In the second of our Chapel talks on The New Atheism I responded to the assertions of Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, and Christopher Hitchens, God is not Great: How Religion poisons everything, that religion is an evil that poisons everything by asking four questions of my own:
- should we treat all faiths and people of faith the same?
- has Christianity spawned violence?
- has Christianity done any good?
- is religious faith good or bad for you?
I will briefly address my first two questions this week and the second two next week.
1. Should we treat all faiths and people of faith the same? For me one of the most disappointing things about both Dawkins’ and Hitchens’ books is their failure to distinguish between the different religious faiths of our world, periods of history of each faith and between different people of faith. So, according to Dawkins and Hitchens, it seems all peace loving Muslim people are to be grouped together with fundamentalist Islamic jihadists. The Sisters of the Church, who started Collegiate and who today continue to do tremendous work amongst the poor in the Solomon Islands are grouped with those who conducted the Crusades and The Inquisition. If I were to group Dawkins and Hitchens with Joseph Stalin, Chairman Mao and Pol Pot, who between them murdered millions in the name of atheism and socialism, they would be rightly outraged.
2. Has Christianity spawned violence? Violence has undoubtedly been done in the name of religion and as a Christian I join with The New Atheists in repudiating any and all religious violence. However, I think we need to avoid simplifications and exaggerations that are demonstrably false, like, for instance, every war is caused by religion. We also should in terms of Christianity specifically distinguish between the teachings and example of Christ, who utterly repudiated violence, and those who have committed violence whilst claiming to be his followers.
Shalom (Peace), Scott Sargent, School Chaplain