Something that strikes me as being a common theme in religious arguments is appealing to the past. Islamic theologians, Christian philosophers. Hell, even religious scientists, most famously Newton. (Einstein did not subscribe to any mainstream religion, including Christianity, a common myth) Look at what religion did for our ancestors. It united people, inspired acts of charity – gave people a system of absolute morals. It did, in part, lead to a lot of the artwork – Michelangelo’s work, Caravaggio. Great. Nice story.
Now let me give you a parallel. You are arguing with a 24 year old Nazi. It’s 1941. He commands a concentration camp as a senior officer. His day consists of intimidating a conveyor belt of people on their way to a gas chamber. Sometimes he watches over a group of Jews as they strip the clothes off bodies. Now in your arguments, you bring up his recent actions. How the Nazi party commands majority support within Germany, a party which has already killed millions. A brand of nationalism which would destroy every person in the world that is deemed inferior.
During your conversation, the chief does not deny the Nazi parties ideology. Of course, he believes the policies are fantastic. His limited scope on evolution is all the proof he needs. The violence he supports is all contextual; for the ultimate good of society. God is on his side. Sodom and Gomorrah were necessities, a brand of humanity that needed to be eradicated – much like the Jews, he says.
But this doesn’t matter anyway. Germany has always been a bastion of perfection. The heart of Europe; propping other countries. A proud, strong race. A major contributor to science. Physics. Heisenberg, Geiger, Haber. Isn’t it worth ignoring the Nazi regime; the millions murdered and tortured, for the contributions of German people in the past?
I would like to say no. I would like to say this. The majority of groups can claim some achievements under their patronage. This is a given. Some groups can claim a disproportionate number of contributions. People involved in the age of reason, for example, were more prone to combating the dogma of the established church. Great achievements and actions help the future as examples, but nothing more. Our actions are not judged by the positive actions of our historical counterparts. We are not pardoned OR incriminated by the collective actions of the past.
Now last time I checked, the only ideology which institutes this kind of ethos is – you guessed it – Christianity. 6000 years ago God made dust, or earth… Or something… This dust he used to form a man. (Appealing to the contingent universe and the egocentrism of man – we, in all our splendour, could never have arisen from nothing. Dirt is different) then God reverse engineered this man to make Eve out of his… rib. Ok, yes. Sure. Whatever. This isn’t the issue at HAND. These two people, straight from the divine conveyor belt, ate a forbidden apple which was conveniently placed right next to them and, as a result, condemned all of humanity to original sin.
Maybe in this insane, religious zealot context, it is normal to use such logic. To me, history is only an example. A template for improvement. There is no other functionality, in my eyes, to history, other than to improve. So when I look at religion today, there is no redeeming factors. There is no place for an argument on previous achievement, just as there is no place for talking of the crusades or the Islamic barbarism, genocide and subjugation which originally spread the religion. The only thing I am interested in on a discussion of religion and its morality is the truth of today. The truth of studies, data and statistics. In these, you will always find religion lacking in morality. On positive influence.
This is what I am trying to convey. There is no argument of religion which can include the past and present. It is either a discussion of contemporary religion – an inarguably foul influence overall – or that of religious history. The latter is my interest. I have no inclination to argue over established, historical facts – a futile and meaningless pursuit. Distracting the modern issues with past facts is an effort to cloud the real issues.
Just as there are no redeeming or arguable positives of the Nazi regime found in its past contributions to Physics, there are, likewise, none for religion. There is only the religion of the now. A contemptible, twisted set of ideologies which present as a wall of dogma and oppression. If you agree to disregard the cherry-picked history of a religion, there will be nothing left for them to hide behind. Good luck ever eliminating this argument. It has been internalised as much as God himself in the hearts of all religious people.