Why “Christians were violent too!” Is a Bad Argument

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

I constantly see this argument that Leftists (and consequently their Muslim acolytes who seek protection in their masters’ arms) like to use. It goes something like this: Oh, you’re going to quote the Quran and say that Muslims are all violent? Well guess what? Christianity was violent too! Look at the Crusades! Look at the Inquisition! Look at all these horrible persecutions of minorities that Christians have done over the centuries! Thus we cannot judge Muslims to be violent just because of what their scripture says. There are multiple interpretations!

The reason why this is a bad argument is twofold. First of all, and the more important of which, it feeds into this narrative that religion is evil and violent. “Religion is the cause of violence” is a common New Atheist argument and all we’re doing is enforcing that (false) narrative. In fact, I frequently see people comment on articles that invoke this kind of argument something along the lines of “this is why all religions are evil/stupid. We shouldn’t persecute Muslims, but why would anyone believe in anything that stupid anyway.”

Rather than throw Christians under the bus, we should be defending religion as a whole (or rather, as a principle.) We should be arguing that religion as a whole is a bulwark against the evils of human nature and that it is tribalism, greed, unbridled lust, hatred, jealousy and other vices that cause and perpetuate conflict and misery. Religion may at times be subsumed under tribalism when it is used to wage unjust wars, but it is simultaneously the only thing that even has the potential transcend tribalism. It is a balancing force to the evils of human nature. This is what we should be arguing.

Evil, deep seated in a person, can take a religious veneer, but religion in principle is the only thing that can fight back against that evil. Atheism, on the other hand, offers nothing. And that’s precisely why regimes like the Soviet Union and Maoist China perpetuated the greatest horrors mankind had ever seen. Atheism was a necessary but not sufficient condition for these to take place. Atheism makes it easier for these things to take place because its worldview has no transcendent reason for moral goodness and it is not a world wisdom tradition with the resources to combat human vice. Quite the opposite, it generally encourages unbridled hedonism in most of its iterations – with exceptionally few exceptions – and unbridled hedonism only serves to strengthen the roots of those vices which are the cause of human misery.

The second reason this is a bad argument is that, as someone like Sam Harris would argue, Muslims still believe in their religion in a way others do not. Muslims still affirm the scripture, a large number still establish the prayers and the fast, and so forth. Most Christians probably do not even go to Church on Christmas or Easter. So while in principle Christianity is as violent (or more) than Islam, its potential lies dormant because modernism has completely effaced people’s zeal for the Transcendent. Thus it is irrelevant to bring up Christianity’s sordid history, which by the way is selectively chosen and exaggerated to suit the confirmation bias of atheists because it is just that: history. Islam is a “problem” in the present; New Atheists could care less if 300 years ago you could get hanged for blaspheming against the Christian faith because today that is not the case. From their point of view, it’s a problem solved – on to the next one: Islam.

Addendum: What is the Alternative?

In addition to the solution offered above vis a vis pointing out the utility of religion in controlling the primary cause of violence; namely, unbridled passions and egotism, there is one other response I’d like to share. The Quran is being accused of supporting ISIS type violence. The direct response to this is to ask for their evidence and then to argue the verses they claim support violence.

Take for example, the famous verse “And slay them wherever you come upon them…” which Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Sam Harris both use in their books respectively. A simple look at the greater context reveals that the verse means nothing like what they claim it does:

وَقَاتِلُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ الَّذِينَ يُقَاتِلُونَكُمْ وَلَا تَعْتَدُوا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُعْتَدِينَ ﴿190﴾ وَاقْتُلُوهُمْ حَيْثُ ثَقِفْتُمُوهُمْ وَأَخْرِجُوهُمْ مِنْ حَيْثُ أَخْرَجُوكُمْ ۚ وَالْفِتْنَةُ أَشَدُّ مِنَ الْقَتْلِ ۚ وَلَا تُقَاتِلُوهُمْ عِنْدَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ حَتَّىٰ يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ فِيهِ ۖ فَإِنْ قَاتَلُوكُمْ فَاقْتُلُوهُمْ ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ جَزَاءُ الْكَافِرِينَ ﴿191﴾ فَإِنِ انْتَهَوْا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ ﴿192﴾ وَقَاتِلُوهُمْ حَتَّىٰ لَا تَكُونَ فِتْنَةٌ وَيَكُونَ الدِّينُ لِلَّهِ ۖ فَإِنِ انْتَهَوْا فَلَا عُدْوَانَ إِلَّا عَلَى الظَّالِمِينَ ﴿193

And fight in the way of God against those who fight against you, but do not transgress. Truly God loves not the transgressors. And slay them wheresoever you come upon them, and expel them whence they expelled you, for strife is worse than slaying. But do not fight with them near the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you there. But if they fight you, then slay them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers. But if they desist, then truly God is Forgiving, Merciful. Ɠ And fight them until there is no
strife, and religion is for God. But if they desist, then there is no enmity
save against the wrongdoers. (Quran 2:190-3)