Saying that most Christians are good poses no problem for the atheist.
As an atheist, there is no reason why I can't agree that most Christians are good people. Most Christians I have met are kind, trustworthy, honorable individuals who treat others as they would like to be treated. They do their best to live productive lives, and many are genuinely concerned about the plight of their neighbors. Many care deeply about improving the present world in which they live.
Of course, everything I just said applies equally to atheists and persons who are believers in other religious traditions. Most atheists are good people. Most Jews are good people. You get the idea. In essence, most people are good people, regardless of which religious tradition (or lack thereof) in which they were raised.
Saying that most atheists are good poses an insurmountable problem for the Christian.
Unfortunately, the Christian cannot agree that most atheists are good people without adding an important qualifier, at least implicitly. The qualifier is comparative in nature, placing Christians on a pedestal above non-believers and believers from other religious traditions. The atheist may be good, but he/she cannot possibly be as good as the Christian. The atheist or the person from a different religion may be good in some sense, but he/she is still going to hell to be punished for all eternity. The Christian bible is quite clear that persons who do not believe in the Christian god are not equivalent to those who do in many ways. Their fate in the afterlife will be very different.
This is what I mean when I say that religion is inherently divisive. Believers in any religious tradition are indoctrinated to believe that theirs is the one true faith. Their god beats all others. Their morality trumps all others. Their fellow believers are more worthy, deserving, etc. than everyone else. As an atheist, I am not encumbered with this sort of prejudice.
Claims about most Christians being good have little relevance to the larger question about the costs of religion.
What the believer often fails to grasp is that claims involving how most believers are good people have little relevance to the larger question about the maladaptive nature of religion. Religion does not make people good (or bad). It may at times inspire people to do great things, but it also brings out the worst sort of atrocities and fosters irrationality. As Steven Weinberg reminds us:
(Religion) With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."To understand why this is the case, one simply needs to consider the earlier point about religion being inherently divisive. If I am taught to believe that people who do not share my beliefs are inferior to those who do not, there is little to stop me from treating them accordingly. If I am indoctrinated from birth to believe that persons with different beliefs are morally inferior, condemned to hell, diabolical, etc., the door to atrocities opens wide. If this indoctrination has also diminished my ability to effectively apply reason by convincing me that faith is superior, look out.
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Tags: religion, faith, Christian, Christianity, atheist, atheism