There is a growing question related to the overall impact religion has had on the world. A 2014 HuffPost poll revealed more than half of Britons believed religion did more harm than good, a sentiment shared even by 20% of those self-described as “very religious.” This appears to go hand-in-hand with a sharp decrease in Christianity in the country, from 72% to 59% between 2001 and 2011.
A Pew Research study of Americans also conducted in 2014 found that 34% of the religiously unaffiliated believed “religion’s declining influence… [is] a good thing.” Given the growing belief that religion does more harm than good, it is worth considering the influence Christianity has had, both in the past as well as the present. A careful study of the Christianity reveals the faith has had an extremely positive impact.
Christianity has had a positive impact on the development of the sciences. Central to the Christian worldview are three intellectual presuppositions necessary for the advancement of scientific study: 1) the intelligibility of nature, 2) the idea that the details of nature can be known by observing them, and 3) an affirmative attitude towards nature. Christianity teaches a high value for truth and teaches that the truth about the existence of God can be discovered through observation of the natural world. In Romans 1:20 the Apostle Paul wrote:
“Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, being understood by what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”
These concepts, and the encouragement to embrace study of the natural world, were carried along with Christianity as it spread throughout the Roman empire and the rest of Europe. Science and Religion scholar Ian Barbour credits these Christian presuppositions with the rise of science in the west. President of the US History of Science Society David C. Lindberg agrees, “The story of science and Christianity in the Middle Ages is not a story of suppression… out of this complex interaction (rather than by repudiation of it) emerged the science of the Renaissance and the early-modern period.”
Along with Christianity’s impact on the advancement of scientific study came a practical component, the proliferation of medical services. Even in the earliest days of the faith Christians distinguished themselves as caring for the needy and sick. When Emperor Julian attempted to rid the empire of Christianity and return to Roman religious beliefs, he recognized a sizable obstacle in overcoming Christianity, stating:
“Why then do we… not observe how the kindness of Christians to strangers, their care for the burial of their dead, and the sobriety of their lifestyle has done the most to advance their cause? …it is disgraceful when no Jew is a beggar and the impious [Christians] support our poor in addition to their own.”
This came not only from a place of personal caring; Christians took real, practical steps in helping those in need, particularly the sick. The first large-scale hospital was founded by a Christian, St. Basil of Caesarea, in 369 AD. As Christianity grew and spread throughout Europe in the following centuries, attitudes toward medicine followed with it. Emperor Charlemagne later decreed that every cathedral was required to have an attached hospital. The modern medical facilities of today rest on the historical accomplishments of centuries of Christian achievement. Christian influence has been so positive and pervasive in the west that many likely take it for granted. Click To Tweet
Contributions to science and medicine are just a portion of the overall influence Christianity has had on the world. Christian influence has been so positive and pervasive in the west that many likely take it for granted. However, a careful consideration of history reveals that much of what has made the western world so advanced and so prosperous and been a direct reflection of underlying Christian values.
For more information about the impact Jesus and His followers had on science, read Person of Interest: Why Jesus Still Matters in a World That Rejects the Bible. This unique and innovative book makes a case for the historicity and Deity of Jesus from history alone, without relying on the New Testament manuscripts. It contains over 400 illustrations and is accompanied by a ten-session Person of Interest DVD Set (and Investigator’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.
 Jessica Elgot, “Half Of Brits Say Religion Does More Harm Than Good, And Atheists Can Be Just As Moral,” HuffPost, last modified November 20, 2014, https://www.huffington post.co.uk/2014/11/03/religion-beyond-belief_n_6094442.html.
 “What does the Census tell us about religion in 2011?” Office for National Statistics, last modified May 16, 2013. https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ukgwa/20160105215235 /http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/census/2011-census/detailed-characteristics-for-local-authorities-in-england-and-wales/sty-religion.html.
 Michael Lipka, “Is religion’s declining influence good or bad? Those without religious affiliation are divided” Pew Research Center, last modified September 23, 2014. https://www. pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/09/23/is-religions-declining-influence-good-or-bad-those-without-religious-affiliation-are-divided/.
 Ian G. Barbour, Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1997), 28.
 Barbour, Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues, 27.
 David C. Lindberg, “Medieval Science and Religion,” in The History of Science and Religion in the Western Tradition: An Encyclopedia, ed. Gary B. Ferngren (New York: Garland Publishing, 2000), 266.
 Edward J. Chinnock, A Few Notes on Julian and a Translation of His Public Letters (London: David Nutt, 1901), 75-78, as quoted in D. Brendan Nagle and Stanley M. Burstein, The Ancient World: Readings in Social and Cultural History (Englewood Cliffs; Prentice Hall, 1995), 314-315.
 Rosie Beal-Preston, “The Christian Contribution to Medicine” CMF, accessed September 16, 2021. https://www.cmf.org.uk/resources/publications/content/?context=article&id =827.
 Adam J. Davis, “From pews to patients – churches have long served as hospitals, particularly in times of crisis” The Conversation, last modified April 27, 2020. https://theconversation.com/from-pews-to-patients-churches-have-long-served-as-hospitals-particularly-in-times-of-crisis-136600.
 Tom Holland “Tom Holland Tells NT Wright: Why I Changed my mind about Christianity” Unbelievable? July 17, 2018. Video, 4:49. Accessed May 5, 2020. https://youtu.be/AIJ9gK47Ogw.