Christianity

A world religion which regards Jesus Christ as its founder, Christianity was originally a social movement in Judaism , emerging in Jerusalem during the Roman occupation. With the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, Christianity became increasingly a religion of Gentiles, partly as a consequence of the preaching of the apostle Paul, who established Gentile churches.
In Rome, these Christian groups became the targets of political repression, especially under Nero. This persecution resulted in the new institutions of martyrdom and sainthood. Although Christianity spread among the lower classes, it eventually won favour among the powerful, and in 313 CE Constantine established it as the religion of the Roman Empire. Karl Kautsky's argument (Foundations of Christianity: A Study of Christian Origins, 1908) that early Christianity was a proletarian religion requires qualification.
By the eleventh century, there was a clear divide between Western and Eastern Orthodoxy. The bishop of Rome was transformed into the Pope with authority over Western Christendom. The Roman Catholic Church had a major impact on Western culture, especially through the educational function of monasteries. There was a profound split in the Church as a consequence of the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Christianity is founded on the belief in an omnipotent and just God who is responsible for all Creation. Although humanity has sinned, and therefore fallen from grace, salvation from punishment has been made possible by God's mercy in sending a saviour-Jesus Christ-to atone for these sins. Christians therefore believe that faith in Christ as the Son of God ensures everlasting salvation. However, contemporary Christianity is an extradordinarily diverse belief system, embodying various doctrines emphasizing not only faith but also all manner of good works. A fascinating account of the historical emergence of the doctrines and organization of the Christian church is given in Elaine Pagels's book, The Gnostic Gospels (1979).
Much of the sociology of religion has been concerned with the social consequences of specifically Christian beliefs. Max Weber's protestant ethic thesis is one of the best-known examples. There has also been much debate about the impact of Christianity on Western civilization generally, for example in promoting democracy or scientific innovation, and about the contemporary secularization of the Christian religion. See also chiliasm ; church ; religion, sociology of ; sect.

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

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  • Christianity — • An account is given of Christianity as a religion, describing its origin, its relation to other religions, its essential nature and chief characteristics, but not dealing with its doctrines in detail nor its history as a visible organization… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • CHRISTIANITY — CHRISTIANITY, a general term denoting the historic community deriving from the original followers of Jesus of Nazareth; the institutions, social and cultural patterns, and the beliefs and doctrines evolved by this community; and – in the   widest …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Christianity —    Christianity played an important role in forming the attitudes of generations of Europeans toward Jews. Indeed, the roots of Christianity are found within Judaism; Jesus and his disciples were Jews who belonged to a sect that preached… …   Historical dictionary of the Holocaust

  • Christianity — Chris*tian i*ty, n. [OE. cristiente, OF. cristient[ e], F. chr[ e]tient[ e], fr. L. christianitas. ] [1913 Webster] 1. The religion of Christians; the system of doctrines and precepts taught by Christ. [1913 Webster] 2. Practical conformity of… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Christianity — c.1300, cristente, from O.Fr. crestienté (Mod.Fr. chrétienté), from Church L. christianitatem (nom. christianitas), noun of state from christianus (see CHRISTIAN (Cf. Christian)). Gradually respelled to conform with Latin …   Etymology dictionary

  • Christianity — ► NOUN ▪ the religion based on the person and teachings of Jesus Christ …   English terms dictionary

  • Christianity — [kris΄chē an′ə tē, kris΄tē an′ə tē] n. [ME cristianite < OFr crestiente < LL(Ec) Christianitas < Christianus, CHRISTIAN] 1. Christians collectively 2. the Christian religion, based upon belief in Jesus as the Christ and upon his… …   English World dictionary

  • Christianity — Part of a series on Christianity …   Wikipedia

  • Christianity — /kris chee an i tee/, n., pl. Christianities. 1. the Christian religion, including the Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox churches. 2. Christian beliefs or practices; Christian quality or character: Christianity mixed with pagan elements; …   Universalium

  • Christianity —    The religion which has shaped English culture for the past 1,500 years is Christianity, whether in its Catholic or its Protestant form; much English folklore embodies Christian ethics, echoes biblical themes, or presents a modified,… …   A Dictionary of English folklore

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