The Rejection of Pascal's Wager
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The Spread of Nascent Christianity

Early Christian literature, for obvious propaganda reasons, tend to exaggerate the number of followers and the successes of their proselytizing efforts. This trend is already evident in the early second century document, The Acts of the Apostles:

Acts 2:47
And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

Acts 4:4
Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.

Acts 5:14
And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.

Acts 6:7
And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly...

These and the subsequent writings of the early church fathers such as Justin (c100-c165) and Tertullian (c160-c225) are merely rhetorical falsifications. Historians had estimated that by the year 200, less than one percent of the population of the central provinces of the Roman Empire were Christians. [1] And these were almost all confined to dwellers in the cities and town. The rural folk held so strongly to their old beliefs that the Latin term for peasants, pagani, became for Christians the generic term for adherents of the old religions. [2]

When Christianity came under imperial favour under Constantine in the early fourth century, the Christians amounted to no more than five to ten percent of the population of the Roman Empire. [3] Even after the conversion of Constantine the growth of the religion was by no means rapid. In Antioch, certainly one of the most important and oldest centers of Christianity, during the reign of Emperor Theodosius (emperor from 379-395), Christians made up no more than twenty percent of the population which numbered about half a million. [4] These considerations show that Christianity did not spread like wildfire with its self-evident truths compelling people to immediately embrace the religion.

In fact, it is a historical fact that by the beginning of the fourth century the Christian church was already on its death throes; partly due to the persecution by the Emperor Diocletian (245-313) and due to the intense competition for converts by the rival religion, Mithraism.

If there is one historical figure who contributed more than anybody else to the actual growth of Christianity it was, not Jesus, not Paul, but the Roman Emperor Constantine (c274-337). Had Christianity not found favour with Constantine, and his successors, who eventually suppressed Mithraism, this ancient Persian Sun-cult could well had become the predominant religion in Europe. [5]

When Constantine became Emperor of the reunited Roman Empire in the year 324, he gave political, legal and economic support to the Christian church. These included giving the bishops power to settle disputes between Christians, exempting all the priests from municipal taxes and giving them annual allowances. He also enacted some anti-pagan laws. [6] Some of his laws allowed the churches to enrich themselves substantially by preying on believing rich proselytes, especially the women.

The siphoning of the church for the money of these women were so bad that Emperor Valentinian (d375), fifty years after Constantine, had to command the Damasus (c304-384), Bishop of Rome to limit their extravagant donations. The successors of Constantine carried further these pro-Christian anti-pagan laws. The Emperor Honorius (384-423), for instance, enacted laws which allowed Christian church to take over the vacated pagan temples and to confiscate meeting houses and properties of those sects considered heretical. [7]

This then was how Christianity actually spread. Through some historical accident which put them in the good books of the Roman Emperor, Constantine. It was also Constantine, if you remember, who made Jesus God in the council of Nicaea in 325CE.

Subsequently it spread and consolidated its power through persecutions of other religions. In other words, the cause of the rise of Christianity is not to be found in superior theology or morals, but in a ruthless political persecution of its enemies.

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References

1.Robertson, History of Christianity: p60
2.Harris, Cow, Pigs, Wars and Witches: p176
Robertson, History of Christianity: p59
3.Gibbon, Decline And Fall of the Roman Empire: p187
Roberts, History of the World: p279
4.Gibbon, Decline And Fall of the Roman Empire: p183
Robertson, History of Christianity: p59
5.Phelips, The Churches and Modern Thought: p210
McCabe, The Social Record of Christianity, : p12
6.Robertson, History of Christianity: p86
7.Phelips, The Churches and Modern Thought: p209-210

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