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Secularism - Halverson

Secularism - Halverson - Secularism A Religion Profile from...

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Toward the end of the Renaissance, the modern method of empirical science began to develop. The key players were Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543), Johannes Kepler (1571- 1630), and Galileo Galilei (1564-1642). Although it may seem ironic now, each of these men believed in the Christian God. They viewed science as studying the handiwork of an almighty Creator and discerning His natural laws. Galileo considered God to have written two “books”: the Bible and nature (Hummel, p. 106). Contrary to popular belief, the cause for the diversion between Christianity and science originated not with the Church but with the university professors who were threat- ened by Galileo’s revolutionary ideas. These professors were steeped in the Greek scientific method, which included observation to a small extent, but mostly explained the workings of nature through rational deduction from first principles, or assumptions, an entire view of the universe had been built up. Consequently, the professors embraced such misconceptions as the sun having no imperfections, the moon being a perfectly smooth sphere that shone with its own light, and the earth alone having a moon since the earth was at the center of the universe. Galileo’s recently invented telescope quickly demonstrated the incorrectness of such assumptions (Hummel, pp. 91-94). Not willing to be thwarted by Galileo, the professors decided to make the controversy religious rather than academic (Hummel, p. 92). They argued that the heliocentric (sun-cen- tered) view contradicted scripture (e.g., Psalm 104:22 says, “The sun rises.” Therefore, the sun must revolve around sta- tionary earth). In the face of what at that time appeared to be a genuine contradiction between scripture and the heliocen- tric theory, the theologians of the Roman Catholic Church had no choice but to condemn Galileo’s views, because the conflict had challenged the authority of the Church. As a result of that controversy, the schism between reason and faith had begun. There were now two apparently irreconcilable sources of truth: the church and science. Secularism A Religion Profile from International Students, Inc. 1 Secularism: An Overview Number of Adherents Demographer Davit Barrett estimates that there are 150 million atheists and 768 million nonreligious people in the world. The combined total comes to more than 918 million people (Barrett). Secularism Among the Nations In more than 40 countries, atheists or nonreligious make up more than 10 percent of the population (World Christian Database). The following are just a few of those countries: Austrailia, Britain, Canada, China, Cuba, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, North Korea, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, Sweden, Uruguay and Vietnam. Defining the Terms An “atheist” is one who says there is sufficient evidence to show that God does not exist. An “agnostic” is one who says there is insufficient evidence to know whether or not God exists. The “functional atheist” is one who is apathetic concerning God’s existence. For the purposes of this profile, the term “secularist” will be used to indicate all three.
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