WHY MONOTHEISM WINS the historical competition among gods and beliefs

by TerryWalstrom 4 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • TerryWalstrom

    Among the hundreds (if not thousands) of competing religious beliefs, practices, rituals, and faiths in the developing years of early Christianity--and arguably against all odds--Christian monotheism won. For awhile, the thoroughly pagan Roman Empire became officially Christianized.



    Could it be a simple fact?

    1. Jews did not evangelize, kept to themselves, and treated outsiders as unclean. How was Judaism going to grow by any other means but pregnant Jewish women having lots of children?

    2. Pagans had no problem at all accepting any and all beliefs simultaneously because polytheism was 'normal' and conventional. Christians were seen as 'atheists' due to the fact they DID NOT BELIEVE in ALL the gods (except their own.)

    3. In a worldwide marketplace of ideas, EVANGELISTS who bad-mouthed competing religions had a remarkable advantage.

    A missionary religion that insisted it was right and all others were wrong won out because: as it spread, and gained converts, it destroyed all the other religions in its wake.  Unlike other religions that spread throughout the Roman world, as Christianity grew, it necessarily shrunk all its competitors.  

    How did Christianity shrink all its competitors?


    Suppose I am a Christian evangelist trying to convince a crowd of a hundred pagans that the God of Jesus alone should be worshiped, and suppose I am competing with a pagan evangelist who is trying to convince, at the same time, the same hundred pagan people to start worshipping the God Apollo.  And suppose each of us is equally successful so that I convince half the crowd to worship the God of Jesus and he convinces half to worship Apollo.  In so doing, Christianity has gained fifty members and lost none, and paganism has lost fifty members and gained none!  (This example is suggested by the book, Ramsey MacMullen’s Christianizing the Roman Empire.)

    As Christianity grows, the other religions shrink because Christianity is exclusive in its claims.  Over time, that starts mattering.  And as converts begin to increase, Christianity starts not only to grow but to overwhelm the opposition.


    SCARY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Jehovah's Witnesses' extreme evangelizing and exclusions border on the pathological. Could this strategy be the sole reason such cults as JW's, Mormons, and the phobic Islam, are growing like weeds in an untended garden?

  • sowhatnow


     per your scary thought....

     id say there is proof in numbers, Islam has more followers to begin with  simply because of population, and most likely larger families

    so obviously its more known among the population followed by other large religious organizations.

    since they do not go door to door, how they gain followers is quite interesting.

    i actually have a hard time seeing the jws around for another 100 years,  I see it morphing into yet another religion.

  • kaik

    While ago, I read one reason why Christianity grew through the Roman empire was the role of women in the religion. Roman society was male dominated where women did not had much rights and were treated as a property of their husbands or fathers. They were responsible for running the household choirs while men were either busy on front line, administration, and business. Christianity was a religion of the Antiquity where it deliberately targeted women as their converts. This can be traced to missionary work of Jesus (preaching to Samaritan woman, Mary Magdalene, and other women), which was something neither Jews or Greco-Roman society did. Women were surprised when Jesus approached them and carry the idea of early Christianity toward their offspring. Early Christians legends is full of women who were vital for securing foothold of the new religion. Constantine was probably most influenced by his mother Helena and many supporter of the Christianity during the transition period (300-400AD) had Christian mothers while they followed foothold of their pagan father. St. Augustine was another one.

    Women are traditionally more religious and dedicated to the faith than men. Christianity utilized on this by targeting them in missionary works. Roman men were not as acceptable to new religion due social and economic structure. They needed to worship an emperor and Roman gods played a role in the administration as a patron of various institutions. Refusing such patronage would lead to end of their political career, especially in the army. Roman military was the last institution of the empire that was Christianized. Julian Apostate was last successful pagan Roman emperor and military leader (+363) where both Germanic and Persian armies were afraid of him. After his death, there was a huge purge of pagan military from the army, culminating during Stilicho (+408) and thus weakening Roman army during Gothic invasion. Rome was sacked two years later for the first time in 800 years.

  • Village Idiot
    Village Idiot

    TerryWalstrom: "SCARY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Jehovah's Witnesses' extreme evangelizing and exclusions border on the pathological. Could this strategy be the sole reason such cults as JW's, Mormons, and the phobic Islam, are growing like weeds in an untended garden?"

    Terry, I haven't checked the stats lately but I believe that JWs are not really growing that much and their numbers are fudged.

    Mormons are growing but Islam is not so much growing - it has no evangelists - but radical Islam is growing within it's own not so radical ranks.

    If you want to see something real scary research the New Apostolic Reformation. That is a growing cult of hyper-charismatic Christians that has been growing enormously within ordinary Evangelical ranks. They were the ones that sponsored Rick Perry's "The Response". and have made inroads into Republican politics in general.

  • Phizzy

    I think there are a number of very good reasons why Christianity grew under the impetus that Paul gave it, Paul's Christology paid attention to its Jewish roots, but its main appeal was that you did not need a Temple with its Priests to find salvation.

    Paul preached a direct route to God, and Salvation, through Christ, a route that every man and women could follow without the trappings of organized religion.

    This appealed to many who looked into it. Yes, the other reasons mentioned above are valid, but not the prime impetus in my opinion.

    Where the JW "religion"  has gone awry is the same point that Christendom generally has gone wrong, they insist that Salvation is only possible by following their "Priests" and "Temple" set-up.

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