Without Christianity

A while back, John Zmirak wrote an article on Inside Catholic/Crisis magazine titled What if Herod wins?  Zmirak invites us to indulge the following mental exercise:  how would your beliefs about this life be different if you lived in an alternate reality where Herod succeeded in killing the infant Jesus, and there is no Christian religion.  For this exercise, I believe we are to assume (although it is unlikely) that everything else in the modern world is about the same–just take out Christ.  After thinking about it, Zmirak basically tells us that absent revelation, he would become a liberal utilitarian.

Probably he’s right, but not because of any innate attraction of liberalism itself–even for an Austrian school-adled brain like Zmirak’s.  He should remember that he lives in a radically liberal society and is immersed in liberal propaganda.  If we really want to know what humanity’s ideological “default” settings are, we should look at other, and especially ancient, civilizations.  It wasn’t any of the civilizations where Christianity was absent, but the civilization where it was present but rejected, that spawned liberalism.

I wonder what I would be if I weren’t a Christian.  I wouldn’t be a liberal; my rejection of that position isn’t revelation-based.  Maybe I’d be a Confucian, or a Stoic, or a Platonist.  I’m a little bit of those things already.

13 Responses

  1. Islam was founded based on Judaism and didn’t depend on Christianity. The fact that the Old Testament generated both Christianity and Islam shows that it is a potent book capable of spawning many religions. I have no doubt that if Jesus had been killed, some other religion based on the Old Testament would have taken off. The ethics that really matter can be found in the Old Testament. The Old Testament is the most anti-liberal book that I have ever read.

  2. fschmidt–Good to hear from you again!

  3. I dunno about the claim that Mohammedism didn’t depend on Christianity. It was founded in the seventh century of Our Lord, and six centuries is a long time. Furthermore, there were a lot of Nestorians hanging around Mohammed’s general environs, and Mohammedism, viewed as a Christian heresy, looks a bit like Nestorianism on steroids.

    On the larger point, I agree, though. By Jesus’s birth, the Roman Empire had a lot of Hellenistic Jews, and these were the prime targets of evangelization for Christians. Presumably, they would have evolved into some other post-Jewish religion in the absence of Jesus.

    Though this brings up an interesting question. In the no Jesus counterfactual, do the Romans sack the Temple bringing an end to Second Temple Judaism?

  4. I would probably be a nihilistic hedonist if Christianity didn’t exist. I’m not a follower of rationally-deduced ethical or moral “systems” — I’m too much of a cuss for that and too distrustful of rationalism. I expect that I would be a proper post-modern relativist.

  5. If Christ had died in infancy then God would not have been God and this world would not exist, anyway. It’s a good thing we need not worry ourselves about nonsense!

  6. Is this question designed to flush out the Jesus Seminar types? For one, where we are today is completely inconceivable with Christianity.

    Secondly, Christianity is not just an ethical or social system, and anyone who makes that assertion does not understand Christianity in the slightest.

  7. I don’t think there would be utilitarian liberalism, because that is what you get from anti-Christianity. If there had been no Christ and no Christianity, there would be no Enlightenment. To tweak Voltaire’s quip: “If there had been no God, we would have had to invent him so that we could be anti-God liberals.”

  8. Mr Schmidt’s point is a good one. Left solely to the Old Testament, we would have little but a series of violent and/or ethnocentric ideologies masquerading as religion, such as Orthodox Judaism and Islam.

    Luckily, Christ came, and demonstrated to us the anti-“religion” path of universalist spirituality based on peace and humility.

  9. Without Christianity, not only do you not get liberalism and the enlightenment (so-called) as transparent perversions of Christian truth, but neither do you get modern science and medicine, modern economics, Protestantism (and the work ethic that goes with it), and significantly, no Islam. Interestingly, you get no attempt in human history of a “universal” religion. You are essentially cancelling most of the last 2000 years of history. The alternative history could literally go anywhere.

    The safest bet is that Rome would still have fallen, more or less on schedule, and moreover that her conquerors would have found the sophistication of her overall philosophy and learning to be superior to their own. It is therefore imaginable that some sort of trans-european paganism would have crystallized: something perhaps akin to Shinto in Japan. Biology alone would still have dictated European military and economic superiority over any of her near neighbors, and, in the absence of any Islamic threat would have made Europe’s hegemony even more absolute. (Greece, Italy, and Spain would be less “brown” down to today.)

    The Western Hemisphere and later Africa still get colonized by Europe, but it’s not at all clear who ends up where. One thing for sure is that support for Empire would not have wavered among relatively amoral pagans, at least not for the light and transient reasons that it did in late Victorian and finally post-war England. The third world today would probably be better off for it.

  10. Without Christianity…..

    Europe would still be only European. The European pagans wouldn’t have allowed Jews and their judaized leftist goyim to bring in muslims, blacks, etc.. The European pagans wouldn’t give a sheet about being called names like “racist” or any other words that are used to justify the ethnic replacement and genocide of native Europeans. Jews and their judaized leftist goyim couldn’t use guilt to manipulate European pagans. Christians can always be manipulated by sentimentality and guilt. European pagans would have simply killed the people who promote mass invasion.

    The black african population would still be very low. It was European christians who brought their education system and farming methods to Africa. The black African population has now exploded.

    Thanks Christianity. The Europeans are on the road to extinction! Your work is almost done.

  11. I totally agree with this statement. As a matter of fact, my response would be similar, or even identical.

  12. I’m afraid that this view is typical for 19th. century ethno-romanticism, and it’s existence in modern world is mainly result of Nietzsche philosophy, and some others. As such it is flawed, although I understand why some people strongly adhere to it. Why is it flawed?

    1. Old European pagans never had “pagan” identity in the first place, but were collections of various cults, from Graeco-Roman to Germanic, Slavic, Celtic and other. Roman pagans never had problem to enslave and kill other pagans (like Celtic or Germanic), while they were quite tolerant to Jews in Rome and other larger centers. Pagan identity, is paradoxically, result of Christianity, and views that are basically Christian in their roots.

    2. Old European pagans never had particular attitude towards Jews, since in order to have some religious or ideological attitude toward Jews, you need to have some articulated theology, something that most pagans didn’t have. Only exception in this case (theology) and in some weak sense, were Graeco-Roman pagans. But even them never had any credo, nor coherent pagan theology.

    3. Pagan Roman empire was hostile toward Jews in some parts of history mainly because they rebelled against empire in several occasions, not because they were Jews, or because their “Jewishness”. Beyond that, Jews could openly practice their customs, and live in empire, and there was big Jewish community in Rome. Some pagan emperors, like Julian Apostate were even quite friendly towards Jews.

    4. When we talk about “liberals” and “hedonists” in relation to Christianity, and pagans as example of healthy and ethnically aware people… how come that many people forget about decadence in pagan Rome? Is this fault of Christianity, or was internal to this pagan society? How come that people forget about EPICUREANS, their hedonistic and utilitarian worldview, and their influence in pagan upper classes?

    5. Pagan Rome was actually fine example of multicultural and multiethnic society, in which religious relativism was almost norm (specially in high imperial era). As long as you accepted emperor as God and accepted this multiculturalism, you could live just fine. Only people who refused to accept this state were Christians, and were brutally persecuted because of that.

    6. Sentimentality and guilt in modern Europeans is mainly result of World War 2 and Hippie movement (which is basically neo-pagan in it’s basis), not Christianity.

    7. If European pagans, like old Teutons, Celts and Slavs were so strong in their paganism, how come they converted so easily? In some cases entire pagan nations were converted by only one man (St. Patrick, St. Columba), while other pagan nations, like Russians, choose Christianity by themselves and their own free will? Perhaps old pagans were not so opposite of Christianity, as some may suggest?

    8. It is funny to see modern perceptions of pagans as fine examples of masculinity and power, and Christians as fine examples of femininity and weakness, since most of warrior ideals of European nations were formed by Christianity and during middle ages. Remember chivalry, heroic epic songs, knights, and heroes who defended Europe against invaders? Remember images of St. George and other saints?

  13. Bonald: Without Christianity, I don’t think you would have liberal utilitarianism as an option. The idea that the spirit of liberty was born in the Teutonic forests seems to me a myth of nineteenth century liberals. As for what we would have today had there been no Christianity, my guess is Epicureanism among the elites, and Dionysian cults and mystery cults among the proles. Come to think of it, thats more or less what do have, even with Christianity. I suspect these are the default settings among humans. The elites seek to sweeten the time in a meaningless world, while the proles hunt down some sort of ecstatic experience.

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