So.. today I'm feeling like addressing my atheist friends.
It's so easy for people to make the broad reaching claim that religion is responsible for nothing good in the world. Looking at religious wars (an oxymoron), the behavior of our homebrewed religious right as well as the so called "Islamic extremists" I can surely understand this perspective.
But what about me? What about on an individual level - rather than simply the article headlines? It was 14 years ago that I ceased being a non-believer.. the details of this change are really not something I care to go into.. it's personal, although it is a good story, maybe some other time - today that's not my focus. When I changed from atheist to believer I was not a "bad person", on the contrary I always tried to act in a very moral way... but I would have to say that my change in belief or lack thereof has promoted only the best in my behavior.
See, as an atheist I felt that this life is all we have.. so really, life was all about whatever you could get out of it. Even though it was important to me to help family and friends.. If I didn't know you, I tended to have a very "survival" level view of things - a dollar out of your pocket and into mine was a good thing. I was not a big kleptomaniac or something, but I did have occasion to steal from both employers and businesses when the opportunity presented itself. When you believe there is no judge to look over you and you feel that this life is the only one, there's very little to prevent you from making this type of decision.
Well, it's been 14 years now, and I can't think of a thing I've taken from anyone in that time frame. I honestly can't bring myself to. I also have taken on the words of Christ that say that if something is asked of you - give it. I'm more about helping the homeless or charities than I was in the past. Also, when seeing someone who I consider acting ignorantly or a person who has other characteristics I would normally criticize I throw that judgment back on myself - and realize I'm not the brightest person in the world either. It's the Christian view that we are all equal in sin that does this - as well as Christ's words of "Judge not, lest ye be judged". I also try not to condemn my enemies the way I might have as an atheist - not saying I have perfected any of these ideas.. but they are the goal. I also would like to say my life is going very well in comparison to back then.. although there's no way of saying where I'd be were my religious views to have not changed.
Anyway, the point is: A religion shouldn't be judged by those who are practicing it poorly and going against the very concept of the religion. There are millions of Christians in this country who DO understand the words of Christ and do try to practice his teaching in the proper way..... but they don't get any attention now do they? Why would they? It's not a good news story when someone does the right thing... and it also is a Biblical teaching that all good acts should be done anonymously, if they are not done in that way then the recognition you receive is the reward.. and no reward will be given you by God. The very premise of this means most good religious acts when done according to religious scripture go unnoticed. For that matter... just me writing this and speaking of how my behavior has improved as a believer is in a sense going against that very teaching - it's me "tooting my own horn"... which is inappropriate for a believer.
Recent Gallup polls show that 78% of people in this country believe in some form of Christianity. Atheism, though a slowly growing demographic is a mere 15% of the citizens.
( http://www.gallup.com/poll/151760/Christianity-Remains-Dominant-Religion-United-States.aspx )
With that in mind.... I would say considering 3/4th's of Americans are Christian... 3/4ths of the good deeds done in the country are from a believer... I suppose you could also say the inverse though too - that 3/4ths of the bad things are done by them as well. None the less, all I can really use as an example is myself - and for me it has only made me a better person. No, I don't believe because of a need for a Sky Daddy... it was not a need at all.. it was a logical conclusion.. but again, once you believe, there's nothing you see as more of a waste of time than debating religion. My belief is permanent - due to it being one of personal experience that brought proof. Nothing I can imagine would alter my views..
I suppose my point, which was never really addressed properly, is that I find it ridiculous to blame wars on religion.. since no properly practicing Christian would support war. I also find it ridiculous to blame racism on religion.. since Christ clearly stated that we shouldn't judge others. I understand there are some glaring examples of bad Christians... but that is all they are - bad Christians - bad Christians that stand out as examples in a sea of 78% of our population who are sinful.. but trying to live by the standard put forth by Christ.. even if they may fall short of the mark.