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“…you are able to read this article on a computer without someone coming to lock you up, torture your family and dump you in a mass grave because of the cultural hegemony that Judeo-Christianity built.”


Notice I didn’t say better people in the title. I am not going to argue that becoming a believer makes a person somehow a superior kind of being (dogmatic theologians may disagree) but a recent major study suggests that they may well be nicer, more altruistic and other-focused.

In the blogosphere this past week, at least in the corner of it that I inhabit, there was a bit of a ruckus around some findings in a massive study co-authored by Harvard professor Robert D Putnam and Notre Dame’s David Campbell that seems to show that believers are more civic minded and altruistic than their secular counterparts and also;

“They are more likely to give blood, money to a homeless person, financial aid to family or friends, a seat to a stranger and to spend time with someone who is ”a bit down”

Of course, there will always be exceptions. Fred Hollows was reputedly an atheist but his focus on the needs of others is legendary. There may well be people in your street who split their time between volunteering for the local S.E.S. or Bush Fire Brigade and also chair the local chapter of Atheists for a God Free Universe, but what we want to look at is the metadata, the overall cultural impact of what large groups of people believe.

Atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris only get media coverage because they are iconoclasts. They are like teenagers who like to shock their parents with their edgy subversive ideas. Ho hum! It’s not exactly new and it’s also the same philosophical anthropology that got 125 million people killed in the 20th century.

In contrast, what is the cultural impact when large numbers of people within a culture live within the broad tenets of the Judeo-Christian faith tradition. Best I can tell, you seem to get things like this; an end to slavery, hospitals, large and well run education systems, natural law, freedom, rights, democracy, charity, extraordinary art, music and literature.

Again, not all these things are exclusively the premise of believers but overall people of faith have built the Western tradition and you are able to read this article on a computer without someone coming to lock you up, torture your family and dump you in a mass grave because of the cultural hegemony that Judeo-Christianity built. It makes me wonder about all those black-armband types that talk of Western Imperialism etc etc. I am not sure they would have the same options in large parts of the world.

In summary, if, on average, despite the odd whacko, believers make the world safer, more altruistic and more pleasant to be in, then why are we afraid to share that with out students?

Have your say below!