Re. April 21 letter from Julian Hudson, headlined Religion integral to cultural excellence:
Throughout history different cultures have expressed the belief that they were superior to all others.
The Egyptians, Sumerians, Persians, Greeks and Romans all believed they had reached the pinnacle of human existence. The current world system of the state and the ideology of Western civilization is another stage in the on going evolution of human development.
The belief that the current ideology and technical advancement of Western society is a result of the rise of Christianity is inaccurate. The current prosperity and advantages we enjoy are based on two things: democracy and rule of law.
The suggestion that the natives of North America failed to use the resources of their world properly is an interesting outlook based on the history of the European expansion into North America and the world.
Colonization was based on God, gold and glory.
Yes, there was an opportunity to change the religious beliefs of indigenous peoples but also an opportunity to rape and pillage new lands for the good of the colonial motherland.
The Greek philosophers, Aristotle and Plato, are referred to as the founders of Western ideology. Their philosophy was based on logic-based knowledge and respect for natural science.
As Greek culture was one of the most polytheistic that ever existed, I do not understand the reference to them re. Christianity.
The Greeks had a myriad of Gods they worshipped such as Zeus, Apollo, Athena and Hermes.
There is also reference I believe to the Pantheon and the great roads and aqueducts built by the Roman Empire.
The Roman Empire developed advanced mathematics and technology that allowed them to build such enduring and impressive structures.
The empire’s period of greatest expansion occurred prior to the Emperor Constantine’s declaration in 312AD that Christianity would be the religion of the Holy Roman Empire.
When the Roman Empire split and eventually fell apart, Europe descended into what is referred to as the Dark Ages and many of the advances of the Roman Empire, for example the use of concrete for construction, were lost to Europe for over 1,000 years.
Democracy and rule of law are the reason that Western culture provides prosperity and individual and personal freedoms its citizens enjoy.
Both ideologies were the result of a period in European history called the Age of Enlightenment.
Similar to the original philosophies of the Greeks, scientists of the mid to late 1700s began to look at empirical thinking, meaning fact and observation should be the basis of decisions and not religion, mythology and superstition.
These new ideas led to the American and the French revolutions. The Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights are a direct result of this new ideology and the move into the modern world we know today.
The time of European expansionism changed the face of the globe forever. The excitement of expanding to new worlds is unprecedented even in modern times.
The reason for the expansion was mainly to support the war efforts back in Europe as each state tried to establish hegemony over the other. The Europeans arrived in North America to find vast resources at their disposal. They destroyed forests to build warships for the ongoing battles in Europe, they nearly wiped out the beaver because it became fashionable to wear hats in Europe, the great bison herds of the prairies were literally wiped out and finally diseases such as smallpox reduced indigenous population by up to 75 per cent.
The Beothuk Indians of Newfoundland were completely eradicated.
The end of the hunter-gatherer societies such as the native indigenous peoples of North America may have been inevitable as population growth demanded more land and more urban living but the methods used by my ancestors do not make me proud.
The native cultures that lived in North America may not have built roads and aqueducts but they managed their land and wildlife populations in a sustainable way. They had an advanced social system that respected every member of the tribe and used committees and consensus to make decisions and solve disputes, somewhat similar to our current democratic political systems although perhaps not so complex.
The reservation system has been a disaster and the struggle to integrate a society that had no concept of materialism into modern society based on consumerism is ongoing.
In conclusion, the benefits of living in “the Christian West,” are undisputable. We live in one of the most prosperous and safe places on the planet. We enjoy personal freedom and protection from unjust persecution. These rights and principles were the result of a process of thinking that evolved in Europe and resulted in the overthrowing of Divine Monarchy and the birth of democratic society. The moral lessons of Christianity are sound and if followed help to build an honest, loving and kind society, however it was not Christianity that brought us into the modern world. The belief in cultural superiority has caused many painful and unjust periods in human history. All cultures develop and evolve over time and to suit their environment; therefore, each one has value and we can all learn from their respective
Kathryn Plaudis O’Connell