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The Dark Ages

Most people have heard of the dark ages and a few even know what they were. Even fewer know of the Church’s role in the dark ages but it is something I think everyone should be aware of.After the council of Nicea in 325, Christianity went from a somewhat smallish following to become the state religion of Rome. In a somewhat strange twist, maybe the first recorded case of Christian hypocrisy, Constantine didn’t embrace Christianity during his life and only converted on his deathbed. In spite of this things were going pretty good on a scientific front. In the 4th century BCE, an astronomer by the name of Aristarchus formed the heliocentric theory [an outline] that was credited to Nicolas Copernicus in the 16th century. A century later Eratosthenes of Cyrene measured the circumference of the Earth. A century later and Hipparchus invented longitude and latitude and he even determined the obliquity of the ecliptic. Quite a few great scientific advancements were made before the Church appeared but that was ready to change with the advent of the dark ages and continuing into the middle ages. For example take the heliocentric theory credited to Copernicus in the 16th century. A full 2000 years prior Aristarchus had formed an outline of the theory. When Galileo tried to promote Copernicus’ theory a century later he was tried by the inquisition in Rome. Not until 1965 did the Roman Catholic Church revoke it’s condemnation of Galileo.

The year was 536 and there were many crop failures, low temperatures and fog all due a veil of dust in the atmosphere but that didn’t stop the growing Church from winning a few new converts because of this mini judgment of god. The bubonic plague, also called  the Plague of Justinian, hit in 541. Byzantium, the eastern Roman empire, was hit particularly hard. Records indicate that at the hight of the plague there were 10,000 deaths per day and over the next 150 years the toll was about 100 million. During this time, not content with the new converts and their growing power in society, the Church decided to say this plague was a judgment from god, a punishment for not bowing to Church authority. Needless to say most of Europe beat a path to the Church not understanding this was a judgment of the fleas. This act was totally disgusting and you would think that the Church should learn from it’s past yet in 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and some of the victims were sheltered in the Houston Astrodome. I was there as a volunteer and could not believe there were some Christians outside the Astrodome claiming this was god’s judgment on a wicked and sinful New Orleans. Guess the Church didn’t learn. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes I would have never believed people professing to be Christians could be so insensitive. I learned differently since then.

The dark ages were named properly. Everything was dark [even the sky was a few years before]. Not only did science suffer a major stagnation but so did education and technology to name two things. Just think where we would be had it not been for the dark ages. I often wonder, had it not been for the Church instead of  landing in the Bahamas could Columbus have been the one to name Tranquility Base on the moon?

Some further reading you might enjoy

[tweetmeme source=”noreligionblog” only_single=false https://noreligionblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/25/the-dark-ages%5D

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