Impact of Christianity on western civilization

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Christianity has been historically intertwined with Western civilization. However, it is difficult to decide what its effects were.

Through its long history, the Church has been a major source of social services such as schooling. Several universities were founded by the Church.[1] Some historians of science,[2][3][4] have argued that the Church had a significant, positive influence on the development of science.[5][6] Some of the Church's priests have contributed to science.[7] In various ways the Church has sought to affect Western attitudes to vice and virtue in diverse fields. It has, over many centuries, promulgated the teachings of Jesus within the Western World and remains a source of continuity linking modern Western culture to classical Western culture.

The Bible and Christian theology have also strongly influenced Western philosophers and political activists.[8][9] The teachings of Jesus, such as the Parable of the Good Samaritan, are among the important sources for modern notions of Human rights and the welfare measures commonly provided by governments in the West.[10] Long held Christian teachings on sexuality and marriage have also been influential in family life.

Christianity played a role in ending practices such as human sacrifice, slavery,[11] infanticide and polygamy.[12] Christianity in general affected the status of women by condemning infanticide (female infants were more likely to be killed), divorce, incest, polygamy, birth control, abortion and adultery.[13]

The cultural influence of the Church has been vast. Festivals like Easter and Christmas are marked universally as public holidays; Pope Gregory XIII's Gregorian Calendar has been adopted internationally. Year numbering in the West is taken from the assumed date of the birth of the Church's founder, Jesus of Nazareth. In the list of the 100 most influential people in human history there are 65 Christian figures from various fields.[14]

Opposition to science[change | change source]

The relation of Christianity to science has usually been hostile when the issues touch on central Christian dogmas.[15][16] The most obvious areas of conflict were the structure of the solar system and evolution.

The Catholic church tried and executed Giordano Bruno for heresy, and Galileo Galilei was forced to retract his published belief in heliocentrism. This persecution was organised by the Committee for Propaganda of the Catholic Church, otherwise known as the Inquisition. Publication of Copernicus' ideas could only take place outside the reach of the Inquisition.

The relation of the established Church of England to evolution was more complicated, because a protestant church is not centralised under the authority of a pope. The conservative clerics opposed evolution fiercely, while liberal clerics could see no conflict with their beliefs. Before he published the On the Origin of Species, Darwin was much afraid of the reaction of the church, and spent many years collecting evidence as defence to the expected criticism.

References[change | change source]

  1. Christianity and eduction
  2. "J.L. Heilbron". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2006-09-15. 
  3. Lindberg, David C. (2003). When science and Christianity meet. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-48214-9.  Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help); Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)
  4. Goldstein, Thomas (1995). Dawn of modern science: from the ancient Greeks to the Renaissance. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-306-80637-7.  Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  5. Christianity and science
  6. Are Christians "anti-science?"
  7. Wright, Jonathan (2004). The Jesuits. p. 189. 
  8. church and law[dead link]
  9. BiBle and Law
  10. Good Samaritan. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law. Retrieved January 09, 2010, from website: Samaritan
  11. Chadwick, Owen p. 242.
  12. Hastings, p. 309.
  13. Stark, p. 104.
  14. Religious Affiliation of History's 100 Most Influential People Archived 1 January 2012 at WebCite
  15. Lange F.A. 1879, 1880, 1881. History of materialism and criticism of its recent importance. 3 vols, London: Trubner.
  16. White A.D. 1896. A history of the warfare of science with theology in Christendom. 2 vols, New York.