Larry Siedentop's Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism is outstanding. It traces the origins of concepts like equality and individuality—starting with the earliest societies, worshipping around the ancestral fires, and then moving through the classical period, the early church, Christendom and the Renaissance, and finishing with the modern West—and it gives a good deal of the credit to Christianity. In the midst of the story, which is beautifully told, there are some asides which really make you stop and think. Here's one on the differences between pagan and Christian architecture, and the powerful difference in worldview they represent:
Christianity was turning outward and visible things inwards. The basilicas built in Rome by the Emperor Constantine, after his conversion in 312, gave architectural expression to the difference of focus between paganism and the new moral beliefs. In place of the ancient temple, with its splendid columns and decorations on the exterior, the Christian basilica was simple, unadorned brick on the outside, with columns and decorations reserved for the interior. The change was symptomatic. Where paganism had concerned itself primarily with external conformity of behaviour, Christianity now concerned itself especially with inner conviction.
(This blog originally appeared on Think Theology)