Paul offers some interesting thoughts on the credentials of Christianity, or conversely a lack thereof, and its role in shaping Western democracy.
He informs us that “Christianity has instilled in Westerners an ethic of individualism and individual responsibility, which in turn has given rise to democratic societies that respect human rights”. I am a strong advocate of democracy. I am also an atheist (and not, as Paul arrogantly labels such people, “thick-headed”). As an individual, I do not think as instructed but instead by himself, and for himself. Therein, I’ll warrant, lies a significant mitigating factor in what separates believers from us “infidels”.
I have no problem with religion as long as it doesn’t persist in extending itself to intrusively untenable levels. But, in fairness, Paul is partially correct, if not pompously so, to say that “Western societies are free and democratic not in spite of Christianity but because of Christianity”. Indeed, were it not for the transparent venality of the Vatican, Martin Luther might not have acquired so much as a footnote in history. The 100 Years War may have been avoided. And the subsequent 1648 Treaty of Westphalia might never have separated church from state and established the nation-state as the legitimate political authority. For this may we be grateful, despite the seeming conjecture.
Whatever one’s thoughts, the iniquities of Christianity are there for all to see and are a symptom of the human condition, and not wrought by the hand of the unprovable existence of a super-being. That is my belief, but I will not persecute or put to death anyone who disagrees with it. Look at Voltaire (or, Evelyn Beatrice Hall) for an explanation of why I wrote this.