Christianity vs Ancient culture: who contributed more to the Western Civilization?

Mar 2013
1,441
Escandinavia y Mesopotamia
... But as far as science goes Christianity inhibits it rather than helps its progress.
Why do you think that and what are your academic sources?

Because I do read a lot of history of science. David C. Lindberg, Edward Grant, Michael H. Shanks and Ronald L. Numbers who are all historians of science would disagree immediately. I do not know any historian of science who support your assertion, so if you could name one academic work I would be glad. I am very sure you cannot. Because the historians of science refute it.

If Christianity inhibits science as you think, then you need to explain the readers why the Scientific Revolution and Industrial Revolution found place in Christian places(Italy and England), and not in Pagan, Islamic, Indian or Chinese hemisphere after all.

For your own sake I suggest you to consult “Galileo goes to jail and other myths about science and religion” edited by Ronald L. Numbers. In Chapter 1 and 2 it deals precisely with the misconception you are holding. If you do google you may find what you are looking for.

EDIT: and just for good sake since discussions in historum are not like in the academia: When I ask for "academic sources" I am refering to works made by historians of science or with relevant expertise. Not some neo-atheistic webpages which promote a certain agenda or crackpot-theories, or an opinion of a journalist, or some words of an astronomer, or a "freelance academian" for whatsoever.
 
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Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,095
I live in an ultra-Christian country and i hear many people say that European culture is based on Christianity and that even atheists should respect the "Christian heritage of Western Civilization". Is it true or false? I believe that whilst Christianity played an important role it was ancient Greece and Rome that truly shaped us:
1. Romans and Greeks developed philosopical trends like stoicism or epicureism, Christianity only took them and used to its profit. Well, epicureism was forbidden in Middle Ages becasue it was seen as ungodly...
That is a bit of exaggeration. For all the the acclaim of the Greek philosophy, post classical philosophies that developed in an Christian environment are as important. The works of Locke and others had a greater role in shaping US government and hence the effect on daily life than Greek philosophy.

It wasn't the Greeks that came with Occam's Razor.

And it was not the pagan Greeks who created the modern university, but medieval Christians. The universities became catalyst of change and new discoveries in a way that Greek institution did not, even the fsmed Plato Academy.

2. All our architecture from Anqtiquity through Middle Ages to modern day is based on Roman and Greek conceptions. Christian temples may be suited for Christian tastes, but they are influenced by Pagan shrines.
Not true. Gothic architecture is not based on Greek conceptions, the Greeks didn't ivent the pointed arch or even the arch for that matter, and the use of windows as a major architectural element is absent in Greek and Roman buildings, but was is an essential feature in medieval and modern architecture.

Also, domestic atrchitecture, both ordinary and great msnsions, owes little to the Greek in style. The Greek and Roman influence is confined largely to large public buildings.

3. History of European science began in Antiquity.
Besides, while nations conquered by Romans sooner or later adapted Latin culture (except for the East which was Hellenic), while after 1500 years Christianity still has not entirely asimilated any nation and many Pagan rituals are celebrated until today, only covered by Christian ideology. What do you think?
The expanse of Latin was due to the work of Christians, and it would have been a dead and unused language today if not for them. It was Christians who made Latin the language of learning in countries like Sweden which had never been under Roman rule.

And for all the Greek scientific achievements, it never occurred to them to perform simply experiments like Galileo that would have shown many of their scientific theories were just wrong. Many early modern scientist had to struggle to overcome the wrong scientific theories of the Greeks.
 
Mar 2017
878
Colorado
You might want to look at this thread on a closely related topic:
Pagan Societies were barbaric because Christian values were not around.

To paraphrase the creator of the thread: Christianity brought something new to the world, an improvement to human culture, which wasn't present in previous civilizations.

There are religious based arguments, and historically based ones ... quite a few. The dead horse has been beaten into a rug.


With respect to the Greeks incorrect scientific theories. An internationally known physician named Nierenstein made a hobby of looking up ancient manuscripts and trying to reproduce experiments. He found a document from around 45 BCE that described a chemical method for detecting "black water fever" (one of the stages of malaria). Arguably, this was a Greek physician attached to the royal palace in Alexandria, and Egyptians were much more practical in their medicine than the Greeks. In any case, Nierentstein reproduced the results exactly. Yeah, a lot of medicines are nonsense, but a good number of them worked, like antimony for bilharzia. I'm not pushing the Greeks, but there was a lot of Egyptian science that was rock solid. Euclid? That would be "Euclid of Alexandria". According to Okasha El-Daly, Egyptians were discussing evolution and natural selection around 2000 BCE. In almost every instance of a "Western" concept, there's something in the past preceding it.
 

Corvidius

Ad Honorem
Jul 2017
3,047
Crows nest
About 50% of medicines used by the Egyptians are still in use, and they invented prosthetics.

On the topic, I think it wrong to say that any advance in science is the result of religion, and to point to the likes of Isaac Newton and say that as he was a Christian then it is Christianity that is responsible in some way for his discoveries. Likewise being a "pagan" had no influence on Archimedes. They did what they did because they were capable of great things in their own right, not because of a belief in superstitious mumbo jumbo.

As for as Christianity being more "moral", I refer to the thread linked to by Dios, and point out for the umpteenth time that the morals Christianity or any of the Abrahamic religions are most certainly not superior to Ma'at.
 

Rodger

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
6,171
US
As for as Christianity being more "moral", I refer to the thread linked to by Dios, and point out for the umpteenth time that the morals Christianity or any of the Abrahamic religions are most certainly not superior to Ma'at.
We could argue this all day, and in the end, it will simply be our opinions. However, no other religion of which I am aware - at least in the western world, taught to love others as self. Hammurabi had his code, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but there is a difference between justice as revenge or getting even and mercy and compassion that encourages one to turn the other cheek - not that many of us are able to practice this consistently, but it still a moral code. And the 10 Commandments are the basis for much of our laws. I am not sure of any other code that is as thorough, extensive and persuasive as this.
 

Corvidius

Ad Honorem
Jul 2017
3,047
Crows nest
And the 10 Commandments are the basis for much of our laws. I am not sure of any other code that is as thorough, extensive and persuasive as this.
On judgement after death, all Egyptians needed to have proclaimed before the 42 assessors [judges] that they had not committed any of the 42 "negative confessions", "sins" in Christian terms. There were a further 40 "negative confession" for all priests. Given that everybody who worked in a temple was also a priest, even the lowliest janitor, this includes a significant percentage of the entire population who had to pass a total of 82 "negative confessions". Just the basic 42 "negative confessions" cover far more than the Ten Commandments.

A sample of 17.
1. I have not committed sin.
3. I have not stolen.
4. I have not slain men and women.
8. I have not uttered lies.
11. I have not committed adultery.
12. I have made none to weep.
15. I am not a man of deceit.
19. I have not been angry without just cause.
20. I have not debauched the wife of any man.
23. I have terrorized none.
26. I have not shut my ears to the words of truth.
27. I have not blasphemed.
28. I am not a man of violence .
30. I have not acted or judged with undue haste.
33. I have wronged none, I have done no evil.
36. I have never raised my voice.
38. I have not acted with evil rage.

To have abided by these confessions does not mean that if it an act is not mentioned then it must be moral or legal, it's that these specific acts were considered worthy of reciting at judgement. There was still the legal code that needed to be obeyed, and confession 1 is in fact a catch all, for if you have broken the legal code, then you have sinned.

They could of course lie at judgement, but that would just compound the problem for them as all is known to Ma'at, and a lie would add to the weight of their heart on the scales against the feather of Ma'at. This is not a strict puritanical moral code, excepting major crimes such as murder and rape, or in their times, tomb robbery and desecration of the dead, for who has never blasphemed or raised their voice. This is why your heart was weighed against the feather of Ma'at, and only if your heart outweighed the feather would your "soul" be condemned to the "second death", total destruction.

In regards to Ma'at, I'll quote your own words about the Ten Commandments:

I am not sure of any other code that is as thorough, extensive and persuasive as this
While I will agree with those words as applied to Ma'at, would you reconsider and ask yourself if they are still applicable to the Ten Commandments, that's merely ten, not forty two or eighty two.
 
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Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,720
So much of what is understood to be 'Christianity' today is merely repurposed older religions. I struggle to think of a single unique element that Christianity introduced. Probably the most important and relatively rare element is that anyone could become Christian and be part of a special elevated brotherhood separate from culture, language, and ethnicity. There were other religions before Christianity that did this also but none succeeded nearly so well while Islam began in similar circumstances to Christianity and acknowledges most of the Christian prophets it emphasizes the revealed word of God while Christianity had much more mystical/spiritual roots that despite many efforts by some people it never totally outgrew.
 

Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,095
About 50% of medicines used by the Egyptians are still in use, and they invented prosthetics.
Contrary to what you imply, Egyptian medicine is nowhere near comparable to modern medicine. The other 50% of the medicines not used by the ancient Egyptians were far more important to modern health and increased life span.

Development of instutions like modern university, which were a direct outgrowth of the medieval universities created by the Church, played an important role in the development of modern medicine.

The allowing of human dissection by the Church, which the ancient pagans did not allow, was critical for the development of modern human anatomy and modern medicine. Gslen's work is full of anatomical errors that had to be later corrected.

On the topic, I think it wrong to say that any advance in science is the result of religion, and to point to the likes of Isaac Newton and say that as he was a Christian then it is Christianity that is responsible in some way for his discoveries. Likewise being a "pagan" had no influence on Archimedes. They did what they did because they were capable of great things in their own right, not because of a belief in superstitious mumbo jumbo.
To insist religion played no role at in the development of science is not valid.

Religion can play s major role in the development of science by creating the instutions that foster the growth of science, like the University as I have said, and also by fostering the mindset that also helped the creation of modern science. The idea that the universe was created by a rational God made the study of the natural a worthwhile study, for to understand creation is to gain understanding of the creator. Reason is both important and vslusble tool

But just as important, and this is where the ancient Greeks failed, is the belief that revelation trumps reason. If an observable fact doesn't match the theory, then the theory must be replaced or modified. While God and his universe he made is rational, Christians unlike the ancient Greeks were willing to acknowledge they wouldn't necessarily understand all of. The Greeks would persist with a theory despite it conflicting with observable facts, if they felt their reasoning was sound, such as Aristotle's law's of motions, which have been easily disproved if he had bothered to conduct done experiments or made some careful observations.

Another factor that aided science was the idea of universal literacy, which was a direct outgrowth of religion. In the desire to encourage people reading sacred writing, both Christians and Buddhist encouraged literacy. It was the Buddhistd who brought literacy to Japan, snd Christians who brought writing to Ireland and other parts of Europe. The ancient world had no desire if encouraging literacy among the common. Increased literacy is a benefit to science.

Modern science wasn't created by the ancients. Pagan Greek science in 300 CE was not significantly more advance than it was in 300 BC, a thousand years later. However, European science was significantly more advance in the 17th century than it was in the 7th century.

As for as Christianity being more "moral", I refer to the thread linked to by Dios, and point out for the umpteenth time that the morals Christianity or any of the Abrahamic religions are most certainly not superior to Ma'at.
The Christians brought an end to infanticide, which was a common feature in the ancient world, among other things.

Nor did Ma'at play any role in the ending slavery, which Christianity did. Christian influence played an essential role in ending slavery, even though it did not create the institution. (While it took a little time. Christians did eventually lead the effort in stamping out the instution. Despite just as long a time, Ma'at made no effort at all.).

And even if Ma'at encouraged charity, it never encouraged international charity - Ma'at never encouraged sending aid to another country suffering a famine, or from an earthquake. Christianity has.

In other areas, encouraging people not to rob, murder, I agree Ma'at is probably not much different.
 
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Corvidius

Ad Honorem
Jul 2017
3,047
Crows nest
Contrary to what you imply, Egyptian medicine is nowhere near comparable to modern medicine. The other 50% of the medicines not used by the ancient Egyptians were far more important to modern health and increased life span.

Development of instutions like modern university, which were a direct outgrowth of the medieval universities created by the Church, played an important role in the development of modern medicine.

The allowing of human dissection by the Church, which the ancient pagans did not allow, was critical for the development of modern human anatomy and modern medicine. Gslen's work is full of anatomical errors that had to be later corrected.



To insist religion played no role at in the development of science is not valid.

Religion can play s major role in the development of science by creating the instutions that foster the growth of science, like the University as I have said, and also by fostering the mindset that also helped the creation of modern science. The idea that the universe was created by a rational God made the study of the natural a worthwhile study, for to understand creation is to gain understanding of the creator. Reason is both important and vslusble tool

But just as important, and this is where the ancient Greeks failed, is the belief that revelation trumps reason. If an observable fact doesn't match the theory, then the theory must be replaced or modified. While God and his universe he made is rational, Christians unlike the ancient Greeks were willing to acknowledge they wouldn't necessarily understand all of. The Greeks would persist with a theory despite it conflicting with observable facts, if they felt their reasoning was sound, such as Aristotle's law's of motions, which have been easily disproved if he had bothered to conduct done experiments or made some careful observations.

Another factor that aided science was the idea of universal literacy, which was a direct outgrowth of religion. In the desire to encourage people reading sacred writing, both Christians and Buddhist encouraged literacy. It was the Buddhistd who brought literacy to Japan, snd Christians who brought writing to Ireland and other parts of Europe. The ancient world had no desire if encouraging literacy among the common. Increased literacy is a benefit to science.

Modern science wasn't created by the ancients. Pagan Greek science in 300 CE was not significantly more advance than it was in 300 BC, a thousand years later. However, European science was significantly more advance in the 17th century than it was in the 7th century.



The Christians brought an end to infanticide, which was a common feature in the ancient world, among other things.

Nor did Ma'at play any role in the ending slavery, which Christianity did. Christian influence played an essential role in ending slavery, even though it did not create the institution. (While it took a little time. Christians did eventually lead the effort in stamping out the instution. Despite just as long a time, Ma'at made no effort at all.).

And even if Ma'at encouraged charity, it never encouraged international charity - Ma'at never encouraged sending aid to another country suffering a famine, or from an earthquake. Christianity has.

In other areas, encouraging people not to rob, murder, I agree Ma'at is probably not much different.
What I actually said about Egyptian medicine was that 50% of the medicine they used back then is still in use today, without any implication that their medicine was better than ours, so why distort what I wrote?

In Egypt the temples served as places of learning, so Christianity has nothing to brag about in that regard.

It's possible to point to Egypt and say that only a few were educated. On the other hand, it's possible to point to, for instance, Britain, and show that there was no universal education until about 1870. Before then education was paid for.

Infanticide was never practiced in Egypt.

As for scientific advances, you may think it is due to belief in superstition, I know it is simply the consequences of a progression that has taken place since we stopped being hunter gatherers. At various times tipping points are reached and things advance at a greater pace,for instance in modern times the invention of electronics, an invention of man, not a supernatural being.

To make a statement about Ma'at not ending slavery when slavery by Christians countries existed well into the 19th century AD is, well, not a valid point.

And you complain that Ma'at did not encourage "International charity", really, thousands of years ago. So if an earthquake occurred in China in 2000 BC the Egyptians should have sent aid? So, how long has Christianity existed, and how long has the concept of "International aid" existed. Also, are only Christians charitable? are only Christians decent humane people?

The 42 "negative confessions" makes the Ten Commandments looks very inadequate, particularly when four of them are specific to the belief and worship of the Abrahamic god, leaving only six to use as a moral code. Of the 42 "Negative confessions", four are about the gods, but that leaves 38 as a basis for a moral code, not a paltry six. Then there are the other 40 "negative confessions".
 
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