In ancient times, or so I’ve read, when each different tribe had a different god, the conquest of one tribe by another was thought to prove that one god was somehow stronger than the other. This can be seen at times in the Old Testament; the Israelites conquering the Canaanite tribes was seen as proving that YHWH existed while Baal, et al, did not.
A lot of people, I think, see examples like this as somewhat absurd. How does defeating the religious followers of another god prove that your god exists and theirs does not? The basic concept, however, seems to me to be more deeply rooted in our psyche than most people realize. The idea than an ideology is somehow proven false because it loses followers is commonplace.
Take the Nazis. The idea that Jews were sub-human died, for the most part, with the fall of the 3rd Reich. I’m not saying that the destruction of the Jewish race was not an abominable evil, far from it – but I am saying that it is only considered evil now because the Nazis lost the war. In a sense, then, their military defeat proved they were wrong to commit genocide.
That’s a somewhat weak example; here’s a better one. Take Zoroastrianism. That religion has a lot going for it. I’ve even seen several people argue that Zoroastrianism was more logical than Christianity. But today the religion has only a few hundred thousand adherents, it will be extinct in a few centuries, and no one takes it seriously any more. This seems for the most part to be just a consequence of having few followers. The fact that no one believes in Zoroastrianism is taken as evidence that it must be false.
I’ve even seen atheists use the fact that religions come and go as evidence that no religion can be true. The problem with this, of course, is that it then means that if a religion stays around for a while (say, Catholicism), it must be true. I doubt they want to imply that. My question is – do Catholics want to imply that?
Perhaps there is some value to discarding belief systems on that basis, perhaps not. I don’t know. But I do think it would be somewhat amusing – depressing and irrational, yes, but it would have a dark humor to it – if the one true faith, which everyone had to believe in order to be saved, was that of Baal.