How God created the West

Apr 2, 2021 by

By Ed West, unherd:

[…] Like with many things, it is only now that we are losing Christianity that we are starting to appreciate its importance. This century began with the New Atheism, an overtly anti-religious movement spurred by the events of September 11; an array of books in the 2000s made the argument that “religion poisons everything”, in the words of Christopher Hitchens. They won, which was largely why New Atheism disappeared. As America moves past the 400th anniversary of its founding by English Calvinists, its religious exceptionalism has finally ended. Atheism is making headway everywhere.

Yet paradoxically, as the sea of faith has retreated, more public intellectuals now take it seriously. In the field of political philosophy Larry Siedentop’s Inventing the Individual repopularised the 19thcentury French idea that Christianity was the wellspring of individualism, and that contrary to the belief that Enlightenment liberalism was a revolt against the medieval Church, it was a product of it.

Christianity’s revolutionary transformation of western society was then brilliantly laid out in Tom Holland’s Dominion. Holland told the story of how the new religion had upended our worldview, tamed the sexual prowess of powerful men, sanctified the weak and given the poor kudos and pity. The abolition of slavery, the emancipation of women, even gay marriage and the current political radicalism emanating from US campuses, all were products of the Christian revolution.

In the field of evolutionary psychology, Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind explored the positive role that religion has on social bonding; Ara Norenzayan’s Big Gods looked at how deities became more moral and more universal as societies scaled up.

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