How will these resources help you?

As teachers of RE, we are aware of the continued influence Christianity has on Western culture, thought, and practice. This continues to be evident in many ways, such as the timing of our holidays, and not least the content of our school curricula, which often place significant emphasis on Christianity on account of its historic and continued influence of British society. These resources aim to help teachers feel more equipped to discuss the extent of Christianity’s influence on Western thought and culture, as well as to consider its presence in a progressively post-Christian society.

Christianity: Maker of the Western mind?

Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind

by Tom Holland, published by Hachette, (2023), 9780349145273

This book accessibly and comprehensibly follows the origins and influence of Christianity from antiquity to the modern day. Holland tracks the unlikely origins of the religion following the gruesome death of Christ and its emergence as the cornerstone of a western notion of morality. The book is peppered with plot and memorable figures from the history of Christianity – both wonderful and catastrophic – all of which underline the author’s primary argument: that the Western mind was shaped by Christianity, whether willing or not.

Has Christianity shaped our values?

The Evolution of the West: How Christianity has Shaped our Values

by Nick Spencer, published by SPCK Publishing, (2016), 9780281075201

This collection of essays edited by Nick Spencer of Theos, a Christian thinktank, puts forward a similar argument to that of Holland, albeit from a confessional standpoint. The purpose of this book is to offer a riposte to New Atheist movement, suggesting that values integral to modern society developed from Christianity, rather than despite it. 

Atheism in the West

The Parable of the Madman

by Friedrich Nietzsche, published by The Joyful Wisdom, (1882)

In this short but fascinating parable on emergent atheism in the West, Nietzsche argues that true atheism comes with the challenge of reckoning and dismantling one’s entire worldview, which is so heavily influenced by Christian theism.

Today’s secular society

The Secular Society

by David Brooks, published by The New York Times, (2013)

One of the most respected and influential texts on the place of religion in modern society is Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age. However, spanning nearly 900 pages of densely packed prose, it is not for the faint-hearted, nor the busy RE teacher. Instead, I recommend David Brooks’ review of A Secular Age, which is much more approachable. Brooks translates a core idea from Taylor's tome: the omnipresent culture of theism that existed 500 years ago has since eroded in the West. However, this progression does not mean the erasure of religiosity. Secularisation, Brooks summates, was a ‘mottled accomplishment, for both science and faith’.

Audiovisual clip

My Life, My Religion - Christianity

published by BBC Two, (2015)

An insight into Christianity and how young children in the Western world prepare for religious ceremonies during their lives.

Further materials

Tom Holland On How Christianity Has Shaped Western Morality, published by History Hit, (2021) Watch this interview
Review – Tom Holland, ‘Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind’ by Tim O'Neill, published by History for Atheists, (2020) Read this article
Natalie Smith completed her PhD in the History of Christianity in 2022. Her research focused on the city of Jerusalem and its development in late antiquity through the disciplines of anthropology and geography, comparing the architectural development of the city in comparison to the textual and ideological image promoted by its visitors. Natalie is an RE teacher.

Text © Natalie Smith, 2023