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Saturday, January 28, 2006
"History is everything that ever happened." Reader B writes:
"The game of comparing good and bad historical achievements of Christianity is deeply suspect [But, I can't resist adding, still kind of fun - NS], even accepting some of the dubious cases that tend to be suggested.
"1. As Lewis points out somewhere or other, history is everything that ever happened, anywhere, to anyone; and includes Joe Blogg's bad temper a week last Tuesday, and Fred Gummock's astonishing patience with his crabby and senile mother on Wednesday. If we were really trying to keep a tally of the achievements or otherwise of religion, these should also be included - which is naturally impossible. My hypothetical examples are of course trivial, (particularly if like Grayling, you assume the non-existence of God, the soul, etc.); however, we can be pretty sure there are plenty of history-worthy episodes which have not made it to 'History'. Naturally, we cannot know which side of the argument would gain from the inclusion of such cases - though I suspect we could both make a guess. My point is simply that the game, given the nature of our knowlege, is not really worth playing, though the very fact that Grayling is driven to use the Holocaust as an argument _against _religion tells us plenty about who wins even in present circumstances!
"2. If you accept every one of the bad results of Christianity which Grayling and his fellow 'dawks' (I do think that expression is gorgeous) like to dwell on, there is an obvious point to be made, not unrelated to the above. They are all bad results of the church, in one or other of its manifestations. As Christians, we have no difficulty in understanding why no human institution can ever be anything but flawed; but even the opposition would presumably agree that such evils have nothing whatever to do with a set of principles which can be summed up in the single sentence: 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.' I'm sure we agree that a thoroughly effective defence can be mounted on the side of the overall contribution of the church to history; but it is even easier to defend Christianity itself!
"3. Finally, and most obviously: if Christianity is true, all this 'effects' debate becomes pretty silly. The Christian religion does not stand or fall by the political behaviour of some of its better known adherents. Either it is true, or it is not. If true, then of course it is good. If false, while it could still be defended against Grayling's arguments, it is of no more inherent value than any other mythological world view."