Blainey's short history of Christianity

I can still remember when, as an altar boy, I had to submit to having an extra piece of cloth attached to the hem of my surplice in order to accommodate my height, reports William Yeoman in the West Australian.

For almost two millennia people have been equally willing to adapt Christianity to suit their circumstances. Which explains its longevity.

But as we head towards another Christmas, it's worth pondering just how relevant one of the world's most successful and widespread religions remains in a society where even secular icons such as Father Christmas owe their most recognisable manifestations to advertising campaigns.

Enter Geoffrey Blainey, one of Australia's foremost historians and certainly our most prolific, with more than 35 books under his belt, including The Tyranny of Distance: How Distance Shaped Australia's History, A Shorter History of Australia and A Short History of the World.

In a year which has also seen the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible, he's just brought out A Short History of Christianity (Viking, $45 hardback).

"The outward signs of Christianity's decline are strong," says Blainey on the line from Melbourne. "But most people still have a religious strand. Some are given to science - a competing religion, if you like - some are given to nature, another religion."

Yet, says Blainey, who had a Methodist upbringing but brings an objective eye to this clear and eminently readable history, two out of every three Australians say they are Christian. And in other countries, Christianity is stronger than it's ever been.

"Look at Africa, China, South Korea and the Philippines," he says. "In fact, if we look at the world as a whole, Christianity today is much more powerful than it was in the year 1000."

FULL STORY A long train of influence (West Australian) 

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