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.
A Religion Profile from International Students, Inc.
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