*Insert an historical event that is emotionally thrown at Christians and advocates of the Judeo-Christian west in an argument. Typically this is the Crusades or the Inquisition.
It does not take one long to encounter an argument such as the one posited above when engaging in everything from history to evangelism. While this argument is illogical, and is often either an ad hominem or an argument by outrage, it is extremely popular with self-styled skeptics in particular, and unfortunately some Christians have capitulated to it. Basically, the argument asserts that because of some horrible event in the past occurred, the message is wrong or at least highly questionable. However, in the case of the two most common events listed above, historical ignorance and modern sensibilities are in play, and the official “PC” story is far from the truth.
Historian Thomas F Madden (PH.D, University of Illinois), who is the chair of the history department at the University of St. Louis, has done much to remedy some of this ignorance. In his article entitled “The Real History of the Crusades,” Madden provides the following facts to the chagrin of many (direct citations in quotes):
1. The Crusades were a defensive war to, “turn back or defend against Muslim conquests of Christian lands.”
2. Christians in the 11th century were not superstitious and paranoid, Islam was “gunning for them.”
3. “They were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.”
4. Crusading knights were generally wealthy men who gave up everything in an act they perceived as an act of charity and love (of course there may be an exception here or there).
5. The reconquest of Jerusalem was not an act of colonialism but an act of restoration and a declaration of one’s love of God.
6. “It is often assumed that the central goal of the Crusades was forced conversion of the Muslim world. Nothing could be further from the truth.
This is only a few of the facts Madden provides. While some may disagree with some of the theology involved here, the popular conception of blood-thirsty colonial knights invading a peaceful Muslim world is a myth. No doubt atrocities occurred during this conflict, war has a way of bringing out the worst in men. But to use this as an argument against Christians or the west is fallacious, misses the point, and is historically ignorant. The entire article by Madden can be found here: The Real History of the Crusades.
A posting on the Inquisition is possibly forthcoming, but for some reading material to demonstrate how many misconceptions are involved, see this article: Spanish Inquisition and Christianity.