Any of us brought up unwillingly in a religious environment has always had to square our contempt for the church with its 'good works.' Doesn't this redeem its bad works, and don't these good works offset the ridiculous but well intentioned mythology? Since this is a decidedly and demonstrably positive characteristic of religion, shouldn't atheists recognize this positive aspect of religion?


I utterly disagree, and I'll share my argument with the first respondent to this post.

Views: 422

Comment by Andy Hoke on March 18, 2014 at 2:24am

@Omnipotent Feces "Many people's lives have been saved by religious institutions, along with the influence of the particular institution's dogmatic traditions."

That's a good one. Can you be a little more specific?

Comment by Omnipotent Feces on March 18, 2014 at 2:38am

@Andy Hoke - In my country of Australia, the Salvation Army (or as us aussies like to call them, the Salvos, because we are too darn lazy to fully pronounce) is a Christian charity (just look at their name, oh my lord!) that works a lot with the homeless and destitute. They CERTAINTY save people's lives that would otherwise have continued on the path of inadequate hygiene, starvation, drug abuse, violence and eventually, death. They do lovely work - hands on stuff.

Yet, all in the name of God. Save a homeless man? 10 points to God. He wouldn't have been saved if it wasn't for our savior's teachings! say the Christians, strengthening the influence of their church. 

There is also Unseen's point about Catholic hospitals, which I think has been explained.     

Comment by Andy Hoke on March 18, 2014 at 3:22am


The Salvation Army In Austrailia? Ok, without much research"

Australian sex abuse cases[edit]

From the 1940s to the 1970s the Salvation Army in Australia sheltered approximately 30,000 children. In 2006 the Australian Salvation Army acknowledged that sexual abuse may have occurred during this time and issued an apology. In it, the Army explicitly rejected a claim, made by a party unnamed in the apology, that there were as many as 500 potential claimants.[67]

In 2013 it was reported that private settlements totalling $15.5 million had been made in Victoria relating to 474 abuse cases; a Salvation Army spokesman said that "This should not have happened and this was a breach of the trust placed in us" and that they were "deeply sorry" whilst claiming that the abuse was "the result of individuals and not a culture within the organisation."[68][69][70]

In 2014, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse began an investigation into abuse cases at the Salvation Army boys' home at Bexley, in addition to three other Salvation Army homes. [71]"

Not the good guys as far as I can tell. Suppose I'm a rotten individual who has the resources for charity, in order to (temporarily) camoflage your sex slave business. It's really very similar to the Penn State sex abuse scandal with Jerry Sandusky, isn't it? I'm sure I'm not the only one who's heard of Cardinal Law.

As for the Salvation Army, lives are actually saved from death; this I concede. But, that nagging feeling you have is the question, at what cost? 

Comment by Andy Hoke on March 18, 2014 at 3:23am

474 of your fellow human beings...

Comment by Omnipotent Feces on March 18, 2014 at 3:38am

wow...somehow I am barely surprised at that. 

Well I'm sure there are other Christian organisations that aren't linked to sexual abuse...yet. 

Comment by Unseen on March 18, 2014 at 8:48am

@Gallup's Mirror -

It matters not one bit even if 100% of the doctors and nurses and staff at those hospitals are practicing members of those churches. Take away the Catholicism (or whatever) and the patients suffer not in the slightest. Take away modern medicine and all success they ever had as a hospital is eradicated.


You make it hard for any group to do good. Well, I'm not buying. They are doing good, like it or don't.

Where are the atheist-sponsored hospitals? I know why there aren't (we aren't organized like the religious folks) but it is a bit of a PR problem.

The PR problem is that all hospitals are atheistic in terms of being hospitals, since nothing in medical science depends on theism or faith of any kind. Calling it a "Catholic" hospital no more makes it actually Catholic than a congregation calling themselves "Christian scientists" means they're actually scientists. The credit for the hospital is stolen, not earned. It's a Catholic hospital in name only.

Not so fast. There is Catholic funding, administrative staffing, volunteers, etc. You're simply irrationally committed to turning a blind eye to whatever good they are doing. A publicly-run hospital, funded mostly by taxes paid by theists, can hardly claim to be an atheistic entity. Nontheistic, perhaps.

Comment by Unseen on March 18, 2014 at 8:56am

@Omnipotent Feces

@Unseen - Valid point about charity work of hospitals in your country. Where are the atheist-sponsored hospitals? If we had an 'Atheist bank' just like the Vatican's bank, I dare say we would set up hospitals. I think it's the sheer wealth and power of the churches (among other things) that enable them to appear morally superior. Yet, I think that in terms of consequentialism - regardless of their exploitative intentions, the outcome is what matters.

Many people's lives have been saved by religious institutions, along with the influence of the particular institution's dogmatic traditions.   

In no way do I intend to detract from the harm theists do, but it helps in no way to stand on the sidelines and pretend that good works aren't good simply because they are done by theists. It will just lead those on the fence when it comes to theism to see US as irrational, illogical, and small-minded. Give credit where it's due.

Comment by _Robert_ on March 18, 2014 at 8:56am

Catholic Hospitals enjoy tax-exempts status, even though the actually charity level is about 3-4%. Not exactly a drain on the church. They are profitable. Sure they do good in the application of science and medicine that they fought and held down for centuries.



Comment by Andy Hoke on March 18, 2014 at 1:55pm

RobertPiano, thanks for the helpful table, a great addition to the discussion.

My first impression of this table, that there is nothing special about medical care provided by Catholics. As you rightly point out, they do this on a tax free basis, an unfair advantage in my opinion.

I could go on and point out that patients may also qualify as a 'captive audience' for proselytizing. Witness The Salvation Army's Aussie division circa the 1960s and 1970s, and consider those 474 victims, then the consider the ripple effect on their friends and family.

Comment by Andy Hoke on March 18, 2014 at 1:59pm

I'll toss out another subject to be studied along the lines of good works: Music and other art.

Can we say that the church does good because of the inspirational/ ecumenical compositions and performances? Profound architecture? I have no position or response prepared here, just introducing this line of thought to my fellow atheists...


You need to be a member of Think Atheist to add comments!

Join Think Atheist

© 2020   Created by Rebel.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service