Say what, History Channel?

Guess what period the History Channel characterizes as 600 years of degenerate, godless, inhuman behavior? Come on, guess!

The Dark Ages. Bunch o’ brutal atheists running around covered in dirt and boppin’ each other on the head with clubs is what it was, I guess. If you take a look at their timeline, they define the Dark Ages as the period from 410 AD, when Alaric of the Visigoths (Christian) sacked Rome (Christian), to 1095 when Pope Urban II (Christian, probably) sent an armed mob of knights and hangers-on (Christian) to savage the people of the Middle East (Muslim, mainly). In between, we have the Holy Roman Empire (yeah, I know, not Holy, but definitely Christian) and sundry European wars, and Vikings (pagan, but definitely not godless) running about.

Now I know that I, godless atheist, did give my kids an assortment of Gothic, Celtic, and Scandinavian pagan names that would have fit right in that period, but that tenuous link is really not adequate to justify calling the the Dark Ages godless. I also don’t think the population of the earth was replaced with aliens, so inhuman isn’t right, either.

Oh, well, at least I don’t think the show will have any Nazis. Unless the History Channel decides its policy of all Hitler, all the time requires the insertion of some gun camera footage.


  1. says

    This makes me wonder when any sort of “thinking” atheism first started to appear. (By “thinking,” I mean “in some way different from how a baby could technically be called an atheist.)Does anyone know this?

  2. says

    One Pope so disapproved of the Holy Roman Emperor that he sent an assassin to do him in. The assassin was betrayed and shuffled off this mortal coil by having a red-hot iron crown nailed to his head. Was it reformed stoner St Paul who said ‘see how these Christians love one another’?

  3. llewelly says

    C’mon PZ. You know those Celts and Popes and Holy Roman Emperors were atheists. Just like Hitler.
    And everybody else who has been bad.

  4. Steve_C says

    The history channel is very slanted towards judeo-christian versions of all history.

    Sometimes it seems to even have a neo-conservative slant that favors the administrations slanted look at recent history.

    I often see promos for their shows and groan. The biography on Reagan was almost vomit inducing.

  5. sparc says

    There is a book of Georges Minois “Histoire de l’athéisme. Les incroyants dans le monde occidental des origines à nos jours”. I own a German version for years but somehow never really started reading it. I am afraid there is no ENglish version available.
    One interesting thing from the first page: The publication was partially funded by the Ministère Francais chargé de la Culture!

  6. Tony says

    Let’s look on the bright side and celebrate the end of the all Hitler all the time policy over at the History Channel.

  7. BlueIndependent says

    Ya, I’m at pains to recall any point in human history that was even close to being viable candidate to be defined as “godless”. The “inhuman” part explains itself, since it obviously wasn’t degenerate tooth fairies that orchestrated the Inquisition, or any other historical aberration of human society.

    I don’t have the History Channel, but I have gotten the sense in recent years (happening across their programming at others’ houses and such) that its quality has taken a decided turn for the worse.

  8. Thony C. says

    As a historian I find the whole of this discription of the early middle ages highly disturbing. Whilst it is not a period that can count as one of the high points of human civilisation it was certainly absolutely nothing like that which is suggested by the sound bite presented above.

  9. postblogger says

    I won’t hear a bad thing said against the Dark Ages or, more specifically, the Byzantine Empire part of it.

    To pick up the analogy with Hitler, when Hitler announced his 1,000 year Reich, it lasted something like 12 years; when Constantine announced his, it lasted for, well, 1,000 years (a little over, in fact) and ‘saved Western Civilization’ (unless you talk to the Irish, who say they did).

    Despite that, we Byzantine-o-philes have to contend with slanders like the History Channel’s and this (from a Victorian historian) “Of that Byzantine empire, the universal verdict of history is that it constitutes, without a single exception, the most thoroughly base and despicable form that civilization has yet assumed. There has been no other enduring civilization so absolutely destitute of all forms and elements of greatness, and none to which the epithet “mean” may be so emphatically applied…The history of the empire is a monotonous story of the intrigues of priests, eunuchs, and women, of poisonings, of conspiracies, of uniform ingratitude.”

    As John Julius Norwich wrote in his treatment of Bzyantium “his last sentence makes Byzantine history sound not so much monotonous as distinctly entertaining”.

    And, of course, the early Byzantine Empire was probably the most God-bothered and Bible-knowledgeable society ever, with public debates on the exact spelling of words in the Bible. I’ll leave somebody else to fill in the details as I need to go eat pizza…

  10. Sonja says

    I’ve actually heard people brag that they “only watch the History Channel” to make themselves sound smart.

    It only took a few channel-surfings past it when I first got cable to know that it was not going to be a source of reliable information for me.

  11. says

    There’s a tradition, reported by Plutarch, that the first atheist was one Diagoras of Melas from around 425 BCE. A few years after Diagoras was proscribed by the Athenians, though possibly never punished, Socrates was accused of being a complete atheist (atheos) at the trial reported in Plato’s Apology. As the Socrates case shows, it is hard to know whether the individuals in question really didn’t believe in God or the Gods or just didn’t believe in them the way the others thought they should. On the other hand, the anthropologists point out that skepticism and disbelief are not uncommon among preliterate people–the notion that everybody buys into the traditions of their tribe just isn’t true–so there were surely informal atheists before Diagoras. After all, as it says in the Bible, “The fool has said in his heart that there is no God.”

  12. says

    Ha, I had the same exact thought when I saw that commercial. I turned to my girlfriend, looked at her with a quizzical raised eyebrow, and said, “The Dark Ages were GODLESS?!”

  13. fred says

    Ya I was about as pissed when they ran that as when I found out my school dictionary listed the definition of atheism as “immorality”.

  14. chris hart says

    When I first heard of this yesterday, I emailed The History Channel at right away to let them know how this is not only historically inaccurate but offensive to nonbelievers.

    I asked for a full and public apology immediately.

    Everyone who is concerned by this should do the same!

  15. Kelly says

    Drive Thru History is funded by fundies. They spent the last several minutes of a show about Roman cities in current day Turkey warning me about the dangerous Gnostic heresy. Very deep in the theological weeds and completely serious.

  16. Stacey C. says

    Ever since the History Channel did a tiny bit on the Calvin Coolidge Room at the library in Northampton, MA and placed it *south of Boston* on a map…(it’s in Western Mass on the Connecticut)…I’ve decided that the History Channel apparently doesn’t have any fact checkers or researchers. Of course I was particularly offended as I lived in Northampton at the time. Their series on Heaven and Hell was particularly nauseating as well.

  17. Hank says

    Have you watched the History Channel lately? It’s pretty much non-stop “Biblical History” on weekday nights. Where are my WWII shows? What happened to the Civil War? It’s all prophecies and “here’s where JESUS walked.”

  18. Damien says

    “This makes me wonder when any sort of “thinking” atheism first started to appear.”

    The oldest atheist movement I know of is the Carvaka or Lokayata of India, 600 BC.

    This doesn’t exclude the possibility of Egyptian or Sumerian skeptics 5000 years ago, of course, or tribal skeptics 40,000 years ago, but that’s the oldest I know of attested by written records. I’d actually be a bit surprised if there weren’t any “gods are a crock” fragments of papyrus produced, but then they have to survive to us…

  19. ANF says

    I would have to say that the last, truly “inhuman” and “godless” period might just be somewhere between 250,000 and 1 million years ago. In other words, sometime before Homo Sapiens.

    BTW, found this great site that not only lists the various hominids with a nice timeline, but for each species, it gives a great deal of information on what is know, what is not know and what is still being argued about. It included the best summation I’ve yet found of the continuity vs. replacement theories of modern human development.

    What’s even more “amusing” about the history channel is that it was precisely the uncritical religiosity of the “Dark Ages” that was one of the driving forces for the humanism of the Renaissance and why the rediscovered classical philosophies were so popular. What they’re doing with this labeling of the period “godless” is perpetuating a conflation of “barbarian” with “godless.” In actuality, the “barbarian” hordes were usually very religious, it just may not have been the religion of the settled people. There have been many religions that have had no problems whatsoever with battle, rape, pillage, as long as it’s of your enemies. Just read the Old Testament as one example.



  20. says

    The New York Times had an entertainingly snarky review of this show day before yesterday. Alas, the reviewer neglected to mention the foolishness of the “godless” concept; he was too busy describing the show as “the sort of horror movie only a 16-year-old could enjoy.”

  21. says

    Yikes, “he” in above comment s/b “she.”

    I also read the review in the Denver Post this morning and I’m getting things confused.

  22. says

    The History Channel doesn’t really strike me as biased. I think a lot of this stuff comes straight from their marketing department.

    I’ve seen their commercials for this Dark Ages thing. They’re trying to make it “cool” and draw in a young, rebellious audience, comparing the Dark Ages to death metal rock somehow. It’s cheesy marketing, but I think they’re actually trying to use the label “godless” as a sort of compliment (or at least something cool) in this context.

    As for the Reagan thing, they were probably trying to appeal to the people who would be interested in a documentary on Reagan on the first place, the people who actually like him.

    I’m not saying any of this is right… I’m just saying these slants come from marketers looking for ratings rather than conspirators pushing an agenda.

  23. Chris says

    Of that Byzantine empire, the universal verdict of history is that it constitutes, without a single exception, the most thoroughly base and despicable form that civilization has yet assumed. There has been no other enduring civilization so absolutely destitute of all forms and elements of greatness, and none to which the epithet “mean” may be so emphatically applied…The history of the empire is a monotonous story of the intrigues of priests, eunuchs, and women, of poisonings, of conspiracies, of uniform ingratitude.

    Sounds like someone’s been reading a bit too much of the Slanderous, er, I mean Secret Histories.

    Primary sources are great, but responsible history includes not taking everything at face value. Especially propaganda. (A lesson long since lost on the History Channel and their frequent History of Jesus specials with no non-biblical sources, of course.)

    Returning to the original point, though: describing the Age of Faith as “godless”, and apparently not as a joke, is a great way to destroy your own credibility, if you happened to have ever had any. “This is coming from the same people who described the Age of Faith as godless” will be wielded to refute everything they say for decades, if there’s any justice.

    Technically it *was* godless: despite almost everyone in the world believing in and praying to gods, no actual gods ever showed up and lifted a finger to stop centuries of one massacre, torture, oppression or betrayal after another (often carried out in the name of those same gods). But thousands of people praying and getting no answer is not quite the impression their phrasing is likely to convey.

    P.S. Brian, are you saying you *expect* the Spanish Inquisition?

  24. David Marjanović says

    Socrates was accused of being […] (atheos)

    Literally “godless”…

  25. David Marjanović says

    Socrates was accused of being […] (atheos)

    Literally “godless”…

  26. Steve_C says

    The shows themselves are biased. They show very little critical thinking of anything conservative or judeo-christian. Those things are all good all the time. From what I’ve seen.

  27. says

    I found a great demonstration of the point I just made on the History Channel Forum. There’s a post about 2/3 of the way down the page by a kid nicknamed Striderr, a 14-year-old death metal fan who thinks the commercials look “badass,” and he and his friends are all excited about the show.

    It goes to show that the commercials were effective on some of their intended audience. I think it was a mistake to target that audience at the expense of accuracy and piss off a wider audience, but hey, they’re marketers. They were probably comm majors in school or something.

  28. Thony C. says

    The “Dark Age” is a myth created by the humanists in the 14th and 15th centuries to make themselves look good. “You see there were the Greeks and the Romans who were both really advanced and civilised and then there is us the Humanists their natural successors and in between you have… oh dear its those terrible barbaric dark ages!!!” It is a scandal that this ahistorical crap is still being peddled in the 21st century.

  29. Lago says

    Wow, everyone is going to want to hit me upside the head, but I was not mad at the History Channel when they said, “Godless”.

    I was under the impression they were using it as people used it at the time, when people viewed all who were not like they as “Godless”. When the monks saw the pagans coming to attack, they would refer to them as “Godless” to imply they were without the one “true” God. Of courses Vikings landing on the shores did not indicate “Atheists” had landed, but to the Irish monks, they certainly thought of them as “Godless”.

    I really think this is all they were gettin’ at…

  30. says

    Sounds like someone’s been reading a bit too much of the Slanderous, er, I mean Secret Histories.

    I *heart* Procopius. Kitty Kelley and the National Enquirer got nothin’ on that mo-fo.

  31. Mark UK says

    Alle evil and all bad things are godless. Whenever you read anything by a “true” christian they always manage to explain that the particular atrocity committed in the name of a god does not count because obviously whoever did it wasn’t believing in the proper god. Like they are. And if you don’t believe in their god, which is naturally the only right one, you don’t really believe at all. Therefor all bad things are done by atheists… It’s simple really.

  32. Kenneth Mareld says

    I’m proud to say that my ancestors invaded, raped, pillaged, bloodied and whatever your ancestors. It was commerce that finally calmed them down. Some would say Christianity. Sweden did not climb out of ‘christian poverty’ until it figured out again that money can be made from not fighting (WWI, WWII) and embracing rationalism. Look at most life standard indices to see who is on top.


  33. says

    I’ve seen their commercials for this Dark Ages thing. They’re trying to make it “cool” and draw in a young, rebellious audience, comparing the Dark Ages to death metal rock somehow.

    Dude! The Dark Ages were started by Goths! How megakewl is that?

  34. says

    Vikings (pagan, but definitely not godless)

    When the Danes conquered England they were Christians. The same when they laid seige to Paris, and demanded ransom to leave (several years in a row).

  35. Chinchillazilla says

    *cracks up* That is the funniest thing I will read today. Really. Unless it comes out that Kent Hovind is having gay sex in prison.


    …all Hitler, all the time…

    Phew, I was afraid I was the only one to notice that.

  36. Weldon MacDonald says

    I ws told, by a historian, that the whole idea of the Dark Ages was falling out of favor. It’s now seen more as a slow spot in history and not all that speacial. The History Channel must be reviving it just to have a spot to put the atheists!

  37. Chinchillazilla says

    Me, too, Selma! Oh well. Dark ages are so OBVIOUSLY much more godless than, say, now.

  38. Kagehi says

    Yeah, I got that impression too Lago. The fact that the “godless” statement comes just as some priest is stepping out into a corridor kind of clinches it. Its not a statement about how Godless, it really was, but a hint at the rather stupid ideas that the priesthood had at the time, as the ones recording much of the history of events, in describing it.

    And I slightly object to the idea that they give special treatment to Christianity. Last night they ran hours on “sex in the ancient world” and didn’t exactly exalt the virtues of the Christian view. If anything the message you get is, “Even the damn Muslims figures out ways to reconcile, on some level, sexual needs with religion, but the Christians… just freaked and kepts impossing more and more absurd rules.” They are completely even handed. They don’t condemn any groups ideals, just present the facts of what is believed by the group. That is why all the Christ stuff they never come right out and *say* isn’t at all supported. They do sometimes hint, as strongly as possible without offending anyone, that the views people hold on the “truth” of events isn’t accurate or even entirely certain, but your argument seems to be, “They don’t call them liars, so they are not being truthful.”

    Mind you, they are also problably not the ones making “ever” documentary shown themselves, and they could be better at taking care of some biases, like with Regan, which they are failing to do, but I suspect that might be the marketting department saying, “Well, its nice that you want to correct that supposed misconception, but lets not offend people by presenting facts that contradict the hostorical context of how people felt about them “when” these things where happening. In other words, their perspective tends to be to take the views of those “from the time period” and present them, not a detailed analysis of what we know about what is and isn’t true about those facts. Other programs tend to deal with correcting those “impressions” from the period.

    Its hardly perfect, and there are definitely WTF moments like with this new ad, but all in all, its not as bad as some people seem to be claiming. And frankly, I do think there are biases here about some things as well that would result in just as badly made programs, perhaps worse made, since some of use would be **far less** even handed about presenting the facts of the time, instead of injecting our own opinions into them. All in all, I would say that the History Channel isn’t doing horrible job and definitely, when its showing programs not automatically offensive to people on this blog because of what they talk about, tends to take equal opertunity pissing off the god botherers by also treating subjects like pre-Christian sex practices as simple facts too, instead of babbling condemnations of it the way the *right* undoubtably would want them to.

  39. says

    This makes me wonder when any sort of “thinking” atheism first started to appear.
    I’m doing a ‘Profiles in Atheism’ over at my blog. Confucius was a humanist(ic) philosopher, Anaxagoras, Democritus, Lucretius – it’s been around a long while.

    The Dark Ages was a term coined by Petrarch, & is measured via Roman civilization – the Arabian & Byzantine, in contrast, went thru a golden age around that time.

  40. DSMcCoy says

    DaveX: “This makes me wonder when any sort of “thinking” atheism first started to appear. ”

    “Doubt: a History” by Jennifer Michael Hecht is a good source of information on that subject.

  41. That Goddamned Atheist says

    Of course, the bad guys weren’t “real” christians, you know.
    They never are.


  42. says

    Gerard Harbison: Dude! The Dark Ages were started by Goths! How megakewl is that? :lol

    What a great line! I’m still laughing.


    Thanks for the link to It does look like a great site — I have to find some time to spend there later.

  43. says

    I was shocked when I saw the ad… for about two seconds, then I added The History Channel to Noggin and Disney on my blocked list. There are some things to awful to allow my kids exposure to.

  44. says

    You know, there are an awful lot of early medieval people that I esteem more highly than the normal lot of folks these days. Dark Ages, my Aunt Fanny!

  45. furly says

    My two cents, sent to the History Channel: Your recent advertising of “The Dark Ages” refers to this centuries long period of brutality and intellectual stagnation as “Godless.” Would that this were true. I can’t think of another period in human history that was more God-ful (or God-awful) than the Dark Ages. In fact, I can’t think of any historical period that was Godless. Please enlighten me if I missed an epoch in the past two millenia in which religion in general and Chrisitanity in particular didn’t play a major role in the tribulations suffered by humanity at large. I realize that from a marketing standpoint godlessness equates to baby-eating savagery and that this is a huge draw for a large segment of your viewers, but it is rather offensive to the smaller, more peaceful segment of your audience who truly are godless.

  46. Tony Popple says

    Have you seen the most recent advertisments for the show?

    They say “all civilation is lost” in the dark ages in big bright letters. I might need to check my history, but I think the Islamic world might have something to say about that.

    They describe the dark ages as being between the end of the Roman Empire and before the Renisance. Who do you think kept possesion of all that knowledge during that time? The christian-biased western world is forever relectant to recognize the role the Islamic world played in our history.

  47. Foster Disbelief says

    My problem with the History Channel is with their portrayal of “the paranormal.”

    UFO’s, the Bermuda Triangle, Nostradamus, Edward Cayce, and your average run of the mill psychic all seem to get the softball treatment. Yeah, I know it’s for the all important ratings, but it’s the History Channel, enough with the psuedoscience. Television can be entertaining and educational. Just look at “Is it Real?” on the National Geographic channel.

    Of course, National Geographic is turning into the “all prison, all the time” channel, so….meh.

    Off topic. Front page story in my local paper today? A piece on christians protesting the discovery channel special tonight. Quote- “We’re sick of it being open season on Christians!”

  48. says

    The Eurocentric Western model of Civilization requires that the dark ages be the dark ages.

    If you look at the thread of civilization, meaning the historical aspects of science and technology, food production practices, commerce, and law (ignoring language for the moment), all of these threads were woven together by Rome. But then Rome unraveled (sort of a pun there, but not completely) and these threads were replaced by and/or taken up by “The East.”

    The only way for western civilization to have not sprung from the region from Zanzibar to the Indus Valley (the circum-Indian Ocean largely Islamic world) … and thus be not only non-Christian but largely dark skinned … is to turn the lights off and ignore what was really happening. Thus the Dark Ages.

    It’s like a magic trick where right after you show that the hat is empty, but just before you reach in and pull out a rabbit, you turn all the lights off so nobody can see you putting the rabbit in the hat.

  49. Dustin says

    Godless? Are you kidding me? I’ve seen a lot of revisionist history and doublethink on the part of some of these people, but that takes the cake. That tagline is going to become another piece of evidence in my case that 1984 isn’t about politics at all — it’s really about Christianity.

    On the bright side, if the true believers of the world keep their unwarranted levels of fervor up, we’ll have a second helping of the Dark Ages in no time and, if I’m still alive, I can laugh at them and tell them that they were dead wrong — just before they burn me at the stake.

  50. truth machine says

    The History Channel doesn’t really strike me as biased.

    So much for your judgment. Oh, wait, it’s Jason … well, of course.

  51. Ichthyic says

    I’m not saying any of this is right… I’m just saying these slants come from marketers looking for ratings rather than conspirators pushing an agenda.

    umm, so why is marketing not a conspiracy and getting higher ratings not an agenda?

    oh, you meant it’s not a political consipiracy/agenda.

    well, I’m sure there is a good argument to be made that in a society based on capitalism, it’s not exactly clear where one can draw the line even then.

  52. bigTom says

    Well, they have their weekends when they switch from supporting Christianity, to supporting the flying saucer religion, i.e. all UFOs, all the time.

  53. says

    I don’t get “the history channel” as I refuse to pay good money to watch more crap when there is sufficient crap on television to avoid in the first place.

  54. Foster Disbelief says

    Doesn’t the history channel have the “A Haunting” series?

    Steve_C., that’s the discovery channel, another station that should know better.

  55. Dominic says

    DaveX: You’d want to exam English history around the time of Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate.
    There was a broad spectrum of people who developed unconventional views on religion and politics grouped under the generic title ‘Dissenter”

    Most relivent to your enquiry are the Ranters and Quakers (who have very little to do with the present day Society of Friends).
    The Ranters held different views, one arguement put forth was: God made everything which means God made sin, which means sin is holy, which means embracing sin is embracing god, so let’s have loads of sex! Others argued that God was in all of us (this was the line most Quakers took), others argued there was no God at all.

    These groups had their biggest impact on the equivilent on the English Tabloids, and their true numbers were likely to be low.

    Mainstream aethism really gained swing after the French Revolution.

  56. Tatarize says

    Well, I’ve watched history channel from time to time and ran into crap that that which just made me fume for five minutes. They more and more do things on Jesus and Prophecies, they still have enough integrity to not make bold faced claims about this crap. They do Nostradamus crap and Mayan astrology crap too.

    But mostly it is getting pretty bad. I remember the other day they claimed some 2nd century Roman emperor was “superstitious” because he believed in a mystery savior cult. That just pissed me off… what the hell did they think Christianity was at the time! Oh, pagan religions those are superstitions!

    The History Channel isn’t wrong here. The Dark Ages were godless, just as in this modern era we are godless. There is no God. So whether we know it it or not, all of history is godless.

  57. Cat says

    For the person who asked when “thinking athiesm” started, in Mythology our teacher told us that although the gods were still respected to some degree in ancient Greece that was the first civilization (in Europe anyway) that actively tried to use science to explain phenomina that had been explained in terms of gods. The most famous example is how the Greeks were trying to figure out lightning, which was the prefered weapon of Zeus, king of the gods. I’m not sure if this or any other example of scientific developement edging out religion’s explanations is considdered “Athiesm” or not, but if questioning a god’s power puts you on the road to athiesm than ya, Ancient Greece. For that matter the primary reason that Greek myths were preserved was that for a while the myths had been in the hands of the poets and playwrites of the time, and so passed as entertainment well enough that the Christians didn’t decide to burn them with all the other pegan mythology.

  58. Matt Ray says

    For anyone looking for a GOOD look at this topic, give “A World Lit Only By Fire” by William Manchester a perusal. Its a balanced look and pretty fun to read.

  59. says

    History channel only cares about ratings. When it would be in their interest to be critical to religion, they are, when it isn’t, they aren’t.

    I’m dropping a line to their customer service about the godless line, besides being offensive, its completely wrong.

    Oh and since someone brought up the Byzantine empire…

    Go listen to the 12 Byzantine Rules for a good, interesting, lesson in Byzantium history.

  60. raj says

    The History Channel actually claimed that the Heilige Roemische Reich (Holy Roman Empire) existed between 410CE and 1095CE? That’s silly–the HRE existed from around 800CE to 1806CE.

    The only reason I can fathom that it was called the Holy Roman Empire is because, up until the 1500s, the “emperor” (it wasn’t much of an empire) was crowned by the pope. The HRE didn’t even include Rome, or the states comprising modern-day Italy for that matter

    The History Channel is nuts. But, at least they seem to have gotten away from their earlier “all WWII, all the time” mantra.

    The History Channel is owned by the Hearst Corporation If their fact checkers for the History Channel are on par with the fact checkers for their newspapers and other news media outlets, the latter are probably pretty much worthless.

  61. Tatarize says

    This makes me wonder when any sort of “thinking” atheism first started to appear.

    Jonathan Miller’s Rough History of Disbelief.

    Covers the topic pretty damned well. Also it’s worth checking out Atheism Tapes. Though, they don’t actually address the question they were extra interviews that didn’t get used in the initial “Rough History” segments and are independently fantastic.

    Torrent sites might have them… that or I think you can order them from the BBC.

  62. says

    “There is a book of Georges Minois “Histoire de l’athéisme. Les incroyants dans le monde occidental des origines à nos jours”.
    One interesting thing from the first page: The publication was partially funded by the Ministère Francais chargé de la Culture!”
    Well, yeah.
    The Ministry of Culture funds tons of academic books.
    I guess a book called “Histoire du Protestantisme” c/would have been funded just the same…
    I am not surprides in the least, but I guess it just goes to show I’m French.
    Thanx for the totle, btw : i will probably try and read it.

  63. Paul says

    Wow – a lot of other Byzanto-philes among the godless!

    Thanks for the link to the podcasts!

  64. BruceJ says

    Well, Terry Jone’s “Lives of the Barbarians” series was quite good (though that was probably on the History International channel.)

    Went through how all those savage barbarians of the Roman era really weren’t.

  65. Toby says

    Sadly, the all-Hitler-all-the-time schedule (which was, at least, history per se) has long since been replaced by all Christian all the time. Just check them out in the late evening to learn about Noah’s Ark, where Jesus went and what he said, how the Red Sea parted, and so ad nauseum.
    In today’s Corporate State, in which the church is a large Corporation indeed, this is what passes for history.

  66. omar shanks says

    The first “thinking” atheism was probably the Charvaka school of Vedic philosophy, c. 600 BCE. Of course, it’s only in the last few thousand years that humans begin to think in terms of “spirits” distinct from the material world. A “primitive” animist would tell you that everything has some spirit that one can influence, but where this changes from a naive empiricism to a distinct belief in a dualist universe, who knows?

  67. Kagehi says

    Watched all of this and.. Fact is, it was speaking in the metaphorical sense of “godless”. It was quite clear about the minor shifts that brought limited prosperity in some parts of Europe, the almost regaining of a new Roman Empire, etc., as well as the decision by some kings to embrace Christianity as a means to reach the hearts and minds of those they just conquered, and more to the point, use that to convince the same fools to help him conquer more people. It was a pretty good show, if you watched all of it. If you didn’t, but just tuned in on some bit about Christian monks salvaging most of literature (true), during the book burning stage when damn near everyone that wasn’t a priest was illiterate and didn’t see it as a problem (also true), then some people here might have a problem with it.

    Then again, I tend to suspect that most people here would have a problem with it anyway. The arguments about the whole Jesus tomb stuff sound like some of the crap that came up over Egytian tombs back when someone dared to point out that a name didn’t match on some wall, which was easilly dismissed, until way later, when they found new tombs that proved the name *was* supposed to be there. Sorry, but compared to Cappone’s Vault, this is an interesting beginning, even if all that gets proven is that someone faked it to make it look like evidence. The only problem I see is that the clowns doing it are more likely biased to see what they want, not what is there. Which means its going to take someone else to figure it out. And that means that resealing the damn thing is a *good thing* imho.

  68. markmier says

    “Modern Marvels” is an excellent show on the History Channel. Strangely, it’s the only HC show on my Tivo season pass list — I can’t say I can think of any other HC shows I’ve watched.

    But really, give “Modern Marvels” a try.

  69. David Marjanović says

    the Charvaka school of Vedic philosophy

    Everything, but not Vedic philosophy — it rejected the Vedas. It seems to have been outright positivistic, and seems to have stopped short of discovering science theory.

  70. David Marjanović says

    the Charvaka school of Vedic philosophy

    Everything, but not Vedic philosophy — it rejected the Vedas. It seems to have been outright positivistic, and seems to have stopped short of discovering science theory.

  71. Alex says

    Wow, you’re far to worried about semantics. You can’t read so much into a little literary liberty that was taken in a summary statement. There was about 3 hours of specific information clarifying the statement that you’re arguing, so make arguments based on that information, not the tagline.

  72. Christy k Sweet says

    Here’s my letter to THC

    Dear history channel
    About 6 years ago I got rid of cable. I could see that programs like the History and Learning channels were airing had become a mouthpiece for the Neo-Cons and their sexist, irrational belief in the myth of God.
    Your program describing the dark ages as ” Godless” has further confirmed that conviction.
    C’ mon get with it.
    The dark ages were dark because of belief in a patriarchal , violent ” God” that people truly believed blessed the atrocities they were committing in ” His” name.

    Please stick to science and fact, not conjecture.
    And please stop spreading the BS,grow up and get away from the daddy thing.
    God is a myth,you know like the tooth fairy..Planet earth is the only heaven ( and only hell) and until we ALL realize this, none of the world’s worst problems, all aggravated by this sexist , patriarchal belief, nothing will get better

  73. farang says

    Not to be an “Anti-Byzite” or anything, but wasn’t it kind of Constantine that held that Council Of Nicea in the 300’s, and it was there that “Christ” first became more than a man, that they rewrote the Gospels to find Jesus “God”? And wasn’t it this very Council that morphed into the Inquisition? Enforcing their new “Official Findings”?

    So, by starting the “Dark Ages” in the early 400’s, we are not given the proper perspective, the proper starting point, for all the religious carnage to follow.

    Heck, I thought the History Channel had changed into the “Let’s make war seem like an Adventure” channel.

    My mistake.

  74. bert says

    “I was mostly shocked to learn the Visigoths invented death metal. Which is really impressive considering they didn’t have electric guitars.”

    How do you know? Let us wait for an history channel documentary about the invention of electric guitar, and you’ll see! And what about: “Visigoths, centuries of electricity-less death metal”, a must-see!

  75. frog says


    I remember reading a translation of an Egyptian papyrus scrap poem by a musician from somewhere in the Middle Kingdom lamenting the nonsense of the afterlife. It muttered about since we know nothing of the gods and afterlife, the best we can do is enjoy the here and now. Thinking atheism?

    I’d also expect that quite a few of the ancient shaman knew they were running a scam.

  76. drbobsoffice says

    Have we actually come to a consensus on what is human behavior and what is inhuman behavior. I wasn’t there for that meeting.

  77. Todd says

    I actually miss the all Hitler, all the time History Channel(“Secrets of World War II” was a fun show). Lately, they seem to have moved on to become the UFO channel.

  78. Sarcastro says

    …but if questioning a god’s power puts you on the road to athiesm than ya, Ancient Greece.

    Epicurian materialists were pretty much at the atheist destination by the end of the 4th century BCE. It has been argued that Diagoras was there in the 5th.

    And in addition to the Indian non-theists of the 6th century BCE there’s also the Chinese Taoists who might well predate them.

  79. Nathan Perrier says

    QUESTION PEOPLE: Where can you find an un-biased, neutral, source of history that’s written by historians who are only concerned with what really happened, good or bad?

  80. says

    DaveX: Outright atheism was known in antiquity in Greece (e.g. Protagoras, Democritus), India (Jains, Carvakas) and China (most of the ruling class, Confucius). However, what was much more common in Greece at least was skepticism to varying degrees about the popular religion and notions of the gods (most of the presocratic natural philosophers, Xenophanes, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, the Stoics).

  81. Brian says

    Wow, you guys actually think the history channel is being serious when they say that the dark ages were Godless, there making a Pun. The history channel is the most athiestic anti christian agenda based program on television. 90 percent of the programming is on disproving the divinity of Jesus, promoting the devinci code, and repeatidly making unfounded claim after ludicrous unfouded claim. The history channel is not a history channel, its a proposition channel, and it has a serious agenda, which is rather frighting. And its not just the history channel, the discovery channel has taken a similarly ubsessive anti christian stance. I dont care if you believe in Christ or not, but there utter ubsession and devotion to convincing people the opposite is alarming.

  82. Brent says

    I agree with Brian.
    I watch the History Channel often and they almost every turn have an atheistic humanist worldview of history. Not only this but they have unreliable “facts” and “experts”. I watched two different shows talking about the Spartans and on one they described their breastplates and uniforms while the other show’s expert said that most likely they fought naked. If no one knows for sure why would the first show describe their uniforms in such detail with such a tone of factualness to it?

    As for the Dark Ages being godless— the term “godless” can be used to describe people or times that are marked by bad behavior that is not consistent with moral teachings. It is a term that can describe behavior and not always a term that speaks to belief or disbelief. Christians would look at this era and say that though Christianity was an established religion, the leaders of the church were not being true to the teachings they said they believed in. This is the “Dark” age because of the lack of heart within the religion.

    IT is one thing to say you believe and quite another to live it out. This was a period of limited access to the written old and new testaments as well. Not too many people could read the Bible for themselves. This is another reason this age has been called “dark”. Illiteracy! The Reformation era after this is also the age of growing literacy!

    Without access to the Bible but by self-serving leaders, the “believers” were in a sense “godless” because they lacked true understanding of the teachings of Christ.
    To believers, there is Christ and then there is the Church and the two things are separate. The Church is the human and flawed response to the life and teachings of Christ. To the believer, the actions of the Church do not change the reality of Christ. We are allowed to struggle even against God sometimes as Joshua wrestled the angel in the Old Testament. Christians would say that Christ is always right but his followers are not always “following” because we still are sinful humans with our own wills that get in the way.

    A Christian life is a life of struggling to surrender our own flawed wills to the moral and ethical will of Christ. Without His teachings readily available to people, such as in the “Dark Ages” it is difficult for people to know what the moral and ethical will of Christ is. Humanity is allowed to go it’s own way only for God to rescue us from ourselves after a time. It is the cycle of history. That is the way a Christian would see it and everyone is welcome to look at it in their own way and offer their worldview. But I would say that if you have a Worldview and you believe that it’s right, why would you not want to share it? People (atheists) get so pissed about religious people (Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims) wanting to share their worldviews because atheists have convinced themselves that religion is so very dangerous. Yes, wars have been done in the name of religion but wars have also ended through religion. Healing and justice and freedom have also come through and in the name of religion. War would happen in the name of something else if there were no religion.

    War is the natural result of two or more people groups who reach an impass. Religion is a handy thing to blame it on but be it religion or boarders or trade, humans would fight none-the-less. But, I would argue that whether it be slavery Abolition or India or WW 1 or WW2 Religion helped free people and heal them and better their lives. Religion is the inspiration for freedom and good will for many people. Unfortunately some people groups think that their world view is more important than the good will their religion might teach so due to a skued value they put on forcing their religious views, a particular era of a religion or sect of a religion can highjack that religion and perform violent acts in the name of the religion in order to spread their ideas or control over people. I would argue that this is the exception to most great religions but when it happens it makes a huge mark on history. Should we just blanket all religion in general with criticism, as atheists tend to do? I think not.

  83. Ichthyic says

    I watched two different shows talking about the Spartans and on one they described their breastplates and uniforms while the other show’s expert said that most likely they fought naked. If no one knows for sure why would the first show describe their uniforms in such detail with such a tone of factualness to it?

    actually that was explained quite clearly in the first show:

    only SOME of the Spartans wore armor. not all, and not all the time.

    people see what they want to see, I guess. I would suggest you try reading the transcripts of the shows you are thinking about to verify (read: reject) your conspiracy theories.

    nice resurrection, BTW. 4th one I’ve seen in the last two days.

    sure feels like Easter around here lately.

  84. Brent says

    No conspiracy theories, just an observation that history through entertainment is more keen on entertainment than thourogh fact checking. Thanks for the clarification that some Spartans wore breastplates but not all.

    The other show I believe may have been on PBS or perhapes a historical section of the 300 movie special featers– I don’t remember. But I do remember that that historical show said they were all naked most likely and they based that on the fact that there is a statue of Leonitis in the nude.

    But anyway, what would be my conspiricy thoery? That the History Channel wants to confuse us?

    I just think they are not that reliable in presending a full picture of history. Their handful of experts per show couldn’t possibly know all that there is to know or be perfectly right and I don’t appreciate their in ablity to say “we don’t know forsure.” They always discribe the past as if they were there. Perhaps they do this for entertainment reasons.

    Basically I think TV is a poor educational tool. I agree with Neil Postman who wrote “Amusing ourselves to death” which is his research on the flaws of Television as a proper medium for anything other than entertainment.