Intended for healthcare professionals


Why I am not a pretentious pseudo-intellectual

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 19 August 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:514
  1. Greg O'Neill, specialist registrar in radiology (chris{at}
  1. Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Glasgow G4 0SF

    EDITOR—As Chapman's anti-Christian diatribe contains no discernible connection to the practice of medicine I have to wonder why it was published in a medical journal.1 Chapman may think his article daring, but it represents only the latest in an ever increasing tide of abuse to which Christianity is subjected daily. It deserves to be challenged.

    Chapman brings out the old chestnut about “the horrors wrought in the name of religion.” The great atheistic tyrannies of the 20th century—communism and Nazism—slaughtered many millions more than the Conquistadors could ever have dreamed of. That some rulers and politicians have used Christianity as a convenient cloak to disguise their wrongdoing shows only how some people behave. Tony Blair claims to be a Christian, and Bill Clinton will readily go to a prayer breakfast to seek forgiveness for his latest transgression.

    Presumably Chapman thinks that I, and all other Christians, should shoulder responsibility for the bombing of a Belgrade television station or a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant or for the deaths of a quarter of a million Iraqi children since United Nations sanctions began. The horrors of history have all been wrought in the name of politics.

    The writings of Bertrand Russell and other philosophers differ from the Bible not only in their rejection of God but also in the fact that they remain largely unread—I suspect because they are virtually unreadable. It is noteworthy that Russell entitled his book Why I am not a Christian. This shows one of the most depressing things about atheism, which is that it can define itself only by what it is not. It is a philosophy based on a negative: there is no God; there is no hereafter; there is no point; there is no hope.

    I take some comfort from the fact that Chapman works in public health and is therefore unlikely to come into contact with “mostly aged” patients. It is too much to bear the thought of him stalking an oncology ward, a geriatric ward, or, God forbid, a hospice, cheerily disabusing his patients of their “anthropocentric wish fulfilment” and reassuring them that all that awaits them once the suffering is over is the promise of eternal nothingness.


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