Blood on Our Hands

In his book THE SELFISH GENE, biologist Richard Dawkins writes that "religion causes wars." In addition, he once told an interviewer that "[belief in God] can be positively harmful in various ways." And Dawkins isn't alone. According to Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, Christianity still owes the world a full accounting for the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the seventeenth century wars of religion. And many commentators today compare conservative Christians with Muslim extremists. All of this, of course, is to diminish Christian faith and Christian cultural influence. But is it fair? According to a new book, it's not. Instead, it's evidence of a double standard that magnifies Christianity's offenses while overlooking the sins of other traditions. In CHRISTIANITY ON TRIAL, Vincent Carroll and David Shiflett acknowledge that wars have been waged in the name of religion -- sad but true. But what people like Dawkins neglect to mention is that Christianity also prevented wars. The authors show that it was Christianity that taught the West to have reservations about war. Both Christian pacifism and the Just War tradition served as restraints on the ways that war was waged. As for the Crusades, CHRISTIANITY ON TRIAL reminds us that discussions of the Crusades rarely tell the whole story. For example, for Christians of the time, the Crusades were fought to defend Christendom or liberate Christians lands overrun by Islamic crusaders. Or, that it was Christianity's revulsion at its own mistakes that led to what are today the those most cherished of western values: tolerance and freedom of conscience. A similarly incomplete story is told about the conquest of the Americas. We're all familiar with portrayals of pre-Columbian America as a paradise: a place where war, as we know it, was almost nonexistent. Into this garden stepped a serpent wearing a cross. The conquistadors who first laid eyes on what's now Mexico City saw something very different: blood- soaked altars and thousands of skulls. All of these bore silent witness to the common practice of human sacrifice. And there's similar evidence scattered throughout the Americas. And as for the Inquisition, the truth is it probably put to death fewer people during its entire history than the Aztecs sacrificed in an average year. Now that doesn't excuse what happened during the Inquisition or even the conquest of the Americas. But it's a more accurate telling of the story -- one that Christianity's critics can't or won't tell. Why? As the subtitle of CHRISTIANITY ON TRIAL puts it, "anti-religious bigotry." For people like Dawkins and Dershowitz, their resentment against Christianity causes them to make it the source of human misery. Their conclusion isn't based on a fair reading of the evidence. It's a product of a pre-existing philosophical commitment -- in other words, their worldview. The problem is that their arguments are rarely contradicted in public. Thus, they carry more weight than they deserve. That's why Christians have to be prepared to set the record straight in conversations with our friends and neighbors. Chances are, this will be the only way they will hear the straight story. Call us or visit our web site for a transcript of this and other broadcasts in this series based on the book CHRISTIANITY ON TRIAL. Because, as any defense lawyer knows, for a trial to be fair, you need a full accounting of all the facts. For more information: Richard Dawkins, THE SELFISH GENE (Oxford University Press, 1990). Vincent Carroll and David Shiflett, CHRISTIANITY ON TRIAL (Encounter Books, 2001).


Chuck Colson



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