Atheist Bigotry Throughout History

Dark ages and the Enlightenment

The de-Christianization of France during the French Revolution. The program of dechristianisation waged against Catholicism, and eventually against all forms of Christianity, included:

removal of statues, plates and other iconography from places of worship

destruction of crosses, bells and other external signs of worship

the institution of revolutionary and civic cults, including the Cult of Reason and subsequently the Cult of the Supreme Being,

the enactment of a law on October 21, 1793 making all nonjuring priests and all persons who harboured them liable to death on sight.

The climax was reached with the celebration of the Goddess "Reason" in Notre Dame Cathedral on 10 November, 1793.

From a scholarly point of view the dechristianization campaign can be seen as the logical extension of the materialist philosophy of some sectors of the enlightenment, while from a popular point of view it was an opportunity for those who had resentments against the post Tridentine clergy.

The so-called "Enlightenment", was "conceived initially as a propaganda ploy by militant athesists and humanists who attempted to claim credit for the rise of science. The falsehood that science required the defeat of religion was proclaimed by such self-appointed cheerleaders as Voltaire, Diederot, and Gibbon, who themselves played no part in the scientific enterprise."

“…vigorous efforts by sixteenth century popes to halt slavery were effectively “lost” from the record until the last decade or so…

“As to the cause of the “Dark Ages”, ever since the start of the eighteenth century, Historians have proposed Christianity as the reason. The truth is there were no “Dark Ages”. It was an invention of anti-religious historians of the time. Today the term is no longer used by credible historians…”

"So, then why didn’t we know that they knew the earth was round? For the same reason that White’s [Andrew Dickson White] book remains influential despite the fact that modern historians of science dismiss it as nothing more than a polemic. White himself admitted that he wrote the story just to get even with Christian critics of his plans for Cornell. As will be seen many of White’s other accounts are as bogus as his report of Columbus and the flat earth...Historians of science have been proving this point for at least 70 years (most recently Edward Grant, David Lindberg, Daniel Woodward, and Robert S. Westman), without making notable headway against the error. Schoolchildren in the US, Europe, and Japan are for the most part being taught the same old nonsense...."

The identification of the era beginning in about 1600 as the "Enlightenment" is as inappropriate as the identification of the millenium before it as the "Dark Ages". And both imputations were made by the same people - intellectuals who wished to discredit religion and especially the Roman Catholic Church and who therefore associated faith with "darkness" and secular humanism with "light". To these ends they sought credit for the "Scientific Revolution" (another of their concepts), even though none of them played any role in the scientific enterprise.

One of the first steps in this effort was to designate their own era as the "Enlightenment" and to claim that it was a sudden and complete disjuncture with the past. To this end, the "Dark Ages" were invented. Among the very first to do so, Voltaire (1694-1778) described medieval Europe as hopelessly mored in "decay and degredation" (Works 1:23). This became the universal theme. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) wrote of previous centuries: "Europe had relapsed into the barbarism of the earliest ages. The peoples of this world, so enlightened today, lived some centuries ago in a condition worse than ignorance" (Rousseau, Works 3:183). A century later when Jacob Burckhardt (who was also the first to claim, falsely, that Constantine's conversion was insincere) popularized the idea of the "Renaissance", the "Dark Ages" were a historical certitude, not to be shaken until the late 20th century."

"Immanuel Kant and Voltaire were two Enlightenment writers who were vocal in attacking the religiously dominated Middle Ages as a period of social decline. Many modern negative conceptions of the age come from Enlightenment authors."

"The second phase of this campaign was to virtually deify Isaac Newton's science, while simultaneously obscuring or downplaying Newton's religious convictions after his death in 1727. One specific example of this (perpetrated by Jean Baptiste Biot - 1774-1862) was to discredit Newton's addition in 1713 of the General Scholium (basically an argument for the existence of God) to his moumental Principia as the work of an aging mind of "diminished intellectual acuity" [In Brewster, 1871:242-5]. Indeed, Newton's "Bentley Letters" were, without any legitimate grounds to do so, redated to 1713 to make them appear as though they were the work of a dottering old man - even though Newton wrote them in 1692. Biot dismissed everything Newton wrote past age 45 as the "fantasies of an aging mental decline." [Ibid:206; Manuel, 1968, 1974].

"Voltaire distrusted democracy, which he saw as propagating the idiocy of the masses. To Voltaire, only an enlightened monarch or an enlightened absolutist, advised by philosophers like himself, could bring about change as it was in the king's rational interest to improve the power and wealth of his subjects and kingdom. Voltaire essentially believed enlightened despotism to be the key to progress and change."

"I am still amazed at where it first appears [the myth of the flat-earth]. No one before the 1830s believed that medieval people thought that the earth was flat. The idea was established, almost contemporaneously, by a Frenchman and an American (Washington Irving), between whom I have not been able to establish a connection, though they were both in Paris at the same time. One was Antoine-Jean Letronne (1787-1848), an academic of strong antireligious prejudices who had studied both geography and patristics and who cleverly drew upon both to misrepresent the church fathers and their medieval successors as believing in a flat earth, in his "On the Cosmographical Ideas of the Church Fathers" (1834).

In the two thousand years of the Christian faith, about 70 million believers have been killed for their faith, of whom 45.5 million or 65% were in the twentieth century - by anti-religious ideologies.

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VincentValentine VincentValentine 31-35, M 6 Responses Aug 23, 2011

Your Response


So, they might not even call themselves atheists, since they have a more specific terminology?

True, but like athiests they do not believe in that which has not been proven by western science. Unlike athiests they believe that one can apply an absolute system of morality in the absence of divinity. But they do not believe in, say, God, either mine or yours (who as far as I am concerned are one in the same) or an afterlife.

I will say, as said above, that most people without religious beliefs, who describe themselves as athiest rather than agnostic or secular humanist (or my favorite nonreligion, neosolarist, the worship of the sun based on scientifically understandable and demonstrable facts without believing in the supernatural) tend to be very self-righteous about it, and tend to reject the idea of an absolute moral code, which I am sure you will agree has terrifying implications when taken to extreme.

Most of the tolerant athiests refer to themselves as "secular humanists" which, unlike athiesm, still retains a positivistic set of absolute morals, IMO one of the best things about religion, as opposed to strict athiesm which rejects our current system of morality, and in lieu of replacing it dances in its ashes. I have met a number of athiests I consider to be kind, generous and tolerant people, but they have all either been secular humanists or dialectical materialists, and therefore had an absolute system of morality (a doctrinal athiests' universe revolves by default around self like that of a Levayan Satanist, whereas a secular humanist focuses on the inherent value of ALL human life, and a dialectical materialist on improving the conditions of oppressed humans).

Yes that is true. In my personal experience however I have never met a tolerant atheist and have never in fact had a good experience with one, and I have met hundreds.

I think that this bigotry stemmed from ******** who were also athiests, being bigoted because they are ********. On a moral level I see a lot more in common between the attitude of an evangelical athiest nut like Richard Dawkins and an eveangelical Christian nut like Fred Phelps than I see in common between Richard Dawkins and Thomas Paine, and I see more in common between Thomas Paine and Martin Luther King, Jr. than between Martin Luther King Jr. and Fred Phelps.

I don't think it is so much what you believe that makes one an *** as that one insists that other people believe it or else they are worthless, pathetic, cowardly morons, or sinful, animalistic, ignorant savages.

I totally agree, digger.

Actually, the myth OF the myth is older than that. Ghenghis Khan (another person who has been unjustifiably demonized to a great extent) was extremely and pleasantly surprised to find that most Europeans knew the world was indeed round, which they judged from the ascent and descent of ships over the horizon (the sail rises first because the ship is coming across a rounded surface, and the halfway point is therefore effectively a "rise" between you and the ship, even on "flat" ocean).

The actual historical issue regarding Christianity or science does not result from a correct interpretation of either side. Christians refused to accept a heliocentric universe because in a biblical story god stops the sun "in its track around the earth" so that a patriarch could finish his battle. Completely missing the moral and religious POINT of the story, Christians made the false assumption that the purpose of the story was to explain cosmology, and took it to be a literal statement about the shape of the solar system, rather than a statement ABOUT A BATTLE, phrased in such a way that the people of the time could understand it.

Athiests, of course, have made similar mistakes, frequently taking the work of scientists who believed in god, and indeed sometimes were engaging in science BECAUSE OF god, (galileo, Darwin, etc, all were trying to understand the METHODS THROUGH WHICH GOD WORKERD, not the methods which work instead of God. Of course, their are layers and layers, as I have heard many strict Christians attack the theory of evolution on the basis that Darwin's now outdated and much improved-upon work does not offer an explanation of phenomena which require an electron microscope to observe) to be a refutation of god's existence, something which many of the people who wrote the actual works being referenced would refer to as a terrible blasphemy, and as the worst possible misinterpretation one could make in understanding their works.