Essay on Religion and the Development of the Western World

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Religion and the Development of the Western World

The accomplishments and success of civilizations are closely linked to their religious outlook and the role of religion in their governments and society. Throughout history rulers have used the influence of religions to control their populations and provide the justification for their power. A society with a greater degree of separation between religion and government promotes a superior level of liberty and creativity amongst its people. By the time of the decline of the Roman Empire in the west, however, the world had come full circle to a return to theocratic dictatorship. In the ancient civilization of the Sumerians religion was an important part of both the lives of the
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The focus of Greek thought was on the community of man within the polis. They developed their laws and philosophies in accordance with what seemed to them appropriate social interaction, not the decrees of a god, a priest, or a king. Ethics and morality became the questions of high-minded citizens who created schools and systematic empirical methods for seeking the answers to questions of right and wrong, politics, and the nature of man. The gods of the Greek religion, while super-human in strength and immortal, were humanly fallible. They were seen as the patrons of certain city-states and their worship was out of a sense of civic duty and the hope that the gods would lend their assistance both to the community and the individual. Many of the teachings were common sense virtues such as self-awareness and moderation as in the Cult of Delphian Apollo. This naturalistic focus allowed them to seek their answers through the scientific method of philosophy. They developed the beginnings of atomic theory and wrote fairly objective histories that sought to explain the causes and learn from the events of the past. The gifts of education were more available to the common citizen than in any previous time in history and the political system allowed each man a say in the government of his community. These were limited, but their very presence signifies a major shift away from the authoritarianism of
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