Against this, the rationalist argument
has to be more or less this: the human race has always believed in a
god or gods, at least until the 19th century arrived with its
liberating skepticism, and men have always waged war against one
another, usually under the banners or totems of their preferred gods.
Therefore, all wars, genocides, pogroms, and other acts of incivility
prior to the 20th century can be ascribed to the evils of religion, and
we're better off without it.
The problem is, this is demonstrably poppycock. Only a fool would claim
that the Napoleonic Wars had any religious basis. Napoleon was the
proto-Hitler of Europe. Ditto the Mongols and the sackers of Christian Rome. Only a deliberate manipulator of fact would
claim that the supposed "Native American Genocide" was caused by
religion. The overwhelming majority of Native American deaths
associated with European settlement of the New World were caused by
diseases Europeans carried without knowing it. What no one ever asks:
Why didn't Native American diseases kill Europeans? Answer:
Civilization bestows its own kind of immunity. Was the Plague that
ravaged European populations in the 14th through 16th centuries a
'genocide'? No. It was the unfortunate by-product of trade among
civilized nations. Anybody want to claim that's part of the religion
body count? I doubt it.
The truth is that religion, and specifically Christianity more than any
other religion, has been a mitigating factor against
death, a net positive for
humankind. It was Christianity and its empowerment of individuals that
produced Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, and ultimately Louis Pasteur
and Watson and Crick. Science keeps acting as if it were some kind of
Goddess Athena, self-born from the head of a digital Zeus. It isn't.
Science was spawned, in fact, by Christianity. Yes, the Church may have
suppressed Galileo and it killed as many as 3,600 (!) people in the
Inquisition, but its record is far superior to that of Islam, which
may, in a moment of atypical clarity, have given the world algebra but
went on to ossify its peoples in a permanent state of devout
semi-consciousness. It was left to Newton to give the world calculus
and the Jew Einstein quantum physics and relativity theory. Who's ahead
on points here?
Which raises another issue that is absolutely and completely germane to
the current surge in atheist evangelism. Am I the only one who's
noticed that the anti-religious rage of Richard Dawkins and even
Christopher Hitchens is focused primarily on Christianity? Which is not
a parochial debating point on my part but a sign of logical weakness on
theirs. They inveigh fervently against religion, as if belief in a
Supreme Being of any kind is ipso facto proof of mental weakness and
assorted other (moral?) turpitudes. It never seems to occur to them
that religion is not the monolith depicted in "2001: A Space Odyssey." There can be good
religions. And there can be bad religions. How does hating the whole
concept of God further the advancement of refined philosophical thought?
It doesn't. Christianity is not, and never really has been, the bad
guy. It's the light that has -- very slowly to be sure -- illuminated
the sacred identity of individual human beings the world over. Islam,
on the other hand, is a darkness that covers vast regions of the earth
like a storm cloud promising lightning, ravishing winds, and the kinds
of sandstorms that strip women, children, and families to the bone.
They are both religions. What if one of them is right and one of them
is wrong? Has anyone ever heard Dawkins allow that possibility? No.
Because he has his own religion in mind. It's called Dawkins. Which
Christianity has been in the business of warning us against for its
whole history. No wonder he hates it.
Back to math. This time I'll let you all do the arithmetic. I'll give
you the sites and you can work your calculators and offer up 'the
truth.' I'll simply frame your research with a few observations.
Population figures don't start to take off until Christianity and its
support for science kicks in. If you're alive and pushing social
security age today, thank Christianity, not Dawkins. His evolution
story begins 50,000 years ago and lasts till 8,000 BC with an infant
mortality rate approaching 50 percent. What freed us from that?
Civilization, Which was catalyzed and galvanized by, uh, religion.
Remember when you look at the ancient past that the religion which may
have inspired human sacrifices and tribal wars was NOT a religion of
ideas but of tribal identities and Gaia-esque affiliations with nature.
Which bear an eerie resemblance to what the scientistic
enviro-rationalists are spouting today. Wars, murder, and massacres
motivated principally by religious
do not even begin until the late Roman era. And the totals
attributable to those incidents don't even begin to approach the
casualties associated with the usual human suspects: greed, territorial
ambitions, monarchical ego, and barbarian cultures devoted entirely to
war and conquest.
A few final notes. What libs never want to acknowledge is that there
may have been some religious wars worth
fighting (which the Dawkins and Hitchens of the world would never fight
today, secular pragmatists that they are). The American Civil War
killed 650,000 men. Would it have been better to forego the grapeshot,
amputations, and burned-out cities rather than free the slaves because
they were also the children of a Christian god. Or are we simply in the
business of counting up numbers? Or, given that the United States
carried no cross on its flag, is the American Civil War not a religious
war at all but a typical human brouhaha? And if not ALL wars are
religious wars, the rationalists have a lot to explain about the
twentieth century: Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, Castro,
and (lately) Hugo Chavez. Whom we love. Just because.
the people who have ever lived on earth
(Note the 50 percent infant
mortality rate that prevailed for 50,000 years.)