Religions compete for believers. They compete for influence because the more influence and exposure they have, the more believers they will get. This competition doesn't have to be conscious, or on purpose, it just happens to be that popular religions that are happy with power will prosper, accidentally inhibiting competing religions. There is interplay not only with believers, but with non-believers who have power. Religions that fall foul of politics are very frequently eradicated or ridiculed into extinction, whereas religions that appear to rulers to support the status quo can prosper.
“It is not surprising that the dominant motif in the world's major religions has been a hierarchical one - the ruling powers of most societies understandably promote authoritarian religious ideologies and suppress the egalitarian beliefs. Early Chinese culture, for example, had two competing traditions: that of K'ung-Fu-tzu, which emphasized the need for strict social hierarchy and respect for elders and political authorities, and that of Mo Ti, who promoted an egalitarian ideology and ridiculed the followers of K'ung-Fu-tzu for their "exaggerated" emphasis on authority. The first tradition was institutionalized as Confucianism and became the official state religion of the emperors, whereas the second precipitated a relatively unstable popular movement that was almost lost over the centuries.”*
"Gods in the Global Village" by Lester R. Kurtz (2007)28
So it came to be that the literalist, nastier forms of Christianity survived the first few hundred years of Christian history, because it appealed to a wider number of people. It didn't require such things as circumcision or strict dietary laws. Literalist Christianity held power in Rome and it is no coincidence that it happened to preach a strict hierarchy, instructing slaves to serve their masters, instructing for taxes to be paid ("give to Caesar what is Caesar's" - Matthew 22:21) and instructing that people subject themselves to their governors (Romans 13:1). This form of Christianity, as we have seen, was oppressive, combatitive and organised, wiping out its nearest competitors, which was other forms of Christianity, with help from the institutions and Emperors of the Roman Empire. This conflict became legendary; pagan leaders, historians and competing religions all commented on the propensity for Christians to be found mostly engaged in battles with other Christians. Qur'an 5:14-15 asserts that enmity and hatred between Christians is a punishment from God for their "abandoning parts of God's message".29
This survival of the fittest was not just relegated to Christian history, but as Christianity aged and further divisions became apparent, the conflicts continued. Read on.
Types of Christianity in History: Who Were the First Christians?
In fairness, this should be read in conjunction with a less anti-Church perspective (I would suggest Diane Butler Bass. A people's history of Christianity: the** other side of the story. The "bad guys" sheltered some truly great spiritual movements and many saintly individuals. and the "good guys" might have had some bad in them.
** I would rather she had subtiled her book, another side of the story This article provides one other point of view. Another "other side" i would like to able to learn about would incorporate the history of the Church of The East (not Eastern Orthodoxy, or "the Eastern Church" -- e,g,
Coptic, etc.) which existed in Persia, India, Central Asia, and China prior to the tenth century.
* Where does Taoism fit into this scenario??