How to Explain the Western Tradition (Judeo-Christian-Greco)
Generally there are two main worldviews, one belonging to the East (China, Japan, Korea) and the other to the West. The West currently is dominated by the Anglosphere (United States, Canada and so forth) but has its roots in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), Israel, Greece and Italy. One could simplify by saying that the Western Tradition is the marriage of the Judeo-Christian Worldview to the Greco-Roman Philosophers.
The goal of this article is to simplify the concept, allowing the unfamiliar to become familiar. The list is not exhaustive, simply a collection of points that point to the concept, giving vague information for mass consumption.
The paradigm started in the fertile Levant Crescent, specifically centered on Jerusalem, the socio-economic corridor at the time. Far from monolithic, the geographic location (of the city) required travellers to pass through, creating one of the first prominent multicultural communities. While all tribes believed in a Diety, some worshiped idols while others attached to Ethical Monotheism. In other words, the belief that there is a God and that He expects moral conduct from us.
The Bible is its founding Document. Scripture is broken down into two parts, the Torah (or Old Testament) and the Gospel (New Testament). While Christians (generally) believe in the merit of both, the Jews reject the latter, claiming that it is inauthentic. In spite of these theological quarrels, both faiths progressed in tandem, working off one another. In other words, in the pursuit of defending their own dogma-and attacking others-critical thinking developed. This is summarized in the principle that the Creator is Ordered; He can only create a world that reflects his nature.
Knowledge is not just about making money or practical affairs. People have a unique ability to be conscious, aware of their own experiences and conduct. While animals can perceive stimuli, they cannot make moral judgements. There is a great emphasis on exploring our origins, even if the thinker assumes an atheistic position. Instead of forcing conformity-like the Eastern Tradition-the Western equivalent prioritizes creativity and innovation. This is why inventions are developed in the West but manufactured in the East.
Greek Philosophers Matter. Aristotle and Socrates are described using the term “Pagans” meaning that they subscribed to folk religions, including nature and ancestor worship. Of course they didn’t use this term themselves, instead it was later instilled by Christian missionaries. Over the generations, each side had taken aim at the other, all in the pursuit of being crowned “The Truth”. Without going too much into detail, this conflict was not simply theoretical, but instead resulted in mass slaughter and systematic oppression.
The Western Tradition results from conflict between two sides trying to assert legitimacy. In other words, if the other was absent, it would not have developed as it had. The Eastern Tradition heavily weighs the collective over the individual, (generally) discounting any concepts of an Afterlife. This is not to say that the Western Tradition wasn’t (or isn’t) populated by atheists, instead that the atheists exist as result of their rejection of the status quo. Even though they may “oppose” each other (Theists and Atheists) both value freedom of speech.
Personal Freedom is a Priority. Many foreigners are confused about Westerners, especially Americans. The country is the essence of the Western Ideal, allowing freedom of religion, speech, movement and assembly. Enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, these rights are inalienable, coming directly from the Creator.
Humor Soothes the Soul. Even when discussing grave topics-like death-Western thinkers are quick to offer a joke. Also called “Black Humour'', it serves to mitigate people's fear, by giving them an outlet for their insecurities. While the Eastern Tradition discusses death, it frames it as a naturally occuring endeavor, not dissimilar from leaves changing colour in the fall. As such, there is no personal chance at redemption, nor a chance at a meaningful afterlife. In Buddhism (which fueled Eastern Philosophy) the goal is to erase the self, entering into a state of Nirvana. The Western would not see this as meaningful, at least from their point of origin.
Obsession about Progress. Of course, not all progress is good. Consider the situation of the atomic bomb, which destroyed two prominent Japanese cities in the 1940’s. Had the technology not been developed, a less lethal alternative would have been employed. This begs the question, if Westerners are obsessed about progress, what is the ultimate goal? Will (Westerners) stop pushing the envelope once their goals are realized? I say not. One could describe this phenomenon as fear, being afraid of living in the here and now. If we are always focusing on tomorrow, we can never concentrate, living in the moment.
Westerners love to help, to assert their dominance. While America delivers vast quantities of resources-to the developing world-it does so under the guise of supremacy. The recipients know who is boss, who is dependant. The money is not free, requiring countries to acquiesce to American interests, providing favours without hesitation. Furthermore, Western families feel better when they help those less fortunate, an ethos birthed in the Judeo-Christian narrative. It teaches that charity does more for the giver than the receiver, giving them an elevated social profile in addition to benefits in the hereafter.