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What is Civilization II ? 

In Brief: Infused with the spirit of goodness and truth, world religion emerged as a separate center of power in civilized societies. The idea-centered religions of Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam represented a departure from previous religious traditions focused on ritual and civic worship. Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Confucianism, and Taoism were likewise shaped by philosophy. In the end, the world religions resorted to military violence and coercion to maintain their worldly position.

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A turning point occurred in human history during the 6th and 5th centuries, B.C., when a group of philosophical and religious thinkers - Zoroaster, Confucius, Buddha, Jeremiah, Second Isaiah, Pythagoras, and others - proposed ethical ideas. From their thoughts came new schools of philosophy and, ultimately, systems of world religion. This change took place in the same period of time in scattered societies of the Old World.

An infusion of philosophy into traditional religion marked the beginning of this civilization. There was conflict between the new system and earlier forms of civic worship - e.g., Christian martyrdom in Rome. New structures of power emerged to house religion. Religious scriptures became the main carrier of this culture.

In the West, monotheistic religion challenged the polytheistic cultures of nature and civic worship. While Pharaoh Ikhnaton embraced the idea of a single God in the 14th century B.C., it was Moses, a century later, who brought it into the mainstream of our religious tradition. Judaism was transformed during the period of the Babylonian exile when it absorbed elements of Zoroastrian cosmology, including the idea of a Messiah.

Christianity sprang from Jesus' self-conscious role as Messiah; to this Judaic scenario were added forms of Greek philosophy. The church went through a period of philosophizing about Jesus' nature. Later, the prophet Mohammed received a divine revelation that brought monotheistic religion to Arab peoples. His religion spread quickly through force of arms. Judaism and its two daughter religions, Christianity and Islam, prevailed over earlier forms of worship. The new religions were idea-based rather than focused on sacrificial rites.

In the East, two religious innovators, Buddha and Mahavira, challenged the Brahman priesthood. Their "church" was organized in monastic communities which allowed participation by persons of lower birth. Both were philosophers seeking an escape from the worldly treadmill of illusion. The Mauryan emperor, Asoka, made Buddhism the state religion of India. Later, resurgent Hinduism (embracing some Buddhist concepts) pushed Buddhism out of the Indian subcontinent.

A new form of the religion, Mahayana Buddhism, was hatched in the Greek-cultured Kushan empire. This type of Buddhism spread to China in the 3rd century, A.D., where it filled a gap in the religious cultures of Taoist and Confucian philosophy. It later spread to Korea and Japan. Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam became the dominant religions of southeast Asia.

World religion was influenced by the prior example of political empire. When the Roman emperor Constantine legalized Christianity, the church became a kind of spiritual empire. Roman pontiffs shared authority with temporal rulers. In the Byzantine world, however, Christian authority was subservient to rule by the emperor. World religion in a later phase became coercive and militaristic. Christians fought Moslems in a series of Crusades launched by Urban II. Moslems and Hindus fought for control of India. Even the peace-loving Buddhists practiced the martial arts in the Far East.

The second civilization is characterized by a power-sharing arrangement with secular rulers, by a culture of creeds and scriptures, and by written language based upon alphabetic (as opposed to ideographic) scripts. It dominated the first millennium and a half of the Christian era.  

For a more complete history of Civilization II, read Five Epochs of Civilization, chapter 5.  (Read it here.)

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