In a fascinating recent interview about his book God Is Red: The Secret Story of How Christianity Survived and Flourished in Communist China, Chinese author and reporter Liao Yiwu talks about the benefits of the growth of Christianity in China:
“Your question is better served by a quote from the Rev. Wang Zisheng, the son of Wang Zhiming, a Christian leader who was brutally executed for his Christian work in Yunnan province during the Cultural Revolution. His son is now following his father’s example and has become a prominent leader in the booming Christian community. “There is so much for us to do,” Wang Zisheng said. “In our society today, nobody believes in Communism, and everyone is busy making money. People’s minds are entangled and chaotic. They need the words of the gospel now more than at any other time.”
In addition, I personally believe that Jesus Christ was one of the earliest and the most famous dissidents in human history. He was crucified by authorities for spreading the Christian faith and ideas. While I researched for this book, I encountered many Christians like Wang, who were inspired by Christ and were willing to sacrifice their lives for the preservation of their faith. That’s the spirit that we need to bring democracy to China. If democracy comes to China someday, we should thank Christ for inspiring us to stand up for our faith and ideas.”
Yiwu, who has been the object of torture and imprisonment for criticizing China’s Communist regime is not himself a Christian – and yet he sees in Christianity a critical force for advancing democratic ideals against a totalitarian regime. He has personally witnessed the courage it brings to stand up against overwhelming forces of repression and bring hope to otherwise hopeless circumstances.
His views are similar to those of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an atheist who witnessed the repression of Islamic regimes in Somalia also sees hope for change in Christianity. In her memoir Nomad, she claims:
The Christianity of love and tolerance remains one of the West’s most powerful antidotes to the Islam of hate and intolerance. Ex-Muslims find Jesus Christ to be a more attractive and humane figure than Muhammad, the founder of Islam.
The fact that atheists from other countries extol the benefits of Christianity as a force for freedom and human flourishing highlights the stark degree to which the New Atheists in the West have strayed from reason. Rather than thoughtful discernment which separates beliefs by their actual impacts on human flourishing, the New Atheists lump all religious beliefs together as merely different points on the same spectrum of ignorance, evil and delusion.
A belief in Christ offers more than mere succor for impending mortality – it offers the possibility of transformation, a foundation for real moral courage and a stable grounding for human rights and human worth – and it transforms the cultures in which it takes root.
And to the degree New Atheists attack Christianity, to that degree they oppose the benefits it brings and they cause real damage to real lives.