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Atheism’s View of Religion’s Positive Contributions

Some atheists also feel that religion has made no positive contributions to the world. Even atheist Bertrand Russell, a pretty levelheaded guy on most days, credits religion only with establishing the calendar, saying he can’t think of any other contributions.

Most atheists, even those who feel religion is a bad influence overall, can usually think of a bit more than the calendar:

  • Many great artists and composers are inspired by their belief. Johann Sebastian Bach, for example, wrote SDG (Soli Deo Gloria, “For the Glory of God alone”) at the end of each of his compositions.

  • Catholic monks preserved the works of antiquity throughout the Middle Ages as an act of religious devotion.

  • Quaker activists have been at the forefront of every movement for peace and human rights in the past 200 years.

  • Hinduism and Jainism have developed principles of nonviolence that have led to the peaceful resolution of countless conflicts, large and small.

  • Christian church communities worldwide have developed enviable cultures of charitable giving and service to the poor.

Of course, this list is abbreviated, but you get the idea.

Many atheists would raise an objection here, saying these things shouldn’t be credited to religion but to human beings who happened to be religious, and who simply framed their creativity and their values in religious terms. But others feel that religion at its best can indeed serve as a motivator and as inspiration for great things — even though it’s not the only worldview that motivates and inspires.

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