If you watch program #7 in our video series, you will see a number of quotes by well-known atheists indicating why they reject the existence of God. One of the recurring statements is the claim that religion and religious warfare threaten to destroy all of humanity. They claim that religion is evil. They even equate Christianity and violence. The late Christopher Hitchens wrote a book with the subtitle How Religion Poisons Everything in which he blamed religions for violence and warfare, and he made no distinction for Christianity.
There is no question that war and violence have plagued the human race since the time of Adam, and many times religion has been at least a catalyst to the violence if not the cause of it. Unfortunately, there is much in the history of religion to connect it with violence. Atheists claim that a million people were murdered by the Catholic Church in the Crusades and the Inquisition.
The New Testament makes it clear that the followers of Jesus should be peacemakers. Matthew 5:25-48 and Romans 12:9-21 show that Jesus opposed war and violence. Passages like Ephesians 3:10-12 and 6:12 tell us that our real battle is spiritual warfare.
Would getting rid of religion eliminate violence? If somehow we could eliminate every religion, would we see peace and love and goodwill everywhere? John Lennon’s famous song Imagine had the line: “Imagine there’s no heaven, no hell below us… nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too.” The song suggested that getting rid of religion would bring peace and harmony on Earth.
The truth is that the most violent and war-like leaders in history had no religious beliefs at all. Hitler murdered 190 million people. Stalin and Mao killed even more. Unbelief seems to be more dangerous than even the most violent of organized religions.
War has many causes, but political and economic power—not religion–are at the core of most wars. Christianity should never be the cause of war or violence. Christians may be involved as citizens according to the dictates of Romans 13, but you can’t read Matthew 5 and Romans 12 and attempt to equate Christianity and violence.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
God has always called us to pay attention to what has happened in the past. It is important for all of us to spend some time remembering how we got where we are. In the United States, we pause on the last Monday in May for Memorial Day remembering the sacrifices that others have made so that we can be free.
The celebration of this day began right after the American Civil War when people realized the carnage and sacrifice that had taken place. In the past, we put great emphasis on remembering the blessings that loved ones gave us by their sacrifice in wars with foreign powers. We visit graves and decorate them to emphasize that remembrance. In recent years, our secular society has drifted away from that emphasis. There has been a reduction in parades and services and an increase in recreational events. Instead of a time for remembering, Memorial Day has become a commercial promotion of the beginning of the summer season.
In the Old Testament, a great many holidays, feasts, and celebrations called ancient Israel to remember their blessings. As the New Testament came into existence, there was a whole new system of emphasis on remembering. God’s relationship was no longer with one nation and one system of living. Jesus called all nations to unity and oneness. Paul stated it this way: “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:27-28).
The importance of remembering the basis of our freedom and our oneness was not lost when Jesus established the Lord’s Supper recorded in Matthew 26:26-29. The purpose was to establish a continuing memorial. Paul described it in 1 Corinthians 11:23-29. He quoted Jesus as saying, “Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.”
The change in Americans and their Memorial Day remembering should remind us of how easy it is to forget the blessings we have and to take them for granted. It is important for Americans to remember the past and to be thankful for those who died to make freedom possible. For Christians, it is important to remember the sacrifice that Jesus made to free us from sin. It reminds us that Christ gives us peace and confidence as we face the trials of life.
–John N. Clayton © 2017