Recently, I have read this article by atheist Emily Greene. It is titled, ‘I’m an Atheist – and No, I’m Not More Likely to Be a Serial Killer Than Anyone Else’. This atheist goes to Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, GA to listen to the Sunday school class taught by former President Jimmy Carter. President Carter taught his Bible lesson from Ezekiel 37, the Valley of the Dry Bones. He encouraged his listeners to take the dry bones of wood and turn them into homes through volunteerism for Habitat For Humanity.
I gave the link to this article below. She says she is as compassionate as any Christian, as altruistic as any Christian. She complains how many people misrepresent atheism. She says, ‘You Christians, you do good things for other people because you selfishly seek gifts from God’. But we the atheists help other people without such selfishness, we are charitable for charity’s sake.
Sam Harris says that atheists do charitable things from their inner motivation, unlike Christians who need external motivators. Christopher Hitchens criticized the work of Mother Teresa in India in a book he wrote with a vulgar title, ‘Missionary Position’. There are also books that claim atheists are more likely to be charitable than religion.
I read this in the book 50 Great Myths About Atheism: “One thing does seem clear, however: atheists and other nonreligious people are more likely than religious people to give to charity, or to behave charitably, simply because they feel compassion or a wish to help for its own sake, but not because of religious doctrine and/or peer pressure.”
We have atheists who claim that their atheism inspires them to do more charity than their Christian neighbors. Can atheism make us more charitable? Now, In making moral arguments we can divide all atheists into hard atheists and soft atheists.
Hard Atheists: Hard atheists tell you bluntly the logical conclusions of atheism. Nietzsche comes to mind. He bluntly said once we have killed God, there can be no such thing as morality. Then it is all about power. We settle all matters in life in terms of power, not ethics. Michel Foucault extended Nietzsche’s thinking into sexual matters. In his famous book, History of Sexuality, Foucault said sexuality is all about exerting your power on others. So atheists like Nietzsche and Foucault made it clear that because there is no God, in all matters of individuals and of society, every thing revolves around power. There is no such thing as absolute morality.
Nietzsche actually said that showing charity is a sign of weakness, not strength. Why did Nietzsche call Christianity and Judaism ‘the slave religions’? Because these religions ask the masters to take care of the servants and slaves.
Hitler loved Nietzsche. For his 60th birthday, Hitler gave Mussolini a very personal gift: the complete set of the works of Nietzsche.(Barak Lurie)
North Korea is officially atheist. A recent survey showed that its prison camps are worse than Nazi prison camps like Auschwitz. prisoners are fed to dogs; most atheists will find this abhorrent but they cannot explain why this is evil based on their atheistic worldview. In Darwinism and naturalism, you’re feeding human animal to non-human animal. There is nothing more to see there.
Hard atheists also encouraged eugenics at the beginning of 20th century. They argued that charity maintains the useless at the expense of the strong. Not only should we stop showing charity to the weak, we should sterilize them for the greater good of the society.
H.L.Mencken wrote in The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, “It goes unquestioned, indeed, by those who preach the doctrine of charity the loudest. They know it would be absurd to argue that helping the unfit is profitable to the race, and so they fall back, soon or late, upon the argument that charity is ordained of God and that the impulse to it is implanted in every decent man. Nietzsche flatly denies this. Charity, he says, is a man-made idea, with which the gods have nothing to do. It’s sole effect is to maintain the useless at the expense of the strong. In the mass, the helped can never hope to discharge in full their debt to the helpers. The result upon the race is thus retrogression”
Please note those words: Charity is a man-made idea. It’s sole effect is to maintain the useless at the expense of the strong. It pushes the society into retrogression, not progress. Hard atheists like Nietzsche make it easy for us: There is no God, it’s all about power, charity is a man-made idea, nothing objective about it and it was created to maintain the useless at the expense of the strong.
Soft Atheists: then there is soft atheism. It is the soft atheism that makes our lives difficult. Soft atheists make things very confusing. They take all Christian virtues and say we can have them without God.
We can be loving without God,
We can be compassionate without God
We can be serving others without God
We can be charitable without God
There is no denying that we have a lot of generous atheists in our society. They donate to Red Cross, United Nations, Doctors without Borders; they volunteer to help people in need. Why do many atheists do charitable things? Correlation versus Causation. Atheism is the correlation, not causation for the charity of an atheist.Atheism by itself cannot motivate anyone to do charitable things. In his book Atheism Kills, Barak Lurie asks, ‘An atheist as an individual may do good things or donate to charities, but rarely (if ever) does he do so on behalf of his atheism. After all, what within atheism would prompt him?’
Atheism provides no motivation for charity. As David Marshall observes in his book, The Truth Behind New Atheism, ‘Religious people are more charitable in every measurable way. People who go to a worship service once or more a week give $2210 to charity a year, while people who seldom or never attend average $642.’
We have atheists who argue that because charity has more survival value than cruelty, evolution moved our human species to favor charity. But survival value put us on a very slippery slope? Who determines the survival value? Nazis or their victims? Nazis said humanity’s survival value increases if we get rid of Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals. A recent survey in Saudi Arabia showed that majority in that nation opined that prohibiting and punishing homosexuals has more survival value than allowing them.
Advocates of euthanasia says it is better for the society to get rid of elderly, non-working people. But if you are an elderly woman, or an elderly man who wants to live a few more years till you play with your grandchildren, euthanasia has no survival value. Smartans thought they would have more survival value if they got rid of disabled infants and children through exposure to natural elements or wild animals. Slaveholders thought having slaves to do all your work has more survival value.
So the assumption that we are evolved to be charitable because of its survival value is fallacious. For the Christian, his or her faith is not just a correlation, but the causation of his or her charity.
What makes a Christian charitable towards his or her neighbor? Let me present four things to you: Image, Injunction, Imitation, Incentive
First the image of God: The Bible says all human beings are created in the image of God. We are valuable because the image of God is imprinted upon us.
A useless strip of paper suddenly becomes a $100 dollar note once the Treasury Department imprints its logo on it. All 100 dollar bills have equal value because all were printed with the same value by the treasury. In the Bible, God says, doing charity to one of his children is equal to showing benevolence towards God himself. In Matthew chapter 25, Jesus said the following words:
- For I hungered, and ye gave Me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink;43. I was a stranger, and ye took Me not in; naked, and ye clothed Me not; sick and in prison, and ye visited Me not.’44. Then shall they also answer Him, saying, `Lord, when saw we Thee hungering or athirst or a stranger, or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister unto Thee?’45. Then shall He answer them, saying, `Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to Me.’
So, showing compassion to our neighbors is tantamount to showing it towards Jesus himself, God himself because God has put His own image on every human being.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 13, Apostle Paul wrote these words:
1 Corinthians 13: 1. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not charity, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.2. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith so that I could remove mountains, but have not charity, I am nothing.13. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
All your degrees, diplomas, achievements mean nothing if you don’t have love. Love is the greatest ethic. Charity is the greatest virtue. What made love the greatest virtue? Because God is love.
So, God is love. We are created in the image of God. So, we should be loving. There is logical consistency in this argument. In atheism, charity is as evolved as cruelty. In atheism, charity has no intrinsic value.
Secondly, christian charity is based on injunction. We are commanded to be charitable. In Matthew 22:36-40, someone asks Jesus, ‘Master, which is the great commandment in the law?’ Jesus replies, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself’
Christian charity is commanded by God. In Christian worldview, charity is tied with accountability. Jesus commanded us to be charitable and told us, we will be accountable for all the uncharitable and cruel things we do towards our neighbors.
When you realize you are not accountable to anyone, you are more prone to do cruel things. It is no coincidence that some of the worst human genocides happened under atheist dictators like Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Jim Jong Un etc. These atheists thought because they were not accountable to God in heaven, they could to their subjects whatever seem desirable in their eyes.
Do you know how cruelly atheist Bolsheviks killed Romanov family? They poured sulfuric acid on the faces of children. After cruelly killing Romanov family with acid and shootings, they bragged, ‘the world will never know what we did with them’ Shiro Ishii performed medical experiments on human beings. More than 400000 people were killed in his experiments. Joseph Mengele also did similar experiments on humans killing thousands of people in the process. Romanov family killers, Shiro Ishii, Joseph Mengele felt no obligation to be charitable towards their subjects. So, in atheism, charity is no obligation. In Christian faith, charity is an obligation because we are commanded by God to love our neighbors.
God commanded….that’s moral law. Charity is undergirded by moral law. In atheism, charity is not undergirded by moral law, because there is no moral law giver. When I say, charity, you probably think of a nurse or Red Cross volunteer, but not a police officer. Right? But a police officer contributes to charity in his or her own way. The officer might be working to curb the crime in your community. The officer’s presence in your neighborhood will save you from the cruelty of a criminal. Moral law giver, moral laws and law enforcement are essential for charity.
Atheists say Christians were guilty of burning so many people at stake. They were so uncharitable with people who disagreed with them. Let us ask, Is it wrong to burn people who disagree with you? Is it always wrong to burn people who disagree with you? If it is always wrong to burn people who disagree with you, then you are acknowledging the existence of objective moral values, which point us back to objective moral law giver, God himself. So, to accuse Christians of bigotry and intolerance, atheist has to rely on the existence of moral law and the existence of moral law giver, God.
Christian charity is also based on imitation of Christ. Jesus Christ reached out to the outcasts, he healed the sick, he gave sight to the blind, he gave speech to the mute, hearing to the deaf, life to the dead. He gave food to the hungry. Those are all acts of charity. While we cannot perform the miracles Jesus performed, we can be charitable like Jesus. Apostle Peter told us to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. So christian charity is imitation of Christ.
Saul of Tarsus was a fanatical killer. He was persecuting Christians. But after his conversion, he started to imitate Christ. He recited the virtues of charity in 1 Corinthians chapter 13. God is love, God so loved the world, as a creature of God, I should love the world. You can see the logical consistency in that pattern. Atheism cannot make such a logical argument for charity.
In his book Jesus Among Secular Gods, Ravi Zacharias says, “For the atheist, man becomes god; the body becomes the soul; time becomes eternity; the profane becomes sacred. In the teaching of Jesus, eternity, morality, accountability, and charity define the nature of our existence and the pattern of our behavior”
So, in Jesus, who is the God incarnate, we have a specific pattern for our behavior. Atheism can offer no such pattern for behavior. You don’t see such an objective model for charitable behavior in atheism. Whether you live like Hitler or Mother Teresa, is just your preference.
It is not an accident of history that most of the charitable organizations around the world were started and run by Christians. They are imitating Christ. There are thousands of charities named after the story of Good Samaritan. That’s just a parable Jesus taught.
In his book, Atheism Kills, Barak Lurie writes, “When the Catholic church was founded, no hospitals existed. Today, approximately one out of five people in the U.S. receive their medical care at a Catholic hospital. The Roman Catholic Church is the largest provider of healthcare services in the world, outside of any government. Today, it has around 18000 clinics, 16000 homes for the elderly and those with special needs, and 5500 hospitals, most of which are in developing nations.”
No atheist organization comes even remotely close to Catholic Church. Note, we are talking here only about Catholic charities, without mentioning countless protestant charities spread all over the world.
Finally christian morality and charity come with a reward and punishment. Atheists complain working for incentives is selfish. But as we have seen, a Christian can be charitable for the above three reasons alone – image, injunction and imitation – without a thought about incentive.
But, What’s wrong with incentives: Parents give incentives to children to put on their best behavior. Employers give incentives to employees to get the best results. Athletes who compete in Olympics love their games, but it is good to honor them with some incentives like a gold medal, or some cash. They spend thousands of hours in practice, it is reasonable to give them some incentives.
Atheists brag about doing charity without an incentive. There is no justification for such a pattern in atheism: I am driven by selfish genes, yet I profess a self-less living. It’s contradictory to their materialism driven life. Atheists have to steal from Christian morality because atheism gives no justification for the obligation of a self-less life.
Charity is also promoted by negative incentives, punishments. We are promoting a safe neighborhood for children when we make strong laws against child molesters. What is the point of moral law without punishment? If we write a law to keep the maximum speed on our highways at 65 mph, we make sure we have police officers patrolling our highways to enforce that law.
Our lawmakers wrote millions of laws with millions of punishments. Still our justice system is weak. Recently German government charged a Nazi soldier for the atrocities he committed during second world war. He is 90 years-old and was brought in a wheelchair. To make matters worse, he is also showing the signs of dementia. He does not know who he is, and he is not oriented to his place and time. Its too late to punish this war criminal in our human courts. But it is never too late to face justice in the court of God.
I heard about an African-American young man named Cotton, who was charged with raping a white woman. He was convicted and given a life sentence in prison. After 7 years, the police recovered a small fragment of sperm from the criminal scene. The DNA from the sperm did not match Cotton. It pointed to a different criminal in the area who was a serial rapist. He was also in the same prison as Mr. Cotton and often said, ‘Poor Cotton is bearing the punishment for the crimes I committed’. Mr. Cotton finally got released and the woman who accused him went to him and apologized: I am sorry, I feel very bad for identifying you as my rapist.
I thought within myself, what if that small fragment of a single sperm cell did not survive the heat? Cotton would have stayed in the prison rest of his life, with this profile stating that he raped innocent women.
Too often bad guys walk away with all the evidence of atrocities they committed; good guys end up in prison due to lack of evidence to prove their innocence. It’s an unfair world. But God has set up a perfect justice system. When God opens the books, we will be given the best memory of every act we ever committed. God will punish every evil act and reward every good deed.
So let me summarize the four pillars of Christian charity.
First – the Image, we love others because they are created in the image of God just like you and me.
Second – injunction, we love others because we are commanded to love others.
Third – Imitation, we love others because we should imitate Christ who lived a life of charity.
Fourth – Incentive, we love others because every good deed we perform will be rewarded by God.
Atheistic worldview does not offer any of these four motivators for charity.
First – image, in atheistic worldview, we are not image bearers of our Creator because there is no Creator. Atheism cannot put any objective value on anything.
Second – Injunction, in atheistic worldview there are no commandments to love because there is no Commander-in-Chief.
Third – Imitation, in atheistic world we don’t have to imitate any particular person. As Richard Dawkins says, you dance to your DNA. When you dance to your DNA, there is no difference whether you imitate Gandhi or Hitler.
Finally – incentive, in atheistic worldview, there is no reward system. Like OJ Simpson, you can fool the justice system if you are able to afford a good defense attorney. Many pedophiles are now crossing the border into Mexico because in certain parts of Mexico you can attend to your basest instincts without worrying about the law, police and justice. In a world without God, you can just cross the border or travel to certain places to commit your evil acts without ever getting caught.
Even in practical charity, Christians outnumber atheists in charitable works. We hear in the news like an American got shot in Burkina Faso by Muslim terrorists. An American got kidnapped in Congo. I wonder what in the world these Americans doing in those dangerous parts of the world. When I gather their background information, I realize they went there to show the love of Christ to local populations. You don’t find many atheists serving Africans in the jungles of Congo. Because in a world without God, it makes no difference between spending all your life in a Starbucks coffee shop reading your favorite books or going to Africa and helping some people living in disease and destruction.
Conclusion: Charity is the logical outcome of a Christian worldview. No other worldview can offer such a comprehensive worldview that prompts an individual to engage in charity. Atheists do lot of charitable work often imitating Christians. But atheism by itself does not provide any justification for charity. Atheists want us to be charitable while denying the foundation for all love, God himself. That’s why atheism makes no sense.
50 Great Myths About Atheism
The Truth Behind the New Atheism
By David Marshall
Jesus Among Secular Gods: The Countercultural Claims of Christ
By Ravi Zacharias, Vince Vitale
Atheism Kills: The Dangers of a World Without God – and Cause for Hope
By Barak Lurie
The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche
A Reply to the Infidelity and Atheism of Socialism
By John Brindley