Archive for the ‘history’ Category

It has been stated, repeatedly, that religion, especially Christianity, has done more harm that good. Bertrand Russell in his book Why I am Not a Christian stated categorically that “the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.” In short, Christianity and religion is evil, and as the late Christopher Hitchens put it: poisons everything:

Phil Zuckerman, a professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College, wrote a piece at Psychology Today titled “Does Christianity Harm Children?” in which he concluded:

The notion that Christianity is good for kids has been trumpeted for centuries, virtually unchallenged and uncontested.

What hasn’t been trumpeted nearly enough – nor studied nearly enough — is the potentially dangerous aspects of Christianity, aspects that stem from the very core/central tenets of the faith.

As a secular parent, I believe that we need to talk more openly about the potential harm Christianity can do to kids – not just the potential good. We mustn’t shy away from such skeptical scrutiny for fear of offending people.

Books have been written on the harm religion and Christianity can have on children such as Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment by Janet Heimlich and Spare the Child: The Religious Roots of Punishment and the Psychological Impact of Physical Abuse by Philip Greven.

I agree with Dr. Zuckerman, that we should talk more openly about the potential harm Christianity can do to children. In fact, Harvard University has done just that. The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health released a study last year reporting on the benefits of being raised in religion. Ying Chen, the author of the study reported that “these findings are important for both our understanding of health and our understanding of parenting practices. Many children are raised religiously, and our study shows that this can powerfully affect their health behaviors, mental health, and overall happiness and well-being.”

The Harvard study followed 5,000 children between the ages of 8-14 and controlled for variables such as maternal health, socioeconomic status, and history of substance abuse or depressive symptoms, to try to isolate the effect of religious upbringing.

The result found that those children raised with regular spiritual habits such as attending weekly religious services, practiced daily prayer, or meditation were less likely to . . .

  • be depressed
  • smoke
  • use illicit drugs
  • have sexually transmitted infections

. . . than those people who were not raised with regular spiritual habits.

Dr. W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, also concurred that religion is good for kids and their families. In the Washington Post Wilcox reported that:

On average, religion is a clear force for good when it comes to family unity and the welfare of children — the most important aspects of our day-to-day lives. Research, some of it my own, indicates that on average Americans who regularly attend services at a church, synagogue, temple or mosque are less likely to cheat on their partners; less likely to abuse them; more likely to enjoy happier marriages; and less likely to have been divorced.

Dr. Wilcox also reports:

when it comes to kids, the research tells us that religious parents spend more time with their children. Indeed, the Deseret News/Brigham Young University American Family Survey tells us that parents who attend religious services weekly are more likely to eat dinner with their children, do chores together and attend outings with their children, even after controlling for parental age, gender, race, marital status, education and income.

While these studies don’t show that Christianity is true, it is interesting that it has inherent benefits on the individual. In fact, it benefits the community.

As I have reported before, Christian missionaries have been deemed racists, imperialistic, and intolerant, but the truth of the efforts of missionaries has some very interesting seemingly unintended consequences: liberal democracies to name just but one. Realistically, the benefits of religion are replete.

Some of the benefits include:

  • increased literary rates
  • mass education
  • civil rights
  • education for  women and the poor
  • better health
  • lower infant mortality
  • lower corruption
  • mass printing
  • liberal democracies

These positive increases in social indicators has been discovered by the work of Dr. Robert Woodberry.  Woodberry, a sociologist, used statistical analysis to uncover the benefits that Protestant missionaries bring to an indigenous people group. 

Here is a video answering the question “What good is Christianity?”:

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Screen Shot 2019-04-10 at 9.09.06 PMWe have all heard about the “Dark Ages” between 500 AD and 1500 AD.  Some common descriptions include:

“There was a time when religion ruled the world. It is known as the Dark Ages.” – Ruth Hurmence Green (1915-1981, a notable atheist with the publication of her book The Born Again Skeptic’s Guide to the Bible).  Joseph Lewis in An Atheist Manifesto claims that, “If you do not want to stop the wheels of progress; if you do not want to go back to the Dark Ages; if you do not want to live again under tyranny, then you must guard your liberty, and you must not let the church get control of your government. If you do, you will lose the greatest legacy ever bequeathed to the human race—intellectual freedom.”  Jeffrey Taylor, correspondent for Atlantic Monthly and NPR’s All Things Considered, states in Salon.com, “There is a reason the Middle Ages in Europe were long referred to as the Dark Ages; the millennium of theocratic rule that ended only with the Renaissance (that is, with Europe’s turn away from God toward humankind) was a violent time.”  Even as recently as Catherine Nixey’s book The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World states emphatically that “This is a book about the Christian destruction of the classical world. The Christian assault was not the only one – fire, flood, invasion and time itself all played their part – but this book focuses on Christianity’s assault in particular” (xxxv). (See below for an several extensive reviews and critiques of Nixey’s book.)

The diagram below, which has circulated on the internet, claims to demonstrate that the Middle Ages caused a tremendous hole in advancelearning and advancement caused by Christianity.  Anne Fremantle in her study of medieval philosophers, The Age of Belief (1954), wrote “of a dark, dismal patch, a sort of dull and dirty chunk of some ten centuries.”  Voltaire, the French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher, who attacked the church, describe the period as one when “barbarism, superstition, and ignorance covered the face of the world.”  Rousseau declared that the era following the fall of Rome caused “Europe [to] relapse into the barbarism of the earliest ages.  The people of this part of the world . . . lived some centuries ago in a condition worse than ignorance.”  The great Roman historian Edward Gibbon called the fall of Rome the “triumph of barbarism and religion.”

Unfortunately, this derision of the Middle Ages being a darkened period, continues into contemporary descriptions.  Such perpetrators include Bertrand Russell, Charles Van Doren, and William Manchester.

Like the myth that the church hindered science, or that everyone in the middle ages believed the earth was flat, or that Galileo was thrown in jail for promoting the heliocentric model of the universe (which you can read about in my previous posts linked); the term “dark ages” is a pejorative term to deride the period as backwards, ignorant, and dismal.  Given that the church and Christianity was the most influential institution in the Middle Ages, to reference that time period as the “dark ages” is in essence to slander Christianity.  Who, in their right mind, wants to associate themselves with “incessant warfare, corruption, lawlessness, obsession with strange myths, and an almost impenetrable mindlessness” as Manchester does in his A World Lit Only by Fire.

The problem with this myth is that it is so contrary to the facts.  If the “dark ages” were so unproductive and backwards, how does one explain the proliferation of inventions and developments during this time period.  A simple listing of inventions, discoveries and developments demonstrates the the Middle Ages were anything but dark:

  • The collar and harness for horses and oxen enabled the drawing of very heavy wagons, with increases in speed
  • The invention (8th century) of iron horseshoes that protected the feet of horses but greatly improved their traction in difficult conditions
  • The swivel axel (9th century) was developed that made large transport carts much more maneuverable
  • The invention of the horse drawn furrow plow increased food production
  • The water mill was invented in the Middle Ages
  • The mechanical manufacturing of paper instead of by hand and foot
  • Windpower was harnessed to mill, grind, and to pump water
  • Eyeglasses were invented in 1284 in northern Italy
  • The mechanical clock, a 13th century invention, for centuries existed only in Medieval Europe
  • The blast furnace (12th century)
  • Spinning wheel (13th century)
  • The agricultural revolution of the three-field system
  • Chimneys (12th century)
  • Universities
  • Quarantine (14th century)
  • Musical Notation (11th century)
  • Western Harmony
  • Local Self Government
  • Chartered Towns

Also, perpetuated about the “dark ages” is the loss of literary concern.  Stephen Greenblatt in The New Yorker (promoting his book The Swerve) declares that:

It is possible for a whole culture to turn away from reading and writing. As the empire crumbled and Christianity became ascendant, as cities decayed, trade declined, and an anxious populace scanned the horizon for barbarian armies, the ancient system of education fell apart. What began as downsizing went on to wholesale abandonment. Schools closed, libraries and academies shut their doors, professional grammarians and teachers of rhetoric found themselves out of work, scribes were no longer given manuscripts to copy. There were more important things to worry about than the fate of books.

In truth, the the Middle Ages “did have a thriving literary and intellectual culture in which monks played a crucial, creative, and engaged role.” (source)

Here is a small list of literary, historical, and philosophical masterpieces written during the so-called “dark age”:

  • Alexiad, Anna Comnena
  • Beowulf
  • Caedmon’s Hymn
  • Book of the Civilized Man, Daniel of Beccles
  • The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Consolation of Philosophy, Boethius
  • Decameron, Giovanni Boccaccio
  • The Dialogue, Catherine of Siena
  • La divina commedia (The Divine Comedy), Dante Alighieri
  • First Grammatical Treatise, 12th-century work on Old Norse phonology
  • Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History of the English People), the Venerable Bede
  • The Lais of Marie de France, Marie de France
  • Mabinogion, various Welsh authors
  • Il milione (The Travels of Marco Polo), Marco Polo
  • Le Morte d’Arthur, Sir Thomas Malory
  • Poem of the Cid, anonymous Spanish author
  • Proslogium, Anselm of Canterbury
  • Queste del Saint Graal (The Quest of the Holy Grail), anonymous French author
  • Revelations of Divine Love, Julian of Norwich
  • Sic et Non, Abelard
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, anonymous English author
  • The Song of Roland, anonymous French author
  • Spiritual Exercises, Gertrude the Great
  • Summa Theologiae, Thomas Aquinas
  • The Tale of Igor’s Campaign, anonymous Russian author
  • Tirant lo Blanc, Joanot Martorell
  • The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, John Mandeville
  • Troilus and Criseyde, Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Yvain: The Knight of the Lion, Chrétien de Troyes

A host of other can be mentions but just check out this wikipedia article on “Medieval Literature.”

The fact of the matter is the term “dark ages” is a form of the ad hominem argument.  In short, it’s name calling.  Until one can demonstrate that the middle ages was backward and made no technological, societal, or intellectual advancement (which is not possible given the proliferation of advancement during this time as shown above), the term “dark ages” is just a term of derision that is vacuous of any substance.  One more telling point to demonstrate that the Middle Ages were much more advanced than even our current modern and contemporary age. In the Middle Ages a peculiar institution completely disappeared, but tragically was reintroduced in the modern era: slavery.  This very fact shows that the Modern Age is much more dark than the Middle Ages ever were.

As Anthony Esolen, professor of English at Providence College says at the end of the video below: “Instead of the ‘Dark Ages’ as it is popularly called.  The Middles Ages might better be described as the “Brilliant Ages.'”

Resources

Quick Quotes from the Experts:

“Nevertheless, serious historians have known for decades that these claims [that the Middle Ages were dark] are a complete fraud.  Even the respectable encyclopedias and dictionaries now define the Dark Ages as a myth.  The Columbia Encyclopedia rejects the term, nothing that ‘medieval civilization is no longer thought to have been so dim.’ Britannica disdains the name Dark Ages as ‘pejorative.’ And Wikipedia defines the Dark Ages as a ‘supposed period of intellectual darkness after the Fall of Rome.’ These views are easily verified.” (Rodney Stark, How the West Won. ISI Books, 2014)

“Let’s set the record straight. From 962 to 1321, Europe enjoyed one of the most magnificent flourishings of culture the world has ever seen.  In some ways it was the most magnificent.  And this was not despite the fact that the daily tolling of the church bells provided the rhythm of men’s lives, but because of it.” (Anthony Esolen, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization, p.132)

“It’s not hard to kick this nonsense to pieces, especially since the people presenting it know next to nothing about history and have simply picked up these strange ideas from websites and popular books. The assertions collapse as soon as you hit them with hard evidence. I love to totally stump these propagators by asking them to present me with the name of one – just one – scientist burned, persecuted, or oppressed for their science in the Middle Ages. They always fail to come up with any.” (Tim O’Neill “The Dark Age Myth: An Atheist Reviews ‘God’s Philosophers'” Strange Notions)

“Western civilization was created in medieval Europe. The forms of thought and action which we take for granted in modern Europe and America, which we have exported to other substantial portions of the globe, and from which indeed we cannot escape, were implanted in the mentalities of our ancestors in the struggles of the medieval centuries.” (Cambridge University historian George Holmes’ Oxford Illustrated History of Medieval Europe)

Books:

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization by Anthony Esolen (Regnery, 2008)

The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution, by James Hannam. (Regenery, 2011)

Those Terrible Middle Ages: Debunking the Myths, by Regine Pernoud. (Ignatius, 2000)

How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity by Rodney Stark (ISI Books, 2014)

Articles:

The Dark Age Myth: An Atheist Reviews ‘God’s Philosophers'” by Tim O’Neill. Strange Notions n. d.

“5 Ridiculous Myths You Probably Believe about the Dark Ages” by

“Top 10 Reasons the Dark Ages Were Not Dark” by Jamie Frater. Listverse June 9, 2008

“15 Myths About the Middle Ages” by Sandra Alvarez and Peter Konieczny. Medievalists June 27, 2014

“Misconceptions About the Middle Ages Debunked Through Art History” by Bryan Keene and Rheagan Martin. Iris: The Online Magazine of the Getty February 20, 2015

“Myths about the ‘Dark Ages'” by John Tertullian. Contra Celsum April 13, 2011

“How the Middle Ages Really Were” by Tim O’Neill. Huffington Post September 8, 2014

“Top 10 Inventions of the Middle Ages” by Jamie Frater. Listverse September 22, 2007

Review of The Darkening Age by Catherine Nixey” by Tim O’Neill. History for Atheists November 29, 2017

6 Reasons the Dark Ages Weren’t So Dark” by Sarah Pruitt. History.com May 31, 2016

 

Videos:

 

 

 

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Review of modern books that perpetuate the Dark Ages myth:

1. The Swerve: How The World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt

Greenblatt’s Pulitzer Prize winning (and National Book Award, MLA book award, swerveamongst others) The Swerve (2011) tells “a literary detective story about an intrepid Florentine bibliophile named Poggio Braccionlini, who, in 1417, stumbled upon a 500-year-old copy of [Lucretian’s] De Rerum Natura [On the Nature of Things] in a German monastery and set the poem free from centuries of neglect to work its intellectual magic on the world.” (source) While the literary side of the story is commendable (Greenblatt is a Shakespearean expert), it is the historical matter that is problematic. Greenblatt’s view of the Middle Ages continues to it as a dark and shallow intellectual vacuum in which the Renaissance (and later the Enlightenment) overcame its backward and regressive mentality.  Greenblatt declares in his The New Yorker article “The Answer Man: An Ancient Poem was Discovered – and the World Swerved”:

Theology provided an explanation for the chaos of the Dark Ages: human beings were by nature corrupt. Inheritors of the sin of Adam and Eve, they richly deserved every miserable catastrophe that befell them. God cared about human beings, just as a father cared about his wayward children, and the sign of that care was anger. It was only through pain and punishment that a small number could find the narrow gate to salvation. A hatred of pleasure-seeking, a vision of God’s providential rage, and an obsession with the afterlife: these were death knells of everything Lucretius represented.

Unfortunately, Greenblatt hasn’t kept up with modern medieval historiography.  Both Jim Hinch, in the Los Angeles Review of Books, and Laura Miles, over at Vox, point at his errors.

Why Stephen Greenblatt Is Wrong — and Why It Matters” by Jim Hinch | Los Angeles Review of Books Dec 1, 2012

Apparently, Lucretian was not as obscure in the Middle Ages as Greenblatt represents.  Hinch writes that “Cambridge classicist Michael Reeve pointed out five years ago in The Cambridge Companion to Lucretius, scholars have long detected ‘Lucretian influence in north-Italian writers of the ninth to eleventh century, in the Paduan pre-humanists about 1300, in Dante, and in Petrarch and Bocaccio.’ Greenblatt cites the Cambridge Companion numerous times in his endnotes. Did he read it?” Obviously not.

Greenblatt’s caricature of the (read the quotes with sarcasm) “Dark Ages” as living life as if God is a cosmic kill joy is puzzling to Hinch as well: “Equally untrue is Greenblatt’s claim that medieval culture was characterized by ‘a hatred of pleasure-seeking, a vision of God’s providential rage and an obsession with the afterlife.’ I know Greenblatt has read Chaucer. He’s quoted from him in numerous books. Has he forgotten the ribald pleasure-seeking in The Canterbury Tales? What about the 13th-century French courtly love epic The Romance of the Rose? The twelfth-century Arthurian romances of Chrétien de Troyes? I find no rage in Dante’s complex vision of human morality and providential grace in the Divine Comedy. Nor do I detect an ounce of asceticism in the ravishing unicorn tapestries in the Cloisters Museum in New York. Or in the rose window in Chartres. Or in the Sainte Chapelle in Paris. Or in the gracious courts of the Alhambra.”

It seems Greenblatt is a good literary scholar, but a terrible Medieval historian, according to Hinch.

Stephen Greenblatt’s The Swerve racked up prizes — and completely misled you about the Middle Ages” by Laura Saetveit Miles | Vox July 20, 2016

Laura Saetveit Miles, professor at the University of Bergen in Norway, declares that

The Swerve doesn’t promote the humanities to a broader public so much as it deviously precipitates the decline of the humanities, by dumbing down the complexities of history and religion in a way that sets a deeply unfortunate precedent. If Greenblatt’s story resonates with its many readers, it is surely because it echoes stubborn, made-for-TV representations of medieval “barbarity” that have no business in a nonfiction book, much less one by a Harvard professor.

In a very revealing moment in Miles article on The Swerve she declares the book as dangerous: “When I finished, I put down The Swerve on the table, and the academic side of my brain kicked back in. I had let myself read it as fiction. Yet it was supposed to be not fiction. When I thought of it as a scholarly book, and thought of all those thousands and thousands of people out there who read it and believed every word because the author is an authority and wins prizes, I realized: This book is dangerous.” [emphasis added]

Why is it dangerous? Because it is worse the Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code:

Every page of The Swerve strives to present the Renaissance as an intellectual awakening that triumphs over the oppressive abyss of the Dark Ages. The book pushes the Renaissance as a rebirth of the classical brilliance nearly lost during centuries mired in dullness and pain. (In Greenblatt’s Middle Ages, bored monks literally sit in the dark when not flagellating themselves.)

This invention of modernity relies on a narrative of good guys (Poggio, as well as Lucretius) defeating bad guys and thus bringing forth a glorious transformation. This is dangerous not only because it is inaccurate but, more importantly, because it subscribes to a progressivist model of history that insists on the onward march of society, a model that all too easily excuses the crimes and injustices of modernity.

But history does not fit such cookie-cutter narratives. Having studied medieval culture for nearly two decades, I can instantly recognize the oppressive, dark, ignorant Middle Ages that Greenblatt depicts for 262 pages as, simply, fiction. It’s fiction worse than Dan Brown, because it masquerades as fact.

Book Review: The Swerve: How the Renaissance Began” by John Monfasani | Reviews in History July 2012

John Monfasani, professor of history at the University at Albany, State University of New York damning declares that “Greenblatt has penned an entertaining but wrong-headed belletristic tale.”

2.  A World Lit Only by Fire: the Medieval Mind and the Renaissance by William Manchester

Manchester begins his scatthing history of the middle ages by claiming that “The densestImage result for a world lit only by fire medieval centuries – the six hundred years between, roughly, A.D. 400 and A.D. 1000 – are still widely known as the Dark Ages.” (Manchester, 3) William Mancester does admit that modern historians have abandoned that phrase but the “intellectual life had vanished from Europe” and declares in the very first paragraph of the book: “Nevertheless, if value judgments are made, it is undeniable that most of what is known about the period is unlovely. After the extant fragments have been fitted together, the portrait which emerges is a melange of incessant warfare, corruption, lawlessness, obsession with strange myths, and an almost impenetrable mindlessness.”

The wikipedia entry about the book states that, “In the book, Manchester scathingly posits, as the title suggests, that the Middle Ages were ten centuries of technological stagnation, short-sightedness, bloodshed, feudalism, and an oppressive Church wedged between the golden ages of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance.”

Technological stagnation

Short-sightedness

Bloodshed

An oppressive church

Between the golden age of Rome and the Renaissance.

Nothing really new about this negative report about the so-called “dark ages.”  The only problem is that other modern historians have dismissed and criticized the book because of its gross errors, misinformation, and out of date understanding of the era.

Jeremy DuQuesnay Adams, professor and Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor of Medieval Europe of SMU and Ph.D. from Harvard (Manchester has an BA and MA in English, no training in history or a history degree), grudgingly reviewed the book. In Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies, Adams remarked that Manchester’s work contained “some of the most gratuitous errors of fact and eccentricities of judgment this reviewer has read (or heard) in quite some time.” He begins the review by lamenting:

This is an infuriating book. The present reviewer hoped that it would simply fade away, as its intellectual qualities (too strong a word) deserved. Unfortunately, it has not: one keeps meeting well-intentioned, perfectly intelligent people (including some colleagues in other disciplines – especially the sciences) who have just read this book and want to discuss why anyone would ever become a medievalist.

Adams goes on to point out that Manchester’s assertions about clothing, diet, and medieval person’s views of time and sense of self ran counter to the conclusions of established historians of the Middle Ages of the 20th-century.

An example of his errors is with the famed Pied Piper. Manchester claims that the Piper of Hamelin was  “was horrible, a psychopath and pederast who, on June 24, 1484, spirited away 130 children in the Saxon village of Hammel and used them in unspeakable ways. Accounts of the aftermath vary. According to some, the victims were never seen again; others told of disembodied little bodies found scattered in the forest underbrush or festooning the branches of trees.”

Over at The Straight Dope we learn that “Manchester doesn’t footnote this passage” and that their own “research suggests that Manchester got some of the details wrong–among other things, he appears to be off about 200 years on the date.”

Review of A World Lit Only by Fire” Kirkus Review, May 20th, 2010.

This review reveals that Manchester, by his own admission, did NOT master any scholarship on the early 16th century, which ” dooms him to retelling the same old stories recounted countless times before.”

In the book’s “Author’s Note”, Manchester says, “It is, after all, a slight work, with no scholarly pretensions. All the sources are secondary, and few are new; I have not mastered recent scholarship on the early sixteenth century.

So, Manchester, who has no formal training in history, not a medievalist, admits to not using primary sources as well as not mastering any recent scholarship of the early 16th century, has penned a propaganda piece (at best) of the middle ages. Again, another myth that the middle ages were dark.

3.  The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World by Catherine Nixey

The Darkening Age by Catherine Nixey is one of the latest publications (2017) propagating the the dark ages myth.  Nixey studied classics at Cambridge and taught the subject for Image result for the darkening ageseveral years before becoming a journalist on the arts desk at the Times (UK). Her book, The Darkening Age, no surprise, focuses on “the Christian destruction of the classical world” (xxxv).  Her prologue characterizes Christians as “destroyers, . . . marauding bands of bearded, black-robed zealots” whose “ . . . attacks were primitive, thuggish, and very effective.” She goes on to say that “these men moved in packs—later in swarms of as many as five hundred—and when they descended utter destruction followed” (xix).

Some of the reviews and reactions to Nixey’s book can be listed:

  • The esteemed historian of Late Antiquity of Oxford Univeristy, Dame Averil Cameron, calls Nixey’s book “a travesty” condemning it as “overstated and unbalanced.”
  • Lecturer of Medieval history at Exeter University, Dr. Levi Roach, stated that Nixey’s book “does not seek to present a balanced picture (…) this is a book of generalisations. (…) Nixey (…) is unwilling to see shades of grey” in his evaluation at Literary Review titled “At Cross Purposes.” He goes on to state in the article that, “to characterize late-antique Christians as ‘thugs’, as Nixey repeatedly does, it perhaps defensible, to call them ‘primitive’ and ‘stupid’, as she also does, is not. All to often Christians are cast as the aggressors, even when, as Nixey acknowledges more than once, they are responding to prior attacks.” And “Perhaps most worryingly, in embracing this line of argument [i.e., over-generalizing] Nixey ends up endorsing the long-debunked view of the Middle Ages as a period of blind faith and intellectual stagnation (which she again, problematically equates with one another.)”
  • Tim O’Neill, over at his website History for Atheists, give a long, detailed analysis of Nixey’s book and concludes, “Good history books, including good popular history, should give the reader a greater insight into the period and the subject. They should make the reader better informed and, in doing so, make them wiser. They should deepen understanding, so that anything else read on the subject from that point tends to add layers to that depth. Watts’ book [The Final Pagan Generation] does this. O’Donnell’s book [Pagans: The End of Traditional Religion and the Rise of Christianity] does this. Duffy’s book [The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580] does this. Nixey’s book does not. Anyone reading Nixey’s book is likely to come away thinking they know and understand more but will actually have learned things that would have to be unlearned or corrected later. Nixey’s is not a good history book. It is, as Dame Averil said so pithily, ‘a travesty’.”

Reviews of Nixey’s book:

Review of The Darkening Age by Catherine Nixey” by Tim O’Neill. History for Atheists November 29, 2017

When History Turns Anti-Christian” by Bryan Litfin. The Gospel Coalition April 5, 2019

Book review, ‘The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World’ by Catherine Nixey” by Joshua Herring. The Acton Institute December 22, 2017

Blame the Christians” by Averil Cameron. The Tablet September 21, 2017

At Cross Purposes” by Levi Roach. Literary Review November 2017

Reactions to and Reviews of Catherine Nixey’s The Darkening Age” by Cornelis Hoogerwerf. What is Written October 22, 2017

2 Kings 23:11 – “He [Josiah] removed from the entrance to the temple of the LORD the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun. They were in the court near the room of an official named Nathan-Melek. Josiah then burned the chariots dedicated to the sun.” (NIV)

A clay seal of King Josiah’s aid mentioned in the above passage was found recently found.  According to the Daily Mail, “The seal was found inside a two-storey office building which experts say was burned down by the Babylonians when they conquered the city in 586 BC.”

Nathan-Melech, a high-ranking official in the court of King of Judah, is named in the inscription of one of the tiny clay seals (pictured). It was found inside a two-storey admin building which archaeologists say was burned down by the Babylonians

Nathan-melech, the aide described in the 2 King’s passage, is described as one of Josiah’s officials.  There apparently is little extra-biblical evidence of King Josiah, but this find makes an archaeological connection to this individual.  The inscription on the ring above says, “(belonging) to Nathan-Melech, Servant of the King.”

Here is a short video of the discovery:

 

Other sources concerning this archaeological discovery:

Clay seal of King Josiah’s aide is found in the remains of an ancient office burnt down by Babylonians in 586 BC – adding weight to proof that the king really existed” by Joe Pinkstone | Daily Mail. April 1, 2019

Tiny First Temple find could be first proof of aide to biblical King Josiah” by Amanda Borschel-Dan | The Times of Israel. March 31, 2019

Archaeological discovery: Small seal mentioning King Josiah court official mentioned in Bible found in Israel” by  Michael Gryboski | The Christian Post. April 1, 2019

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Post about other biblical archaeological discoveries from this blog include:

Ring of Pontius Pilate Discovered

Caiaphas Ossuary

The Prophet Isaiah

23 New Testament Figures Confirmed

History Has Gone to the Toilets-The Ancient Latrine of Lachish

Virtual Unwrapping of Levitical Scroll

City of Geza

Philistine Cemetery

Ancient Shopping List Provides Evidence of When Bible Was Written

Hezekiah Bulla

12th Dead Sea Scroll Cave Found!

Bethsaida

53 People in the Old Testament Confirmed Archaeologically

New ESV Archaeology Study Bible

New book out titled Unbelievable: 7 Myths About the History and Future of Science and Religion by Michael Keas.  Michael Keas earned a PhD in the history of science from the University of Oklahoma, and is adjunct professor of the history and philosophy of science at Biola University.  The book covers much of what I have posted about here on this site such as the myths concerning Galileo, the flat earth, and the dark ages.

Image result for Unbelievable: 7 Myths About the History and Future of Science and ReligionThe product description of the book:

Lies Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson Told Me

Scientists love to tell stories about the quest to understand the universe—stories that often have profound implications for belief or disbelief in God. These accounts make their way into science textbooks and popular culture.

But more often than not, the stories are nothing but myths.

Unbelievable explodes seven of the most popular and pernicious myths about science and religion. Michael Newton Keas, a historian of science, lays out the facts to show how far the conventional wisdom departs from reality. He also shows how these myths have proliferated over the past four centuries and exert so much influence today.

The seven myths, Keas shows, amount to little more than religion bashing—and especially Christianity bashing. Unbelievable reveals:

• Why the vastness of the universe does not deal a blow to religious belief in human significance

• Why the “Dark Ages” never happened

• Why “Flat Earthers” had basically disappeared by the third century B.C.

• Why the real story of Giordano Bruno’s life and death is far more complicated than the popular account of him as a martyr for science

• What everyone gets wrong about Galileo, and why it matters today

• Why the notion that Copernicus “demoted” humans from the center of the universe didn’t gain traction until centuries after his death

• The futuristic myth that scientists and others are positioning to challenge religion

In debunking these myths, Keas shows that the real history is far more interesting than the common account of religion at war with science.

This accessible and entertaining book lays out powerful arguments that will be embraced by religious believers tired of being portrayed as anti-intellectual and anti-science.

Here are a series of videos with Keas concerning the various topics in the book:

 

 

 

 

 

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Post about other issues concerning science from this blog include:

Scientism and Secularism

Science Series: C. S. Lewis on Scientisim, Evolution, and Intelligent Design

Science Series: The Myth that the Church Hindered the Development of Science

Science Series: The Myth that Galileo Goes to Jail

Science Series: The Flat Earth Myth

Science Series: Finely Tuned Cosmos

Science Series: The Dawkins Delusion Continues

Science Series: “Inherit the Wind”

Science Series: Was Belief in God a Science-Stopper? Not for Newton

Science Series: Oxford Professor-Atheism in Decline, Will be Defeated by Faith

Science Series: Creation Confusion – Resources for Research on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design

Science Series: Bill Nye the Pseudo-Science Guy

Science Series: Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God – the Most Popular Article in Wall Street Journal History

Warfare Myth: Science vs. Religion

Image result for caiaphas ossuaryCaiaphas the high priest mentioned in Mark 14:53-65.  In verses 61-64 we read about this famous exchange between Jesus and the High Priest Caiaphas:

61 But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63 And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? 64 You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death.

Was Caiaphas a real person? Apparently so.  Here is a quick video from Frank Turek of Crossexamined.com about this remarkable archaeological discovery of the bone box (i.e., ossuary or coffin) of Caiaphas:

 

Here is another video from Drive Through History about Caiaphas and the discovery of the ossuary:

 

The historical Caiaphas can be crosschecked in history by the Jewish historian Jospehus, as mentioned in the video above.

Here is a bulleted point reference to the history, discovery, and significance of Caiaphas and the ossuary:

  • Caiaphas was the Jewish high priest of the Sanhedrin.
  • The primary sources of Caiaphas are the New Testament (Matt 26:3, 57; Luke 3:2; John 11:49; 18:13, 14, 24, 28; Acts 4:6) and Josephus.
  • Caiaphas ossuary discovered in south Jerusalem in November of 1990.
  • An inscription on the side of the ossuary contains the phrase “Joseph, son of Caiaphas.
  • Inside that ossuary where the bones of a man.
  •  Most ossuaries are plain and contain no inscriptions; the Caiaphas ossuary is ornately decorated as would be the case for a high priest such as Caiaphas.

For further information on the Caiaphas ossuary see:

Ossuary of the High Priest Caiaphas” | Center for Online Jewish Studies

House of Caiaphas Ossuary is Authentic” by Gil Ronen | Israel National News 6/29/2011

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Post about other biblical archaeological discoveries from this blog include:

The Prophet Isaiah

23 New Testament Figures Confirmed

History Has Gone to the Toilets-The Ancient Latrine of Lachish

Virtual Unwrapping of Levitical Scroll

City of Geza

Philistine Cemetery

Ancient Shopping List Provides Evidence of When Bible Was Written

Hezekiah Bulla

12th Dead Sea Scroll Cave Found!

Bethsaida

53 People in the Old Testament Confirmed Archaeologically

New ESV Archaeology Study Bible

 


originsxmas

Here is interesting myth to consider as we enter into this Christmas season:

It is generally asserted that December 25 was designated as the birth of Christ to replace the pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice. Claims about the Christmas myth have been reported at christmasisalie.com and, of course, youtube such as this video at the end of the clip:

 

Well, this story might not be so clear cut as youtube tells us.  Several articles by scholars and historians are challenging this claim.

David Lattier, the VP of Intellectual Takeout who received his B.A. in Philosophy and Catholic Studies at St. Thomas, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Systematic Theology at Duquesne University, reports that the “popular idea that Christians co-opted the pagan feast originates with Paul Ernst Jablonski (1693-1757), who opposed various supposed ‘paganizations’ of Christianity.”  Lattier, references the work by William J. Tighe, Associate Professor of History at Muhlenberg College.  Tighe, wrote for Touchstone magazine stating that “it is perhaps interesting to know that the choice of December 25th is the result of attempts among the earliest Christians to figure out the date of Jesus’ birth based on calendrical calculations that had nothing to do with pagan festivals.”  Tighe goes on to explain that:

December 25th as the date of the Christ’s birth appears to owe nothing whatsoever to pagan influences upon the practice of the Church during or after Constantine’s time. It is wholly unlikely to have been the actual date of Christ’s birth, but it arose entirely from the efforts of early Latin Christians to determine the historical date of Christ’s death.

You will have to read the full article for the details, but it well worth the read as we enter into the Christmas season this year.

J. P. Holden of Tekton Apologetics has written a book about the issue titled Christmas is Pagan and Other Myths.  Amazon describe the book: “Is it evil to celebrate Christmas? Are Christmas trees forbidden by Jeremiah 10? Is Santa Claus an evil, Satanic figure? In this e-book, Christian apologist James Patrick Holding takes on anti-Christmas crusaders who declare that celebrating Christmas is a one way ticket to perdition.”

I will leave it to you to make up your own mind.  Merry Christmas and/or Happy Winter Solstice 🙂

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Resources:

The Myth of the Pagan Origins of Christmas” by David Lattier | Intellectual Takeout November 24, 2017

Calculating Christmas: The Story Behind December 25” by William J. Tighe | Touchstone Dec 2003.

Is Christmas Pagan?” by Greg Koukl | Stand to Reason March 11, 2013

Christmas is Pagan and Other Mythsby J. P. Holding

 

 

Over at The Stream Dr. Sean McDowell has continued the discussion about the warfare between science and religion (which is a myth as I have discussed here).  He starts by stating, “the belief that Christianity is opposed to modern science is one of the top reasons young people cite for leaving the church.”  Tracing the myth back to Andrew Dickson White’s book A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom McDowell reveals that White invented this myth by quoting sociologist Rodney Stark’s book For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery:

White’s book remains influential despite the fact that modern historians of science dismiss it as nothing but a polemic — White himself admitted that he wrote the book to get even with Christian critics of his plans for Cornell. … many of White’s other accounts are as bogus as his report of the flat earth and Columbus.

Sean continues the article by revealing where the conflict really lies.  Definitely worth the read.  In Sean and Josh McDowell’s updated book Evidence that Demands a Verdict, they responds to this challenge at length.

Below is a video and links to the other myths that I have busted at this site:

 

 

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Other Myths:

The Myth of the Dark Ages (one of my most visited blog articles)

The Myth that the Church Hindered Science

Missionary Myths and the Roots of Democracy

The Flat Earth Myth

Myth of Galileo Going to Jail

Myth and Facts: Crusades

 

 

 

Impact 360 has produced a new video titled “What Good Is Christianity?” It explores the question “Has Christianity been good for the world? Learn the truth about what the historical record really says.”  It can be viewed here:

 

It is part of the Explore Worldview online series training that Impact 360 provides which the first session is free online with a total of eight sessions.

Other free resources for going deeper include:

An video interview with Sean McDowell on tolerance: What is tolerance anyways and should Christians embrace it?

Alan Shlemon on “Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God”: Determine whether Muslims and Christians worship the same God!

A podcast with John Stonestreet on “How to engage our culture with hope!”

And some book resources:How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity by Rodney Stark and How Christianity Changed the World by Alvin J. Schmidt

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Posts from this site on the contribution of Christianity

The Triumph of Christianity

Missionary Myths and the Roots of Democracy

APOLSTUDYBIBLESTUDENTSMy previous posts in the Updated CSB Apologetics Study Bible for Students included my article on the problem of evil and the Crusades. Today’s post includes my article about the objection that religious beliefs are merely reflections of where one was raised.

The Apologetics Study Bible for Students provides answers to many of these perplexing questions from the Crusades, religious plurality, and the problem of evil along with many other resources and features helpful for any student or adult.

Here is the article:

“Don’t Religious Beliefs Just Reflect Where One Was Raised?”:

Are religious beliefs just a reflection of where one was raised? It’s hard not to notice that people who grow up in India almost always become Hindus and people raised in Saudi Arabia usually become Muslims. Likewise, most Christians accept Christianity because their parents were Christians. Since a person’s religious beliefs most often reflect the dominant religious beliefs of the region in which they were born, many people conclude that all religions are just cultural expressions. In this view, religious beliefs are not the result of reason, evidence, or the movement of God in a person’s life. Rather, religion is just a product of the way you were raised. There are two significant problems with this theory.

First, the origin of a belief does not determine whether or not it’s true. Each truth claim (and hence, each religion) must be weighed independently of questions about its origin. We examine how it matches up to things like history, logic, and data from science. If the belief stands up to examination, it does not matter how you came to hold it. For instance, what if a lunatic told you how to get to New York City? The man believes many wrong things about himself and the world, but if his directions succeed in getting you to the “Big Apple,” you can be sure that his belief about the route to New York was correct. It does not matter that he is certifiably crazy. Your belief originated with a crazy man, yet the crazy man knew the truth.

Second, the skeptical view described above says your surroundings determine your beliefs, and yet this theory cannot explain religious conversions in which a person chooses against their upbringing. Every day all across the world, many thousands of people convert from one religious belief to another. If religious beliefs merely reflect where one was raised, this would not happen. The reality of religious conversion shows that religious beliefs are more than the result of upbringing. People change their religion because they come to question their inherited religious beliefs, examine the beliefs of other religions, and thus choose to reject their cultural influences and upbringing and the beliefs that come with them. The most impressive historical example of this is the spread of Christianity. The Christian faith began as a tiny group of Jews huddled in Jerusalem, but then spread all across the world, traversing many cultures and languages, as people examined the case for Christianity and came to believe it was true.

In conclusion, where you were raised does have an obvious impact on your religious beliefs, but evidence proves that this can be overcome when people reconsider their beliefs in light of evidence and argumentation. While most people’s religious beliefs reflect where they were raised, they still have the freedom and responsibility to consider the evidence and claims of their religion. Christianity excels when people take the time to seriously explore

APOLSTUDYBIBLESTUDENTSMy previous post about the Updated CSB Apologetics Study Bible for Students included my article on the problem of evil. The article was published in the study bible which comes out July 1. Today’s post includes my article about the Crusades.  One of my most visited posts on this blog is “What About the Crusades? Myths and Facts” which includes a nice infographic, video, quotes from experts, and resources for further study about the Crusades.

Presidents to pundits have referenced the crusades as comparable to radical Islamic terrorism, that the crusades were unprovoked Christian attacks on Islamic territories for land and loot.  This is an extreme oversimplification at best and at worst gross negligence of the facts.  The Apologetics Study Bible for Students provides an answer to this perplexing question about the Crusades and the truth of Christianity along with many other resources and features helpful for any student or adult.

Here is the article:

“What About the Crusades?”:

“In a speech at Georgetown University, former president Bill Clinton claimed that the current increase of Islamic terrorist activity, such as 9/11, is a consequence of the Christian Crusades which occurred almost a thousand years ago. Ask about the Crusades and you will probably be told something like, ‘They were wars of unprovoked aggression by Christian nations against a peaceful Muslim world. The Christians were interested in gaining riches and land.’ In worst-case scenarios, people reject Christianity because they’ve been told that Christian Crusaders murdered Muslims for profit and gain. They conclude that Christianity is a violent religion.

First, and foremost, it must be remembered that Christianity did not originate in the Crusades; it began on the cross of Jesus Christ. Even if the Crusaders performed horrific acts of violence and murder, these acts do not undercut the truth of Christianity nor change its essence. At most the Crusades illustrate that sinful and fallen people are ca- pable of wrongfully using the name of Christ for personal gain.

But the Crusades were not just about gaining wealth and land. One must consider the historical context to more fully understanding the motivations 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 Muslim aggression. From the very beginning of the Islamic religion Muslims 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 conquered all of North Africa, the Middle East, Asia Minor (modern Turkey), and most of Spain. Christian Europe had to defend itself or else be overcome by Islamic invasion. As Muslim forces pressed into Europe, Pope Urban II in AD 1095 called for the First Crusade in response to pleas of help from the Byzantine emperor in Con- stantinople (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 make it happen.

Many atrocities occurred in the Crusades. Understandably, war can bring out the worst in people. Even during World War II some American soldiers committed atrocities, but this does not mean the war was conducted so soldiers could commit crimes. As for the Crusades, Christians have rightly condemned the wrongs that many of the Crusaders committed.

In summary, the Crusades were not about wars of unprovoked Christian aggression against a peaceful Muslim world, neither were they motivated by a quest for riches and land. The Crusades were defensive wars that aimed to stop Muslim military advance- ment. The West today enjoys religious freedom and democracy because the Christian nations prevailed.

God wants his people to care about justice. As the Prophet Micah reminds us, “Man- kind, he has told each of you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Mc 6:8).”

Resources (abbreviated):

Articles on the Crusades:

Books on the Crusades: