Consider the view that, although the modern West’s “secular faiths” sometimes rejected crucial Christian beliefs, these new faiths nonetheless mimicked Christianity
Your essay will rise or fall on your success in arguing from evidence and clearly advancing your position,
paragraph by paragraph. A strong essay may have paragraphs that directly quote evidence only once,
but such paragraphs will likely need other evidence too. Aim to use at least two pieces of evidence to
support each paragraph’s point. You might sometimes decide to quote most of a sentence, but try to
keep quotations brief by framing the essential part with your own words.
No independent research is allowed. Our roughly fifty documents and eleven meetings’ worth of
assigned readings contain more than ample evidence to support different stands. Because your reader
knows your sources, no works-cited page is needed. Citing direct quotations, however, is crucial (by
using end-of-sentence parentheses). And identifying unquoted evidence adds welcome precision.
Here, a passage based on Kelly’s “Christians to the Lions” chapter (from Part Two) illustrates an
effective way to use and cite our readings and documents:
Christians astonished Romans by their eagerness to die, and to depart the society and family that
inspired so much pietas in respectable Romans. Kelly writes that in the Romans’ cruel death-by-lion
ordeal, the “Christians always won” because martyrdom transported them to the Kingdom of God that
Jesus and Paul had promised (Kelly 86). This new Christian aim struck Romans as strange and arrogant,
provoking the slurs about Christians captured in Document 2.3: that they were incestuous, they drank
blood, worshipped an ass, and even ate babies. Thus, centuries before the Church’s official Nicene
Creed made Christianity so “explosive” by linking the soul’s eternal life to correct belief (Burger 150),
Christians were already scandalizing respectable Roman society by challenging its values of power, civic
duty, and tradition. By doing so, and by getting “persecuted for righteousness’ sake,” early Christians
felt that “theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Document 2.1b).
Medieval Christian thinkers endorsed Plato’s four “cardinal virtues” of prudence, courage, temperance,
and justice, but considered them merely “natural virtues,” well-suited to pre-Christian pagans like the
Greeks and Romans but not enough for Christians. The supreme Christian virtues, medieval thinkers
insisted, were those named by the Apostle Paul: faith, hope, and charity (or nonromantic and
nonerotic “brotherly” love). These Christian virtues meant quite specific things:
Faith in God’s saving grace, which earned eternal life in heaven for all who accepted Jesus as
God’s atoning sacrifice for humankind’s sins. Such faith required belief (in Christianity’s creed)
and commitment (to follow church-defined rules).
A life lived with Hope –not fatalism or fear or despair– because believers trusted that God
would fulfill His plan and promises.
Charity to fellow humans, a “brotherly love” thought to reflect God’s care for His faithful
During the Early Modern era (1500-1800), the West’s culture remained publicly and proudly Christian,
and Church teachings spread with Europe’s kingdoms, even across oceans into colonies. In the post-
1800 Contemporary era, churches lost some power (tithing became optional and state-organized
schools were secular) but Christian faith loomed large in public life well into the mid-1900s, when most
Europeans still saw themselves as Christians.
The 1700s and especially the 1800s brought changes, however, that have come to define our world:
Alternatives emerged to Christianity’s hope-inspiring faith, offering other causes to believe in, commit
to, and join, either alongside or instead of Christianity. And like Christians, believers in these new
alternatives tended to see history as orderly and purposeful, so that believers in these “secular faiths”
could, like Christians, face the future hopefully, without fatalism or despair.
These alternative beliefs/commitments/causes lacked Christianity’s founding miracles and formal
creed, and typically based themselves on reason, not divine revelation. Their hopes differed too, by
focusing on this world instead of Christianity’s “next world”. So their reason-based and this-worldly
views were not traditional but “progressive”. And yet, some scholars call these progressive, forward-
looking beliefs “secular faiths” or “man-made faiths”. For, like Christianity, these new Western beliefs
sustained hopes and commitments and sometimes even righteousness in the face of sharp criticisms.
And while such “secular faiths” did not prioritize charity per se, Hebrew-Christian humanitarianism was
too old and deep a force to simply vanish.
Consider the view that, although the modern West’s “secular faiths” sometimes rejected crucial
Christian beliefs, these new faiths nonetheless mimicked Christianity in their own progressive ways,
because such secular faiths not only inspired hope but also involved something like Christianity’s
universalist concern (charity) for the dignity of all humankind. Using only our readings and
documents, identify and explain at least three different hope-inspiring “secular faiths,” and then
assess whether and how these secular faiths have also inspired not only hope but a semblance of
charity, either openly or implicitly.
Ask yourself whether the secular faiths seem to (1) ignore the Christian virtue of charity, or (2) picture
a world where Christian charity is less necessary or even unnecessary, or (3) propose some functional
substitute for Christian charity. You may either address the charity question in three different places,
after you address each faith, or you use a single paragraph (probably your last body paragraph) to
address the question of charity. And when discussing charity, moreover, do not be afraid to infer,
intuit, or even speculate. Indeed you may need to do these things, because the textual evidence for
the issue of charity is much scarcer than for your main task of describing and explaining three secular