Christianity as a Unifying Influence in the History of Europe

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Christianity as a Unifying Influence in the History of Europe

"Europe was a Christian creation, not only in essence but in minute detail"

The above statement can perhaps best sum up the relationship between Christianity and Europe throughout the ages. Christianity has been the strongest single influence in the history of Europe. Regardless of the century, no discussion would be complete without reference being made, at least in small part, to the Church. It is true that in recent centuries this influence has declined significantly, but nevertheless one could argue that it still plays an important part in the lives of many people. Throughout history Christianity has been both a unifying force and also a force for disunity.
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However it is worth giving a brief history of the birth of this religion. At the beginning of the first century a new religion was born and started to spread rapidly across the Roman Empire. Its source of inspiration was Jesus. It was different to the other religions of the day in a profound way. It was universal, offering all things to all men, proclaiming an afterlife, triumph over death, and presenting a road to salvation for all men and women. It emphasised the inner life and filled the spiritual void created by the Roman lifestyle. Yet it was one of many religions. There were many rivals, the mystery religions of Persia, Syria and Egypt were popular at the time and of course there was Judaism. Nothing at the time suggested this Jewish heresy could rival the other religions. Nevertheless Christianity spread relatively quickly, mainly due to the missionary work of St. Paul and, also, St. Peter. St Paul's journeys took him to Palestine, Asia, Macedonia, Greece, Rome and finally Spain. In addition this new religion spread quickly throughout the Roman garrisons and from there was carried by the soldiers through the Empire. In early fourth century Emperor Decius attempted to wipeout the Christian faith, the great persecution lasted thirteen years, but in 313 the 'Edict of Milan', in which religious tolerance was granted to Christians and previous