Reason is the star of “Agora”

If, like me, you have an atavistic hunger for cinematic epics set in the ancient world but are sick of … Continued

If, like me, you have an atavistic hunger for cinematic epics set in the ancient world but are sick of always seeing Christians depicted as heroes and martyrs and pagans as villains and torturers, have I got a movie for you. Agora, directed (in English) by the Chilean-born Alejandro Amenabar, (you didn’t think a movie about the attack on classical Greek and Roman scholarship by Christians flexing their new political muscles was created by an American, did you?) focuses on the life of Hypatia, a distinguished philosopher and mathematician in Alexandria who was literally torn limb from limb by a Christian mob around 415 A.D. Hypatia was not only a legend but a real woman who was slaughtered for the crime of being female, intellectual, and an exponent of classical thought who refused to embrace Christianity as it assumed power in the deteriorating Roman empire. In this unusual film, she is the voice of reason, doubt, and learning in a society torn by religious and political passions–with the Christian religion insisting, as paganism, never had, on a claim to absolute, universal truth. .

Hypatia is known to history because her works on mathematics and philosophy, as well as the manner of her death, are mentioned in surviving writings by contemporary scholars. Her original works perished in the burning of the Library of Alexandria around 415 A.D. by a band of Christian militants, known as parabolini, commanded by the fanatical Bishop Cyril. According to the British scholar Charles Freeman in The Closing of the Western Mind (2002), Cyril’s troops–call them terrorists–were so feared by the people of Alexandria that the emperor demanded their number be limited to only 500. The Temple of Serapis, daughter institution of the Library of Alexandria and believed to contain around 10 percent of its scrolls, had already been forcibly converted into a Christian church and its holdings largely destroyed around 391 A.D. The final destruction of the ancient library, founded in 283 B.C. by Alexander the Great’s successor, was probably the work of Arab invaders in 640 A.D. The Muslim Caliph Omar is said to have stated that whatever was left of the library’s holdings “will either contradict the Koran, in which case they are heresy, or they will agree with it, so they are superfluous.” This account is somewhat suspect, however, since it was written three centuries later by a Christian bishop, Gregory Bar Hebraeus and because it makes no mention of the earlier destruction of most of the library by Christians–which, unlike the details of the later Arab invasion, is recorded in contemporary accounts. What is considered most likely by classical historians is that the fourth-century Christians did the most damage and the Muslims finished the job.

The movie makes admirable use of the known historical details about Alexandria at the turn of the fourth century–a hotbed of conflict among pagans, Christians and the longstanding Jewish community. Since Hypatia could only have been an unmarried woman (there is no possibility that a married woman would have been a teacher attached to the library), the screenwriter, Mateo Gil, manages to insert an obligatory note of fictional romantic interest by tracing the unrequited love for their teacher of three students–one who becomes a Christian bishop, the other the pagan (maybe) prefect of Alexandria, and the third an ambivalent member of Cyril’s band of thugs. But the real subjects of the movie are the clash between restrictive religion and freedom of thought and the plight of a woman dedicated to intellectual inquiry.

Hypatia, as played by the physically stunning and imposing Rachel Weisz (her contemporaries described her as both beautiful and brilliant), is animated by a hunger to figure out the movements of planets and stars through pure mathematics, in a world without telescopes and in which all religions agreed that the earth was the center of the universe. In one scene, the scholars, gathered on the roof of the library on a starry night, allude to the heliocentric theory of Aristarchus of Samos (310-236 B.C.). His treatises were believed to have been lost in the first Alexandria library fire in 48 B.C., accidentally touched off when the invading Julius Caesar torched the Egyptian fleet in the harbor. (Build a great library at one of the most coveted crossroads of the known world before the internet, and you place a great many scrolls in continuous peril.) The heliocentric theory was ridiculed by pagans as well as Christians and Jews of Hypatia’s time, but it would not have been surprising if mathematicians, above all, doubted the “evidence” of their own eyes about the earth being the center of the universe.

One of the most intelligent qualities of this movie is that all of its scenes depicting fictional events are nevertheless entirely plausible in terms of what is known about the era. I have no idea whether the real Hypatia, like the Hypatia of the movie, raised the question of whether the earth itself is rotating imperceptibly to humans, but it is certainly plausible that this theory might have occured to a mathematician. In one of the most moving lines, the prefect asks Hypatia, “Why do you always insist on shifting the ground beneath our feet?” (I must admit, though, that it’s not as funny as the final line in one of the many movie versions of The Greatest Story Ever Told, in which one Roman centurion turns to another after Jesus dies on the cross and declares, “Well, that’s the last we’ll ever hear of him.”)

As A.O. Scott writes, in his review of Agora for The New York Times, “Films about ideological strife in the past frequently reassure modern audiences with a vision of progress in which ignorance is at least partly vanquished and enlightenment is allowed to prevail.” That was not, of course, the case in the western world after Christianity became the dominant religion in the waning years of the Roman empire. Most of the polytheistic pagan rulers of Rome were tolerant of other religions as long as the religions did not directly challenge Rome’s authority. You had to act, or perceive to be acting, to tear down Roman political authority for your faith to be suppressed.

The 313 Edict of Miian, issued by the emperors Constantine in the west and Licinius in the east, is often incorrectly thought to have established Christianity as the dominant religion of the empire. In fact, the edict extended tolerance to all religions (or “cults,” as they were called) and restored the official tolerance that had existed before the persecution of Christians conducted by the emperor Diocletian (284-305). As Jonathan Kirsch observes in God Against the Gods (2004), the edict stated that “all gods and goddesses may be freely worshipped, and the Christian deity is put in a position of parity with Apollo, Isis, the Great Mother, Mithra, and the other gods and goddesses.” Oh, and Yahweh too. The edict, had the institutionalizing Christian church accepted its spirit, might have been good for the Jews as well as the Christians.

It didn’t happen that way, of course. As Agora reminds us, and as the events in Alexandria demonstrated (Cyril also expelled the Jews from the city), the consolidation of church and political authority eventually ruled out the free practice of other religions and obstructed all non-Christian scholarship (even though many of the early church fathers did have classical educations). Although monasteries would preserve many works that had been scattered throughout the empire during the Dark Ages, the Church of Rome, with its relentless hostility to free and scientific inquiry, was a leading player in the making of the darkness. Caliph Omar notwithstanding, the remnants of classical mathematics and science survived mainly in educated outposts of the Muslim world and among Jewish scholars, like Maimonides, who were part of that world on the Iberian peninsula.

What would the western world have been like if religions had remained on a more or less equal footing and Christianity had not become the cultural, religious and political arbiter in the nation-states of the West? We cannot necessarily say that it would have been better, but it certainly would have been different. There surely would have been less blood spilled if the idea of absolute spiritual truth had not been united with state power. And our progress toward modern concepts of the scientific method would likely have been much faster without the power of church authorities committed to the idea that both the Holy Trinity and the status of earth as the center of the universe were not challengeable ideas but unchallengeable truths.

Agora opened last week in Washington, New York, and a number of other large cities. I don’t know how long it will be around–given that it contains no animated characters, no space aliens and no sex (though there is plenty of religiously motivated violence)–so catch it while you can. As E.M. Forster wrote of Hypatia’s murder in Alexandria: A History And A Guide (1938), “With her the Greece that is a spirit expired, the Greece that tried to discover truth and create beauty.” To be sure, English intellectuals of Forster’s generation did regard Greece in an idealized light. Let us say, rather, that the best Greek scholars regarded truth as part of an unending quest, not as a set of a priori assumptions to be imposed. This idea of intellectual inquiry as a self-evident good died in the West for nearly 1200 years with the ascendancy of Christianity, and it is always–as we see in much of the Islamic world and in the precincts of far-right Christianity today–an object of hatred for those who would still criminalize heresy and blasphemy and, in the case of Islamists, murder those who defy their definitions.

About

Susan Jacoby Susan Jacoby is the author of "Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism"­ and is completing a secular history of religious conversion.
  • Athena4

    I am sooo psyched to see this movie. I’m hoping that it comes out in the DC area soon. If not, it’s already in my Netflix queue!

  • WmarkW

    Does it have any visuals demanding a big screen, or can I wait for Netflix?One warning: Rachel Weisz is also in the 2004 film Constantine with Kenau Reeves; it is NOT an historical drama about the Roman emperor. It’s a modern supernatural detective story that I found unwatchable after 20 minutes.

  • Athena4

    She was also in “The Constant Gardener”, which is a much more highbrow story about testing drugs on unsuspecting Africans. Don’t judge an actor by one bad movie.

  • dubya1938

    That’s really the whole point, though. The idea of murdering those who disagree with your opinions hasn’t actually died. It’s just become a scientifically-justified idea.Instead of Christian fanatics killing people, we now have “scientists” killing people. The labels have changed but the act remains the same. Not to mention that a true Christian would never kill another human-being, probably not even in their own defense. It’s a really simple issue in that we should question whether these people are really what they say that they are, or just wolves in sheeps’ clothing, whatever breed of sheep is fashionable these days.

  • IgnorantHillbilly

    What a patently dishonest and slanted portrayal of Christians. Although the Ms Jacoby’s columns are atheistic in outlook, their main thrust is anti-Christian, with a complete disregard for a balanced view of history. Fact: the greatest systematic murderers in history where reasoned atheists. The Soviets, the Nazis, and Chinese Communists killed more people in history than misguided Christian’s ever did, and for the same reason Ms. Jacoby decries in her blog: because people would not be coerced into believing what they were selling. It was Christian America (we were once a Christian nation ) who actually liberated people from the Nazi and Soviet yoke. Fact: many of the most prominent scientists before the 20th century, especially the English scientists, were in fact committed Christians. Sir Isaac Newton, James Clerk Maxwell, Michael Farraday, etc. were all Christians. So much for the myth of Christians suppressing the truth and progress and perpetuating a world of ignorance. Fact: most of the people in the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD were not Christians in any real sense. For several centuries the Roman Empire had been in decline because of corruption, immorality, and a proliferation of the welfare state.(Sound familiar.) Christians, who had been thrown to the lions because they would not worship Caesar (so much for the myth of the tolerant pagan), had set up a parallel society with their own incorruptible courts and welfare system. The reason the Roman Empire turned to Christianity is because their society was terminally ill, and only the Christians had enough vigor and strength to perpetuate it for a few more years. Frankly, the same thing is going to happen to the US; our society is in deep and inexorable decline, most people outside of the government and academia see this, and once enough pressure is placed on the system (as was the case in Rome) it will collapse like a house of cards that it is.

  • jmk833

    “…the best Greek scholars regarded truth as part of an unending quest, not as a set of a priori assumptions to be imposed.”Thank you Susan for continuing this tradition.

  • Ken16

    For another account, with better documentation and fidelity to history, see:

  • barferio

    Fact: the greatest systematic murderers in history where reasoned atheists. The Soviets, the Nazis, and Chinese Communists killed more people in history than misguided Christian’s ever did,Fact, Hitler had a mustache and so did Mother Theresa … did that make her a Nazi?This is your very typical christian “disunderstanding” of facts to suit their hated enemy atheism.These murderers did NOT do their killing in the name of atheism. They were power mad murderers who did it in their own name, using their political ideology as an excuse.Stalin and Mao murdered in the name of communism, Hitler in the name of Naziism.All of these isms had the very same property as Christianity – an absolute utter certainty in the truths of their dogma and a never ending willingness to murder anybody who disagreed.This had NOTHING to do with Atheism, you cretinous fool!Communism and Naziism competed with Christianity, not atheism. Absolute Faith is the common disease on all three of the human parasitic diseases.Why is this so hard for you morons to understand? Perhaps it isn’t too hard, it’s just the only pathetic argument you have left.

  • alance

    Jacoby is really reaching into the dustbin of history to attack 5th century Christians. She has to find an obscure foreign film for a female martyr to preach her anti-Christian crusade. How pathetic.

  • leilaash

    Ms. Jacoby, if you were a real atheist, you’d object to the Washington Post providing a forum (i.e. the On Faith series) for people to discuss the application of religious (or anti-religious) ideologies to current affairs in the first place. Also, why do you continue to naively believe that the world would be virtually free of conflict if there were no religion, or dominant religion? If there were no religion, then we’d have opposing factions supporting one theory or rationalist ideology over another, maybe vehemently disagreeing with other factions enough to spill blood over it. The truth is that humans are violent, bloody, and savage, and that humanistic thought is just as much a product of our own creation as religion is. Both are a product of the human mind, but you treat rationality and religion as completely separate.

  • BabsinTX

    The link for “Agora” leads to a restaurant in D.C. Maybe this can be fixed?

  • leilaash

    [Quote from column]:”the best Greek scholars regarded truth as part of an unending quest, not as a set of a priori assumptions to be imposed”Unless I am mistaken, the ancient Greeks also believed that Athena was born fully grown out of Zeus’ head. Clearly, mythology and spiritual belief have a place in our lives, in our history, in our culture. You object to the burning of mathematical and philosophical scrolls, but would you object to the burning of the Quran or Bible? Should we destroy the Egyptian pyramids because they were a monument to a spiritual afterlife we should no longer believe in because it’s not rational? It’s not reasonable to try to speculate what a fantasy world would be like if we didn’t have religion, the fact is that we have to figure out how to live in the world we have now, which was shaped by events in the past. What I meant by my last comment is that religion is just as legitimate as a canvas for human achievement as ancient and modern science is. The real enigma of religion is NOT whether or not we believe it is true, but whether the belief in an untruth has value for humanity. I think that it clearly does.

  • GDWymer

    To Barferio and Leilaash: you both truly need to consider the lack of your own education in history and literature interms of understanding the use and “belief” in mythology. Hermann Broch is a great place to start. Gore Vial’s Julian about that Roman Emperor and his fight to preserve the secular or”old gods” system is excellent. But you both, along with the proudly self-described Ignoranthillbilly probably prefer to remain ignorant. Also, Jacoby, if any of you have actually read her work, never said that to be rational and non-religious excludes one from being equally ignorant and able to commit atrocity. Oh, another note on American Christian history. Look up how many native American peoples were slaughtered under the flags of the papist nations and the crosses of the many varieties of Protestants. Now mind you all, when I say American I am including Central and South America.

  • tbrucegodfrey

    “IGNORANTHILLBILLY | JUNE 5, 2010 8:31 AM” – your claim that the Nazis were atheists is patently false. Soldiers of the Third Reich were issued belt buckles that states explicitly, “Gott mit Uns” (God [is/be] with us.) Hitler was raised a Catholic, never left the Church and was never excommunicated and the Third Reich viewed atheists and atheism as opponents of the regime and forcibly shut down atheist organizations throughout the Reich, bragging in 1933 that he had “stamped out atheism.” Don’t just trust wikipedia – check out the supporting sources: Ignorant Hillbilly, your name is indeed truth in advertising.

  • lufrank1

    “AWOMEN!” . . . and AMEN!

  • IgnorantHillbilly

    TBRUCEGODFREY: Fact, Hitler believed in Darwinian evolution. Fact, Darwinian evolution is essentially atheism. Just because someone is a member of the Catholic Church and was baptized as a baby, doesn’t in any sense make them a Christian. “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”Hitler was a supreme politician and a supreme liar. He was not going to openly persecute the Catholic Church as long as they did not oppose his regime and program. In fact, deceiving the Catholic and Lutheran churches with talk about God would get them to choose the Nazis over the Communists as the lesser of two evils. The pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoffer eventually resisted the regime — he was promptly killed. Finally, does anyone really believe that the majority of the German populace in the 1930s, after Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche, was, in any way, Christian? Frankly, the thought is laughable. I suppose some part of the populace continued to go to church and sleep walk through the rituals, but to suggest that Germany was a deeply Christian nation is fatuous. It is actually more fatuous than Ms Jacoby’s preposterous article.

  • dataflunky

    I suspect my chances of seeing Agora on a movie screen in Baptistville FL are probably slim to none.

  • barferio

    TBRUCEGODFREY: Fact, Hitler believed in Darwinian evolution. Fact, Darwinian evolution is essentially atheism…Here you go again with this silly religious-minded logic — things not equal to each other are equal to everything else.You make assumptions about the people of Germany you know nothing about.And this utterly ridiculous statement that darwinian evolution is essentially atheism … one has to gasp at the breathtaking stupidity evidenced by anybody who makes such a moronic statement.Here, try this one:In 1950, Pope Pius XII wrote in his encyclical Humani generis:“The Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, insofar as it inquiries into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter.”Man, you have got a lot to learn about the world, religion in particular.Get your hand off yourself and open a book now and then.

  • spidermean2

    Catholicism is FALSE Christianity. So why is Christianity here represented by Catholicism?This is a very inaccurate depiction of Christianity and therefore a garbage piece of essay.Evolution is matter forming by themselves. No intelligent inputs and therefore no God. In short, it’s ATHEISM.Catholicsim which officially supports evolution is a FAKE CHRISTIANITY. It’s rotten history can prove it.

  • barferio

    I know, it’s hard to believe, but I have a higher opinion of Christians than Spidermean the evil manic troll.I just think you all are fools, juvenile santa-claus believers who never grew up. But he thinks you are evil and FALSE.Let us try to imagine a world where this guy rules, this budding little christian hitler.All atheists will be crucified, burned, garroted … probed with unimaginable hot things in inconvenient places.And that’s where he’s being nice.Just think what this sociopath is going to do to you!And let us imagine who the “real Christians” are in this evil man’s mind. How many of you would be in his heaven, in his hell?This guy is a wannabe Torquemada. It is his kind that we, the human species, must battle without reservation. It his he and his kind who are the true Evil True Believers in the world. It is he and his kind who made the Nazis and the Communists and Pol Pot and Mao and Stalin and Hitler and … well, pick your evil, murderous fckhead …. all of them were Spidermean at one time.

  • daniel12

    Part one.On the modern Hypatia.

  • andym108

    Ms. Jacoby writes,”(I must admit, though, that it’s not as funny as the final line in one of the many movie versions of The Greatest Story Ever Told, in which one Roman centurion turns to another after Jesus dies on the cross and declares, “Well, that’s the last we’ll ever hear of him.”)”What’s even funnier is those were the exact words that my parents said to each other at the conclusion of Nixon’s Checkers Speech. Ouch!

  • ShorinBJ

    I love the repeated claims of No True Scotsman. This, for those of you who don’t know, is a logical fallacy. The definition of a Christian is someone who follows Christ. A Christian who commits cold-blooded murder, as Hitler did, is surely a bad one. But Hitler professed to be a Christian, and there is no evidence that he did not consider himself one.Hitler spoke very little about evolution. And his twisted eugenic cleansing, if it could be said to have anything to do with evolution, would be based on a profound misunderstanding of evolutionary theory. Diversity is the key in evolution — wiping out members of a species until every one is the same is a recipe for extinction.Look, Hitler, whatever he believed either way, clearly wanted to wipe out the Jews for his own reasons. But when you want to get a whole country to commit genocide, “Evolution says we should” isn’t nearly as effective as “God says we should.”Therein lies a deep problem with most religions; Give up your ability to think for yourself in favor of having religious leaders and an old book tell you what to think, and you open yourself to influence from people with less than pure intentions.

  • ShorinBJ

    “Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” – Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    There are several accounts of the murder of Hypatia by a Christian mob.What often fails in contemporary, but not in near-contemporaneus discussions of the motive, are its political dimensions. Hypatia saw beyond, as it were. The Christians did not.

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    As for the ongoing discussion of Adolf Hitler, he was a Catholic, raised as a Catholic, died a Catholic.Hitler did not kill one third of the world’s Jewish population by himself and neither did Germany.They were killed by Germans, Ukranians, Russians, Hungarians, Lithuanians, Latvians, Croatians, Rumanians, French, Poles, etc., all of them Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant.It is a fact as the Protestants maintain that numerically Protestants were in the minority of Christian nazis.The Catholic/Christian killers were variously aligned with national-religious movements such as the Rumanian Iron Guard, and simple God-fearing Church-going people, who murdered in advance of the Nazi presence.These are facts. Auschwitz was Europe, not Germany. The Nazis were Catholics and Christians, one’s next-door neighbors.It is 2010. Time for the facts. The destruction of one third of the world’s Jews by the Christians/Catholics of Europe is part of European history. Time to include it in European history courses, time to describe it for what it was.Endless accounts are available, including contemporaneous witness accounts by Catholics/Christians.I’ve published several bibliographies on this blog.It is time for the Catholics and Christians to come to terms with what they have done and to end their hatred. They deform themselves.

  • edbyronadams

    “We cannot necessarily say that it would have been better, but it certainly would have been different. There surely would have been less blood spilled if the idea of absolute spiritual truth had not been united with state power. And our progress toward modern concepts of the scientific method would likely have been much faster without the power of church authorities committed to the idea that both the Holy Trinity and the status of earth as the center of the universe were not challengeable ideas but unchallengeable truths.”Interesting construct, Ms. Jacoby. In the introductory part, you claim not better, just different and then proceed to claim better in the latter part of the paragraph.Go figure. Once you change history, consequences are unforseen. It could have led to a bigger bloodbath. It’s totally unpredictable.What did set the stage for the rise of science was a schism in the Christian church, with parallel political schisms. This lack of unity allowed scientists with revelations unfavorable to specific theological views places of refuge. This advantage of disunity is what allowed the West to surpass more technologically but unifed Eastern societies.

  • rvosa

    “Agora – Heaven Hates Hellenism”, review here:

  • IgnorantHillbilly

    Catholicism is not Christianity. That is why northern Europe and, by extension, America went through a reformation. Darwinism is completely incompatible with Christianity, regardless of what the pope or a liberal, make-believer may say. It would take me 5 seconds to explain why they are incompatible, it will take the pope 5 hours to explain why they are not. Communism, Nazism, the Democratic Party, and the Republican Party are atheistic and humanistic, the only difference being the degree in which they follow their presuppositions, but their metaphysical presuppositions are the same. The people on this blog sound a little like the Arabs saying that they are being persecuted by Christian America and Christian Europe. Europe and America ceased being Christian a long, long time ago. (This is not really new flash; that is why we speak of western civilization in terms of modernism and post-modernism.) Europe, especially Germany — the birth place of “Higher Criticism”, ceased being Christian long before Hitler came to power. America has a vocal Christian minority, but their views hold little or no sway in the public arena. The prohibition on same-sex marriage is one of the last vestiges of a dead Christian order, all other vestiges (Bible reading in school, school prayer, fault-based divorce, pro-life policies, criminalization of sodomy, prohibition, economic laws based on individual responsibility — not environmental guilt, etc) have been destroyed.

  • shaheed-yahudi

    .

  • ShorinBJ

    “Catholicism is not Christianity.”Ahem.Main Entry: Chris·tian1 a : one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ b (1) : disciple 2 (2) : a member of one of the Churches of Christ separating from the Disciples of Christ in 1906 (3) : a member of the Christian denomination having part in the union of the United Church of Christ concluded in 1961

  • ShorinBJ

    “America has a vocal Christian minority, but their views hold little or no sway in the public arena.”76% is, by definition, not a minority. And you’re a fool if you think that Christian biases do not influence policy.

  • mrbradwii

    (you didn’t think a movie about the attack on classical Greek and Roman scholarship by Christians flexing their new political muscles was created by an American, did you?) Boy, you sure got that right, merikans ain’t nuthin’ but a buncha nascar-watchin’, church ‘tendin’, hoopleheads who ain’t never ‘complished nuthin’ that counted for nothin’ in the real world.

  • Athena4

    Don’t forget that Christianity in the Fifth Century was a lot different than today. I can’t imagine that anyone today would whip up a violent mob of religious zealots to beat up on a famous scientist. We’re more civilized than that. We have Fox News.

  • BlaiseP

    Said the hillbilly:OK–I’ll bite. If Christianity started

  • BlaiseP

    There is a parallel with the Reformation and Hypatia though. With the collapse of canon law and church authority, Europe underwent a series of attacks on women: an epidemic of witchcraft accusations against women.(Estimates are imprecise but tens of thousands of women died in the frenzy). Midwives and women with knowledge of herbs were especially targeted, ie knowledgeable, powerful women. Something similar to the charges against Hypatia.I’m afraid the rest of SJ’s article is canned historicism. Still, it gives her a chance to plug her coming book!

  • timmy2

    D12 said: “Science is often spoken of as freedom of mind, but that is misleading. It is a form of absolute thinking”Only to dumb people. Scientists and smart people know that there is nothing “absolute” about the discoveries of science. Agnosticism is what drives science. It is the admission of the lack of knowledge that we have that drives scientists to seek and discover. To see science as absolutist, D12 surely must be one of the morons of the world. Smart people know better.

  • schnauzer2

    Posted by: edbyronadams “Both the murder of Hypatia and the burning of the library at Alexandria have alternative explanations than the ones presented by Susan Jacoby. She takes the most anti Christian histories on faith.”

  • Athena4

    If you are offended by a movie that shows a woman scientist as the protagonist, and shows the actions of a mob of Fifth-Century religious fanatics, don’t see it! BTW, the “ancient” Greeks may have believed in Zeus, etc. However, Greeks in Hypatia’s time period studied philosophy rather than religion. Hypatia herself was a philosopher and an atheist.

  • crabstu

    And as to Hitler, his only true religion was himself. He was trying to meld German nationalism into a religion. One can find just as many quotes from him damning the Church as you can talking about religion. You can find such double speak by him in the secular realm as well. He was appealing the masses.

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