Bronze-level article


From RationalWiki
(Redirected from Christians)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Christ died for
our articles about

Icon christianity.svg
Devil's in the details
The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as His father, in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.
Thomas Jefferson[1]
I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.
Mahatma Gandhi[2]

Christianity is a monotheistic (or trinitarian) religion that grew out of Judaism as practiced between 200 BCE and 100 CE.[3] The primary distinctions between Christianity and Judaism include:

Generally, under the "New Covenant", anyone who believes in the Son of God can dwell at God's side in Heaven in an eternal afterlife.

Christianity is the largest of the Abrahamic religions by number of adherents, though it's divided into many denominations and sects. It includes three major branches:

(to find out where they came from, with indications of what they believe, see the basic history of Christianity). Of course, the variety of beliefs and practices between the branches and within the various denomination is huge. Primary disagreements cover: the nature of God, the nature of Jesus, the role of Church authority, the validity of various texts,Wikipedia and the question of how people can "access" God.

Origins and early history[edit]

Early Christianity had roots in a number of religious and philosophical traditions, notably including:

  1. Judaism (theology, eschatology and apocalypticism)
  2. Zoroastrianism (theology, angelology, demonology, and eschatology)
  3. Hellenistic philosophy (mostly Stoicism and Platonism)

The earliest followers of Jesus' sect (or cult, in the technical sense of the term) focused on him as a teacher, a prophet, and a miracle-worker; in the beginning, there was only a hint of messianic aspects regarding Jesus' role. Modern scholars and academics of the Bible (historians of Christianity, hebraists, exegetes, and theologians), after centuries of research, analysis, textual criticism, and hermeneutic approaches to the Sacred texts (together with the discoveries of biblical archeology, like the Dead Sea Scrolls)Wikipedia have finally come to the point to understand who was Jesus, what did he say and do, what Christianity was while he was still alive, and what did it become after his death.

The Christian Church[note 1] as we and the entire world have known it for 2000 years did not exist at all during and shortly after Jesus' lifetime: Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew, and the first followers of Jesus movement were all Jews themselves — they had grown up in the Jewish tradition, practicing Judaism, following the Mosaic Law and worshipping the God of Israel alone, and they all continued to be Jews until they died; therefore not one of them, starting from Jesus himself, shared the belief that Jesus was a divine being (i.e., the Son of God or God incarnate!), because this would have been an indefensible violation of the First Commandment, clearly echoed in the Shema Yisrael, the basic prayer for all the Jews:

Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.
Deuteronomy 6:4

Paul of Tarsus, a Hellenized and zealous[note 2] Pharisee who persecuted the first Jewish Christians for a while and turned into a late convert to the Jesus movement after a few years, came to be the figure who completely eradicated the Jewish Christian faith from its Jewish context and roots, making a distinct and totally different religion out of it by preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles (non-Jews: Greeks and Romans) all over the Roman Empire, distorting it with his own theology and christology (together, these make the core of Pauline Christianity), even misrepresenting the message to make it more palatable to proselytes.[4]

The Jews in the Christian community of Jerusalem, then the leading centre of Jesus movement, fiercely opposed Paul's efforts to convert the Gentiles, but they weren't able to stop him or to disestablish the Christian communities that he founded; his mission would go on to become the dominant Church, and that's what happened after James' killing (62 CE) and the disaster brought by the first Jewish–Roman War,Wikipedia which ended with the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem (70 CE):

[...] the original apostolic Christianity that came before Paul, and developed independently of him, by those who had known and spent time with Jesus, was in sharp contrast to Paul's version of the new faith. This lost Christianity held sway during Paul's lifetime, and only with the death of James in A.D. 62, followed by the brutal destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70, did it begin to lose its influence as the center of Jesus movement. Ironically, it was the production and final editing of the New Testament itself, [...] supporting Paul's version of Christianity, that ensured first the marginalization, and subsequently the death of this original form of Christianity [...].
—James D. Tabor, Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity (2013), p. 24, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, NY, ISBN 978-1-4391-3498-6.

Paul described his and other followers of Christ (the actual word "Christian" doesn't appear in the canonal books until the 5th century) in his epistles (ca. 50 to 58 CE). In 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 (53 to 57 CE), Paul warns of minds being "corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ" by "another Jesus, whom we have not preached," "another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted" but it is not clear if Paul meant there were others using the name "Jesus" preaching their own gospel or if there were variant teachings in general. What is clear is that other epistles and later Gospels (giving various amounts of knowledge about Jesus' life and ministry) appeared after Paul's death, resulting in splinter groups like the Church of Mary, the Church of Peter, the Church of Simon, and the Church of Judas.

It is unclear which Gospel (canonical or apocryphal) actually appeared first, what order the canonical Gospels were written in, or even when before 180 CE (when what would become the canonical Gospels are quoted at length in Irenaeus' Against Heresies[5]) they were written. The generally accepted dating sequence for Marcan priority[6] is Mark at c. 70 CE, Matthew at c. 80 CE, Luke at c. 90 CE, and John at c. 100 CE, but these dates are assumptions and there is no real evidence that any of these gospels were written before the end of the 1st century.[7] Moreover, these are the Gospels eventually declared canonical by Irenaeus c. 180 CE; some people estimate that by that time, there were 30 to 40 Gospels floating around.[citation needed]

The one thing that can be said with any certainly is that the first written Gospels were likely based on oral traditions — which could have differed wildly from actual events. That said, some things can be determined from both the canonical and heretical Gospel reconstructions such as Robert M. Price's The Pre-Nicene New Testament: Fifty-four Formative Texts, Bart Ehrman's Lost Scriptures, and Robert J. Miller's The Complete Gospels.

In the time-frame of the writing of the Gospel of Mark (c. 70 to 100 CE), there are suggestions that the early churches were as much political movements as they were religious, were actively challenging the authority of the priesthood(s), and contained a strong sense of the individual's right to access God without priestly intercession.

The two other synoptic gospel accounts, Gospel of Matthew (c. 80 to 100 CE) and Gospel of Luke (c. 90 to c. 130 CE, based in part on Mark) and the Gospel of John (c. 100 to c. 140 CE) begin to show the tears in the fabric as the Churches fight over the message and meaning of Jesus. Was Jesus a friend to the Jews and an enemy of the Romans, or the other way around?[note 3] Was Jesus mostly human, his miracles few? Or was he godly, largely a magician, performing tricks at every turn?[note 4]

As attested to in Irenaeus' Against Heresies, by c. 180 there were many versions of Christianity, with many of them having Gospels outside the canonical four. From the 2nd century onward, the "chief heresies, as defined by later orthodoxy, included Docetism, Montanism, Novatianism, Apollinarianism, Nestorianism, Eutychianism, Arianism, Pelagianism, Donatism, Monophysitism, and Monothelitism".[8]

Despite the efforts of the First Council of Nicaea, convened by order of the Roman emperor Constantine I in 325 CE (and which tried to crush all divergent philosophies, theologies, and texts out of existence, and to create define the first "official" orthodoxy), Christianity would continue to fracture and schism. Around the time of the Emperor Marcian (reigned 450 to 457 CE), Christianity was branching off into Coptic, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Syica, Armenian Apostolic, and Malankara churches as well as into the better-known Eastern (Greek) Orthodox and Roman Catholic schism. Many such splinter-groups would survive into the present day.

Roman Catholicism Christianity picked up various pagan ideas and converted them to fit a Christian framework. The concept of numen ("divinity", "divine presence", or "divine will", depending on context) eventually became rule by divine right or the will of God. Tutelary deities (a guardian, patron or protector of a particular place, geographic feature, person, lineage, nation, culture or occupation) was broken up into Saints (for example, instead of praying to Hermes/Mercury for safe travel, you prayed to St. Christopher, and Goddess Aphrodite became Saint Aphrodisius[9])[10][11] and Guardian Angels[note 5] The pagan concept of Genius loci ("spirit of place") was also assimilated into saints.[12]

The aspects of Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory can be seen in the Elysium (Islands of the Blessed), Punishment Grounds, and Fields of Asphodel of Tartarus.

So what you had was basically a 'Meet the new boss Same as the old boss' situation.


Taken as a whole, the only single requirement to be a Christian is the belief that Jesus is the Messiah, and that he "died and was risen for our sins."

The Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Churches share many commonalities that begin with what was written in the Apostle's Creed, 390 CE.[note 6]

was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried: he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from there he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
—Apostles' Creed

It is somewhat worth noting that each line in the Apostles' Creed marks a belief that was opposed or contested by a lesser Church at the time. Gnostics, for example, did not believe Jesus was flesh, therefore he was not born and did not die.

Each specific branch of Christianity, and each denomination within those branches, have other specific views about:

Theological issues[edit]

  • The nature of God — Is God one or three?[note 7] Is God male, or is it also female, or all, or none? Does the Old and New Testament describe the same God or different gods?
  • The nature of Christ — Is Jesus loving? Is he a vengeful Redeemer?
  • The nature of Jesus — did Jesus actually exist as a human being? Was Jesus' connection to God by birth or by baptism?
  • The nature of saints — Is a saint worthy of veneration? Can saints grant prayers? Do saints even exist?
  • The nature of Mary (the mother of Jesus) — Can she heal people? Should she be worshiped? Was she a virgin all her life?
  • The nature of Sin — Is sin a representation of mere human failings? Is sin a true root of evil in all humans? Is personal sin (the things you yourself do) distinct from Original Sin, which every human shares regardless of their acts and deeds?
  • The nature of the Afterlife — Do the souls of believers go directly to heaven, or do they have to make a stopover in Purgatory if their lives weren't completely sinless? Or are they "asleep" until the return of Jesus?
  • Intercession — Can anyone speak with God, or do they require a go-between ordained by the Church?
  • Sacraments — What are they? Do they even exist? Are they necessary?

Church organizational issues[edit]

  • Priests - What is their role or should there even be priests?
  • Pope - Is there one head of the Church? Does he possess the power of infallibility, and how is he selected?
  • Liturgical language - What languages can or should be used?
  • What is the role of women in the Church? In society?
  • What about gays, abortion, and other "social" issues?
  • Which translation of the Bible should we use?
  • Is the Bible to be understood as literal truth?

Every time an important or trivial question could not be resolved, the Church splintered, leading to the host of denominations and sects that exist today.

At various times, Gnostics, Cathars, Protestants, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Quakers, Mormons, Universalists, and many other groups have been called heretical or non-Christian by other Christian groups. Historically, heresy was, in most Churches, considered an act equivalent to treason, and in situations where a Church had temporal power, disputes over doctrine led to massive persecution, torture, and murder. Not many people are bothered about heretics these days, though, and no one who is has any power; not yet, at least.

Theologians have long grappled with the idea of "What actually makes a Christian". Writer C.S. Lewis promulgated a definition known as "Mere Christianity," and some Evangelical groups use the Four Spiritual Laws as a basic working definition for proselytization purposes.


Probably the most fundamental concept of Christianity is that the inherent imperfection of humanity (caused by original sin according to some traditions) requires salvation, given by the grace of God, in order for humanity to reside in the presence of God after death.

Through Jesus[edit]

Prior to Christianity's take on the issue, salvation was in part accomplished by sacrificing animals to atone for a person's sins.[note 8] According to Christian doctrine,[13][14] Jesus was the final sacrifice on the Cross. His death brought about the end of the necessity to make continual sacrifices and obey the thousands of laws that the Jews had.[15]

This, however, presents variantsWikipedia depending of the historical moment and/or denomination which include:

  • Ransom theory of atonementWikipedia (that Jesus was offered as a ransom to Satan after Adam and Eve had basically sold mankind over to the Devil at the time of The Fall was prominent in the early Middle Ages.
  • Satisfaction theory of atonementWikipedia (that Jesus redeemed humanity through making satisfaction for humankind's disobedience through his own supererogatory (ie, doing more than what was needed) obedience) is present in Catholicism.
  • Penal substitutionWikipedia (Christ, voluntarily submitting to God the Father's plan, was punished (penalized) in the place of sinners (substitution), with sin here being also Adam and Eve's screw-up in the Garden of Eden, thus satisfying the demands of justice so God can justly forgive sins making us at one with God (atonement)) is used in Protestantism.

Deeds or Faith?[edit]

So if Jesus' death alone was not enough to rid the world, or more importantly, individuals, of sin, and allow one to reside with God, how exactly should one obtain one's salvation? As with every other theological doctrine, there are various schools of thought, but they mostly come down to faith and deeds, or some combination of those. Paul maintained that salvation is achieved mostly by faith,[16] but he does include the need to lead a life free of serious sins[17] (although he never stated that those were the only requirements for salvation), and the author of the letter of James held that "faith without works is dead"[18] and that one also needed to show their faith by performing "good works". Originally, this included observing Jewish ceremonial rituals, such as circumcision and keeping kosher;[4] however, since the Antiochean Incident, Paulinee Christians were not required to follow any prescription of the Mosaic Law. However, it is universally agreed that Jesus' sacrifice was an atonement for the sins of the human race.

Modern views on exactly what people need to do to be saved include:

  • Faith and works: The first view is that salvation lies in both faith and works. This means that one needs to believe in the sacrifice of Jesus and perform acts of penitence to be absolved of one's sins. Giving money to the Church, acts of charity to the needy, and so called "good deeds" are also – although not equally – important. The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox hold this position formally. Many Protestant Churches follow this view, although it is not generally the official doctrine.
  • Sola fide: The doctrine of sola fide ("by faith alone") states that good works are not strictly necessary for salvation, even though they are important for personal growth and being a "good Christian." However, except for a fringe minority of "antinomians", Protestants believe that there is no obligation to live a moral and charitable life and that one does not need to perform works to be absolved of one's sins.[note 9]
  • Unconditional election: Unconditional election is a central tenet of Calvinism. In Calvinism, people have no free will; God is in complete control of the universe, and therefore God is the one who decides whether they have faith or not. Consequently, God must choose who is saved and who is not; those who are saved are known as the "elect," and have been elected unconditionally, with no regard to the beliefs or actions of each individual. Today, hyper-Calvinism, on which Dominionism is based, takes this idea to its logical extreme.
  • Universalism: This holds that Jesus' sacrifice was sufficient for all humanity's sins regardless of personal acceptance.

The Trinity[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Trinity

Most Christians, and all orthodox Christians, subscribe to a concept known as the Holy Trinity, where the single god exists in three equal but distinct persons simultaneously — God the Father, God the Son (i.e. Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. The exact interaction and nature of the three depends on the theology of one's denomination; Martin Luther described it as one person filling three different roles, God the Father creating the universe, God the Son redeeming the people, and God the Holy Spirit doing the grunt-work of saving people afterwards.[19] The Athanasian Creed states that "God" is one and is the Father, who is not the Son, who is not the Holy Spirit, but all are God.

Trinitarianism is the majority and orthodox viewpoint within modern Christianity, but is not the only viewpoint. In particular, Unitarians traditionally recognize only a single person of God (many Unitarians today are part of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, which also welcomes polytheists and atheists), while Oneness Pentecostals consider Jesus alone to be God. In addition, some ancient Christian sects rejected God the Father and focused on Jesus in a manner similar to Oneness Pentecostals. Outside Christianity, the concept of a Trinity is generally considered blasphemous or even polytheistic, or nonsensical at best.

The Bible[edit]

For more information on different denominational approaches to Biblical canon, see the Bible article.
Gutenberg detail.jpg

The Bible is Christianity's doctrinal base. All Churches and denominations of Christian religion share the 24 books of the Masoretic "Old Testament" and the 27 books of the "New Testament". One single major difference between the 3 main schools of Christianity, "Eastern Orthodox", "Roman Catholic Church", and the Protestant churches are the other books that are considered part of the Bible's canon. The Catholics and Eastern Orthodox include seven books, the deuterocanonical books, and the Eastern Orthodox Churches recognize other texts from the Greek Septuagint.

Another critical difference between denominations is the way they interpret the Bible, who they think wrote it, which books are in the Bible, and even the actual wording of the Bible. On one extreme, most Christian fundamentalists espouse a position of Biblical inerrancy, where everything stated in the Bible is to be taken literally;[note 10] at another extreme is the "looseleaf Bible" approach of extreme liberal denominations such as the Unitarian Universalists, which allows the worshiper to consider anything as scripture that they find inspiring.[note 11] The middle ground, adopted by mainline Protestantism as well as the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, is biblical infallibility: the belief that the Bible was written as a spiritual text, not a historical or scientific text, and therefore is inspired as regards its moral and spiritual teachings, but is not necessarily accurate in regard to secular records and research. The Catholics and Orthodox have more leeway in doing this, as they are not reliant on the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura (scripture alone) and can allow more of a role for the Church brass in interpreting the Bible.

All schisms great and small, the Lord God made them all[edit]

Christianity supplies a Hell for the people who disagree with you and a Heaven for your friends.
—Elbert Hubbard
No wild beasts are so dangerous to men as Christians are to one another.
—Emperor Julian "the Apostate," (r. 361-363 CE) last pagan Emperor of Rome

Christianity is highly fragmented with thousands of denominations ranging in size from the billion-plus people baptized into the Roman Catholic ChurchTM[20] down to small, family-sized church groups.

The earliest schisms happened even before the Christian church was established, with the personal animosity between James, brother of Jesus, Peter, the other original disciples, and Paul of Tarsus.[note 12] The single most critical issue was Paul's belief that the Nazarenes' Messianism had to be propagated to Greeks and Romans,[4] but this was by no means the end of the differences.[3] Paul's thought was more regimented and systemic than what Jesus is likely to have preached, and his theology was less political than Jesus'.

A second major fight looming at the time of the temple destruction, was the right to define the essence of the Christ figure. Jewish Gnosticism had permeated the religious landscape for a few hundred years before the arrival of Christ. Strongly influenced by the Hellenistic world, Gnosticism posited a view of God (and with the arrival of Jesus on the scene, a view of Jesus) that was doctrinally incompatible with Paul's vision of Christianity. With the help of the Romans, the newly forming "Christian Church" under Paul, marginalized them, and targeted them for political destruction. Not much later, fights between groups such as the Arians, Marcionites, and Coptics led to the formation of the state church of the Roman Empire under Emperor Constantine (313 CE), of which the Eastern Orthodox ChurchTM and the Roman Catholic ChurchTM are historical continuations.

The Great Schism of 1054 saw the Eastern Orthodox ChurchTM split from the Roman Catholic ChurchTM, predominantly over views of the authority of the Pope, but of course there were many other theological and ecclesiastical reasons.[note 13]

Martin Luther's rejection of papal primacy in doctrinal interpretation led to the Protestant Reformation in 1517[note 14] and even further schism as Protestant and Catholic authorities simply refused to try to settle their differences and began to accuse each other of not even being Christian at all.

The Protestant doctrine of the "church invisible" — that the "One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church" is not a physical, temporal assembly like the Roman Catholic Church but instead a spiritually united structure showing limited to no temporal unity — has been particularly encouraging to schisms. In the modern United States, both because it was built on dissenting forms of Protestantism from the ground up and because of a literal right to freedom of religion, the tendency towards schism is especially strong. Large numbers of churches (particularly nondenominational fundamentalist, BaptistTM, and individual Congregational churches) are essentially denominations unto themselves, and even members of mainline churches such as Catholicism and the Anglican CommunionTM have rejected the authority of church hierarchy, generally over increased liberalism in the church's thinking. For example, the Northern Baptist vs. Southern BaptistTM schism in the United States was over slavery and other racial issues—the Northern Baptists were largely neutral or abolitionist in their thinking, while the Southern Baptists made heavy use of scripture condoning slavery to maintain their position that it was not only justified, but even required.

Members of mainline churches such as the CatholicTM, OrthodoxTM, and AnglicanTM churches have occasionally talked about reconciliation or reunification. While full communion has not been achieved between Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant groups, most mainline Protestant groups have entered into full communion agreements with each other; for example, the Porvoo Communion uniting Protestant churches across Northern Europe, or agreements between the EpiscopalTM, liberal LutheranTM, and United MethodistTM churches in the United States. However, while formal reconciliation is a long way off, many ecumenical (i.e. cross-denominational) groups exist and function well at local level.

Fundamentalist Christianity[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Christian fundamentalism

Fundamentalist Christianity is an almost uniquely American version of Christianity, though they have been all too happy to share it with the rest of the world, especially countries in Africa where they can use the poverty to their proselytizing advantage. Fundamentalism tends to be uncomfortably convincing to its followers regarding how universal it is to its followers and being part of a mainstream denomination will likely get you accused of not being a "Real Christian". On the whole, RationalWiki takes a very poor view of fundamentalists because they tend to push a Christianity that is incompatible with science and the nature of debate, and it is also rather sexist, racist,[note 15] and homophobic, and otherwise intolerant of other beliefs, including other Christians, but especially atheism. Christian Fundamentalism as a sect is generally accepted as an early 20th century phenomenon, but it didn't get the attention it deserved until the 1980's with the election of Ronald Reagan, who highlighted his religious views within his position as elected official. This emboldened the fundamentalists to come out of the woodwork, trying to pass laws to counter the humanist acceptance of such things as abortion rights and homosexual rights. In the beginning of the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election, virtually every Republican candidate for president was a Christian fundamentalist.[21]

Fundamentalist Christians tend to believe in several or all of the following:

American fundamentalist Christians twist religion with other political and "patriotic" issues:

  • America is a Christian Country;
  • The Founders were 'Good Christian Men';
  • Elected officials should not just be proud of their religion, they should push religious based laws;
  • The US is better than other countries because we are Christian, we keep in God's favor. Other more secular countries (like France) or even catholic (like Mexico) are seen as historical failures;
  • Religious laws are good and proper. Judges should vote on their religion when looking at challenged laws, not on the secular rights.

Christian apologetics[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Christian apologetics

Christian apologetics is the field of study concerned with presenting a "rational" basis for Christianity, thereby defending Christianity against criticism. Prominent Christian apologists include Josh McDowell, C.S. Lewis, William Lane Craig, Lee Strobel, and (in his pre-Pope days, in his role as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) Pope Benedict XVI.

For example, with regard to the divinity of Jesus, it is often argued that "Jesus was either telling the truth, he was a liar, or he was a lunatic" ("Mad, Bad or God" for short), an argument called the "Lewis trilemma" after its most famous promoter, C.S. Lewis. Another, Pascal's Wager, is an attempt to trick God, and assumes the benefits of belief outweigh the negatives.[note 16]

Such arguments have limited utility in converting people to Christianity. While Christian apologetics can be useful for making a would-be Christian feel as though he is not moving in an irrational direction, faith based on logical arguments is subject to attack with logical responses, e.g., by arguing that Jesus never even walked the Earth, or that a supernatural entity that cannot be observed also cannot affect our universe.

Apologists have also been accused of using the logical fallacy of assuming the conclusion, that is, assuming that their faith is in fact the truth and then trying to support it logically, a variant of the Texas sharpshooter fallacy.

Relationship with God[edit]

Christianity sees God as a personal God who interacts with each person individually, in a way very reminiscent to being another human. While Catholic priests take on the mantle of responsibility of Jesus and essentially act as Jesus-like figures to the Church,[22] other members of the Church have varying relationships with God. Nuns literally marry Jesus, and some of the more extreme mystics, in particular St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa of Avila, write of their relationship with Jesus as that of a lover to his or her Bride, including moments of what can only be called sexual intimacy, never mind that they're not supposed to have sex, period.

Most Protestants have a less sexual view of God, and talk of God or Jesus as "a friend", "a brother", or "a parent". But they still see the relationship as a direct one-on-one relationship, where God (or Jesus) helps you, personally. Common requests include asking Jesus to do such nice things as "help me find my keys", "win our football game", and "bless our bread", but crucial problems such as curing AIDS, or helping babies who are dying of disease and starvation, are sometimes swept under the rug by more superficial folks.

Pastors within the various Protestant religions try to encourage this one-on-one relationship, and talk about this direct relationship as the root or core of the Christian faith as far more than the dogma that surrounds the religion, which to them is far less important. Several pastors have gone so far as to claim that Christianity is not even a religion.[23] The goal here is to get people to become deeply committed to their "relationship" with God, and to ignore the man-made traditions that have plagued Christians for centuries. The idea is that closeness to God will show through positively in a person's life, and no religious acts are necessary to demonstrate true faith. Religious acts only distance followers from the God who loves them and turns nonbelievers against the faith.

The Crusades[edit]

Main Article: The Crusades.

In the eleventh century, the Muslims, who had conquered the Holy Land, began persecutions of Christian pilgrims who were coming there. Concurrently, Muslims began launching assaults on the Eastern remnant of the Roman Empire (more commonly known as the Byzantine Empire), prompting the emperor to appeal to the West for help.

Thus began a series of ugly religious wars. Centuries later, they would be called Crusades.

The Pope drummed up an army by promising massive spiritual rewards to anyone who fought to reconquer Jerusalem. This was done in 1099 and 50,000 of the "heathens" (Muslims, Jews, and Christians who were in the wrong place at the wrong time) were murdered, but He still did not turn up (unless He was somewhere under the piles of corpses). Gaudefroi de Bouillon, the First Crusade leader, boasted that he rode his horse through the Holy Sepulchre knee deep in the blood of the unbelievers.

Modern Christians have argued that maybe the Crusaders were not the proper sort of Christians, although they obviously thought they were. So-called 'holy' wars, of any religion, were invariably conducted in pursuit of wealth, territory or glory (or as often as not, all three).

Interestingly, the Fourth Crusade started with the intention of reconquering the holy land but they later realized that they had no way to pay the Venetians their boat fares. To settle this issue, they simply decided to sack the Christian city of Constantinople, permanently crippling the already weak Byzantine remnant of the Roman Empire.

Christianity in Asia[edit]

Christianity holds a special place in East Asia, because of its continuous growth. Although originally seen as inimical to social values and traditional belief, Christianity is gradually gaining ground in East Asia as conversion continues, mostly as an after-effect of globalization, the perceived affirmation of Western values in the wake of the Cold War and Christianity's insistence on proselyzation by its devotees.

The Philippines and Timor-Leste, being former colonies of Spain and Portugal respectively, are the only predominantly Christian (Catholic in particular) countries in Asia. Both are located in the Southeast region of the said continent. Christianity is also relatively popular in South Korea.

Heterodox Christian movements are common in East Asia. Examples include Hong Xiuquan's Heavenly Empire, Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, Ahn Sahng-Hong's World Mission Society Church of God, and Eastern Lightning allegedly headed by Yang Xiangbing.

See also[edit]

Want to read this in another language?[edit]

Русскоязычным вариантом данной статьи является статья Христианство

External links[edit]


  1. Church in this context simply means a small group of people following a supposed disciple of Jesus or a Christian missionary. They were, by and large, informal bodies, known more by their geographical location than the name of the person they followed. For convention and convenience, they are often referred to by the writings they would later produce.
  2. Some scholars suggested that Paul wasn't just zealous as we conceive religious fervor or devotion today, but that he was actually a zealot: the Zealots were a Judaic social movement that refused to compromise with Hellenism and reacted violently to Roman rule in Judea. Their extremely fanatical nationalism went beyond political issues and extended to religious observance of the Mosaic Law for all the Jews; those who didn't respect it were murdered. If Paul was one of them, this could explain the reasons behind his persecution of Jewish Christians before his conversion; compare: Fairchild, Mark R. Paul's Pre-Christian Zealot Associations: A Re-Examination of Gal 1.14 and Acts 22.3 (1999), pp. 514-532, New Testament Studies (Vol. 45, Issue 4), Cambridge University Press.
    However, at least three Apostles of Jesus (Peter, Judas, and Simon) were Zealots, so turning from one type of radical on the fringe of Judaism into another was not unheard of; compare: Brandon, S. G. F. Jesus and the Zealots (1967), Manchester University Press, ISBN 978-06-84-31010-7.
  3. The passion stories found in each of the four canonical Gospels show a shift away from the "enemy" of Jesus being the Romans, to the enemy being the Jews. For further information on this, see: H. Cohn, The Trial and Death of Jesus (1980); J. D. Crossan, Who Killed Jesus? Exposing the Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Gospel Story of the Death of Jesus (1996).
  4. The Gospel of John is largely a gnostic text; Jesus is God, not human (or more divine than human), and John emphasizes this by having him perform many miracles and speculate about his own Divine nature.
  5. The Angel of Christian Charity image comes from the pagan god Anteros and is often confused with his playmate Cupid/Eros.
  6. Eastern Orthodox, Coptics, Gnostics and other groups do not use the Apostle or Nicene creeds.
  7. Some people (including various Christian denominations and sects) have presented various beliefs in certain sects of Christianity as evidence of polytheism or idolatry. These beliefs include (but are not limited to) Marcionism Dualism (which survives in the Bible in the form of 2 Corinthians 4:4), the Trinity (rejected by Unitarians and Jehovah's Witnesses), the host of angels and saints, and the Mormon concepts of the Godhood and Tritheism.
  8. This is important: the Jewish concept of sin is very different from the one that subtends Christianity, the Original sin; this one was expressed for the first time as a theological foundation by the Apostle Paul in his Epistles; cfr. Tennant, F. R. The Sources of the Doctrines of the Fall and Original Sin (2012), pp. 248-249, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-23633-1.
  9. Many "born again" Christians (mostly Evangelicals and Pentecostals) simply undergo a brief profession of faith known as the Sinner's Prayer, very similar to the Islamic shahadah; other Churches, such as the Roman Catholic Church, have more traditional conversion processes.
  10. How obviously metaphorical writing is to be taken is sometimes a bit up in the air...
  11. The Church of the SubGenius uses the same rule.
  12. Though there are no surviving records of what Jesus taught, nor are there records from the various non-Pauline churches, scholars have recreated their idea of what these churches likely believed by analysis of what was said about them, as well as analysis of the Q document and the Gospel of Thomas.
  13. Ecclesiastical reasons: Authority of the pope, which texts were canonical, celibacy of priests, right to divorce; Theological: Original sin, inherent faith of humans, and free will.
  14. Give or take. The date is, like most things, disputed by different Protestant churches.
  15. They're especially butthurt about not being allowed to own black people.
  16. Many non-Christian students of religion feel that both arguments, whether they are or are not sound in their logic, are based on faulty premises; the Lewis trilemma assumes that Jesus said all that was attributed to him (and was not honestly mistaken to boot), and Pascal's Wager assumes that the choice of belief will automatically be the correct one; with many choices of a "correct" path within Christianity alone, many claiming to be mutually exclusive, this is something of a long shot.


  1. Jefferson quotes
  2. I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians' - Gandhi" - Faith Forward on Patheos
  3. 3.0 3.1 See the Wikipedia article on Hellenistic Judaism. Also, See the Wikipedia article on Split of early Christianity and Judaism.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 See the Wikipedia article on Incident at Antioch. Paul taught to his Gentile converts that the Mosaic Law was abolished trough Jesus' death, therefore they were free from being circumcised and from only eating Kosher food. This caused a great controversy between Paul and the "Pillars" of Jerusalem, Peter and James; in the end, Paul left Antioch as persona non grata, for the following reason:
    [...] it seems beyond dispute that above all outside of Jerusalem, the practice of the Law was the distinctive element of Jewish spirituality more than the cult of the temple was. It is precisely the very lively polemics that exploded among the Galilean followers of Jesus with the Hellenists and with Paul that demonstrate it beyond any doubt. And the insistence of Paul on the fact that he was a Pharisee and on his past in Judaism is a further confirmation. It is in the observance of the Law that Jewishness is shown fully.
    — Giorgio Jossa, Jews or Christians? The Followers of Jesus in Search of their own Identity (2006), p. 31, Mohr Siebeck, Tubingen, ISBN 3-16-149192-0.
  5. See the Wikipedia article on Irenaeus.
  6. See the Wikipedia article on Marcan priority.
  7. Richard Carrier, On the Historicity of Jesus (2014), pp. 264-270, Sheffield Phoenix Press, ISBN 978-1-909697-49-2.
  8. Norman Davies, Europe: A History (1996), p. 205, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-820171-0.
  9. Pagan Saints
  10. Ken Jeremiah (2012) Christian Mummification Page 66
  11. George Dearborn Spindler (1978) The Making of Psychological Anthropology University of California Press page 241
  12. Jacques Ellul (2015) Islam and Judeo-Christianity: A Critique of Their Commonality Wipf and Stock Publishers pg 12 note 2)
  14. "Why Did Jesus Have to Die?"
  15. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-1 Thessalonians 4:17; Mark 13:30-Mark 13:31; Matthew 23:36.
  16. Romans 3:28
  17. 1 Corinthians 6:9
  18. James 2:17
  21. See also Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum.