Many people look back at the bloody sacrificial rites of ancient religion with a sense of superiority. Their sense of superiority reveals a dangerous lack of insight into the continuing destructiveness of human nature.
Violence and blood lust is as much present in the heart of modern man as it was in the hearts of ancient peoples. Whether or not modern people overtly deny God’s existence, they repress awareness of their own potential for evil and need for reconciliation with Him. (See the ATQ article What Is the Underlying Cause of Violence? )
Far more people were exterminated by modern, scientifically “enlightened” people during the last century than were killed through tribal and pagan and religious violence during the entire prior history of our world—and the slaughter continues. We need to face the fact that the massive outbreaks of war that occurred since 1914 weren’t carried out by especially evil people: they weren’t unusual freaks or strange deviants. Most of the Communists, Fascists, nationalists, internationalists, and killers of all varieties have been ordinary people who lacked a consciousness of their need for God’s grace and mercy. Unwilling to acknowledge their own depravity, they turned their frustration, fear, and fury against scapegoats. Even people who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ—probably most of them—have served false gods of nationalism and ideology during recent centuries, disregarding their Master and rationalizing violence and hatred. They continue to do so.
However smug modern people—including modern Christians—may feel when comparing their modern “scientific” outlook to the “primitive” and “superstitious” religious beliefs of their ancestors, at a certain level the immense wars of the past 200 years have left them shaken and insecure. Not only have scores of millions of men, women, and children died horribly, but leaders have also continued to develop even more appalling weapons of mass destruction. Weapons today far exceed in destructive capacity the weapons of WWI and WWII, and the terror of apocalyptic, unlimited warfare is one of the factors driving world leaders towards internationalism and alliances moving relentlessly towards a world government. The untamed violence in our hearts is propelling us towards an unprecedented centralization of corrupting power, an evil city, and an absolutely evil monarch that prophets have foretold.