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Christianity started off as a cult religion before becoming a major religion today. The major event that put Christianity on the road to world domination was the conversion of Emperor Constantine into Christianity.

What strategic value did Christianity hold for Constantine that made him convert to Christianity?

This question assumes that Constantine was a calculating politician who converted to Christianity for personal advantage and not out of pure holiness. Of course, no one will ever know what went through his mind at that point in time.

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One really must point that Constantine did not actually convert to Christianity till he was on his deathbed - some 24 later than the Edict of Milan! But he certainly did show great interest in Christian politics and theology, so I'd amend the question to that effect. –  Felix Goldberg Oct 5 '13 at 10:13
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Very astute question. –  T.E.D. Oct 5 '13 at 15:28
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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Jack Weatherford's "History of Money" on page 60 states,

if the emperor could not obtain much property from the Christians, then he needed to garget a wealthier group from whom to confiscate property. Constantine found that wealth in the many well-endowed pagan temples throughout his empire.

Unable to finance his administration from taxation and unable to loot new lands, Constantine begane confiscating the riches in the temples of his own empire.

. . .

Although it is difficult to determine the precise motive after the passing of so many centuries, it may well be that Constantine's desire to acquire the wealth of the great temples played an important role in his support of the Christians and his eventual conversion to their religion.

The quote appears in a history of money, during a discussion of the difficulty of financing an empire. It seems to me that the pivot to Christianity allowed for a shakeup of stakeholder forces - political as well as financial capital.

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That makes sense. Henry VIII did much the same thing. I even wonder if some of the pagan wealth moved directly into Church coffers; a sort of 'religious wealth redistribution' if you will. –  LateralFractal Oct 10 '13 at 3:48
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If we assume his mother Helena had no influence on his spiritual beliefs (big assumption), the major classical reason for conversion are military successes attributed to God's divine protection of Constantine, especially the Battle of the Milvian Bridge.

The gradual increase of Christians in the Roman empire can't be wholly dismissed either; as the young Christian Church could be useful source of taxation revenue and political legitimacy; even before being formally acknowledged.

The calculating politician answer: He gains reputation as a just and pious ruler (during his own lifetime and rule) and gains a group of fervent political advocates that offset any dissipated pagan factions of the time.

Put simply, early Christian missionaries ate away at native Roman religious groups until some Emperor was going to have to acknowledge them; since the other approach (of purging Christians) clearly wasn't working.

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-1, pure determinism. –  kubanczyk Oct 5 '13 at 12:35
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sqrt(-1), deterministic purity. –  LateralFractal Oct 5 '13 at 12:50
    
What's deterministic with it? –  Lennart Regebro Oct 5 '13 at 14:01
    
@LennartRegebro The last bit - that some emperor would have had to acknowledge Christinanity. –  Felix Goldberg Oct 5 '13 at 14:27
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@FelixGoldberg Reality does put constraints on the power of rulers. Calling that deterministic seems strange. –  Lennart Regebro Oct 5 '13 at 14:31
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The OP assumes that the "Christianity" associated to Constantine is the same Christianity as that taught by the apostles, but it is not. Christianity to the apostles is: "For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous." Rom. 2:13 What the apostles unilaterally proclaim is that the law was changed by Jesus' crucifixion and that by only obeying the law by the Way of the change can any individual actually become a Christian. The religious system relative to Constantine is a total objection against the doctrine of salvation described in Rom. 2:13

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-1 Doesn't even try to answer the question. –  Lennart Regebro Oct 5 '13 at 14:00
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-1 What @LennartRegebro said. –  Felix Goldberg Oct 5 '13 at 14:28
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@LennartRegebro IMHO, if you believe, as he does, that the entire underlying assumptions of the question are wrong, it is perfectly reasonable to compose an answer explaining why. It is, of course, also perfectly reasonable for others to downvote if they don't agree though. :-) –  T.E.D. Oct 5 '13 at 15:31
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@T.E.D. He doesn’t express that opinion, he just claims that Constantine's Christianity is not "real Christianity", which is irrelevant for the question. –  Lennart Regebro Oct 5 '13 at 15:48
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