Why history matters

I started to reply to this post from Daniel Fincke, and then realized that I’d veered seriously off-topic. But it’s a little mini-rant I’d like to save and refer back to, so here’s the comment I elected not to submit:

I’ve become increasingly frustrated with the lack of historical perspective from a lot of atheists. It’s frustrating to hear an atheist claim that theology hasn’t come up with a new argument since Aquinas, while at the same time offering the same arguments as Lucian. Clearly, rehashing centuries-old arguments isn’t going to be productive.

And the so-called Bronze Age beliefs of today’s religious people are at most 20-25 years old. (Remember when Jimmy Carter was the quintessential evangelical Christian? Remember when the Middle East was dominated by Socialists?)

The more I learn of history — quite recent history — the more I realize just how ephemeral and plastic religious beliefs are. And this means that history is atheism’s friend, because history tells us that the particulars of religious belief are beside the point.

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