By: Lynda Bustilloz To: George Mooth Re: Our Daily Dispute PAST RELIGIOUS CONFLICTS Every

---
Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

By: Lynda Bustilloz To: George Mooth Re: Our Daily Dispute PAST RELIGIOUS CONFLICTS Every age since Galileo has had at least one public debate with a religious component. Typically, the conflict has been between established religion and either a physical science, medicine, or a social science. The conflict often goes through 8 stages: 1. An scientist or physician will propose a new belief system that is in conflict with established religious beliefs. Churches ignore the proposal. 2. A growing number of people will start to disagree with church teaching. 3. Churches issue statements which condemn the proposal. 4. Support for the proposal grows among the public. 5. Churches issue statement pointing out that belief in the proposal negates the entire Christian message. 6. Support continues to grow. 7.. Churches begin to ignore the proposal 8. Many decades or centuries later, churches may incorporate the proposal into their belief system. SHAPE OF THE EARTH St. Augustine reasoned that since the Bible contains no references to people living on the other side of the earth, that therefore there was no other side. The world must be flat. Lactantius ridiculed the idea that people could walk with their feet above their heads or that rain and snow could fall upwards towards the earth. In the 6th Century, Hebrews 9 and other passages were interpreted as describing the earth as a great flat parallelogram, surrounded by four seas and walls which supported the heavens. This theory held for some 600 years until two men (Peter of Abano and Cecco d'Ascoli) revived earlier theories of a round earth. Peter escaped punishment by quickly dying a natural death; Cecco was burned at the stake for his beliefs. Magellan's voyage around the world in 1519 provided firm evidence for a round world, but religious leaders did not fully accept it for two more centuries. SOLAR SYSTEM The Christian church adopted Plato's geocentric principle: the belief that the earth was the centre of the universe and that the moon, sun and stars rotated around it. Copernicus sounded the death knell of this principle in his greatest book Revolution of the Heavenly Bodies which described a crude model of a sun-centred solar system. In order to escape imprisonment, the book was presented as a hypothesis - a work of imagination. Copernicus was in many ways lucky. He died on the day that the first editions of his book were distributed, before he could be arrested. To defend the status-quo, Protestant and Catholic churches quoted a passage in Psalms in which the sun "cometh forth as a bridegroom out of his chamber". From Ecclesiastes they quoted: "The earth standeth fast forever". Martin Luther mentioned Joshua's command that the sun stand still. Giordano Bruno was the first supporter of Copernicus' theory; he was imprisoned and then burned alive. Early in the 17th century, Galileo's telescope revolutionized astronomy. He observed that the planet Venus went through phases, that there were spots on the sun and that Jupiter had moons. The church arrested Galileo twice; the Inquisition showed him the instruments of torture that would be used to force his recantation. He abandoned his teachings under pressure and retired. It was not until the year 1835 that the teachings of Copernicus and Galileo were finally accepted by his Church. OTHER CONFLICTS BETWEEN SCIENCE AND THEOLOGY Other battles were fought between science and religion: * Roger Bacon (13th Century) was imprisoned for 14 years for his experiments in time pieces, optics, chemical extractions, refraction of light, etc. * John Barillon (14th Century) was jailed because he possessed chemical furnaces and apparatus. * Antonio de Dominius (15th Century) was killed by the Inquisition for his experiments into the properties of light. * There were a number of minor skirmishes between religion and science that were "hot" for a while, and later faded from view: * the orbits of the moon and planets were held to be circles, because the circle is the perfect shape. (They actually move in ellipses). * theologins believed that we see lightning before thunder because "sight is nobler than hearing." * the number 7 was regarded as having sacred power, as in the 7 cardinal virtues, 7 deadly sins, 7 sacraments, 7 churches mentioned in Revelations, etc. Thus it was held that there must be exactly 7 planets and 7 metals. * religious leaders believed for a time that a vacuum was impossible, because a vacuum implies nothing; that would mean that there would be a small area of the universe where God was not present. INTEREST ON MONEY Leviticus 25:36, Deuteronomy 23:19, Psalms 15:5 and Luke 6:35 prohibit interest payments on loans. This policy was carried over from Judaism into Christianity. The rationale given by theologians was based on "natural law": Only living entities can grow. Since money is not alive, it must remain fixed in size. St. Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas lent their support. Usury was defined as the charging of any interest whatsoever by 28 councils of the Church and by 17 popes. Pope Clement V made it a heresy to even suggest that the idea of interest could be acceptable. Fortunately, Calvin argued that usury really meant oppressivly high interest rates. The Roman Catholic church reluctantly followed the Protestant lead. By the 19th century, interest had become a non-issue. LIGHTNING The churches had always held that Satan, the "Prince of the Power of the Air", controlled all lightening and thunder. But in 1752, Franklin's experiment during a thunder storm proved that lightning was an electrical phenomenon. The experiment was replicated by an experimenter in France, who was electrocuted. Lightning rods were a logical development; they protected buildings wherever they were installed. Unfortunately, to install a "heretical rod" was to admit that centuries of theological teachings were false. Churches were reluctant to use them. Seventeen years after Franklin's experiment, lightning struck the unprotected Church of San Nazaro, near Venice. This ignited 200,000 pounds of powder which had been stored there for safe keeping. The explosion wiped out one sixth of the city of Brescia and killed 3000 people. Lightning rods soon appeared on spires across Italy. ANESTHETICS DURING CHILDBIRTH In 1846 James Simpson, a Scottish physician promoted the use of chloroform to relieve pain during childbirth. This was immediately opposed by the Church, citing Genesis 3:16 "...I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children". The avoidance of pain was seen as thwarting God's will. Fortunately, Simpson found a competing passage (Genesis 2:21) which describes the first surgical operation; it seems to support the use of anesthetic: "...God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam.....he took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh.." In time, the Church's opposition dissipated; pain killers have since lost their religious significance. CHILDHOOD INNOCULATIONS Early in the 17th Century, physicians in France and Great Britain promoted inoculations to prevent small pox. Theologians were quick to respond. Rev. Edward Massy in England preached a sermon blaming the distemper experienced by Job in the Bible upon an inoculation by Satan. Other clergy preached that the technique was being promoted by sorcerers and atheists. Smallpox was regarded as "a judgment of God on the sins of the people......to avert it is but to provoke him more". Inoculation was "an encroachment on the prerogatives of Jehovah, whose right it is to wound and smite." Jenner's development of vaccination was similarly opposed on religious grounds. By preventing the spread of disease, they were "bidding defiance to Heaven itself - even to the will of God." In 1885, a serious epidemic of smallpox broke out in Montreal Canada. Few Protestants died because they had been mostly vaccinated. However the Roman Catholic clergy were generally opposed to the practice; their parishioners died needlessly, in great numbers. BIRTH CONTROL Birth Control appears (at most) only once in the Christian Bible. See Genesis 38:1-10. Judah (circa 1730 BCE) had three sons, Er, Onan and Shelah. The eldest son, Er, was "wicked in the sight of the Lord", and so God killed him. This placed the responsibility on the next eldest son to marry Er's widow, Tamar and to have a male child. The child would then be considered the son of Er. Onan married the widow, but was unwilling to conceive a child which would not be considered his own. He practiced an elementary form of birth control (coitus interruptus). God did not approve of this, and so He killed Onan as well. It is not clear whether God disapproved of Onan's refusal to follow Jewish custom and provide an heir for his brother, or of his use of birth control. Most modern commentators believe the former; many ancient Christian leaders selected the latter. St. Augustine (354-430 CE) commented on this biblical passage. He wrote that "where the conception of the offspring is prevented", sexual intercourse is "unlawful and wicked". St. Augustine did not differentiate between coitus interruptus and the rhythm method. This established Church policy for centuries. Interestingly enough, later clerics totally misinterpreted this same chapter; they said that Onan's crime was masturbation, not coitus interruptus. It was believed that God killed him for what became known as "self abuse"; Onanaism became a synonym for masturbation. The Christian Church's stand on artificial birth control was adopted by the Protestant sects after the Reformation. All churches remained totally opposed to contraception until the courageous stand by Church of England in 1930. Other Protestant churches quickly followed their lead. Pius XI issued an encyclical in 1930 which reiterated the traditional view of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1951, Pius XII made the first break with tradition. He said that the so-called "safe period" or rhythm method was lawful under certain circumstances. Pope John later set up advisory committee of specialists to study the legality of "the pill". In 1968, Pope Paul ignored the majority recommendation of the panel and ruled against "artificial" methods of birth control in his encyclical Humanae Vitae. Pope Paul's decision was met with widespread criticism from many within and without the Church. The laity in North America has generally ignored the encyclical and is now widely practicing birth control. It is difficult for the Church to maintain control over its flock in a multi-faith culture. The family size of Protestants now differs very little from that of Roman Catholics. This conflict is different from those described previously, because it is still an active concern within the Roman Catholic Church - at least among the leadership. "Give to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself." -- the Ingersollian Golden Rule --- TLX v4.10 A stiff neck usually supports an empty head. --- Blue Wave/386 v2.20 [NR] * Origin: AD Multi-Node Message BBS (703) 241-1826 (1:109/611@FIDONET)

---

E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank