Conversations: Doing Good for God


Lysandra
What about all of the good things people have done in the name of God? It is undeniable that many people of faith make heroic sacrifices to relieve the suffering of other human beings.

Helena
You’re right. But is it necessary to believe anything on insufficient evidence in order to behave this way? If compassion were really dependent upon religious dogmatism, how could we explain the work of secular doctors in the most war-ravaged regions of the developing world? Many doctors are moved simply to alleviate human suffering, without any thought of God.

Lysandra
Surely it is reasonable to assume that Christian missionaries are also moved by some desire to alleviate suffering?

Helena
Yes, it is. But they come to the task encumbered by a dangerous and divisive mythology. Missionaries in the developing world waste a lot of time and money (not to mention the goodwill of non-Christians) proselytizing to the needy; they spread inaccurate information about contraception and sexually transmitted disease, and they withhold accurate information.

Lysandra
Nevertheless, I’m sure countless missionaries do many noble things at great risk to themselves.

Helena
Even if that is true, their dogmatism still spreads ignorance, often with deadly consequences. By contrast, volunteers for secular organizations like Doctors Without Borders do not waste any time telling people about the virgin birth of Jesus. Nor do they tell people in sub-Saharan Africa—where nearly four million people die from AIDS every year—that condom use is sinful. Christian missionaries have been known to preach the sinfulness of condom use in villages where no other information about condoms is available. This kind of piety is genocidal.

Lysandra
Hang on, even though the Vatican is currently opposed to condom use even to prevent the spread of HIV from one married partner to another, the Pope is rumoured to be reconsidering this policy. Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care, announced on Vatican radio that his office is now “conducting a very profound scientific, technical and moral study” of this issue.

Helena
“Scientific, technical and moral study?” Please. It is needless to say, that if Church doctrine changes as a result of these so-called pious deliberations, it will be a sign, not that faith is wise, but that one of its dogmas has grown untenable. We might also wonder, in passing, which is more moral: helping people purely out of concern for their suffering, or helping them because you think the creator of the universe will reward you for it?

Harris. S. 2006. Letter To A Christian Nation p. 12-13

See other: Conversations

Advertisements

One thought on “Conversations: Doing Good for God

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s