“It would take a greater man than Jesus to invent Jesus.” These are the words of Voltaire, one of the leading atheists and thinkers in history, and one of the most bloodthirsty, as history has proven. Of all the criticisms levelled at Jesus, this was perhaps the most self-damning. Jesus was, according to the Gospels, which gives us the only record of his deeds and teachings, the greatest man who ever lived. When Voltaire examined the Gospels, he called them a work of fiction, and Jesus a fictional character, but still had that to say about Him. Jesus always spoke with utter authority. He never betrayed any doubt whatsoever, but remained a man, who ate, drank, went to the toilet; did all the things we do. Except sin.
The historicity of Jesus is often questioned, strangely enough never by serious historians, but by people offended by His very existence. And there’s a reason for that. Jesus was, and is, not some benign person who says He loves you and everything is fine. He says He loves you, even though everything isn’t fine. You can do nothing to prevent His loving you, but you can do much to reject Him and what He offers. And what He offers is not pie in the sky, but a fulfilled life right here, right now, with a promise of hardship and rejection and hatred from many on account of His name, no matter how inoffensive your deeds. Or even how beneficial your deeds. If they are done in His name, watch out!
So, back to Voltaire. Following the debate on these pages has been very interesting. Atheists lambasting mainly Christians, and Christians showing the same level of intolerance to atheists. None of which has done anything other than to amuse some people and make others angry. But here is my point.
Starting with Voltaire: while he and his cronies were beheading the Bourbons and everyone deemed inimical to their cause, sowing terror amongst the common man and holding people’s courts in this, the age of reason, something else was happening across the Channel.
John and Charles Wesley, founders of the Methodist Church, travelled the length and breadth of the country, preaching the Gospel, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, doing what Christ commanded them to do. And all in opposition to the Anglican Church.
Moving right along. Friedrich Nietzche, atheist, philosopher, proponent of the ubermensch, or superman, which ultimately gave rise to Nazism, as Hitler used his writings as the basis for his philosophy. Famous for his quote, ‘God is dead.’ Nietzche, by the way, is dead.
Again on the other side of the Channel, a man of German birth, George Muller, so consumed by the plight of street urchins and orphans in the terrible orphanages that existed at the time, got on his knees and started praying. He never asked any man for money, but received donations amounting to two million pounds. And he thanked each person for the money and gave them a receipt, but in no way publicly acknowledged them or their gifts. Yet still they gave.
Orphanages are still not fun places to be, or I imagine they are not, but if it were not for his selfless work and diligent prayer, children would have continued going to workhouses for many more years.
Bertrand Russel wrote a book entitled, ‘Why I am not a Christian’, and makes many valid points, but falls down in many equally valid points. Nevertheless, in an age of enlightenment, it did not make sense to him why anyone should want, or need a god, personal or otherwise.
In India a man named Mahatma Ghandi was mobilising the Indian people in the biggest demonstration of passive resistance ever seen. He actively offered up his life so that his countrymen could be freed of the yoke of British imperialism. He was also a devout Hindu.
Moving to the present. Richard Dawkins. Christopher Hitchins. Bart Ehrman. The list goes on and on. These are people who believe that religion is a soft touch for those who are too weak to stand on their own two feet. Who believe that religion, in its many forms, is downright evil. Who believe that mankind is being held back by the superstitious mumbo jumbo sprouted by people of all religious persuasions.
Mother Theresa of Calcutta, born into a wealthy Armenian family, gave up everything she had and moved to Calcutta, to live amongst the poorest of the poor and offer them any succour she and her Sisters of Mercy could give.
KP Johannan, founder and president of Gospel for Asia, an organisation that feeds, clothes,houses and educates hundreds of thousands of the poorest of the poor in South East Asia. He, too, is a believer. He is a devout Christian, and both of his children have followed him into the mission field
I could go on, but then I would bore you, and that would never do.
Here, then, is my point. However well-meaning these atheists are, I see no sign of their doing anything to alleviate the suffering in the world. Some of the things they do, and propose, is downright evil, while often they just sprout what they believe to be important.
When I see atheist organisations, and they exist, going out and doing the good works the evil religionists do, then I might pay attention to what they say. For actions do speak louder than words.