Myths About Past (Quasi-)Christian Civilization




The frontispiece of Vienna 2554 of the Bibles Moralisées, from the mid-13th century.  As the Architect of the universe, God uses mathematical laws to structure His creation. The artwork reflects the fact that theology was called the Queen of the Sciences, contrary to the Science vs. Religion narrative imposed on the Middle Ages by modern securlarists.




The Crusades and Inquisitions


Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Th.D., "Christ, Muhammad, and the Culture of Beheading," August 1, 2004, http://www.chalcedon.edu/articles/0408/040801-1gentry.php:

    Secularists complain against such negative comparisons between Christianity and Islam. They invariably point to the Christian Crusades as evidence of our own failure. However, internationally renowned Islam authority Bernard Lewis responds: “The Crusade is a late development in Christian history and, in a sense, marks a radical departure from basic Christian values as expressed in the Gospels .… In the long struggle between Islam and Christendom, the Crusade was late, limited, and of relatively brief duration. Jihad is present from the beginning of Islamic history — in scripture, in the life of the Prophet, and in the actions of his companions and immediate successors. It has continued throughout Islamic history and retains its appeal to the present day.” [Bernard Lewis, The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror (New York: Modern, 2003), 37.]

    Riddelland Cotterell agree, and contrast Islamic jihad with the Christian Crusades: “First, the Christian call for holy war was made by a human pope … and as such was subject to challenge by later theologians. The Muslim call to jihad, however, is cemented within the Qur’an for all time. Second, the doctrine of holy war has now largely fallen into disuse in Christian circles, whereas jihad as a military concept is still widely practiced by some Muslim groups.” [Peter G. Riddell and Peter Cotterell, Islam in Context: Past, Present, and Future (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 30.]

    We could also point out that the Crusades were defensive maneuvers against cruel, unprovoked Muslim conquests of Christian lands and that they were eventually not only forsaken but apologized for by Christianity. Such is not the case with Islamic jihad.


Rodney Stark, God's Battalions:  The Case for the Crusades (New York, NY:  HarperOne, 2009), p. 8-9:

         [T]he Crusades were precipitated by Islamic provocations:  by centuries of bloody to colonize the West and by sudden new attacks on Christian pilgrims and holy places.  Although the Crusades were initiated by a plea from the pope, this had nothing to do with converting Islam.  Nor were the Crusades organized and led by surplus sons, but by the heads of great families who were fully aware that the costs of crusading would far exceed the very modest material rewards that could be expected; most went at immense personal cost, come of them knowingly bankrupting themselves to go.  Moreover, the crusader kingdoms that they established in the Holy Land, and that stood for nearly two centuries, were not colonies sustained by local exactions; rather, they required immense subsidies from Europe. . . .

         Finally, claims that Muslims have been harboring bitter resentments about the Crusades for a millennium are nonsense:  Muslim antagonism about the Crusades did not appear until about 1900, in reaction against the Ottoman Empire and the onset of actual European colonialism in the Middle East.  And anti-crusader feelings did not become intense until after the founding of the state of Israel.


Image:  Islamic Armed Conflicts vs. The Crusades.  Also see www.rodmartin.org/the-crusades-in-perspective/.


Middle Age of Faith v. Modern Age of Atheism—Which was more accepting of mass human slaughter?:

Gary North:  http://www.lewrockwell.com/north/north295.html:

    No such announcement was made by the Spaniards to civilians [“become Catholic or die”]. The number of people who died in the Spanish inquisition was under a thousand [about 880 persons], and the main targets were Jewish Catholic converts who were suspected of being secret Jews. (The definitive book on this is Benzion Netanyahu's The Origin of the Inquisition in Fifteenth-Century Spain. He is Benjamin's father.) There was no attempt by Catholics or Protestants to execute masses of civilians, with the exception I mentioned in my original essay: the Thirty Years' War.  Europe reacted in horror to that event.

Gary North:  http://www.lewrockwell.com/north/north292.html:

    There was a time in Western history when the rules of war specified that civilians were not to be deliberate targets during wartime. These rules had sometimes been violated: in the Thirty Years' War (1618–48), when Catholics and Protestants made war on each other in Germany, and in America's wars against the Indians. But these had been considered exceptions. Then, in 1864, beginning with Sherman's march to the sea and Sheridan's burning of farms in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, the old standard was abandoned.


See Gil Elliot, Twentieth Century Book of the Dead (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1972) and Paul Johnson, Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties (New York: Harper & Row, [1983] 1991). According to one-time Russian exile Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-), at the height of the Spanish Inquisition (late Middle Ages) about ten persons per month were executed. During the eighty years before the Russian revolution, seventeen persons per year were executed. In the first two years of Lenin's revolution more than one thousand persons per month were executed without due process of law. At the height of Stalin's terror an estimated forty thousand persons per month were executed. See Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, "America: You Must Think About the World," Soizhenitsyn: The Voice of Freedom (June 30, 1975), p. 9.           

Also see:
J. Domínguez, M.D., "The Spanish Inquisition," 




The European Wars of Religion


William Cavanaugh, Theopolitical Imagination: Discovering the Liturgy as a Political Act in an Age of Global Consumerism:

    The 'Wars of Religion', were not the events that necessitated the birth of the modern state; they were in fact themselves the birthpangs of the state. These wars were not simply a matter of conflict between 'Protestantism' and 'Catholicism,' but were fought largely for the aggrandizement of the emerging state over the decaying remnants of the medieval ecclesial order. It is not merely that political and economic factors played a central role in these wards, nor are we justified in making a facile reduction of religion to more mundane concerns. Rather, to call these conflicts 'Wars of Religion' is an anachronosim, for what was at issue in these wars was the very creation of religion as a set of privately held beliefs without direct political relevance. The creation of religion was necessitated by the new state's need to secure absolute sovereignty over its subjects.... What is at issue behind these wars is the creation of 'religion' as a set of beliefs which is defined as personal conviction and which can exist separately from one's public loyalty to the state. The creation of religion, and thus the privitization of the Church, is correlative to the rise of the state. It is important therefore to see that the principal promoters of the wars in France and Germany were in fact not pastors and peasants, but kings and nobles with a stake in the outcome of the movement towards the centralized hegemonic state.



Witch Hunts

Myth of the numbers executed for witchcraft and that it was genocide against females:

"Ten Common Errors and Myths about the Witch Hunts, Corrected and Commented" by Brian A. Pavlac, Ph.D.

http://departments.kings.edu/womens_history/witch/werror.html - A secularist historian corrects some of the myths.



Pagan origin of witchcraft ordeals:

Harold J. Berman, Law and Revolution:  The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition (Cambridge, MA:  Harvard Univ. Press, 1983), 57, 82:

    In Germanic society, the "trust-mistrust" syndrome was closely related to the overriding belief in an arbitrary fate, and this belief, in turn, was reflected above all in the use of the ordeal as a principal method of legal proof. The two main types of ordeal were those of fire and water, the former for persons of higher rank, the latter for the common people. Originally, these were invocations of the gods of fire and water, respectively. Those tried by fire were passed blindfolded or barefooted over hot glowing plowshares, or they carried burning irons in their hands, and if their burns healed properly they were exonerated. The ordeal of water was performed either in cold water or in hot water. In cold water, the suspect was adjudged guilty if his body was borne up by the water contrary to the course of nature, showing that the water did not accept him. In hot water he was adjudged innocent if after putting his bare arms and legs into scalding water he came out unhurt. (57)

    The emergence of Christianity and its spread across Europe was a unique event, which cannot he explained by any general social theory. By contradicting the Germanic world view and splitting life into two realms, Christianity challenged the ultimate sanctity of custom, including the ultimate sanctity of kinship, lordship, and kingship relations. It also challenged the ultimate sanctity of nature—of the water and fire of the ordeals, for example. It challenged their ultimate sanctity, however, without denying their sanctity altogether; on the contrary, the church actually supported the sacred institutions and values of the folk (including the ordeals). The church supported them and at the same time challenged them by setting up a higher alternative—the realm of God, God's law, the life of the world to come. (82)


Hugh R. Trevor-Roper, The European Witch-Craze of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Harmondsworth:  Penguin, 1969), p. 13, quoted in Philip J. Sampson, 6 Modern Myths About Christianity & Western Civilization (Downers Grove, IL:  Intervarsity Press, 2001), p. 142:

    [The] Church of the Dark Ages did its best to dispense these relics of paganism [i.e. witch beliefs]. . . .  In general, the Church, as the civiliser of nations, disdained these old wives' tales.  They were the fragmentary rubbish of paganism which the light of the Gospel had dispelled.


Thomas Ady, A Candle in the Dark: or, A Treatise Concerning the Nature of Witches and Witchcraft: Being Advice to Judges, Sheriffes, Justices of the Peace, and Grand-Jury-men, what to do, before they passe Sentence on such as are Arraigned for their Lives as Witches (London, 1656).  From Cornell University Library Witchcraft Collection, see book image or searchable text, pp. 10-11:

    A DILEMMA THAT Cannot bee answered by WITCH-MONGERS. Luke 4:4,8,12. Christ who is our forerunner, Heb. 6:20, by whofe holy Spirit the holy Scriptures were written, whose words were of equall truth and authority with the Scriptures; Yet when he was to conquer the father of lies, the Prince of darknesse (not for his own sake, but for our example) although hee was able to have argued by common reason, beyond the wisedome of Solomon, yet being tempted, would not answer any one temptation without Scriptum est, it is written (because the Scriptures are the only rule of righteousnesse;) whosoever then will take example by him, to try the Truth by Scriptures, and to argue by them, as he did in this place of Luke, (and not by strange reports, which are the objects of vain credulity) let them answer me by Scriptum est.

    1 Where is it written in all the old and new Testament, that a Witch is a murtherer, or hath power to kill by Witchcraft, or to afflict with any disease or infirmity?

    2 Where is it written, that Witches have Imps sucking of their bodies?

    3 Where is it written, that Witches have biggs for Imps to suck on?  

    4 Where is it written, that the Devill setteth privy marks upon Witches, whereby they should be known or searched out? or that any man or woman hath any mark upon their body any more than natural, or by some disease or hurt, which is preternatural?

    5 Where is it written, that the tryall of a Witch should be by sinking or swimming in the water? or by biggs or privy marks, or suspition of people, to be signes of a Witch?

    6 Where is it written, that Witches can hurt corn or cattell, or transport corn by Witchcraft, or can fly in the aire, and do many such strange wonders?

    7 Where is it written, that a Witch is such a man or woman that maketh a league with the Devill, written with his or her blood, and by vertue of that covenant to have the Devill at command?

    8 Where is it written, that any man or woman was called in the Scripture strix, or lamia, or where is any word of such signification or importance, either in the Hebrew text, or in the Latin translation, where is a Witch said in the Scriptures to be any such kind of person?

    9 What is a witch in the scripture sense, according to Deu.18:10,11 where all sorts of witches are nominated by nine terms of description?

    10 Where is it written, that there are any other sorts of Witches than such as are there described? Deut. 18:10,11.

    11 Where do we read of a he devill, or a she devill, called incubus or succubus, that useth generation or copulation with Witches, or Witches with them?



Religion vs. Science


The "Dark Ages" is a myth.  It is a phrase invented by atheists during the so-called "Enlightenment" to disparage Christianity.  Likewise the "Scientific Revolution."  Modern science was born in the Middle Ages in Europe.  While the "Scientific Revolution" was a period of many important scientific advances, these advances were fruit born from the scientific enterprise that had its origin and growth in the preceding centuries.  Christian Europe of the Middle Ages may not have had the fine (but largely uselessi) roads of the Roman Empire, but it abolished the slave societies of ancient Rome and Greece, made technological advances beyond anything the world had known, and invented universities not only to preserve knowledge, but to innovate in all areas of human learning.  This was all done by Christians who self-consciously thought in terms of a Christian worldview, founded on the existence of an absolutely rational Creator.



Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God:  How Monotheism Led to the Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery (Princeton,NJ:  Princeton University Press, 2003), p. 127:


[T]he Spanish inquisitors paid virtually no attention to science per se.  In his remarkable recent study, Henry Kamen reported:

    Scientific books written by Catholics tended to circulate freely.  The 1583 Quiroga Index had a negligible impact on the accessibility of scientific works, and Galileo was never put on the list of forbidden books.  The most direct attacks mounted by the Inquisition were against selected works in the area of astrology and alchemy, sciences that were deemed to carry overtones of superstition.


    In contrast, anyone in Spain could have gotten in deep trouble for reading books by Protestants, scientific or not.  Even so, most of the books that actually got people in trouble with the inquisitors were not about religion, science, or superstition; they were pornographic. . . .


    But insofar as the suppression of science is concerned, the bloodiest incidents have been recent  and have had nothing to do with religion.  It was the Nazi Party, not the German Evangelical Church, that tried to eradicate "Jewish" physics, and it was the Communist Party, not the Russian Orthodox Church, that destroyed "bourgeois" genetics and left many other fields of Soviet science in disarray.  No one has been prompted by these examples to propose an inherent incompatibility between politics and science.  By the same token, that there have been conflicts between churches and science does not justify belief in an incompatibility between religion and science.  It is, rather, that autocrats often do not tolerate disagreement.


Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God:  How Monotheism Led to the Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery (Princeton,NJ:  Princeton University Press, 2003), p. 130:

    Thus only recently have historians realized that while Europe's leading scholars of, say, the eighth century may have written "inferior" Latin, and may not have been well versed in Plato and Aristotle, they were not "barbarians."  They certainly were not barbarians morally:  both Plato and Aristotle owned slaves, but during the "Dark Ages," Europeans rejected slavery. . . .  And they certainly were not barbarians in terms of technology:  during the "Dark Ages" came "one of the great inventive eras of mankind" as machinery was developed and put into use "on a scale no civilization had previously known."  Or, as Lynn White put it, "In technology, at least, the Dark Ages mark a steady and uninterrupted advance over the Roman Empire."  Histories of the technological achievements of medieval times are fascinating reading.



Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God:  How Monotheism Led to the Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery (Princeton,NJ:  Princeton University Press, 2003), p. 134-35:

    Christianity did not plunge Europe into an era of ignorance and backwardness.  Rather, so much technical progress took place during this era that by no later than the thirteenth century, European technology surpassed anything to be found elsewhere in the world.  This did not occur because of the "rediscovery" of classical knowledge.  There is no more misleading account of Western civilization than the one that starts with classical culture and proceeds directly to the "Renaissance," dismissing the millennium in between as an unfortunate and irrelevant interlude.  Western civilization is not the direct descendant of Greco-Roman culture.  Instead, it is the product of centuries of interaction between the cultures of the "barbarians" (who, as we have begun to realize, had far more sophisticated cultures than had been acknowledged) and Christianity.  In fact, it is far less the case that Christianity "Romanized" the Germans than that the latter "Germanized" Christianity.  The subsequent addition of Greco-Roman learning was more decorative than fundamental.  For the fact is that the progress achieved during the "Dark Ages" was not limited to technology.  Medieval Europe also excelled in philosophy and science.  As Lynn White pointed out, by "the late 13th century Europe had seized global scientific leadership."

    In many ways the term "Scientific Revolution" is as misleading as "Dark Ages."  Both were coined to discredit the medieval Church.  The notion of a "Scientific Revolution" has been used to claim that science suddenly burst forth when a weakened Christianity could no longer prevent it, and as the recovery of classical learning made it possible.  Both claims are as false as those concerning Columbus and the flat earth.  First of all, classical learning did not provide an appropriate model for science.  Second, the rise of science was already far along by the sixteenth century, having been carefully nurtured by devout Scholastics in that most Christian invention, the university.  As Alford W. Crosby pointed out, "in our time the word medieval is often used as a synonym for muddle-headedness, but it can be more accurately used to indicate precise definition and meticulous reasoning, that is to say, clarity" (his emphasis).  Granted that the era of scientific discovery that occurred in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was indeed marvelous, the cultural equivalent of the blossoming of a rose.  However, just as roses do not spring up overnight but must undergo a long period of normal growth before they even bud, so, too, the blossoming of science was the result of centuries of normal intellectual progress, which is why I am unwilling to refer to a "Scientific Revolution" without putting the term in quotation marks.



Edward Grant, God and Reason in the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 356:

    What made it possible for Western civilization to develop science and the social sciences in a way that no other civilization had ever done before? The answer, I am convinced, lies in a pervasive and deep-seated spirit of inquiry that was a natural consequence of the emphasis on reason that began in the Middle Ages. With the exception of revealed truths, reason was enthroned in medieval universities as the ultimate arbiter for most intellectual arguments and controversies. It was quite natural for scholars immersed in a university environment to employ reason to probe into subject areas that had not been explored before, as well as to discuss possibilities that had not previously been seriously entertained.



David C. Lindberg, The Beginnings of Western Science (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), p. 363:

    [I]t must be emphatically stated that within this educational system the medieval master had a great deal of freedom. The stereotype of the Middle Ages pictures the professor as spineless and subservient, a slavish follower of Aristotle and the Church fathers (exactly how one could be a slavish follower of both, the stereotype does not explain), fearful of departing one iota from the demands of authority. There were broad theological limits, of course, but within those limits the medieval master had remarkable freedom of thought and expression; there was almost no doctrine, philosophical or theological, that was not submitted to minute scrutiny and criticism by scholars in the medieval university.



Galileo vs. the Church . . . or Aristotle?

Galileo did not have any proof to back up his theory.

    When Cardinal Bellarmine, who was responsible for the Court of Inquisition, asked Galileo in a friendly way for his proofs, so that he could accept his theory as proven theory, and asked him otherwise to present his Copernican theory as hypothesis only, Galileo answered in a harsh letter, that he was not willing to present his evidences, because no one could really understand them.  (Thomas Schirrmacher, "The Galileo Affair:  History or Hagiography?," Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal 14.1(2000) 91-100; www.answersingenesis.org/gal-affair.)

    Virtually all researchers agree that Galileo had no physical proof for his theory.  Some parts of Galileo's theory could even not be proven at all because they were wrong and already outdated by Kepler's research . . . . (Thomas Schirrmacher, "The Galileo Affair:  History or Hagiography?," Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal 14.1(2000) 91-100; www.answersingenesis.org/gal-affair.)


Finally, Galileo offered a falacious proof that the earth rotates and revolves around the sun:  ocean tides.  Charles E. Hummel (The Galileo Connection InterVarsity Press, 1986), pp. 110-11, available at http://books.google.com/books?id=2b3ab2ErEtUC) writes:

    The proof that Galileo finally devised toward the end of 1615 was the action of the tides.  He believed that it was due to the combined daily rotation of the earth on its axis and its annual revolution around the sun.  He presented this explanation to various audiences in Rome as a conclusive physical demonstration on which he wrote a paper in January 1616.  Unfortunately, this path led down a dead-end street; it did not move Bellarmine to reconsider his position, and its prominence in the Dialogue sixteen years later gave opponents a chance to reject the book entirely.  It was not until 1637 that Galileo abanonded his theory of the tides.  (A physical demonstration of the earth's revolution and rotation awaited discovery unitl the mid-1800s—four centuries after Copernicuswith stellar parallax and the Foucault pendulum.)


According to Paul Feyerabend (Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge (Verso, 1993), pp.81ff. 105, available at http://books.google.com/books?id=8y-FVtrKeSYC), Galileo was not able to prove that his observations through the telescope were accurate.  It was believed at that time that observation of heavenly bodies involved distortions that were not present when observing terrestial bodies; plus there were distortions produced by the telescope lens itself that had to be explained.  Feyerabend writes:  "Galileo was only slightly acquainted with contemporary optical theory.  His telescope gave surprising results on the earth, and these results were duly praised.  Trouble was to be expected in the sky, as we know now.  Trouble promptly arose:  the telescope produced spurious and contradictory phenomena and some of its results could be refuted by a simple look with the unaided eye.  Only a new theory of telescopic vision could bring order into the chaos (which may have been still larger, due to the different phenomena seen at the time even with the naked eye) and could separate appearance from reality." (p. 99)  Feyerabend concludes concerning the empirical evidence presented by Galileo:

    The reader will realize that a more detailed study of historical phenomena such as these creates considerable difficulties for the view that the transition from the pre-Copernican cosmology to that of the 17th century consisted in the replacement of refuted theories by more general conjectures which explained the refuting instances, made new predictions, and were corroborated by observations carried out to test these new predictions.  And he will perhaps see the merits of a different view which asserts that, while the pre-Copernican astronomy was in trouble (was confronted by a series of refuting instances and implausibilities), the Copernican theory was in even greater trouble (was confronted by even more drastic refuting instances and implausbilities); but that being in harmony with still further inadequate theories it gained strength, and was retained, the refutations being made ineffective by ad hoc hypotheses and clever technique of persuasion.  This would seem to be a much more adequate description of the developments at the time of Galileo than is offered by almost all alternative accounts.


The most persistent source of opposition to Galileo was from the Aristotelian scientific establishement, which dragged the church into the controversy after almost 30 years of failing to silence him by other means.  Again, Charles E. Hummel (The Galileo Connection, pp. 119-123) writes:

         For almost thirty years before the conflict took a theological turn, Galileo waged a running battle against the Aristotelianism of the scientific establishment.  He effectively used the media of private discussion, public lecture and polemic writing.  Although his attacks were not personal, Galileo's opponents were understandably hurt and angered as he undermined their scientific system and professional reputations. . . .

         It is curious that despite the evidence, historians of science have seldom blamed the university professors for their part in the decision against Copernicus and Galileo, their opposition to freedom of scientific inquiry.  Yet it was they, the leading scientists, who urged the theologians to intervene, confident that the church would be on their side.  In a letter to a friend in 1635, Galileo wrote about the events leading to the church's fateful decision against the Copernican system in 1616.  Galileo did not blame the young priest, Caccini, who had denounced him from the pulpit in his own city of Florence; he indicted the men whose "slanders, frauds, stategems, and trickeries were used eighteen years ago in Rome to decieve the authorities."  As for the present, "You have certainly understood from my writings which was the true and real motive that caused, under the lying mask of religion, this war against me, that continually restrains and undercuts me in all directions." . . .

        In light of those facts, one should be wary of accepting the traditional interpretation of the trial, exemplified by Colin Ronan's conclusion: "Galileo does stand as a classic example of the evils of a totalitarian regime. . . .  [He] cut right across the religious authority of the Church. . . .  It was essentially Galileo's danger to an authoritarian outlook that caused his downfall." . . .

         Ronan's conclusion is a curious mixture of truth and error. He is close to the trurth when he calls Galileo the victim of an authoritarian outlook.  The problem is that he points the guilty finger in the wrong direction.  To call the Catholic Church in the Italy of that time (a collection of independent states) a totalitarian regime is an anachrononism.  The Pope hardly had the power of a modern dictator.  For example, if Galileo had stayed in the Republic of Venice, which had recently expelled the Jesuits for political intrigue, he would have been safe.

         The real authoritarianism that engineered Galileo's downfall was that of the Aristotelian scientific outlook in the universities.  Only after Galileo attacked the establishment for decades did his enemies turn their controversy into a theological issue.  Even then it was the natural philosophers who worked behind the scenes with pliable church authorities to foment Galileo's trial, and finally to rob him of the reasonable solution worked out by the Inquisition.


Gorgio de Santillana (The Crime of Galileo (London:  Heinemann, 1958), pp. xii-xiii) likewise says:

    In reality it was a confused free-for-all in which prejudice, inveterate rancor, and all sorts of special and corporate interests were prime movers. . . .  It has been known for a long time that a major part of the church intellectuals were on the side of Galileo, while the clearest opposition to him came from secular ideas. . . .  The tragedy was the result of a plot of which the hierarchies themselves turned out to be the victims no less than Galileo — an intrigue engineered by a group of obscure and disparate characters in stange collusion.


Galileo had beeen a celebrated hero in the Catholic Church, honored by Pope Paul V and the Jesuit Roman College for his research in 1611.  Even the future Pope who would condemn him had been a friend and honored him for his work on the Copernican system:

    Galileo's first written statement in favour of the Copernican system, his Letters on Sunspots, was met with much approval and no critical voice was heard. Among the cardinals who congratulated Galileo was Cardinal Barberini, who later became Pope Urban V111 and would sentence him in 1633.  (Thomas Schirrmacher, "The Galileo Affair:  History or Hagiography?," Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal 14.1(2000) 91-100; www.answersingenesis.org/gal-affair.)


Galileo ran into trouble with the Church when he embarrassed his former friend, Pope Urban VIII.  The Aristotelian scientists encouraged Urban to believe, although it may have been untrue, that Galileo intended the chararacter of Simplicio, a fool who defends the Ptolemaic system in Galileo's famous Dialogues, to be a caraciture of the Pope.  Urban initiated the trial, while the Iquisitors themselves were very lax.  The only cardinal that pushed the trial ahead was the Pope's brother.

    Contrary to legend, both Galileo and the Copernican system were well regarded by Church officials. Galileo was the victim of his own arrogance, the envy of his colleagues, and the politics of Pope Urban VIII. He was not accused of criticising the Bible, but disobeying a papal decree.  (Thomas Schirrmacher, "The Galileo Affair:  History or Hagiography?," Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal 14.1(2000) 91-100; www.answersingenesis.org/gal-affair.)


Galileo was not convicted of heresy but of a lesser charge of "suspicision of heresy" because the Copernican system was as yet unproved, which was an accurate assesment of the empirical evidence of the time, as shown above.  Science historian John Heilbron writes in The Sun in the Church:  Cathedrals as Solar Observatories (Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press, 1999), pp. 202-203:

    Galileo's heresy, according to the standard distinction used by the Holy Office, was "inquisitorial" rather than "theological."  This distinction allowed it to proceed against people for disobeying orders or creating scandals, although neither offense violated an article defined and promologated by a pope or general council. . . .  Since, however, the church had never declared that the biblical passages implying a moving sun had to be interepreted in favor of a Ptolemaic universe as an article of faith, optimistic commentators . . . could undestand "formally heretical" to mean "provisionally not accepted."


Galileo's sentence turned out to be very light:  He was kept under house arrest at his farm, which was near his daughter, who attended to his needs.  At 70 years old he was not able to move around much anyway.  The Pope restored his pension.  He was able to receive visitors and continue his scientific experiments and publishing (although not in defense of the Copernican view).


Outside of Italy, Catholic scientists ignored the decree, and the Catholic Church continued to support astronomical research.  J.L. Heilbron (The Sun in the Church, (Cambridge, Mass.:  Harvard University Press, 1999)) documents how Cathedrals were transformed into solar observatories, and the church "gave more financial and social support to the study of astronomy for over six centuries, from the recovery of ancient learning during the late Middle Ages into the Enlightenment, than any other, and, probably, all other institutions." (p. 3)



Flat Earth:

The myth that people believed that the earth was flat until Columbus proved them wrong began with Washington Irving, best known for "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle."  Irving published a three-volume History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus (1828), which included a fabricated confrontation between Columbus and a churchman who argued that the earth was flat.  Columbus biographer Samuel Eliot Morison says that Irving's story is "misleading and mischievous nonsense, . . . one of the most popular Columbian myths.  Samuel Eliot Morison, Admiral of the Ocean Sea:  A Life of Christopher Columbus (Boston, MA:  Little Brown and Co., 1942), 89.  The myth became popularized around the turn of the twenthieth century by proponents of evolution, such as Andrew D. White in A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christiandom (1896), a book filled with misinformation about the relationship between Christianity and science.

The calculations of the ancient Greek mathematician Ptolemy concerning the circumference of the earth continued to be relied upon throughout the Middle Ages.  The Bible and Aristotle were also used to support the view that the earth is round:  "Scientific demonstration of the earth's rotundity was enforced by religion; God made the earth a sphere because that was the most perfect form [per Aristotle - M.W.].  In the Old Testament there is a reference  to this in Isaiah xl:22:  'It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth.' — 'circle' being the translation of the Hebrew khug, sphere."  Samuel Eliot Morison, The European Discovery of America:  The Norther Voyages  (New York:  Oxford University Press, 1971), 6.

There were a few Christians in the Middle Ages who claimed that the earth is flat, but there are few references to their work in later medieval writing.  One was sixth-century Egyptian monk Cosmas Indicopleustes; medieval scholar Jeffrey Russell writes that he "had no followers whatever: his works were ignored or dismissed with derision thorought the Middle Ages."  Jeffery Burton Russell, Inventing the Flat Earth:  Columbus and Modern Historians (New York:  Praeger, 1991), 4.


The head of the Flat Earth Society is an evolutionist and global-warming advocate!  See here:  http://www.livescience.com/14754-ingenious-flat-earth-theory-revealed-map.html


“The Flat Earth Society is an active organization currently led by a Virginian man named Daniel Shenton. Though Shenton believes in evolution and global warming, he and his hundreds, if not thousands, of followers worldwide also believe that the Earth is a disc that you can fall off of.”


Wolchover,N., Ingenious 'flat earth' theory revealed in old map, livescience.com,  23 June 2011.


For more information see:  









Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God:  How Monotheism Led to the Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery (Princeton,NJ:  Princeton University Press, 2003), p. 144-46:

    Human dissection was not permitted in the classical world, which is why Greco-Roman works on anatomy are so faulty.  Aristotle's studies were limited entirely to animal dissections, as were those of Celsius and Galen.   Celsius claimed that three centuries before his time, several Greek physicians in Alexandria may have dissected a few slaves and criminals.  Otherwise "in the classical period the dignity of the human body forbade dissection."  Human dissection was also prohibited in Islam.  Then came the Christian universities and with them a new outlook on dissection.   The starting assumption was that what is unique to humans is a soul, not a physiology.  Dissections of the human body, therefore, are not different from studies of animal bodies and have no theological implications.  From this assumption two additional justifications of dissections were advanced.  The first was forensic.  Too many murderers escaped detection because the bodies of their victims were not subject to a careful postmortem.  The second concerned human welfare—that no adequate medical knowledge could be acquired without direct observation of human anatomy. . . .

    Nevertheless, A.D. White wrote indignately about how the great physiologist Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) "risked the most terrible dangers, and especially the charge of sacrilege, founded upon the teachings of the Church" by conducting human dissections.  White went on to claim that anyone who dissected a human body at this time risked "excommunication," but the heroic Vesalius "broke without fear" from "this sacred conventionalism" and proceeded "despite ecclesiastical censure . . . No peril daunted him."  All this was alleged to have taken place two centuries after human dissection began at universities where Vesalius learned and practiced his anatomical craft!  This is not a fact only recently brought to light.  Writing in the early 1920s, Charles Singer, one of the first historians of medicine, thought it so well known as to need no documentation that "although Vesalius profoundly altered the attitude towards biological phenomenon, he yet prosecuted his researches undisturbed by ecclesiastical authorities."

    White also failed to convey the immense fame and recognition Vesalius's work received immediately upon publication.  Nor did White deign to report that Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, responded to Vesalius's "sacrilege" by ennobling him as a count and awarding him a lifetime pension.  Thereafter, the young anatomist took up residence at the court of Phillip II of Spain, and this during the most active period of heresy-hunting by local inquisitors!  As for Vesalius's religious views, he died  while returning from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  Thus we uncover another of White's bogus accounts of the unrelenting religious opposition to science.  And, like the tale about Columbus, it has had a deep and twisted effect on our intellectual culture.

The cases of Giordano Bruno and Michael Servetus:

Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God:  How Monotheism Led to the Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery (Princeton,NJ:  Princeton University Press, 2003), p. 127:

    Consider the execution of Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), often cited as one of the most shameful examples of the religious repression of science.  A.D. White claimed that Bruno "should be mentioned with reverence as beginning to develop again that current of Greek thought . . . [which the] doctors of the Church had interrupted for more than a thousand years."  In fact, Bruno was not really a scientist, although he engaged in some speculative astronomy.  Rather, he was a renegade monk, a Hermetic sorcerer, and something of a philosopher.  His troubles had to do entirely with a heretical theology involving the existence of an infinite number of worlds—a work based entirely on imagination and speculation.  The same is true of the other equally infamous case, that of Michael Servetus (1511-1553), put to death in Geneva with the acquiescence of John Calvin.  Although Servetus did a bit of early work in physiology, he specialized in theology, and it was only for his theological writing that he was condemned.


Luther and Calvin against Science:

R. Hooykaas, Religion and the Rise of Modern Science (Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdsmans Publishing, 1972), p. 121-22:

    Here again prejudice has blinded historiographers:  it would not fit with the current image of Calvin if he opens the way to anything but intolerance and biblicism.  According to A.D. White, "Calvin took the lead (against Copernicanism) in his Commentary on Genesis, by condemning all who asserted that the earth is not the centre of the universe.  He clinched the matter by the usual reference to the first verse of the ninety-third psalm, and asked, 'Who will venture to place the authority of Copernicus above that of the Holy Spirit?'  White evidently borrowed this latter quotation from Farrar's 'History of Interpretation'.

    'There is no lie so good as the precise and well-detailed one', and this one has been repeated again and again, quotation-marks included, by writers on the history of science, who evidently did not make the effort to verify the statement. For fifteen years, I have pointed out in several periodicals concerned with the history of science that the "quotation" from Calvin is imaginary and that Calvin never mentioned Copernicus; but the legend dies hard. It seems strange that Farrar, who in the body of his work did full justice to the scholarly character of Calvin's method of exegesis, could go so far astray in the Introduction. I became suspicious of his statement because it does not fit in with Calvin's exegetical principles and because a parallel quotation allegedly from the Independent divine John Owen could immediately be proven to be spurious.


Concerning a statement by Martin Luther, Hooykaas continues:

    Much stress is often laid on Luther's attitude in order to corroborate the statement that the Reformers and the Protestants, because of their biblicism, were in general less favourably inclined towards Copernicus' system than the Roman church before the condemnation of Galileo. Luther indeed in one of his table-talks rejected the opinion of an astronomer according to whom the sun was standing still, as a mistaken effort to be original: "I believe Holy Scripture, for Joshua told the sun to stand still, not the earth". But in his authorized works, Luther never mentioned the problem; it was just a commonsense remark, made when only rumours about Copernicus' work (not even his name is mentioned in the reminiscence of the reporter) were circulating (1539), and it was only printed (from the memory of one of his guests) twenty-seven years afterwards (1566). So this attitude could hardly have exerted much influence, the more so as it does not play a role in Lutheran doctrine.


Finally, the remarks of Hooykaas on Melanchthon:

    Only Melanchthon, who always remained faithful to Aristotelian philosophy, at first condemned the doctrine of the motion of the earth, and said that the magistrates ought to punish its proclamation. But one year afterwards, in his second edition, this passage was omitted. Melanchthon was on very friendly terms with Petreius, the printer of Copernicus' work, and in an oration (1549) on his lately dead friend Caspar Cruciger (1504-1548), he mentioned that the latter was an admirer of Copernicus. Moreover, he gave protection to Rheticus, Copernicus' only immediate pupil.



Donald H. Kobe, "Luther and Science"



Gary DeMar, "Martin Luther and Copernicus"


Gary DeMar, "The War Between Science and Religion"


Gary DeMar, "Questioning History—Part I"



A paper written by two liberals on the myth that the historical relationship between Christianity and science has typically been one of warfare:  David C. Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers, Beyond War and Peace: A Reappraisal of the Encounter between Christianity and Science






Class Conflict the Cause of Religious Movements


Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God:  How Monotheism Led to the Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery (Princeton,NJ:  Princeton University Press, 2003), p. 61-62:

              Many scholars, perhaps possessed of excessively active sociological imaginations, have claimed that these great heretical movements were not really about doctrines and moral concerns.  Instead, they argue, the religious aspects of these movements masked their real basis, which was “class conflict.”  Frederick Engels set the example followed by many others when he dismissed the religious aspects of these clashes as “the illusions of the epoch” and claimed that the “interests, requirements, and demands of the various classes were concealed behind a religious screen.” . . .

              Attributing the major medieval religious movements to poor peasants or proletarian townsfolk flies in the face of clear evidence of the substantial overinvolvement of the wealthy and privileged in most, if not all, of them.  Moreover, even if it could be shown that the majority of followers in these movements were poor peasants, that carries little force when we recognize that nearly everyone in medieval Europe was a poor peasant.  It is also essential to see that the emphasis placed on the virtues of poverty by so many of these groups was not a rationalization for being poor but a call for Christians to embrace “holy poverty” as the means of overcoming worldliness.  The stress was on choosing poverty—an option not given to the poor—which may account for the special appeal of asceticism to those in a position to choose.  It is frequently observed that wealth fails to satisfy many of those born into privilege, and that seems to have been especially so in this era when it was mainly the children of the upper classes who received of religious education (or any education), and whose interests and concerns were thereby aroused.




i. Rodney Stark, The Victory of Reason:  How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success (New York:  Random House, 2006), p. 49:  


by Michael H. Warren

Revised 10/28//2015