“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1
This post is the thirty-third in a series that addresses a list of “40 Harmful Effects of Christianity” that originated on the American Atheists Facebook page and has since made its way around the internet. In this post, I examine the following “harmful effect” from the list:
Harmful Effect #33: Discrimination against atheists, such as laws stating they may not hold public office or testify in court, or in half a dozen countries around the world, laws requiring their execution
The truth of this claim depends on three presuppositions.
- Such discrimination does, in fact, exist.
- Such discrimination is, in fact, harmful.
- Christianity is the cause of such laws.
According to a 2016 report in The Independent there were thirteen countries in which an atheist could be sentenced to death for lacking faith. Without exception, each country is heavily influenced, if not dominated, by Islam. Thus, the most extreme discriminatory laws cited by the author(s) of this list are not products of the Christian religion but the Islamic one. Furthermore, Islamic apostasy laws apply equally to non-Muslims, including Christians. In those western countries which have been historically influenced by a Christian ethic, government-sanctioned religious discrimination against atheists is much less prevalent.
That’s not to say that there are not Christian-influenced societies in which atheists are discriminated against. The Constitution of the State of Tennessee, for example, contains the following language which bars atheists from holding public office:
No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this state.
This language, however, does not require that candidates be Christian. Members of any number of anti-Christian religions are not precluded from holding office. So, even if this law was enforced, which it is not, the case could not be made that it is some form of Christian discrimination. For whatever reason, the people of Tennessee (and several other states) did not want people who deny the being of God administering state and municipal affairs. This leads to questions of practicality:
In those societies where atheists are not allowed to hold public office, would they be electable absent the prohibition?
In those societies where atheists are not allowed to testify in court, would their testimonies be relied upon by judges and juries absent the prohibition?
According to the author(s) of this list, Harmful Effect #30 is:
Mayors, senators, and presidents voted into office not because they’re right for the job, but because of their religious beliefs.
The author(s) of this list have obligated themselves to answer “no” to these questions. Thus, they cannot argue that any actual harm comes from the type of specific prohibitions to which they protest. Having established that it is very difficult for atheists to be elected to office, it takes but a small leap to recognize that atheists, when compared to other groups, tend not to run for office. This is not just because they lack electability but because there are so few of them in a given population.
According to demographers, 7% of the world population is atheist. Most of that population is located in China. China, which both tolerates and encourages atheism, is one of the most corrupt and repressive societies in the world. The same can be said of other communist (and inherently atheistic) governments such as Cuba and North Korea. It is clear to any reasonable observer that repression and discrimination are hallmarks of atheistic governments. It is further observable that Christian-influenced governments are among the least discriminatory. When the biblical text is considered, it becomes clear that there is no Christian doctrine which requires governmental discrimination.
Not only is the type discrimination protested in Harmful Effect #33 not an effect of Christianity, it cannot be established that it is harmful to society.
In my next post in this series, I’ll address the following:
Harmful Effect #34: Missionaries destroying/converting smaller, “heathen” religions and cultures.
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.
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