In the past, Christianity did more to maintain power than to inspire a genuine need to discover the truth of human purpose. Now, to rid themselves of the taint of organized religion, people are choosing to identify as “spiritual” and deny Christianity has an influence in their lives. However, whether we realize it or not, religion’s impact is still highly prevalent. Regardless of how much we may want to separate ourselves from it, we would not have our society without religion’s influence.
Christianity is the religion you read about in history books, because it dictated much of Western history as we know it. When it first cropped up 2,000 years ago, it rapidly gained a following through multiple conversion tactics and luck. Christians convinced people they needed to please one God only, and became dominant over other religions by forcing people to convert, and give up any other belief systems.
In later centuries, the Church was able to dictate what is right and what is wrong for its citizens by instilling a fear of not being able to please God. As these morals were ingrained in society, they spread from generation to generation — the idea that eternal happiness is attained by denouncing earthly pleasures or that suffering leads to benefits later. The other major idea people followed was that anyone who was not Christian was barbarian, and that a Christian’s duty is to civilize other people. While the latter idea is discussed in depth in other papers, the idea that people should belong to a society in which everyone behaves similarly is still prevalent today.
The following questions demonstrate the Christian concept of suffering: Why else do people maintain the idea of “hard work now, success comes later”? Why is it that we cannot experience and appreciate love without first experiencing loss? Or that we cannot have beauty without experiencing pain?
This concept of duality extends to the the American Dream, and how people were led to believe they can become wealthy by putting in work beforehand. This is the same idea that said honor and pride come with experiencing horrific trauma, as in the case of sending young people to war. This is the same idea that overworks high school and college students to an unprecedented point of anxiety and depression; the busier and harder they work now, the easier it will be for them to get a job and “cruise” in the future. These examples are happening now, but the thought behind them comes from Christian power, reinforced throughout the generations.
Another such concept that traces back to Christianity as it was enforced is the idea that people must be civilized in order to be accepted into the larger group. We saw it during the Imperialist period, as the U.S. and Europe colonized various parts of Asia and Africa in the name of the natives’ betterment. We saw it when Adolf Hitler exterminated people who did not fit his image of a perfect Aryan race in the early 20th century. We see it less explicitly now in the form of peer pressure and lack of individuality; people still have to be a certain way — they still have to conform — to be accepted in society. Essentially, you still change yourself in dramatic ways to ensure you are not an outcast, a fear organized Christianity took advantage of back in the days of its power.
I should clarify that I do not intend to condemn the practice of Christianity; the reason I focused on Christianity in particular was because it has had the most global and far-reaching consequences of any other world religion. Even though people are not identifying as religious nowadays, it would be wrong to separate society from religious influence because of the sheer amount of time Christianity dominated. Its impact will not go away for a long time to come.
Lavanya Sambaraju is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.