I wasn’t sure whether to write this one or not. Sometimes it’s best to simply leave a subject alone, wait for the fog of ignorance to evaporate. But there just has to be comment this time. The issue is that of religion, and the attacks on it in the media since the tragedy of Sept. 11. The thesis is that all religions are the same, they all produce hatred and violence, and that the world would be a better place without them.
What has to be stated immediately is that the greatest violence in terms of numbers of victims and intensity of sadism has come not from those professing religion but those claiming the contrary. It was the 20th century, the great age of atheism and materialism, that saw the real mass murderers take the stage. The regimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and their other social engineer friends had in common a detestation of religious faith and a belief that God was dead.
Man makes his own morality, they argued, and there was no need to listen to any pretend creator or judge. They then promptly murdered hundreds of millions of people. Suddenly any ignorant religious fanatic of the past was made to look the amateur he really was.
Which is to say that yes, of course, religion has been used for all sorts of things. How could it not be? People use love, family, country, freedom, race, anything as a means to go to war or steal or lie. That religion should be similarly exploited should come as no surprise to anyone who properly understands the world and its inhabitants.
Yet what religion, specifically Christianity, also does is to raise billions of dollars to give to the needy while governments attach sometimes punitive conditions to their aid. It establishes health care and education when the secular state, even Canada, is indifferent. It sends doctors, engineers, farmers into war zones and slums ignored by the rest of the world.
The war against slavery, the campaign against child labour, redistribution of wealth, social equality, are all Christian concepts and constructs. Easy now to mock Christian people who sometimes do not present their causes with the utmost skill or eloquence, but surely more witty and graceful to understand how we came to live in a free society that enables us to be so mocking.
Yes, a free society. The very notions of pluralism and modern democracy are products of Christianity, especially in its post-medieval Protestant form. The ideals of tolerance and free expression did not suddenly materialize but evolved out of a belief system based on love and understanding. It is surely no coincidence that what we think of as the free world, whatever its problems, is also the world established on Christian principles.
I mention Christianity because it is my faith and also, perversely, because it is the religion that is currently being so attacked by people claiming that all religion is bad. These pundits avoid Islam because it is culturally and politically discreet to do so; they don’t attack Judaism because they fear being branded as anti-Semites; they fail to mention Hinduism and Buddhism because, in all honesty, they don’t really know what they are.
So they settle for good old Christian-bashing. Fair enough, we were told to expect it and it puts us in some pretty good company. But please, don’t tell us that all religions are the same. This is like saying that all politics are the same. Try telling that to someone looking down the gun of a fascist soldier.
Christianity is unique because, ironically, it has answers to horrors like Sept. 11. It tells us that revenge solves nothing, that death is not the end, that even evil people are capable of change, that there is absolute truth, that there is a right and wrong, and that no matter how much His creatures might kick and scream and deny, God most certainly does exist.