Eight myths of atheist historical analysis
- People in historical times were credulous. They were inclined to believe any story of the supernatural without question. There would not be a single skeptical soul among them. So if a man claimed to be born blind and said he was healed miraculously then nobody would check the story out with his parents. If someone claimed to be God they would not want to stone him or crucify him for blasphemy. They would just accept him at his word.
- The Catholic Church was like the CIA in all those spy novels. They could change scripture. They could change doctrine. Everyone would just switch without any question. No controversy would erupt. No traces would be left. It matters not at all how many churches there were and how far apart they were. People who laugh most at this are familiar with how the church works and how small changes create a huge fuss and how often the Vatican completely botches public relations.
- Church leaders were focused on pagan ideas rather than Judea-Christian ideas. Never mind that there is a ton of Christian writing that reflects on the Old Testament and almost none that reflects on the teachings of the various pagan religions. Those who did try and promote pagan ideas were labeled heretics precisely because their teaching could not be traced back to the tradition of the apostles and to the scriptures.
- People were very ignorant of sexual matters. Everyone talked like they were living a life of Christian chastity but we know that is impossible so they must all have been big liars. We know this for sure because every time Hollywood does a period piece there is a lot of sex in it! People just would not talk about it, even to a priest. Somehow the urge to talk about sex was controllable but the urge to have sex was not.
- Church leaders were not just people who believed the gospel and sincerely desired to live it. They have bad motives. They wanted to control the people. They didn't mind lying because it was really about power. Once you start reading what these guys write you see how silly this is. There were some bad apples for sure but they were the exceptions to the rule. Even today people who read Pope Benedict are often surprised to find him a sincere believer and a serious thinker.
- The really smart people didn't really believe in God. Especially those who made real advances in science. They talked like they believed for various reasons but deep down they knew it wasn't true. Actually you hear this about people right through the enlightenment as late as Einstein and Pasteur.
- Nobody dared openly question the truth of the Christian faith. Constantine imposed the Christian faith on the western world in 314 AD and nobody offered any real skepticism until the enlightenment. I remember reading the stories of the saints and being surprised that they were evangelizing in the middle of Europe during the middle ages. Turns out unbelief has always and everywhere been present. People were raised in the faith for sure but many had occasion to question it and many left the church.
- The church did not like science. Galileo is the classic example partly because there are so few incidents like his. Galileo's ideas did have theological implications. At the time, there were still many scientists that thought he was wrong. Once the science got settled they got serious about harmonizing Catholic thought with it. The doctrine of infallibility explicitly excludes matters of science so the church really has no interest unless the implications in matters of faith is quite direct.