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The history of the Ottomans highlights the tension in Islam between religious and secular law

BBC series explores how the Suleiman the Magnificent submitted Sharia law to his own will

By on Friday, 18 October 2013

Rageh Omaar host the BBC series, The Ottomans: Europe's Muslim Emperors (PA)

Rageh Omaar host the BBC series, The Ottomans: Europe's Muslim Emperors (PA)

I have just watched the second part of Rageh Omaar’s history of the Ottoman Empire on catch up. (You can find it here). It is, I think, a remarkable piece of fairly balanced reportage. We had a lot of experts telling us how wonderful Suleiman the Magnificent was, but this was balanced by the Catholic journalist (and expert on Balkan affairs) Melanie McDonagh warning us not to glamourise the past, as well as Bishop Kallistos Ware telling us that the Ottoman custom of kidnapping Christian boys and forcibly converting them to Islam was an attack on the sacredness of the Christian family. Neither observation is politically correct, but they are both true, so kudos to the BBC and Mr Omaar for telling it like it is, or allowing these voices to be heard.

The programme also dealt with the celebrated defeat of the Ottoman Turks at the gates of Vienna in 1683 with some sensitivity to varying interpretations. Yes, this was certainly a turning point for Christian Europe, but it was not simply a religious event. Also good to see was the frank admission of the fact that the Ottomans declined because of their failure to embrace the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution. They became, as one expert put it, fossilised. One fact, not mentioned here, but surely emblematic, is that though printing was introduced to the empire, it never really took off. The first printing press in the mid-eighteenth century produced a few volumes and then shut down.

What the programme did not do is explain why the Turks failed to modernise, despite repeated efforts to do so. Mustafa Kemal, the founder of modern Turkey, did manage to modernise the country, in a way that the Sultans had failed to do, and he did so through a programme of secularisation. Was it Islam that held the Ottomans back? And if so, why?

An answer of sorts may be found, perhaps, in what the programme said about Suleiman. To his own people he is known as the Lawgiver and he wrote a book of laws called the Kanun (a cognate of our own word ‘canon’). These laws were crafted in a way to supplement the Sharia but never to contradict it, or at least to make sure that no contradiction seemed obvious: but one thing was clear, the force of the law was in the will of the Sultan. So what Suleiman really did was submit the Sharia to his own will – which is a most unIslamic thing to do. In that regard he was rather like Kemal.

This relationship between secular law and religious law is still problematic for Muslims. Catholics certainly believe that God’s law trumps the law of the State, but, except in extreme circumstances, this is not generally a problem for us. It rarely arises that we face the situation that Thomas More faced. But we are all aware that such a situation is possible. Why is it still such a live issue for the Muslims? Why does the word ‘Caliphate’ still resonate with them so much?

  • SimonS

    What the programme did not do is explain why the Turks failed to modernise, despite repeated efforts to do so.

    The programme did cover this to some degree, although briefly. The Ottoman empire was massive, and successful. At the time when various, fragmented, nations around Europe were pushing ahead with industrial development and modernisation, the Ottoman empire had little need to interact outside of itself except on its own terms. As such, there was little pressure to develop any pace of modernisation. By the point when they realised that modernisation was necessary, they had been left so far behind by the rest of Europe that the effort to catch up was doomed.

    A salutary lesson for those who would ignore trends in the modern world, just because they are modern.

  • Guest

    Interesting to note that apart from any hagiographical nod of approval in the direction of the Ottoman Empire that the BBC may wish to indulge must be the title of that book by I M Lewis “What went wrong?” for something clearly did go wrong. Lewis bows down and rightly so to the immense and powerful achievements of all that the Ottoman civilization was able to effect (I think of their Millet system which even today some laud for its multi-cultural ethos) but he poses three kinds of questions which have come to afflict that Muslim mindset, when confronted with obvious failure in the face of modernity and the end of their empire, such questions as: Who did this to us?…….Where did we go wrong?…..What went wrong? (This last, being the title of Lewis’s book). The sense of victimhood is not unapparent when ego has to explain to himself, give an account to himself of all that has transpired (or conspired?) to effect such a lack of achievement in the face of modernity, that lagging behind and the consequent search for blame. How to explain it?

    I.M. Lewis refers in his writings to the distinction that Christianity make between ‘to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.’ Islam does not (in theory) make this distinction at all; hence there is a problem. Perhaps the Enlightenment ethic of modernity was all too ready to exploit this distinction – to the benefit of the development of secularism. Some there are who hearken back to a realization of an imagined golden age – where for them there was no distinction between a secular law and a religious law. However, Egypt and Tunisia today for example show how difficult it is going to be to establish anything like a theocracy or anything inclining in that direction. I saw on TV some captives in Syria (captured by government troops) and when the interviewer asked what they really wanted to achieve one answered ‘Andalus’ and he was echoed enthusiastically in this by all the other captives, who nodded ‘Andalus! Andalus!’. And this in the year 2013!

    The Ottoman Empire instances a powerful empire in an agro-literate civilization quite unable to get to grips with its failures in the face of the accomplishments of the western world – industrialization and technological progress built upon an ethic of modernity. I suppose the fate of the Sultan’s Tower at Galata is indicative of a mindset not capable of grasping and get to grips with this.

    Even today many Islamic countries do not wish to go down that road which in the West saw modernity rip apart traditional Christian institutions and oblige upon such institutions the necessity to reach an accommodation or compromise with modernity. They have seen what has happened to Christianity in the western world and are most apprehensive. The Enlightenment ethic, much lauded by some, is built upon a premise that whatever goes on in this world needs no explanation in some other – and that ethic has found a home in many an intellectual discipline and in many a place of learning, many an institution and many a government. Islam baulks at this; so does Christianity (in part) and especially those Christianities which are more resistant to the ethic of modernity. Islam stands out as the one religion which has refused and still strives to refuse accommodations and compromises. Modern Turkey is an instance of a country which is determined not to be secular in any western sense – the Attaturk period is looked upon as a wayward meandering – and in the current period wishes to embrace Islam as a religion of the polity and be modern. Will it work?

  • maxmarley

    Elizabethan England and the Ottomans had something in common – their dislike of Catholic Europe.
    Strangely enough some 300 years later Cameron and Hague’s England have so much in common with another islamic dynasty, the House of Saud.
    That Christians are at the receiving end of so much islamic persecution is of little consequence to this government when oil and arms sales are at stake.
    In Elizabeth’s time the Ottomans were suitably geographically distant not to be a threat to England.
    How things have changed.
    The dislike of a once Catholic Europe is still there.
    But Islam does not seem to be that far away any more

  • la Catholic state

    As far as I can see…..the only ones to advance science are Christians. I don’t buy into the Enlightenment argument at all. The Englightenment crew were pseudo-philosophers proposing false, anti-Christian versions of humanity…..they had nothing to do with science. Which is just as well, since science continued unabated until very recently, when we seem to have come to a full stop, as far as breaking theoretical frontiers is concerned.

    And as for God’s law trumping State law….when God and the State are in tandem, there is no problem. When the State rebels against God, rejects Him and sets themselves up as an alternate and opposing moral authority….then we have trouble. As we are about to find out in our post-Christian Christ-rejecting secular Enlightenment ‘paradise’.

  • Cestius

    I think one of the reasons why the Ottoman Empire failed to keep up scientifically and technologically with the West was that it, like the Abbasid and Ummayad empires before it never really went in for advancing knowledge for its own sake, most of its technology and knowledge came from peoples it had conquered or traded with. That was fine as long as the Empire kept on expanding, but when it started to run out of steam (especially after being turned back for the first time at Vienna in 1529), it was inevitable that it would start to fall behind. Lack of progress meant falling behind in the arms race – that became clear at Lepanto in (1571) where the Ottoman fleet was destroyed by better cannons and ship design, particularly from the Venetians. Falling behind in the arms race lead to the shrinking of the Empire and further lack of scientific progress. By the time the Ottoman sultans realized that something was seriously wrong, it was too late to catch up again.

  • John of Kent

    “Modern Turkey is an instance of a country which is determined not to be
    secular in any western sense – the Attaturk period is looked upon as a
    wayward meandering”

    For millions of Turks it: isn’t they want secularism and revere Ataturk. How much did you follow the demonstrations and protests across Turkey in the summer? And the cruel and ruthless way they were suppressed?

    (Perhaps not much since the British media weren’t/aren’t too interested and the Cameron-Hague would-be Syria-cides see the present lot in Istanbul as a useful ally.)

    Ataturk by the way, and Bernard Lewis, not I.M.Lewis.

  • Guest

    Many thanks for responding.

    You write: “For millions of Turks it: isn’t they want secularism and revere Ataturk”

    For millions of Turks – under the present regime – ‘it is’, just as for millions of Turks ‘it isn’t’. Countries like this are divided, severely so. The current leader gives the impression of somehow wishing to distance his party from the Ataturk legacy (and he has an electoral majority) and is even looking to the glories of the Ottomans, highlighting their achievements over and against any Ataturk. That is the political reality, like it or not. (Analogously, Iran under the Shah, in his attempt to modernize and distance himself from any Islamic legacy emphasized most strongly the Ancient Persians heritage which pre-dated Islam – perhaps something of a fiction on the Shah’s part in that Iranians today are not related at all to the Ancient Persians, though on that I may stand to be corrected).

    Egypt too – a majority, poor and feeling dispossessed voted for an Islamic Brotherhood party – millions of them. Equally there were millions against that regime and generally the not poor and not-dispossessed middle classes felt they stood to lose under a regime guided by the principles of some Islamic Brotherhood. One article I read (by an Islamic scholar) pointed out that Professors of Law at the Cairo University were totally unskilled and unschooled in Sharia Law – it was a foreign language to them. The religious leaders grounded in Sharia were likewise uninformed in the kind of law taught at the University where practitioners been educated under Western systems.

    I do not know what the situation is like in this regard in Turkey, though the article in question (Wael Hallaq by Ashab al-Wujuh, globalwebpost.com) argues that religious leaders and their Sharia Law will have to get to grips and appreciate modernity for modernity is not going to go away and such religious leaders will have to accept that modernity is not the demon that some say it is.

    To say for millions ‘it isn’t’ is therefore equally countered by saying that for millions ‘it is’. When the Islamic Brotherhood was so favoured in Egypt there was a distinct esprit de corps, an affinity with Turkey. When they were removed by the military, Turkey was most upset.

    As said, these countries are divided. And Turkey may have been more politically astute in that it seemed to neutralize fairly quickly the military and according to some denied them thereby that legacy of secular modernity that Ataturk brought in but this did not happen in Egypt. Ernest Gellner in one of his essays pondered the question of the military in Turkey and sided with the view that they would be the guarantors of Ataturk’s legacy, able to step in; this has not happened…..yet. (I think, if I remember rightly, some of the military are in prison for acting along these lines.)

    Anyway, thanks for pointing out my error re Bernard Lewis. I am working on Bernard Lewis’s work and also on I. M. Lewis’s (Somali pastoral nomads and the development of Islam in the Horn of Africa.) My mistake, Mea culpa.

  • William Tradant

    That used to be the standard view, including that of the Turks themselves from the 19th century. But the current scholarly view, resting on an anti-positivist anti-Kemalist viewpoint, (i,e. the alliance of neo-Marxians and Islamists) is that there was no progress or backlog problem and that there was never a knee-jerk religiously based rejection of innovation on the grounds that it was bid’at.. Military technology is actually the area where the Ottomans were most responsive to innovation and 19th century European writers credited them with several military inventions, notably (but probably wrongly) the Howitzer. The view that there was no progress/innovation problem is fairly ably defended by Gabor Agoston in his book ‘Guns for the Sultan’ but even if it applies to weaponry to some extent, i can’t see that it is valid for other areas (e.g. most obviously printing), And most intelligent Turks in the 19th and early 20th centuries would not have accepted his view but been closer to yours.

  • William Tradant

    Thanks for your courteous and interesting reply. The ‘We are in the majority view’ is of course exactly the argument the present leaders of Turkey use. However (1) There are considerable restrictions on freedom of expression, press, political activity (e.g. demonstrations) nin Turkey today. A ‘single party dominant’ system has been established which is in effect not subject to usual democratic checks and balances — these, including court scrutiny have been removed in the last decade with the USA, EU, and the lib-left foolishly and uncomprehendingly applauding the change, supposing it to mean greater not less democracy; (2) Before 2002 there is no doubt that a majority in Turkey neither wanted nor expected a theocratic form of government and transition to the Sheri’a. Many elections showed that clearly. This, in my view, is where Gellner, in some ways a prophet and certainly most perceptive, was complete cavalier with the facts, supposing all Turkey’s political breakdowns to be reflections of the contest against the return of religion. This is factually untrue — though of course it is the interpretation given by Islamists and their remaining die-hard leftist allies, (3) Work is now well under way in Turkey to ensure that the secularists fade from the scene and future generations are instilled with an Islamic perspective, through schools, media (Islamic children’s cartoons) and political discourse. The secularists have poor judgment and are effectively silenced except for occasional flare-ups like last summer. The ablest young will migrate. (4) The outcome might have been different if the US and EU press had bothered to cover the news out of Turkey properly and tell us what was going on. It was left to occasional visitors like Charles Moore in the Spectator to issue warnings based on intelligent observation.

    This is not a struggle of the poor and dispossessed, though the sermons use that rhetoric. The present set up in Turkey is called by some, not me of course, a kleptocracy and certainly consists of very rich people. The ordinary voters have never been so well off materially. No comparison with Egypt’s poverty. This is the fruit of the earlier Republic despite all its errors and meanderings.

    The military have been castrated — are you not aware of all the wrongful imprisonment there has been? If not, google Dani Rodrik (a brilliant Turkish American economist at the Institute of Advanced Studies Princeton) and Turkey plus Sledgehammer for details of the show trials. Again not a peep of criticism from Britain or the US.

    We in the West will rue the day our politicians and journalists (including some on the CH) were dim and ignorant enough to help push this boat into the water.

  • Acleron

    Darwin, Einstein and Feynman who produced the theories that were ground breaking and each of which affects everything we do today were not Christians. As for breaking theoretical frontiers, the gaps in time between such events is obviously going to increase as our theories get better. But we know that some theories are incomplete because they do not explain our observations. But whatever new theories are found to explain dark matter and energy, for instance, won’t negate existing theories. We still use Newtonian motion (another non-Christian BTW) where appropriate although Einsteinian physics is the more accurate.

  • William Tradant

    The headline on this article seems to have changed. There can be no secular law in Islam, only religious law which regulates the most minute aspects of everyone’s life, so as it stands this headline is nonsense. Perhaps it would read better as ‘the tension between secular and religious law in Islamic societies.’ Turkey’s being a secular republic means that it has a secular legal system introduced by Kemal Ataturk. There are some potential roots of secularism in the high Ottoman empire –the Sultans, unusually and quite improperly from an Islamic point of view, issued their own rescripts or commands which were known as ‘yasaknameler’. But the empire was clearly a theocracy in which there was no separate civil power. Islam was the state. This is (not yet) the situation in Turkey today.

  • la Catholic state

    Darwin was a gifted naturalist who proposed an intriguing theory. It still remains a theory of natural history. Einstein was Jewish….and immensely gifted as many Jews, kith and kin of Christ, are out of proportion to their small number. Feynman…I’m not aquainted with. But the computer was a long time in the making….by Christians in Christendom.
    Today science, especially the difficult but most important physics, is at a standstill. We are still waiting for some definite pronouncement from The Collider. Nobody seems to know what is happening. Catholic scientists again please.

  • Acleron

    The theory of evolution has in fact more evidence supporting it than any other major ‘intriguing’ theory such as General Relativity or Quantum Electrodynamics. Apart from the slightly difficult fact that Einstein did not believe in a personal god I enjoyed the idea that Jews have been co-opted into Christianity, I hope you have told them.

    To say that physics is at a standstill is quite amazing especially when you mention the collider which I take to mean the Large Hadron Collider which has already fulfilled its primary purpose and verified the existence of the Higgs field. I fear you don’t understand how science works.

    Christianity has contributed nothing to science except slow progress and Christians are contributing less and less to science but progress continues regardless.

  • la Catholic state

    My point is….the theory of evolution remains only a theory…and a pretty useless one at that. Adaptation mutation and natural selection are very useful within limits, but not the theory of Evolution.

    I think you will find Collider scientists are not a hundred per cent sure what they have found….and we are STILL waiting confirmation and information. Strange.

    ALL the great, and lesser scientists of the past thousand years have been Christans in Christendom…..with the exception of Einstein! Christianity is spiritual truth, science is material truth, and both have the same source…..God

  • Acleron

    All major advances are theories, you are confusing the common lay person’s understanding of the word with that of a scientist. The Theory of Evolution has more evidence supporting it than General Relativity, it explains all of biology and allows predictions. Nothing has ever been found to disprove it. But we know that General Relativity has flaws, yet nobody steps off tall buildings because it is ‘just’ a theory.

    The Higgs particle has been found with 99.99999% certainty that the result is not due to chance. Some of the rarer breakdown products have not met that standard but as more results come in it looks like they will. Science enjoys people who go against orthodoxy, you will always find some who are doubtful of any result. They are seldom right.

    The three most important scientific theories that affect our lives were discovered by non-Christians. And here are a few more that you might recognise: Arrhenius, Anderson, Alfven, Abbé, d’Alembert, Halley, Gamow, Hawking, Laplace, Landau, Lagrange, Gay-Lussac, Crick… Your statement appears to lack substance.

  • James M

    “There can be no secular law in Islam, only religious law which regulates
    the most minute aspects of everyone’s life, so as it stands this
    headline is nonsense”

    Well said. “Can be no secular law in Islam” is the point – of its very nature, Islam has no place for secular law, because its “politics” (to use a word with misleading associations) is God-centred & religious & sacred, not man-centred & profane & secular. To expect Muslims to have attitudes that Christians have only because of secular influences (such as some from the “Enlightenment”), is to expect them to be secular – it’s not a reasonable or fair-minded expectation.

    To call a state (& even that is a loaded word) “secular” or “theocratic” can be unhelpful, because it can imply the existence, in a particular historical setting, of concepts and distinctions that do not exist in that setting.

  • James M

    Archimedes ? Erastothenes ? The invention of printing in the ninth century ? The Sumerians have a few thing to their credit – such as the invention of writing. It is just not possible for Christians to claim to be uniquely favourable to the sciences. The Christian mediaevals didn’t even have the zero for a few centuries – IIRC, it was the Hindus who came up with that. By all means let credit be given where it is due – but a lot of it can’t go to Christians.

  • William Tradant

    Historical discussion is going to be rather awkward if we can only discuss past societies in terms of the concepts and distinctions which existed at their time. And secular is a term which applies to Turkey today where there are secular people and views, perhaps not quite in a Catholic Herald sense, but they do exist — for the time being.

  • Hungarian Printer

    It is a bit depressing when the debate on Turkey is so factually fuzzy, not to say inaccurate.

    “The first printing press in the mid-eighteenth century produced a few volumes and then shut down.” I haven’t seen the programme so don’t know whether it actually said this, but the statement is not true. The Ottoman Muslim clergy did prevent the introduction of the printing press in the 16th and 17th centuries, for Turkish and Arabic, evidently fearing that it would impugn the sacred nature of the Koran. But there was printing in the languages of the Jewish and Christian minorities. Ibrahim Muteferrika, a Hungarian prisoner convert, began printing in the Latin alphabet and in 1719 with the support of various higher officials including the Grand Vizier The printing press was not shut down and between then and his death in 1745, Ibrahim Muteferrika produced 22 volumes on non-religious matters: history, geography, linguistics and grammar: a fair output for a man working alone and who had to make the new typeface for Arabic script himself. After his death the printing monopoly passed to two Islamic kadis or judges and slowly and belatedly the amount of printing in Turkey began to increase.

    These days with Islamists in power in Turkey, and the left no longing believing in what they condescendingly call ‘the modernity project”, we hear less than we used to do about this long delay and the reasons for it.

  • la Catholic state

    In case you hadn’t noticed…these were pre-Christian scientists. Christians have dominated science completely since 1277….when the Bishop of Paris banned the teaching of Aristotelian physics in universities….as Aristotle (though regarded as infallible) was mistaken in many things and leading scientists astray.

    Those were the days when philosophy and science were in the same faculty. Today atheist scientists have no philosophical framework within which to view their subject matter.

  • la Catholic state

    There are theoretical breakthroughs…..and there are developments. All science and technology today are based on developments ie the innovative use of already known theories and knowledge. We are waiting and waiting for the next great theoretical breakthrough….and it doesn’t seem to be coming.
    If the Higgs is what has been found…..where is all the information, confirmation and most importantly….what are the implications of this discovery?! And there is a qualitiative difference between a scientist that breaks new frontiers….and one that looks down a microscope and maps things. And don’t forget….mapping the genome has proved to be completely useless in predictive terms. I think the height gene can only predict correctly a persons eventual height….to 5% accuracy.

  • Acleron

    I cannot see the difference between a breakthrough and a development, both terms are applied to new theories.

    If you want access to the petabytes of information derived from the CERN experiments then take your degree in physics to apply for a PhD with a group that works with CERN. The alternative is read the scientific papers published by ATLAS and CMS.

    Again you betray your ignorance of science. Advances are made by the combination of observation and theoretical study. Rarely as in Einstein’s work does the theory come first, usually it is people peering at nature and noticing that the data doesn’t match theory. Galileo measured the fall of bodies to be the first of a long line of scientists who disproved Aristotle’s assertions. At the moment, in physics, it is the experimentalists who are leading, in biology, it has always been the observers first.

    I’ve no idea where you obtained your figure from but 60-80% of human height can be predicted by genetics and 20-40% of the variation is attributable to nutrition. But in general, the ToE applies to populations not individuals so complaining that it doesn’t do what you want it to do is a bit of a strawman.

  • William Tradant

    Well they may have regarded themselves as ‘non-Christians’. But most Muslims would not do so. You seem to have tunnel vision.

  • la Catholic state

    Im sure most people above the age of 9 can see the difference between breakthrough and development. It’s not rocket science.
    And physicists can experiment all they like….but we are still waiting for some new breakthroughs, which come in all different and some surprising ways, that would make a major difference to our lives. I don’t think we are going to get it. A…we don’t deserve it, and B….until the population increases rapidly, we really don’t need it….as we are fine chugging along as we are. And C…atheists I don’t think are going to be blessed with new knowledge. Pride comes before the fall and all that.

    The height gene as read from the genome map, is only 5% indicitave of a person’s height…as other sites on the gene also contribute to the eventual height….thus complicating matters….meaning we can’t read the gene as simply as we thought we would from mapping the genome. So….we were wrong again. Or should that be you were wrong again.

  • Acleron

    A nine year old with a reasonable education would also know more about science than you have exhibited. Your figure is wrong, unlike religion you don’t get to make up facts to fit a narrative.

    The only method humanity has found to advance new knowledge is through the scientific method, scientists leave inventing stories and pretending to knowledge to religions. Religion has slowed the rate of progress by directly opposing scientists as happened to Galileo and is happening today with Christians and Muslims trying to discredit the ToE because its conclusions do not match their beliefs. It has also slowed progress by inhibiting the questioning mind. It certainly hasn’t added a single fact to our corpus of knowledge although some believers have through their separate efforts in science. So we have a tried method that produces knowledge which disproportionally attracts atheists, that should, but probably won’t, tell you something.

  • Acleron

    Did you leave something out? Most Moslems would not consider themselves as non-Christians? If you are referring to my lack of mention of Islamic science there are two reasons, the first is that I am responding to a claim about Christianity and the second is that since a very wonderful but ancient period, there hasn’t been much.

  • la Catholic state

    My figure is right actually, ask any scientist. I dare you!
    Science advances in many ways….and did so before the scientific method was established. You also have not factored in the individual Eureka moments of insight. But of course these can’t be manufactured or bought….so atheist scientists don’t like them….and don’t have them.
    And contrary to your laughable er ‘claim’….science developed more in the past 800 years of Christianity….than in all the previous eons of paganism. And in Christendom only! This is a fact that gives much worry to atheists. Now we need Christian scientific inspiration again….because atheists don’t have any. They only have wads of money….and it isn’t enough.

  • FrankieThompson

    Wouldn’t it be a great and grand gesture for peace and reconciliation in the world , if the Turkish Government were to hand back Hagia Sophia to the Eucumenical Patriarch, so that the two greatest religious buildings in Istanbul were being both used for their original purposes ?

  • Acleron

    Second attempt.

    Your figure is wrong.
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-much-of-human-height

    But it doesn’t really matter how much of a characteristic is attributed to genetics and how much to nature, without the ToE we just wouldn’t know.

    The insistence that the scientific knowledge which is all the real knowledge we possess has much to do with Christianity is also wrong. There was a flourishing of logic, mathematics and observation in Europe in the centuries prior to Christianity. Then we had a hiatus in development of one and a half millennia. This was rarely punctuated by imported knowledge from Asia and the Middle East and a few genuine thinkers from Europe. This new knowledge was consistently suppressed. Only when the grip of religion had been loosened did progress occur again.

  • licjjs

    Today is the feast of St John of Capistrano. The following is copied from Universalis:

    “St John of Capistrano (1386 – 1456)

    He was born in Capistrano in the Abruzzi in 1386. He studied law at Perugia and for some time held the office of a judge. He joined the Friars Minor and was ordained. He travelled throughout Germany, Poland, Transylvania, Moldavia, and Russia, leading an apostolic life, strengthening Christian morals and combating heresy.

    When the Turks were invading Europe in the wake of the fall of Constantinople, they laid siege to Belgrade, then a border fort of the kingdom of Hungary. John preached a crusade against them and took part in the battle on 22 July 1456 in which John Hunyadi, his army and John’s peasant crusaders lifted the siege and defeated the Turks, keeping Christian Europe safe from Turkish invasion for the next 70 years.

    Plague spread through the camp and John died of it, at Ilok, in what is now Croatia, on 23 October 1456. He is the patron saint of military chaplains.

    See the article in the Wikipedia.”

  • la Catholic state

    I heard it from a scientist on Radio 4! And don’t twist what I said. Most information IS held on the gene….it’s just that we can’t read it as its much more complex than we thought, involving more sites on each gene that we had imagined. Im not talking about the nature versus nurture debate.
    Europe was a pagan backwater….until it became immersed in Christianity. Soon again it will be a pagan backwater…with new Christian realms rising in the South and East. And as I pointed out above….the scientific hiatus was all due to Aristotelian physics….which was wrong. When that factor was eliminated by the Bishop of Paris, and Aristotle was called out….science continued unhindered in Christendom ONLY, till the early 1970′s, when the last great breakthrough was made. I read this somewhere…..and see no reason for it not being true. Atheism and science are bad bed fellows. Monk scientists to show the way again please.

  • Acleron

    No-one is twisting your words merely quoting and citing facts.

    The condemnations were mostly ignored but did demonstrate the oppression required by religion. Rather than producing cogent arguments and allowing debate, Aristotles views were locally banned under threats. Incidentally, it required another victim of the church to show that one of the most significant postulates of Aristotle’s, that bodies fall according to their weight, was wrong several centuries after the bishops had been ignored.

    The major advances in our knowledge have been disproportionally aided by non-Christians. Christianity’s power and influence have been inversely related to scientific progress. Science works by accumulating the evidence and then drawing conclusions whereas religion states the conclusions and then attempts to fit selected facts. And your conclusion is that science only progresses through Christianity? Bye.

  • la Catholic state

    Where the condemnations were ignored….scientists continued being led up the garden path. But as time passed and Aristolian physics were replaced… science progressed without hinderence in Christendom only.
    The major advances in knowledge have been disproportionally aided by Christians. And this will always be the case….as Christianity is the truth and so fosters greatness and truth in all other fields. As Pope John Paul 2 said….Truth does not contradict Truth.
    Your atheist view of how science is uninspiring…and leaves no room for happy accidents (which is often how discoveries are made and cannot be planned for) or Divine inspiration and blessedness. Atheists must remember….they cannot and do not control everything, but are subjects in the universe. I think they may just be realising this now. We await news from the Collider.