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How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization is a book by Thomas E. Woods Jr. It was published by Regnery Publishing in 2005. Thomas E. Woods is an expert-historian who holds degrees from Columbia and Harvard Universities. In this new volume, he demonstrates how the Church built western civilization in a detailed discussion of the 10-chapter book, from “The Indispensable Church”, “A Light in the Darkness”, and “How Monks Saved Civilization” to the last one, “The Church and Western Morality”. He approaches his work in a religious orthodox and historical way as demonstrated in his detailed references and scholarly footnotes. The Church has enormously influenced the development of several aspects of life including education, government structures, science, philosophy, law, music, and the welfare of the people. It has been useful in provision of guidance on several issues touching the lives of people in the society. Given its long history, it has been instrumental in providing such services as schooling, inspiration, influencing cultural development, medical services, and the philosophy of life. It started far before the establishment of some governments and it took some of the responsibilities that were being done by governments at that time. At the beginning of Christianity, almost the whole world practiced Catholicism. Due to its influence on lives of people, nearly all the institutions that came into being were built on some aspects of its beliefs and its teachings. Some of the major contributions in the modern western civilization include the following.
Contribution of the Church to the Education Field
Woods notes that, "Western civilization stands indebted to the Church for the university system…” (Woods, 2005). In the chapter “The Church and the University’, he notes that the church contributed enormously to the education sector. It played a major role in providing education for the people since its inception. It built numerous schools, including famous universities that played a leading role in influencing western civilization up to date. Most of the world’s philosophy is largely based on the catholic philosophy. The most prominent scholars, who became great philosophers, were from this early institution. Their great work continued to influence the world and shaped most of the current writings. The Catholic Church had numerous institutions that offered education services across the world. This education tremendously influenced basics of education in all the parts of the world. Indirectly, the Church also promoted the development of the scientific ideas. The author convincingly explains that the development of modern science has its root in the Church from late Middle Ages. Some people who did not ascribe to its teachings sought scientific means to explain some of the views that they thought the church could not explain their existence with finality. This led to the emergence of scientific theories such as the evolution theory by Charles Darwin, which has been used by science up to date. This promoted scientific advancement, as people sought an alternative to explain what they did not agree with in the teachings of the Church.
Influence on the Western Culture
In the chapter “The Church and Western Morality”, Woods gives a detailed discussion on how the Church influenced the western culture. The Catholic Church scholars had consistently provided literacy for the western countries after the end of the Roman Empire. It had already been established in most parts of Europe. It rose to replace the Roman Empire and became the Europe’s unifying factor. Their structures have been the main source of architecture. The cathedrals that were built by the Catholic Church are among the most iconic structures that influenced and still influence the western civilization. They still remain very outstanding structures in the world. They influence the way that various structures in the world are designed. In the world of music, the Church was very important and produced many world-famous musicians including Beethoven and Mozart, who have a great influence on the world of music up to date. The influence of its theology on the modern philosophers and also political activist has been of paramount importance. The Church has shaped family and marriage life by its teaching about family values. It has led to the abandonment of polygamous practices in most parts of the western countries. Its influence on family values and morality still guide the way people live today in most parts of the world. Its preaching against such issues as abortion is a source of guidance to many families in the western nations. It consistently confronts governments that want to implement laws that are against its teachings and successfully stopped most of such laws from being implemented.
The Catholic Church has had a big impact on the world politics. It has aided in formation of many political ideologies in the world of politics. A good example of its major contribution is its role in ending of the communism in the world. It played a major role in ending the existence of communism in Europe and has been the peace broker among many western nations in conflicts, thus promoting coexistence of nations and their development. The teachings of Christ on equality, which the Church spread in the early days, have been the source of laws that protect the human rights and equality across the western countries. The Church played a key role in ending slavery in most parts of the western countries by preaching equality of all human beings despite their color and race. This led to key political reforms across the western countries, hence, promoting their civilization. The Ten Commandments it preached on have formed basis on which the legal systems of western countries are formed.
Influence on Religious Beliefs and Practice
Woods also appreciates the role that the Church played in people’s culture and beliefs. This is mainly discussed in “The Church and Western Morality” among other chapters. Most of the western countries practice Christianity or hold Christianity beliefs and faith. The role of the spread of Christianity in the western countries is greatly attributed to the Catholic Church. It was the first church that spread the teachings of Christ across the western countries. Even the other churches that emerged later bear their origins from it. The Catholic faith is still being practiced in almost all western countries, hence, showing the great impact the Church had in their faith. It eroded the traditional faith of the indigenous people and replaced them with its teachings, which are still being practiced in the western culture. People’s lives in western countries are still revolved around this faith. Currently, majority of the people seek for guidance from the same institution in their day to day lives. In some regions, such as South American countries and some parts of western countries, Catholic faith is practiced almost to totality. It influences both the politics and the social aspects of their lives.
Influence on the Health Care and Social Welfare
In “The Church and Science”, Woods gives the details of how useful the Church is in the healthcare and social welfare. It owns some of the most famous worldwide hospitals that have contributed significantly towards the welfare of the people. It has also been instrumental in providing social amenities for the western society. It has played a key role in giving both technical and financial aid to the poor in the society; hence, promoting their welfare in a significant way. The church has various members that have played a significant role in helping the needy in the society and campaigning for their rights across the whole world. Among the famous ones is Mother Teresa, who left an indelible mark in the lives of Indians. Several other followers of the Church have made great contributions to helping the society. This has helped civilization to prosper by improving the living standards of people and influencing their day to day lives. The Church has been present in the war-torn places like Darfur and other places in Africa to provide aid assistance and helping such communities to reconcile. This is in line with the western civilization that encourages charity work and giving aid to the poor. The Church has, therefore, was a good example for other institutions in the world to follow. It has also provided shelter for the war victims and other less fortunate members of the society. Towards this end, the Church has greatly contributed towards the welfare of the people in various societies.
Promotion of Peace and Coexistence among Nations
Woods notes how western civilization would have been impossible without the Church. This is captured in “The Origins of International Law” and “The Church and Western Law”. In the view of this point, the Catholic Church began preaching people and peaceful coexistence among nations. It has been very instrumental in promoting peaceful coexistence by resolving human conflicts peacefully and encouraging brotherhood across the world. The church had for years acted as the peace broker among countries and communities across the world. The peaceful coexistence promoted development of many countries and helped them to resolve most of their causes of conflicts peacefully. Its teachings on morality helped reduce most of the conflicts, since it taught the societies on the need to respect one another. It acted as a unifying factor across the world, as its teachings bring people together in one common belief and faith. The teachings of this great institution prevented unnecessary bloodshed that could have negatively impacted the development of the western civilization.
Influence on the World Economy
In “The Church and Economics”, Woods discusses how the Church played an important role in the western economy. Since the early days of Christianity, the teachings of the Catholic Church have had a great impact on the economic aspect of many societies. Its teachings ensured that peace was maintained, which promoted economic prosperity across the world. Without this peace, the economic development for the western civilization would stagnate. The Church has also provided several aids that aided economic prosperity in the world. It should be remembered that the Vatican, which is currently under the full influence of the Catholic Church, plays a very crucial role in the world trade. The Church also attracts tourist across the world that are eager to learn from its rich traditions. The Rome, where the headquarters of the church is, has continued to be a major tourist attraction across the globe. The church has other numerous economic activities that contribute enormously to the world’s economy. It has several publications that are sold across the world for economic benefit. Some of the trade policies that were formulated in the early days of civilization derive their logic from the teachings of the Catholic Church even today. The Catholic Church has also funded many economic projects that have a great impact on the lives of people all over the world. In addition, the Church has created millions of jobs for people across the world that could otherwise be jobless. This has been their source of livelihood and has helped them to improve their living standards.
In conclusion, Woods notes that the Church’s contribution to building western civilization is undisputable, "Western civilization stands indebted to the Church for the university system, charitable work, international law, the sciences, and important legal principles … The Church, in fact, built Western civilization."
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