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How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  1,776 ratings  ·  151 reviews
Ask a college student today what he knows about the Catholic Church and his answer might come down to one word: "corruption." But that one word should be "civilization." Western civilization has given us the miracles of modern science, the wealth of free-market economics, the security of the rule of law, a unique sense of human rights and freedom, charity as a virtue, sple ...more
Hardcover, 280 pages
Published April 20th 2005 by Regnery History (first published 2005)
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Aug 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone with the false idea that the Catholic Church hindered Western Civilization
Surprisingly this book took this long to be written. But thank God! How necessary it is this book expecially when the European Union has decided to disregard any of its existence on its Christian heritage. Europe simply is not Europe without Christianity. And by Christianity I do mean the Catholic Church.

It's been common for so long for history textbooks and history studies to more or less disregard anything in European culture that occurred between the Roman Empire and the Renaissance. Not sure
May 13, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, theology
I am a Catholic and have read several books by Wood, so I have every reason to enjoy this. However, the more I think about, the more I question its intellectual honesty. I am no expert in Medieval or Early Modern Europe (although I believe that I'm... conversational in the subject), but Woods seems like he's cherry picking from academia random bits of research in support of the Catholic, which really amount to anecdotes, and ignoring whatever recent research is inevitably out there against the C ...more
Jacob Aitken
Reading Prof Woods' book is sometimes like listening to a grandfather talk about his grandkids. Nonetheless, this book is important and scores major points on a number of key issues. I found the following bits of information useful and I will end on a critique of Woods' methodology.

His section on how the Catholic church preserved the ancient learning is standard fare today. Only the most obstinate would deny it. The section on the monks parallels Thomas Cahill's account of the Irish.

I especiall
Mar 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Richard by: his wife
This book is absolutely fabulous. There is so much good information here of which I was totally unaware. I had the impression "Middle Ages, Dark Ages... nothing much happening of importance in the world." Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Here is a quick smattering of what I didn't know before. The Church started the University system in the 1200s. The Church was a huge supporter of the sciences throughout its history. Indeed, most of the scientific discoveries of the Middle Ages came from
Woods’s bias is clear. His favoritism toward the Catholic Church heavily colors his scholarly arguments, and as a result I felt skeptical while reading this book.

First off, as other reviewers have pointed out, the claim that Catholics “built” Western civilization isn’t an accurate descriptor. I think terms like “heavily influenced” or maybe “shaped” would be better. Sure, Christianity was a foundation for many Western principles, but Woods seems to be straining to prove that Catholic leaders spe
Apr 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Perhaps a more appropriate title would be "How the Catholic Church Has Been of Benefit to Western Civilization" The other title, a bit too grand for a 280 page book.

It was interesting. I never realized how important monks were with their scientific mind set, their zeal to preserve and copy classic manuscripts, and their community oriented service. Most of the latin manuscripts from ancient Rome and Greece we have today were because of those early monks.

The church also established the university
Robert Hernandez
May 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Lots of information in a relatively small space. Nicely edited and Complete with references to whomever is interested to deepen on a subject area. The contributions of the Church to the arts, music, architecture, charity work and, of course, morality are, or used to be, well known. But what really took me aback was Dr. Woods' exposition about how modern science is really a derivative of medieval theology. That should be of great interest these days, given the veneration, almost worship, rendered ...more
Neil Gonsalves
Mar 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
It's a shame that the greatest prejudice in the world still exists today...hatred towards the Catholic Church. I recommend all intelligent people (and especially Catholics) listen to this audiobook or read it to gain a true understanding of what the Catholic Church did for Western civilization.
Sheryl Tribble
Aug 30, 2014 rated it liked it
Some idiot had underlined, circled, and written the occasional comment in the margins of the library book I read, but I still managed to enjoy it.

I don't know if he says as much, but it seemed clear to me that Woods' goal is not so much a balanced presentation of the Catholic church, but rather a counterbalance to the standard version presented in many a college text or popular history. So I was not bothered by the fact that he focuses on the Church's positive contributions and ignored the negat
Oct 23, 2012 rated it liked it
The purpose of the book: "All of these areas: economic thought, international law, science, university life, charity, religious ideas, art, morality-- these are the foundations of a civilization, and in the West every single one of them emerged from the heart of the Catholic Church."

This book exposes a lot of the myths we have come to assume are facts about the history of Western thought and its relationship to Catholic Christianity. I was particularly interested in the connection between belief
Carol Apple
May 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization" is an excellent survey of what occurred in Europe between approximately 200 AD and the Renaissance, which for many of us is a giant blank spot in our historical consciousness. Although the book covers the topic of Catholic influence on thought and culture right up to the present, the bulk of the material focuses on the middle ages. The great ideas about natural rights, international law, humane justice, charity to the poor and sick, and experi ...more
Chris Friend
Oct 10, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Catholics who like Medieval history
I read this one out of genuine interest, with an open mind to see a different side of church history. (I was raised Protestant, so my view is a bit tainted.) This book reminds me of an elusive mosquito flying around inside my room -- I keep listening for it, but when it's audible, it's annoying. The author brought forth a very interesting collection of ideas created or inspired by priests and monks from Catholic history, but what he never convincingly did was explain how Catholicism, or the ideo ...more
Benjamin Spurlock
An absolutely fantastic read, easily approachable yet well-researched. Thomas E. Woods Jr. takes on the common misconceptions about the 'Dark' Ages and the role of the Catholic Church within it, and shows that not only are they incorrect, but often they run counter to how history actually ran.

Anyone interested in the history of Western civilization, no matter their religious or philosophical persuasion, should read this book. Few images are as inspiring to me as that of the clergy, desperately a
James Andersen
This book is really the most in-depth book I have encountered thus far on real Catholic History. After reading a book like this I am quite proud to say that I am Catholic in spite of the problems it faces today. Dr. Tom Woods does a great job of speaking in the positive while refuting the negative claims against The Church. This book is more then a primer, it is a knowledge base, a well-spring of historical facts that refute the popular misconceptions so easily! Dr. Tom Woods has done a great jo ...more
Feb 22, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommended to Ebookwormy1 by: Robert Spencer, "PIG to Islam and the Crusades"
In the interest of disclosure, I suppose I should start by saying that while I am a follower of Jesus Christ, I am not a Catholic. I have many disagreements with the Catholic Church, such as the elevation of tradition to the level of inspiration (placing the thoughts/ writings of the Church fathers and papacy on the same level with Biblical revelation), veneration of icons, required celibacy of priests, etc. However, recently, I have noticed that Catholicism has gotten two things right about whi ...more
Nov 25, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Karina by: radio program
The jacket is stunning. I've just started reading, and the first chapter is more like an overview, more of a preface or an introduction. I do hope the author will go into more detail in further chapters.

There's a lot of good information I didn't know. I liked the way the author sort of pointed out the importance of the Catholic ideas to the development of science, in particular (e.g. the universe - because it was created by God - is orderly and intelligible, so we can study it. By contrast, th
Oct 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
A historical examination of the Catholic Church's role in creating our society, including many of the things we take for granted today.
Raphael Bastos
Sep 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion, history
Caí nesse livro por acaso por conta dos podcasts do Tom Woods e do Stefan Molyneux, e acabei retornando à minha perdida fé (se é que um dia tive, não sei se apenas a catequese contava), então não tenho nada além de gratidão pela sua existência e extensa pesquisa sobre o assunto, pois é algo que vou levar comigo para o resto da vida.

O livro é curto, mas excelente para aqueles que não sabem sobre a história da Igreja Católica e querem saber mais. Ele é muito mais instigante do que uma satisfação t
Oct 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization is loaded with fascination facts, back stories, and great thinkers to up your knowledge level about some of the world's great discoveries. Many people today, when they hear Catholic Church, immediately think about scandals like pedophile priests, and that is a serious problem. But there is another side of the Church that is almost like a best kept secret. Some of the most brilliant scholars are among the clergy and monks of different orders with ...more
Nov 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book quite a bit, although it didn't quite convince me of its title. The wealth of examples of Catholic innovators (e.g. clockmakers, farmers, legal theorists) provide some great counterarguments to the cliché argument that the church has been anti-science. I particularly appreciated the passages about how the Church viewed science and scripture as bodies of knowledge that had to be synthesized, rather than scripture always having supremacy over science.

Woods's account of the Gali
May 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization is an apologetics treatise about how the Catholic Church contributed to the development of science, philosophy, art, and culture. For someone who has not read a lot of books on the subject - who wishes to be disabused of the belief that the Catholic Church shunned science and tried to halt the progression of culture - this book is an excellent introduction. It covers a wide variety of topics in a superficial survey of how the Church changed and ...more
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book had gone to press the day that Pope Saint John Paul II passed away to eternal heaven; as such this book was faithfully dedicated in part to him, his fight against Nazism, Communism, and more so for the equality of life for all human beings. All are equal in Christ – whether from humble beginnings and continuous struggles or whether from greater means and struggles the cultivation of the Benedictine Monks was to cultivate a more disciplined spiritual life. The existence of Monastery Mon ...more
Aug 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Pretty good book detailing the efforts of the early church in carrying out Christ's mission and how that mission reflected on society around the church. Descriptions on how the church usually bought the cheapest land in a community that wasn't hospitable for living, growing food, etc., and how techniques passed around the church could turn these areas into prosperous regions. Also, a discussion of the early hospitals and charity work that was done before anybody even thought that charity and com ...more
Oct 19, 2010 rated it liked it
I went into this book wanting to like it, eager to get information on the Catholic Church that didn't fall under the bad press it continually gets in the United States. A few chapters into the book, I hated it. I was trying to decide if I would give this book one or two stars. It was degrading to other cultures and their contributions, while not really showing what the church did. Finally, Woods got into information about its Science contributions, as well as arts, etc which caught my interestin ...more
May 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is exceedingly interesting and is extensively footnoted. The bibliography has 154 books in it making the book an excellent reference for the church's involvement in any number of contributions to the modern world. Woods covers a vast scope of time and content, frequently citing non christian scholars to show that the influence of the church is simple fact. He also provides an overview of a number of key figures and time periods in the Church summarizing both the basics and the most recent h ...more
Jan 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book was pretty interesting and taught me a lot about the influence, over time, of the catholic church. I was surprised to hear Woods' take on the contributions of the church to science, etc, and its openmindedness to the findings of research. We so typically think of the Catholic church as having been the "bad guy" in this area. Really though, think of all the work that monks, like Gregor Mendel, did.
Eric Wurm
Jul 07, 2018 rated it did not like it
This book reads as an unrelenting apologetic for the church. The author deflects the bulk of any criticism of the church while simultaneously implying that the church is to be credited for every advancement in humanity for the last 2000 years. Vladimir Putin would blush at the level of propaganda having been thoroughly outdone.
Abimael M
Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Un excelente libro muy ameno, practicamente me lo devore. La explicacion que hace de las secciones por medio de citas y notas es excelente como un libro debe ser y cambiara el parecer de muchos excelente.
Adam Marischuk
A popular defense of Catholicism

Let me start off by saying: I liked this book. It was a fun light read and is desperately needed to counter-balance the prevailing trends in history to minimize the Catholic Church's contributions to constructing the West (that said, the West itself needs defending against all the charges against it, though the lineups on the Venezuelan-Colombian boarder is rather unidirectional, just like those people risking life to cross from Cuba to America or North to South K
Jorge Reyes
Oct 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
En la actualidad, se pueden observar, con sentido común y razonamiento, como las tendencias ideológicas y los intereses utilitarios han manipulado la historia, evitando que podamos aprender del pasado, aquel que permite que podamos avanzar en lo humano, desgraciadamente únicamente tenemos progreso técnico y tecnológico (que en si mismo no es malo) sirviendo para seguir interrumpiendo el estudio o bloqueando la realidad en favor de lo político, económico y una y otra vez a intereses de unos cuant ...more
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Thomas E. Woods, Jr., is a senior fellow of the Mises Institute and host of The Tom Woods Show, which releases a new episode every weekday. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Harvard and his master’s, M.Phil., and Ph.D. from Columbia University. Woods has appeared on CNBC, MSNBC, FOX News Channel, FOX Business Network, C-SPAN, and Bloomberg Television, among other outlets, and has been a ...more
“the Church, in fact, was the matrix that produced the university, the nest whence it took flight.” 31” 1 likes
“we must listen to the very limits of human knowledge and only when this utterly breaks down should we refer things to God.”45 William” 0 likes
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