How Major Religions Spread Around the World – Part 1

Really this blog is to see how Christianity spread around the world, but the blueprint that it followed would act the same way for any religion you wanted to start. A recent study into the history of Christianity leaves us with the thought that if you wanted to spread a new religion then you would be far better starting with the rich and famous and the people with influence rather than trying to convince the common man.

The spread of Christianity had little to do with the masses and the hoi polloi, but was more a consequence of powerful leaders that had extraordinary influences over working and lower class people.

Research Dispute

There is a large dispute within academic circles about whether Christianity grew either from the masses up or rather than filtering down to the masses from the elite. This question does not just concern Christianity, but every religion in the world.

A respected biologist from Vanderbilit University put this question into perfect prose when Nicole Creanza said, If we know enough about a population, can we predict how quickly it will adopt a certain idea?

But as the study suggests, it may be that we don’t have to know much about a society at all to predict what it is going to do in the future. A further study by the Max Planck Institute analyzed several hundred years of religious data and came to the conclusion Christianity was adopted around the world because of travelling European missionaries during the period between the 16th and the 19th Centuries.

The Influence of Judaism

If it was not for the influence of Judaism, then it is doubtful that Christianity may even have existed. But as it grew as an offshoot of Judaism, it soon overtook it in terms of popularity, and today Christianity has over two billion followers. But what actually fueled this growth? Is it from the bottom with grass root believers? Or is it the enforcement from above of political and cultural doctrines? Do population numbers have anything to do with growth, or are social inequalities more prevalent?

All these questions are indeed critical to the understanding of the growth of Christianity. The researchers at the Max Planck Institute found out that social inequality had little or no part of religious growth. And indeed, Christianity seemed to grow fastest when strong and influential leaders pressed their subjects to take up a new religion. The researchers singled out two cultures to support their theories.

The peoples of Iban and Ifuagao were two of the last cultures to adopt Christianity and this the researchers believe was due to the fact they had little or no organization in political terms. The research points to a more materialistic attraction to why different cultures accepted Christianity. And the real reason close-knit communities converted to Christianity was that the missionaries provided them with trading opportunities and lavished material goods upon them. In part two of our blog into how major religions spread across the world we debate other strong influences.