Atheism Part 2: Has Christianity Improved the World?
A week or so ago I began a short series on why teenagers reject the Christian faith. One big reason is that pop-culture continually feeds us negative messages about the church. According to TV, the movies and the internet the Church is a repressive society that seeks to ruin freedom, education, equality and social improvement.
Is that caricature true? Have Christians sought to hold the world back? Are we against culture? I do not think that argument is true at all.
Let's start with social reform. Beginning in Ancient Rome Christians sought to civilize society and bring an end to oppression. Christians have been on the forefront of the battles against infanticide, the gladiator battles, dueling, sexism, slavery, alcoholism, worker exploitation, child labor and racism. The Romans Emperor Julian the Apostate was shocked by the way Christians took care not only of their own poor, but of the poor pagans as well. That tradition continues today. From the Salvation Army to Alcoholics Anonymous, the biggest efforts to reform society have come from the church.
According to Forbes magazine, at least eight of the ten biggest charities in the United States have a Christian background. The United Nations also reports that 70% of NGO's are Christian.
From St. Telemachus to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Christians have sought to reform society and make it better, not repress it.
What about the argument that Christianity is uneducated? Do Christians want to keep the world ignorant? Of course not.
The Christian Church has historically been on the forefront of promoting education. The first universities in the western world were started by Christians. Philosophers from Thomas Aquinas to Alvin Plantinga have professed Christ. As have scientists such as Newton, Pasteur, Kepler, Paschal, Fleming, and Edwards. As a matter of fact, 100 of the first 110 universities in the United States were founded for the express purpose of propagating the Christian religion.
Christians continue to support education through the world. The Christian Missionary Society taught 200,000 East Africans to read in one generation. Christian missionaries actually founded the education systems in China, Japan and Korea. That work continues through World Vision, Wycliff Bible Translators and other missions organizations.
Combining the subjects of science and social reform, did you know the Church was the primary force behind the creation of hospitals? In 252 AD a plague threatened the city of Corinth. The Christians remained in town and took care of the sick who had been dragged into the streets. Their work saved the city from plague and began the tradition of caring for the sick. Later monks would use their monasteries as the first hospitals. And even today you may notice that many major hospitals have the names of churches or Christian saints.
This article is short and obviously passes over multitudes of examples. But I hope this sampling is enough to put to rest any ideas that true Christianity seeks to repress humanity. From John Chrysostom to Bono, from the first century church to Compassion International, Christians have sought to relieve the poor, tend to the sick, and alleviate suffering throughout the world and throughout history.
For more information you may want to watch these videos by John Ortberg: