I just finished reading Thomas Cahill's "The Gifts Of The Jews". It is one of the best books I have read in a long time, and I thought I would pass it on. The book is about the contribution of the Judeo-Christian tradition to Western society, and by extension, the world.
The book walks through the Jewish Bible (Christian Old Testament) and shows how everything in our worldview today can be traced back to Abraham's journey out of Ur in ancient Sumer. Up to that time people viewed life, and the world, as cyclical and unchanging. When God showed Himself to Abraham, suddenly life became a journey, with a past, present, and future, all being guided by the hand of God and experienced in the moment by people. This type of thinking, argues Cahill, was nonexistent before Abraham, and as the Hebrew worldview developed over the centuries, the world changed into what it is today.
Without going into too much detail, I offer a great quote:
"Unbelievers might wish to stop for a moment and consider how completely God - this Jewish God of justice and compassion - undergirds all our values and that it is just possible that human effort without this God is doomed to certain failure. Humanity's most extravagant dreams are articulated by the Jewish prophets...All who share this dream of universal brotherhood, peace, and justice, who dream the dreams and see the visions of the great prophets, must bring themselves to contemplate the possibility that without God there is no justice."
And another, speaking of the power of the Ten Commandments:
"Even as far away from Sinai in time and civilization as Hampstead Heath at the turn of the century or Central Park at the turn of the millennium, there are few who do not know that if we were to keep these commandments our world would be an entirely different place. This is such a simple, incontestable thing to say that it sounds banal. But for all our resourcefulness we have never yet managed to do it."
I can't recommend this book enough, especially in light of the growing conviction among those outside the church that Christianity and all religion has been nothing more than a hindrance to 'progress' throughout the centuries. Cahill's book puts that criticism to rest thoroughly and elegantly.