In our modern consumer societies we all like choice. We like to have options to choose from. We like to be able to compare and see what product suits us best.
And it’s like that sometimes with religious belief – we like to compare one belief with another, one behaviour with another. We want to know how each belief works out in practice.
So I have tried to take christianity and atheism on a road test, to see how they compare. I’ve listed plenty of references so you can check them out too.
Worldviews tell us stories about the world and ourselves. And today two very different stories compete for our attention and our allegiance.
One story says the world came from nothing and is going to nothing; the other says the world came from God and finds its purpose in God. In the English-speaking world, we can name these two stories as atheism and christianity (though this is an oversimplification).
Read my outline of what each story says to us, and some questions to help us choose between them, at Two Stories.
Good, bad and ugly
Does the way religious people behave tell us anything about the truth of that religion? Has religion, or more specifically christianity, done more good in the world or more harm? How does atheism rate on the same questions?
Both worldviews have had their successes and failures, their fans and their critics. I have tried to gather objective evidence as well as impressions, to identify the strengths and weaknesses of belief and unbelief.
It seems clear that religion is only one of many factors that affect happiness and wellbeing, and it is difficult to separate out the various impacts. The evidence suggests that when religion, especially christianity, is practiced by sincere believers it is beneficial to both the believer and humanity generally, but when used by powerful forces to further their own ends, religion can be very harmful.
Unbelief has been similarly harmful when it has been the basis of repressive regimes.
For a brief summary of my conclusions, see Does religion poison everything?
For a more detailed look at the issues, including an extensive reference list, see Belief vs unbelief.