Role of Christianity in civilization  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The role of Christianity in civilization has been intricately intertwined with the history and formation of Western society. Throughout its long history, the Christian Church has been a major source of social services like schooling and medical care; inspiration for art, culture and philosophy; and influential player in politics and religion. In various ways it has sought to affect Western attitudes to vice and virtue in diverse fields. It has, over many centuries, promulgated the teachings of Jesus within the Western world as well as throughout other third-world nations. Festivals like Easter and Christmas are marked as public holidays; the Gregorian Calendar has been adopted internationally as the civil calendar; and the calendar itself is measured from the date of Jesus's birth.

The cultural influence of the Church has been vast. Church scholars preserved literacy in Western Europe following the Fall of the Western Roman Empire. During the Middle Ages, the Church rose to replace the Roman Empire as the unifying force in Europe. The cathedrals of that age remain among the most iconic feats of architecture produced by Western civilization. Many of Europe's universities were also founded by the church at that time. Many historians state that universities and cathedral schools were a continuation of the interest in learning promoted by monasteries. The university is generally regarded as an institution that has its origin in the Medieval Christian setting. The Reformation brought an end to religious unity in the West, but the Renaissance masterpieces produced by Catholic artists like Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael at that time remain among the most celebrated works of art ever produced. Similarly, Christian sacred music by composers like Pachelbel, Vivaldi, Bach, Handel, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert and Verdi is among the most admired classical music in the Western canon.

The Bible and Christian theology have also strongly influenced Western philosophers and political activists. The teachings of Jesus, such as the Parable of the Good Samaritan, are among the important sources for modern notions of Human Rights and the welfare measures commonly provided by governments in the West. Long held Christian teachings on sexuality and marriage and family life have also been both influential and (in recent times) controversial. Christianity played a role in ending practices such as human sacrifice, slavery, infanticide and polygamy. Christianity in general affected the status of women by condemning infanticide (female infants were more likely to be killed), divorce, incest, polygamy, birth control, abortion and marital infidelity. While official Church teaching considers women and men to be complementary (equal and different), some modern "advocates of ordination of women and other feminists" argue that teachings attributed to St. Paul and those of the Fathers of the Church and Scholastic theologians advanced the notion of a divinely ordained female inferiority. Nevertheless, women have played prominent roles in Western history through as part of the church, particularly in education and healthcare, but also as influential theologians and mystics.

Some of the things that Christianity is commonly criticized for include the oppression of women, condemnation of homosexuality, colonialism, and various other violence. Christian ideas have been used both to support and to end slavery as an institution. The criticism of Christianity has come from the various religious and non-religious groups around the world, some of whom were themselves Christians.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Role of Christianity in civilization" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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