It was the Christian spirit of mutual love and communal charity that astonished and impressed the pagans and the Romans. The emperor Julian, seeking to revive paganism in the fourth century, professed admiration for the way in which Christians looked after their poor, their widows and orphans, and their sick and dying. However paradoxical it seems, people who believed most strongly in the next world did the most to improve the situation of people living in this one.

In the West, the Christians built the first hospitals. At first they were just for Christians, but eventually they were open to everyone, even Muslims who had entered Christian lands with the aim of conquest. Today many hospitals have Christian names—St. John’s Hospital, St. Luke’s Hospital, Methodist Hospital, Lutheran Hospital, and so on—and relief organizations like the Salvation Army and the Red Cross bear, sometimes lightly, the Christian influence that brought them into existence. So do organizations like the Rotary Club, the Kiwanis Club, and the YMCA, all of which are involved in civic and charitable activities.

Christianity has also produced many great figures, from Vincent de Paul to Mother Teresa, who have dedicated their lives to the service of the poor and sick. Nowhere else—not in other religions nor in secular society—do we find anything like this. One does not have to be a Christian or even a believer to acknowledge that this Western faith has done an incredible amount to improve human life and reduce human suffering.