Atheists Want Hospitals — Not Churches

The following quotation from Madalyn Murray O’Hair is carved into one of the side panels of the atheist monument that will be dedicated June 29th:

“An Atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An atheist believes that deed must be done instead of prayer said. An atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanished, war eliminated.”

At the beginning of the 20th century in America, all the major denominations had built hospitals. By 1915, there were 541 Catholic hospitals.

Gary Ferngren, Professor of History at Oregon State University, wrote the following in his book-length study Medicine and Health Care in Early Christianity:

“The concept of the church’s care of ‘the poor’ was basic to the founding of the earliest hospitals. The hospital was, in origin and conception, a distinctively Christian institution, rooted in Christian concepts of charity and philanthropy.”1

Ferngren’s book is published by The Johns Hopkins Press. A ten-foot statue of Jesus with open arms, known as the Divine Healer, “is planted right in the middle of the historical entrance hall to Johns Hopkins Hospital.” The following is engraved on the pedestal: “COME unto ME all ye that are weary and heavy laden and I will give you REST,” a biblical citation from Matthew 11:28:Johns hopkins Jesus statue

 “W. T. Dixon, president of the hospital’s board of trustees, said, ‘This “Divine Healer” [is] just where it can be seen by all who may enter . . . thus affording them the opportunity to derive comfort, courage and hope from its contemplation. And not only are the outstretched hands of this Christus Consolator held out to this company, community and the people of this age, but they will remain extended to tens of thousands of the generations yet to come.”2

It remains for atheists to present a comparable atheist version of the history of atheist hospitals.

Atheists would do well to read the following from Uhlhorn’s book Christian Charity in the Ancient Church:

“If the individual man be only a passing shadow, without any everlasting significance, then reflection quickly makes us decide: Since it is of no importance whether he exist or not, why should I deprive myself of anything in order to give it to him? For the rule of life soon becomes this, that everyone makes himself as comfortable in this life as possible; and this implies that he need not trouble himself about the poor and needy, whose existence or non-existence is at bottom a matter of no importance.”3

Herbert Spencer

Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)

Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), the British Social Darwinist who coined the phrase “survival of the fittest,” wrote the following:

“The unfit must be eliminated as nature intended, for the principle of natural selection must not be violated by the artificial preservation of these least able to take care of themselves.”4

In 1880 Social Darwinist William Graham Sumner followed the logical extension of evolution and its naturalistic and materialistic presuppositions in his essay “The Forgotten Man”:

“Nature’s remedies against vice are terrible. She removes the victims without pity. A drunkard in the gutter is just where he ought to be, according to the fitness and tendency of things. Nature has set up on him the process of decline and dissolution by which she removes things which have survived their usefulness.”

With these views of humans, why bother with hospitals? We should let the weak die.

  1. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 2009), 124. []
  2. The Healing Statue of Hope,” Guidepost []
  3. Gerhard Uhlhorn, Christian Charity in the Ancient Church (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1883), 38. []
  4. Quoted by Marvin Olasky in “Capital Shakeup,” World (May 20, 2006). []
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