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 globally 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]

Science[change | change source]

Copernicus, a Catholic priest, delayed publication of his work on heliocentrism until the year of his death. The theory attracted some attention among scientists. Decades later, Galileo Galilei took an interest in astronomy, and raised the question more prominently. This brought the attention of the Committee for Propaganda of the Catholic Church, otherwise known as the Inquisition. He was tried, convicted, and forced to retract his published belief in heliocentrism.

Centuries later, the Catholic church had lost interest in subjecting natural philosophy to dogma. The relation of the now separate Church of England to evolution was complicated by the lack of the centralised authority of a Pope. Many conservative clerics opposed evolution fiercely, whilst few liberal clerics saw conflict with their beliefs. Before he published the On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin feared the reaction of the church, and spent years collecting evidence as defence to the expected criticism. Long after heliocentrism was all but universally accepted, some Protestant leaders continued to resist evolution.

References[change | change source]

  1. Christianity and eduction
  2. "J.L. Heilbron". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2006-09-15.
  3. Lindberg, David C.; Numbers, Ronald L. (October 2003). When science and Christianity meet. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-48214-9.
  4. Goldstein, Thomas (April 1995). Dawn of modern science: from the ancient Greeks to the Renaissance. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-306-80637-7.
  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