Christianity lay behind many of the greatest accomplishments…

“But again, you’re tarring all Christians with the same brush, and that’s neither fair nor logi—”

“Look from the present to the past, then, Jonathan! What’s Church history but the unholy saga of oppression and wars over the faith—Christians from Venice looting Christians in Constantinople; the Spanish Inquisition burning heretics and Jews; Catholic armies versus Lutheran armies in the 1500s, drenching the countryside in blood; French Protestants getting massacred; witch trials from Joan of Arc to Salem, Massachusetts; and thousands of other grisly events in history—all in the name of the Lord! And what are green and orange doing to each other to this very day in that cesspool of religious fanaticism called Ireland? Can’t you see that what I’m doing is the most humanitarian gesture I could possibly offer the world?”

“No, I don’t, Austin! Now, I’ll be the first to say that the Church’s record is hardly spotless—I’ll surely grant you that!—but it’s due to that nasty item called ‘sin’ that permeates every institution in society including the Church, so if—”

“Oh, please, Jonathan, spare me a sermon, won’t you?”

“Hear me out! I’m only saying it’s unfair to blame the Church for all the violence on this planet. History would’ve been much bloodier if there had been no Christianity. It was Christians who insisted on truce days in the Middle Ages, built hospitals to care for the wounded, intervened in quarrels to keep the peace, erected orphanages, shelters for the homeless, and—”

“Yes, yes, yes … I know the minor credits, but—”

“That’s just it; you’ve totally ignored the credits, Austin! You’ve forgotten all about the Church’s single-handedly keeping Western culture alive during the Dark Ages, civilizing the barbarian invaders of Rome, recopying manuscripts in monastery libraries so that we’d even have such things as books written before Gutenberg. Here you are, one of the world’s greatest Semiticists, and you gnaw away at the cultural hand that fed you!”

“Now, see here, Jonathan—”

“No, it’s worse than that, Austin. You’re trying to chop that hand off entirely! Have you forgotten that Christianity is the alma mater of Western civilization, the ‘nourishing mother’ that built the schools and invented the university? That its record, after all, is far more positive than you seem to recall? Christianity lay behind many of the greatest accomplishments in the last two thousand years, ranging from basilicas and cathedrals in architecture, to Leonardo and Michelangelo in art, to Johann Sebastian Bach in music. The Church has fostered some of the greatest minds ever to enlighten our world—Augustine, Aquinas, Dante, Luther, Shakespeare, Milton, Newton—”

“We’re getting off track, Jonathan,” Jennings interposed. “I’m not saying the Church hasn’t accomplished some worthy things. Perhaps for that day and age, it was better to have had Christianity than not. What I am saying is that we’re now into the twenty-first century—the world has ‘come of age,’ and it’s finally time to put the fairy tales aside, or at least regard them for the fantasies they are. We’re alone in this universe, Jonathan, alone. There is no God, and the sooner mankind realizes this, the more responsible we’ll become—must become. Rather than relying on ‘pie-in-the-sky-in-the-great-by-and-by,’ as you Yanks put it, it’s high time to improve the world solely by our own efforts now—not in some mythical eternity. And not by imploring supernatural assistance, which will never arrive … cannot arrive.”

“You’re so very sure of that?”

 

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