We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
I am re-posting this essay because I think it got a bit lost in the mix over the weekend. Why so important? Because it makes clear that our civilization and our culture - including our religion - are what we have going for us. These things are precious, and more fragile than we'd like to think. The noble savage is a child's dream.
In the decade of Darfur and Iraq, and shortly after the century of Stalin, Hitler, and Mao, the claim that violence has been diminishing may seem somewhere between hallucinatory and obscene. Yet recent studies that seek to quantify the historical ebb and flow of violence point to exactly that conclusion.
Some of the evidence has been under our nose all along. Conventional history has long shown that, in many ways, we have been getting kinder and gentler. Cruelty as entertainment, human sacrifice to indulge superstition, slavery as a labor-saving device, conquest as the mission statement of government, genocide as a means of acquiring real estate, torture and mutilation as routine punishment, the death penalty for misdemeanors and differences of opinion, assassination as the mechanism of political succession, rape as the spoils of war, pogroms as outlets for frustration, homicide as the major form of conflict resolution—all were unexceptionable features of life for most of human history. But, today, they are rare to nonexistent in the West, far less common elsewhere than they used to be, concealed when they do occur, and widely condemned when they are brought to light.
At one time, these facts were widely appreciated. They were the source of notions like progress, civilization, and man's rise from savagery and barbarism. Recently, however, those ideas have come to sound corny, even dangerous. They seem to demonize people in other times and places, license colonial conquest and other foreign adventures, and conceal the crimes of our own societies. The doctrine of the noble savage—the idea that humans are peaceable by nature and corrupted by modern institutions—pops up frequently in the writing of public intellectuals like José Ortega y Gasset ("War is not an instinct but an invention"), Stephen Jay Gould ("Homo sapiens is not an evil or destructive species"), and Ashley Montagu ("Biological studies lend support to the ethic of universal brotherhood"). But, now that social scientists have started to count bodies in different historical periods, they have discovered that the romantic theory gets it backward: Far from causing us to become more violent, something in modernity and its cultural institutions has made us nobler.
Read the whole thing (link above). Sounds like Freud's Civilization and its Discontents wasn't too far off. Civilization has its challenges, but the alternatives aren't so hot.
Despite the usual human lapses and regressions, the road to a more peaceful humanity is paved with the stones of Judeo-Christianity. Without Christ, we would still be cheering on our favorite gladiator at the L.A. Coliseum.
But note also that the 20th Century was probably bloodier than all of human history combined...largely thanks to Nazi paganism and communist (Marxist) atheism. And with the advent of a new socialist and atheist despotism rising in the secular West, don't count on an unbroken pacific evolution. I am keeping my powder and my Bible dry.
Some anthropologists and historians are noting that the incidence of violence in the form of conflict between social groups has been decreasing for quite some time - since well before the introduction of Christiantity. check "Constant Battles", by Steven LeBlanc, for example.
We are a long way from where 30% of the male population could expect to die in combat every generation, and religions, technology, education and individual freedoms help to make it so.
I am sure that the 100,000,000 people slaughtered in about sixty years by the Sino-Soviet communist systems alone will take comfort in your anthropological information. Not to mention the Nazis, and assorted small potato genocides only in the single millions.
By the way, do you know when (I mean the dates) Christianity first appeared. I am not sure just what you mean by the "introduction" of Christianity. Who did the introductions?
US Census estimate of current world population gives us about 3.3 billion males of all ages. Estimates of casualties from pre-historic and early historic eras indicate 25% to 30% of ALL males in every generation were casualties of conflict.
If world conflict deaths were consistent with that estimate, that would give us between 825 million and 1.1 billion males dead due to conflict over the last 30 years or so. Take comfort in the fact that you are not a casualty of that kind of blind slaughter.
Bad as things have been in the 19th and 20th centuries, I'm grateful they were not a lot worse. The mere fact that people will oppose and condemn the Hitlers, Stalins and Pol Pots of the world is indicative that Western civilization, at least, is encouraging less violence rather than more.
Technology, ethics, religion, philosophy, the assumption that individual humans are worth preserving and individual freedom is valuable - all these are factors contributing to the reduction in violence, in my opinion. Any culture that encourages such values is, paradoxically, worth fighting for. At least, that is my belief.
I am sure you are aware of the time of the founding of Christianity, so the question seems odd to me. I suppose I would put the introduction of Christianity at about 40 to 80 CE (or AD, if you prefer), and I think that Paul is a major introducer of the faith, although the rest of the Apostles certainly did their share. I think during this period, Christianity was seperating itself from Judaism and taking on it's character as a distinct faith.
In any case, I agree with you that the outrages of the last century were horrible. Bad as they were, the evidence suggests that the numbers could have been ten times greater - or worse. I believe that changes in culture, and Western civilization in particular, did a lot to keep the numbers from being worse than they were.
When you examine the numbers slaughtered by socialist systems and killed in war during the 20th Century, note that almost all of the casualties of the former are in countries/cultures that are antipathetic to religion and almost entirely hate Judeo-Christianity. That is, left to themselves, Marxist and fascist cultures regress to a barbaric level. The same would hold true for the the relationship of Islamic culture to Judeo-Christianity as well.
That's a piece of irony in that it is Chrsitianity that provided the foundation for Wester education, culture, and ultimately science and technology. It's contriburion to civilizing barbarians is overwhelming. Without it, we will regess to the level of the KGB and SS.