I try to stay out of these discussions whenever they arise. For one thing, no matter how amiable the participants, the discussion can get heated and the emotions last long after the conversation. Your work suffers as a result. The other thing I really dislike about them is that they take me away from what I'm doing. I'm all for discussing local, organizational politics as it affects our marketing and sales, but national or global issues are of far less value. I've got this private blog for that.
For whatever reason, I got pulled into a conversation about how all religions are equal and they're the cause of conflicts. For anyone who has read this blog for any length of time, I'm sure you could figure out my side of the argument without me repeating it here. Instead, here are three points, two related to the Old Testament, that came out of the discussion.
Old Testament rules and regulations only apply to the Jews
The 613 laws given in the Old Testament were never intended to be applied to the Gentiles (non-Jews). The Ten Commandments were seen as universal, but restrictions against eating fish without scales and cheese with meat weren't to apply to, say, the Egyptians. Only the Jews. That means that if you want to use the Old Testament as an example of intolerance, it's not going to get you very far.
This is carried out in the New Testament as in Acts, the Disciples discuss whether the Gentiles who are converting to Christianity need to be following all of the Jewish laws. The conclusion is no with only a few, minor exceptions. Acts 15 has it in full detail.
Jesus came to fulfill Scripture, not carry on its minute laws
From a Christian point of view, the purpose of the Old Testament is to lead to Christ. He fulfills it and effectively draws a line under it. From there on out, the world is reborn with new rules and pretty simple ones at that. Christian theology, as it applies to behavior, isn't hard to understand or apply, particularly when it comes to violence.
Secularists are superior?
The other thing that came out of the conversation was the realization by the secular progressives that they were essentially suggesting evangelization themselves. That is, they wanted to convince others of the value of multiculturalism and non-judgmental acceptance of all lifestyles. That in itself was a philosophy and they felt it superior to all others. Strip away God from religion and you get the same thing - philosophies for life whose adherents feel are superior.
The argument from the secularists was not that religion caused problems, but that feelings of superiority did. Ergo, no one should think one religion better than another. When confronted with the fact that they were doing the very same thing in the process of making their argument, they were confounded. Further, when asked if they felt that the guiding philosophies of, say, the Confederacy were equally valid to all others, they really came to a dead stop. And then we got back to work.