Each society throughout history has had a different moral compass, and this is also true for many religions. Although what humanity thinks is right or wrong, in any given part of the world at different times, does vary, those in the United States generally share the same beliefs. We do not practice human sacrifice, and concepts like rape, torture, and pedophilia are understood to be dark, if not downright evil practices. Even though this has not always been the case through history, and in fact in some cultures these beliefs were practiced, regular norms, that is not the case today in many countries today, let alone ours. We can agree, then, that despite political or religious beliefs most people of this country have essentially the same concepts of right and wrong, at least in many important areas of life. We believe that every human life has equal value, which is very unlike historical beliefs, and that dehumanizing or demoralizing practices are unacceptable.
In fact, the idea that all humans beings are created equal with equal potential and equal worth largely stems from Christianity. This concept is commonly called Christian egalitarianism, or biblical equality, in which concepts like gender, race, age, or even religion, do not interfere with equality, as all people are created equally in God’s sight, according to this belief. An example of this rests in the famous text that most United States citizens recognize from the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” These words originated from the hearts and minds of Christians; those who founded this country.
The idea of equality and God-given rights has changed the way that governments have ruled over people. We no longer see our rights as being dependent on the value assigned by the king or the state, but something divine and thus something that man cannot change or dictate. A form of government which came “by the people and for the people” largely issued from the concept of equality. People no longer wanted to serve a government or a royal monarchy as its subjects, but realized the proper role of government was to serve and protect its citizens.
Obviously, humanity has not always thought that all people were created equal. There have been vastly many different ideas and beliefs which constantly undermined equality. Human sacrifice was a very popular tradition in Pagan cultures, and it arose from the devaluing of human life, and in some cases, human inequality. Slaves were not looked upon as equal humans, and neither were women (especially widows) and people who were diseased or sickly. On the other hand, those of royal blood such as Kings and Lords, or the wealthy, were seen as having more human value than others.
Christianity was the first religion which did not force widows to remarry; instead they were supported and honored in their communities. Men and women had to be married to live together which also gave women more safety and security in the relationship. Many of Jesus’ followers, and many great and outstanding believers in the Bible also happened to be women. The early Christian church stopped the
practice of infanticide. Although Christians did have slaves in the Bible, these slaves were not worthless in the sense that we think of slavery today. Christian slaves participated in the community and even had contract and property rights. Many early Christians bought slaves simply to free them. The diseased and sickly were not shunned but instead were cared for, as can clearly be seen by the loving acts of Jesus. These are all examples of a revolutionized role of equality based on the principle that God created everyone equally, rather than that value is derived from gender, class, health, age, etc.
Human equality is only one way which Christianity has improved the world wherever it has impacted it, both through government roles and societal functions. Many people think of Christianity as being anti-science, but this could not be farther from the truth. Prior to modern science there were two important world views in existence: fatalism, which meant that everything is fatalistically determined, and illusion, which meant that the physical world is an illusion. These world views couldn’t have supported scientific development, but Christianity is based on the idea of a rational God and rational truth. Rationality is one of the cornerstones of modern science. During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries a great number of Christians began participating in Greek science and medicine. Many vital scientists were also Christians, such as Newton, Kepler, Pascal, Boyle, and so on.
It is important to note that many people look at the dark deeds done in the name of Christianity (like the Crusades and the Inquisition) and misunderstand the general spirit and intention of it. The heart and motive of Christianity is not to condemn, promote righteousness through actions, or spread bondage. The primary objective and soul of Christianity is, above anything else, love. Anything done outside of love is not done in true Christian-spirit, but contrary to it. (Matthew 22:37-40, Mark 12:30, 31) In many ways Christianity has exemplified its love through history.
There are, currently, countless many charities both in the United States and throughout the world that are based in Christianity. One Atheist named Matthew Parris talks about how Africa needs more than just international aid and government projects, but the help of Christian evangelists who have inspired spiritual awakenings within Africa, transforming it from the inside-out rather than just the outside-in. Of course Christians have also helped in many practical senses, aiding in healing, helping to educate, and building communities. Believing in grace, unconditional love, hope, mercy, peace, and the concept that there is something bigger out there than ourselves, however, has transformed cultures on a level that even clean water and shelter cannot do.
Throughout history Christianity has touched science, education, art, music, literature, the concept of government and social norms of human equality, and many other essential areas of human life. Christianity has given mankind a bigger purpose and plan which has transformed the way we think and live. It has introduced love and mercy to our enemies, forgiveness, compassion, and made unconditional love a world-wide mission. Christianity’s roots and objective is love, and no person is exempt. You can watch television programs that will teach you more about Christianity when you subscribe to Time Warner Cable.