Why the New Atheists are wrong about the Church
The Church is a hateful, prudish, anti-intellectual organization, right? Wrong. Six myths about the Church and Christianity. If you’ve ever dismissed the Church as a hateful, archaic institution then take a look at what follows and get both sides of the story.
1. Religious people are stupid
Whether it be Richard Dawkins encouraging his devotees to mock Catholic belief in the Eucharist or the popular quote “you can’t reason with religious people, otherwise they wouldn’t be religious”, there’s a stereotype being pushed of atheists as thoughtful, enlightened individuals while religious people are uneducated, unthinking sheep.
Off the top of my head:
George Lemaitre put forward the big bang theory as the origin of the universe. He was also a Catholic priest.
Martin Luther King spearheaded the civil rights movement. He was also a Christian pastor.
Francis Collins is the head of the Human Genome Project. He’s also a devout Christian.
Fydor Dostojevsky is one of the most brilliant and widely read authors in Russian literature. He was also a devout Orthodox Christian.
John Lennox is a mathematician at Oxford. He’s also a Christian apologist.
Tolkien wrote what is arguably the most popular saga in the last few centuries (LOTR). He was also a devout Catholic.
& the millions of ordinary Christians who are just as intelligent as you or me.
If you want to argue that religious belief is irrational then go for it, though something more substantial than a sassy quote from Richard Dawkins might be needed.
2. The Church supported Nazism
No, just no. The Pope of the time wrote a letter condemning nazism and anti-Semitism. What’s more he had this letter read from the pulpits of all the churches in Germany. Read the wiki article here.
3. The pope, AIDS, and Africa.
The Church is often criticized for refusing to distribute condoms in Africa to halt the spread of AIDS. The Church’s position is that condoms are a bandaid on the AIDS epidemic and not a real solution.
I want you to imagine for a minute that the most physically attractive and desirous person you’ve ever seen comes up to you and says they want to have sex. Awesome, right? Now that person tells you they have AIDS and if you sleep together you’ll contract it too, but don’t worry, with one condom the risk will be significantly reduced. Would you still feel comfortable sleeping with this person? Hopefully not. Using a condom to prevent AIDS is the equivalent of holding a gun to someone’s head and pulling the trigger but saying “it’s okay, the safety is on”. The risk might be reduced, but it’s still a stupid and dangerous thing to do.
Of interest also is the fact that the most Catholic areas of Africa have the lowest AIDS rates. Condoms aren’t the answer to AIDS, self-mastery and a healthy view of sex are.
And what do many women living and volunteering in the third world think of this push for contraception? Watch this short video to find out.
4. Christians and the Old Testament
Have you ever pulled up a quote from the Old Testament and used it to “prove” God is evil and Christians are hypocrites? If you have you might need to do a bit more research first.
Christians believe that the Old law in the Old Testament was abrogated and replaced by Christ and His law found in the New Testament. The OT contains Judaic tribal law, Levitical priestly laws, and moral laws. Christians have always maintained that the first two categories became null and void with the coming of Christ. There’s a 2000 year long history of biblical interpretation and scholarship in the Church, and if you’re not familiar with that intellectual patrimony then you should think twice before asking a Christian “do you eat shell fish?”.
5. Catholics hate gay people.
This is simply false. Anyone who thinks the Church teaches hatred of homosexuals should read how the Church commands Her followers to treat gay people:
“They (homosexuals) must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfil God’s will in their lives”. - Catechism of the Catholic Church.
There are many homosexuals who freely choose to live a Catholic life. In any Catholic parish you will find gay people who love the Church and feel loved by Her in return. Many famous homosexuals were also passionate about Catholicism. Andy Warhol was a devout Catholic who attended Mass every day. Oscar Wilde regularly lunched with Jesuit priests and converted to the Faith. Wilde’s lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, also converted to Catholicism.
6. The Church is a force for evil in the world.
The Catholic Church is the largest charitable organisation on earth. She educates more children, feeds more of the hungry, and provides more medical care for the sick than any government on earth. Hundreds of thousands of men and women forsake an income, a family, and their own liberty in order to join religious orders and care for the sick and the marginalised. That’s not including the millions of lay volunteers who work with them.
Neither is the Pope rich. He lives in a two bedroom apartment in the Vatican. A third of that space is taken up by a chapel. The Vatican palace is largely a museum, and 75% of the proceeds collected from ticket sales go to charity. The other 25% go to maintaining the art work.
Have bad things been done in the name of religion? Definitely. But have bad things also been done in the name of stamping out religion? Undeniably. People, atheist or religious, do bad things.
Finally, if you’re a Westerner sitting comfortably in your bedroom blogging about how evil religion is, try telling that to these people.
Well, that’s six. I invite you to take a second look at the Catholic Church with an open mind. You’ll find the goodness, truth, and beauty that we were all made for.