Christianity, Christmas and Western Civilization

By Carson Holloway:

Though Christmas is a religious holiday, secularists should appreciate its great contribution to Western Civilization: the lesson that all men are equal in their fundamental human dignity.

[E]ven Nietzsche, among Christianity’s most extreme philosophical enemies, admits (even as he condemns) the moral renovation wrought by Christianity. It effected, he claims, a revaluation of ancient values, standing the moral world on its head: where the pagan world celebrated the strength of the strong, Christianity displaced that understanding by demanding pity for the weak.

Could Western Civilization’s commitment to equal human dignity—a commitment that is approved by liberal and conservative, progressive and traditionalist, secularist and believer—have developed in the absence of Christianity? It is impossible to say. We cannot rewind and run history over again from the beginning. The moral development of civilizations, the work of centuries and millennia, is not an experiment that can be replicated and its results confirmed. We can only say that the development of the idea of equal human dignity was bound up with the propagation of Christianity in the West, and that we cannot know for certain whether that moral idea can survive without its religious support. Perhaps this is reason enough for secularists to allow and even encourage the ongoing public celebration of Christmas as a religious holiday.

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