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Still picking nits over Giordano Bruno

The NCSE, which does good work otherwise, is a bit too apologetic to religion for my taste. They’re bumbling all over themselves to criticize Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos because it highlighted the conflict between religion and science, which is always a no-no for the NCSE. Now it’s Josh Rosenau’s turn to complain bitterly about the historical inaccuracy of even mentioning the unpleasant fact that the church has burned people alive.

Against that outpouring of objections from historians of science and others who want to see the rebooted Cosmos live up to the highest ideals of scientific and historical accuracy…

Hang on there, that’s a bit slimy. Who is saying it was inaccurate? Rosenau cites a bunch of people claiming that Bruno wasn’t a scientist and didn’t die for heliocentrism; but the episode nowhere claimed that he was a scientist. It actually said he was a mystic. You can’t complain that the show was wrong, only that it put the Catholic church in a very bad light…which is actually what has all the complainers wound up. How dare you point out the pernicious influence of religious dogma on civilization? That has nothing to do with science!

…PZ Myers insists that we are all Missing the Point of Giordano Bruno. In PZ Myers’s reading, the point of having a science show talk about Bruno and his cosmology (which he arrived at through a mystical vision and which he set at odds with Copernicans because they did not use heliocentrism as a religious argument) was not to tell a story about the history of science and its relationship to society or religion, but to simply alert the world to the fact: “Bruno was tortured to an agonizing death for his beliefs. Full stop.” And more generally: “The Church maintained an Inquisition to torture people who didn’t follow Catholic dogma in thought.”

Rosenau’s argument is that the Bruno story was misleading and inaccurate. Is there anything inaccurate in those quotes? Here’s a fuller summary of what I was saying.

I don’t think it odd at all that the series brought Giordano Bruno to the fore. This is not at all a show for scientists, but to bring a little bit of the awe and wonder of science to everyone. I think it was a good idea to use a non-scientist as an example of how dogma oppresses and harms everyone. Bruno was an idealist, a mystic, an annoying weirdo, a heretic, and for that, the Catholic Church set him on fire.

But somehow, being a weirdo means, in Rosenau’s eyes, that Bruno must be set apart from the real scientists. The church was only burning heretics, it would be a whole different matter if they were burning scientists.

To PZ’s eyes, nothing about that segment rested on whether Bruno was the brave vox clamantis in deserto, calmly championing heliocentrism and an infinite universe. The fact that Bruno wasn’t killed for those beliefs (not, of course, that he should have been killed for any of his beliefs, nor for stating them publicly!), that he didn’t arrive at his conclusions for scientific or empirical reasons, and didn’t try to test those ideas scientifically, are all, in PZ’s telling, irrelevant.

Exactly! Completely irrelevant!

Why is this so hard to understand? How could science function in a world where theological arbiters of the permissible truth can silence anyone who disagrees with them? I should think living in a culture of fear where you could be murdered for saying something the pope didn’t like was a rather effective way of suppressing scientific progress. Kill a few idealists for saying something against church dogma, and suddenly, those scientific investigations begin to look rather dangerous.

How long would a Darwin have lasted if he’d been born 200 years earlier?

But also, I’m getting a little annoyed with these people claiming that Bruno wasn’t killed for that one specific belief about the movement of the earth. He was! We have the list of eight charges for which Bruno was condemned. Note especially number 5.

1 – The statement of “two real and eternal principles of existence: the soul of the world and the original matter from which beings are derived”.

2 – The doctrine of the infinite universe and infinite worlds in conflict with the idea of Creation: “He who denies the infinite effect denies the infinite power”.

3 – The idea that every reality resides in the eternal and infinite soul of the world, including the body: “There is no reality that is not accompanied by a spirit and an intelligence”.

4 – The argument according to which “there is no transformation in the substance”, since the substance is eternal and generates nothing, but transforms.

5 – The idea of terrestrial movement, which according to Bruno, did not oppose the Holy Scriptures, which were popularised for the faithful and did not apply to scientists.

6 – The designation of stars as “messengers and interpreters of the ways of God”.

7 – The allocation of a “both sensory and intellectual” soul to earth.

8 – The opposition to the doctrine of St Thomas on the soul, the spiritual reality held captive in the body and not considered as the form of the human body.

It’s mostly a lot of New Agey sounding bollocks, with a fascination with contradicting bizarre Catholic doctrine with new, equally bizarre nonsense. So? That the earth rotates around the sun was one of his beliefs, and he didn’t come up with it any more than Josh Rosenau or I came up with the idea of evolution—but you still don’t get to murder people for their harmless beliefs, whether they’re original or scientifically tested or not.

Here’s another example that would have really driven the apologists for religion nuts: Michael Servetus. He was also set on fire in the 16th century for ideas that the Catholic Church detested, specifically for denying the trinity (stop right there and think about it: one of the most ridiculous, unsupportable (by evidence or the Bible, even) beliefs of modern Christianity, and they’ve been killing people and committing genocide for disagreeing with it). But Servetus was an early scientist — he was the first to figure out that the heart was a double-circuit pump, identifying the pulmonary circulation.

But most people didn’t know about it, because after they set him on fire, they set his books on fire too. No one knew about this discovery until William Harvey rediscovered it a hundred years later…and the last few hidden copies of Servetus’s books (I think only 3 survived the flames) were revealed.

So he was executed for his theology. But to pretend that this had no consequences for the advancement of science is ludicrous.

Watch the show yourself and judge what point the segment is making. But if PZ is right and the point was to talk about the horrors of the Roman Inquisition, why not expound upon the Albigensian Crusade or the Hussite Crusade or Joan of Arc or Girolamo Savonarola or William Tyndale, who also were put to death for their theological heterodoxies? Why spin a misleading [assertion not in evidence--pzm] tale about Bruno, implying that he inspired and laid the groundwork for a modern cosmology in which the universe is infinite, our sun is just another star, and our planets orbit our sun as other planets orbit other suns?

Yes, let’s! How about, though, if the lackeys for religion count themselves very, very lucky that Tyson only selected one man as an example, rather than exhaustively listing all of religion’s crimes against humanity? He highlighted one example, and moved on, and still the apologists are up in arms over it.

Here’s the thing. Neil deGrasse Tyson is not a militant atheist. He has specifically said that he does not want to make atheism his cause — he has other goals in mind. And yet, even here, people are freaking out because he openly discussed the deleterious effects of dogma on science.

Comments

  1. says

    Well yeah, but wouldn’t it have been more straightforward just to tell the story of Galileo? He was absolutely 100% persecuted for practicing science, and he would have been burned if he hadn’t recanted. That this did in fact happen to one of the most important figures in the history of human intellect pretty much vindicates telling Bruno’s story in this context, but why not go for the real point directly?

    Anyhow that’s how it seems to me. Maybe it just seemed too familiar.

  2. says

    Here’s the thing. Neil deGrasse Tyson is not a militant atheist. He has specifically said that he does not want to make atheism his cause — he has other goals in mind. And yet, even here, people are freaking out because he openly discussed the deleterious effects of dogma on science.

    I think that may be part of the point. As long as it’s only those militant atheists criticizing religion, at least you can dismiss them with hand-waving and tut-tut’ing about “tone” and “respect”. Neil deGrasse Tyson is far more threatening exactly because he doesn’t usually engage in this kind of criticism.

    Why the NCSE is so up in arms about it is strange to me, though. Are they really so scared of a conflict with religion?

  3. says

    Regarding NSCE: Yes, they don’t want anybody to think that there is a conflict between science and religion. They are militantly accomodationist.

  4. Owen says

    Some people are born militant, some achieve militancy, some people have militancy thrust upon them. I would not be surprised to see Tyson’s public career follow a similar arc to Paul Krugman(sp?) and become more and more politically engaged as his name becomes more widely known and he gets more pushback from idiots.
    I’m sure his experiences after Pluto got demoted are coming in handy here, too.

  5. Broken Things says

    I think the NCSE’s position here is self-defeating. They remind me of ‘liberal’ politicians calling for bipartisanship and compromise. They are either not aware that their opponents have no intention of comprising, and so are fools, or they know that their opponents will not compromise and so have some other motive for insisting on accommodation. The only thing I can conclude from their website is that they are avoiding any appearance of attacking religion in order to not irritate their religious constituents. How many religious constituents they have I do not know. But their position is doing the same thing that the mainstream churches do, which is to provide cover for the extremists who constitute a universal problem for education, humanism and good government, because they will not attack the root cause of the problems.

  6. corwyn says

    I’m sure his experiences after Pluto got demoted are coming in handy here, too.

    Yup, I am sure after telling 3rd graders to ‘get over it’, dealing with anyone else would be a piece of cake.

  7. says

    “How long would a Darwin have lasted if he’d been born 200 years earlier?”

    Alas, for all we can possibly know now, one was. Or several.

  8. says

    If powerful institutions like churches can burn a non-scientist at the stake for having unconventional ideas, why would anyone think scientists would be immune?

    Are non-scientists are inferior second-class citizens, not granted the privilege of free speech scientists have?

    Is there something wrong with non-scientists speculating about the nature of the universe?

    If their speculations are false, isn’t there a better way to correct them than to painfully execute them?

    Does it not occur to them that people are born as non-scientists and that many become scientists so that they can explore “heretical” ideas and questions?

    Does it not occur to them that a non-scientist presenting ideas might inspire a scientist to explore new things?

    All these questions are moot if you’re not fixated on Bruno’s status as a non-scientist. It was morally wrong to burn Bruno at the stake. The only purpose behind the act was to intimidate people with nonconformist ideas into silence, which necessarily includes scientists doing research into the nature of the universe.

  9. Seize says

    LykeX

    Neil deGrasse Tyson is far more threatening exactly because he doesn’t usually engage in this kind of criticism.

    Very smart point. Dr. Tyson effortlessly kicks the Overton window for “atheism” in a scary direction because he’s a total sweetheart.

  10. culuriel says

    While I don’t think we needed to see Bruno actually burned at the stake, Tyson is clear about a few points: 1- There was no freedom of thought in Europe when Bruno was alive. 2- This lack of freedom made it impossible for Bruno to even get a fair hearing. 3- Bruno was a monk, not a scientist, and he had no evidence for his theories, making it easy for the church in Italy to throw him in jail and condemn him to death. 4- The churches at the time turned out to be horribly wrong about the nature of space, which Galileo would figure out later. 5- The truth about reality must come from evidence and logical reasoning from observations, not supernatural dogma. I think Tyson could have made the point better by illustrating Galileo’s story, but maybe he assumes everyone already knows it.

  11. Holms says

    So all we have to do is pretend that the reasons for burning him alive had nothing to do with his statements of cosmology – even though his ‘infinite universe’ statement is directly referenced by #2, and even though his heliocentrism is directly referenced by #5 – and hey presto! The Roman Catholic Church stands innocent of all wrong doing! Oh except for the fact that, even if we buy into that obfuscatory bullshit, he was still burned alive for thinking the wrong stuff… oh and in fact for burning him alive for any reason whatsoever.

    Oh and all the other atrocities committed by not only the RCC but also every religion ever. Once we overlook the dominant themes of religious history, religions become super cool!!!!3!@

  12. says

    I really cannot believe how much traction this is getting or that it is still being discussed in supposedly reasonable circles. This should have started as a complaint by touchy religious people and ended there but it appears some people are bending over backwards to not understand the situation and make those complaining feel comfortable.

  13. Holms says

    @1
    By going for a non-scientist, they make a broader point: religion opposes not just science, but also any free thinking that is considered to threaten the primacy of the church, even if it is just another mysticism.

    Also, yes, Galileo’s story is quite well-trodden, and burned alive has a certain visceral horror to it that really drives the point home.

  14. says

    From the link:

    After all, the expansion of the universe was first proposed by ordained Catholic priest Georges Lemaître, who faced no interference from the Church.

    Maybe the fact that this took place in the twentieth century had something to do with that? Nobody is claiming that people got burned at the stake in the 1900s, so what exactly is he trying to prove with this example? That the church can change over time? I don’t know of anyone who would deny that.

    The fact that after all these years, the church has finally been pushed into accepting at least some of reality is not a sign that the church was always open-minded and wonderfully scientific. It’s not even evidence that the church now accepts science. It doesn’t. It accepts some science, which it often spins to make it fit accepted doctrines.

    Also, there’s that little issue about how the church simply doesn’t have the power to burn people anymore. If they did, we might see a very different picture. After all, we know that when they get the chance, they happily ignore the law and sacrifice innocent people for the sake of their church.

    As evidence, I point, of course, to the child abuse scandal. These are people who are perfectly willing to let children be raped to protect the image of their church. They’re people who care more about dogma than people. This is not my opinion; these are the facts as we can plainly see them.
    When not constrained by secular law enforcement; when hidden from the public eye; when policed only by their own conscience and the church hierarchy, they rape children.

    The last bit says a lot about the real focus:

    Fortunately, the second episode (ably reviewed by our own Steve Newton) steered clear of mythic warfare between science and religion. Instead, Tyson offers a somewhat spiritual defense of evolution. “The theory of evolution, like the theory of gravity, is a scientific fact,” he explains. “Evolution really happened. Accepting our kinship with life on earth is not only solid science, in my view it is also a soaring spiritual experience.”

  15. says

    culuriel @ 10:

    While I don’t think we needed to see Bruno actually burned at the stake,

    Why not? The horrors the church committed were fully approved at the time, and if they still had that sort of power, they’d still be at it. There’s little point in the continual handwaving done by the religious and various apologists now, as if it were a mere faux pas, a mild little burp in manners.

    There are a wealth of religious people now, who don’t have any idea at all, let alone a clear one, as to the crimes the RCC committed. The office of the inquisition is still extant, y’know. It might actually do some good for people to get a very clear idea of what the church did, and just showing Bruno doesn’t do anything at all to get across the scale of people the church happily did away with. Oh, pardon, the church’s official line is that they don’t kill anyone – they just torture them, then hand them over to the civil authority to kill. Of course, anyone in civil authority didn’t go against the church, because then they’d find themselves tried for heresy, so…

  16. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    John Bossy in Giordano Bruno and the Embassy Affair makes out a case for Bruno being “Henry Fagot”, an English spy at the French embassy in London in the 1580s. Among other things, “Fagot” denounced Roman Catholic priests in England, who were tortured and executed, acted as an agent provocateur to English Roman Catholics and was involved in the events leading to the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. Might this have given the Vatican very good reasons- better than the theological oddities he was supposedly condemned for- to want him dead and very good reasons to keep their reasons hidden?

  17. ck says

    Those who refuse to acknowledge the misdeeds of the Catholic church aren’t going to be swayed to the NCSE’s cause, no matter how much they pander to them. Even the Catholic church itself has admitted that some of the things they’ve done in the past were wrong, so fighting this battle is extra pointless.

  18. cormacolinde says

    I was really happy to see the story of Bruno used in the show. I have been a fan of his since I learned of his fate years ago, and when I went to Rome I made a point to visit the memorial that stands on the spot where he was burned.

    He may not have been a scientist, but science was in its infancy in his time. We also have to remember that one of the essential requirements for scientific advancement is imagination – the right and ability to think freely, to devise new hypotheses. Only then can you use the scientific method to test them. Without the imagination of people like Giordano Bruno, we would all be poorer in knowledge in the end.

    All these complaints are absolutely ridiculous – the show clearly said he was not a scientist and that his theories were only one of the reasons he was burned alive. He was an exemple of how new ideas were attacked and people killed for expressing them, showing how essential freedom was to the success of the scientific revolution.

    Every complaint I’ve read about so far completely ignores these facts. Every complaint is also from a religious apologetic. Ignore them.

  19. theophylact says

    Umm… Kepler was also a mystic, a weirdo, an astrologer, and definitely heterodox by almost any standard. (Ran in the family; his mother was tried for witchcraft.) He was also a scientist: established that the planets move in ellipses, not the Copernican circles; accounted for the periods of the planets and their velocities; and made many important optical discoveries and inventions. Gonna kick him off the show because he was weird and heretical as, say, Newton?

  20. fmitchell says

    So is the NCSE saying that if Bruno *had* presented evidence to the level of detail that Tycho Brahe later did that they *wouldn’t* have burned him at the stake. Anyone who fails peer review will be summarily executed? That must have made doctoral dissertations more exciting.

    No, I know that’s not what they meant. I grant that Cosmos chose Bruno for visceral impact, but that’s definitely not a bad thing. The larger point is that the same things Tyson says now would have been a death sentence back then. That statement doesn’t fit in the narrow, conservative, politics-neutral concept of science that the NCSE wants to push. If Cosmos wasn’t supposed to say anything controversial it would have given creationists the equal time they’re complaining about; it would have cleared the script with believers in the Moon Hoax, climate change deniers. the Flat Earthers, alien abductees, Raelians, and who knows who else. EVERYTHING is controversial in these times, which is why we not only need to present the findings of science but the fundamental tenets of science. If you’re going to argue that nothing should be off limits, present a cautionary tale of a time when that wasn’t the case.

  21. robindavies says

    There’s an even larger point that’s being missed, beyond the fact that outdated systems of knowledge use torture to enforce conformance. Choosing Giordano Bruno as the patron saint of secular humanism allows the writers of Cosmos to seed the following devastating meme:

    Your Christian God is not large enough.

    If one had to concentrate the message of Cosmos into a single sentence, it’s difficult to do much better than that.

    One needs to appreciate the goals of Cosmos, which is not to improve scientific literacy, but, instead to promote a spiritual worldview with scientific grounding as a replacement for religious spiritual worldviews. The battleground on which Cosmos wages war is not logos, but mythos. When I watched the original series, my personal takeaway wasn’t a litanty of scientific facts. It was that viewing the world scientifically should be a profound and deeply moving experience, chock full of awe and wonder, and sense of ones connection to the universe, which is so much larger and more spectacular than the rather dull and unimaginitive one that religionists would have us believe in.

    Granted, the word “spiritual” is awkward, for a number of obvious reasons, in a scientifically grounded worldview. But, at present, we just don’t have a suitable replacement for it, that adequately describes the sense of awe and wonder at the heart of Sagans message. And lest we balk at using such a loaded word as “spiritual”, it’s worth noting that Tyson explicitly proclaims the central message of Cosmos using exactly that word when he describes his own “profound spiritual experience” while contemplating the tree of life, in episode 2 of Cosmos.

    In this context of a war for spiritual ground, Bruno is a much better saint than Galilleo, who — although he has the attractive benefit of being right, unlike Bruno — has a much more muddled spiritual approach to scientific worldview, on closer reading.

  22. Al Dente says

    Inaji @10

    The office of the inquisition is still extant, y’know.

    The Inquisition is now called the Confraternity for the Doctrine of the Faith and, before he became pope, Benny Ratzi was head of it. During his time as High Inquisitor, Benny sent out a letter ordering bishops not to tell civil authorities about child raping clergy.

    The RCC may no longer be burning people at the stake but they’re still an anti-humanist organization trying to impose their dogma on the rest of us.

    Also it was Pope John Paul II who told Stephen Hawking:

    It’s OK to study the universe and where it began. But we should not enquire into the beginning itelf because that was the moment of creation and the work of God.

    So it’s Church doctrine that “there are some things man was not meant to know.”

  23. billseymour says

    One minor point: Servetus was burned at the stake by protestants, not catholics…he was pretty much reviled by everyone because of his denial of the doctrine of the trinity. But the main point about dogma being fundamentally opposed to the kind of inquiry we now call science still stands.

  24. Al Dente says

    theophylact @20

    Kepler didn’t publish until he was on his death bed and couldn’t be tried, tortured and executed for holding heretical views about planetary orbits.

  25. Scientismist says

    That there are some who call themselves defenders of science who don’t see the point does not surprise me. It saddens me, but it doesn’t surprise me. It is part of the continuing fallout from the “NOMA” idea (S.J. Gould), that there are some things that science and scientists should simply not talk about, because they are part of a separate “magisterium” within which only those with proper religious credentials may speak with authority. Violate the lines of separation, and you will be committing the sin of scientism.

    Bruno was burned for saying (article 5 quoted by PZ) that the earth moved. More importantly, he was burned for saying that ideas about terrestrial movement, the nature of stars and of physical infinity, and of matter, might all have implications for what we might think about the nature of souls and intelligence and God Himself. And ultimately he was punished as an example to others, for having the temerity to say that a “scientist,” or even an “oddball” ought to be allowed to think and speak of such matters. Anyone who thinks that this is irrelevant to the history of science is no friend of science.

    I find it maddening that some “scientists” think that Galileo makes a better poster-boy for freedom of thought and expression, simply because some of his methods were similar to what today’s scientists still use to confirm or refute their own wild and oddball guesses. Burned at the stake? Oh, dear, let’s not think about such terrible things. Galileo is much better — they only showed him the instruments of torture and kept him under house arrest until he died. And knowing what they had already done to Bruno, he knew when to publicly recant. But Bruno was only guessing and philosophizing, not collecting data. A common heretic, with no right to even think about such things. Burning is a bit much, but he had to be silenced. Bruno is completely beside the point. Umm… What was the point?

  26. unclefrogy says

    this whole “controversy” scare quotes intended to scare is of a piece why I started to seriously question the authority of the church and its human leadership.
    The apologists just do not like it when the contradiction between the admonition of Jesus against judgment of our fellows (as you judge so shall you be judged, he who is innocent let him cast the first stone) and the highly judgmental actions of the church in practice.
    It is highly disturbing to question or point out anything that contrasts with the story they want to believe. That god is good and the church loves us and wants only our redemption. When it practice it is so close to complete totalitarian tyranny as to be indistinguishable.
    So long as you follow the fucking rules no matter how arbitrary and antagonistic they are to human nature and do not question authority about anything you will not be punished here on earth and for ever and ever after your dead.

    Science is about questioning reality it is the antithesis of authority which the story of Bruno taken in the context of the series illustrates quit well.
    uncle frogy .

  27. says

    Al Dente:

    Kepler didn’t publish until he was on his death bed and couldn’t be tried, tortured and executed for holding heretical views about planetary orbits.

    It wasn’t Kepler’s wish to sit on his findings, either, however, he kept them a closely guarded secret, to be published upon his death because he didn’t want to be tried, torture, and burnt to death. He was all too aware of what the church’s reaction would be.

  28. says

    Scientismist:

    A common heretic, with no right to even think about such things.

    And therein lies the whole thing. A common person, who dared to think for themself. Even worse, a common person who dared to spread that most dangerous of things, an idea. The RCC isn’t exactly fond of that sort of thing, and has the track record to prove it.

  29. says

    If you really want to criticize the first episode of the new Cosmos for historical accuracy, well, it treats Moses as a historical personage. Yeaaaaahhhhh nope. Sure, it’s the voiceover version of a blink-and-you’ll-miss it, but that just means it would have been easy to do better. To the precision required by the “cosmic calendar” segment, Cosmos could have used, e.g., Tutankhamen instead. You know, someone whose body we have studied so thoroughly we’ve found DNA traces of malaria infection, instead of someone whose role in history was leading an ahistorical event.

    But I guess when you’re making a tribute to Carl Sagan, you’ve got to make at least a…toke’n reference to a burning bush.

    And what about the second episode? Where the only scientists named are Darwin (and, later, incidentally, Sagan)? How does that portray the scientific process?

    I’d like a TV show with at least passing mention of Halley, Buffon, Cuvier, Hutton, Lyell… folks who explored the age of the Earth and the interrelatedness of species before Darwin and Wallace. Again, it’d be easy. “Darwin wasn’t the first to suggest that different species belong to the same family tree.” [cartoon montage of scientists at work in different places and historical eras, names floating about as captions] “…but he made a case people could not ignore. And the science of evolution did not stop with Charles Darwin…”

  30. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    …PZ Myers insists that we are all Missing the Point of Giordano Bruno.

    Holy shit balls, one of your critics actually linked to the think you wrote they’re criticizing? O.O

    Did the sun perchance rise in the west today?

  31. Jeremy Shaffer says

    LykeX at 15-

    The fact that after all these years, the church has finally been pushed into accepting at least some of reality is not a sign that the church was always open-minded and wonderfully scientific. It’s not even evidence that the church now accepts science. It doesn’t. It accepts some science, which it often spins to make it fit accepted doctrines.

    We need look no further than the RCC’s recent campaign in Africa where they claimed that the use of condoms aided in the spread of HIV/ AIDS to find evidence of that. As always, the “culture of life” placed their doctrine ahead of the health, safety and lives of people as well as at odds with science and reality.

  32. wesleyelsberry says

    #25 & #28: you are thinking about Copernicus, not Kepler. Copernicus had his work on cosmology published posthumously. Kepler published on heliocentric cosmology while still alive.

    I had some comments on the continuing criticism of “Cosmos” in the thread at AtBC.

  33. says

    Recently got to hear my Catholic father rant about the outrageousness of “Understanding the Universe” (from The Learning Channel, a nontechnical introduction to astronomy and cosmology). He wasn’t upset about the content, mind you. He was offended by the title. No one but God, you see, can understand the universe. He declared that, compared to God, we know nothing. (I tend to use a lot of italics when quoting or paraphrasing my father; it comes with the territory.) I mildly observed that in reality we know a little bit more than zero. He glowered at me but subsided. Fortunately, stoning your children to death for real or imagined disrespect is out of style even for him. Burning at the stake, too, I hope. But I’m acquainted with the unquestioning certainty that drives the fanatic.

  34. Anathema says

    Like BillSeymour (#24) said, Michael Servetus wasn’t executed by the Catholic Church. Catholics may have condemned Servetus’s writings, but it was ultimately Protestants who killed him. That being said, if the Inquisition had managed to get ahold of him before the Calvinists did, then they probably would have sentenced him to death. Your general point about the dangers of dogma still stands. It’s just that in the case of Servetus, dogmatic Calvinists killed him before dogmatic Catholics got the chance.

  35. twas brillig (stevem) says

    Are they (the NCSE) saying, “Using Bruno as an example of Church vs Science is WRONG, cuz Bruno was not a Scientist”? With some mish-mash about how Tyson was just accommodating Bruno by calling him a “mystic”, while completely disregarding the larger issue of the Church burning anyone simply for having ideas different than the Church? Was that too complicated for the NCSE to accept, that COSMOS was trying to present more than just the oppression of science by religion but to highlight the oppression of “free thinking” throughout time? I am so sad ;-( that even our “friends” can be so close-minded. That they demand: (1) only the most explicit examples of Religion attacking science are worthy of showing how bad Religion is, (2) That Bruno was just some whakko that just had a few babbles that sound like what Science knows now, and to then use that whakko to represent Science is a huge mistake.

  36. pacal says

    I’m glad you mentioned Michael Servetus. Who was indeed burned at the stake for his “heresies”. And yes his books were burned en-mass until virtually nothing survived. Among his books the Christianismi Restitutio, which has a discussion of the circulation of the blood and only three copies survived. Copies of other books by Servetus have survived in greater numbers. Both Protestants and Catholics were zealous in hunting down and destroying Servetus’ works. Michael Servetus had engaged for a time in a correspondence with Jean Calvin, the founder of Calvinism and basically the “Pope of Geneva”. It was ended by Calvin because Calvin hated Michael Servetus’ opinions on various matters, especially those regarding predestination.

    In 1553 Michael Servetus was arrested by the Catholic Inquisition for his heretical opinions but he escaped prison. On his way to Italy he stopped in Geneva and was arrested for being a “heretic”. Jean Calvin made sure, that despite Michael Servetus not being a citizen of Geneva and that therefore the maximum penalty that supposedly be inflicted on Michael Servetus was banishment that Michael Servetus should die. Strangely enough Calvin wanted Michael Servetus to be beheaded, the court insisted that Michael Servetus be burned alive and he was.

    Michael Servetus’ death started a debate concerning toleration among intellectuals at the time. Some pointing out the irony that Jean Calvin thought it right to kill “heretics”, when in Catholic countries Jean Calvin would be killed as a “heretic” himself. Calvin’s responses to this was to say more or less that the difference is that I am right and Catholics are wrong and therefore I can kill “heretics” but they cannot kill me or people who think like me. And of course Jean Calvin was quite vocal in demanding toleration of his followers in Catholic France. The vileness of Jean Calvin’s position and his arrogance are readily apparent.

  37. pokeyblow says

    Yes, why not bring up the Albigensians, or Jan Hus, who was burned alive at Basel after the pope specifically promised not to burn him alive? Why? Because he followed the gospel and advocated communion of “two kinds” (i.e., bread AND wine). Sounds like something to kill Hus over, right? And Jerome of Prague, who had the temerity to say WTF? regarding Hus’s persecution.

    It’s nice that the Vatican operates telescopes and all, but it is completely legitimate… nay, essential, to remind people again and again of theocratic bloodlust.

  38. says

    pacal:

    In 1553 Michael Servetus was arrested by the Catholic Inquisition for his heretical opinions but he escaped prison.

    In some quarters, I expect that still smarts.

  39. John A says

    It is ironic that the atheist polemics regarding Bruno and Galileo were created by 19th century American protestants to attack the Catholicism. Actually much of atheistic polemics (such as the myth of the flat earth) were created by early American protestants to attack the “ignorance and superstition” of “Popery”, as well as the Spanish (the “black lie of 98″). The fact that the whiggery of the polemics (they are not history) is so obvious testifies to their a-historical origin. They are, like fables, a-historical and intended to serve a polemical and moralizing purpose. They certainly don’t tell actual history.

  40. anteprepro says

    John A, do you have anything but bald assertion and smugness to back that up? What, exactly, are you talking about and what about it is factually incorrect? I eagerly await your hairsplitting and evasiveness.

  41. Anathema says

    That’s nice, John A. However, none of the people in this thread have been accusing the Catholic Church of promoting the belief that the Earth was flat. No one in this thread has so much as mentioned the Spanish Inquisition or imperial Spain, so I’m not sure why you’re bringing up the black legend either.

    If you want to accuse us of relying on polemics rather history, tell us how what we’ve actually said is historically inaccurate. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to see the episode myself, but from what I’ve heard, Cosmos didn’t present Bruno as a scientist. Explain how their presentation of Bruno was inaccurate.

    And, yeah, the Galileo affair was a bit more complicated than most people realize. But that’s true of most historical events. The fact of the matter is that one of the main reasons the Church gave for its condemnation of Galileo was his promotion of heliocentricism, even if the Inquisition also had political motives for going after him. The Church doesn’t exactly emerge from the more complicated version of the Galileo story looking much better.

  42. raven says

    They certainly don’t tell actual history.

    How would you know? You certainly aren’t telling actual history.

    Galileo was persecuted and Bruno was burnt at the stake.

    And BTW, the OT bible is based on middle eastern Cosmology. Including the Flat Earth.

    Next I suppose you will claim that fundie Protestants don’t believe in a 6,000 year old earth with Noah and a Big Boat of dinosaurs in a Geocentric solar system and evolution doesn’t happen. And demonic possession and faith healing.

    Wikipedia Biblical Cosmology:

    The universe of the ancient Israelites was made up of a flat disc-shaped earth floating on water, heaven above, underworld below.[6]

    Humans inhabited earth during life and the underworld after death, and the underworld was morally neutral;[7] only in Hellenistic times (after c.330 BCE) did Jews begin to adopt the Greek idea that it would be a place of punishment for misdeeds, and that the righteous would enjoy an afterlife in heaven.[8] In this period too the older three-level cosmology was widely replaced by the Greek concept of a spherical earth suspended in space at the centre of a number of concentric heavens.[6]

    The OT bible was based on a standard middle eastern cosmology. It’s true that some of the ancients decided the earth was a sphere and even measured it accurately, but they weren’t the Jews or the early xians.

  43. raven says

    Looks like John A was a driveby.

    I suspect John A is a Catholic Supremacist who is still fighting the Reformation Wars and hates Protestants. There are a few still left. I mean really, it’s only been 500 years, yesterday in religious hatred terms.

    Catholics spend a huge amount of time downplaying, whitewashing, and denying their historical crimes. Because there are so many of them.

  44. lumen says

    “implying that he inspired and laid the groundwork ”

    He may not have laid the scientific groundwork but inspiration is another thing all together. Indeed inspiration is in my opinion the entire point of using Bruno’s story in the episode. This is a bizarro idea that science operates in a vacuum and that scientists are isolated machines and not living creative humans who are inspired by the arts, stories, society, cultures and yes oddball mystics.

    It was said earlier in the thread and is worth repeating. You do not need to be a scientist to make wild guesses and spin tall tales around the gaps in human knowledge. And plenty of scientists started out testing a wild guess made by someone else. If I’ve learned anything from all the hand wringing in scientific circles over the Bruno segment, it’s that the tendency for hero worship of individuals is detrimental to the cause. Science is species wide endeavor, not the result of a few key people. The makers of Cosmos seem to understand this, and seek not only to inspire more young people to become scientists, but inspire those that become artists, politicians, etc to be lovers of science.

  45. says

    Raven #45

    I suspect John A is a Catholic Supremacist who is still fighting the Reformation Wars and hates Protestants. There are a few still left. I mean really, it’s only been 500 years, yesterday in religious hatred terms.

    Goes both ways, too. There are still Protestants who will happily bend your ear about how the Catholics are all pagans and idol worshipers, if not outright satanists.

  46. John A says

    John A, do you have anything but bald assertion and smugness to back that up?

    It is simple historical fact. Must you dispute even the most basic historical facts?

    Cosmos didn’t present Bruno as a scientist.

    No, it presented him as a philosopher (not far from a scientist in 17th century Italy) and claimed that he was burned at the stake for claiming there might be other worlds or universes. This is so far from the actual historical facts. It is also framing a debate from a past time through the lens of our own time. Its only purpose is moral: to give a lesson on such values as tolerance, openness, free speech, etc. It certainly isn’t to describe an actual historical event.

    The fact of the matter is that one of the main reasons the Church gave for its condemnation of Galileo was his promotion of heliocentricism, even if the Inquisition also had political motives for going after him.

    And one of the main arguments people use to want laws the don’t like invalidated (such as the Affordable Care Act) is that they claim them unconstitutional. In all these cases, the actual reasons are far more complex, and have little or nothing to do with the given rationale. They are appeals to authority, not an actual description of the reason.

    Galileo was persecuted

    No he wasn’t, and in any case, “persecuted” is a moralizing term inferring a wide range of negative claims on something. By definition, it isn’t factual.

    OT bible is based on middle eastern Cosmology

    Huh? It was written in a world that subscribed to this form of cosmology, but wasn’t “based on” it.

    Next I suppose you will claim that fundie Protestants don’t believe in a 6,000 year old earth with Noah and a Big Boat of dinosaurs in a Geocentric solar system and evolution doesn’t happen

    Given that this belief is a defining trait of fundamentalist Protestantism, why would I do that?

    It’s true that some of the ancients decided the earth was a sphere and even measured it accurately, but they weren’t the Jews or the early xians.

    That the earth is spherical goes back much further than the Ptolemic measurements in the 2nd century BC. This fact was obvious to all sea-fearing peoples (the Phonecians are one obvious example) since the top of a ship is the first thing a sailor sees when a ship is coming over the horizon. Like all Greco-Romans, early Christians were well aware of this. The land-locked Israelites were not.

  47. zenlike says

    So to prove his point that the war between science and religion is ‘long-debunked’ and ‘historically-discredited’ and that this whole story has a ‘false historical narrative’, Josh brings us the compelling counterexample of… a twentieth century priest-scientist who did scientific discoveries despite him being a priest.

    I truly hope the NCSE provides more compelling arguments against creationists and AGW-deniers.

  48. John A says

    I suspect John A is a Catholic Supremacist who is still fighting the Reformation Wars and hates Protestants.

    I am not Catholic.

    There are a few still left.

    Really? Like where?

    I mean really, it’s only been 500 years, yesterday in religious hatred terms.

    Religious hatred? That term is, strictly speaking, a contradiction given the etymological roots of the word “religion”. It also isn’t historical.

    Catholics spend a huge amount of time downplaying, whitewashing, and denying their historical crimes.

    Crimes? like what?

    Goes both ways, too. There are still Protestants who will happily bend your ear about how the Catholics are all pagans and idol worshipers, if not outright satanists.

    Like who?

  49. zenlike says

    John A, it’s indeed historical fact that the catholic church burned scores of people at the stake just because they had slightly different thoughts as them. That’s the only thing that matters here.

  50. zenlike says

    John A

    Catholics spend a huge amount of time downplaying, whitewashing, and denying their historical crimes.

    Crimes? like what?

    You are a fucking waste of space. You might not be a catholic, but you do seem to love to defend the scumbags.

  51. raven says

    Given that this belief is a defining trait of fundamentalist Protestantism, why would I do that?

    Because Catholic’s have their own fundies and they frequently borrow from the Protestant ones. They are creationists among other thing. In fact, these days it is hard to tell them apart.

    So do you believe in demonic possession? The RCC is still big on that one.

    Galileo was persecuted

    No he wasn’t, and in any case, “persecuted” is a moralizing term inferring a wide range of negative claims on something. By definition, it isn’t factual.

    This is simply lying. It’s all they have.

    Galileo was threatened with torture and torture-murder for Heliocentrism. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest. If that isn’t persecution, nothing is.

  52. John A says

    So to prove his point that the war between science and religion is ‘long-debunked’ and ‘historically-discredited’ and that this whole story has a ‘false historical narrative’, Josh brings us the compelling counterexample of… a twentieth century priest-scientist who did scientific discoveries despite him being a priest.

    People find all sorts of ways of getting into conflict, especially cultural ones. The only real conflict here is a cultural one. Certainly not an ideological, philosophical or intrinsic conflict. Though the narrative has a long and convoluted history, it (like so many other things) traces back to 18th and 19th century Protestant polemics against the supposed “ignorance and superstition” of “Romanism”. And, of course, that peculiar historical phenoma has its own convoluted history that owes little to the theological disputes of the 16th century.

  53. says

    In the style of the original RoboCop commercials:

    Announcer: Persecution! The new game of religious hatred and genocide. Bible-thumping fun for the whole family.

    *cut to family around table, playing the game*

    Tommy: Mom! How dare you teach sola scriptura? I’ll have to send my inquisitors.

    Dad: Now Tommy, if you do that, I can no longer overlook your adherence to Arianism.

    Sandy: You better watch it, dad! If you keep up those crusades, I’ll schism your face right off.

    Mom: That’s it! I’m prophesying an imminent Armageddon. Let god sort this out.

    Dad: Heretic! No one knows the day except the Father. Forget it, I’m excommunicating everybody!

    *screen dissolves into fire and brimstone*

    Announcer: Persecution! For all ages and denominations!

  54. lumen says

    Also, as a side rant: I’m getting really tired of both the religious and science proponents referring to Cosmos as “a documentary about space” or “a show about space science”. Neither this version nor the original were limited to space or even hard science. The show has always considered humans and human culture to be a part of the Cosmos. That is what makes it so inspirational. Anyone who claims that the show should only talk about scientists and pretend that history and religion don’t exist is falling prey to small thinking. Your Cosmos is too small.

  55. zenlike says

    John A, the ignorance and superstition of your beloved catholics isn’t ‘supposed’, it was quite there, front and centre, during their 2 millennia of crimes against humanity.

  56. raven says

    I am not Catholic.

    That is seriously too bad. It would give some structure to your incoherent babbling.

    Catholics spend a huge amount of time downplaying, whitewashing, and denying their historical crimes.

    Crimes? like what?

    Now you are just playing dumb. Everyone with a basic education knows them. The Crusades, witch hunts, Reformation wars, Inquisitions, heretic murders, and on and on.

    The Albigensian genocide alone killed an estimated 1 million and was 100% effective. The RCC got every one of them, a record only approached by the mythical xian god during the Big Boat genocide.

    You are a fucking waste of space. You might not be a catholic, …

    I’m afraid so. This one is rather incoherent.

  57. says

    John A #48

    Galileo was persecuted

    No he wasn’t, and in any case, “persecuted” is a moralizing term inferring a wide range of negative claims on something. By definition, it isn’t factual.

    I’m pretty sure threatening someone with torture and then placing them under house-arrest for the remainder of their life, merely for espousing an idea about cosmology (however tactlessly expressed) is, in fact, persecution.

    <snark>Or does it only count as persecution if the ideas expressed are religious in nature?</snark>

  58. says

    Goes both ways, too. There are still Protestants who will happily bend your ear about how the Catholics are all pagans and idol worshipers, if not outright satanists.

    Like who?

    Jack Chick is an obvious example. I’ve talked to a few rank-and-file Protestants who expressed similar opinions.

  59. raven says

    Goes both ways, too. There are still Protestants who will happily bend your ear about how the Catholics are all pagans and idol worshipers, if not outright satanists.

    John A: Like who?

    First Baptist Church (Dallas) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    en. wikipedia. org/wiki/First_Baptist_Church_(Dallas)‎

    Dr. Jeffress is currently leading the congregation in a $130 million campaign to … and includes KCRN and KCRN-FM of San Angelo, Texas and KSYE of Frederick, …

    Also in 2010, Jeffress referred to Roman Catholicism as a “Satanic” result of …

    Robert Jeffress, a prominent SBC minister for one. The Wisconsin Lutherans for another. It says right on their website that the Pope is the antichrist. It’s part of their official doctrine.

    Or just look at Northern Ireland. The last flicker of the Reformation wars ended there a whole 14 years ago. You probably won’t be killed if caught in the wrong neighborhood but you will likely be beaten to a pulp.

  60. says

    No he wasn’t, and in any case, “persecuted” is a moralizing term inferring a wide range of negative claims on something. By definition, it isn’t factual.

    Torturing and burning people alive is factual. There are plenty of accounts. If you’d like to know the specifics of many women who were tortured and executed, with full RCC approval, pick up a copy of The Malleus Maleficarum. After all, what with all those men running around having heretical thoughts, and women stealing penises, they were pretty damn busy killing.

    And, once more, I will repeat, as you’re very hard of thinking, John A, the office of the inquisition is still extant. Ever wonder why they never closed it?

  61. anteprepro says

    John A

    It is simple historical fact. Must you dispute even the most basic historical facts?

    So then doubling down on just bald assertion without any semblance of specifics then? Gotcha.

    No, it presented him as a philosopher (not far from a scientist in 17th century Italy) and claimed that he was burned at the stake for claiming there might be other worlds or universes. This is so far from the actual historical facts.

    [Citation needed]

    (It is not as far from historical facts are your interpretation of Cosmos is from what Cosmos actually stated! For one, the claim was about heliocentricity and the infinite size of our universe, not multiple universes)

    And one of the main arguments people use to want laws the don’t like invalidated (such as the Affordable Care Act) is that they claim them unconstitutional.

    So the Catholic Church was just being incredibly dishonest then? Well I buy it! That totally reconciles science and religion! Accomodation accomplished!

    No he wasn’t, and in any case, “persecuted” is a moralizing term inferring a wide range of negative claims on something.

    “Words have connotations, therefore you are wrong”. Okaaaaay…

    You have a very liberal interpretation of historical inaccuracy.

    Religious hatred? That term is, strictly speaking, a contradiction given the etymological roots of the word “religion”. It also isn’t historical.

    What the fuck are you on about? Religious hatred isn’t historical? Laughable. The etymology of the word religion contradicts the word hatred? Only if you ignore three quarters of the definitions of the words in that etymology!

    Crimes? like what?

    Fucking seriously? You are either disingenuous or you drank the fucking Kool Aid in excess.

    Like who?

    Two easy examples: Jack Chick and Bob Jones.
    Broad example: Several Protestant sects don’t consider Catholics to be Christian. Bafflingly, some Catholics actually agree with the distinction.

  62. anteprepro says

    LykeX

    Sounds like John-boy is going the route of “Well, technically…”

    He just thought that the title of the post was an invitation.

  63. John A says

    John A, it’s indeed historical fact that the catholic church burned scores of people at the stake just because they had slightly different thoughts as them.

    Actually its not a historical fact. The various inquisitions were courts, and had no power to order capital punishment. Capital punishment, in all cases really, was the exclusive pervue of kings, not prelates. It could recommend this punishment, and maybe the king would carry it out if he thought it warranted, but inquisition courts (like all ecclesiastical courts) were far less likely to recommend capital punishment than the purely secular courts of the kings themselves.

    Oh and rarely or never was theological heterodoxy the reason for conviction or punishment. In all cases it was some form of disobedience or worse. Galileo’s act that resulted in his conviction (or rather his final act in a long history of trouble making) was publicly attacking the Pope (through his character “the simpleton”) in his famous dialogue on heliocentrism. Like today (think of when a court strikes down a law, citing the constitution), high principles made for a better rationale for such rulings than the complicated nuances and short term cultural basis that are their true parent.

    You are a fucking waste of space. You might not be a catholic, but you do seem to love to defend the scumbags.

    How so?

    Because Catholic’s have their own fundies and they frequently borrow from the Protestant ones. They are creationists among other thing. In fact, these days it is hard to tell them apart.

    Actually that isn’t true. Nearly all young earth creationists are fundementalist Protestants (which is in part why most are Americans). The reasons for this aren’t actually that convoluted. Catholics have always given far more deference to tradition and past thought. Protestants have their view of “scripture first”, and tend to through out far more than they should of past thought. Catholics are heirs to, among other things, the Alexandrian School, which going back to its origins in the 4th century saw the creation account in non-literal terms (in contrast to the smaller Antiocan school, which was more literal)

    So do you believe in demonic possession? The RCC is still big on that one.

    I still don’t get why positivism isn’t called negativism. It better describes it.

    Galileo was threatened with torture and torture-murder for Heliocentrism. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest. If that isn’t persecution, nothing is.

    Persecution implies unfairness and excessive punishment. But this has to be judged by the standards of their own day, not ours. Actually house arrest was quite lenient by the standards of 17th century jurisprudence. Typically, punishment for publicly ridiculing the sovereign (which was his actual crime that led to his house arrest) in the 17th century was death. The Roman Inquisition was unusually lenient by the standards of its day. His behavior, by the standards of his day, also warranted torture (something very common before the 20th century, and in certain parts of the world, until even later), but he wasn’t tortured (nor threatened with it, despite your claim).

  64. lumen says

    Seriously? Can we really arguing about which branch of Christianity has the most blood on its hands? It entirely depends on which century and which part of the world you are in. The Roman Catholic Church has tremendous power in some areas of the world, the United States of America isn’t one of them. We would all do better to spend less time arguing over the crimes of the past and spend more time holding the current religious leaders of the world accountable for the idiocy they inspire. Including those amorphous Protestants and evangelicals who hold most of the political power in this country. Secularists love to hate the Catholic Church because it’s easy. They have a nice long bloody history, and single leader. Unfortunately that often means that the Protestants get a pass where they deserve none.

  65. says

    lumen:

    We would all do better to spend less time arguing over the crimes of the past and spend more time holding the current religious leaders of the world accountable for the idiocy they inspire.

    The former power and actions of the past are the foundation for much of current religious thought. It’s sweet to say we should all be past that sort of stuff, but you’d have to convince the faithful first.

  66. raven says

    The Roman Inquisition was unusually lenient by the standards of its day.

    More lies. It’s all he has.

    The RCC tortured and torture-murdered something between 40,000 and 100,000 people for alleged thought crimes that today aren’t even crimes. You can’t get any more vicious than torturing someone else to death. Once they are dead, they don’t care what you do to them.

    I’m bored but you all have fun and don’t break the troll!!! They are very fragile and we always end up breaking them.

  67. says

    Persecution implies unfairness and excessive punishment.

    Apparently, John A, you are also unaware of these things called dictionaries. Why you can find them on the internet! No need to make up your own definitions or implications.

    Word Origin & History

    persecution
    c.1340, “oppression for the holding of a belief or opinion,” from O.Fr. persecution (12c.), from L. persecutionem (nom. persecutio), noun of action from persequi “pursue, start a legal action,” from per- “through” + sequi “follow” (see sequel). The verb persecute is attested from 1482 in the sense of “to oppress for the holding of a belief or opinion,” from M.Fr. persécuter “pursue, torment, open legal action” (14c.), from L. persecutus, pp. of persequi. Psychological persecution complex is recorded from 1961; earlier persecution mania (1892).

    persecution

    per·se·cu·tion

    noun

    1.the act of persecuting.
    2.the state of being persecuted.
    3.a program or campaign to exterminate, drive away, or subjugate a people because of their religion, race, or beliefs: the persecutions of Christians by the Romans.
    Origin:
    1300–50; Middle English persecucio ( u ) n < Late Latin persecūtiōn- (stem of persecūtiō ), Latin: prosecution, equivalent to persecūt ( us ) past participle of persequī (see persecute) + -iōn- -ion

  68. says

    Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems is one of the most important milestones in humanity’s advance out of darkness. Yes, it was offensive to the ecclesiastical authorities and made them seem ridiculous. It was successful because they were in fact ridiculous. And they threatened to torture him to death for telling the truth. I’m not sure how anyone can defend that. The Catholic bishops, then and now, have the moral authority of tapeworms.

  69. John A says

    John A, the ignorance and superstition of your beloved catholics isn’t ‘supposed’, it was quite there, front and centre, during their 2 millennia of crimes against humanity.

    Certainly there was some Catholic “ignorance” and some Catholic “superstition”, though all humans and all human cultures contain varying degrees of this. One such example, the granting of indulgences, led to the reformation. But then no culture and no person is without some degree of “ignorance and superstition.”

    Now you are just playing dumb. Everyone with a basic education knows them. The Crusades, witch hunts, Reformation wars, Inquisitions, heretic murders, and on and on.

    Tell me how these constitute “historical crimes”. Enlighten me with your knowledge of the complexities of Seljuk advancements into the 10th century Byzantine Empire, early modern notions of “hersey” (hint: today we would use the term “schismatic”) and the “Reformation Wars” (which is a term you just made up).

    The Albigensian genocide alone killed an estimated 1 million and was 100% effective. The RCC got every one of them, a record only approached by the mythical xian god during the Big Boat genocide.

    The Cathars crime was not heterdoxy (though that didn’t help) but rejecting the French King. Today we would call people who did what they did anarchists. As such, that conflict was a political war to put down rebellion against the King of France. You see, all of these examples that you have an 8th grade understanding of are not only far more complex than you realize, but in all cases religion was a proxy for the real causes (ethnicity, nationalism, politics, etc).

  70. anteprepro says

    John A

    Actually its not a historical fact. The various inquisitions were courts, and had no power to order capital punishment.

    “Oh, sure, they judged a few people to be guilty of thoughtcrime. So what? The Gubmint was the one that pulled the trigger *cough* at the Church’s recommendation *cough*. The Church’s hands are clean!”

    Oh and rarely or never was theological heterodoxy the reason for conviction or punishment. In all cases it was some form of disobedience or worse.

    How is it possible that you even think that this is actually an important distinction that exonerates the Church? Have you been snorting rosary beads?

    Actually that isn’t true. Nearly all young earth creationists are fundementalist Protestants (which is in part why most are Americans).

    Actually that isn’t true. MOST young earth creationists are fundamentalist Protestants. But 30% of Catholics saying humans have existed from the beginning of time ain’t nothing to sneeze at.

  71. brianpansky says

    @75
    John A

    religion was a proxy for the real causes (ethnicity, nationalism, politics, etc).

    you’re going to have to inform me how you surgically separated religion from those other things. especially since you just said “was a proxy”, which seems to mean it was involved somehow?

  72. zenlike says

    So I see John A has now gone full moral relativist. As I said, waste of space, and truly a waste of time to engage in a debate.

    And to double the shit, also a pedantric of the worst sort (technically, it was maybe not the church who did the capital punishment, so fucking what. Talking about dishonesty and historical illiteracy.)

  73. anteprepro says

    Pedantry, sophistry, and obfuscation in order to whitewash history for the sake of defending The Holy Name of Teh Caffolik Church. Surprise fucking surprise.

    If you are not Catholic, John A, then why are so devoted to splitting hairs in order to contrive your piss-poor defenses for them?

    Going to dismiss the historical crimes? How about the present crimes, Johnny? Want to tell us all about how the child abuse cover-ups were just hunky-dory? Products of their time, I’m sure. Not as bad as the other shit that other people were doing somewhere, I’m sure.

  74. microraptor says

    You know, it never ceases to amaze me how many people, especially non-Catholic ones, are ready to rush in to defend the Church any time its history of burning people alive gets brought up.

    The mental gymnastics that are always performed in order to justify it, on the other hand, are entirely unsurprising.

  75. says

    One mooooore time!

    Oh, pardon, the church’s official line is that they don’t kill anyone – they just torture them, then hand them over to the civil authority to kill. Of course, anyone in civil authority didn’t go against the church, because then they’d find themselves tried for heresy, so…

  76. zenlike says

    Apparently the pope, bishops, papal legates, all those people who were responsible for the crusade against the Cathars were under direct control of the French king. Nothing to do with religion, nossirree.

    John A, you are a dishonest ignoramus of the worst sort.

  77. says

    anteprepro:

    How about the present crimes, Johnny? Want to tell us all about how the child abuse cover-ups were just hunky-dory?

    Let us not forget the ongoing anti-condom propaganda still going on in Africa, courtesy of the RCC. We really shouldn’t forget Catholic missions in Africa leaving people to die outside their gates unless they consent to conversion, either.

    Nor should we forget the RCC’s current move of buying up hospitals everywhere, to give them more control and power over women.

  78. John A says

    I’m pretty sure threatening someone with torture and then placing them under house-arrest for the remainder of their life, merely for espousing an idea about cosmology (however tactlessly expressed) is, in fact, persecution.

    That is because you think our cultural values today are the only valid ones. One must judge past events by the standards of their own day, not ours. By the standards of most non-American or pre-20th century peoples (certainly 17th century Italy), torture was not at all persecution or unjust. And as punishment for sedition, house arrest was extremely lenient.

    Or just look at Northern Ireland. The last flicker of the Reformation wars ended there a whole 14 years ago. You probably won’t be killed if caught in the wrong neighborhood but you will likely be beaten to a pulp.

    Like all conflicts with a religious viner, the actual causes are quite different and deeper (and the religious division is a consequence of those deeper causes). The Irish conflict has roots in long-standing Irish hatred of the British and British domination. The situation was complicated further when King James I attempted to pacify the Irish by transplanting a large Scottish population to the Ulster plantation in northern Ireland (many of whom later left for America, whom we now call Scots-Irish). The Ulster Plantation was a permanent ulcer for both the the Irish and the British, and it is this that was the source of the Irish conflict, not disagreements over the nature of the Real Presence.

    Torturing and burning people alive is factual.

    By our standards, yes. Not by the standards of most societies before the 20th century. Actually the punishment for sedition (Galileo’s crime) in England at the time was far more gruesome: he would have been drawn and quartered.

    And, once more, I will repeat, as you’re very hard of thinking, John A, the office of the inquisition is still extant. Ever wonder why they never closed it?

    You should ask yourself the exact same question. If it was so terrible, why would they have not closed it? Why would they have elected a Pope a few years ago who once ran it?

    Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems is one of the most important milestones in humanity’s advance out of darkness.

    I see you are a believer in Whig History.

    Yes, it was offensive to the ecclesiastical authorities and made them seem ridiculous. It was successful because they were in fact ridiculous. And they threatened to torture him to death for telling the truth. I’m not sure how anyone can defend that. The Catholic bishops, then and now, have the moral authority of tapeworms.

    Spoken like a true militant protestant of a century ago. Also a-historical.

  79. says

    zenlike:

    Apparently the pope, bishops, papal legates, all those people who were responsible for the crusade against the Cathars were under direct control of the French king. Nothing to do with religion, nossirree.

    Oh right. The RCC was just dandy with Catharism, which is why it flourished, and…
     
    nope.

    We could chat about the crusades. Howzabout that children’s crusade?

  80. says

    I’m bored but you all have fun and don’t break the troll!!! They are very fragile and we always end up breaking them.

    But it’s so hard not to. They make this wonderful cracking sound when you bite down on them. You can feel it all the way up and down your spine.

    Actually, this is like the Tragedy of the Commons. Everybody wants in on the joy of chomping down on a new troll, but this only results in the premature exhaustion of the troll, leaving everybody without a good chew toy.

    For each person, the rational choice is to get in as much chewing as possible before the troll wears out, but this only results in an even earlier exhaustion. Maybe we should institute troll reply restrictions, to preserve this precious resource.

  81. zenlike says

    John A

    You should ask yourself the exact same question. If it was so terrible, why would they have not closed it? Why would they have elected a Pope a few years ago who once ran it?

    Because they are evil fucks?

    Spoken like a true militant protestant of a century ago.

    Boy, for a really real non-catholic you sure sound like a catholic supremacist!

    Also a-historical.

    Citation needed. You fail at history, hard.

    And the moral relativism truly is sickening, but I expect nothing less from an apologist for one of the most evil institutions of the last 2 millennia.

  82. brianpansky says

    One must judge past events by the standards of their own day, not ours.

    we “must”? which standard tells us we “must”?

    but, more hilariously, you seem to have simply ignored the definition of persecution, and are just playing word games now.

  83. brianpansky says

    it is this that was the source of the Irish conflict, not disagreements over the nature of the Real Presence.

    lol at capitalized “real presence” thing.

    but you have no point, except you are claiming there is a magical line between religion and politics, and you haven’t detailed what that is, or why it must be so.

  84. anteprepro says

    Johnny the Homicidal Maniac:

    That is because you think our cultural values today are the only valid ones. One must judge past events by the standards of their own day, not ours. By the standards of most non-American or pre-20th century peoples (certainly 17th century Italy), torture was not at all persecution or unjust.

    Holy shit, we need to put Kroos Control and John A in a cage together! Equal and opposite reactionaries.

    Like all conflicts with a religious viner, the actual causes are quite different and deeper (and the religious division is a consequence of those deeper causes). The Irish conflict has roots in long-standing Irish hatred of the British and British domination.

    So basically, you will accept any pretense to explain a conflict as long as it doesn’t involve religion being anyway involved. Because historical accuracy.

    Here’s a fun exchange.

    John A quotes: “Torturing and burning people alive is factual.

    John A retorts: “By our standards, yes.”

    Apparently Catholicism is, in fact, entitled to its own facts.

    You should ask yourself the exact same question. If it was so terrible, why would they have not closed it?

    Because The Catholic Church is terrible. Wow, that was an easy question!

    Spoken like a true militant protestant of a century ago. Also a-historical.

    Spoken like a true mindless sycophant.

    I ask again: Do you support the modern day Catholic Church? Do you support their child-abuse cover-up? As Inaji added, do you support their anti-condom campaign in Africa that is exacerbating the AIDS crisis? This is the easy part. No hiding behind “those were different times”. Do you support what the Church is doing NOW?

  85. John A says

    “Oh, sure, they judged a few people to be guilty of thoughtcrime.

    Treason is a thought crime? You have no idea of the history, do you? Just what you were taught in 8th grade.

    How is it possible that you even think that this is actually an important distinction that exonerates the Church?

    What do you mean?

    you’re going to have to inform me how you surgically separated religion from those other things. especially since you just said “was a proxy”, which seems to mean it was involved somehow?

    I’m not saying anything that isn’t the widespread view of historians. This is not me splitting hairs, but the obvious facts and causes, which in most cases were as obvious to the people at the time as they are to historians today. I know you live in this 2 dimensional world with simplistic distinctions, and I get that it is far easier to understand the world that way when you are so lacking in the facts, but that is not how things actually are.

    technically, it was maybe not the church who did the capital punishment, so fucking what

    Because moral judgment of their actions can only be done by the standards of their day, and the actions of other courts tells us what the standards of the day were.

    Apparently the pope, bishops, papal legates, all those people who were responsible for the crusade against the Cathars were under direct control of the French king.

    They were actually. From the 10th century through the 17th century, control of the Holy See was principle focus of both the King of France and the Holy Roman Emperor, and control shifted back and fourth between the two. At this time, it was under the control of the King of France.

    Let us not forget the ongoing anti-condom propaganda still going on in Africa, courtesy of the RCC

    Why must you see the world in such simplistic terms? The conservatism in Africa is a function of many factors, but most importantly competition and conflict with the far more conservative Islamic enclaves in Africa.

  86. says

    John A #84

    That is because you think our cultural values today are the only valid ones. One must judge past events by the standards of their own day, not ours.

    Umm. Thou shalt not kill?

    Or how about:
    “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”

  87. brianpansky says

    Torturing and burning people alive is factual.

    By our standards, yes. Not by the standards of most societies before the 20th century.

    john, stahp.

    burning people alive is not something you get to apply relativistic standards to. when someone is alive and they are burned until dead, that is called “burning them alive” and you cannot weasel out of that.

    i hope you just misunderstood what you were responding to there.

    more likely, you just care about the word game of “well, is burning people alive to suppress their ideas something that we can call ‘persecution’?”

    that’s all you’ve got, a silly attempt at a word game that isn’t even very difficult for the reader to figure out.

  88. zenlike says

    91 John A

    “Oh, sure, they judged a few people to be guilty of thoughtcrime.

    Treason is a thought crime? You have no idea of the history, do you? Just what you were taught in 8th grade

    .

    What? All people persecuted by the inquisition were guilty of ‘treason’ now?

    You dishonest, evil fuck.

  89. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Certainly not an ideological, philosophical or intrinsic conflict

    Nice claim, but no evidence to back up that claim. Ergo, dismissed without evidence.

  90. brianpansky says

    I’m not saying anything that isn’t the widespread view of historians. This is not me splitting hairs, but the obvious facts and causes, which in most cases were as obvious to the people at the time as they are to historians today. I know you live in this 2 dimensional world with simplistic distinctions, and I get that it is far easier to understand the world that way when you are so lacking in the facts, but that is not how things actually are.

    actually, i asked a question. telling me i’m ignorant is epically redundant. do you have an answer?

  91. richcon says

    Looking through that list of eight charges, I’d say #2, #4, #5, and (arguably) #8 are all scientific statements cloaked in religious language. They burned him because he promoted an infinite Universe larger than their tiny model (#2), conservation of matter (#4), an Earth that moves (#5), and the fact that we are made of physical stuff — our “souls” are our bodies (#8).

    Though he wasn’t a scientist, I think it’s also unfair to call him purely a mystic or say he got his ideas through non-scientific religious revelation. He clearly got his ideas of heliocentrism and materialism from actual scientists (like Copernicus), and then extrapolated them to a logical but not yet evidence-based conclusion about the enormous scale of the Universe with distant suns with worlds of their own appearing to us as stars.

    His theological views, to me, look an awful lot like what you would get if you kept some of the philosophical ideas behind enlightenment-era Christianity but allowed science to dictate reality. It’s a hybrid that isn’t itself scientific of course, but at least he chose to bend his theology to science and not the other way around.

    (The “God” of Bruno’s theology, from my understanding, is the physical substance of the Universe itself — which he conceived as having a sort of cosmic soul.)

    That makes him a science advocate, even if he wasn’t a scientist himself.

  92. anteprepro says

    Treason is a thought crime? You have no idea of the history, do you?

    And now not being a right-believing Catholic (i.e. “heresy”) is treason. Amazing, the Real Ultimate Power that is Historical Accuracy ™.

    The conservatism in Africa is a function of many factors, but most importantly competition and conflict with the far more conservative Islamic enclaves in Africa.

    Oh okay so religion CAN be the sole cause of a conflict, as long as one of those religions is Islam. Gotcha.

  93. John A says

    For each person, the rational choice is to get in as much chewing as possible before the troll wears out, but this only results in an even earlier exhaustion.

    This is too much fun. Why do you think I came here?

    lol at capitalized “real presence” thing.

    As a formal Catholic doctrine, both words are capitalized.

    but you have no point, except you are claiming there is a magical line between religion and politics,

    When did I say there was a “magical line between religion and politics”?

    So basically, you will accept any pretense to explain a conflict as long as it doesn’t involve religion being anyway involved. Because historical accuracy.

    I accept any pretense to explain a conflict that is accurate, which usually means it involves many different causes acting together.

    John A quotes: “Torturing and burning people alive is factual.

    John A retorts: “By our standards, yes.”

    Apparently Catholicism is, in fact, entitled to its own facts.

    You don’t agree that, by our own standards, torture and burning people alive is bad?

  94. kc9oq says

    I was remarking to my wife that I don’t recall Sagan’s “Cosmos” engendering all the butthurt amongst the Xtians that NdGT’s Cosmos seems to engender.

    Her comment: Maybe it’s the same thing that bothers them about the president.

    I hadn’t considered that aspect.

  95. The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says

    Among John A’s innumerable historical idiocies, this one is really ripe:

    As such, that conflict was a political war to put down rebellion against the King of France.

    He’s projecting a “King of France” with any such power at least 200 years into the past of an era when any such creature existed. The motivation of the Albigensian Crusade was 100% religious. Of course, Simon de Montfort and his Merry Men were promised the Cathar’s lands as a recruitment aid, but the Crusade would never have been called if they weren’t “heretics”*.

    I put “heretics” in quotes because they weren’t really Christian heretics but adherents of a dualistic, ultimately Persian religion, like the Bogomils. It was a serious mistake for them to renovate their terminology to sound more Christian, that just made them heretics rather than infidels—much worse.

  96. lumen says

    Inaji,

    Are you arguing that the RCC is worse than other religious faiths, or even worse than other Christian sects? Because many of your posts, including the links to evangelical anti-Catholic propaganda seem to all about hating Catholics specifically, and I’m disturbed that you’re using fundamentalist christian websites to make your argument, so some clarification would be good there.

    The RCC’s power, reach and yes, crimes are well known. But I’m going to reiterate what I said earlier: The MAJORITY of the religious fundamentalist crazy talk in the United States is straight from the pulpits of Protestant/Evangelical/Fundamentalists Churches. And the majority of Creationist upset over the Cosmos series is fundamentalist evangelical christian. Not Catholic. The RCC has no problem with evolution, and any catholics who believe otherwise are almost certainly influenced by the fundamentalist and protestant culture around them. It is also a fact that the majority of United States politicians are some form of Protestant and not Catholic, and it is the diffuse, leaderless (yet somehow often on the same page) protestants of this country who hold most of the political power.

    Secularists need to get over this childish fixation with the Catholic Church to the exclusion of all other christian sects. Let me repeat the important part since I know how many people will jump to quote mine. “TO THE EXCLUSION OF ALL OTHER CHRISTIAN SECTS”.

    I am not in any way jumping onto the apologetics for the RCC that John A is promoting. However in many of his statements he is in fact correct. Many of the arguments being used in this thread have their roots in protestant propaganda. And what bothers me is how many secularists allow themselves to be manipulated this way. Many can list off every terrible thing the RCC has ever done, but seem entirely ignorant or at least content to minimize the crimes of other christian sects.

    Stop giving a pass to these other denominations. And if you’re in the United States you should seriously consider ignoring the largely impotent RCC and focusing on the religious crazies that are actually calling the shots here.

  97. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    John A, you need to link to evidence. Your evidenceless word will be dismissed.
    either copypasta the link to your evidence, or try <a href = “url”>text describing evidence linked to </a>. Which gives you evidence for evolution Lenski.

  98. says

    If it was so terrible, why would they have not closed it?

    Oh Cupcake. I know why they haven’t closed it. See, I grew up Catholic. They haven’t closed it because they don’t think they did anything wrong, you shit covered fuckwit.

    They still desire that level of power – and they continue to torture and kill at every fucking opportunity. Africa – anti-condom propaganda. Africa – refusal of care unless conversion happens. India – letting thousands die on ratty cots, inches above the dirt, refusing pain medication because suffering takes you closer to god. South America, making sure that women die by the score or are forced to birth, because they cannot obtain terminations or contraception. Making sure that women with ectopic pregnancies die, even though it’s not a viable pregnancy – South America, U.S., Ireland. The RCC is buying up hospitals all over like crazy, so they can continue on in this quest.

  99. anteprepro says

    John A

    You don’t agree that, by our own standards, torture and burning people alive is bad?

    I don’t agree that your moral relativistic handwaving applies to “torturing and burning people alive is factual :”. You dismissing the idea that it is immoral does nothing to the fact that it happened.

    Dishonest or dumbass, John? Which is it?

    ALSO

    Shuffling around child rapists and hiding them from legal authorities: For or against?

    Come on, John. You aren’t even Catholic. You shouldn’t have a conflict of interest. You should be able to prove to us that you have a tiny semblance of morality. This should be easy. Come on.

  100. anteprepro says

    lumen

    Because many of your posts, including the links to evangelical anti-Catholic propaganda seem to all about hating Catholics specifically, and I’m disturbed that you’re using fundamentalist christian websites to make your argument, so some clarification would be good there.

    That was to refute John’s incredulity about there not being Protestants who were anti-Catholic bigots.

  101. says

    lumen:

    Because many of your posts, including the links to evangelical anti-Catholic propaganda seem to all about hating Catholics specifically, and I’m disturbed that you’re using fundamentalist christian websites to make your argument, so some clarification would be good there.

    Y’know, if you were paying attention, you might have noticed that John A didn’t believe there were theists who thought Catholics weren’t Christians. I provided him with examples.

  102. zenlike says

    The inquisition against the Cathars was largely the beast of pope Innocent III, one of the most powerful popes ever, and arguably the most powerful man in Europe at that time.

    He sided in a political power struggle against the French king at that time.

    But according to John A, he was just a puppet of the same king.

    John A, you keep trying to assert we know nothing of history, yet it is you who demonstrates time and time again to be an historical illiterate. Yeah, you are done.

  103. says

    Why do you think I came here?

    I’m sure I don’t give a shit. If you care about being here, why don’t you inform us. I feel quite confident that your answer will be good for a few laughs.

  104. John A says

    burning people alive is not something you get to apply relativistic standards to. when someone is alive and they are burned until dead, that is called “burning them alive” and you cannot weasel out of that.

    It is rather ironic that the it is atheist fundamentalists…that are arguing for moral absolutism.

    Actually you do get to “apply relativistic standards” to just about any cultural norm that changes. If it changes, it is, by definition, relativist. Your view that it is morally repugnant doesn’t change the fact that it, and far worse things (like being drawn and quartered) were not viewed that way by millions of people for thousands of years.

    What? All people persecuted by the inquisition were guilty of ‘treason’ now?

    Not all, but many. The definition of treason was much broader in prior centuries than it is today, and the Pope was king of the Papal States. Any act against a sovereign, including public criticism, could be punished as treason. Galileo stepped over this line by ridiculing the pope in his Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems.

    Oh okay so religion CAN be the sole cause of a conflict, as long as one of those religions is Islam. Gotcha.

    None of the conflicts engaged in by Muslims is due to religion. The Shia/Sunni, conflict, for example, is an ethic conflict between Shia Persians and Sunni Arabs. It is not a conflict due to religious disagreements. Terrorism if recent decades also has little or nothing to do with religion. Its causes are nationalistic and anti-colonial. It was European Colonialism (and its consequences) that sparked the birth of modern Islamic fundamentalism in the 19th century, and more importantly, the Pan-Islamism that defines modern Islamic politics.

  105. Anri says

    John A @ 84:

    One must judge past events by the standards of their own day, not ours.

    So, slavery was only bad if most folks around you thought it was bad?
    Racism was fine so long as you only hung around with other racists?
    If you were born and raised in the KKK, do you get a free pass on thinking POC are subhuman?

    How large does a ‘society’ have to be until it qualifies for setting societal mores? If the officials of the Catholic Church see nothing wrong with refusing to prosecute child molesters, is that ok?

  106. says

    Treason is a thought crime?

    Oh, stupid move, John A. Let’s have a chat about all those women the RCC hunted down and burnt alive. Do you think they were actually stealing penises? Really for reals having sex with demons?

    Or, let’s just go back to Catharism for a moment. These were happy people who had rejected Catholicism. They were minding their own business, but ya know, lots of people thought they had the right idea. Now of course, the pope didn’t like that. Pope Innocent III declared a crusade against them in 1208, and over a period of thirty years, hundreds of thousands were butchered, burned, and hanged. Of course, Cathar women were singled out for the most brutal deaths, because Catharism allowed women to teach and attain positions of authority. You want to call people deciding their own particular thoughts and feelings and faith treason? How do you figure that one, doucheweasel?

  107. zenlike says

    Yeah, if we redefine ‘treason’ to mean almost any form of criticism, then yeah, they were all guilty of treason. And if we redefine healthy food to include almost anything edible, play-doh is healthy food.

  108. says

    John A

    You skipped this last time I asked it, so I’ll ask again more bluntly. Does your relativistic standard of moral judgement lead to you dismissing the common Christian claim that the Romans (who were, after all, applying the moral standards of their own time and place) persecuted the early Christian church(es)?

  109. anteprepro says

    Johnny B. Baade

    It is rather ironic that the it is atheist fundamentalists…that are arguing for moral absolutism.

    Actually you do get to “apply relativistic standards” to just about any cultural norm that changes. If it changes, it is, by definition, relativist.

    We’ve had a Christian troll, a William Lane Craig sycophant, that consistently harps on about the logical necessity of moral absolutism. We now have you, harping on how we can’t judge anything and must throw up our hands and effectively abandon any idea of judging the morality of past behaviors or different cultures. Neither is true. There are happy mediums. Both extremes are, in fact, untenable from either a logical or practical perspective. And, for some reason, I doubt that you actually believe the shit you are spewing and are only saying it because it is convenient.

    The Shia/Sunni, conflict, for example, is an ethic conflict between Shia Persians and Sunni Arabs. It is not a conflict due to religious disagreements.

    [citation needed], history master. Just because you find additional factors doesn’t suddenly and automagically erase religion as a factor, you disingenuous fuck.

  110. zenlike says

    Shorter John A: as long as we find any other motivation besides religion when someone does something, then it has nothing do to with religion whatsoever.

    Really John A, for a totally non-religious non-catholic, you could have sure fooled me.

  111. brianpansky says

    @john a

    answer my question in post 77.

    also, you have hilariously misinterpreted what i was even talking about when i referred to the burning people alive thing, so just for fun i’ll try that again with a second question:

    when someone is alive and they are burned until dead, is it, or is it not, accurate to call this “burning them alive” regardless of the moral standard we are applying?

  112. says

    Oh, jebus. Another of those weird moral relativists. You know, that business of respecting other culture’s differences works for whether you wear ruffled collars or nehru jackets, or if you have different languages, or what you’ll teach your children, but there actually are basic human universals. People don’t like dying. They don’t like pain. They hate going hungry or thirsty, or being cold and wet. No one enjoyed being set on fire, or aspired to it as a future career.

    Even these cultures you want to claim had different values didn’t, on these matters. Those torturing inquisitors had a holy book that said love your neighbor and do not kill. Those people ignored their precious values, because what they were really about was might makes right — torturing other people to maintain my wealth and power and security. So no, I don’t accept that they had ‘values’ that included torture as a virtue. They knew they were causing great pain and suffering to other people.

    There has been moral progress. What we aspire to do is broaden the reach of human rights to all people, not just the ones in power that hold the whips. When you say, By the standards of most non-American or pre-20th century peoples…torture was not at all persecution or unjust, you’re wrong. Not most. Most were sitting on the bottom suffering, and you actually mean, by the standards of the oppressors, torture was not unjust.

  113. Anathema says

    @ John A (# 67),

    . The various inquisitions were courts, and had no power to order capital punishment. Capital punishment, in all cases really, was the exclusive pervue of kings, not prelates.

    The Church could not carry out the executions themselves. However, they did have the power to tell secular rulers to carry out executions for them. When the inquisitors “relaxed” heretics to the secular government in order to be executed, they knew what they were doing. Just because the Church technically didn’t carry out the executions themselves doesn’t mean that the Church is not culpable for the deaths of those who were executed as heretics.

    It could recommend this punishment, and maybe the king would carry it out if he thought it warranted, but inquisition courts (like all ecclesiastical courts) were far less likely to recommend capital punishment than the purely secular courts of the kings themselves.

    You say “recommend.” How do you think the Church would react to a secular ruler who refused to follow those “recommendations”?

    The Church had the power to excommunicate rulers who refused to cooperate. Has it occurred to you how powerful the threat of excommunication might be if you genuinely believed (as most rulers at the time did) that excommunication put your salvation in jeopardy? Did you consider that being excommunicated might bring a ruler’s legitimacy into question.

    Oh and rarely or never was theological heterodoxy the reason for conviction or punishment. In all cases it was some form of disobedience or worse.

    Well, I suppose that this is technically true, insofar as the Inquisition could not punish someone for theological heterodoxy unless they had a reason to believe that the person was heterodox. And, since inquisitors did not have the power to read minds, they wouldn’t have any reason to believe that someone held heterodox beliefs unless they actually acted upon those beliefs.

    So, yeah, if you held heretical beliefs but never spoke about those beliefs, never let those beliefs influence the way you worshipped, never aided those who held similar heretical beliefs, etc. the Inquisition couldn’t punish you for it.

    Galileo’s act that resulted in his conviction (or rather his final act in a long history of trouble making) was publicly attacking the Pope (through his character “the simpleton”) in his famous dialogue on heliocentrism. Like today (think of when a court strikes down a law, citing the constitution), high principles made for a better rationale for such rulings than the complicated nuances and short term cultural basis that are their true parent.

    Yet the papal condemnation of Galileo does not say that Galileo was convicted because he was mean to the pope. It does however, say that he was convicted because of his promotion of heliocentricism.

    I’ll agree with you that Galileo’s decision to put the pope’s words in the mouth of the character Simplicio was an important motivating factor in the Inquisition’s persecution of Galileo. But I don’t think that we can say that simply because there were political reasons to go after Galileo (i.e., his perceived attack on the pope) that we can dismiss the religious reasons given for persecuting him as a mere smokescreen. The Inquisition had been suspicious of Galileo even before he published this dialogue.

    But even if I accept that Galileo’s heliocentricism merely gave the Inquisition an excuse to go after Galileo and had absolutely nothing to do with their actual reasons for attacking him, the fact that the Church could use Galileo’s heliocentricism as an excuse to persecute him is still awful. I’m not sure how your interpretation of the Galileo affair would make the Church look any better.

    Actually that isn’t true. Nearly all young earth creationists are fundementalist Protestants (which is in part why most are Americans).

    Funny how you single out Young Earth Creationists here when the comment that you are replying to only referred to Catholic creationists. Not all creationists are Young Earthers.

    Most creationists are Protestants and the Catholic Church officially accepts evolution. But individual Catholics don’t always accept the official stance of the Church. According to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, 26% of white Catholics and 31% of Hispanic Catholics believe that human beings have always existed in their present form. In other words, more than a quarter of American Catholics are creationists.

    Persecution implies unfairness and excessive punishment. But this has to be judged by the standards of their own day, not ours.

    Why does it have to be judged by the standards of their own day? If we’re only willing to call something “persecution” if it was condemned by the majority of the population who lived in the particular place and time when these acts of persecution were occurring, then we might as well get rid of the word “persecution” altogether.

    By your standards, anyone who refers to Jim Crow laws as persecuting African Americans is engaging in polemics rather than history because most Southerners didn’t consider the Jim Crow laws to be unfair or excessive while they were in place. Your standards are just a way of minimizing the persecution of minorities at the hands of the majority.

    Actually house arrest was quite lenient by the standards of 17th century jurisprudence. Typically, punishment for publicly ridiculing the sovereign (which was his actual crime that led to his house arrest) in the 17th century was death.

    Given that the Inquisition did not give “ridiculing the sovereign” as a reason for convicting Galileo, they couldn’t exactly sentence him for doing so, could they? Even if that was Galileo’s “actual crime,” it was not what Galileo was convicted for.

    The Roman Inquisition was unusually lenient by the standards of its day. His behavior, by the standards of his day, also warranted torture (something very common before the 20th century, and in certain parts of the world, until even later), but he wasn’t tortured (nor threatened with it, despite your claim).

    By the standards of the day, slavery was perfectly okay. Does that mean that it is wrong for us to condemn the enslavement of Africans? The standards of the day were awful. Understanding the standards of the day is an important part of understanding why people acted the way they did. But we don’t get to use the fact that the standards of the day were different in order to give people a free pass for doing terrible things.

    Galileo was threatened with torture. (See Galileo’s Fourth Deposition.) I’m amused that you have the gall to complain about other people being historically inaccurate when you yourself apparently don’t have any problem with posting historically inaccurate information.

  114. John A says

    He’s projecting a “King of France” with any such power at least 200 years into the past of an era when any such creature existed. The motivation of the Albigensian Crusade was 100% religious.

    There has been a “French King” going as far back as Mergovich in the 5th century. And no, the motivation of the Albigensian Crusade was political with a religious viner. The French King cared that this subjects rejected him, not what their theological views were.

    Or, let’s just go back to Catharism for a moment. These were happy people who had rejected Catholicism.

    They were “happy people” who rejected their king.

    Yeah, if we redefine ‘treason’ to mean almost any form of criticism, then yeah, they were all guilty of treason.

    Yes, and when evaluating a historical era, it has to be evaluated by the standards of the day.

    Does your relativistic standard of moral judgement lead to you dismissing the common Christian claim that the Romans (who were, after all, applying the moral standards of their own time and place) persecuted the early Christian church(es)?

    Which instance are you referring to? Under Nero? Domitian? Hadrian? Diocletian? Julian?

  115. zenlike says

    116 anteprepro

    We’ve had a Christian troll, a William Lane Craig sycophant, that consistently harps on about the logical necessity of moral absolutism.

    Which is of course ironic seeing that WLC himself is a moral relativist, claiming that a genocide is totes ok if ordered by God.

    That’s the message that most annoys christians and christian apologists when you hit them over the head with it: that most of them are moral relativists. They squirm and wail and gnash their teeth, but rarely are they intellectually honest enough to admit to that.

    Seeing the intellectual honesty on display here by John A, I think he will fall in the larger of the above mentioned groups.

  116. says

    Because moral judgment of their actions can only be done by the standards of their day, and the actions of other courts tells us what the standards of the day were.

    Yeah, well, that’s crap. We can understand that the standards were different back in “their day,” but we’re apparently not allowed to criticize those standards and point out that the moral zeitgeist has advanced a whole lot in the interim. And the fact that the church was setting those standards that (I hope) most of us find repugnant seems to have escaped you.
    Hey, maybe being burnt alive didn’t hurt so much back then, either.

  117. lumen says

    John A,

    “but in all cases religion was a proxy for the real causes (ethnicity, nationalism, politics, etc).”

    This is the crux of the problem. Religion is far too often a proxy for these other causes, largely because it is very commonly a hierarchical institution consisting of an elite. The religions that least fit this description (buddhism) are not coincidentally the least likely to be used as a proxy for politics, nationalism, etc. That is every bit as true today as it was at the time of the inquisition, and it is ultimately why strict separation of church and state is so vital.

    These causes use religion precisely because it is a powerful flexible tool that can be molded to almost any purpose, and used to justify most any deed. You can see it in the micro in small cults, and in the macro with the “established” religions.

    So yes, we can spend all day long arguing about whether the “Church” burned people at the stake, or the secular authorities did so at the church’s recommendation, but it ultimately does not matter. The “Church” and the culture of the middle ages were one and the same thing. And what we learn from that history is the dangers of dogmatic and religious thought. How it can be warped and woven, and used to suppress human development, and ultimately serves to reinforce the power of a tiny elite.

  118. John A says

    We now have you, harping on how we can’t judge anything and must throw up our hands and effectively abandon any idea of judging the morality of past behaviors or different cultures.

    Actually this is a common value among historians. It is called Historicism. It is a value to judge a society by their own standards. Evil is possible under this paradigm, but it has to be judged evil by the standards of the day.

    Just because you find additional factors doesn’t suddenly and automagically erase religion as a factor, you disingenuous fuck.

    Religion is posterior, not anterior, to the ethnic cause of the Sunni/Shiia split.

    totally non-religious non-catholic

    I didn’t say I was non-religious, just that I was non-catholic. I used to be an atheist, but found I no longer had to faith to be an atheist.

  119. zenlike says

    I so want to godwin ana thread with a moral relativist anytime one pops up, but I’m not entirely sure John A would condemn the Nazi’s for conducting the holocaust at this point.

    Well, at least it wasn’t religiously motivated.

  120. zenlike says

    but found I no longer had to faith to be an atheist.

    O jesus fuck but you are an idiot.

  121. zenlike says

    Any proof at all for you beliefs? Anything at all?

    Congratulations, you are a religionist. And a moral monster. I’m happy you are no longer identifying as an atheist. Please stay out.

  122. says

    zenlike:

    Well, at least it wasn’t religiously motivated.

    Wellllll…that’s not strictly true. But that’s another discussion.

  123. says

    Zenlike:

    Congratulations, you are a religionist. And a moral monster. I’m happy you are no longer identifying as an atheist. Please stay out.

    Seconded.

  124. anteprepro says

    wot i lernt frum Jon Aaaaa 2day

    big univerz also meen many univerz!
    religun meenz “luv”! Stupid affeeists sez “to bind” liek evul stoopids
    relijon nevur cause NEthing bad becuz othur thigns!
    peepul gots in trubble 4 disobeedyince so pope good.
    bein not cafolik wuz treezon!
    pope not bad cuz king agreeee!
    king got da hand bludd not da pope so pope good
    italyuns luuuuv torchur!
    thingz change ergo no morels!

    i getz A in Jonn A histry!

  125. says

    John A #121

    Does your relativistic standard of moral judgement lead to you dismissing the common Christian claim that the Romans (who were, after all, applying the moral standards of their own time and place) persecuted the early Christian church(es)?

    Which instance are you referring to? Under Nero? Domitian? Hadrian? Diocletian? Julian?

    Oh stop fucking weaseling. The whole period between the early first century CE and the Roman take-up of Christianity as the state religion is characterised as what was, according to any history of Christianity you’ll ever read, a period of Roman persecution of Christians. Are you willing to state that none of this was persecution, because the Romans were acting in accord with the moral standards then pertaining?

    In other words; are you willing to apply your own standards to all historical events, or just the ones you wish to whitewash?

  126. zenlike says

    Daz

    Are you willing to state that none of this was persecution, because the Romans were acting in accord with the moral standards then pertaining?

    I would go even further and state that what the Christians were doing was tantamount to the Roman law equivalent of treason.

    So they were thrown to the lions for a moral reason and we can’t condemn the Romans for following their own laws and morals in vogue at that time. At least, according to Johnny.

  127. Anathema says

    Actually this is a common value among historians. It is called Historicism. It is a value to judge a society by their own standards. Evil is possible under this paradigm, but it has to be judged evil by the standards of the day.

    Nope. Historians value trying to understand the context in which people were acting. Historians value trying to understand the standards that historical actors held. Historians generally do not insist that we cannot make moral standards about actions which took place in the past on account of the fact that the people undertaking those actions held different standards than we do.

    Do you think that historians who study Nazi Germany insist that it is wrong to condemn the Holocaust because Nazi society had different moral standards? Do you think that historians of the antebellum South ought to go around telling people that it is wrong to condemn slavery because the consensus amongst white Southerners was that slavery was okay?

    I didn’t say I was non-religious, just that I was non-catholic. I used to be an atheist, but found I no longer had to faith to be an atheist.

    You know, I would have believed that you had been an atheist at one point if you hadn’t included the whole “I didn’t have enough faith to be an atheist” schtick. Atheists generally don’t hold to atheism out of faith. The only people who I ever see insisting that atheism requires faith are religious apologists. The fact that you are using the same old, tired apologetic meme makes me suspect that you were never really an atheist. If you were actually an atheist, you should have a better understanding of how atheists actually think.

  128. The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says

    John A @ 121:

    There has been a “French King” going as far back as Mergovich in the 5th century. And no, the motivation of the Albigensian Crusade was political with a religious viner. The French King cared that this subjects rejected him, not what their theological views were.

    You’re an Idiot. If you picture a “French King” presiding over a unitary territorial state before the Hundred Years’ War, you’re completely deluded. The Count of Paris was given the ceremonial title “King of France”, but in the early 13th century he didn’t remotely have the power you’re attributing to him.

    Seriously, you have no idea what you’re talking about. Read some Sumption, stat. His The Albigensian Crusade is a good start. Unfortunately, since they’ve appointed him to the Supreme Court, I guess he’ll never finish his series on the Hundred Years’ War, but the first four volumes should give you some idea of the process by which the King of France came to be the powerful ruler of a unitary state—centuries after you think he did.

  129. Anathema says

    That last comment of mine was directed at John A (#125). Sorry I forgot to include that in the comment itself.

  130. John A says

    Just because the Church technically didn’t carry out the executions themselves doesn’t mean that the Church is not culpable for the deaths of those who were executed as heretics.

    Yes, the inquisition was responsible for what it did. And given the fact that it was far less likely to hand down death sentences or torture than the secular courts of the day means that it was far more lenient. But this fact didn’t suit the protestant polemicists who came up with the arguments you are now using.

    You say “recommend.” How do you think the Church would react to a secular ruler who refused to follow those “recommendations”?

    Rarely was the Roman See more powerful than either the French King or the Holy Roman Emperor.

    The Church had the power to excommunicate rulers who refused to cooperate. Has it occurred to you how powerful the threat of excommunication might be if you genuinely believed (as most rulers at the time did) that excommunication put your salvation in jeopardy?

    And when a Pope tried this, they frequently found themselves deposed by the threatened prince. Why do you think the Germanic ruler was called the Holy Roman Emperor?

    And, since inquisitors did not have the power to read minds, they wouldn’t have any reason to believe that someone held heterodox beliefs unless they actually acted upon those beliefs.

    The idea that Catholics constitute some monolithic group marching in lock-step is nonsense. There has always been a wide range of viewpoints in Catholic lands. Trouble only resulted when the subject tried to cause political or civil unrest.

    Yet the papal condemnation of Galileo does not say that Galileo was convicted because he was mean to the pope. It does however, say that he was convicted because of his promotion of heliocentricism.

    And this is why this was such a favorite tool of 19th Protestant polemicists.

    But I don’t think that we can say that simply because there were political reasons to go after Galileo (i.e., his perceived attack on the pope) that we can dismiss the religious reasons given for persecuting him as a mere smokescreen. The Inquisition had been suspicious of Galileo even before he published this dialogue.

    There was a religious element, but it was ecclesiastical, not theological. They didn’t care that he taught heliocentrism. The Roman See was the principal patron of Copernicus, and used his astronomical tables when producing the Gregorian Calendar. They cared that he disobeyed them, that he made the entire Jesuit corps into personal enemies, and that he finally attacked the Pope publicly. He did this through Heliocentrism, but it wasn’t Heloiocentrism that was the cause of the trouble. It was a tool of the trouble.

    The religions that least fit this description (buddhism) are not coincidentally the least likely to be used as a proxy for politics, nationalism, etc.

    Tell the Chinese and Tibetens that Buddhism is unlikely to be involved in politics.

  131. anteprepro says

    It is a value to judge a society by their own standards. Evil is possible under this paradigm, but it has to be judged evil by the standards of the day.

    And the Catholic Church and most Christian societies fail to live up to their own purported standards. Even if they all seem to live up to those purported standards at any given place and time doesn’t make them exempt from that. So what’s the actual fucking complaint?

    Religion is posterior, not anterior, to the ethnic cause of the Sunni/Shiia split.

    Is the religious conflict completely and utterly reducible to an ethnic conflict? If yes, why do we even notice a religious split at all?

    It all boils down to what you disingenuous asshats always do: claim that religion is being used as a false front. An excuse. And sometimes it is. But you can’t extrapolate from that to always assuming that even if religion is an obvious factor, it is only to mask the “real” reasons. That’s just fucking denialism, in its purest form.

    I used to be an atheist, but found I no longer had to faith to be an atheist.

    Did the whitewashing of history and moral relativism come before or after you came to this….erm….conclusion?

  132. Al Dente says

    I didn’t say I was non-religious, just that I was non-catholic. I used to be an atheist, but found I no longer had to faith to be an atheist.

    We gots one of them there “I used ta be a atheist then I FOUND DA LAWD!!!1!eleven!!” douchecanoes. He’s here to tell us all about how wrong we are to be atheists by bombarding us with historical revisionism and moral relativity.

    So tell us, John A, which particular version of goddism do you follow? Does it let you burn heretics at the stake? Or are you only permitted to lie to atheists?

  133. says

    There was a religious element, but it was ecclesiastical, not theological. They didn’t care that he taught heliocentrism. The Roman See was the principal patron of Copernicus, and used his astronomical tables when producing the Gregorian Calendar. They cared that he disobeyed them, that he made the entire Jesuit corps into personal enemies, and that he finally attacked the Pope publicly. He did this through Heliocentrism, but it wasn’t Heloiocentrism that was the cause of the trouble. It was a tool of the trouble.

    Oh that’s okay then. A church protecting its own image and God-given authority has nothing to do with religion…

  134. says

    From the website listing the charges against him:

    “Bruno’s freethinking continued to stir up controversy, and while there were no plans at the Vatican to clear his name, his tormentor, Cardinal Bellarmin, was canonised on 29 June 1930.”

    That about says it all.

    However if the church is really sincere about clearing Bruno’s name and apologizing for the crime, it might consider posthumously defrocking and decanononising the pyromaniac Cardinal.

  135. davidchapman says

    You folks should look on the bright side of John’s moral relativism. We need never fear totalitarianism or theocracy taking over the World, silencing our ability to express our views, throwing us into prison, cutting off bits of our bodies or executing us for having thoughts of our own. No need to worry, because it won’t be persecution!
    For obviously, standards will have been revised. :)

  136. anteprepro says

    And given the fact that it was far less likely to hand down death sentences or torture than the secular courts of the day means that it was far more lenient.

    1. Citation needed.
    2. Sentences for WHAT CRIMES? That is a relevant basis for comparison.

    The idea that Catholics constitute some monolithic group marching in lock-step is nonsense. There has always been a wide range of viewpoints in Catholic lands. Trouble only resulted when the subject tried to cause political or civil unrest.

    Being Jewish = Tried to Cause Political or Civil Unrest

    HISTORY!

    Tell the Chinese and Tibetens that Buddhism is unlikely to be involved in politics.

    Leaving aside the utter hypocrisy of this statement coming from you:
    -Only 18.2% of China considers itself Buddhist. Chinese folk religion is more influential. And most aren’t particularly religious or practice a variety of religions.
    -The only way that Buddhism was used as a “proxy for politics” was on the part of the Tibetan Buddhists. I don’t think avoiding having your religion suppressed by the Chinese government counts as using your religion as a “proxy for politics”, but I suppose you can use moral relativism to obfuscate that issue too!

  137. John A says

    In other words; are you willing to apply your own standards to all historical events, or just the ones you wish to whitewash?

    You are asking if nothing is persecution, or if everything is. Persecution exists.

    I would go even further and state that what the Christians were doing was tantamount to the Roman law equivalent of treason.

    Please, enlighten us with your understanding of Roman conceptions of persecution and the differences between Nero’s treatment of Christians and Diocletian’s.

    Historians generally do not insist that we cannot make moral standards about actions which took place in the past on account of the fact that the people undertaking those actions held different standards than we do.

    Yes, historians insist that we can judge past peoples, but only an the basis of their own standards, not our own

    Do you think that historians who study Nazi Germany insist that it is wrong to condemn the Holocaust because Nazi society had different moral standards?

    I believe we have a violation (or confirmation?) of Godwin’s Law.

    Do you think that historians of the antebellum South ought to go around telling people that it is wrong to condemn slavery because the consensus amongst white Southerners was that slavery was okay?

    One can easily condemn slavery on the basis of 19th century American standards.

    The fact that you are using the same old, tired apologetic meme makes me suspect that you were never really an atheist. If you were actually an atheist, you should have a better understanding of how atheists actually think.

    Oh I understand how atheists think. I understand too well. How could one not be so angry when they see the universe as purposeless, random, and amoral? It is ironic that so many here are claiming to be moral absolutists. Morality can’t exist without God. People can behave in ways that society values as moral or immoral without God, but morality can’t have any instrinsic existence if there is nothing higher than human experience. Without something higher, all morality is an illusion, a nice tool we invent to make society work better. But nothing, not slavery or anything else, can be truely moral or immoral without that higher existence. This is the irony of the existence of evil: that good and evil exist at all proves God’s existence. Or at least if we hold that good and evil exist.

  138. says

    John A #147

    You are asking if nothing is persecution, or if everything is. Persecution exists.

    No, I am not. I’m asking if you’re willing to state that what is almost unanimously referred to as persecution of early Christians by the Romans was not persecution, because the Romans were acting in accord with the morals then pertaining.

    This is not a difficult question.

    I’m asking you to apply the same reasoning to claims of persecution of Christians as you are applying to claims of persecution by Christians.

  139. The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says

    Morality can’t exist without God. People can behave in ways that society values as moral or immoral without God, but morality can’t have any instrinsic existence if there is nothing higher than human experience.

    Well, I already knew you were an idiot, but you had to show everybody just how big an idiot you are, didn’t you?

  140. zenlike says

    140 John A

    Yes, the inquisition was responsible for what it did.

    And yet you keep trying to claim religion didn’t do nothing wrong.

    And given the fact that it was far less likely to hand down death sentences or torture than the secular courts of the day means that it was far more lenient.

    If your moral standard is: “as long as they kill or torture less then the standard everything is aok” then your moral standard sucks.

    But this fact didn’t suit the protestant polemicists who came up with the arguments you are now using.

    That has nothing to do with anything. I also find it fascinating that you really have a bug up your ass about those darn protestants. You could have fooled me, you non-catholic you.

    Rarely was the Roman See more powerful than either the French King or the Holy Roman Emperor.

    Historical illiteracy ahoy!

    And when a Pope tried this, they frequently found themselves deposed by the threatened prince.

    Historical illiteracy.

    Why do you think the Germanic ruler was called the Holy Roman Emperor?

    What? That has nothing to do with your previous sentence.

    The idea that Catholics constitute some monolithic group marching in lock-step is nonsense.

    Yet, they could have fooled me with their total hierarchical structure with one dude at the top. True, sometimes there were multiple large fractions, but those didn’t last long. Strange how a pope ith zero power apparently had the power to maintain a strict hierarchy and combat and defeat opposing fractions.

    There has always been a wide range of viewpoints in Catholic lands.

    Wide range? Yeah right. Historical illiteracy again.

    Trouble only resulted when the subject tried to cause political or civil unrest.

    And then it was of course moral to threat them as a kebab. Morals? How the fuck do they work?

    And this is why this was such a favorite tool of 19th Protestant polemicists.

    Funny how you evaded that.

    Your claim: he was largely prosecuted because he badmouthed the pope.

    Counterclaim: the actual document used by the RCC in the condemnation, omitting that part entirely, and indeed proving that he was condemned for whole other reasons.

    You failed, you were shown that the facts didn’t line up with your fantasy, and you sidestep the entire argument. Dishonest little shit that you are.

    There was a religious element, but it was ecclesiastical, not theological. They didn’t care that he taught heliocentrism.

    Yet the actual historical document linked to says something else. Just looking the other way doesn’t change the facts, asshat.

    The Roman See was the principal patron of Copernicus, and used his astronomical tables when producing the Gregorian Calendar. They cared that he disobeyed them, that he made the entire Jesuit corps into personal enemies, and that he finally attacked the Pope publicly. He did this through Heliocentrism, but it wasn’t Heloiocentrism that was the cause of the trouble. It was a tool of the trouble.

    Words lawyering, the true hallmark of the religious apologist. Or the dishonest debater. Same difference.

    Tell the Chinese and Tibetens that Buddhism is unlikely to be involved in politics.

    But, but, I thought religion was never to blame? Were you dishonest when you made that claim? Or is buddhism not a ‘true’ religion? Or is only christianity (or catholicism?) never to blame for anything, but other religions are? I’m confused!

  141. says

    . This is the irony of the existence of evil: that good and evil exist at all proves God’s existence. Or at least if we hold that good and evil exist.

    If God exists, it is evil

  142. anteprepro says

    How could one not be so angry when they see the universe as purposeless, random, and amoral?

    Why would one be angry about that? I’m absolutely fine with that. What I hate are people who pretend otherwise and let other people suffer because their delusions of a fair world. What I hate are people who are know that the universe is amoral and use that as an excuse to be amoral themselves. People and society make me angry. The universe is indifferent and unchangeable and does not warrant anger.

    It is ironic that so many here are claiming to be moral absolutists.

    This was said by virtually no one.

    Morality can’t exist without God….But nothing, not slavery or anything else, can be truely moral or immoral without that higher existence.

    [Citation needed]

    Moving on from being wrong about history to being wrong about philosophy?

    Without something higher, all morality is an illusion, a nice tool we invent to make society work better.

    Invented =/= Illusion

    This is the irony of the existence of evil: that good and evil exist at all proves God’s existence.

    Bullshit. The moral argument does not follow, while the problem of evil, by contrast, nukes the traditional Christian concept of God, and the Bible is not at all consistent with modern day morality. If your objective morals supposedly exist, either we do not currently have them or your God did not abide by them.

  143. zenlike says

    Shorter John A: god’s morality is absolute. Except when it changes and he suddenly decides slavery is bad.

    You are a fucking joke John, a smarmy idiot who is in reality a victim of Dunning-Kruger.

  144. anteprepro says

    I seriously cannot believe that the moral relativist/historical revisionist is seriously now sharting out the MORALS ERGO GAAAAAWD argument. Fucking apologists.

  145. says

    Morality can’t exist without God. People can behave in ways that society values as moral or immoral without God, but morality can’t have any instrinsic existence if there is nothing higher than human experience.

    What you’re basically arguing is as follows. Say for the sake of argument you are “God”. I am married to my wife. What you are saying is that unless you feel the same way for my wife as I do, our marriage is loveless. I have to be in accordance to your views in order for my marriage to have any meaning.

    The fact remains if God were to command us to delight in dashing infants against rocks, that command would be evil regardless of the power and strength of those issuing the commands.

    If you melt down the entire universe you won’t find a single sand grain of justice, not a mustard seed of love, and not an atom of kindness but people live by these values. How else are they to become real?

  146. mikeyb says

    What this exposed is another insidious and pernicious lies that is constantly being told – that some how Christian civilization actually promoted the growth of science. Even people like Dan Dennett who should know better, somewhat cater to this lie.

    I wish PZ would blog about this, or someone would write a book about this, because it is easily one of the most irritating and easily manifestly false fictions that is constantly being foisted as an accepted truth by the media as well as some scientists and philosophers, and parroted by Christians, but is actually as about as accurate as the claim that Hitler was a Darwinian atheist, when in fact he stated over and over again he was a Catholic. It was the age of enlightenment when the gradual loosening of the thought police began in a few pockets of Europe that the scientific revolution began, quite in spite of Christianity, not at all due to Christianity.

  147. says

    John A #140

    Tell the Chinese and Tibetens that Buddhism is unlikely to be involved in politics.

    Buddhism is posterior, not anterior, to the political conflict between China in Tibet.

    Note that I have provided exactly the same amount of evidence for my position as you have for yours; fuck all.

  148. says

    Incidentally for being so sure of their moral goodness the inquisition sure had a lot of warnings not to look into people eyes or be tricked by sympathy.

  149. zenlike says

    147 John A

    Please, enlighten us with your understanding of Roman conceptions of persecution and the differences between Nero’s treatment of Christians and Diocletian’s.

    I see you continue to sidestep the real question here: do you think Roman persecution of christians was moral yes or no? A simple question.

    Another simple question, are you just dishonest here, or are you also dishonest against yourself? The fact that you continue to sidestep some very simple questions appears to point to the second possibility.

  150. says

    This is the irony of the existence of evil: that good and evil exist at all proves God’s existence.

    No, it doesn’t. You’re the one who believes in El Shaddai. As you do, you believe the bible is the holy word. In that cobbled together mess of a book, that god of yours is consistently what we would consider as evil. Genocide, torture, enslavement, rape, murder, on and on and on it goes.

    In Genesis, El Shaddai points out the Tree of Knowledge, tacitly saying evil exists. Continuing on with Genesis, it wasn’t that whole business of eating of the tree that brought about evil or the expulsion – it was the possibility that the Tree of Life would be discovered, and behold, they’d be gods, too! Read your own fucking book, Cupcake, because it looks like you don’t know anything except the shit that’s been poured into your brain.

  151. Al Dente says

    Why do you think the Germanic ruler was called the Holy Roman Emperor?

    Voltaire’s comment is pertinent:

    Ce corps qui s’appelait et qui s’appelle encore le saint empire romain n’était en aucune manière ni saint, ni romain, ni empire. (This agglomeration which was called and which still calls itself the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.)

  152. zenlike says

    that good and evil exist at all proves God’s existence

    that good and evil exist at all proves Allah’s existence

    that good and evil exist at all proves Zeus’s existence

    that good and evil exist at all proves Thor’s existence

    that good and evil exist at all proves FSM’s existence

    Small hint, if your ‘proof’ simultaneously proves multiple contradictory things, it isn’t proof at all.

    Yeah, I don’t think John A is a real ‘loss’ (bwahaha) for atheism.

  153. says

    @Zenlike

    For the sake of argument let’s say that the Romans and pagans feared that Xian defiance would anger the gods and the gods would bring wrath upon the areas xians lived. Would their response to kill Xians (assuming for simplicity sake this was their reason) be just?

    The first problem it runs into is that it is inaccurate, we all agree there are no gods that would send natural disasters, but that is a fault of knowledge and ignorance; how much can we judge a society for acting on what was seen as the wisdom of it’s time?

    The second point is that is illustrates an interesting case: these cultures did see killing people as wrong (obviously) but in this case it was done for a GREATER good, it was compromising moral values for a greater value. The fact that many cultures acted immorally in our eyes, due to our greater understanding of the world, should give us great pause before we ourselves compromise our core values for a greater good.

  154. anteprepro says

    “I didn’t have enough to be an atheist”

    Translation: “I stopped going to church for a year or two because I started thinking about the religion I was raised in. Then I stopped all that thinking and went back to church again. Praise the Lord, Hallelujah, Reasonable Faith!”

  155. zenlike says

    166 Ingdigo Jump,

    Actually, Roman persecution was -ironically- not really driven by religious factors but by political ones.

  156. says

    John A #147

    Do you think that historians who study Nazi Germany insist that it is wrong to condemn the Holocaust because Nazi society had different moral standards?

    I believe we have a violation (or confirmation?) of Godwin’s Law.

    I believe we have an evasion of the question.

    Do you think that historians of the antebellum South ought to go around telling people that it is wrong to condemn slavery because the consensus amongst white Southerners was that slavery was okay?

    One can easily condemn slavery on the basis of 19th century American standards.

    One can easily defend it, too.

    Are you saying that it was impossible, by the standards of the time, to condemn the Albigensian Crusade? Or to put it more directly, are you saying that the Cathars themselves were in favor of the genocide?
    If not, what exactly is your point?

    Oh I understand how atheists think. I understand too well. How could one not be so angry when they see the universe as purposeless, random, and amoral?

    Ironically, this only shows how little you understand atheists.

    Without something higher, all morality is an illusion, a nice tool we invent to make society work better.

    A tool that works isn’t an illusion. It’s a tool that works.

  157. says

    How could one not be so angry when they see the universe as purposeless, random, and amoral?

    The universe is amazing, awesome, full of wonder. Does it scare you so? It must. I love looking at stars and planets – holy shit, have you never seen a stellar nursery? Gives me chills, something like that. The dance of chaos is beautiful, it shines in the soft darkness, cold fire of wondrous things.

    To steal from an episode of Babylon 5, we are star stuff, we are the universe made manifest. I find comfort in that, and I’m glad I don’t have a psychopathic god staring over my shoulder, fretting over whether or not I masturbate or have impure thoughts. FFS, why would anyone be happier with that, then being busy living, loving, and having an ongoing brain affair with the wonders of our planet and the universe?

  158. zenlike says

    Actually, that last paragraph by John A has already been torn apart by my fellow commentators, but it is exactly this paragraph that gives the lie to the claim that he ever was an atheist, because it exposes that he really doesn’t understand the atheistic point of view at all.

    Also, almost any ethicist would roll their eyes at the gobbledygook contained in that piece of dung.

  159. Al Dente says

    zenlike @165

    Yeah, I don’t think John A is a real ‘loss’ (bwahaha) for atheism.

    The chances that John A was an atheist because he wanted to sleep in on Sunday mornings are getting stronger and stronger with each of his pontifications.

  160. says

    Actually, Roman persecution was -ironically- not really driven by religious factors but by political ones.

    Yes but the lie illustrated the point I was trying to make :-p

  161. says

    Morality cant exist without god?
    Oh I get it!
    Christianity is now claiming to have created the Golden Rule!!

    John A:
    Your god massacred virtually every living thing on the planet in a petulant act of genocide. His nonexistence notwithstanding, such actions are not moral. He condones rape and slavery. Such actions are also not moral.

    What was your argument again?

    (FFS are we gonna have a Kroos Control repeat???)

  162. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    John A, your evidenceless assertions at odds with reality are dismissed as fuckwittery. There is nothing wrong in actually supplying evidence to back up your assertions, unless like all liars, bullshitters, and religious apologists, you have nothing other than your attitude to assert what you inanely consider to be the facts. Attitude impresses me no. Linking to real evidence, found in places like this (Google Scholar in case you are too stupid and ignorant to click on a link), might make me even consider what you have to say…

  163. says

    Al Dente #175

    Is our chew toy broken?

    You should not judge the brokenness of the chew-toy by your modern standards. Back in the days when we made our own entertainment out of bits of old string and lumps of Granddad’s ear-wax, this chew-toy would have been judged relatively unscathed.

  164. Anathema says

    @ John A (#140),

    And given the fact that it was far less likely to hand down death sentences or torture than the secular courts of the day means that it was far more lenient. But this fact didn’t suit the protestant polemicists who came up with the arguments you are now using.

    Could you tell me which of the arguments that I have made can be attributed to Protestant polemicists? I’m curious to know.

    I did not argue that the Inquisition was particularly harsh by the standards of its day. I did not make such an argument because I think that characterizing the Inquisition as particularly harsh is misleading. However, I think that characterizing the Inquisition as particularly lenient is equally misleading. The Inquisition was not a single, monolithic thing. Inquisitorial courts operated over a broad range of places for a long period of time. The way that these inquisitorial courts treated people accused of heresy varied. At some places and times, the inquisitorial courts behaved more harshly than in others.

    But even if I accepted that the procedures and punishments offered by inquisitorial courts were universally more lenient than those offered by secular courts, the fact remains that what the Inquisition was punishing people for not holding orthodox beliefs. No one deserves to be punished simply because they don’t hold standard religious beliefs. For the most part, people prosecuted in secular courts were prosecuted for doing things that actually hurt people. In some ways, the Inquisition may have been more lenient in its punishments than the secular courts, but that doesn’t change the fact that punishing someone simply because they do not share your religious beliefs is wrong. The Inquisition might frequently have been more lenient in granting punishments, but practically none of the people dragged before the Inquisition deserved to be punished at all.

    And when a Pope tried this, they frequently found themselves deposed by the threatened prince. Why do you think the Germanic ruler was called the Holy Roman Emperor?

    The Germanic ruler was called the Holy Roman Emperor because the Germanic states were supposedly the continuation of the Western Roman Empire.

    Speaking of the Holy Roman Empire, remember what Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV was willing to go through to get the pope to revoke his excommunication? If excommunication was not perceived as a serious threat by Henry IV, then why would he have been willing to put up such a display of submission to the pope in order to restore his good standing in the Church? If the Holy Roman Empire could consider excommunication to be such a threat, does it strike you as implausible that other rulers might have felt similarly?

    Rarely was the Roman See more powerful than either the French King or the Holy Roman Emperor.

    The Church started to become seriously concerned about heresy at the same time that the papacy was becoming more powerful. The Inquisition began in the High Middle Ages, when the papacy was at the height of its power in the West.

    Also, I can’t help but notice that you completely ignored what I said about a lot of rulers at the time genuinely believing that excommunication would have real spiritual consequences for them. Even if the pope had no political power, the spiritual power that people believed that the pope held would still be a powerful motivator to avoid being excommunicated.

    The idea that Catholics constitute some monolithic group marching in lock-step is nonsense. There has always been a wide range of viewpoints in Catholic lands. Trouble only resulted when the subject tried to cause political or civil unrest.

    I never said that Catholics constituted a monolithic group marching in lockstep. The Church allowed for some variation in beliefs. People could hold different beliefs on some subjects and still be considered orthodox. But some beliefs on some subjects were considered out of bounds. If you differed from the Church’s official stances on these points of dogma the Church would consider you a heretic and if they found out about it they would punish you for it.

    You say that the Church only went after people who caused political or civil unrest. But the Church’s concern with heresy in the High Middle Ages sprang out of papal attempts to reform the Church and consolidate the power of the papacy. As such, it was arguably the Church that was causing political and civil unrest in the first place.

    Furthermore, not everyone dragged before the Inquisition was causing political trouble. Not by a long-shot. I suppose you might be able to make the argument that the Inquisition only prosecuted people who held beliefs that they thought had the potential to cause political trouble, but that’s different from arguing that the individuals brought before the Inquisition were actually causing political trouble. Many of the people dragged before the Inquisition didn’t want to cause any political strife. They just wanted to get on with living their lives.

    There was a religious element, but it was ecclesiastical, not theological. They didn’t care that he taught heliocentrism.

    Did you read the papal conviction of Galileo that I linked to earlier? Because there’s no way that anyone can read that and come away convinced that heliocentricism didn’t have anything to do with the Galileo Affair.

    The Roman See was the principal patron of Copernicus, and used his astronomical tables when producing the Gregorian Calendar.

    And even then, Copernicus delayed the publication of his work because he was worried about how it would be received. Copernicus went out of his way remain friendly with the Vatican. He even dedicated his book to the Pope. And yet, the Inquisition still placed Copernicus’s work on heliocentricism on their Index of Forbidden Books, even if they did not do so until around three quarters of a century after it was published.

    The Catholic Church might not have been all that concerned about Copernicus’s heliocentricism in the 1540s, but it was definitely worrying them by the 17th century. Given that Galileo was persecuted in the 17th century, I don’t see how the fact that the Church was fine with Copernicus until the 17th century is evidence that they weren’t concerned about heliocentricism at the time of the Galileo Affair.

    They cared that he disobeyed them, that he made the entire Jesuit corps into personal enemies, and that he finally attacked the Pope publicly.

    Yes. And how is this meant to refute the fact that Galileo was convicted for promoting heliocentricism?

    He did this through Heliocentrism, but it wasn’t Heloiocentrism that was the cause of the trouble. It was a tool of the trouble.

    Even before Galileo had published the dialogue which was interpreted as an attack on the pope, he had already come under suspicion of heresy for his heliocentric views. I don’t buy that his heliocentricism had nothing to do with why the Church persecuted him. But even if heliocentricism really did have nothing to do with it, I’m not sure how arguing that the Church used Galileo’s promotion of heliocentricism as an excuse to persecute him for failing to be properly reverent to the pope makes the Catholic Church look any better.

    Galileo was convicted for heliocentricism, not for insulting the pope. Insulting the pope almost undoubtedly served to motivate the Church in persecuting Galileo, but it was not what he was convicted for. And, lest you forget, the insulting move that Galileo made was putting the pope’s words in defense of geocentricism in the mouth of the character Simplicio. Galileo’s failure to show proper reverence towards the pope is entirely bound up in the heliocentricism vs. geocentricism debate.

  165. says

    Of course I’m not sure why a corrupt figure that persecutes people for insulting them is a) worse than one that does it for ideological reasons b) implies that said figure either did not or could not also persecute for ideological reasons.

    One gets the impression that if they could throw around weight to torment people for petty reasons that wouldn’t be limited to the strictly personal.

    It’s sort of like arguing that someone couldn’t have killed someone during the course of a theft because the other time they killed someone it was because their spouse cheated

  166. raven says

    Do you think that historians who study Nazi Germany insist that it is wrong to condemn the Holocaust because Nazi society had different moral standards?

    I believe we have a violation (or confirmation?) of Godwin’s Law.

    I expected Hitler at some point or another. They are very predictable.

    All that is left is WL Craig’s best argument. The Empty Tomb. You know, that one from a work of known fiction.

  167. mikeyb says

    Boy John A sure doesn’t understand irony, he claims to need a god to justify absolute morality yet goes on an on using (totally fatuous) relativistic cultural moral arguments for justifying genocide and torture, for what reason in particular, to protect his belief in absolute morality, and which consists of what by the way? Reminds me so much of rationalizations of William Lane Craig.

  168. raven says

    John A demostrates one way that xianity is false. It’s just a bunch of incoherent drivel and endless lies. If their religion were true, they wouldn’t have to lie all the time.

    1. Why can’t we judge the past with our present morality? We can. No one can stop us. We do it all the time. Worst that can happen is a Catholic priest could jump out of the bushes waving a torch and threatening to burn us alive on a stack of firewood.

    And since we took the RCC’s armies and heavy weapons away, that doesn’t happen any more in the First World. Their day is over with. For now.

    Our ethics and morality have changed over the millennia and most would agree they are better than those of the Iron Age sheepherders who wrote the bible. Much of OT law is simply illegal these days and people following Biblical Law end up doing long prison sentences i.e Warren Jeffs who got life + 20 years or Tony Alamo who got 175 years.

    2. Where are these Absolute Moralities based on the xian Sky Fairy? They don’t exist!!!

    3. The 42,000 different xian sects don’t agree on anything and in fact, used to settle their differences with wars.

    4. The xians have no way to prove their truth claims including what an Absolute Morality looks like. Since they aren’t anchored in reality, they just diverge over time and conflict with each other.

    5. We certainly don’t get it from the bible. It’s a horrible old kludgy book of ancient mythology and a primitive obsolete morality that everyone ignores these days. When is the last time anyone stoned a disobedient child, nonvirgin bride, or blasphemer to death? In the west at any rate, still happens in the middle east.

  169. jagwired says

    Inaji:

    The universe is amazing, awesome, full of wonder. Does it scare you so? It must. I love looking at stars and planets – holy shit, have you never seen a stellar nursery? Gives me chills, something like that. The dance of chaos is beautiful, it shines in the soft darkness, cold fire of wondrous things.

    To steal from an episode of Babylon 5, we are star stuff, we are the universe made manifest. I find comfort in that, and I’m glad I don’t have a psychopathic god staring over my shoulder, fretting over whether or not I masturbate or have impure thoughts. FFS, why would anyone be happier with that, then being busy living, loving, and having an ongoing brain affair with the wonders of our planet and the universe?

    That was wonderful. Thank you.

  170. raven says

    I’ve grappled with the difference between religion, politics, and culture myself a few times.

    It turns out, quite often you can’t separate them out. They are too closely intertwined.

    We like simple categories and simple answers but sometimes reality is just messy and complex.

  171. carlie says

    New episode’s over.
    Time to switch to complaining about how Hooke got a raw deal.

  172. raven says

    John being accidently humorous:

    How could one not be so angry when they see the universe as purposeless, random, and amoral?

    Who says we are angry at the universe? That would be rather stupid since the universe is an inanimate object and wouldn’t care. We usually know a lot about it and spend tens of billions of dollars learning more about it for no other reason than curiosity.

    You, on the other hand, come across as so angry that you’ve lost the ability and will to actually think much less tell the truth. We see this a lot with the religious. Religion is brittle since it makes truth claims that are all either falsified or unprovable.

    Xianity learned a long time ago that while they can’t prove anything they claim, it doesn’t matter if they can kill whoever they want.
    Hitchens Rule: Xianity lost its best defense when it lost the power of the noose, stack of firewood, and gun.

  173. says

    The church was only burning heretics, it would be a whole different matter if they were burning scientists.

    That’s totally true; they used a different fire and everything!

  174. anuran says

    It’s not “picking nits”. What did Bruno in wasn’t martyrdom for Science because as you admit he had jack-shit to do with Science even by the standards of the day. It wasn’t brave anti-clericism. He was just as happy to wag his pecker at anyone in authority. A huge share of the blame has to be laid at the altar of his monstrous ego, his inability to keep his damned mouth shut, his addiction to shock-jockery and his tendency to walk up to tigers and kick them in the nuts repeatedly even after he’d been growled at a few times.

    It doesn’t make as tidy a Narrative about Good vs. Evil. But it’s a lot more true to the facts.

  175. mikeyb says

    Yeah, the criminal act of refusing to keep our mouth shut, demands that we be justifiably burned alive by the state. Some logic there.

  176. screechymonkey says

    anuran@191,

    Fuck off, you self-righteous victim-blaming asshole.

    If Person A is engaging in activity that he has every right to do and that isn’t hurting anyone, and Person B murders him, B is evil. The fact that B may have “warned” A a couple of times that “if you do that, I’ll kill you,” doesn’t make B any less evil, it just makes him an extortionate bully.

  177. says

    anuran #191

    A huge share of the blame has to be laid at the altar of his monstrous ego, his inability to keep his damned mouth shut, his addiction to shock-jockery and his tendency to walk up to tigers and kick them in the nuts repeatedly even after he’d been growled at a few times.

    Sounds a helluva lot like Galileo then.

    That aside, neither was persecuted for the methods they used to reach their conclusions. They were persecuted for talking about their conclusions.

    Plus: what mikeyb screechymonkey said, with an extra fuck you.

    Arsehole.

  178. says

    2. Where are these Absolute Moralities based on the xian Sky Fairy? They don’t exist!!!

    Many of the teachings attributed to the christian god (inherited sin, collective punishment, second-party transfer of guilt via scapegoating, and uninvolved party granting of forgiveness) are outright immoral or at the very least extremely difficult to defend. The moral “teachings” of jesus are actually extremely thin compared to – say – Kant or Rawls. Worse, the christian god’s morality is authoritarian, which means it is imposed from without not accepted from within; it can’t be accepted from within because it’s incomprehensible – god doesn’t show the work that allows us to understand how “jesus died for your sins” is a reasonable moral proposition. Just how does that work, again, god? And explain to me again why I should accept responsibility for something my distant forebears did? Besides didn’t your xenocidal attempt to kill all the “bad people” mean I descended from the inbred family of “good people” and no longer bear the inherited guilt? (As if I’d accept a doctrine of heritable guilt! It makes no sense at all!) An authoritarian morality can’t just be “god hates fags. because.” Because otherwise what other divine arbitrariness do I have to suffer under? What if god also hates pizza? Why should I give a fuck?

    Additionally, an authoritarian morality based on infinite disproportional torture is hardly one that anyone would accept. Do you really expect me to accept as moral the idea that if I piss god off for not respecting the sabbath, endless torture is a proportional and reasonable response? Sorry, I don’t buy that either. Your authoritarian morality is a slave morality, as Nietzsche correctly named it; it’s not one that anyone owes compliance with, because it’s forced upon its adherents with almighty power. The slave does not owe its master loyalty; the slave’s responsibility to the master is nil – in such a power differential the slave is justified to lie, cheat, steal, and try to escape.

    Christian claims to morality are based on the fact that most christians don’t actually think about morality. Which is another point against them: claiming you have a moral system that you’ve simply adopted because of divine fiat isn’t a defense that got anyone off at Nuremberg. You have to be a complete coward to simply roll over and accept authoritarian morality from a monster like the christian god. I admit it makes sense to be afraid of such a creature’s wrath, if you have any basis to believe any of it’s real. Fortunately, there isn’t any evidence it’s real. Because if there was evidence that the christian god actually existed, we’d do well to hunt it down and see if we could kill it with a couple nukes.

  179. says

    I was once a child. I distinctly remember hearing the bible stories and then later hearing Science that conflicted with the bible stories. I struggled to make sense of it all. Hearing the stories about Galileo and the church helped to clarify things in my mind. I will forever be grateful to my 6th grade teacher for having told them to us.

  180. mesh says

    Yeah, it is indeed picking nits just because the idea being advocated isn’t Science™. Tell me something, anuran – exactly how can any new ideas rise up when presenting them is the equivalent of kicking tigers in the nuts as you so eloquently put it?

  181. ck says

    Ingdigo Jump wrote:

    If God exists, it is evil.

    Well, lawful evil. God is very big on law, after all.

  182. says

    I love me some Bruno.

    Reading his thoughts, seeing the path he is taking, seeing how he is unknowingly dancing on the outskirts of what is to become science yet constantly drawn back to Hermeticism, which is what he is using to deconstruct the authority of Christianity, I love the historical ride.

    Like when Bruno writes “To [Copernicus] we owe our liberation from several false prejudices of the commonly received philosophy, which I will not go so far as to call blindness. Yet he himself did not much transcend it; for being more a student of mathematics than of nature he was not able to penetrate deeply enough to remove the roots of false and misleading principles and, by disentangling all the difficulties in the way, to free both himself and others from the pursuit of empty enquiries and turn their attention to things constant and certain.”

    The sad comedy that Bruno still relies on, gives more value to, revelatory knowledge than “mathematics” is, for me, profoundly heartbreaking to read. Where might his mind had turned had he not been burnt for his thoughts and allowed to live to read the further discoveries of Brahe and Kepler?

  183. says

    Marcus:

    I admit it makes sense to be afraid of such a creature’s wrath, if you have any basis to believe any of it’s real.

    Yes, it does. That’s also a good weight on that god not existing, because if it did, certainly we heretics would have been toast long ago.

    What always bothers me though, is how people can read (or be told) about all the horrific things god did, what a bloodthirsty, petty, jealous asshole it was, and think it’s a dandy idea to believe in it, and worship it. Unlike many theists, I have read the bible, and it’s appalling in its brutality. When I read Drunk with Blood: God’s Killings in the Bible by Steve Wells*, it highlighted the hideous foundations of xian belief, and I’m always surprised that people willing to worship such a creature would consider themselves in any way moral, let alone think that of their god.
     
    *published by Giordano Press, by the way.

  184. madscientist says

    Rosenau’s always been a hypocritical ass and I’ve been assiduously avoiding any of his insane screeds for years. I’ve always seen Rosenau as the Discotute mole in NCSE. I mean the old Discotute before the purge of those “No True Christians” who were old-earth creationists.

    Let’s see, no one presenting a science show should ever mention the risks faced by scientists at the time should any of their work come to the attention of the church because that has nothing to do with the history of science. Then on the other hand the NCSE approves of whacky disclaimers in real science books which state things like “This stuff doesn’t contradict religious beliefs” despite the fact that religions (including most American varieties of christianity) condemn some of the contents of the books for contradicting their fairy tales.

    I’ve often wondered if Rosenau has any useful talents whatsoever that could justify his employment at the NCSE.

  185. unclefrogy says

    If as you say John that all what I will call here the abuse of power exercised in the name of religion by the church are in fact really politically driven
    and politics is the science or art of political government.
    and the fact that there is no god that is proven to exist and the church is really concerned here with order and authority and not salvation.
    it seems to me then we are left with the realization that the church is a political organization whose purpose and practice is the governing of the people and has used and invented practices and devices and anointed rulers in the furtherance of the maintaining absolute control and obedience of all people.to their authority.
    The problem arises here and now because it is becoming clearer and clearer that that is the purpose of the churches and religion as practiced in the real world!.

    and how john can you continue to deny your church like peter denied jesus?
    uncle frogy

  186. consciousness razor says

    anuran:

    A huge share of the blame has to be laid at the altar of his monstrous ego, his inability to keep his damned mouth shut, his addiction to shock-jockery and his tendency to walk up to tigers and kick them in the nuts repeatedly even after he’d been growled at a few times.

    It doesn’t make as tidy a Narrative about Good vs. Evil. But it’s a lot more true to the facts.

    Well, obviously. The fact is, many Christians just couldn’t stand that some people had egos, opened their mouths, and weren’t so terrified into submission that they actually said stuff which shocked some people. It’s totally true that Christian institutions back then were just like a big scary tiger, which isn’t in any way capable of considering whether its own actions are good or evil, so it would’ve totally been your fault for being anywhere near this tiger (essentially all of Europe) while doing what everyone has a right to do. Because you’re supposed to know that when it growls at you, you should just run away (to Antarctica, maybe) and let it hunt some other kind of prey, which must also deserve what it’s getting … because that is what it will get. There certainly wouldn’t be a problem with any of this, if these damned “troublemakers” just stopped making all of the trouble. But obviously, they did make the trouble. Q.E.D.

    / TRU 2 TEH FAX

  187. says

    Bloody hell, PZ, I go to the trouble of avoiding Rosenau’s sniffling, inexplicable defences of bollockery for years and here you are, quoting entire paragraphs. But I suppose I should thank you for demonstrating that I was right to do so.

    Rosenau’s not going to convince you, or Tyson, that you’re wrong to properly highlight the wrongdoings of faith and the perils of dogma, so who the fuck is he actually writing for?

  188. vaiyt says

    The Shia/Sunni, conflict, for example, is an ethic conflict between Shia Persians and Sunni Arabs.

    Except that today the majority of Sunni Muslims are Asian rather than Arab.

  189. zenlike says

    Ah, I see in the mean time our resident religious (and authoritan, apparently) apologist anuran has weighted in to assure us that burning someone alive is totes ok if this person goes against authority.

    Anuran, the narrative remains tidy enough: an enormous institution which is arguably the most powerful one in the world uses it’s full might to burn someone alive for going against it’s authority. In my book, that’s evil. Those are the facts, case closed.

    198, ck: I know your comment is just a joke, but no, you are wrong. Lawful evil characters are evil, but work in the confines of laws, true, laws they are constantly trying to shift or obfuscate, but laws they will never directly break. Yahweh is above the law: he is the lawgiver, but never is he expected to actually obey his own laws. “Thou shallt not kill”, but when he does it, it’s ok and even moral. He doesn’t give a fuck about his own commands. I wouldn’t go so far as to say he is chaotic evil, but neutral evil will probably be closer to his fictional character.

  190. vaiyt says

    A huge share of the blame has to be laid at the altar of his monstrous ego, his inability to keep his damned mouth shut, his addiction to shock-jockery and his tendency to walk up to tigers and kick them in the nuts repeatedly even after he’d been growled at a few times.

    Being an egomaniac, loudmouth, shock jock and anti-authority are not things that warrant being burned at the stake. Try harder.

  191. vaiyt says

    Lawful evil characters are evil, but work in the confines of laws, true, laws they are constantly trying to shift or obfuscate, but laws they will never directly break.

    I prefer the interpretation that Lawful Evil characters place rules and ideas above the dignity and well-being of actual people. They cause suffering by trying to get everyone else to conform. The typical LE villain is the tyrant who destroys nearby kingdoms to secure their borders or jails people who espouse the wrong ideas or persecutes races considered to be troublesome.

    YHWH is just capriciously malevolent, which fits Chaotic Evil a lot better.

  192. The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says

    vaiyt @ 205:

    Plus, all the Shi’ites in Iraq (a substantial majority of the population) are Arabs. John A is more than a one-hit ignoramus.

  193. Holms says

    Nothing sums up ‘liars for Jesus’ better than John A. at #48:

    No he wasn’t, and in any case, “persecuted” is a moralizing term inferring a wide range of negative claims on something. By definition, it isn’t factual.

    Fucking wow.

  194. Alex the Pretty Good says

    On the slim chance that John A didn’t make his flaunce in between post 90 (when I cracked and just had to post this) and now …

    Johnny-boy, how do you explain that I got the exact same history lessons about the horrors of the Inquisition and abuses in the RCC here in predominantly Catholic (especially in the 70s and 80s when I went to school) Belgium as the alledged “history misinformation” promoted by your alledged “American Protestant Whig anti-Catholic crusade”?

    In case you didn’t know … European historians investigate their history themselves (it’s basically just going to the nearest library) and don’t subscribe to US interpretations of our history.

  195. logicalcat says

    I’ve still haven’t seen John A answer on how he feels about the bullshit the RCC has done recently.

    @John A:

    Do you condone the sheltering of child rapists, and lying to a nation heavily afflicted with aids about condoms like the Roman Catholic Church has done?

  196. vaiyt says

    Johnny-boy, how do you explain that I got the exact same history lessons about the horrors of the Inquisition and abuses in the RCC here in predominantly Catholic (especially in the 70s and 80s when I went to school) Belgium as the alledged “history misinformation” promoted by your alledged “American Protestant Whig anti-Catholic crusade”?

    Hear! I grew up Catholic, in a Catholic family, in a Catholic city, in a Catholic country – and got all that “misinformation” somehow.

    I also read Satan’s Temple, which contains plenty of description of torture methods, along with the dishonest practices of the inquisition courts quoted directly from a French Inquisition handibook. Do note that the author was a staunch Catholic and tries to make apologia for the Church’s actions, so he wasn’t interested in so-called anti-Catholic propaganda.

  197. Thumper: Token Breeder says

    I missed yet another chew toy :(

    I have rarely seen so many historical innaccuracies and sheer willfull blindness come from the fingertips of one person.

  198. Rob Grigjanis says

    Never mind Bruno. The dumbed-down hatchet job on Robert Hooke was the last straw for me. In the battle of ooh-aah what’s-it-all-about science shows with dramatic music and charismatic hosts, Brian Cox’s Wonders of the Universe wins hands down, Manc accent and all. Even had a bit of science in it!

  199. says

    Nice job roasting the troll, guys. I missed out since I was playing The Binding of Isaac a lot yesterday.

    …Suddenly my choice of entertainment seems relevant. It makes me wonder how John A feels about human sacrifice. In case he comes back and tries to spin Isaac’s story as anti-sacrifice, let’s not forget about Jephthah’s unnamed daughter.

    I get the impression that John is deeply confused about morality and/or he’s been trying to play cards according to some apologist strategy. He asserts we need gods to have morality (why?), pointing to absolutism, but when we condemn the immoral actions inspired by religion, he plays historical moral relativism as if we’re obligated to accept it. It looks to me like his scripts presume that atheists are all wishy-washy extreme relativists or willing to use any convenient excuse to live in sin. I suspect he’s not really interested in right and wrong, but finding magic words and tropes to make us shut up. All it ends up doing is make him look like he’s searching for convenient excuses to condone evil.

  200. brianpansky says

    john a was a completely a-relevent troll. people getting burned for their ideas creates an environment of fear, which inhibits the progress of science.

    this is true regardless of:

    -which standard of morality is used
    -which criteria of the word “persecution” we use

    etc.

  201. chigau (違う) says

    Where is John A’s flounce?
    He probably just went to bed.

    If one is behaving a certain way only to avoid eternal hellfire, how is that “moral”?
    That is really just fearful obedience.

  202. opposablethumbs says

    Rob Grigjanis – and he has quite explicitly said on TV that homeopathy and astrology (iirc) are actual bollocks (he didn’t use that specific Norty Word on the Beeb, but he did say something perfectly clear and unambiguous like “absolute rubbish”), which should be absolutely and utterly normal, bog standard and unworthy of mention – except that sadly, of course, it’s not. Also, his presentation has improved. Also, too, he sounds just like one of my nephews :-)

  203. says

    Mother Jones published an article titled “Yes, Cosmos Fans, Creationists Also Deny the Science of Comets.” Excerpt below:

    Comets that are vastly older than creationists believe all of creation to be present a bit of a problem. Hence, if you visit the website of creationist Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis and search for “Oort Cloud,” you will find multiple articles providing a creationist take on the origins and nature of comets. In one of them you will find the assertion that there is “zero observational evidence that the Oort cloud exists,” followed later by this observation: “but if the solar system is only thousands of years old, as God’s Word clearly teaches, there is no problem.” In another article, you get this:

    Actually the Oort cloud, like Peter Pan’s Neverland, has never been observed. The Oort cloud was imagined to provide a birthplace for new comets, since comets like ISON could not exist in a billions-of-years-old universe without some renewable source. The Oort cloud is thus a convenient fiction, but a fiction nonetheless.

    In other words, the problem for creationists is the idea that comets are ancient and are sometimes traveling vast distances, from the Oort Cloud, into the inner solar system, a journey that would take a huge amount of time. Now you see why the Oort Cloud is such a threat to their worldview.

  204. says

    Follow up to comment #221: If scroll down in the Mother Jones article to the “Update,” you will see a nicely written comment from Phil Plait.

  205. says

    Just a quick one:

    John A:

    The Shia/Sunni, conflict, for example, is an ethic [I presume he means "ethnic" -H] conflict between Shia Persians and Sunni Arabs. It is not a conflict due to religious disagreements.

    Religion is posterior, not anterior, to the ethnic cause of the Sunni/Shiia split.

    It seems John will even lie (or at least just continue to spout ignorant soundbites) about other peoples’ religions in order to bolster his apologetic (already built on a foundation of steaming hokkien noodles) that religion itself isn’t a cause of trouble and horror and is merely a bystander (or some kind of peripheral facilitator). I wouldn’t be surprised if he next tried telling us that the Catholic/Protestant schism was about the price of pilchards or the correct pronunciation of “potato”.

    The source of the Shia/Sunni schism isn’t ethnic at all; it’s a difference in belief over who was chosen as the true successor of the Prophet Muhammad. Sunnis believe it was Abu Bakr (father of Muhammad’s wife Aisha) while Shias believe it was his son in law Ali; it even came to armed conflict between Aisha’s army and that of Ali (Aisha lost). Regardless of the national/regional/ethnic boundaries that exist today between Sunni and Shia (which, as it happens, are in large part a result of the schism), the cause of the split was a dispute over who would carry on the legacy of the last true prophet of Allah.

    John’s failures in this thread are legion; I thought I’d address this one as others have dismantled the rest quite handily.

  206. Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive] says

    It is odd – this thread, and John A’s blathering, reminded me of the only verse in the Bible that I have any feelings towards. To wit:

    When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

    Many religionists seem to be stuck as children. For a child, the idea that there isn’t a parent to take care of you, tuck you in, and watch you as you sleep is scary. As adults, religionists are clinging to the SkyDaddy that tucks them in.

    They should (in this sole, singular way, as he was a major shitheel) Paul and grow the fuck up.

  207. Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive] says

    Hank_Says, I’m not sure if Abu Bakr being Aisha’s father was particularly relevant for why some supported him. It may have been more his status of the first person outside of Muhammad’s family to openly be Muslim and his status as being one of Muhammad’s chief assistants. Of course, his status as the father of Muhammad’s beloved wife may have helped. It probably didn’t hurt.

    In any case, there are some profound theological differences between Sunni and Shi’a, some of which may actually date back to original debates: what was Bakr promising to do to the community vs what was Ali’s vision?

    Not that this matters, really – John A is flat-out wrong in asserting that the original split was Arab vs Persian (after all, Abu Bark and Ali were, um, both Arab).

  208. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @PZ
    (Emphasis added:)

    You know, that business of respecting other culture’s differences works for whether you wear ruffled collars or nehru jackets, or if you have different languages, or what you’ll teach your children, [...]

    Wait… what the fuck? No. This is one of Dan Dennett’s shticks, and he has it absolutely right. Parents do not own their children. Parents are guardians or stewards of their children. A right to self determination matters. Self determination depends on being properly informed. Being properly informed depends on what you teach your children. It is not a right of the parent to be able to keep their children ignorant. Children are not property of their parents. I reject this in the strongest possible terms.

    Furthermore, Dennett is right when he notes that the particularly abusive and horrible forms of religion can only survive with childhood indoctrination, which depends on childhood ignorance. Oh, what a wonderful world it would be if we had a required modern comparative religions class at every year for all children (and teachers willing to teach it).