It sure offers potential help as we march through the world today!
...But when Christians came on the scene, they changed all of this. They absolutely prohibited abortion and infanticide within their own ranks. They also prohibited homosexuality, applied the same standards of chastity and fidelity within marriage to both men and women, and gave women much higher social status than the Romans allowed.
Given these advantages, women were more likely to convert to Christianity than were men. The Christian community soon enjoyed a higher female to male ratio and actually had a surplus of marriageable women. Many of these women took pagan husbands and ended up converting them, resulting in a far higher fertility rate and a growing presence within the empire. Stark calculates that Christianity grew at a rate of 40 percent per decade in the years 40 to 350, from perhaps 1,000 believers in 40 A.D. to nearly 34 million by 350 A.D.
But another phenomenon also helped boost Christian growth: the sudden onset of two epidemics, one in 165 A.D. and the other in 251 A.D. The first was likely smallpox and the second measles. In each case, they produced devastating mortality, killing as much as 30 percent of the population each time.
The pagan response was to flee as far from infected people as possible. Even the famous physician Galen fled to his country estate in Asia Minor to wait until the danger was past. Neither pagan scientists, priests, nor philosophers had an explanation for the calamity—it was just the whim of the gods and nothing could be done about it.
But the Christian explanation was radically different. They believed God was testing and judging humans. Even though some of the faithful might die, they would also be rewarded in the afterlife for their response to the crisis. And what did God expect their response should be? He wrote it all down in Scripture: love your neighbor as yourself, care for the sick and the lame, act as the Good Samaritan acted. That is exactly what Christians did: they cared for one another even in the face of death.
The consequence of this caring could easily be seen as miraculous. As Stark writes, “Modern medical experts believe that conscientious nursing without any medications could cut the mortality rate by two-thirds or even more” (emphasis in original). This nursing could be as simple as providing hydration and nourishment until the patient recovered. As patients recovered, they would be immune from the disease and could care for the newly sick without fear...