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Tue Mar 27, 2018, 04:57 PM

How a forbidden religion swept the world

by Bart Ehrman, Acts of Faith Newsletter, WaPo


I am not a Christian, yet I see the triumph of Christianity over the Roman world as one of the most awe-inspiring conquests of all time — not just in terms of religion but also in terms of politics, society and culture.

Christianity began as a tiny group of Jewish followers of Jesus — some 20 of them according to the New Testament — around 30 CE. Three hundred years later, the Christian church counted over 3 million adherents, and included among their number the Roman Emperor Constantine. Before another century passed, well over 30 million claimed the name of Christ – half the Empire, and their new faith was declared the official religion of Rome.

From there, Christians took over the West. Nothing was ever the same again. The church became the most powerful political institution of western civilization, and all facets of society and culture came to be radically affected. Many of the institutions that we take for granted as a civilized society were newcomers on the sociopolitical scene. They were ultimately driven by the Christian message that it is love and sympathy rather than power and dominance that should direct human life, in both the political and personal realms. Many Christians did not fully implement this ideal, but without it, the West would almost certainly not have developed governmental programs to care for the needy, public institutions to care for the poor, and hospitals to care for the sick.

Even more, the Christian tradition shaped our entire cultural heritage, from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance to the Reformation to modernity as we know it. Without this Christian heritage, we never would have had Michelangelo or Caravaggio; Milton or Shakespeare; Mozart or Handel. To be sure, had the world remained pagan, there would have been other Michelangelos, Miltons and Mozarts in their place. But they would have been incalculably different.

Today, there are 2 billion Christians in the world — a fantastic gain on that original 20 lower class peasants in Galilee. The church’s 300-year conquest of Rome led to its dominance over all things — social, political and cultural — in the West. All of us, whether Christian or not, are heirs of this history.


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Reply How a forbidden religion swept the world (Original post)
yallerdawg Mar 2018 OP
BigmanPigman Mar 2018 #1
yallerdawg Mar 2018 #3
marylandblue Mar 2018 #5
guillaumeb Mar 2018 #2
safeinOhio Mar 2018 #4
Thyla Mar 2018 #6

Response to yallerdawg (Original post)

Tue Mar 27, 2018, 05:44 PM

1. This as another example of how a single person can change the world for

thousands of years in all aspects of life (money, politics, gender roles, etc.). Too bad. What a waste of time and energy over something that can be changed as easily as the direction of the wind yet is considered so important that millions of lives are lost over it due to wars, money, slavery, etc in so many societies and cultures.

The artists worked for the religious leaders whoever they were at the time. The popes would commission artists as Madison Ave does today...it was paid for. The artists may not have done it as much as a call from their favorite religion of choice (few had a choice) but as a way, often the only way, to make a living. Artists were, and still are, a dime a dozen and finding work it tough. A pope or rich person connected to the church was often the only source of income for an artist. Read about Caravaggio. He was persecuted and cheated of his commissions by "priests" and their politics. Their work was dictated by the current religion in power and was often not a choice.

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Response to BigmanPigman (Reply #1)

Tue Mar 27, 2018, 07:11 PM

3. Only One has done this for a couple thousand years.

This week, Christians are meditating on and celebrating the thing that only One has ever been described as doing!

It's not a common event.

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Response to yallerdawg (Reply #3)

Tue Mar 27, 2018, 08:23 PM

5. There have been a few others

Not all of them well-remembered or obvious. Some of them may not have existed at all.

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Response to yallerdawg (Original post)

Tue Mar 27, 2018, 05:49 PM

2. Recommended.

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Response to yallerdawg (Original post)

Tue Mar 27, 2018, 08:02 PM

4. I highly recommend Dr. Ehrmans books.

His life is an interesting story it’s self.

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Response to yallerdawg (Original post)

Tue Mar 27, 2018, 08:40 PM

6. "our entire cultural heritage" is a bit of a stretch

But still an interesting story given the grand scale of it.

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