Criticism of Christianity

Criticism of Christianity has a long history which stretches back to the initial formation of the religion during the Roman Empire. Critics have challenged Christian beliefs and teachings as well as Christian actions, from the Crusades to modern terrorism. The intellectual arguments against Christianity include the suppositions that it is a faith of violence, corruption, superstition, polytheism, bigotry, pontification, women's rights and abuses and sectarianism.

In the early years of Christianity, the Neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry emerged as one of the major critics with his book Against the Christians. Porphyry argued that Christianity was based on false prophecies that had not yet materialized.[1] Following the adoption of Christianity under the Roman Empire, dissenting religious voices were gradually suppressed by both governments and ecclesiastical authorities.[2] A millennium later, the Protestant Reformation led to a fundamental split in European Christianity and rekindled critical voices about the Christian faith, both internally and externally. With the Scientific Revolution and the Age of Enlightenment, Christianity was criticized by major thinkers and philosophers, such as Voltaire, David Hume, Thomas Paine, and the Baron d'Holbach.[3] The central theme of these critiques sought to negate the historical accuracy of the Christian Bible and focused on the perceived corruption of Christian religious authorities.[3] Other thinkers, like Immanuel Kant, launched systematic and comprehensive critiques of Christian theology by attempting to refute arguments for theism.[4]

In modern times, Christianity has faced substantial criticism from a wide array of political movements and ideologies. In the late eighteenth century, the French Revolution saw a number of politicians and philosophers criticizing traditional Christian doctrines, precipitating a wave of secularism in which hundreds of churches were closed down and thousands of priests were deported.[5] Following the French Revolution, prominent philosophers of liberalism and communism, such as John Stuart Mill and Karl Marx, criticized Christian doctrine on the grounds that it was conservative and anti-democratic. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote that Christianity fosters a kind of slave morality which suppresses the desires which are contained in the human will.[6] The Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, and several other modern revolutionary movements have also led to the criticism of Christian ideas.

The formal response of Christians to such criticisms is described as Christian apologetics. Philosophers like Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas have been some of the most prominent defenders of the Christian religion since its foundation.