When Religion Ruled, It Was the Dark Ages



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  • When Religion Ruled, It Was the Dark Ages

    I have read this quote by Ruth Hurmence Green many times, shared with fervor among atheists:

    "When Religion ruled the world it was know as the Dark Ages"

    Ruth Hurmence Green gained notability within the atheist community with the publication of her book "The Born Again Skeptic’s Guide to the Bible" in 1979. This book has since been the best selling publication from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Green underwent a radical mastectomy in 1960. She was treated for skin cancer several years later and in 1975 was diagnosed with throat cancer. It was during recovery from her first round of cancer treatments during the early 70s that Ruth, “a half-hearted Methodist” decided to read the Bible cover to cover. This project took two years and made her a confirmed atheist. When the throat cancer returned several years later in 1981 she kept the diagnosis to herself, knowing that this time the disease would be terminal. On July 7, 1981 Green ingested a fatal dose of painkillers. In her last letter to friend Annie Laurie Gaylor, dated July 4, 1981 Green wrote, "Freedom from religion must grow and prosper... freedom depends upon freethinkers."

    The quote is a clever sound bite, witty, memorable and seems to be fairly popular among atheists. But is it true?

    Both our technological and our scientific movements got their start, acquired their character, and achieved world dominance in the Middle Ages, largely from Christian thinkers and visionaries. The consistency with which scientists during the long formative centuries of Western science said that the task and the reward of the scientist was “to think God’s thoughts after him” leads one to believe that this was their real motivation. If so, then modern Western science was cast in a matrix of Christian theology. The dynamism of religious devotion shaped by the Judeo-Christian dogma of creation, gave it impetus. Interestingly the end result of the long gestation period of Christian ‘dominance’ during the Dark Ages was the birth of science, the scepter that the atheists now hold high as the predominant meaning of their existence.

    Therefore the ‘Dark Ages’ were not really that dark after all. Rather than religion being the cause of stagnation, barbarism and regress, it was Christianity throughout these ‘Dark Ages’ which gave the intellectual impetus and foundation to enormously successful progress, technological advance and modern science. Just the historical facts

  • #2
    It can be a matter of interpretation to say if this is actually true. I certainly appreciate your factual insights on the Christian thinkers and visionaries. While I am sure that there were Christians who contributed to the birth of science I can also understand a choice to interpret the meaning of the statement (for me) in that I think of the Dark Ages and even the Middle Ages in terms of the torturous practices inflicted on human beings by corrupt church officials throughout that time. Church officials held "political office" and were in a position to carry out very sick punishments to whom every they pleased (or whoever did not please them) which they did frequently in the name of religion. Given the lack of oversight at the time mainly due to lack of communication like we have today, it was easy for these monstrous men to carry out their diabolical deeds unchecked and no one could do or say anything to stop them lest they become victims themselves. I do believe firmly in the Freedom from Religion movement even though I consider myself to be Christian.


    • #3
      The Dark Ages as a term has undergone many evolutions; its definition depends on who is defining it. Currently, modern historians no longer use the term because of its negative connotation. Generally, the Dark Ages refers to the period of time ushered in by the fall of the Western Roman Empire. This took place when the last Western emperor, Romulus Augustulus, was deposed by Odoacer, a barbarian. AD 476 was the time of this event. Secondary to this, the Dark Ages included a period of religious struggle.

      However, people error to use the blanket term "Christian" to encapsulate the whole of Christendom. Orthodox Christians (non-Catholics) regarded this time as a period of Catholic corruption; they repudiated the ways of the Catholic Church with its papal doctrines and hierarchy. Orthodox Christians strove to recreate a pure Christianity, void of these “dark” Catholic ways. The true Christian in the sense of emulating the piety and servitude of Christ was not at all the same as the famed corruption found in the Roman Catholic Church, its manipulative indulgences and insidious craving for power that still lingers today.

      The Dark Ages were also the years of vast Muslim conquests. Along with other nomads and horse and camel warriors, the Muslims rode through the fallen empire, wreaking havoc and seeding intellectual and social heresy in their wake. Muslim conquests prevailed until the time of the Crusades. Therefore, to classify the Dark Ages as solely a corruption of the church is only to look at a limb of a large tree.


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