This is in reference to the April 20 letter, “Compassion isn’t limited to believers in God, religion.”
The writer dogmatically affirms: “You do not need to believe in any god or higher power to have compassion. … You do not need to be a member of any religion to have values, morals, and ethics. … People are moved to incredible acts of kindness and generosity fueled by their religious beliefs, or can be swayed to unfathomable acts of violence from those same beliefs.”
True, all human persons have a sense of morality, of right and wrong, good and evil. The letter writer doesn’t inform us as to the origins of these categories or qualities.
The Christian explanation that we are made in God’s image and so reflect his character provides an explanation plausible in all cultures and aspects of the human story.
This is not to say that atheists cannot have a sense of morality, for they are created in God’s image, even though they deny it. But they possess no rationality for differentiation of moral world views.
One’s sense of what fills the category of morality or of kindness can be perverted, even though the “moral imperative” (Kant) is ever present. One could claim that Stalin, Hitler, Mao Zedong, Saddam Hussein, et al, thought they were doing the moral thing by murdering millions of people. So how does the atheist rationalize on whose morality is right?
Religious belief has indeed done “unfathomable acts of violence,” as the letter writer states. But the belief that it is moral to kill “infidels” is no part of Christian belief.
No informed Christian denies that atheists have done some good works of compassion. But the great works of compassion are to the credit of Christianity.
The first hospital was built by the Bishop of Antioch around 350 C.E. A hospital provided by the Christian Sabas in Jerusalem in 550 had 200 beds. One of St. Sampson’s in Constantinople had 400 beds.
These and countless other costly acts of compassion are unparalleled by atheists. Respect should be granted all human beings, but history speaks loudly for itself.
Rev. Richard L. Shaw