What does it mean to live in the West? It’s more a way of thinking than a physical place in the world. The ideas that grew into Western civilization began in three cities: Athens, Rome, and Jerusalem.
Logic, Reason and Democracy
When we try to make sense of the world, we use logic and reason – this means thinking about a problem without using emotions. Philosophy is another important tool we use in thinking about the world – it’s the study of knowledge and truth. Ancient Greek thinkers in Athens invented these ideas and studied them.
Later, Greece was conquered by Rome, but the Romans admired the Greeks so much they adopted these ideas. Romans valued thinking and used the word “rationare.” This became the word reason.
The Greeks invented democracy, and the Romans built on their idea. When the American Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, they based it on these ideas from Rome and Athens.
Christianity began in Jerusalem after the death of Jesus Christ. This religion brought some new ideas, like “imago Dei.” This is the idea that all humans have a divine nature because they are created in the image of God. Because of this, all people are equal in the eyes of God.
Much later, philosophers were inspired by “imago dei” to come up with the idea of universal rights. This means that rights are universal – they belong to everyone. This started the path to ending slavery, giving men and women equal rights, and more.
We find this idea of universal rights under God in the Declaration of Independence, which says: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”
The ideas from these three ancient cities have shaped the West and changed the whole world. Science and reason brought us cars, electricity, and space travel. Christianity worked to end slavery across the globe and brought us universal rights. And it all began in Athens, Rome, and Jerusalem.