If Christianity didn't exist, what would be the dominant religion in Europe/US?

If Christianity never came about for whatever reason, what would be the most common religion in the western world?

What did it displace in the Roman empire, worship of the Olympians such as Zeus and Hera etc. ? Could that have survived to this day, or are monotheistic religions such as Islam and Judaism inevitable? (There was another thread about, IIRC)

It would easily be Islam. The Iberian peninsula would most definitely be Islamic if the Holy Roman Emperors did not create cushion zones (and finally push the “Moors” out) in the late 15th Century.

In practice there would still probably be strong contingent of pagans (especially in the Scandinavian countries and Northern Europe)

Judaism would not be a contender because of the exclusivity and the lack of a strong “conversion” mentality.

I forgot to complete my thought about Islam. I just wanted to add that the spread from the Iberian Peninsula would help to create circular sphere of Islam looping around Mediterranean countries around to N. Africa, back to Iberian Peninsula.

I disagree, I think that the dominant form would be a paganistic combination of the Norse/Germanic, Celtic, and Roman deities. The Romans conquered large areas contacting each of these other “religions.” The Roman conquest followed a pattern of assimilation of culture and religion upto the time that it became a Christian Empire (at least in name).

I think that the peoples of the Iberian peninsula and central Europe would still have been strong enough without Christianity to remove the Muslims that had established footholds in those areas.

I disagree. Only the combined (and organized) forces of the three kingdoms (that once made up the Holy Roman Empire) managed to push out the Moors.

The splintered groups you speak of (who were only united under forced conversion) would not have had the power to push out the Islamic hordes.

I agree it would be Islam. European pagansism was not particularly evangelistic, in fact its very ecumenicism was part of what made it so vulnerable to a Christian assault. Islam was quite evangelistic and would have been far more ubiqitous in the Mediterranean without, as 2thick points out, the HRE resistance.

I think it’s, probable, though, that Islam would have absorbed some Pagan trappings and theological elements (as Christianity did) and would probably be a somewhat different animal than it is today. (Mohammed may have been deified, for instance).

I agree that it would be Islam; the Muslims managed to conquer incredible amounts of area in astonishingly little time and without another monolithic organization to stop them, would probably have been happy to take over Europe. But hey, what do I know?

This is a fun thread to think about. :slight_smile:

Was Christianity a uniting force against the Moors?

I wonder if a different monotheistic and/or moralistic religion would have swept the Roman empire beforehand to become a uniting force.

I’m thinking about Mithraism… I think I’ll go look that up again to see if it could have fit the bill.


How about Mithraism? It was contemporary, & much of the philosophy was very similar. Some of the Mithrain rites were borrowed by early Xians, too.

I’d have to go with Islam.

However, I think you could make a strong case that Islam itself would not have come into being if Christianity didn’t exist.

Then what? Probably whatever religion was dominant in Rome as it’s empire was fading.

While some of the answers here are certainly interesting, it’s a little difficult, to say the least, to provide any sort of answer to such a broad counterfactual question. I mean, it’s difficult enough to answer counterfactuals when they apply to single figures in short time spaces, e.g. what if JFK had not been assassinated.

But you’re essentially asking:

What would have happened if probably the single most important social, political, intellectual and religious institution (for want of a better word) in Europe over the course of two thousand years had simply not existed?

Answering such a question cannot be done simply by removing Christianity and then pretending everything else would have progressed in a similar way. Removing such a massively important piece of the historical picture would have brought about changes, small and large, that we can barely even conceive from our present-centred position.

I’m not trying to stifle debate here - by all means, go on hypothesizing - but be aware that it is NOT simply a case of:

Europe - Christianity = Islam, or something similar.

Islam was based, in large measure, on Christianity. So, if therer’s no Jesus, chances are, there’s no Muhammad, either.

It’s easy to say that without Christianity, then the Almohad dynasty would have flourished or Charles Martel would have failed at Tours or that the Turks wouldn’t have been stymied at Vienna. And to use Gibbon’s oft-quoted line, “Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet.”

But what mhendo said is something that we should all keep in mind while suggesting how two thousand years of history would be different. If we’re going to postulate further, I’d suggest some things to resolve before we continue:[ul][]Does Islam still appear in the 7th century? Earlier? Later? Not at all?[]More importantly, how does the existing Roman Empire change if Christianity never existed? Does it decline sooner? Later? Not at all? Is there still an east-west split?[/ul]

An utterly unanswerable question, as there are too many variables to consider. However both of the below gentlemen are substantially correct…

In truth Islam was rather more directly influenced by Judaism, but the influence of Christianity ( both directly and indirectly ) was still substantial. There is no telling if Islam would have arisen as an aggressively expansionistic religion if it hadn’t had the Christian template and example ( of rapid spread ) to work from.

But at any rate, Islam’s tremendous early success was probably the result of luck as much as anything. Muhammed and his successors had the phenomenal good fortune to come across two large, war-exhausted, temporarily moribund empires that were riven with internal dissent and ripe for the picking - But neither of which was so unstable as to not be able to right themselves in time ( as indeed the Byzantines eventually did and were in the process of doing under Heraclius even then, before the Caliphate stomped on them while still weak ). Fifty ( or perhaps fewer ) years earlier or later and Islam may have been confined to the Arabian penninsula by the Byzantines and Sassanians.

We have no idea what the MENA would have looked like in the 7th century in the absense of Christianity. A strong Roman, neo-Roman, or whatever presense in the area, whether it be Mithraitic in religion or what, might have had the same effect even if some odd iteration of Islam had arisen and done the same as I suggested above. Just no telling.

  • Tamerlane

**An utterly unanswerable question, as there are too many variables to consider. **

But one swinging thing is nonetheless true. Without the modulating effects brought forth by the tenets of Christianity, there would be no Western Civilization to consider.

And like it or not, the inherent good within Western Cilivization and Western Culture is the dynamic engine that is transforming this third-rock planet today.

If Christianity didn’t exist, nothing would exist.

(Someone had to speak the truth.)


I agree, to an extent. Although, the merits of the end-results of this transformation is debatable.

Amend that to “there would be no Western Civilization as we know it”, and I’m on board :).

There surely would have been a Western Civilzation and probably a reasonably sophisticated one, just very different. The world is certainly hard to imagine without it, though, so profound was its impact.

  • Tamerlane

There was civilization in the west before Christianity, in case anybody forgot. There was even civilization in the Americas before European/Christian contact.

According to leading Historian (specialiaty European History) Norman Davies, it could of been: Zorastrianism, the Roman Mystery cults or Gnosticism (before it became a Christian sect that is).