Watching a program titled The Third Rail on Aljazeera America this morning did little to dispel my suspicions. Larry Taunton, an Evangelical spokesman, asserted that not all religions are equal in that respect, but Christianity "brings benevolence to the table." Perhaps it does, but it's hard for me to accept that it brings much benevolence to the world, as the influence, at least in the US on public life is to restrict the rights and political power of certain people while putting a holy gloss on the supercilious condemnations and malevolence. Democracy and human rights are usually only apparent relative to the rights of the faithful but even then, the rights of women, of unbelievers and the members of antagonistic religions would be rigorously suppressed given their ability to do so. Their god does not compromise or relent and neither do they. His evidence of course is that Evangelicals give more, or so he says, although again, that they certainly don't give more than Muslims and Jews, but with faith, with arrogance and with dishonesty all things are possible.
"For we have been saved by grace through faith and this is not your own doing it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."(Ephesians 2:8-9)Yet boast of it they do and most fulsomely. Wars, slavery, tyranny, executions and torture: that some justify them and others do not seems to have little to do with religiosity and more to do with some independent viewpoint that often runs afoul of doctrine and dogma and ecclesiastical authority. One has to ask what their is in Christian benevolence that is absent in Humanist benevolence, Muslim benevolence, Marxist benevolence and most of all, benevolence itself. The answer of course is that religion, at least Western religion, offers exceptions to everything but obedience.
Yes, some people benefit from Christianity says Atheist Dan Dennett, but what bothers him is what bothers me: the "systematic hypocrisy that almost obliges them to lie." Indeed it does as we see when Taunton claims that Evangelicals give more to charity that atheists. The problem is that atheists are not a group and have nothing in common but the lack of credulity to a certain myth. Any statement that puts Karl Marx, Ayn Rand and John Lennon in the same envelope can't be taken to be honest. And of course that "statistic" confuses donations to institutions that spend the contribution on airplanes for ministers and invest in African gold mines using slave labor with "charity." Faith requires dishonesty, demands fallacy and ultimately is vanity. The only one in this conversation acknowledging legitimacy to anyone else is the atheist. If God can't compromise, how can his followers?
Did Christianity motivate Abolition and has Christianity been at the root of civil rights reform? Well it certainly allows Christian booster Taunton to claim so and not to be embarrassed when forced to admit that he didn't consider gay marriage to be a civil right because of his Christianity. Many Christians of course didn't and still don't consider slaves to have civil rights and there is much in the "scriptures" to back them up. His statement is only tautological: Christians support only the rights we support as Christians and no others. And here's where the argument fails. Christian benevolence is offered to Christians as long as they don't offend Christian authority. A poor sort of benevolence in my mind and of Daniel Dennett's.who points out the centuries of vicious persecution of those people who see benevolence as innately human and not god given. We want to be your sole source of morality, say the religion vendors and damn you if you roll your own or buy another brand.
Since the religiously motivated horrors of history are hard to deny (not that people don't try) I have to ask whether religion isn't like nuclear power, gunpowder and sharp objects in general, things that can help us but contain no internal protection against misuse? Is blind faith of any kind inherently dangerous and does that danger too often outweigh any benefit that is just as inherent in safer things? One can believe in any god you can imagine, good or ugly, merciful or monstrous, and we always have, but gods are never dangerous. They have no power, no characteristics not assigned by their believers and being human we create gods in our image, according to our own needs for self justification. By faith we are oppressed. It's belief that creates gods and only doubt, only disbelief, only reason and honesty can save us from ourselves.