Since I was asked to post book excerpt 2.6, I thought I would post 2.8 and 2.9 as well since they are related and they follow 2.6, (obviously). Thank you everyone for your support. Please like, share, comment or follow me if you like what you read.
2.9 The Crusades and Science after the middle Ages
After Ptolemy very few people published scientific works for a long period of time. This period roughly corresponds to the coming of Christ and the middle Ages. It was a time when religious (especially Christian) rule and most schools were dominated by religious powers. The Crusades were also conducted during the middle Ages.
Most of the few scientific developments made during this period came from the Middle East. In the Middle East, Roman Numerals were replaced by a decimal numeral system and Algebra was invented. The only major scientific improvements from this time attributed to Europe were used for destruction, such as the invention of gunpowder and the cannon. Their focus was largely on destruction because of the ongoing religious wars.
The Crusades were a series of religious wars fought by Roman Catholics from all over Europe mainly to regain control over Jerusalem, which was under Muslim control. The Byzantine Emperor Alexius I’s appeal to Pope urban II to help him resist Muslim invasions into Byzantine territory are what catalyzed the Crusades. They occurred between 1095 and 1291. Pope Urban II motivated many Christians to join the fight by offering them remission of their sins for their efforts in the war.[i] This meant that they would be forgiven for their sins if they died in battle. The Pope also promised Crusaders material rewards, such as wealth, power and land that belonged to the Turkish and Arab people. The Crusaders massacred Muslims, destroyed mosques and villages, and killed many Jews and even some Christians under Muslim rule. Some even committed cannibalism in the First Crusade.
After the First Crusade, the crusaders had regained control over the city of Antioch and Jerusalem. However, the Second Crusade ended in failure. The third Crusade ended in a compromise that allowed Christians to visit the “Holy Land.” Constantinople was sacked in the Fourth Crusade. Emperor Frederick II made a peace treaty with Al-Kamil, ruler of Egypt, which allowed Christians rule over most of Jerusalem, but the peace only lasted about 10 years and Jerusalem was sieged by Muslims in 1244 who regained control over the city. The fighting spread to Tunisia by the Eighth Crusade and final Ninth Crusade, both of which ended in failure.
Around the end of the Middle Ages, Copernicus (1473 –1543), a Polish astronomer, reintroduced Aristarchus’s heliocentric model of the solar system and published it anonymously since such claims were considered heresy by the Catholic Church. His model used circular orbits, but it was rejected for 200 years until the telescope was invented by Galileo Galilei, (1564 –1642).With the newly invented telescope, German-born Johannes Kepler (1571 –1630) observed Jupiter and realized it had many moons. This was direct, observable, and irrefutable evidence that every celestial object didn’t orbit Earth.
The use of the telescope also made many more stars visible, which made Kepler realize that there was much more to the universe than once thought. He also realized that the stars were much further away than they were believed to be, making stellar parallax unobservable from Earth without aid.
Stellar parallax is the apparent motion of the stars caused by the Earth’s orbit and our inability to see with our own eyes made us misinterpret our solar system for a long time. Aristarchus was the first to suggest that the great distance of the stars is the responsible for our inability to observe stellar parallax without aid. Kepler wasn’t able to observe parallax, but he may have realized it would be possible with a more powerful telescope.
Once Kepler modified Copernicus’s model slightly by changing the circular orbits to elliptical ones, his model matched the observed paths of the planets and their moons perfectly. (Most of this orbit data was gathered from Tycho Brae who owned a “naked-eye observatory” before the telescope was invented.) Kepler first discovered that a planet can have an elliptical orbit when he was trying to draw a shape that would match the mars orbit data.
Many people could not accept that the solar system wasn’t geometric and that planets had oval orbits, even though there was scientific evidence that shows this is the reality for about 2000 years. We wanted to be the most important entities in the observable world, so we naturally assumed we were at its center and that there was nothing chaotic about the universe. The mere suggestions that the planetary orbits were oval and that the solar system was heliocentric were very disturbing to many of the people of Kepler’s time (and even more so to the people before his time). Religious persecution always impeded the progress and acceptance of these ideas.
Galileo was brought before a church acquisition in Rome and ordered to say the sun orbits the Earth. If he had refused, he would have been executed. For his beliefs he was forced to spend the last eight years of his life under house arrest. Even Kepler had difficulty accepting that the planets orbits were elliptical, even though he knew it was true and he was committed to science. When religious ideas become ingrained into people’s minds, they become very hard to abandon.
Kepler formulated the first accurate laws of planetary motion, but he couldn’t identify the force that was responsible for planetary motion. Kepler was right about all of his laws. Our solar system is heliocentric, the planets have elliptical orbits; planets do sweep out equal distances in equal times. However, he believed the planets must orbit the sun because of the sun’s magnetic forces, an idea originally attributed to William Gilbert. It wasn’t until Isaac Newton (1642 –1726) introduced the universal law of gravitation that the planetary orbits were understood completely and could be predicted.
Newton claimed that gravitation makes every celestial object attracted to surrounding objects, and that the strength of an attraction is dependent on the distance between objects and their masses. The larger the objects and the closer they are in relation to each other, the more gravitational attraction they have towards each other. Newton’s law of gravitation states that: “two bodies attract each other with a force that is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.” Newton formulated precise mathematical equations that could predict the motion of bodies (objects) based on their attraction towards each other. He also had three laws of motion (as Kepler did) that could predict the effects of gravity in space and on Earth.
Newton, Galileo and Kepler reconnected the heavens to the Earth in a metaphorical sense. They established that the same force that is responsible for the planetary orbits also keeps us from floating off of the Earth. They made the cosmos live up to its definition in a sense. They established there is consistency and order.
As our understanding of science and the universe became more sophisticated and larger. God became smaller. Science doesn’t take God completely out of the picture, however. Newton was very religious like many of his predecessors and contemporaries, and he believed that while God was not holding up the planets, he must have set them in motion in the beginning (if there was one). Something or someone had to begin the universe, and a God that designed the universe with sensible, calculated laws was more comforting than a God who could do whatever he pleased, even to those who were very religious. Some people were fed up with the hierarchal ways of the Church and even some very religious people embraced Newton’s conception of God, including orthodox preachers and Latitudinarians.[ii]
Most of the Ancient Greek philosophers believed that the universe had no beginning and will have no end. It is comforting to believe the universe and life will exist forever. But life does currently have an inevitable end, and we know now there was a beginning or a birth of this universe, but we do not currently know what, if anything, preceded the Big Bang. Cosmogony is currently outside of the realm of science.
The Big Bang singularity had to exist for some period of time, and it had to come from somewhere unless it was born spontaneously out of nothing along with time. It seems illogical to believe it came from nothing. “Nothingness” is also hard to define. There are atoms everywhere, even in the black empty stretches of space, so if nothingness does exist or did, we will not likely observe it or be able to define it.
Theories that speculate another parallel universe or a universe in a different dimension is responsible for the presence of this universe only create more questions about those universes and their sources. But we know the universe had a beginning from observations of cosmic microwave background radiation, and it is certainly possible one day we will discover the origins of the singularity.
Edwin Hubble was the first to prove the universe is expanding by analyzing the light spectrum of stars. As a light source pulls away from us and the wavelengths of the light get longer, they appear red. (This is called the Doppler Effect.) And Hubble noticed that all of the stars that are far away from us appear red because they are being pulled away from us.
When Hubble released his findings, there were very few people who were willing to accept the universe was not static. Most people still prefer comforting, unchanging ideas over scientific ones. Everyone has their own spiritual and philosophical beliefs about how the universe works and significance of life, even if they aren’t affiliated with any religion. People are often either indoctrinated with answers or they formulate their own answers, which they find comforting. Even a brilliant scientist like Albert Einstein was not a very religious person, but he did believe in God. He also had incorrect convictions that were motivated by what was comfortable for him. He felt more comfortable living in a static universe when there was much evidence that disproved the notion. As a solution, he came up with a theory called the cosmological constant to add to his theory of relativity. This theory explains that the universe has an inherit tendency to expand, but that a force called anti-gravity cancels out this tendency, resulting in a static universe. But this theory was proven to be incorrect. When Hubble released his findings Einstein immediately rejected his cosmological constant, calling it the biggest blunder of his life and showing his dedication to science and truth over his comforting belief.
Gods were a comfort to people for a long time, but science should be more of a comfort now because it can tell us so much about our place in the universe. Instead of believing everything occurs due to the will of some elite, all-knowing being or many of them who cannot be questioned, we can collectively control the fate of the world and our own lives by recognizing there is consistency and laws that the universe obeys. We can give ourselves back control. We can live in a world in which right and wrong is open to interpretation. We can understand the root of destructive behaviors instead of judging and mindlessly punishing those we believe to be evil. We can live in an understandable and predictable universe.
2.10 Religion’s Effect on Recent History in the Presence of Scientific Knowledge
By the latter part of the 20th century, humanity had come a long way from the Aristotelian theory that Earth was at rest in the center of the universe. Not only did we learn that the Earth spins on its axis and orbits the sun, we knew that it moves with the rest of the Milky Way Galaxy and away from other solar systems in our galaxy as space expands. We also discovered that there is no such thing as absolute time or space and the theory of relativity told us that time and space are connected and warped by gravity and speed. Relatively also told us that objects appear to shorten when they are moving with respect to an observer, and that simultaneous events will not look simultaneous to someone who is moving. Despite how much was discovered, basic, scientific information is still not available everywhere, and this contributes to a massive lack of understanding of science, as does religious misinformation. The inspirational scientist Carl Sagan explained this problem beautifully in his book, The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark:
“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It is simply too painful to acknowledge — even to ourselves — that we’ve been so credulous.
Since World War II, Japan has spawned enormous numbers of new religions featuring the supernatural…. In Thailand, diseases are treated with pills manufactured from pulverized sacred Scripture. Witches are today being burned in South Africa…. The worldwide TM [Transcendental Meditation] organization has an estimated valuation of $3 billion. For a fee, they promise to make you invisible, to enable you to fly.
When asked merely if they accept evolution, 45 percent of Americans say yes. The figure is 70 percent in China. When the movie Jurassic Park was shown in Israel, it was condemned by some Orthodox rabbis because it accepted evolution and because it taught that dinosaurs lived a hundred million years ago–when, as is plainly stated at every Rosh Hashanah and every Jewish wedding ceremony, the Universe is less than 6,000 years old.” [iii]
These are just some of the many problems caused by religions today. Despite the many groundbreaking, scientific discoveries made in the 20th century, the religious population grew enormously over the century mainly due to widespread proselytization. (The 21st century, however, is seeing a small decrease in the population.)
Even when people have access to stellar, peer-reviewed scientific information, many do not want to make the connection between science and their religion, Science has not told us there is an afterlife, and this may be the main reason most people have kept their religions. The fear of death is very real and it motivates people to believe in anything they think could help. But science has not disproved the existence of an afterlife. Scientists have demonstrated that it is rather implausible. Bodies decompose, and consciousness only exists so long as we are awake and alive. Religious clergy usually know far less about reality, life and death than the smartest scientists do because science is built on compiled evidence and testing and religion is not. (Scientists are often more moral too.)
It is not logical to assume one’s eternal fate will be determined by adherence to one religion or another. The whole concept of heaven and hell is archaic and irrational anyway. Life is not a test. As I have explained, some people just take amoral actions because they have been pushed too far. They don’t deserve to be punished eternally when they have already been punished in their lives. People should do good in the world not because they believe they will be rewarded in an afterlife, but because it is the right thing to do now, and it is best just to avoid thinking about death and focus on living. Every day can be used for something meaningful and gratifying.
Most of the world still believes in creationist myths. In a CBS news poll conducted in 2005, 51% of the Americans polled said they believed God created humans in their present form, 30% believed humans evolved but that God “guided” the process, and a mere 15% believed humans evolved without the assistance of God.[iv] The majority of the world still denies the existence of evolution and some even believe the world was created a few thousand years ago, as do many Jewish, Muslim and other religious peoples. Some Christians believe this because biblical scholars have added up the ages of everyone in Genesis to calculate the time of “creation.” Most biblical literalists believe the universe is between 4000 and 10,000 years old. (The most common estimate is 6000 years.) These estimates are made from various religious texts. However, there are so many scientific ways to prove the Earth is billions of years old. Carbon dating stone, fossils and other material has given us estimates of the real age of universe, Earth and life.
In another survey conducted in 1999 by a fundamentalist Christian agency called Focus on the Family, only one percent of the Christians polled said they believed life evolved on its own, and 43% believed God created the universe a few thousand years ago. 46% of the people polled were not sure when God created the universe. As stated, science does not rule out the possibility that the universe was designed by a creator, and it may never do so. But if a God did design the universe then we at least know that is all God did.
The evidence for evolution is potentially limitless, and it can be very dangerous to reject science when virtually everything in the world only functions because of our understanding of science. The right knowledge can often mean the difference between life and death. It is also dangerous to believe God can affect our world in any way He pleases. Scientific realities affect everyone, regardless of our personal beliefs. We are also greatly affected by our religious convictions whether they are right or wrong.
The reason there has been such a small, but fast decrease in the religious population over recent years is because scientists were never able to explain so much before the 20th century There was empirical evidence that supported heliocentrism and the existence of elliptical, planetary orbits about 2000 years before the majority finally accepted these ideas about 300 years ago largely because of the power of the Churches and rulers that upheld these ideas. The secular (agnostic, atheist, unaffiliated, etc.) population will get larger as we spread good education freely and without censorship.
2.11 Religion, Sex, and Abuse
Another problem with religions is that they often infect governments like viruses. Because the public is religious, politicians are too, and until we make the change, they won’t either. There are far too many laws in America and the rest of the world that were created for religious reasons that violate constitutional legislature that requires the separation of religion and law. Abortion laws are one of the most contested examples. Abortion is illegal in many parts of the world because many religious political leaders believe it is a sinful. They believe aborting an embryo or a fetus is like killing a child. But there are some important, scientific distinctions to make. A fetus does not develop until the 11th week of the gestational age. A fetus also doesn’t become “viable” (which is the ability to live outside the womb) until at least five months after fertilization. It also can’t feel pain until the third trimester.
It is difficult to determine when human life begins, but it does not seem reasonable to decide that life begins when a sperm enters an oocyte or egg cell and becomes a zygote. A cell can’t have legal rights, because you can’t put a zygote or sperm on trial and ask it questions. (The same applies to fetuses, of course.) Zygotes are not even close to being capable of consciousness, which ought to be one of the most basic requirements to be called human. If sperm cells had legal rights, every male who has ever masturbated would be put in prison for mass murder. Therefore, the issue of abortion should be approached pragmatically and sensitively. The courses forward should have the most demonstrable positive social impacts, and they should ultimately be choices.
When a woman becomes pregnant, it is her right and her right alone to decide the future. She has to develop the fetus, support it, feed it, and go through the pain. It is far more compassionate and considerate of human rights to support the well-thought out decisions of women than it is to support the decisions of governments or other uninvolved parties about the future of women’s bodies. Abortion is an issue that comes down to personal liberty, but those against it often disguise it as something else. If a girl or woman does not have the proper resources to raise a healthy child and does not want one, there is no reason she should be forced to have a child. If this occurs, her child will be more likely to be unhealthy and unhappy and the lives of the parent(s) who have undeniable rights can be destroyed in the process.
If a developing fetus is only going to be born to suffer, starve and die, why would it be more compassionate to let it live that short existence? Often people who believe life begins at conception don’t care about the circumstances, (even if rape or incest were involved) but they almost always matter to the women who have been abused and impregnated. Many take a “pro-life” stance not because they care for unborn children, but because they are concerned about being punished eternally if they do not. This is self-interest, not empathy.
Overpopulation is also becoming a serious problem. More people require more resources. Because there are so many children without parents, conceiving our own children could be considered slightly selfish at this point in time. To help control this problem, everyone should have easy access to condoms, birth control and reproductive healthcare, especially teenagers. Preaching abstinence almost never works because most teenagers want to have sex due to their natural, rising hormones, so it is best to let them have it while preventing unwanted pregnancy and sex. Sex is also one of the most important aspects of life, and it is wrong to rob teenagers of it just because some individuals believe teenagers should not have it.
Laws against stem cell research also exist because religious politicians are motivated by similar fears. Many religious people have claimed by doing research on stem cells, scientists are killing children. But stem cells are simply microscopic organisms, and what really kills living people is not doing research on stem cells because this research has led to the discovery of cures for terminal diseases.
Religious extremism in government is also responsible for the existence sodomy and polygamy laws. Sodomy is described as a sin in the Bible, and this is why it was illegal up until 2003 in 15 states. Some states even gave life in prison for sodomy. Most of these states made no distinction between heterosexual or homosexual sodomy, and their definition extended to oral sex as well. Blowjobs were, in fact, illegal.
Even the age at which you can legally have sex is defined by governments, and mostly by religious people in government. (In America the age of consent is 18, but in many countries it is rightly lower.) With our backwards laws, a nineteen can be convicted of rape for having consensual sex with a seventeen-year-old. Some teens even have to register as sex offenders for sending sexual texts or pictures to each other, which is insane. People at just about every age can decide whether they want to have sex. The notion that this ability comes to you on your eighteenth birthday is not logical. As long as sex is between two consenting parties, it should not be anyone else’s business.
Many traditional religious leaders also condemn pre-marital sex, abortion, masturbation and sexual contraception. This has many negative effects. Intentionally repressing one’s own sexuality is one of the most self-destructive that can be done, and not using contraception increases the risk of transmitting sexual diseases. In 2009 Pope Benedict XVI condemned contraception and told Africa, the most AIDS ridden continent on Earth, they couldn’t use condoms and that they “made the problem worse.” Many who believed him may have died as a result.
Hundreds of thousands of Catholic priests across the world have also been accused of raping children. This could be a result of their strong belief in sexual repression. Because priests are not allowed to have sex, marry, or even masturbate, their pent up sexuality can become aggressive and perverse, and they prey on children to release some of this tension because they know children are the least likely to talk about it, and priests get away with rape more than any other group. Boys are raped more often than girls likely because the vast majority of priests who do rape are gay, and they may pursue priesthood because they are ashamed of their homosexuality and feel obligated to repress it. Repressed Christian homosexuals who condemn homosexuality are common, so it is possible. Sodomy is the “ultimate sin” to many of these people and this gets them going.
Everyone needs a release and everyone needs love. It is impossible to live the way these priests do and be normal and healthy, so these sexual assaults will continue so long as priests remain sexually repressed and the Church ignores these problems. Despite what they may believe, repressing your sexuality does not make you any more “pure.” It just makes you lack a piece of your humanity, and it can lead to deplorable acts like molestation, (especially if you happen to be male due to high levels of testosterone).
Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is not a small problem, and it certainly isn’t limited to Churches in America. It has been reported worldwide, and only an estimated 3% of Catholic clergy accused has served jail time.[v] Instances of sexual misconduct are highly underreported due to the way they are handled by the church. Some children are too afraid to report abuse, especially when they are threatened with condemnation to hell by priests. However, Churches have been ordered to pay heavy fines for these abuses. American dioceses alone have paid over $2.6 billion in compensation for abuse scandals since 1950.[vi] These Catholic Churches convicted only have so much money because people donate it, and many priests press churchgoers to unknowingly pay for their rape money.
Despite the fines, very few priests accused of sexual abuse have served any jail time because the Church has its own system of law: the Vatican, a self-governed state. Children in Catholic schools are also often required to sign documents that waive their rights to press charges against them or the government, and Catholic schools sometimes sue for privacy infringement when the media or governments try to get involved or ask questions. Governments rarely do get involved though. Most often when priests are accused of sexual misconduct, they are simply relocated to another parish where they can sexually abuse more children. Before they are relocated they usually undergo “therapy” where they are “cured” of their homosexuality, because the real problem to the church is their homosexuality and not their desire to rape children. They also perceive homosexuality and molestation as somehow equatable.
Priests are supposed to be closer to God than anyone else and the most moral of all people, yet so many of them have been accused of this. It is unfathomable that this has had such little apparent effect on Catholic adherents. What would priests have to do for Catholic Church-goers to reconsider their religion or at the very least their support of the Church and its corruption? Is widespread child molestation in our most sacred Churches not enough?
Even the Pope, who is supposed to be the closest to God, knows all about this sexual misconduct and he has completely ignored the issue. He also preaches to live humbly, yet he and his clan live in a palace that is literally a state. (The meek are certainly yet to inherit the Earth.) In the Book of John, Jesus is enraged when he finds people selling their cattle in a temple, and yet the Vatican has made their own Gold coinage engraved with the image of the Pope’s face. Jesus also said, “Blessed are the poor for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” – Matthew 5:3, and “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys.” – Luke 12:13.
Jesus also condemned the rich, and he even said rich people won’t be granted access to heaven in the book of Matthew: “I tell you the truth; it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” – Matthew 19:23-24. Therefore, if heaven does exist, the Pope will be in for a surprise when he dies. Why should the Pope not follow Jesus and his instructions? Why not sell the Vatican and feed the world? If he actually believed in the principles Jesus taught, he would be certain this would save his soul.
Religion will always be as pervasive as it is so long as children are indoctrinated by their parents. Religion is passed down from generation to generation, and this is why it is accepted. But educated adults who haven’t been indoctrinated with religious nonsense are mostly irreligious, and they are also smarter on average.
I say all of this not to upset anyone. Of course, some realities are upsetting, but I completely support and acknowledge the freedom people have to believe in whatever they want to believe, but this doesn’t mean we should exercise this freedom by believing in things we may recognize are irrational. We should be having rational, calm discussions about these issues and not adhering to dogma or resorting to violence simply because our deeply held beliefs are being challenged. Organized religions can be poisonous to society and we would be much better off if secularism was more common than religions. While some advances in science (like weapons technology) have had very negative impacts on society, science has made us collectively less judgmental. This is because many people have decided to compromise their sometimes separatist, religious beliefs with science, which has made some of us understand the scientific root of our differences that we do not control. Science’s positive impact on society has, without a doubt, outweighed its negative one. Entitlement and feelings of superiority over others stem mostly from unscientific belief systems. Science also doesn’t impose any ideologies on anyone. (We are left to interpret the meaning and implications of scientific discoveries), so it doesn’t have the same kind of controlling effect on identity that religions do.
We ought to understand how controlling and ultimately destructive our organized religions are and engage in more rewarding pursuits. We could gain much greater control over who we are if we all become secular and we kept our morals and values and even made them more rational and inclusive. The world around us would improve vastly as a result.
 The first successful observations of stellar parallax were made by Friedrich Bessel in 1838. He measured the parallax of a distant star (about 11 light years away) known as 61 Cygni. He was able to measure stellar parallax because telescopic technology had vastly improved and we could see stars much further away. Even though we had more than enough evidence by then to prove our solar system was heliocentric and we knew why we didn’t see stellar parallax, it was an important observation nonetheless.
 White light consists of waves of many different lengths. Different wavelengths of light are different colors. If you shine sunlight through a prism (a pyramid shaped piece of glass) the light will split into its component colors. These colors are called the color spectrum. The longest wavelengths of visible light appear red.
 Ted Haggard is a good example. He preached about the “evils” of homosexuality in front of stadiums full of Christians who were just as bigoted as he was. But due to allegations from a male masseuse in 2006, it was discovered when Ted wasn’t making these speeches, he was having sex with male prostitutes and smoking crystal meth. Ted is still considered a pillar of the gay-hating portion of the Christian community.
[i] Bull “Origins” Oxford History of the Crusades. pp. 32-34. Print.
[ii] Jacob, Margaret C.: The Newtonians and the English Revolution, 1689-1720. 1976. Print.
[iii]Sagan, Carl: The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, Pg. 325. Print.
[iv] Alfano, Sean. Poll: Majority Reject Evolution. CBS News, February 11th 2009.
[vi] Zoll, Rachel. Letters: Catholic bishops warned in ‘50s of abusive priests. Associated Press in USA Today. 03/31/2009. Print.