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In reply to the critics who claim Christianity was just a copy-cat religion among the ancient religions, it's helpful to take a look at how an ancient adherent of these pagan religions viewed Christianity. The inherent uniqueness of Christianity was a scandal to many. Not only would Jesus' followers not worship other gods, they rejected the layers of intermediary deities. Christianity taught that we could approach God directly in Jesus Christ. This was utterly unique in the ancient pantheon of gods.
David Bentley Hart explains that the ethic of caring for the sick and needy, establishing hospitals and clinics, was unique historically in Christianity because of what the Bible taught. He writes in Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies (p. 29-34):
Ancient societies and religion were not known for their care for the sick and dying. Christians who often risked their lives to care even for non-Christians represented a radical difference in the values taught by the Bible than anything else known at that time. It was common in ancient societies, including Rome, which saw the inception and rise of Christianity, to abandon the sick and dying. Roman religion did not teach followers to care for the helpless.
You remember William Penn from history class. He was granted the colony of Pennsylvania by the king in payment for debts owed his father. Penn was a Quaker who converted to Christianity in his early 20s. Penn adhered to the biblical values of human equality and intrinsic value and dignity. These later influenced the governmental framework he proposed for Pennsylvania.
Probably like most people, I wasn't interested in history when I was a child. My interest began as an adult. But there is one historical fact that has stuck with me since childhood, but not because of my history textbooks. The Magna Carta was signed in 1215 AD at Runnymede. That fact has stuck in my mind because of an episode of My Favorite Martian – Tim and Martin accidentally ended up witnessing the signing of the great document because they dialed the year rather than the time in their time machine.
Gallaudet University, the first university in the United States focusing on educating deaf people, was named in honor of the founder's father, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. Thomas was born in Philadelphia in 1787. His father was George Washington's secretary when he was president. The family moved to Connecticut, and Gallaudet earned his masters degree at Yale University. He pursued theological studies in preparation to being a pastor.
William Wilberforce is well-known for his decades-long persistence getting legislation passed to outlaw the slave trade in the British Empire. He and a group of Christians called the Clapham Sect (because that is where they were from) were motivated by their Biblical belief in human value and the value of God's creation to pursue other ways of solving other social ills.
You may be familiar with Wedgwood pottery. One of the most distinct of Josiah Wedgwood's designs is jasper ware – most commonly with blue or green glaze with classic figures applied in white. He was a well known potter in the 18th century, and was also an abolitionist and innovative business man. He was born in England in 1730 to a family of potters. They were dissenters of the Church of England, and his biblical values ran deep.
Titus Salt was a contemporary of of John Cadbury, whom I wrote about last Thursday, and there are similarities in their stories. Salt expanded his father's wool manufacturing business and became quite successful. He innovated a method of manufacturing alpaca wool, which Charles Dickens even mentioned in one of his books.
I had a frustrating experience the other day you've probably had. A family member thanked me for being nice to her lesbian friend. My relative said she appreciated that since she knows how I feel about her lifestyle. I said, "You're welcome" and mentioned that I can be nice to people even if I think they're sinning. In fact, we're all sinners. If I was going to be rude to sinners, I'd be rude all the time – including to myself.