Christianity is the world’s most popular religion. It has been stayed in Europe since the 1st century, and more dominantly in Greece, as well as the Roman Empire.
In 2010, the Pew Research Center estimated that 76.2% of the European population are Christians.
Among them, 48% are Catholics, which is the largest percentage. The second-largest Christian group in Europe were the Orthodox, who made up 32% of European Christians. Although about 19% of European Christians were Protestant.
Christian culture had the predominant effect on Western civilization, guiding the course of philosophy, art, and science.
Europe has a rich Christian culture, as we can see in numerous saints, martyrs and popes were European themselves and it consists of many Christian holy sites and heritage and religious centers.
Christianity & the Roman Empire
Christians were persecuted throughout the Roman Empire for centuries. It contains world’s most magnificent remainings of Christianity. It might conjure up images of colossal cathedrals and powerful bishops.
Many people were tired of Roman rituals that seemed to be empty and they were looking forward to the social equality, justice, and the promise of an afterlife that Christianity offered.
Christianity began to spread in north and west of Europe, by the aid of merchants, missionaries, and soldiers. As a matter of fact, Christianity was growing stronger.
Reasons for the spread of Christianity
The Christian religion continued its spread throughout the Mediterranean Basin. The following factors assisted Christianity to spread so successfully throughout the Europe.
1. The favorable location of Palestine: The location of Palestine was a key factor in the spread of Christianity. Despite being small, Palestine is extremely central for Christianity. According to the Testament, Palestine was the corridor between the two continents of Africa and Asia. Later, the Romans extended their Empire by joining their northern and southern provinces by taking Palestine.The Christian holiday of Pentecost celebrated on the fiftieth day after Easter, took place in Palestine.
2. Peoples’ acceptance: An important reason that why people were so willing to accept Christianity was due to the actions of the Christians themselves. Christians helped people during times of famine earthquake or war and were renowned for their hospitality, offering shelter to travelling brethren for up to three nights, which enhance the affinity for the religion.
3. The message of equality: Christianity spread message is one of equality; the thought of slaves and masters being greatly appealed to the lower classes. The elite classes were also persuaded by this message of equality. The Bible teaches that men and women are equal and says that a husband must treat his wife well. This appealed to the prominent women who then converted their husband.
4. Influence of Roman Empire: Factors outside of the Christians hands also helped the spread of Christianity. During these times the Roman Empire was going through a period of peace, Pax Romana, which greatly helped the spread of Christianity.
Romans were exhausted by the void of distractions of war, and turn their attention to other matters. They engaged themselves in building roads so well many of them are still being used thousands of years later. These roads were well constructed and literally paved the way for the early evangelists and missionaries. Also, the Roman soldiers, with no wars to fight, were able to guard these roads, ensuring safe travel.
5. Gradual Depletion of the Jewish religion: Another factor that was beyond the Christians control was that of the Jewish religion. While this later hindered Christians, it helped to lay the foundations of the Church. According to the Greek geographer Strabo, ‘Jews have gone into every city, and it is hard to find a place on earth which has not admitted them, and come under their control’.
Again, this would not necessarily have helped unless there were people there who were willing to accept the message. These days people were generally God-fearers and were not fully convinced by the Jewish Laws. They gradually believed that Christianity offered them a place in heaven without having to first be circumcised.
Another group often willing to accept the Christian message was the Hellenist Jews living in Syria, Greece, Asia Minor and Egypt who tended to be more liberal in their outlook than the Jews in Palestine.
Jews were able to accept the Christian message as both Judaism and Christianity are monotheistic religions, and so the concept of only worshipping one god was one which the Jews were already accustomed to. Similarly, the Jews, as well as the Christians, were a ‘separate nation’, and so this is something which people both outside an inside of the Jewish faith were comfortable with.