While preparing for a debate with an atheist recently, I thought back on how skeptics often tell me how much better off the world would be without religion. At that moment I happened to be in Vancouver, Canada, and it dawned on me to look online and see how many homeless shelters and rescue missions were in the city. Of the 20 shelters, soup kitchens, and benevolent organizations that popped up in less than a minute, 18 were religious in nature. And by religious, I mean “Protestant/Catholic.” The vast majority of help for the needy in this major city was coming from Christians.During the debate I asked the skeptic (and audience), “Why were there no shelters or benevolent organizations started by, or run by, atheists?” Think about it, in developing nations, if you come upon a village enjoying fresh water for the first time, very often the well and infrastructure will have been provided by Christian groups like Samaritan’s Purse. Why, in the forgotten corners of the globe, will you not come upon atheist groups building hospitals, leading food ministries, starting literacy programs, funding shoe and clothing drives, and investing for the betterment of the human condition?
The Biblical view of life, morality, and God has led believers to start orphanages, champion human rights, build hospitals, liberate captives, promote education, groom selfless leaders, and so much more. Christianity has influenced government (the United States is a case in point), encouraged benevolence, fought injustice and oppression, and has dried the tears of countless millions.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy documents that religious people (specifically Christians) give more to charitable causes. Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Jews give more to help the needy than do non-religious people.1 Consider the warning of historian Jerry Newcombe, regarding the withdrawal of Christianity from a culture: “The regimes of Hitler, Mao, Stalin, and Pol Pot were essentially atheistic bloodbaths. These twentieth century despots alone account for well over 100 million murders. The evidence is strong that when the restraining influence of Christianity has been removed from a country or culture, unmitigated disaster will naturally follow. As admitted by existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, ‘[Without God] all activities are equivalent.’”
The reason that Christians serve the least and the lost is because we know that each human is made in God’s image, and therefore has worth, value, dignity, and personhood. We Christians know that every person is precious to the Lord, and that when we “give a cup of cold water in His name” (Matt. 10; Mark 9), it is as if we are serving Jesus Himself. We Christians do what we can for others, because we want the love of Jesus to be experienced by all. And this is a tangible “good” in every culture and context.