Generally I think our United States Supreme Court is overly concerned with laws establishing religion and too little concerned with laws prohibiting the free exercise of religion. A study of the history of the establishment clause demonstrates the Supreme Court has basically turned the establishment clause on it’s head. (https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/03pdf/02-1624.pdf see Scalia’s concurring opinion) But that is another discussion. For now, I don’t want to get involved with how the amendment is interpreted but rather the more basic question of when certain distinctions may be warranted.
If we consider discrimination against race, gender or disability we can see that it is irrational because, it is wrong to blame someone for something they didn’t choose. Moreover, the mere fact of a difference in race gender or disability does not seem to effect whether someone will act morally – however we want to define morality.
But what about religion? It seems that it is both chosen and it does, at least potentially, effect how people will act. This difference is indicated by the different cultures that develop based on different religious beliefs. Is cultural discrimination a bad thing? I would agree that someone would have to be narrow minded to not like anything about a culture – even Nazi or Soviet culture – but on the whole it would seem ok if your dislikes of a culture outweigh what you do like about it.
While it might be nice if there were clear lines to draw about religious beliefs and how they should be treated by the state and individuals, it seems reality is a bit more complicated. I will probably post more on this in the future but for right now the question remains whether religious discrimination should be treated differently then, say, race, gender or disability discrimination.
Generally speaking I enjoy the topics surrounding Atheism versus Theism and spend most of my time on those. I will say that I am quite happy with the discussions with non-believers and have found many to be quite cordial despite the topics. I consider many to be my friends.
I also enjoy discussing the issues surrounding Catholic versus Protestant versus Orthodox. And this will be the first of what I hope are many posts I will make on this topic. I am a Catholic and a fairly committed one at that. But just as I do not think theism is an intellectual slam dunk I do not think Catholicism is a slam dunk either. In other words, I think there are some good reasons to be atheist, protestant and/or orthodox. My children go to a Lutheran School. One that I love. But sometimes when I see what they are taught I think many protestants must wonder what is he thinking!? Why is he Catholic? Well here I would like to offer some insights. There are few other fairly large reasons but this is a big one. Lets call this the historical argument.
Ok so let us start with a passage that I believe does lead me to be Catholic or Orthodox. Actually, I will freely admit that the reasons I prefer Catholicism over Orthodoxy are fairly minor. I think it’s well past time to end the schism. But anyway today I want to poke at my fellow protestant readers.
“…I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Now before this quote Peter says something to Jesus and Jesus says he is Peter an “on this rock” I will build my church. A lot has already been written on what “this rock” is. I want to focus on the second part. Did he build a church? If so when? What sort of Church did Christ build? And finally, have the gates of hell prevailed against his church?
Ok so I think most Christians would agree Christ did in fact found a church. Moreover, he did it before the New Testament was written. We see references to the Church in Paul’s letters which are believed to be the earliest NT scriptures. So it would seem the Church Christ founded could not have been a “biblical church” i.e., one that claims its only authority comes from the bible. Right?
The Church founded by Christ had to have some other authority beyond “scripture alone.” If the church Christ founded, is now limited to the bible alone when did this change happen? Did this change right after the scriptures were written? Or was it after they were considered to be the bible by …I don’t know, someone, a church, Martin Luther – again I don’t know.
The bible does not say what books are supposed to be in the bible. Would you agree that Christ’s church has the authority to decide this issue? Or is there some other way to determine what books were inspired by the Holy Spirit and should be in the bible? There is a dispute, as many of you likely know, between Protestants Catholics and even Orthodox (each bible growing larger) as to which books belong in the bible. Although this dispute only involves the Old Testament, we do have different bibles.
How can anyone maintain it is “the bible alone” when the bible does not even say what books belong in it and there is a dispute?
Now some maintain that the church is invisible. If the Church was/is entirely hidden then how would this passage make sense?
“If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Matthew 18:17
If we follow this advice what church should we go to? Who can tell us, for example, what books belong in the bible? Do we ask the Jews? Nothing against the Jews but that seems odd as that is really a different religion and not surprisingly they did not include the New Testament. Why would we ask the Jews instead of Christ’s Church? So which of the 33,000 plus churches is Christ’s Church?
Did the Gates of Hell prevail?
The problem I have here is that it seems the protestants took such a hard line against the Catholic Church and sort of forced this issue. If Martin Luther (and just about every other early protestant church reformer) was right and the Bishopric of Rome was indeed the seat of the anti-christ, it is hard to see how we can deny that the Gates of hell prevailed against the Catholic Church. If you don’t think the gates of hell prevailed then what happened to Christs Church before the reformation? Was the bishopric of Rome always the seat of the anti-christ? I have read some protestants claim all the heretics who were persecuted by the Catholic Church were the actual true church. Is that still a viable position among rational Christians today? That seems a bit of stretch, but what would the alternative view be?
Of course, the Orthodox Church has an easy answer here. Although relations have not always been rainbows and lollipops, I don’t think the Orthodox Church ever taught that the Bishopric of Rome was the seat of the Anti-Christ. But if protestants think the Orthodox Church is a contender for being the Church founded by Christ, which the gates of Hell never prevailed against, why reject Orthodoxy? It seems to offer a historically coherent view without requiring commitment to as many different Doctrines as Catholicism.
Go through what you know about the title. What comes to mind?
Did anyone think of Galileo?
For many people Galileo seems two epitomize the relationship. But to say that turns history on its head. Science was born in a deeply Christian culture. As I indicated I recently finished some books by Rodney Stark and I also just finished a book by James Hannam called the Genesis of Science. (Painting a basement is always a good time to listen to some audible books) I have to say I am simply amazed at how much of science middle age “natural philosophers” put together before even Copernicus came on the scene.
The importance of applying math to nature, using empirical evidence to test theories, including but not limited to, how objects move, how light works, whether the earth moves, how things might work in a vacuum etc. Why was I so ignorant of all this? I can tell you it’s not that I was taught all this and forgot it. All of these great medieval thinkers were left out of my education. None of it quite fit the “scientific revolution” view of history. You know the story where the Catholic Church had to let the poor scientists out of their evil clutches before science could advance. If you read Hannam’s book you will see that the Catholic Church and the university system (which was heavily fostered and influenced by the Church) was actually the major force that brought about science.
So what are the facts about Christianity and Science? For that I highly recommend Hamman’s book to get a fuller picture. Honestly it was such a flood of new and interesting information I do not have the perspective to summarize it properly. (I offer some other blogs below that do that.)
But here I will just offer something from Rodney Stark. Rodney Stark is what I consider a hard working scholar. He tends to do the nitty gritty work of looking up facts and delivering the information. He did the legwork and looked up the all the major scientists during the “scientific revolution” and addressed how religious/Christian they were. Here is his explanation of his methodology:
“Historians typically define the era of the “Scientific Revolution” as stretching from the publication in 1543 of Copernicus’s De revolutionibus to the end of the seventeenth century. Therefore, I selected Copernicus as my first case and included all appropriate cases, beginning with Copernicus’s contemporaries and stopping with scientists born after 1680. The “whom” was a bit more difficult. First of all, I limited the set to active scientists, thus excluding some well-known philosophers and supporters of science such as Francis Bacon, Joseph Scaliger, and Diego de Zuniga. Second, I tried to pick only those who made significant contributions. To select the cases, I searched books and articles on the history of science, and I also consulted a number of specialized encyclopedias and biographical dictionaries, among which I must mention the several editions of Isaac Asimov’s Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology for its completeness and lack of obvious biases. Having developed a list of 52 scientists, I then consulted various sources, including individual biographies, to determine the facts that I wished to code for each case”
Christianity and Science from Stark (2003) For the Glory of God p.22
Stark put the 52 scientists in 1 of 4 categories. Clergy, devout, conventional Christian, or skeptic. “Devout” meant that they did things that demonstrated an unusual commitment to Christianity such as writing extensively on Christianity or other works indicating strong commitment to the faith. “Conventional Christians” would be those who did not appear to be much more than typical Christians of the time. He gives some explanations of how he grouped these people but in general he appears to have underestimated the religiosity. For example a scientist who became the Popes physician was categorized not as devout but just as “conventionally” religious.
Here were the results:
13 (25%) were clergy 9 of them catholic clergy, 60% were devout. There were only 2 who were skeptics.
Now yes it’s true that people in Europe at this time tended to be Christian. But that raises the question: Of all the places and times, was it coincidence that Science developed in Christian society? Not in the Roman Empire, not in China, Not in Islamic cultures or Persia. Not in any of the other times and places. Rodney Stark and others think that is not just a coincidence. For example, early on Christians have been open to the idea that our senses can be reliable guides to reality. (Unlike certain Greeks that taught how the material world was relatively unreliable) Moreover, Christians put a high value on logical thinking and reason in theology. Christianity is an intellectual religion which made science (then known as natural philosophy) and mathematics required courses in its medieval universities. People who argue there is a conflict between Christianity and Science are taking the rare exception and calling it the rule.
Indeed, Galileo may be the only scientist who was ever persecuted by the church for his scientific view. And those who are aware of Galileo case can legitimately question whether it was really his views as opposed to essentially calling the pope a simpleton which lead to his persecution. Feel free to read more on the story for youself and draw your own conclusions. Based on what I have read I do find the Church blameworthy in that case, even if Galileo was a stubborn, egocentric, and abrasive genius.
Remaining ignorant of all the people who lead up to Galileo and Copernicus in order to push the “enlightment” myth was a sad state for educational institutions. But there is hope this prejudice is being scraped away thanks to scholarly work. Not only has Hamman’s work received acclaim but I am told scholars are viewing his books and their views as relatively uncontroversial – at least to those who study this matter.
Short of reading Hamman’s book I would invite those with an interest in the history of science to take a look at this blog by Tim O’neill where he reviews God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science By James Hannam:
As people who are interested in truth we should read about history and where we see the ignorant prejudices of the past being propagated, suggest the person at least read some of the above listed books or blogs.