Saturday, June 2, 2012

What if Christianity had never existed?

It is interesting to speculate about what the world would be like if Christianity had never existed. What if scientists like Galileo were not forced to recant heliocentrism and spend their remaining years in house arrest?

What if the Library of Alexandria had survived? The ultimate demise of the Library of Alexandria and its Hellene scholarship is usually correlated with the murder (motivated by the Pope) of Hypatia, stripped naked in the streets of Alexandria with her flesh scourged from her body by Christian hands and fingers while being dragged to her final death by being burned alive. The final loss of Hypatia to scholarship and advancement of knowledge marked the beginning of the end of humanist Greek science and mathematics until it was resurrected in Europe during the Renaissance, the Age of Reason, and the Age of Enlightenment, all of which the Catholic Church continued to strenuously oppose.

What if the Spanish Inquisition never existed? The Domicans who ran it were charged by the church as the protectors of doctrine (including scientific theories motivated by scripture). Those who questioned the doctrine were automatically wrong and were tortured until they renounced their error. Catholic apologists have argued that only a few scientific books were on the banned list, and only one scientist was killed, therefore, the Inquisition should not have had a chilling effect on scientific advancement. I'm amazed that they could argue that with a straight face.

It is true that monks preserved some of the knowledge of antiquity through the Dark Ages, but while they were busy copying manuscripts, how much new scientific research occurred? Steeped in dogma as they were, was there any motivation to investigate the universe for what it actually was rather than what the Bible said it was, particularly if the Inquisition awaited for those who taught theories contrary to church doctrine?

I have to wonder whether we would be colonizing other worlds by now if our world had not suffered under the grip of Christianity (and Islam) for so many centuries. Seth MacFarlane, writer of Family Guy, obviously had similar thoughts.


  1. I'm sure that much would have been better, had Christianity never existed, but don't forget that it also informed and inspired people to create great art, music, architecture, and literature, and to establish schools, hospitals, and orphanages. I wouldn't always equate scientific discovery by the way to "advancement". Science, like religion, can be twisted to bad or repressive ends. To say that we'd be "more advanced" had Christianity not existed because of all that science would have discovered is stretching it. Non-religious governments would still have existed, and we all know what they're capable of.

  2. Very good points. I have to wonder, though, if Michelangelo would have created just as great of art if he had a patron other than Pope Julius for the latter part of his life. Don't get me wrong -- I love the Sistine chapel. What we see, however, are great artists being literally forced to create in a very specific genre. That's one reason I like Caravaggio, who always managed to sneak something irreverent into his religious paintings.

  3. This article is full of false information. The Catholic Church patronized the Renaissance. There was little Christian opposition of the Enlightenment, because the Church was weak. Galileo was a devout Christian, and he did not form the concept of helicentrism, that was Copernicus, also a Christian