Maas, Korey D., and Adam S. Francisco, eds. Making the Case for Christianity: Responding to Modern Objections. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2014. Kindle Electronic Edition.
Chapter 7, “Christianity’s Cultural Legacy: Poison or Panacea?” by Corey Maas, Loc. 2929-3463.
Apologists have often focused on the truth claims of Christianity, while critics of Christianity often allege ill effects of Christian belief (Maas 2014, Loc. 2934). Maas ties this idea in modern thinkers to ancient roots, citing Tacitus in the early second century (Ibid., Loc. 2952). As a prime modern example Maas calls on Christopher Hitchens. The conflict, though, is not an easy one (Ibid., Loc. 2965). There have certainly been negative aspects to Christian influence in the world. Furthermore, the apologist’s task is to defend Christianity, not Christians. Because there are countless examples of good and evil in experience, it is impossible to address all. We therefore address some of the “philosophical problems in Hitchens’ polemic” (Ibid., Loc. 2980). Because Hitchens denies the supernatural he does not have a clear foundation upon which to identify morality (Ibid., Loc. 2985). Nevertheless he does affirm the existence of morality. Hitchens also asserts a deterministic naturalism which rejects free will. This requires in turn that nobody may be considered guilty of any evil (Ibid., Loc. 3008). “In summary, any denunciation of Christianity predicated upon its being culpable for actions which are in fact evil must proceed from a belief in real moral laws which might or might not be followed by agents possessed of free will” (Ibid., Loc. 3013). Hitchens also assumes that if there is a religious element “even remotely associated with some atrocity he assumes and then asserts it as the primary cause” (Ibid., Loc. 3018). Hitchens will also, on occasion, dismiss those who do good as not really religious, while he finds religion of some sort in everyone who does evil (Ibid., Loc. 3034).
Maas now turns his attention to a case study, Hitchens’ analysis of Christianity and slavery (Ibid., Loc. 3040). Hitchens asserts that slavery “was blessed by all churches” without any protest (Ibid., Loc. 3052). While the assertion may win modern audiences, slavery was not at all universally accepted by churches or individual Christians. In fact, slavery pre-exists Christianity and has always been sanctioned by many non-Christian groups (Ibid., Loc. 3073). The tenets of Christianity were capable of being used to denounce slavery, though that was not always the highest priority of the Christian community (Ibid., Loc. 3083). Yet there is abundant evidence of Christian comments in opposition to slavery. This objection arose only in the Christian community, nowhere else (Ibid., Loc. 3105). In fact, Christian acceptance of slavery always seems to be based on appeals to Aristotle (Ibid., Loc. 3120). The rebirth of slavery in the West followed on the heels of the Enlightenment (Ibid., Loc. 3136). The abolitionist movement in the 1800s was almost entirely a Christian movement (Ibid., Loc. 3153).
Maas reminds his readers that the example of slavery is parallel to many arguments used by the New Atheists (Ibid., Loc. 3181). Claims to human rights and equality are largely rooted in Christianity. The positive morality urged by the New Atheists is moral capital borrowed from Christians (Ibid., Loc. 3207). This results in the arguments of secular superiority being self-defeating.