The following is a reply that was sent to the Belfast Telegraph website after they published a letter by a woman named Stella Wilson entitled ‘Christianity is the key to any civilised society’. Our response was never published, perhaps it was too long, or maybe they simply didn’t like it. In any case, we will post our response ourselves, and leave it open to you, the readers, to add any input in the comments section on the issue.
Christianity is the key to any civilised society
Stewart Gault says he is “tired of Christian morality ruling our nations” (Write Back, August 30).
May I point out that our nation has been founded on Christian principles for many centuries and those principles have resulted in hospitals, schools, universities, hospices and a legal system that used to be the envy of many.
The basis for all of this was the Bible’s statement that we are made in God’s image and, therefore, have value as individuals.
This is why the sanctity of life, from conception to death, has been so important.
That’s why, when we, as Christians, see that sanctity being eroded – either by calling abortion a ‘woman’s right’ and conveniently forgetting the right to life of the unborn child, or by pushing for the right to determine one’s own death, or that of a loved-one – we feel we must speak out.
It is Christianity that has changed cultures where babies (especially girls) were routinely left outside to die and the elderly were neglected.
If we believe we can keep it out of politics, we are removing the foundation of our society.
Incidentally, why is it always a small part of the Old Testament that is quoted?
There is actually a New Testament in the Bible also, where our Lord Jesus Christ taught the development of truths in the Old Testament.
Tandragee, Co Antrim
Our response, as follows:
Secularism is the key to a civilised society (a reply to Stella Wilson – Write Back 3 September)
The recent letter sent by Stella Wilson “Christianity is the key to any civilised society” is one of the most beautiful examples of naivety I have ever read. Misinformation and dishonesty fill the reply, starting with the title itself. The claim that a nation must be Christian in order to be civilised is most likely insulting to many counties including Estonia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and France, all of which are largely secular. The Gallup poll results of this study are widely available that links countries by how the population judges the importance of God in their everyday lives. These countries have a high standard of living and it may astound Mrs Wilson to find out that they also have hospitals, schools, universities, hospices and pretty decent legal systems.
The letter also simplifies the issue of religion (and it’s perceived importance) during the formation of a ‘nation’. It is to be assumed that nation in question is the United Kingdom, rather than Northern Ireland, however it is never mentioned. Going with the assumption that we are discussing the UK, it is true that it was initially formed under various forms of Christianity. This does not however mean that it has remained this way. The modern ‘nation’ is increasingly multi-faith, and based on the data collected on the ever declining rates of church attendance, becoming ever more secular.
The subject of abortion is a topic that I don’t think can be judged in such an absolute manner. Claiming ‘sanctity of life’ does not mean you get to dismiss circumstances such as rape or pregnancies resulting from incest, that will cause significant harm – either mental or physical – to the mother. Abortion is a woman’s right because it is her body, and no amount of Christian lobbying can change that fact.
Again, there is no explanation of the Old Testament Bible verse that Mrs Wilson is talking about. It may be the section where God advocates sex slavery (Exodus 21:7-11), or maybe mass murder (1 Chronicles 21) or perhaps the strange obsessions with killing, or threatening to kill, first born sons (Genesis 22:1-18). It is understandable most Christians don’t like this version of God, but if you throw out the Old Testament you are also throwing out the explanations for Creation, the Fall of Man, the institution of marriage, the Great Flood, and most importantly, The 10 Commandments. To dismiss the Old Testament so readily is to dismiss the foundations of the Christian faith.
Mrs Wilson misses the point drastically in stating that the key to a civilised society is Christianity. As a starting point, Christianity is fine as it can teach (at least on the surface) basic morality if you choose the right verses. However, I believe the secular values of humanism mixed with good laws and equal human rights is the key to the creation of a successful civilisation, rather than one raised in the shadow of outdated theology.