The following page is about the positive aspects of religion.  The negative aspects are discussed on another page of this web site.

   There were many heroic Christians who stood up to the Nazis in Germany and defended the Jews.  This is discussed in an article by Bruce Walker in the American Thinker.



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John Newton, author of Amazing Grace

    The following is excerpted from Ralph Wilson's web site.

    John Newton commanded an English slave ship. Ships would make the first leg of their voyage from England nearly empty until they would anchor off the African coast. There tribal chiefs would deliver to the Europeans stockades full of men and women, captured in raids and wars against other tribes. Buyers would select the finest specimens, which would be bartered for weapons, ammunition, metal, liquor, trinkets, and cloth. Then the captives would be loaded aboard, packed for sailing. They were chained below decks to prevent suicides, laid side by side to save space, row after row, one after another, until the vessel was laden with as many as 600 units of human cargo.

    Captains sought a fast voyage across the Atlantic's infamous "middle passage," hoping to preserve as much as their cargo as possible, yet mortality sometimes ran 20% or higher. When an outbreak of smallpox or dysentery occurred, the stricken were cast overboard. Once they arrived in the New World, blacks were traded for sugar and molasses to manufacture rum, which the ships would carry to England for the final leg of their "triangle trade." Then off to Africa for yet another round. John Newton transported more than a few shiploads of the 6 million African slaves brought to the Americas in the 18th century.

    At sea by the age of eleven, he was forced to enlist on a British man-of-war seven years later. Recaptured after desertion, the disgraced sailor was exchanged to the crew of a slave ship bound for Africa.

    When a ship nearly foundered in a storm, he gave his life to Christ. Later he was promoted to captain of a slave ship. Commanding a slave vessel seems like a strange place to find a new Christian. But at last the inhuman aspects of the business began to pall on him, and he left the sea for good.

    While working as a tide surveyor he studied for the ministry, and for the last 43 years of his life preached the gospel in Olney and London. At 82, Newton said, "My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things, that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour."

    Newton's tombstone reads, "John Newton, Clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy." But a far greater testimony outlives Newton in the most famous of the hundreds of hymns he wrote:


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Amazing Grace

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.

Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

When we've been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's Praise,
Than when we first begun.

   In Matthew (5:44-45) Christians are commanded to love their enemies.

Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you, and persecute you that you may be the children of your father who is in heaven.

   Although I believe there is a time when hatred of one's enemies is important, I think forgiveness and understanding is also important and this verse of Matthews encourages this among Christians.

   Jose Gomez was a criminal who reformed as a result of becoming a Jehovah's witness while in jail.  In the Jehovah's Witness publication Awake, Jan 8, 2003, he wrote:

I was determined to act in harmony with Proverbs 27:11 which says: "be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice,that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me."  In Jehovah, I had found a loving Father whom I wanted to please.

   Jose had been planning to take revenge for the murder of his uncle.  He wrote:

I meditated deeply on the apostle Paul's admonition at Romans 12:19, "Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but yield place to the wrath."  This along with fervent prayer helped me control my feelings...

It was difficult for me to apply the words of 1 Peter 3:7 which encourage husbands to assign their wives honor.  Repeatedly I had to pray for the strength to swallow my pride and change my thinking.  Things gradually improved....

Every day, I thank Jehovah for helping me to break free from the chains of hatred...Thanks to him I enjoy a happy family life. 

   I have read other stories in which the command to forgive in Christianity helped people escape the chains of hate.

   According to an article in U.S. News and World Report 9/3/2001, called "How to Make Yourself Happy" researchers have found correlations between faith and optimism and good health. 

   Religions can create communities of people who support each other.  I have been to services where there is strong community and heard people sing together and I can feel their love for their tradition and their brotherhood and it is a wonderful thing to see and hear. 

   There are many religious organizations that engage in charitable activities.  Religions can help people leave a life of crime and drugs and turn to a good life.  The families of religious people are more likely to stay together than the families of secular people.  Religious couples are more likely to have children than non-religious couples.

    The belief in a higher authority, God, makes it harder for tyrannical governments to control religious people, unless the governments use religion to manipulate people.  A religious movement such as this can be a very powerful force against tyranny since they will have faith that God is on their side.  The Jewish story of Purim illustrates this.  The advisor to the king or Persia Haman, wanted everyone to bow down to him.  A Jew, Mordechai, refused saying that he bowed only to God.   Haman then convinced the king of Persia to kill the Jews.  The king's wife was secretly Jewish and she interceded on behalf of her people.  As a result the King killed Haman.  In this way the Jews removed a tyrant from power. 

    Religions can add a specialness to life.  I once heard a speech by a Rabbi about the Jewish blessing over wine.  He said that wine can make a wine drunk yet the wine can be also sanctified and made into something special.   He said that was a general approach in the Jewish faith.

    The belief that loved ones who have died have gone to heaven, makes it easier to bear their loss.  The belief in heaven makes it easier to have a positive outlook in one's current life.

    The belief in a God who wants us to be good and is watching our every move and will decide our ultimate destiny is a strong motivation toward moral behavior.  The believe in a God who loves us is an incentive to please him and to be good.

    The commandment for a day of rest is a great commandment.  The result has been the weekend which all of us benefit from.  There are pyramids of authority throughout society where the top boss put pressure on the people under him to work more hours and those people in turn pressure the people under them.  There is one day that these people cannot touch of religious employees and that is the day of rest.    A break like that is crucial  for one's physical, and emotional health.   It is important to have a day to be able to see friends and family and to take part in the community.  If one is doing errands all day one is less likely to find the time to spend with one's community.  If one works all the time one's only community may be the one at work.  For religious people the day of rest  is an opportunity to go to hear ethical discussions during services and to learn ways to improve themselves.  These discussions also can motivate people  to help others and to treat others well. 

   I have a friend who is who explained to me that one of the reasons she became religious is she realized that there was no community in her life and that all changed when she became an Orthodox Jew.  She says that in the Orthodox community everyone is concerned about everyone else and that is very nice.

      Most religions have had ethical codes thought out and developed which the believers study.  These ethical codes are based partly on the commandments in the religion.  If the commandments that they code are based on are good then these philosophies can have valuable truths for every day life and for personal growth.


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