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.

Influence[change | change source]

The Bible and Christian theology have also strongly influenced Western philosophers and political activists. [8][9] Long held Christian teachings on sexuality and marriage have also been influential in family life.

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.[10]

Science[change | change source]

Christian scholars and scientists have made noted contributions to science and technology fields,[11][12][13] as well as Medicine,[14] both historically and in modern times.[15] Some scholars and historians attribute Christianity to having contributed to the rise of the Scientific Revolution.[16] Most scientists of that time considered themselves Christian such as Nicolaus Copernicus,[17] Galileo Galilei,[18] Johannes Kepler,[19] Isaac Newton[20] and Robert Boyle.[21]

Protestantism has had an important influence on science, according to the Merton thesis, there was a positive correlation between the rise of English Puritanism and German Pietism on the one hand and early experimental science on the other.[22][23][24] Robert K. Merton focused on English Puritanism and German Pietism as having been responsible for the development of the scientific revolution of the 17th and 18th centuries. He explained that the connection between religious affiliation and interest in science was the result of a significant synergy between the ascetic Protestant values and those of modern science.[25]

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". Archived from the original on 2016-04-14. Retrieved 2012-01-25.
  6. Are Christians "anti-science?"
  7. Wright, Jonathan (2004). The Jesuits. p. 189.
  8. "church and law". Archived from the original on 2011-12-27. Retrieved 2012-01-25.
  9. BiBle and Law
  10. "Religious Affiliation of History's 100 Most Influential People". Archived from the original on 2012-01-01. Retrieved 2012-01-25.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  11. Gilley, Sheridan (2006). The Cambridge History of Christianity: Volume 8, World Christianities C.1815-c.1914. Brian Stanley. Cambridge University Press. p. 164. ISBN 0521814561. ... Many of the scientists who contributed to these developments were Christians...
  12. Steane, Andrew (2014). Faithful to Science: The Role of Science in Religion. OUP Oxford. p. 179. ISBN 978-0191025136. ... the Christian contribution to science has been uniformly at the top level, but it has reached that level and it has been sufficiently strong overall ...
  13. L. Johnson, Eric (2009). Foundations for Soul Care: A Christian Psychology Proposal. InterVarsity Press. p. 63. ISBN 978-0830875276. ... . Many of the early leaders of the scientific revolution were Christians of various stripes, including Roger Bacon, Copernicus, Kepler, Francis Bacon, Galileo, Newton, Boyle, Pascal, Descartes, Ray, Linnaeus and Gassendi...
  14. S. Kroger, William (2016). Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis in Medicine, Dentistry and Psychology. Pickle Partners Publishing. ISBN 978-1787203044. Many prominent Catholic physicians and psychologists have made significant contributions to hypnosis in medicine, dentistry, and psychology.
  15. Baruch A. Shalev, 100 Years of Nobel Prizes (2003), Atlantic Publishers & Distributors, p.57: between 1901 and 2000 reveals that 654 Laureates belong to 28 different religions. Most (65.4%) have identified Christianity in its various forms as their religious preference. ISBN 978-0935047370
  16. Some scholars and historians attribute Christianity to having contributed to the rise of the Scientific Revolution:
  17. Pro forma candidate to Prince-Bishop of Warmia, cf. Dobrzycki, Jerzy, and Leszek Hajdukiewicz, "Kopernik, Mikołaj", Polski słownik biograficzny (Polish Biographical Dictionary), vol. XIV, Wrocław, Polish Academy of Sciences, 1969, p. 11.
  18. Sharratt, Michael (1994). Galileo: Decisive Innovator. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 17, 213. ISBN 0-521-56671-1.
  19. "Because he would not accept the Formula of Concord without some reservations, he was excommunicated from the Lutheran communion. Because he remained faithful to his Lutheranism throughout his life, he experienced constant suspicion from Catholics." John L. Treloar, "Biography of Kepler shows man of rare integrity. Astronomer saw science and spirituality as one." National Catholic Reporter, 8 October 2004, p. 2a. A review of James A. Connor Kepler's Witch: An Astronomer's Discovery of Cosmic Order amid Religious War, Political Intrigue and Heresy Trial of His Mother, Harper San Francisco.
  20. Richard S. WestfallIndiana University The Galileo Project. (Rice University). Retrieved 5 July 2008.
  21. "The Boyle Lecture". St. Marylebow Church. Archived from the original on 22 December 2017. Retrieved 18 February 2022.
  22. Cohen, I., ed. (1990). Puritanism and the Rise of Modern Science: The Merton Thesis. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. ISBN 978-0813515304.
  23. Cohen, H. (1994). The scientific revolution: a historiographical inquiry. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 320–321. ISBN 9780226112800. Google Print, pp. 320–321
  24. Ferngren, Gary B. (2002). Science and religion: a historical introduction. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 125. ISBN 9780801870385. Google Print, p.125
  25. Becker, George (December 1992). "The Merton thesis: Oetinger and German Pietism, a significant negative case". Sociological Forum. 7 (4): 642–660. doi:10.1007/bf01112319. S2CID 56239703.