Archive for March, 2015

1galileo-galilei-165413__180 Everyone knows the story of how Galileo was persecuted by the church: after inventing the telescope, Galileo turns the lenses to the stars and proves that the earth revolves around the sun and not the sun around the earth. This greatly upset the Christian church and he found himself arrested, thrown in prison, tortured, excommunicated, and finally killed by the Catholic Inquisition. As Italo Mereu states in his History of Intolerance in Europe “to say that Galileo was tortured is not a reckless claim.”

One problem: NONE of this ever happened.

Over the next several posts I plan on engaging the cultural belief that science and religion are at perpetual conflict.  Sometime called the “warfare thesis.”

That science and religion are at each others throats is a very widely held belief and is propagated routinely upon culture.  For example, Sam Harris, chief executive of Project Reason, a non-profit that promotes science and secularism, opined that, “the conflict between religion and science is unavoidable. The success of science often comes at the expense of religious dogma; the maintenance of religious dogma always comes at the expense of science.”

The history of the relationship between science and religion as conflict can be summed up in one word: propaganda.  Much of what is believed about Galileo, Giordano Bruno, the church and the development of science has been a series of repeated misinformation and confusion.  In order to clear away some of this confusion let’s examine the Galileo affair.

The Galileo Affair

Voltaire wrote in 1728 that “the great Galileo, at the age of fourscore, groaned away his days in the dungeons of the Inquisition, because he had demonstrated by irrefragable [indisputable] proofs the motion of the earth.” (source) Thus began the myth that Galileo was persecuted and rotting in a dark dungeon in chains.

Others have propagated this myth: George Bernard Shaw: “Galileo was a martyr, and his persecutors incorrigible ignoramuses.” (source) Italo Mereu, “to say that Galileo was tortured is not a reckless claim.” (source)  Even PBS in 2002 reproduced this image in the two-hour program Galileo’s Battle for the Heavens with a scene depicting Galileo being locked behind a door unable to leave.

The fact of the matter,  historians of science have recognized for some time that Galileo was

. . . never placed in jail

. . . not tortured

. . . never excommunicated, and

. . . definitely not executed.

This is quite different from the image that has been built up of a courageous lone scientist standing up against the massive edifice of the church.  The problem with Galileo was that he “openly mocked the pope in [Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems] through a fictitious dialogue between two people – himself and the pope. . . . Galileo named the pope Simplicio, which means ‘simpleton’ or ‘buffoon.’  Galileo’s character was articulate and elegant as he responded to the foolish and simplistic remarks of Simplicio.” (source, p. 36)  Galileo was placed under house arrest in Florence and was able to walk free in the villa’s gardens and to travel to the convent where his daughter resided.  In fact, he received a Church pension for the rest of his life.  In short, for calling his boss stupid, he was fired, placed under house arrest in Florence, Italy (a vacation spot today), and was paid until he died.  Now if I could insult my boss in order to get fired and be able to stay at home for a full salary, I  just might be tempted to do so.

Ronald Numbers, a respected historian of science, who was asked by if the “possible” execution of Galileo was false, stated plainly that “it was highly unlikely he faced execution. In fact, I don’t know of a single pioneer in science who lost his life for his scientific beliefs.” (source)  Note that not a single pioneer of science was executed for their scientific beliefs.  Not one.

It’s time to put behind us the idea that Galileo was a martyr for science.  He neither suffered torture or imprisonment.

P.S.  Galileo also didn’t invent the telescope.  That honor belongs the Dutch lens maker Hans Lippershey in 1605.

Resources on the Galileo Affair:

Quick Quotes by the Experts:

“The trial of Galileo was one of many trials. It had no special features except perhaps that Galileo was treated rather mildly, despite his lies and attempts at deception. But a small clique of intellectuals aided by scandal-hungry writers succeeded in blowing it up to enormous dimensions so that what was basically an altercation between an expert and an institution defending a wider view of things now looks almost like a battle between heaven and hell.” (Paul Feyerabend, Against Method, 4th ed. Verso. p. 127).

“The worst that happened to men of science was that Galileo suffered an honourable detention and a mild reproof, before dying peacefully in his own bed.” (A.N. Whitehead, Science and the Modern World, Cambridge University Press, 1926. p. 2).

“The myths of Galileo’s torture and imprisonment are thus genuine myths: ideas that are in fact false but once seemed true – and continue to be accepted as true by poorly educated persons and careless scholars.” (Maurice A. Finocchiaro, “Myth 8: That Galileo was Imprisoned and Tortured for Advocating Copernicanism” Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion, ed. Ronald L. Numbers. Harvard University Press, 2009. p. 78)

“For the remaining nine years of his life, Galileo was under house arrest, comfortably situated in his rented villa just outside Florence, with few restrictions on who could come and go. . . As punishment for his defense of heliocentrism, Galileo suffered neither torture nor imprisonment.” (David C. Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers, When Science & Christianity Meet, University of Chicago Press, 2003. p. 71)


Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion, ed. by Ronald L. Numbers (Harvard University Press, 2009)

When Science & Christianity Meet, David C. Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2008)

“Galileo: A Story of a Hero of Science” in 6 Modern Myths about Christianity & Western Civilization, by Philip J. Sampson (IVP, 2001)

“Are Science and Christianity at Odds?” in Is God Just a Human Invention? Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow (Kregel, 2010)

Seeing the light – of science.” by  Salon. Jan 2 2007.

The Galileo Legend” by Thomas Lessl. The Oxford Review. June 2000.

A Historical Analysis of the Relationship of Faith and Science and its Significance within Education.” (2014) by John Gerard Yegge Walden University.


Much discussion about the Crusades has floated around the media after Obama’s mentioning of it in a prayer breakfast speech.  This wasn’t the first time a president has mentioned the crusades.  At Georgetown University in 2001, Bill Clinton gave a speech blaming the current increase of Islamic terrorist activity, such as 9/11, as fallout from the Crusades.  I wrote a short article for the Apologetics Study Bible for Students over this topic.  Here is a small snippet from that piece.  Following that is a list of resources that are from historical experts on the Crusades that expose many of the myths surrounding the event.

“Ask any individual about the Crusades and you will probably get an answer like, ‘They were wars of unprovoked aggression by Christians against a peaceful Muslim world which were imperialist conquests interested in gaining riches and land.’ At worst, many object to the truth of Christianity based on the horrid acts of Christian Crusaders who murdered for profit and gain. That Christianity, in essence, is a violent religion.

. . . .

One must consider historical context in understanding the intent and purpose of the Crusaders. The Crusades were not acts of unprovoked aggression by Christians against the Islamic world, but were a delayed response to centuries of [Islamic] aggression, which grew fiercer than ever in the eleventh century. From Islam’s very beginning Muslims had sought to conquer the Christian world. In fact, the first three hundred years of Islam can be described as a period of military conquest. Muslim armies forcefully conquered all of North Africa, the Middle East, Asia Minor (modern Turkey), and most of Spain. As for unprovoked aggression, it was all on the [Islamic] side. Christian Europe had to defend itself or be overcome by Islamic invasion. As Muslim forces pressed into Europe, Pope Urban II in 1095 called for the First Crusade in response to pleas of help from the Byzantine emperor in Constantinople (now called Istanbul).

In other words, the Crusades were a defensive war, not an aggressive grab for land and loot. In fact, Crusading was an expensive and costly endeavor. After the success of the First Crusade nearly all the Crusaders went home. Virtually none of them recovered the cost of Crusading. If one wanted to get rich, Crusading was definitely not the best route to riches.

. . . .

In summary, the Crusades were not about wars of unprovoked Christian aggression against a peaceful [Islamic] world or imperialist conquests lead by the Church interested in gaining riches and land. The Crusades were defensive wars, to stop [Islamic] military advancement. Christianity was able to survive this invasion and give us the world we have today in the west. A world in which we enjoy democracy and civil rights.”

Resources on the Crusades:

Scholars on the Crusades:

Thomas F. Madden – Thomas F. Madden is associate professor and chair of the Department of History at Saint Louis University. He is the author of numerous works, including The New Concise History of the Crusades, and The Fourth Crusade: The Conquest of Constantinople.

Jonathan Riley-Smith – Riley-Smith is one of the foremost crusading scholars and author of several works on the Crusades, is Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and author of The Crusades: A History.

Rodney Stark – Distinguished professor of the social sciences and co-director Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University.

Paul F. Crawford – Professor of Medieval History at California University of Pennsylvania.

Andrew Holt – Professor of history at Florida State College

Quick Quotes from the Experts:

“The Crusades to the East were in every way defensive wars. They were a direct response to Muslim aggression—an attempt to turn back or defend against Muslim conquests of Christian lands.” – Thomas F. Madden (source)

The Crusades were not unprovoked.  They were not the first round of European colonialism.  They were not conducted for land, loot, or coverts.  The crusaders were not barbarians who victimized the cultivated Muslims.  They sincerely believed that they served in God’s battalions.” – Rodney Stark (source)

“All the Crusades met the criteria of just wars. They came about in reaction attacks against Christians or their Church.  The First Crusade was called in 1095 in response to the recent Turkish conquest of Christian Asia Minor, as well as the much earlier Arab conquest of the Christian-held Holy Land.  The second was called in response to the Muslim conquest of Edessa in 1144. THe third was called in response to the Muslim conquests of Jerusalem and most other Christian lands in the Levant in 1187.” – Thomas F. Madden (source)

Articles on the Crusades:

“The Real History of the Crusades” by Thomas F. Madden, Christianity Today, May 2005

“Four Myths about the Crusades” by Paul F. Crawford, Intercollegiate Review, 2011

“Crusade Myths” by Thomas F. Madden

Books on the Crusades:

The Concise History of the Crusades by Thomas F. Madden

Seven Myths of the Crusades ed. by Alfred J. Andrea and Andrew Holt [NEW BOOK]

The Crusades: A History by John Riley-Smith

God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades by Rodney Stark

The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam by John Riley-Smith

Infographic on the Crusades:



This video by Dr. Bill Warner compares Islamic Jihads vs. Christian Crusades:

Just Ask a Question.

Posted: March 24, 2015 in Apologetics

If you are just beginning to learn about Apologetics and the different reasons and arguments for the truth of Christianity, it can be overwhelming at first.  The nuances of the cosmological argument verses the details of the teleological argument can be daunting for a beginner.  But there is a better way to begin . .  .


One does not have to know anything about Apologetics in order to make the case for Christianity. With a series of carefully selected questions you can advance the cause of Christ without knowing to much about why Christianity is true.  While there is definitely good reason to believe that God exists and historical evidence for the existence of Jesus, one does not have to get a master’s degree in theology or philosophy in order to make the case.  Thankfully apologist Greg Koukl has written a fine book titled Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions.

Here are a few simple questions that are useful in any conversation.

1. What do you mean by that?

This question is great to get the conversation going.  As the radio talk show host Dennis Prager says, “Clarity is preferred to agreement.”  It is always good to understand the person before you agree or disagree with them.  Sometimes this can resolve the issue before it becomes one.

2. How do you know that is true?

This shifts the burden of proof from you to them.  Instead of diving into reasons why God exists, ask why the think God doesn’t exist.  I had a friend who grew up a Christian who later abandoning it in college.  When I inquired why he thought Christianity wasn’t true he replied that “it didn’t make him happy.”  This is obviously not the most powerful evidence against Christian belief.  Truth be known: Christianity is not about making you happy, but making you holy.

Just by asking a few questions you can make great headway in any conversation.

Check out a free resource by Stand to Reason for more on using questions here.