Last month, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and columnist Christopher Hitchens met in Toronto to publicly debate the role of religion. During the debate, Mr. Hitchens, an outspoken atheist, argued that to believe in religion is to believe in a “celestial dictatorship” involved in “a cruel experiment whereby we are created sick and ordered to be well.” Hitchens’s argument proved to be the most convincing of the two, according to the audience, who voted for him by a 2-to-1 margin.
And if one were to accept Hitchens’s description of religion, who wouldn’t agree with him? A God who would make us sick and then order us to be well would indeed be a cruel dictator. More than 100 years ago, the founder of the Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, knew that this version of Christianity troubled many. “Does wisdom,” she asked, “make blunders which must afterwards be rectified by man? Does a law of God produce sickness, and can man put that law under his feet by healing sickness?” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 230).
These are the questions that both the atheist and the honest searcher for religious truth deserve to have answered. As Hitchens’s argument points out, to answer “yes” is to leave humanity at the mercy of an unkind ruler, whom he compared to the North Korean dictator.
But Mrs. Eddy’s answer to these questions, found through years of scientific research and experimentation, was a resounding no: “It is not in accordance with the goodness of God’s character that He should make man sick, then leave man to heal himself; it is absurd to suppose that matter can both cause and cure disease, or that Spirit, God, produces disease and leaves the remedy to matter” (Science and Health, p. 208).
Through her discovery of Christian Science, Eddy provided a radically different approach to God and health than Hitchens’s experience with religion suggests. The God Christian Science introduces is one who is fundamentally good, and because of that goodness, God, Spirit, does not create sickness or “leave man to heal himself.”
Eddy put these ideas into practice in her own life, rising up healed after an accident that was expected to take her life. She challenged lifelong illness with this newfound truth that sickness does not come from God or have Spirit’s support.
She reasoned that a good God would provide healing as evidence of His love for humanity, and do so through purely spiritual means. She also concluded that if this idea were the truth, it could be proved again and again. Through her understanding, she healed people consistently, and then went on to teach others how to do this healing work. Her book Science and Health continues to help individuals around the world practice this same healing Science.
This truth is universal because it describes a universal God who is Truth. Wherever and whenever anyone reaches out for healing and help from this good God, Love itself answers with strength and healing. It is this loving power that motivates many to do good, as Mr. Blair said before the debate: “The good that people of faith all over the world do every day, motivated by their religion, cannot be underestimated and should never be ignored.”
That good comes not from unthinking subservience to a cruel dictator but is the natural outcome of a heart overflowing with love for the power of God, Good.