You have probably heard the story about how the church thought that the earth was flat during the middle ages. This usually comes in the form of a scathing attack to attempt to show how antiquated and out of date the myth of religion is.
So, today I would like to look into this question, is this story true?
Christopher Hitchens, pop icon of the new atheism describes the difference between science and religion as follows “science is about what can be proved to be true, whereas religion is about running away from the facts and seeking consolation in outdated, discredited and immoral Bronze Age myths. People of the middle ages believed that the earth was flat because of religious dogma.”
Let’s break down the previous paragraph and fact check what was said. First of all, I agree that science is about what can be proved to be true, no problem there. However, the challenge is can science and belief coexist in harmony? Or are they mortal enemies? The new atheism demands that they are enemies of each other. Faith communities see it differently. We see the beauty and synergism of both working together to help make sense of how the universe works.
The next part about religion running away from the facts is nonsensical. The descriptors he uses are pure hubris. Notice how he uses the word immoral. The reality is that morality lies completely outside the confines of science. In fact, morality only finds meaning within the parameters of belief in God. If there is only a cold, heartless, pitiless, unguided universe, where does the basis of morality come from? Atheism has to steal ideas of morality from Christianity, they have no basis on their own.
The final part of Hitchens’s quote is supposedly the ultimate defeater of faith. The notion of belief in a flat earth. Alister McGrath in his work titled Why God won’t Go Away is curious why Hitchens would even attempt to use this argument. “It’s a puzzling assertion because historical scholarship, long ago showed that virtually every Christian Theologian and scholar of the middle ages acknowledged the sphericity of the earth.” There may have been a few flat earthers however, that does not give warrant to blatantly project that all were stupid, therefore, Christianity is stupid as well.
At the end of the day when Science, philosophy and faith all come together, you have a cohesive informed worldview that makes perfect sense.
So, the next time you hear the flat earth story, you can help stop the urban legend and bring insight to the historical truth concerning the subject.
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