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Global diffusion of Christianity


Today, nearly 2.2 billion people practice Christianity. Representing over 30% of the world’s population, it is the world’s most followed religion. But rewind 2,000 years ago, and Christianity was a tiny religious sect. From an ideological perspective, researchers have often found themselves asking: how did Christianity become so successful? Did it spread through grass-roots movements, or was its growth more heavily influenced by political heavyweights? The story of Christianity gives us invaluable insight into the myriad ways ideologies form – and the effects they have through widespread social change. Its origin occurs in Judea, present day Israel, with Jesus Christ and his disciples.

Originally, Christianity was a small, unorganized sect that promised personal salvation after death. Salvation was possible through belief in Jesus as the son of God—the same God the Jews believed in. Early Christians debated whether they should only preach to Jews, or if non-Jews could become Christians, too. Eventually, Christianity gained followers not only from Jewish communities, but from throughout the Roman world. The individual responsible for the cascade of this new religion was the apostle Paul. Paul traveled around 10 thousand miles across the Roman Empire to spread the teachings of Christianity. He preached in some of the empire’s most important cities, such as Ephesus and Athens, which were home to tens of thousands of poor, desperate people who were the perfect audience for the Christian message of eternal life. Paul’s preaching resulted in an information cascade, because mass amounts of people in the same region tended to convert to the same religion. Paul encouraged Christian missionaries to cascade the knowledge of the bible throughout the Mediterranean region. Another extremely important factor which contributed to the spread of the Christian faith was the creation of a universal language- this came in the form of Greek. The diffusion or movement of ideas was no longer restricted by the language barrier. For the first one hundred years of the church’s writings, Greek was the medium used for expansion into the Gentile world. Greek was a kind of universal language which one could make shift anywhere- there would always be found someone who could speak it. The Greek language was adamant in the growth of this religious network and allowed Christianity to spread to millions.


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