In the absence of Islam, which religion becomes the primary competitor to Christianity?

Which religion?

  • Zoroastrianism

    Votes: 65 23.5%
  • Buddhism

    Votes: 94 33.9%
  • Manichaeism

    Votes: 36 13.0%
  • Hinduism

    Votes: 13 4.7%
  • Surviving/reformed/organized European paganism

    Votes: 9 3.2%
  • Tengrism

    Votes: 4 1.4%
  • Judaism

    Votes: 10 3.6%
  • Other religion that exists in our world

    Votes: 9 3.2%
  • Other religion that does NOT exist in our world

    Votes: 37 13.4%

  • Total voters
    277
Let's keep the point of divergence simple: imagine a world where Muhammad had simply never been born. In such a scenario, what religion is most likely to be the most significant competitor to Christianity in terms of number of followers by the year 2021? Said religion does not have to garner around as many adherents as Islam does in our world - merely achieving a much more distant second place to Christianity would suffice. Options include...
  • Zoroastrianism: The state religion of the powerful Persian Empire before the Islamic conquest of that country.
  • Buddhism: Was already spread widely throughout Eurasia well before the point of divergence, and indeed, could plausibly spread in areas of Muslim dominance in our world (Central Asia, the islands comprising OTL Indonesia, etc).
  • Manichaeism: A dualist, proselytizing faith that was also spread widely throughout Eurasia before the rise of Islam.
  • Hinduism: Now, certain scholars might quibble as to what point in history exactly we can truly speak of this as a distinct, coherent religion, but you take the point - we are talking about the Vedic faith indigenous to South Asia, and which was present in other parts of the world such as Southeast Asia before the arrival of Islam.
  • Surviving/reformed/organized European paganism: Though Christianity was definitely on the upswing in Europe by the time that Islam really arrived on the scene, I do not think that some significant survival of Germanic, Slavic, and/or Baltic paganism was impossible by that point. It is certainly possible to imagine a scenario where, say, the Vikings introduce some brand of their faith to Britain and/or continental Europe that at least slows the spread of Christianity, and could even spread further by way of colonialism.
  • Tengrism: The native religion of the Turkic peoples before they largely converted to Islam, and which they may very well had stuck with in its absence. A large Turkic state in Eurasia, perhaps as an allohistorical counterpart to Russia, or even a Tengrist equivalent of the Ottoman Empire, could help spread the faith further.
  • Judaism: Hard to accomplish, but worth mentioning as a possibility if only because at least the leadership of certain kingdoms, from the Khazars to the Himyarites, had converted at some point.
  • Other religion that exists in our world: Say, Chinese folk religion or Aztec paganism.
  • Other religion that does NOT exist in our world: Perhaps an Abrahamic religion that did not arise in our timeline that forms at the periphery of the Christian world.
 
Id say honestly Buddhism. It would have little resistance going into south east asia and more paths of survival in india without Islam. I don't think any other religion had the potential to rival Christianity like buddhism in a world where Islam doesn't exist
 
Zoroastrianism, it was Christianity's main competitor up until the advent of Islam in otl so I don't see why it couldn't continue to be so.
 
Id say honestly Buddhism. It would have little resistance going into south east asia and more paths of survival in india without Islam. I don't think any other religion had the potential to rival Christianity like buddhism in a world where Islam doesn't exist
I agree. Without Islam, Buddhism is stronger in both Southeast Asia and probably in northeastern India as well. There's a lot of potential.

It could well even spread to eastern Africa via the sea trade.
 
Honestly? None, really. I think Hinduism or Buddhism are likely candidates for being the second-most popular religion, but at such a margin that it's not really a competition. Christianity is going to become dominant in Europe regardless of Islam, and without Muslims in North- and East-Africa, Christianity might eventually become dominant in Africa, as well, by the end of the middle ages. Not to mention it's going to remain dominant in large parts of the middle east. I don't see Zoroastrianism managing to threaten Christianity in the long run, nor expanding eastwards, and it's gonna be centuries until Christians encounter other powerful organized religions like Buddhism or Hinduism. It's a little difficult to imagine what the world will look like in 2021 with such a PoD, but without a rival that directly threatens it religiously, i.e. can convert masses of its followers, I think Christianity is just going to become more and more widespread, even faster, with no rivals.
 
Define primary competitor.

Because historically all of those religions either offered are either too localized, like Zoroastrianism which never had appeal outside of Persia, too far away from Christianity's central area, like Hinduism and Buddhism, too politically weak like Judaism. Or some combination of the three in the case of the various pagan options.

Honestly the most likely competitor to Christianity in Europe isn't any of these choices. Its some other branch of Christianity.
 
In Europe I say Paganism. The rise of Islam and the south Mediterranean’s fall to it made Christian kingdoms look to the north, and also contributed to early ideas of force as a mean to spread Christianity. Without it, there’s little incitament for Christianity to push north, so much of Germany, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe stays pagan.
 
Depends what religion overtakes Persia, be it successful dominant Zoroastrianism/similar or Manichaeism or Buddhism. If it's Christianity (which is plausible) than the answer is more difficult.
 
None, at least in the sense of being an 'antagonist' faith that was in direct and constant contact with Christendom.
Buddhism might rival Christianity in numbers (or even exceed them) but it is too far away and too focused elsewhere to come into a large scale clash with Christendom.

I think we're more likely to see serious splits inside Christendom instead.
 
In Europe I say Paganism. The rise of Islam and the south Mediterranean’s fall to it made Christian kingdoms look to the north, and also contributed to early ideas of force as a mean to spread Christianity. Without it, there’s little incitament for Christianity to push north, so much of Germany, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe stays pagan.
Christianity is not a cohesive entity that can exert unified effort in one direction or the other. Efforts to Christianize different places were localized and led by neighboring Christians, not all Christians throughout shared in that effort. I don't see a reason why Germans, for example, would be less interested in Christianizing Scandinavia just because Egypt is still ruled by Christians.
 
Christianity is not a cohesive entity that can exert unified effort in one direction or the other. Efforts to Christianize different places were localized and led by neighboring Christians, not all Christians throughout shared in that effort. I don't see a reason why Germans, for example, would be less interested in Christianizing Scandinavia just because Egypt is still ruled by Christians.
Big agree, IOTL the Irish basically rechristened Britain even when christianity was still dominant in the holy land and north africa.
 
I think that Europe/The West might be more divided north/south than east/west in a TL with no Islam. The Mediterranean without the Islamic conquest of The Levant and North Africa would basically be a Christian lake, while mountains like the Alps and Carpathians would split Southern Europe from Northern Europe.
As for the OP's question, I think that Buddhism would take Islam's place as the second largest religion, possibly competing with Christianity in Central Asia.
 
None, at least in the sense of being an 'antagonist' faith that was in direct and constant contact with Christendom.
Buddhism might rival Christianity in numbers (or even exceed them) but it is too far away and too focused elsewhere to come into a large scale clash with Christendom.

I think we're more likely to see serious splits inside Christendom instead.

Agreed with all this.
 
I don't think Hinduism can really compete with Christianity on a world scale because it doesn't really seem to be the kind of religion that is aggressively spread from its home subcontinent. From my understanding of it, Hinduism was more of an "ethnic religion" like Judaism, not really big on exporting it to a degree.
 
Honestly? None, really. I think Hinduism or Buddhism are likely candidates for being the second-most popular religion, but at such a margin that it's not really a competition. Christianity is going to become dominant in Europe regardless of Islam, and without Muslims in North- and East-Africa, Christianity might eventually become dominant in Africa, as well, by the end of the middle ages. Not to mention it's going to remain dominant in large parts of the middle east. I don't see Zoroastrianism managing to threaten Christianity in the long run, nor expanding eastwards, and it's gonna be centuries until Christians encounter other powerful organized religions like Buddhism or Hinduism. It's a little difficult to imagine what the world will look like in 2021 with such a PoD, but without a rival that directly threatens it religiously, i.e. can convert masses of its followers, I think Christianity is just going to become more and more widespread, even faster, with no rivals.
That is definitely not certain. Without Islam, Buddhism, ‘Hinduism,’ Jainism, different kinds of empowered folk traditions and so forth could be stronger and perpetuated in Africa and Arabia. Buddhism and Hinduism in particular are dangerous to counter Christianity in the India ocean, including Arabia and Eastern Africa and Judaism has the ability to hold its own in Khazaria, Abyssinia and Arabia as bulwarks.

Likewise, without Islam, the impetus for a Christian expansionism may not exist, especially with a maintained Merovingian regime were Christianity never comes to become the mono-religion of the Franks and Germania proper. Christianity while it lost lands in the Mid East and Africa to Islam and the Arab expansion, Christendom in the Latin/Germanic world benefitted through the growth of a new kind of Christendom and an enforcing Christian monarchy that emerged with Charles I after the downfall of the older style of syncretic and tolerant Merovingian kings.
 
Zoroastrianism was reportedly spreading throughout the eastern Arabian coast and into central Asia. That's a possibility.
Without the Islamic conquest the Buddhists of Kashmir remain far stronger as well.
 
That is definitely not certain. Without Islam, Buddhism, ‘Hinduism,’ Jainism, different kinds of empowered folk traditions and so forth could be stronger and perpetuated in Africa and Arabia. Buddhism and Hinduism in particular are dangerous to counter Christianity in the India ocean, including Arabia and Eastern Africa and Judaism has the ability to hold its own in Khazaria, Abyssinia and Arabia as bulwarks.

Likewise, without Islam, the impetus for a Christian expansionism may not exist, especially with a maintained Merovingian regime were Christianity never comes to become the mono-religion of the Franks and Germania proper. Christianity while it lost lands in the Mid East and Africa to Islam and the Arab expansion, Christendom in the Latin/Germanic world benefitted through the growth of a new kind of Christendom and an enforcing Christian monarchy that emerged with Charles I after the downfall of the older style of syncretic and tolerant Merovingian kings.
I agree with your first point @John7755 يوحنا , However I wholeheartedly disagree about the Christian expansionism on your second point. Christianity had several advantages other faiths in Europe just didn't have, such as the bishop-layman structure in the catholic church. On top of that people and traders can bring Christianity along the trade routes of the area, such as the amber road that goes through Slovakia to the Baltic and the Russian riverways on top of being a religion of prestige. Also, the Frankish rise to power probably wont be averted in a no Islam timeline and its subsequent collapse. The new Germanic kingdoms would absolutely eat up there smaller neighbors and Christianize them. While Christianity would look far different with the romans holding the other patriarchs I still think that the rise of the franks would force the center of Christian power northward towards them. Also, even before the Muslim conquests the christian faith was split apart in several areas such as Miaphystites in Egypt, Syria, and Armenia, the Arians in Spain, and the Chalcedonians making up most of the rest.
 
Well the obvious choice for which religion becomes the main competitor to Christianity without Islam would be ... drum roll...

Christianity
 
I agree with your first point @John7755 يوحنا , However I wholeheartedly disagree about the Christian expansionism on your second point. Christianity had several advantages other faiths in Europe just didn't have, such as the bishop-layman structure in the catholic church. On top of that people and traders can bring Christianity along the trade routes of the area, such as the amber road that goes through Slovakia to the Baltic and the Russian riverways on top of being a religion of prestige. Also, the Frankish rise to power probably wont be averted in a no Islam timeline and its subsequent collapse. The new Germanic kingdoms would absolutely eat up there smaller neighbors and Christianize them. While Christianity would look far different with the romans holding the other patriarchs I still think that the rise of the franks would force the center of Christian power northward towards them. Also, even before the Muslim conquests the christian faith was split apart in several areas such as Miaphystites in Egypt, Syria, and Armenia, the Arians in Spain, and the Chalcedonians making up most of the rest.
You misunderstood my point.

My point was that the rise of Islam had an effect that changed Papal policy in Europe and likewise alongside it, led to an increased power of the Mayors of the Palace as agents of a new form of religious reform in Christianity. The Merovingians prior to the rise of Pepin III, were a syncretic monarchy with a plurality of Christianity and different types of polytheism which all paid loyalty to the Merovingian dynasty. The downfall of this dynasty led to a more dogmatic and universal form of Christendom that confirmed the remainder of the continental Germanic peoples into Latin Christendom. Without Islam, this situation may not occur and Christendom does not universalize amongst the peoples in the region, keeping thus, the rural polytheist melange remaining. This then changes the ways in which Christianity is disseminated into Scandinavia and the east.

Without Charles I and the accompanied Papal renaissance at the time, the ideology of Bernard of Clairvaux and others does not occur. This means the conquering Merovingian Franks do not enforce Christianity on their new subjects, just as they never enforced on any of their subjects to begin with. Meanwhile, the Papacy, trapped in the south will become and remain a Byzantine puppet, less able and likely to influence policy in the Frankish realms and a form of universal Latin Christendom is not undertaken. Instead we have atomized Christendom(s) wherein their interpretations and assertions vary more widely and in the case of the Franks, remain more rural, pluralistic, tolerant and atomized.

This thus limits the number and percentage of Christians within Europe and divides Christendom into different camps, some of whom appear as totally separate religions.
 
We also have no guarantee there wouldn't be another, similar version of Islam, born under somewhat different circumstances. While I do not subscribe to some of the more highly revisionist interpretations of early Islamic history, there is something to be said for the idea that the time was right for an eschatological movement focused on a strictly monotheistic community of believers (defined as those who believed in "God and the last day"). The whole tradition which Islam grows out of still exists perfectly formed and waiting for someone to fully realize it.

Your proposed PoD does nothing to get rid of the mutual exhaustion of the Sassanians and Romans (which will happen sooner or later) and nothing to get rid of the religious world of Arabia at the time. From a secular context, I'd argue that a lack of Muhammad means somebody else pops up to take his place. That person might be more of a political leader or more of a religious leader - and intrinsically would probably be quite bit different, but you're not getting rid of the environment that produced Islam, just the specific religion as we know it. It could look completely different, of course. But I still think the time was ripe for something.

On an somewhat related note I imagine in my timeline Rise of the White Huns an explicitly pagan refutation of Christianity arising in the Arabian peninsula, but it is a flash in the pan, and Buddhism comes to dominate the Near East. I don't mean to imply this is likely, but it may be of interest to you.
 
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