Wars of conquest, the birth of democracy and the foundation of modern civilization characterized the Roman era. However, the era’s single most important contribution to modern society was Rome’s adoption of Christianity. Christianity, having its foundational roots in Judaism, was born in the midst of the Roman era. It has shaped today’s society on many different levels with varying degrees of legal, political and sociological implications.
Christianity was an outgrowth of Judaism, one of the three major monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) practiced during the Roman era. Monotheistic beliefs established its roots as early as 800 B.C. when the Judaic Israelites lived under Babylonian captivity after the end of the reign of King Solomon (Kagan, et. al., 1995, 28.). Eventually, this triumvirate of religions developed as separate and distinct faiths but shared the core belief that there was one God, who reigns supreme over all creation. Each faith held God on a higher status than man and woman and believed that God was an all-powerful being (Kagan, et. al., 1995, 29.). This belief in the higher status of a single God was the foundation of many modern denominations and religions that are monotheistic in nature. Christians were originally persecuted for their faith, which ran against the established polytheistic beliefs of many Greeks and Romans, who worshiped numerous deities such as Zeus, Apollo and Aphrodite. However, by 394 AD., Christianity emerged as the leading religion of Western Civilization when Emperor Theodosius I declared Christianity to be the official state religion of the Roman Empire. (Kagan, et. al., 1995, 206.) Its tenets and beliefs spread throughout the Roman Empire and beyond to the rest of the world. Today, Christianity is a predominant religion in this world, and the impact that it has made can be seen in several different ways.
Laws in many countries have been created in the name of Christianity. The United States Supreme Court has roots that trace back to the Roman era, and has certain aspects derived from it. In the First amendment, there is basic human rights. Everyone in the United States is given these human rights, allowing them to speak freely, assemble in groups, and write and publish anything they want. In the fourteenth amendment, it has equal protection under the law, allowing everyone to receive a fair trial before sentencing. In the Roman era, the government honored the individual and physical body, giving it respect and justice, as well as freedom. Outside of the United States, Christianity has also had an impact on laws. Laws throughout much of Europe are also based on the same sense of Judeo/Christian philosophies as of American laws. France and England have constitutional democracies that are also based on the theme of the idea of individual equality, methods derived from earlier governmental systems in Rome. The democracy in England is very similar to the one in the United States in the sense that they both came about from the Roman era. Although Rome in itself never had a democracy, certain aspects of its government were brought over to modern day, such as the three branches of Government: the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judicial. In Russia, The Greek Orthodox is a nationally recognized religion. Due to its role in Russian history, it has been given full independent rights by its former President, Boris Yeltsin. Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam are also recognized as traditional faiths as well, and given full legal rights to practice their religion. However, there are laws and against any religions that cannot prove their practice for more than 15 years in Russian history. These religions are given hard restrictions and do not posses the freedom of worship that the recognized religions have.
Furthermore, Christianity has had a large impact on world politics. Colonists who desired religious freedom founded the United States. The spread of early monotheistic beliefs such as Christianity was the foundation for the freedom of religious expression that characterizes many Western democracies. Under these democracies, there are rights to protect the freedom to worship. For example, religious clubs of all sorts are allowed to gather on high school and college campuses. The ability to have an organized religious club, group, or sect, that meets every week or month, is a result of the democracy that gives the people a right to assemble. In addition, Germanys’ ruling party was the Christian Democratic Party. It was in power ever since 1948, and has made decisions for that country for decades. The Christian Democratic Union has Christian background and in the decisions that it makes, including the declaration of Greek Orthodox as a national religion. In China, Christianity has had a negative effect on its political regime. Recently, police in central China arrested 130 Chinese worshippers in an underground Protestant Fellowship. As a communist country, China does not allow free religious worship; nonetheless, its citizens still break the law to participate in such activities. In the end, the government will see Christianity as a troubling factor while running communist government; they will see it as a threat to communist power.
Christianity has had major societal implications throughout the world. In the United States, the debate over abortion is a topic that has followed many politicians and has been the basis for many political arguments. The two forefront political parties that are in the center of these debates are the Republican Party (pro-life Christian Fundamentalist group) and the Democratic Party (pro choice). This in itself is an example of how an issue relating to life and individual worth is mixed into everyday society. Important presidential debates have been
centered around pro-life versus pro-choice. The United States society wants to vote a President and political party that supports their own views towards life or choice. In Rwanda, Tootsie tribe nearly eliminated the Hutu tribe due to religious conflict. Both tribes shared the same core belief, but the Hutus practiced their religious methods differently. The devastating result was the genocide of nearly the entire Hutu tribe, due to the inability to settle the differences. In the Philippines during the 18th and 19th century, missionaries traveled to many parts of the Pacific Islands to spread the Gospel, and today, Catholicism is a predominant religion in that area. Not only in the Philippines, but also in Taiwan and Korea, Christian fellowships are very common in most places, but rather small. Society has definitely had some degree of change because of Christianity, whether for the better or for the worse.
Christianity has had a tremendous effect on modern society. Without the influence of Christianity, our world would be very different than it is today. Without the Roman era, modern society would not be as it is. The influences of religious and non-religious scholars and philosophers have perceptively changed the world’s impression of what religion really is, and what it has to do with everyday life. If not for the religious movements in history, one can only imagine what the planet would be like today.
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