Why I Rejected Christianity Review: Galileo

This is always a fascinating topic to talk about. Galileo? What exactly happened? Now there are some things we agree on. We agree that Aristotle had been practically canonized at this time. We agree about it being also rooted in Ptolemy and we agree that Aristarchus had taught heliocentricism eventually.

On to disagreement.

The church had been for some time observing the planets and had their own observatory. Galileo was accepted in some areas immediately. When he pointed out that there were moons around other planets, this was accepted. It was his heliocentricism that was the problem and it was not for the church first but for the secularists.

These wanted the church to interfere for Galileo was messing with Aristotle and they did not like that. The church was more reluctant though. They were willing to have heliocentricism be stated as a theory and at this point, we must say that hindsight is always 20/20.

We do not have heliocentricism proven today. The only reason we accept it is that it is simpler. Now I believe it’s true, but it is not proven. There were also still difficulties with the theory that were from Aristotle and these were not answered until the 19th century. It is unfair of us to look and say today that it is true so it should have been accepted.

There was also the problem of egos. The pope and Galileo both had huge egos. One concern of the church was that Galileo was a layman and he was starting to comment on theology. The scientists of the day were to speak on science and the theologians were to speak on theology.

Galileo was wanting immediate acceptance instead of gradual acceptance. It didn’t help matters that he wrote a dialogue where the Pope was pictured as a simpleton. Galileo was tried for heresy and left in house arrest. He died in pleasant surroundings though with his friends.

Did the church make some mistakes? Yes. Egos got in the way and this was largely politics that was using religion. One thing that has to be stated though is that both sides were Christians. Galileo died a devout Christian who believed that the Scriptures could not error but our interpretation of them can. (This can also remind Christians to not get tied in to an interpretation of Scripture. Augustine warned about that years ago.) To be fair though, the secularists need to learn to not be so tied to a philosophy in how they deal with science. Aristotleanism was a problem also.

So what is the relationship to be between science and religion?

Methodological naturalism is often said to be the best way, but why? Imagine if we said we are going to study with methodological theism? Why should we automatically assume one philosophy? If naturalism is false, then methodological naturalism will lead to a dead in. If we can find a naturalistic explanation for something, well and good, but we cannot assume there is always one. (Especially questions like the origin of the universe.)

Loftus speaks of how also theologians should not speak out on matters of science. To this, I agree, excepting of course those theologians who do also have degrees in science such as Alister McGrath. However, this sword should cut both ways. Why is it that the theologian is not to speak authoritatively on science, but the scientist can speak authoritatively on theology? (Such as The God Delusion)

Loftus also makes a point about scientific ways to test religious claims. This one is quite nonsensical. There are other ways to test a belief system rather than the scientific method? (Can we scientifically test to see if religions can be shown to be accurate by the scientific method?)

As for the God of the Gaps idea, it needs to be realized that this was first critiqued by Christians. In fact, the term “God of the Gaps” was an insulting name given to it by Methodist lay preacher Charles Coulson. Readers know my opinion is that if evolution is true, well it’s true. It sure doesn’t damage faith in God in anyway.

Now Loftus also wants us to accept that science sets the limits of what we believe. Not at all. Science tells us what to believe about the material world. Science says nothing about ethics. It cannot tell you about the laws of logic. It cannot tell you about mathematics or philosophy or theology.

And as for saying Carrier disagrees with how science arose, the reference to check in this case is Rodney Stark’s “The Victory of Reason.” Alfred Whitehead is a non-Christian who has stated that Christianity is what gave rise to scientific progress. The ancients saw a cyclical universe with no need of progress. Christianity saw time as going somewhere and linear progress taking place. They saw a rational world that could be discovered and used to bring glory to God.

One more thing to note. Loftus says that one thing we know is how babies are made. The problem is that the ancients knew this as well. Anybody want to guess why Joseph wanted to divorce Mary? It’s quite simple. She was pregnant, and he knew what it took to get a girl pregnant, and he knew he hadn’t done that. The ancients didn’t know all we knew today, but they knew enough.

More of these ideas will be commented on in later chapters.

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