Western scholars often refer to Western civilization as Christian. The ongoing conflict between radicals of the Arab world and the West is often portrayed as a conflict of civilizations, with the assumption that the dominant cultural influences in Western civilization, in conflict with the Muslim Arabic civilization, are those of Christian values.
The portrayal of Western civilization which ascribes its dominant cultural values to Christian doctrine and teaching is, in my view, a great disservice to the memory of the secular thinkers to whom the core imitable values of Western civilization can be ascribed. The emergence of modern Western civilization certainly did have its roots in Christianity but at a crucial point in the evolution of Western culture was the renaissance which give birth to a new secular social, philosophical and cultural orientation in Western civilization which largely superseded the original religious cultural orientation of Holy Roman Empire in the West.
The tendency to argue that the core values of Western civilization are Christian is mistaken, for the dominant influence in the emergence of the core values of contemporary Western civilization are secular humanist and not Christian. The illusory impression that Western civilization is based on Christian values apparently arises from the vaguely religious ethnocentric impression that the core values of Christian moral and ethical teachings reflect the highest standards and that therefore the relatively high standards of Western civilization(as Westerners like to think) could only have come from the Christian scriptures.
Thou shalt not kill. Thou Shalt love thine neighbor as thine self. Thou shalt not commit adultery. These certainly are rules of moral conduct and ethics found in the Bible. But these rules are not unique to the Christian scriptures and culture; they are universal standards found in practically all “pagan cultures.” The religious ethnocentrism which ascribes any high sounding moral-ethical precept to the Judeo-Christian scriptures is the result of the ethnocentric notion that Christianity is a uniquely moral and ethical religion.
The dominant trends in thought which led to the emergence of the ethical distinctives of Western culture are the secular socio-cultural principles of individualism and not those of religious morality. These principles are expressed in such secular ethical values as freedom, human rights, equality of individuals before the law and democracy. The conviction, for instance, among Islamic fundamentalists that Western civilization is morally decadent results from the fact that Western cultural ethics ignore matters of religious morality that are adjudged of personal or private choice, Thus, while a religiously moral Taliban government would invest inordinate efforts in policing private morality in issues of sexual behavior and orientation of individuals, consumption of alcohol, dressing and religious observances, the Western state concerns itself with such issues only to the extent that it is considered to significantly violate the rights of others in society.
The persistent conflict between the views of religious conservatives and liberals over social issues in United States reflects the relatively significant influence of religion in American society in comparison to North Western European societies and reveals the essentially secular rather than Christian roots of Western culture.
The ongoing conflict between Western civilization and Muslim Arab civilization is not a conflict between Christian civilization and Islamic civilization but a conflict between a secularized civilization and a religious civilization. The notion of conflict between Christianity and Islam which dominates the minds of Islamic fundamentalists and many religious Americans is a mistaken one. The conflict between Christianity and Islam might have been real in the medieval crusades. In the modern world, when American Presidents speak glowingly of the American way of life, they are not referring to Christianity but to the way of life based on the liberal values of secular humanism.
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Source by John Thomas Didymus
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