Did Christianity Cause The Dark Ages

The Collapse of the Roman Empire

The most commonly accepted premise of why the ‘Dark Ages’ occurred is the fall of the Roman Empire. Rome, which had been the ruling power of Europe since 27 BC, eventually imploded upon itself due to economic stagnation and barbarian invasions. The very foundation of Romans rulership was rooted in paganistic beliefs, which were cast aside by the new monotheistic belief brought by Christianity. By 330 AD, the emperor Constantine had adopted Christianity as the official religion, and by 391 AD, all pagan religions were abolished and forbidden. The Roman government thus underwent a major transition, and the new religion had an overwhelming influence on Rome’s political, economic and social systems.

The Decline of Education and Science

The transition to Christianity can also be seen in the rapid decline of education and science. With the rise of Christianity, the new religion influenced everything from the educational system and literature to science and research. Ancient pagan texts and scientific research were replaced with the religious beliefs and teachings of the church, and scientific resources and works were destroyed or censored. This shift in the educational and scientific focus caused the proliferation of superstitions, myths and outdated cures. This marked the onset of the ‘Dark Ages’, where the opportunity for progress and advancement of human knowledge were severely restricted.

The Role of Christianity

The primary argument posed by historians is that the transition to Christianity, along with the fall of the Roman Empire and the subsequent decline of education and science, was an integral factor in the onset of the ‘Dark Ages.’ While it is true that the Roman Empire was already beginning to crumble before the influence of Christianity, it is also irrefutable the drastic changes that Christianity instigated upon the Roman Empire played a significant role in its eventual collapse.

Christianity’s Positive Long-Term Impact

Despite its role in the onset of the ‘Dark Ages’, historians generally agree that Christianity eventually had a positive and long-term impact on European society. The most notable change was the development of the monastic system, where scholars, scientists, and educators dedicated their lives to the study of science and literature, serving the church through their research. This resulted in the articulation of moral, ethical and philosophical texts, leading to the development of rational thought and the eventual enlightenment of Europe.


Ultimately, it is debatable whether Christianity had a hand in initiating the ‘Dark Ages’ of Europe. While some argue that the transition to Christianity contributed to Rome’s eventual decline and the onset of the ‘Dark Ages’, others contend that the complicated situation was a result of several factors. In either case, it is difficult to deny the positive and long-term impact that Christianity had on the history of Europe and its eventual enlightenment.

Social Repression

The dawn of Christianity signalled a drastic shift in the social and political landscape of Rome. Christianity, as an inherently social, ethical, and political religion, imposed strict moral codes, punishments and repressions. Women were particularly subjected to such repression, with little autonomy in comparison to pre-Christian Rome. To accommodate the male-dominated religious leadership, women were not allowed to participate in clerical duties or hold positions of power, while their goods and property were passed on to their husbands and fathers.

Economic Impact of Christianity on the Roman Empire

The Roman economy was already on the decline when Christianity was adopted by Constantine, leading to the eventual collapse of the Roman Empire. With the Christianization of Rome, loyalty to the church superseded loyalty to the government, resulting in a lack of political unity and cohesion. Furthermore, with Christianity being the sole religion of the empire, a large portion of the resources used by the government had to be diverted from other critical areas such as military and infrastructure. Additionally, the monastic organizations and churches pulled critical resources away from the Roman government and economy. As a result, the Roman Empire was unable to maintain its political and economic power in the face of this economic decline.

The Relationship Between the Church and State

Western history saw the emergence of a strong relationship between the church and state. While the Roman government was already weakened at the time of the adoption of Christianity, the church had a firm grasp of the political and social realms of Europe. This resulted in a more autocratic rulership, where certain areas of life were dictated by the church, such as law and education. Furthermore, those in clerical roles gained significant power, such as bishops and abbots, who held positions in both the state and the church.

Censorship and Disempowerment

The onset of Christianity saw the widespread censorship of literature and ideas. Ancient literature, research and knowledge were said to be in conflict with church teachings, and were hence forbidden, resulting in their destruction and suppression. This ties in with the issue of disempowerment, as women and other minority groups saw their rights and pre-Christian autonomy eroded by the enforcing of new morals and values by the church. Subsequently, they were unable to participate in high-level political, economic or social discourse, limiting their participation in any form of advancement or policy-making.

Political Dominance of the Church

The relationship between the church and state allowed the church to gain firm control of the political realm. Kings, aristocrats and other powers were held accountable to the church, subjected to moral authority from religious leaders. Any alternative view was considered heretical, and any dissenting opinions were suppressed and punished, thereby restricting any alternative political thought and progression of society. This culminated in a system of political dominance, where only one ideological framework was allowed, resulting in stagnation and hindering of positive change.

Jennifer Johnson is an experienced author with a deep passion for exploring the spiritual traditions of different cultures and religions. She has been writing about religion and spirituality for the past ten years in both print and digital platforms, engaging readers in meaningful dialogue about the soul's journey through this life. With degrees in Comparative Religion and English Literature, she brings an insightful perspective to her work that bridges the gap between traditional knowledge and modern theories. A lifelong traveler, Jenn has lived in multiple countries exploring various paths to understanding faith, and her dedication to learning new things is palpable in every piece she creates.

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