Wednesday, 24 December 2008

history wars

Science is so often the battleground between atheism and christianity (and other beliefs too), but unfortunately history is not exempt. I have discussed the historical arguments about Jesus, but other aspects of history are also part of the battle.

The arguments arise because some atheists wish to discredit christianity by arguing that the church has oppressed people and opposed science at every turn. Thus it is argued that Hitler was a christian, or at least strongly influenced by christianity, the conquistadores were likewise christian, etc.

There is no doubt much that the church, and by association, christians, have in their history to be deeply ashamed about and sorry for, but many of the arguments which find their way onto the web are just plain wrong.

One argument (apparently) is the claim that attempts by nineteenth century Scottish doctor, James Simpson, to introduce the use of chloroform to relieve pain during childbirth, were opposed by blinkered churchmen. A historian has examined the matter, and found that there is no record of the church opposing Simpson, who was a devout christian, and there were many in the church who supported him. But someone made an unsupported and erroneous claim about Simpson's experience, and it was quoted and re-quoted until it became accepted "fact".

In due course I'll examine a few other historical arguments to see how they stand up.

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