Tom Holland, the best selling author of In the Shadow of the Sword and the recently-released Dominion has claimed that the categories of homosexuality and heterosexuality, science, as well as the high profile #metoo campaign, each find their origins in the Christian faith. The popular historian made the comments as part of a lively online debate on whether Christianity gave the West its human values, released today with British philosopher and author, A.C. Grayling.
During an often-times heated conversation, Grayling challenged Holland to name one thing that Christianity had introduced that doesn’t have a secular source. Holland responded emphatically, “I think the ideal of lifelong matrimony, I think that is a very distinctive Christian concept. I think the category of what, by the 19th century, is coming to be categorised as homosexuality and heterosexuality – I think they have no precedence. I think the notion of secularism – the idea of there being religions – I think all these are entirely exclusive to Christian civilisation. I think the concept of science as it emerges in the 19th century, I think is entirely exclusive to Christian civilisation.”
The conversation is the latest episode to be released as part of The Big Conversation debate series, moderated by Unbelievable? host, Justin Brierley. The focus of the episode was to explore the impact of Christianity on contemporary society, as Holland unpacks in his new book Dominion.
Holland continued, “…even Anthony, this dogged atheist, who rejects the fact that he owes anything to Christianity, his assumptions about homosexuality and heterosexuality are so deeply rooted, that he assumes that a man sleeping with a man is equivalent to the category of homosexuality – it isn’t… homosexuality is a distinctively Christian category.!”
The presenter of BBC’s Making History also argued that movements such as #metoo are attempts to reimpose Christian sexual morality – whether or not the organisers professed to the Christian faith, “…the paradox of this – and there are so many paradoxes that surround this – is that women who go on marches in support of #metoo, will dress up in the costumes of handmaids from Margaret Atwood’s novel and the TV adaptation of it, and that of course is written a parody of puritanism. Yet essentially, what they are demanding is that men control themselves and essentially behave as puritans. The truth is that #metoo would only have the resonance that it does, if most men accepted the validity of what women protestors were saying. And I think that by and large, they do. If that is not evidence of the saturating effect of Christian teaching over 2000 years, I don’t know what is.”
Holland also clashed with Grayling over his claim that early Christian zealots had destroyed classical works of antiquity “in an orgy of effacement of previous culture”. Holland repeatedly asked Grayling for evidence saying that, on the contrary, Christians preserved ancient writings: “This idea that bands of Christians roamed around destroying copies of Aeschylus – we have no evidence for this whatsoever. Indeed, we know that classical works were regularly copied by the monks that Anthony is so dismissive of.”
The two continued to debate whether the non-religious humanistic philosophy of Grayling, who is a vice-president of Humanists UK, owed its core values to Christianity. Holland produced a list of the cities where Humanist Conference had taken place, noting that all but one have been held “in countries that are predominantly Christian”.
Produced by Premier Christian Radio’s faith discussion show Unbelievable? this is the fifth episode in the current season of The Big Conversation, which airs on Friday 6th December. The Big Conversation explores science, faith, philosophy and what it means to be human. Other episodes feature high-profile thinkers across the Christian and atheist community such as Bret Weinstein, Jordan B Peterson, Susan Blackmore, Derren Brown and Bart Ehrman. For videos, commentary and the programme schedule visit: www.thebigconversation.show