From a free book by Paul Rosenberg at: https://www.freemansperspective.com/
The Replacement Religions Of The West
Western civilization formed in the wake of Rome, based mainly upon Christian ideals. And because of those ideals, Europe became vastly different from Rome. Most overtly, Western civilization ejected slavery from Europe. To put it simply, European Christians replaced slavery (the economic driver of Rome and of more or less every civilization up to that time), with a version of free-market capitalism.
These facts aren’t honestly arguable, presuming that one looks at the facts rather than beloved dogmas. The population of the Western Roman Empire was roughly 25% slave in 476 AD, the traditional date of its end. By 1000 AD that percentage was down to roughly zero.
The reason slavery was ejected from Europe was clearly not Roman or Greek ideas: those were proud slave societies. Slavery was ejected because Christianity insisted that all men were brothers. The usual muddiness and complications of human behavior aside, it was this ethic that made it happen.
Western civilization, then, was a Christian capitalist civilization, and remained so for a long time. This is not to say, of course, that European Christianity was ever pure. The teachings of Jesus were deeply compromised by the end of the first century, let alone the fifth or eighth or twelfth. Nonetheless, this religion carried important ideas, and those were enough to deliver progress.
The Big Change
The big change to Western civilization began in the late Middle Ages. There is far too much to explain here, but a primary factor was the Church (the centralized one in Rome) losing legitimacy and the rising states (previously wildly decentralized) fighting to capture it.
Into this mess came religious and scientific revolutions, both of which were used by centralizing powers to champion themselves. The religious revolutionaries fought to change Christianity and the newly arising states fought to disempower the Church. (Though some joined with it.)
The scientific revolutionaries first treated religion as a personal matter. Then, after about 1750, the destruction of religion came to the fore, and of Christianity in particular. Personal choice was no longer enough and attacking belief was required for membership in the club.
This is a tremendous simplification, of course, but as a general description it stands. And since that time Christianity has been steadily pushed out of Western civilization.
Such a movement, and especially one embodying the urge to tear down, involves many problems, but the crucial one is this: It pulled down Christian ethics and replaced them with almost nothing.
I can well understand complaints about the Church and what was portrayed as Christianity, but tearing down is juvenile and barbaric. A sensible person does not seek to tear the heart out of a civilization and to replace it with nothing.
Nonetheless, this is what the late Enlightenment did and what its intellectual heirs have continued. As a result, the philosophies that replaced Christianity in the West’s centers of learning have been Marxist-Leninism, cultural Marxism, postmodernism and deconstructionism. To call these ideologies misanthropic would be a tremendous understatement.
Enter The Replacement Religions
Carl Jung made a very important point when he wrote this in The Undiscovered Self :
You can take away a man’s gods, but only to give him others in return.
Whatever reasons stand behind this, it is a broadly true statement. Moreover, the post-Enlightenment philosophies that have reigned in Western institutions have negated the individual: atomized them, minimized them, and made their individual lives meaningless.
As a result, Westerners have gone after one replacement religion after another. These weren’t called religions, of course (that would be the brand of death in the current environment), but they were clearly religions in substance.
The first was the French Revolution, but we won’t take time for that. The next big one was communism/socialism, which ended (we may hope) with the greatest death toll in human history.
In recent times we’ve had several flavors of “save the planet,” with a quasi-scientific clergy (hint: consensus is not science) and lots of harsh dogma, leading as it does to heretic hunting. Disagreement is now being punished and echoes of the Middle Ages are coming forward.
For all its errors, Christianity generally maintained that all humans were children of God, a belief that elevated and dignified the individual. None of the replacement religions have done that. Rather, they glorified and dignified the collective or the institution, relegating individuals to outer realms of stupidity and depravity.
Now we can choose.
We can join with the new dogma and continue in its long parade of tearing down and collectivizing. Or, we can return to the dignity of the individual.
If we wish, we can work to upgrade Christianity or its close cousin, Judaism. Or, we can choose any number of decentralizing ventures, which, by their very nature, disempower the collective and dignify the individual.
In other words, we can think for ourselves and choose from an unrestricted pallet. Then, once our understanding improves, we can choose again. And as it improves yet more, we can choose again.
But perhaps most importantly, we can recognize our mutual dignity and value: The beauty and potential of the individual, separate from and above any institution and any collective.
I wish this was Christianity as I’ve experienced it. Instead, it’s paradigm was that only select individuals who respond acceptably become God’s children (prooftext: John 1:12).
It’s this belief I see elevating “individualism” wherein some individuals are deemed God’s children and in effect seen as superior to the rest. Thus, it’d be better to see humanity more as a unity, by affirming as many faiths do, that all humanity is indeed God’s dear offspring.
I never heard anything about Christians being superior, rather it’s that we are all fallen and in need of a Savior. We are all made in the image of God but like a million other choices , we can follow Christ or not and one choice is superior to the other. It’s the path that’s superior not the person yet precisely because of God’s love of humanity I believe unbelievers will have an opportunity after this life to make that better choice.
Right, I did not say that I “heard” people’s pride say they were superior. When I said the logic "in effect" was on display, my experience as a pastor, perhaps different than yours, was that when as you put it, we see ourselves as those making the “superior choice” compared to most people, and that we will thus get eternal bliss, while those going the inferior route get eternal torture, it’s hard not to feel that we did the superior thing because we are less perverse than those who will get it in the neck.
Indeed, I saw superior disdain of unbelieving outsiders on a regular basis.
I think the French Revolution could also be called “The Secular Revolution”.
That’s the opposite of Jesus behavior.
I prefer groups (always small) made up of true individuals. I left the ‘organized church’ because of ‘groupthink’ that stifled individuality, and most of my Christian friends have had somewhat the same experience; they made choices that ‘individuated’ them and are by far more interesting as people, imo, than those who are happiest in a herd.
I am not ‘down’ on Christianity - it appears to me to be far superior - as a Path - to anything that the ‘world’ has been able to come up with, so I don’t apologize for it. The long posts above resonate with what I believe are the real and invaluable contributions of ‘Judeo-Christian’ worldviews. In that context I trust that Jesus is calling for a choice concerning His person and his Truth - calling to the whole world of dear people to turn to Him.
In other words I am not a post-modern or post-Christian person. I still believe in Truth. Surprisingly, the concept of Truth is not very popular in the current climate.
Surprisingly? Who is the god of this world?
I sympathize with the plight you describe and probably wouldn’t remain committed to church and worship, except that we found a rare small fellowship that accepts diversity of individual views.
Yet the dilemma for us who think it’s important that folk make a choice on Jesus and the truth of the Christian worldview, and yet whose version of that makes tolerating any organized Christianity unlikely, may be that for 2000 years the spread of that world view and the choice concerning Jesus and his truth mainly relied upon the institutions of organized Christianity. It’s even what exposed many of us to it!
It seems plausible that if everyone abandoned church and the institutions of Christianity in the way we seem to need to do, I’m not sure the message of Christianity would remain viable in very many places.
Well, unfortunately, that has never been the case. Ask any die hard believers in their denominations idea of salvation and there will be a huge variance in understanding. Kind of comical actually…
Exactly, that’s was a quote Dave supplied that I also challenged.
I would call it the Christian worldview rather than Judeo-Christian, since Christianity diverges from Judaism significantly over the issue of who are children of God.
Slavery was abolished in the UK in 1833 - that’s approaching two millennia after Christ’s death. If Christ is the reason for the end of slavery, that’s a long time between cause and effect.
If we look at this timeline for the abolition of slavery you’ll see that slavery is abolished in non Christian parts of the world much earlier eg.
221–206 BC Qin Dynasty - Measures to eliminate the landowning aristocracy include the abolition of slavery and the establishment of a free peasantry who owed taxes and labor to the state.
Wang Mang, first and only emperor of the Xin Dynasty, usurped the Chinese throne and instituted a series of sweeping reforms, including the abolition of slavery and radical land reform from 9–12 A.D.
Do you disagree that the Christian worldview in general has actually benefitted the world?
I think Christianity as a faith and as a values system has been of benefit to the world, but Christianity’s involvement with the politics of successive empires starting with Rome has inevitably corrupted it so that some of the things done in the name of the religion have been no better than if people had been following a different or no faith. Christianity is at its best when it is speaking truth to the powers of this world rather than wielding power itself.
On slavery, Christians have been on both sides of the debate using the Bible to argue both ways. Thankfully those who were speaking truth to power won the argument.
I guess I wasn’t really asking for a critique of what some ‘christians’ have done. That is all blathered far and wide against Christianity.
It was more asking - what HAS it done? Has it opened up scientific investigation, has it opened up the arts, has it had a good influence on liberal education, has it emphasized family life and community, has it taught true morality, does it give great hope that liberates from fear - I could go on.
I’m not unaware of other cultures and their contributions; but Christianity to an unbiased eye has done incredible things.
Also i think it contributed to the founding of America (sorry Paidion) because Christians wanted religious freedom from the RCC as well as Kings.
On science Christianity did indeed contribute for example Gregor Mendel’s discoveries that led to modern genetics. However as science advanced, misplaced fears that it would render God irrelevant led to the growth of a virulent anti science movement within Christianity that from the 19th century till today disputes the validity of scientific evidence even while enjoying the benefits from it.
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I wasn’t asking for criticisms and downers, I was hoping to emphasize the generous gifts that God has bestowed on the world through those that follow Christ and are influenced by him.
I do get the criticisms and such but was hoping for some positives.
The OP I thought was excellent - and true.