Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Worship that

Gladiators from the Zliten mosaic.Image via WikipediaThe idea of a world without Christianity has really got to me (gladiators in Elizabethan London!) and I've been thinking about alternatives that are equally long-lasting religions.

Shinto is a good candidate because it has persisted, has no scripture and is not based around any messianic figure. It is about man's essential goodness, emphasises ritual and is about appeasing spirits. It strikes me as a good model for those pagan religions that might be prevalent in a world without Christ. It's pretty local too so doesn't need a Vatican equivalent handing down bulls.

Then there is Hinduism, it too lacks scripture, has no single founder and no common teachings. It's a way of life rather than a didactic religion. It also has multiple deities at its head. Again a good model for what might have been. I can also consider Taoism, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism. And those are just the ones that have survived until today.

The more I read about Christianity the more I realise that the reason it succeeded way back when was not just because of the hope it gave the down-trodden but because it co-opted so many existing practices. Being a Christian meant doing a lot of what you always did but it got a new name and you did it in a different place.

A case could be made for Christianity having a civilising influence in that it tempted people to stop going to war. But there were lots of other similar influences around then too. The example of Rome helped in that life got better for a lot of people under its rule. And a lot of people were dead because of it but that does go with the territory. And it has to be said bloodshed did not end when Christianity was being widely practiced.

It was a force for disruption too, all those messianic warlords with the light of heaven blinding them and slaughtering those who refused to cleave to what they see as a loving God. Without those holy wars, what would Europe have looked like?
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1 comment:

Allan said...

Have you read Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt? He posits a similar question to yours--what if the Black Death had wiped out 99% of Europeans, rather than 1/3, leaving the world virtually without Europeans or Christians? Imagine the last 700 years totally different. I won't spoil it for you.

I tracked to this post after seeing a C4C tag on your latest submission to online writer's workshop. I was thinking of clicking. I've got three C4C things up there myself I just posted in the last several days.

Totally different answer to your question than either you or Robinson came to--Marco Polo. He returned from China with pasta and gunpowder. Guns (and diseases soldiers brought) wiped out the great civilizations of the Americas. Then colonialism brought Christianity there and to Africa. So, yes there would still be Christians without Marco Polo. But they would be far less prevalent.

Last answer, prostyletizing. Judaism didn't want converts--indeed a rabbi has to refuse you three times symbolically before you can convert. Buddhism, Shintoism and Hinduism really couldn't care less that you are not Buddhist, Shinto or HIndu. The great world's religions where it is your fault that the world is not perfect because you don't believe as they do are Christianity and Islam. No Jain or Bahai has ever put a gun to anyone's head and said "covert or die."