"Dominion: How the Christian Revolution remade the World" by Tom Holland
For the historian, today's Westerners are unaware of just how deeply Christian their mentality remains
On this day of the Assumption, I'd like to talk to you about Christianity. In his book "Dominion, how the Christian revolution remade the world" published in 2019, British historian Tom Holland1 shows that today's Westerners don't realize how much they have remained Christian in their mentality, even though the majority of them are no longer believers. In this book, acclaimed by critics (The Economist, The New York Times), Holland explains how Christianity has largely shaped our Western morality, culture and mentality, and continues to do so, often unconsciously. To sum up his thesis in one sentence: while churches have emptied, today's Westerners are unaware that their mentality remains strongly imbued with Christian values.
This book challenged my vision of the place of the Christian heritage in Western civilization. We know that Western civilization was built on two main pillars: the Greco-Roman heritage and Christianity. While the Greco-Roman legacy is fundamental (forthcoming article on Why the West), Holland argues that the mentality of today's Westerners was primarily shaped by Christianity. If we are the heirs of Athens and Rome, it is above all the Church that has forged our values over the past two millennia. Secularism, rejection of polygamy, respect for the weakest, sexual morality: Christianity has largely defined what Westerners today consider natural and right.
Through 4 key themes, we will set out the historian's arguments concerning the imprint of Christianity on Western mentality:
The separation of temporal and spiritual power
Rejection of polygamy
Male-female relations and the equal dignity of men
Ambivalence about one's own power