World Without Jesus

We’ve joked about this, but someone is apparently taking is half seriously: what if Jesus was aborted? That’s the question asked at the website of the conservative coalition known as the Manhattan Declaration.

The question basically translates to, “What would the world be like if Christianity had never become successful?” It’s an interesting question, but their answers are phoned in:

The influence of Christ’s life greatly influenced the arts. Michelangelo wouldn’t have painted the Sistine Chapel and there would be no Pieta in the Vatican- further, no Vatican at all.

Fair enough. Of course, the wealthy pagans of the Roman empire were great patrons of the arts, particularly religious art that might gain them favor from the Gods or the Emperor. Had Jesus never existed, the art world would be very different but probably just as vibrant.

Christian writers whose works clearly reflect the conviction that the Earth is spherical include Saint Bede the Venerable in his Reckoning of Time, written around AD 723. In Columbus’ time, the techniques of celestial navigation, which use the position of the Sun and the Stars in the sky, together with the understanding that the Earth is a sphere, were widely used by mariners. Columbus himself saw his accomplishments [of exploring the Americas] primarily in the light of the spreading of the Christian religion. – Wikipedia

See what I mean by “phoned in”? Western culture already knew the world was round centuries before the birth of Jesus. Granted, Columbus was an apocalyptic and he was partially motivated by religious fervor. But he was also motivated by financial self-interest, as were his backers and most of the other explorers. Had Columbus not sailed, someone else would have.

Some of the Manhattan Declaration’s answers are just weird: without the Catholic Mass, wine grapes would have died out. Given how popular wine has been in Europe, I just can’t see everyone giving up on the grape.

I used to think that paganism was on the wane when Christianity arose. But I believe that the historical consensus has shifted, and now the belief is that Greco-roman paganism was very much alive, particularly after the revivals sponsored by Diocletian. So if Jesus had never been born, we might still have some version of that old paganism still around. Probably so heavily evolved as to be unrecognizable, but still the dominant religion of the west.

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