1. Early Christians helped kickstart feminism.
In ancient societies, women had only one role in society – docile puppets to their husbands. They served as wives and bore children. That’s it. There was no other possibility for a woman. Christianity changed this. Early Christians made it acceptable for women to not get married and have children, to detach themselves from men and simply be “brides of Christ.” It dosen’t seem like a big deal today, but it was revolutionary for gender relations back then because it was the first real alternative lifestyle choice for women. As evidence, consider this passage from The Acts of Paul and Theclea:
Blessed are the bodies of virgins, for they shall be well-pleasing unto God and shall not lose the reward of their chastity, for the word of the Father shall be unto them a work of salvation in the day of his Son, and they shall have rest world without End.
Do you know how blasphemous this was in its historical context? Not only does it say women could opt to not get married, but it says women are capable of understanding God and doing his work independent from a man (“the word of the Father shall be unto them a work of salvation in the day of his Son”). This is incredibly progressive for a society that believed women were only good for child bearing.
2. They had really, really weird art projects.
Benito Mussolini said it best — “The history of saints is mainly the history of insane people.” Look no further then the two main architects of Christendom: Jesus Christ and Saint Paul. Jesus was a madman who hung out with prostitutes and other outcasts all day and told them weird stories. Saint Paul was a schizophrenic who, inspired by the freakishness of Jesus Christ, decided to write the bulk of the New Testament — basically the weirdest and most influential philosophical and art project of Western civilization. Not to mention the best selling book on the planet.
3. They were the first atheists (kind of).
You know how atheists are all smug about their beliefs because they think they’re smarter than the stupid, superstitious theists? That’s how early Christians acted toward their polytheistic contemporaries. Christians were all like, “Stop worshiping the sun, you idiots!” And “WTF are you doing paying homage to stones?” In other words, early Christians were the atheists of their time but instead of screaming “Don’t worship some grey bearded man in the sky,” they were screaming, “Don’t worship that chair, moron.”
4. They were realistic romantics.
Christianity is an incredibly romantic and hopeful religion. This is probably why it’s so popular even to this day, particularly with immigrants in the United States and other impoverished people throughout history. At its core, Christianity holds that human life is sacred and that humans with hope or faith will one day be saved from this storm of violence, disease, and pain that is called life. Of course, early Christians realized that the idea that humanity is good and even worth saving is as unlikely and absurd as their theology. But that didn’t stop them from having hope. As the great theologian Tertullian wrote about a hundred years after Jesus’ death, “The Son of God died: it is immediately credible — because it is absurd. He was buried, and rose again: it is certain — because it is impossible.”