Sunday, April 6, 2008

A Rough History of Disbelief: Noughts and Crosses

With the domination of Christianity from 500 AD, Jonathan Miller explores the ways in which disbelief began to re-emerge in the 15th and 16th centuries. Contrary to conventional wisdom, he discovers that division within the Church played a more powerful role than the scientific discoveries of the period. He also visits Paris, the home of the 18th century atheist, Baron D’Holbach, and shows how politically dangerous it was to undermine the religious faith of the masses.

Paul-Henrl Thiry Baron d’Holbach (“Good Sense”):

“When we coolly examine the opinions of men, we are surprised to find, that even in those opinion, which they regard as the most essential, nothing is more uncommon than common sense; or, in other words, nothing is more uncommon, than a degree of judgment sufficient to discover the most simple truths, or reject the most striking absurdities, and to be shocked with palpable contradictions. We have an example of it in Theology; a science revered in all times and countries, by the greatest number of men; an object regarded by them the most important, the most useful, and the most indispensable to the happiness of society. An examination, however slight, of the principles upon which this pretended science is founded, forces us to acknowledge, that these principles, formerly judged incontestable, are only hazardous suppositions, imagined by ignorance, propagated by enthusiasm or knavery, adopted by timid credulity, preserved by custom which never reasons, and revered solely because not understood.”