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Atheists and The Salvation Army

by Craig Gross on September 14th, 2005 in The Haps

We were suppose to have an atheist on
our radio show today, but that will have to wait. I ran across this
article from an atheists that is interesting.

Craig

Faith Does Breed Charity                                                                                                           We atheists have to accept that most believers are better human beings. Roy Hattersley By Guardian Newspapers, 9/12/2005

Hurricane Katrina did not stay on the front pages for long.
Yesterday’s Red Cross appeal for an extra 40,000 volunteer workers was
virtually ignored. The disaster will return to the headlines when one
sort of newspaper reports a particularly gruesome discovery or another
finds additional evidence of President Bush’s negligence. But month
after month of unremitting suffering is not news. Nor is the monotonous
performance of the unpleasant tasks that relieve the pain and anguish
of the old, the sick and the homeless – the tasks in which the
Salvation Army specialise. The Salvation Army has been given a special
status as provider-in-chief of American disaster relief. But its work
is being augmented by all sorts of other groups. Almost all of them
have a religious origin and character. Notable by their absence are
teams from rationalist societies, free thinkers’ clubs and atheists’
associations – the sort of people who not only scoff at religion’s
intellectual absurdity but also regard it as a positive force for evil.
The arguments against religion are well known and persuasive. Faith
schools, as they are now called, have left sectarian scars on Northern
Ireland. Stem-cell research is forbidden because an imaginary God – who
is not enough of a philosopher to realise that the ingenuity of a
scientist is just as natural as the instinct of Rousseau’s noble savage
– condemns what he does not understand and the churches that follow his
teaching forbid their members to pursue cures for lethal diseases. Yet
men and women who believe that the Pope is the devil incarnate, or
(conversely) regard his ex cathedra pronouncements as holy writ, are
the people most likely to take the risks and make the sacrifices
involved in helping others. Last week a middle-ranking officer of the
Salvation Army, who gave up a well-paid job to devote his life to the
poor, attempted to convince me that homosexuality is a mortal sin. Late
at night, on the streets of one of our great cities, that man offers
friendship as well as help to the most degraded and (to those of a
censorious turn of mind) degenerate human beings who exist just outside
the boundaries of our society. And he does what he believes to be his
Christian duty without the slightest suggestion of disapproval. Yet,
for much of his time, he is meeting needs that result from conduct he
regards as intrinsically wicked. Civilised people do not believe that
drug addiction and male prostitution offend against divine ordinance.
But those who do are the men and women most willing to change the fetid
bandages, replace the sodden sleeping bags and – probably most
difficult of all – argue, without a trace of impatience, that the time
has come for some serious medical treatment. Good works, John Wesley
insisted, are no guarantee of a place in heaven. But they are most
likely to be performed by people who believe that heaven exists. The
correlation is so clear that it is impossible to doubt that faith and
charity go hand in hand. The close relationship may have something to
do with the belief that we are all God’s children, or it may be the
result of a primitive conviction that, although helping others is no
guarantee of salvation, it is prudent to be recorded in a book of gold,
like James Leigh Hunt’s Abu Ben Adam, as “one who loves his fellow
men”. Whatever the reason, believers answer the call, and not just the
Salvation Army. When I was a local councillor, the Little Sisters of
the Poor – right at the other end of the theological spectrum – did the
weekly washing for women in back-to-back houses who were too ill to
scrub for themselves. It ought to be possible to live a Christian life
without being a Christian or, better still, to take Christianity à la
carte. The Bible is so full of contradictions that we can accept or
reject its moral advice according to taste. Yet men and women who, like
me, cannot accept the mysteries and the miracles do not go out with the
Salvation Army at night. The only possible conclusion is that faith
comes with a packet of moral imperatives that, while they do not
condition the attitude of all believers, influence enough of them to
make them morally superior to atheists like me. The truth may make us
free. But it has not made us as admirable as the average captain in the
Salvation Army. © Guardian Newspapers Limited

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