In this world, at the moment, there are 2.4 billion people counted as Christian. It is the largest of the counted religious-based groups. The entire group of people follows creeds derived from the teachings of a carpenter who lived in present-day Israel and Palestine (Judaea) about 2,000 years ago.
The religion he started, if we can even call it a religion then, spread slowly and without a great deal of traction for quite a while after his death. It was not until Emperor Constantine became a Christian that any real numbers of conversion became apparent. The efficiency of the Roman Empire meant it could transmit any message that it wanted to, and so Christianity was almost taken along for the ride.
From the beginning, Christianity was not cohesive. The convert Paul, who was not one of the original apostles believed from the beginning the word should be spread to all people. In following his mission, he traveled thousands of miles preaching in people’s homes and temples. But he preached to Jews and gentiles alike.
Until the sixteenth century, the Catholic Church was the dominant form of the religion. Frequently split internally with rifts and scandals, it nevertheless managed to keep a firm hold on the hearts and minds until the pressure was too strong and finally Martin Luther had the prescience to nail his thesis to the church door, saying aloud what many people thought.
From that point on Christianity broke into different denominations, but of the 2.4 billion, Catholicism is about half, followed by Protestants and Anglicans and the Eastern Orthodox church.
Having a choice in Christianity
Today we can shape our Christian practice according to our tastes. If we reject one denomination’s stand on the role of women we can adjust to another which will have a more accommodating perspective.
The idea of choice in religion, picking a religion according to your taste in the same way you might pick a meal is in itself interesting. If we are Christian should we not follow the words of Christ? But of course, it is more complex.
In the first place, people disagree, and this leads them into schism and new denominations. Additionally, we might be able to agree on the fundamentals but we split on secondary issues; for Martin Luther, the idea you can buy your way in was a step too far.
Christian denominations allow the space for a basic belief but also a congregation who is a sentient and thinking being. The dominance of the Catholic Church rested and relied on the idea of a congregation who obeyed and did not question. Once people did start to question the church began to lose its hold.
Now society seeks to hold its churches accountable, some even see extreme religious right views as positively negative. We are suspicious of the bible bashers, we are dedicated to keeping the separation of church and state.
Pre-Christian peoples managed to live in a way which was essentially Christian. It seems to me principles still hold for us, no matter what flavor.