So yesterday I read an article that interested me, and I tweeted it. This is my tweet:
Religious people better at caring for others says new study http://tinyurl.com/363feoc The comments after say atheists are better at scorn
It's a piece in the Telegraph reporting on an American survey that says religious people are "nicer" - and they don't mind which religion, though they basically talk about Christians and Jews, with a couple of Moslem references thrown in for good measure. The basic idea is that religious people care more in society, give more time for needy people, and give more money to charitable causes - be they faith-based or secular, it doesn't matter. Society wouldn't work without this going on.
After the article is a whole host of comments from angry people saying why religious people are not what they appear, and why this article is wrong, and why you shouldn't take a penny from these nutcases. I'm sorry, but the nutcases don't appear to be the religious people, but the very angry non-religious people that tend to write comments after such articles!
Oops. I said that out loud didn't I?
Well, on twitter, of course, you are commenting to the world, though really, who reads this stuff? Your 62 followers perhaps. No-one else, surely.
Apparently, other people do read this stuff. I got an angry atheist answer from someone in Oslo (ain't the internet great?) saying this:
Religious ppl might be nice giving a few bucks to the poor, but they are also the cruelest and most violent worldwide...
It's not that there she doesn't have a point about those who, in the name of various religions, have been and are very cruel indeed. You can't gainsay that. It's the total sweeping away of lives of service and kindness and goodness in that first half sentence. Religious people "might" be nice, which is defined as "giving a few bucks to the poor". And that's not what this article limits their (our) lives to. But somehow, credit cannot be given. We have to be belittled.
The liberal secularist cannot cope with being shamed - totally shamed - by the faith communities here. They talk of goodness and caring for society. But we people of faith actually get out and do it. And so we should. We believe in a God who loves people, so we get out there and make a difference to the lives of those in need. If we didn't, we'd be the fakes the liberal secularists so badly need us to be.
For me the most encouraging part of the article, however is this: religious people apparently make no distinction in their giving of time and money between religious and secular causes. They support the local hospital, school or arts foundation as much as their missionary societies. We will not be boxed, silenced, pigeon-holed and put away in a corner. The world runs better because of genuine people of faith helping their neighbours. And sure, you can always produce extremists we'd all rather be without, but take us ordinary faithful people away - and ordinary life would struggle to go on. We do not just care for our own - because (and I can only speak from a Christian perspective here) we believe in a God who loves everyone, including those who write nasty comments about good people trying to make a positive difference, and believing in that kind of God makes us the kind of people who also love everyone, regardless. And I get that's an ideal, and ideals get tested. But look at these statistics. Sometimes the ideals actually work.