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Why Did Christianity Succeed?

QUESTION:

What I have been wondering lately is “why” did Christianity win out. There seemed to be much competition in the ancient world between the pagan polytheisms and monotheistic religions. Competition not only between the Jewish religion and Christian religion but within Christianity.

I would be interested in why you think the current version of Christianity won out. Was it purely a matter of cultural evolution and this form of Christianity seemed to benefit people the most, easiest to adhere to, most flexible.

RESPONSE:

There are actually two questions here, both of them really interesting and really important!  One is: why / how did the “orthodox” form of Christianity manage to become dominant within the religion.  I will take a stab at answering that question in a couple of days, but be forewarned: it’s not easy, especially in a 1000-word post on a blog!

The other question is at least as interesting and even harder to answer: how / why did Christianity manage to become the dominant religion of the entire Roman Empire, so that it took over (for a while) pretty much all of the Western world?   This a topic I hope to address in a full-length book down the road, after I write a book on How Jesus Became God (that’ll be next year; I hope to write it in the Spring) and possibly a book on Why Christians Came To Hate the Jews (which I may tackle in a couple of years).   The book on how conquered the Empire is another interesting one, and I don’t have a good title yet (I’m using the banal The Triumph of Christianity for now, in my head).   It will take an entire book to lay out all the issues.

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    VirtualAlex  March 14, 2016

    “In fact, anyone who did worship the pagan gods was not simply making a rather silly mistake. S/he was going to be punished for it. Eternally. In fire. The stakes were high.”

    So Fear got them in and Fear made them stay.

    Much as it is 2000 years later.

  2. Avatar
    marcrm68  June 10, 2016

    Is there any scholarly work on what western civilization might have looked like had Christianity never took off?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 11, 2016

      None that I know of. I’m afraid it’s something we’ll never know.

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