Social scientist Rodney Stark offers an alternative to the Sunday magazine truisms about the relationship between Christianity and science:
The basis for much of the antipathy toward Christianity is the image of the medieval Catholic Church fostered by “distinguished bigots,” as Stark calls Edward Gibbon and Voltaire among other Enlightenment notables. Stark, relying on primary source historians like the renowned Marc Bloch, shows, on the contrary, that medieval Catholicism was the breeding ground for modernity.
Most, if not all, ancient societies believed in fate. However, Yahweh gave humans the wondrous and terrifying attribute of free will, freedom. Individual freedom in the West then merged with the legacy of Athenian democracy and the Roman republican tradition to form “the new democratic experiments in the medieval Italian city-states,” as Stark reminds us.
These rival polities organized the first universities in a unique tradition of institutional learning and discourse which began at Bologna then spread to Oxford, Paris and elsewhere in Europe. From the medieval university science was born.
The distinguished philosopher and mathematician, Alfred North Whitehead, astonished a Harvard audience in 1925 when he said that science is a “derivative of medieval theology [since it arose] from the medieval insistence on the rationality of God, conceived as with the personal energy of Jehovah and with the rationality of a Greek philosopher.”Terry Scambray, “No False Gods Before Me: A Review of Rodney Stark’s Work” at New English Review
The Sunday mag truisms are more popular because they involve no hard thinking.
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See also: Psychology: Study of religion takes evidence-based turn. Association with things most people see as positive does not, of course, make a religion “true.” It does, however, make one wonder about the perspective of psychologists who don’t seem able to recognize the pattern.