By James Hannam
A central tenet of the new atheism is that Christianity and reason are antithetical, and that throughout history Christians have held back progress in science. Atheist historian Dr. Richard Carrier has promoted similar views in his contributions to essay collections such as The Christian Delusion and Christianity Is Not Great. He suggests that, but for the rise of Christianity, the ancient Greeks would have enjoyed a scientific revolution so that the “Dark Ages” never would have happened. However, the truth is very different. The science of the ancient Greek pagans was intended to reinforce their ethical and philosophical positions, rather than to be an objective study of nature. Admittedly, when Christians came to develop their own science in the Middle Ages, they were not being objective either. For them, science was the study of God’s creation. But the metaphysical assumptions of Christianity, unlike those of the Greeks or even Muslims, turned out to be extremely conducive to uncovering true knowledge about nature. They weren’t trying to, but it was Christians who laid the foundations for modern science.
It’s hard to imagine what life was like before the rise of modern science. For example, there were no computers, few effective medicines, and only the rich could afford colorful clothes because there were no artificial dyes. So central is science to our lives that the charge Christianity tried to hold back its advance is particularly damaging. It is particularly unfair as well. As historians have now realized, the evidence that the Christian faith actually had a positive influence on science is becoming ever stronger…
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