of the fundamental refutation of this argument.
We note in passing that since the Christian church has been full of sinners since the time of Jesus, this means that we should expect sin also to be intertwined in the history of the church. If the history of the church was only a history of "sweetness and light," it would refute a central and repeated teaching found in the biblical data-i.e., the depravity of man.
Next, just because individual practitioners of a position may have personal moral failings and/or utterly fail to remotely understand, interpret or apply the truth of their worldview, does not mean there is necessarily anything wrong with that worldview.
Does the fact that a liberal environmentalist drives a gas-guzzling SUV mean that all arguments for global warming are necessarily incorrect? Does the fact that some Christians in Nazi Germany failed to condemn Hitler and even went along with the concept of the Reich Church mean that Christianity necessarily condones Nazism? Or as John Warwick Montgomery put it in his debate with atheist trial lawyer Mark Plummer, if Einstein had been convicted of shop lifting would that mean that E does not equal MC squared?
Finally, a commitment to the existence of God, and more specifically God's particular existence in the person of Jesus Christ, has in fact resulted in a remarkable track record throughout history of the relieving of human suffering and support for the social and cultural progress of man. This is in sharp contrast to the social devolution that is the lot of societies wedded to a materialistic metaphysic formally based on atheism (Stalin's Soviet Union comes to mind).
Christianity in particular gave birth to the rise of modern medicine and the establishment of the first hospitals and care for the mentally ill and the elderly, the beginning of orphanages, the development of the university in Europe and in America, the rise of compulsory and universal education and the rise of the library, and the elimination of slavery in England.
While all of these advances are easily established through a multiplicity of scholarly sources, the world has yet to see its first atheist leper colony. This is not accidental. With no transcendent and defensible basis for the dignity of all human beings, atheistic materialism has tended to be incapable of moving in any direction but one of "might makes right," and has utterly failed to provide any defensible basis for universally valid human rights.
Adapted from Craig A. Parton, “God Does Not Believe in Atheists,” Modern Reformation, March/April 2008. Used by permission.
The Great Australia Atheism Debate Tape Series (Edmonton: Canadian Institute for Law, Theology and Public Policy, 1986). See www.ciltpp.com for tape catalog.
Alvin Schmidt, Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), p. 156.
R. Hands, Charities and Social Aid in Greece and Rome (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1968), pp. 27-28.
Donald Tewksbury, The Founding of American Colleges and Universities Before the Civil War (New York: Colombia University Press, 1932), p. 82.
John Warwick Montgomery, "Luther, Libraries, and Learning," reprinted in Montgomery's In Defense of Martin Luther (Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing Co., 1970), pp. 116-139.
Read the Rest in this series on the Traditional Arguments of Classical Atheism:
Part 3: Belief in God is illogical.