What Has Religion Ever Done For Us?

March, 2021 Barak Lurie

One of my favorite scenes in any movie was the scene in Life of Brian when the renegade Israelites are trying to fight the Romans and they say to themselves, “What have the Romans ever done for us?” And then as they go through it, well, they discover that the Romans indeed did a lot for them.

“Alright but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system, and public health… What have the Romans ever done for us?”

Now the question can be said about religion as well. Specifically Judeo-Christian faith. What has that ever done for us?

Well turns out, quite a bit. In fact, it’s given us the university system, which was in fact a creation of the Catholic church. “Why?” you ask… Because they felt that the only way to get closer to God was to allow the expansion of education. The church also created the public school system as we think of it today. Likewise, the hospital system. Even the scientific method that we so treasure today. The charity systems that we have. We also know that great Christian minds and Jewish minds have created medical breakthroughs and scientific breakthroughs. Very often, precisely because they were searching for it in the name of God.

That’s true for Sir Isaac Newton. It’s true for Galileo. Yes, Galileo too. Copernicus. All of whom were devout Christians.

In fact, did you know that the person who discovered the Great Big Bang, the origin of the universe, was Georges Lemaitre, a Belgian monk? And yes, he wasn’t doing it on the side. He was doing it because of his Christian faith. Specifically, his Catholic, his Jesuit faith. He knew that there was a beginning to the universe and he set out to discover it.

Time and time again, the great scientific discoveries that we so treasure today — You can trace them back to somebody who is devoutly Christian or devoutly Jewish. They know that God wants us to find him. And they pursue their science and their medical breakthroughs very often because they feel they are doing it for the sake of advancement of civilization and loyalty to God.

There’s far more of course. Two great things that have happened in the past 200 years alone. One, is the abolition of slavery. That would not have happened but for the Quakers and other religious “nuts” as it were, in England who set about to abolish slavery in England and throughout the entire British Empire and succeeded in doing so. It took a couple decades, but they made it happen. Without them, and without the notion that this violated God’s principles, there would be no abolition of slavery whatsoever. It’s a terrifying prospect when you think about it.

Likewise, in America 60 years later. It was Christians who were the ones who were on the forefront of abolishing slavery. It wasn’t the atheists. There is no famous atheist that you will find that sought the advancement of freedom, the abolition of slavery, or for that matter, all the notions of the great scientific discoveries — virtually all of them — were devout believers one way or the other.

Now the latest we’re seeing from the Christian faith, the abolition of child slavery and trafficking. There’s a whole new movement that started about 20 years ago toward the abolition of child slavery and child trafficking and sex slavery. They are the ones who are focusing on it — these Evangelicals. Not the atheists. They see it as the new abolition and they are correct to do so. But only because they know that God hates slavery — God loves freedom.

This is what Christianity and Judaism have given civilization. The abolition of slavery, the advancements of freedom and democracy, and so many of the discoveries, scientifically and otherwise that we so enjoy today.

So when you ask, “What has religion ever done for us?” You’ve got some answers there. By contrast, what has atheism done for anybody? The answer is: Well, fascism and communism and pretty much nothing else.