Heretics, Pagans and the Christian State

by Charles Freeman

It is a very readable book that covers history from the 1st century AD to the present century. I got the impression that the author thinks the doctrine of the trinity and incarnation are irrational and that it is unfortunate the Roman Catholic Church used its authority and the power of government to develop and promote these doctrines. These beliefs accompany the belief that God will deliver us from death. Isn't belief in salvation irrational too? Another irrationality is to advocate altruism when life ends in the grave. Sigmund Freud once wrote to a friend that he could not explain why he (Freud) was kind and honorable when it was in his interest not to be. I know and understand why I try to be kind and honorable.

The author disputes the idea that modern science started in the West when the bishop of Paris in 1277 condemned as heretical the Aristotelian doctrine that vacuums can't exist. Science developed in the West and not elsewhere because Catholics believed the universe was intelligible and could be understood. This is what drives scientific discovery. The theologians at the University of Paris could see no reason why vacuums could not exist. The reason the West relied on reason and the East did not is that the West knew that the universe was created by a reasonable God.