Did Christianity's underdog origins allow the success of Western Civilization?

It’s interesting to note that with the exception of Christianity and some schools of Buddhism, every other major world religion were created as a means for the ruling regime to justify its grip on power as an expression of divine will. The divine hierarchy of the Old Testament’s angelic pantheon reflects and perpetuates the rigid social hierarchy of the ruling elite of its society. The god of the Old Testament demands taxes (sacrifices) accepts no competition (he murders over two million unbelievers) or critical questioning of the law, and presents a facade of voluntary submission (convert or face annihilation).

The New Testament on the other hand, was written before Christianity transformed to an institution of theocratic dictatorship. It presents a personal rather than collective choice (submit or you will burn in hell, as opposed to your tribe/descendants.) This subtle distinction may be responsible for the success of Western civilization, as secular rulers did not feel personally threatened when reason eroded the power of the church. (Of course, that did not stop the church itself from butchering secularists for as long as it could.) This is still not possible in the Islamic and Confucian world, where the secular and divine authority is united in a single institution. The attempt to introduce Aristotelian philosophy by Ibn-Rushd in particular, was wildly successful in the West, but because rational questioning was a threat to current regime, it was snuffed out by the institutionalization of doctrines such as the taqleed.

In Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam, Mahayana Buddhism has allowed a similar erosion of divine authority, creating the “Asian Tigers.” In this light, Communism can be seen as an attempt to preserve the union of divine and secular authority.

2 Comments

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2 Responses to Did Christianity's underdog origins allow the success of Western Civilization?

  1. For most of western history, the West was a failure. If Christianity explains 200 years of western dominance, it must also explain 1800 years of western backwardness. It was only after the introduction of a slew of technologies from overseas — compass, gunpowder, advanced sails, etc — as well as the European experience of itself as backward, that westerners surged forward. Especially after the Enlightenment.

    Michael

  2. Jim Bratone

    I think the post and the comment are over-simplifications of extremely complex situations. This “religion:bad, science:good” mantra just doesn’t comport with the historical record. Yes, religion in general, and Christianity in particular, have been responsible for multitudes of horrors, but I just cannot buy this cartoon version of history. (Sorry for insulting cartoons 🙂

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