Witte: Is Christianity so different?

Jacob Witte

Civilization has gone through a lot. Humans rose from the primordial ooze to create vast empires and had them come crashing down through cataclysmic wars and strife throughout the last many thousands of years.

During the Stone Age and parts of the Bronze Age, humans knew little about the world because it was so difficult to survive. Hunting and gathering was the main source of perpetuating the species, so there was little time to discover knowledge about the natural world.

However, once vast civilizations arose, humans started to learn things about the universe in which we live. Algebra was invented in the Middle East (from Arabic “al-jabr” “the reunion of broken parts”), and geometry was being practiced the Middle East, the Far East and the Western world. The Greeks had even postulated a heliocentric solar system. The word itself comes from the Greek words “helios” — which means “sun” — and “kentron,” or “center.” In fact, do a Google search of the “Antikythera Mechanism” to be further amazed at how much the Greeks knew about astronomical positioning.

This vast wealth of knowledge was not to last, however. Christianity, once it got to be the dominant religion of the Western world, saw any knowledge that was antithetical to the Bible as a threat to God, and therefore was scratched from any record; its thinker either threatened or killed.

What followed was centuries of death, torture, wars and extreme fundamentalism. The Crusades, the Inquisition and myriad other programs designed to spread the religion to all corners of the earth. Many missionaries came to new lands with a Bible in one hand and a sword in the other.

During this time, the religion of Islam was developing and went through what is known as the Islamic Golden Age, a time of incredible knowledge and philosophic advancement in the Middle East. Most of the writings and records kept throughout the Greek and Roman civilizations were housed in such places as the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, Iraq.

Had these places not existed, little to no record of some of the greatest philosophic and scientific knowledge of the antiquities would exist today; we owe much of our current knowledge to Islam’s safe keeping of these treasures.

After the Dark Ages, the West was finally able to branch away from the church’s stranglehold of power and discover (and sometimes rediscover) knowledge about the world and the mind. The Renaissance and the Enlightenment brought about paradigmatic shifts in science, math, philosophy and politics like never before. These new discoveries were done without threat of torture and death from the Catholic church and helped advance the world to where we are today.

It seems, however, that both Christianity and Islam, as represented through the “leaders” of their religions, are heading back toward fundamentalism. Islam clearly has the lead in the race to create theocracy, as many nations in the Middle East are clearly based on fundamentalist views of Islamic laws, with such harsh laws as little to no rights for women, strict laws on marriage and honor killing.

Any rational person knows this fundamentalist view of Islam is not how the vast majority of Muslims think. The Arab Spring is certainly a demonstration of Muslims in authoritarian regimes rising up against the powers that be to create democracy and incorporate a more moderate and current view of Islam.

Turning to America, the fundamentalists are vying to create a federal government that uses the Bible to make laws. Is this so different than what has been going on in the Middle East? The only difference is that the Middle East is already ahead in the game.

Restricting women’s reproductive rights, demolishing the wall of separation between church and state and taking back decades of advancements in gay rights are just a few of the goals that this faction wants to see accomplished here in America.

Public schools would be a bastion of Christianity, with prayer in school returning, teaching creationism (or “intelligent design,” if you will) in the science class, and don’t forget banning or even burning books that go against the mainstream religion.

Now, I must also say that any rational person knows this bent view of Christianity is not the mainstream view, but it is certainly growing. But the players in this game, as in the same fundamentalist view of Islam, are backed by powerful, moneyed interests that will stop at nothing to see their view implemented on all.

Human civilization has been through a lot. The world has already seen the rise and fall of knowledge over a millennium ago that lasted for hundreds of years. As the old saying goes, “Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.” Are we doomed for a Second Dark Age?