The rise of two of the world’s most popular religions today, Buddhism and Christianity, began in an age of massive change under massive empires. Each respective religion dominated a certain region of the classical world, Buddhism being east Asia and Christianity being the middle east to western Europe. Although many factors contributed to the rise and popularity of these religions, it is easier and more practical to narrow it down to a few major factors. First, both religions appealed to the masses, particularly the poor, which made up most of the population at the time. Second, each religion was supported by the state or emperor at one point in their early stages. Third, the massive trade networks, empires, and roads allowed for missionary work and spread of each religion.
In a time where social classes and gaps between the rich and the poor were distinctly developed, religions that provided relief and hope for the poor were strongly supported by the masses. Christianity has been argued both ways: to have appealed to mainly the educated classes, and to have mainly appealed to the lower classes. Both could be correct, but the explanation that it appealed to lower classes is valid because first, most of the population was either lower classes or slaves. Second, Christianity did encourage and provide help for the poor. Third, humility and meekness was encouraged, and it was taught that riches would not achieve salvation; rather, it was free to all followers. The early church had a system of both taxes (tithes) and care for the poor, which appealed greatly during epidemics to the poor who could not normally afford the care of a nurse. It could be argued that the class system in the church itself (pope, bishops, etc) appealed to th...
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...sly, the carefully built and policed roads were perfect for missionaries to travel across, but merchants also carried their religion with them as they traveled. Famous missionaries included Paul and Gregory for Christianity, Buddha for buddhism, and many ascetics for buddhism as well. Monasteries along the roads served as rest stops and centers, which consequently spread Buddhism to merchants.
Overall, the conditions in the millennium between 600 b.c.e. and 600 c.e. were quite favorable for the rise of major religions (which makes sense, as they all seemed to rise around the same time). The vast trade networks, contact among people, support of empires bigger than the world had ever known, and the social inequality all added up to a perfect equation wherein the major religions (not just Christianity and Buddhism, but also Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam) could fit.
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