Is Monotheism the Cause of Civilization as We Know It?


#1

If not for Western Civilization and monotheism would the following have changed over time:

  1. Would the Aztecs still practice human sacrifice?
  2. Would the Mayans still be tossing people down cenotes (water holes)?
  3. Would the Catholic church still be burning heretics if there had been no Protestant reformation?
  4. Would the western world still be attending gladiator shows if the Roman empire had not fallen?

I’m going to take a stab at this, and maybe on a new thread. I believe that the envelopment of the Western world by monotheistic faiths started the movement away from such barbarous practices as human sacrifice. It was not an overnight process by any means.

All of the major monotheistic faiths, those being Judaism and Christianity (Islam is a different story which I will detour on briefly) had early experience with either human sacrifice or jubilating divine deaths.
• Judaism - The lack of sadness at the deaths of Nadav and Abijuh for bringing “strange fire” into the Tent of Meeting and the death of Korach and his compatriots;
• Catholics - The burning of heretics in Spain by the auto d’afe (literally, act of faith) and the Inquisition;
• Protestants - The Salem Witch Trials.
All of these were carryovers from earlier traditions of barbarity. Slowly all of these religions developed scholarly and quietistic traditions of non-violence. They were never perfect, not to this day, but there is progress.

The primitive cultures were different. Far from the Edenic ideal, the excellent book War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage (link) by Lawrence H. Keeley (link) [ ]sets the stage for how things were in pre-Columbian America. There is little to suggest that without the spread of Judeo-Christian practices anything would have changed. The book The Vikings: A History (link) by Robert Ferguson (link) teaches that there was little evolution of the Vikings as a people before their Christianization. The Scandinavian countries of Iceland, Norway and, until the recent immigrant invasion Sweden and Denmark are now among the more genteel parts of the world. The invaded areas of Russia down to the Caspian Sea, England, Ireland and the northwestern part of the European continent would have begged to differ during the Viking era.

Spiritually G-d started telling the Jews, with the story of the Binding of Isaac, that while neighboring cultures may have practiced child or human sacrifice,that was forbidden to the Jews. Christianity evolved in a like manner. There is no evidence that the idolatrous Native Americans, the pre-Christian Vikings or tribal Europe were ever going to evolve. It might have happened, but never, to my knowledge, did.

Islam is a different story. While styled as a monotheistic religion there are disturbing signs that it is really more the ancient tribal customs overlayed with a thin veneer of monotheism, imitating the Jews and Christians of the area and era. In all but name, Mohamed and the Koran are worshiped. If not, why are there riots when cartoons are published with a bomb coming out of Mohamed’s head? Or Korans desecrated? There are no such riots for this display, whenAndres Serrano’s controversial Piss Christ goes on view in New York. (link)
.While conservatives verbally assault the public funding of these “artistic” displays, life goes on. I would argue that monotheism is at an evolutionary stage in Islam.

Circling back to the subject, I believe that Mayans would still be throwing their sacrificial targets down cenotes (water holes) if not for the influence of monotheistic religions.


#2

I don’t really have anything to add to the topic itself; much of this involves historical elements that I’m not familiar with. I would add, as a side note, that practicing Christians were (contrary to what the hard left likes to pretend) largely responsible for putting a stop to the Salem witch hunts.


#3

Monotheism, in the form of the Judeo-Christian ethic, is certainly one of the pillars of Western Civilization. The Christian Roman Empire continued the gladiatorial games until the reign of Honorius and the pagan Romans outlawed human sacrifice even earlier. If the Roman Empire survived the barbarians and eventually discovered the New World in the 15th century I am sure they would have dealt with the Aztecs and Mayans in much the same manner as the Spanish. These historical “what if” games are entertaining but I don’t see what they accomplish.

What I do believe is that our civilization is under attack and one major targets is religion, specifically Christianity and Judaism. I have no idea when or if the Moslems will have their “Reformation”, but they need one.


#4

As to what FC said about the Salem witch trials, the religious leaders had nothing to do with that. It was, as I understand it, a group of doctors against certain women who practiced a type of medicine, thus undermining the doctors’ monopoly. And Salem only gets the “blame” because they were known to stop the trials and burnings. It was the religious leaders who initiated the end of witch-burning.

As far as “monotheism” being the “cause” of civilization, I’d say it’s not monotheism per se, because as far as I know, only Christians and Jews are montheistic, and they worship the only true God.

A lot of the executions by “acts of faith” were very probably political, rather than truly religious, they just invoked religion to support their views. As for the Spanish inquisition, although it was nothing to brag about, they were actually the fairest court of their time. They actually had trials, instead of just “automatically” convicting people. No doubt many of their trials were farcical, but not all. Don’t believe everything you read about the trial of Galileo - most of it has been falsified by people who didn’t like the truth of it. Check out Dinesh D’Souza’s comments about it in his book “What’s So Great about Christianity?”