Exploring Christianity: What was the appeal?

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Christianity, one of the world's major religions, has captivated the hearts and minds of countless people throughout history. Modern-day people, however, often question what was – or is –  so appealing about having to get up early each Sunday to listen to an old man guilt-trip them about how they are bad people and should be grateful that someone else died for them over two thousand years ago.

Here at Booksmart, we think such 'questioning' is reasonable and deserves to be met with 'answering'. So let us have a closer look at why people who lived hundreds of years ago were so inclined to believe the teachings of Christianity, whereas people today might have less incentive to do so.

1. Hope of an afterlife

The first and perhaps most attractive reason was the hope of a happy afterlife. Our ancestors, like us, faced struggles, uncertainties, and the fear of death. Only where most of us live with the relative security of having enough food, shelter, and access to medicine our ancestors lived in times when life expectancy was much lower. The fear our ancestors experienced on a daily basis was much more acute, as death was inescapable. Worse still, where many of us have things to look forward to – like weekends, holidays, dinners, and parties – our ancestors had precious little to keep them going in times of hardship. Simply put, Life for our ancestors was hard and there was no prospect of it getting any better.

That is where Christianity came in. Unlike many of the religions before it, those who believed were not only told that there was an afterlife. They were also told this afterlife was going to have all of the good things in life and none of the bad. Christianity provided a comforting belief that through Jesus Christ – which is where the word ‘Christianity’ comes from, they could find eternal life with the friends and family they had lost. That would be a very tempting hope for someone who has just lost a loved one. 

2.  A guide to life

Christianity provided a moral compass for our ancestors. It offered clear guidelines on how to live a righteous and meaningful life. The Ten Commandments, teachings of Jesus, and biblical stories offered lessons on compassion, honesty, love, and forgiveness. These principles resonated with people and provided a framework for making ethical choices.

3. Community and support 

Christianity brought people together in communities of faith. Churches became gathering places where people could find support, friendship, and a sense of belonging. Even people who did not believe in the hope of an afterlife could still see the benefits of being part of a close community.

3. Personal Growth and rebirth 

Christianity offered the promise of personal transformation. You didn’t like who you were? You had been rejected by society? Well, that need not be the case forever. All you had to do was follow the steps set forth by Christianity and become a new person with a chance at a second life. A fresh start. It is not hard to see how that could be an attractive concept, even in today’s world.

4. Knowledge through Christianity

Christian organizations like the Catholic church trained people to teach the teaching Christianity, which required a lot of knowledge and know-how. This also meant that nearly all forms of intellectual pursuit were somehow connected to or funded by the Catholic church, turning this organization into a collector of knowledge. For hundreds of years, the position of a priest was synonymous with the position of a scholar or learned man. If people had questions, they would flock to the church in a way that is similar to how people today might look things up online or visit a library. Needless to say, the authority of Christian organizations was near-unquestionable when it came to knowledge about the world people lived in. This also made them a trustworthy source of information for common people.

As we can see, religion (and its organizations) meant quite a bit more to our ancestors than they might today. Today, people exert a great deal more power over the world than our ancestors did in the past and have found different ways of obtaining community, support, transformation, and knowledge. This might make one think religion no longer has much use, but do not count religion out just yet. The afterlife still poses a huge unknown that many who are exposed to death become scared of. It is especially there that the influence of religion on society should not be underestimated. After all, there is a reason places of worship can be found inside hospitals where people go to die. What desperate person would not want a little hope?

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