Galileo Was Not Persecuted By the Church

Atheists, in attacking religion in general and Christianity in particular, present the cases of Galileo and Copernicus. Both scientists, some atheists claim, were not merely treated unfairly but were persecuted and even tortured. I remember, in an undergraduate philosophy of science class, reading Galileo’s “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.” Two of the main interlocutors are “Simplicio” and “Sagredo.” Simplicio represents those Aristotelian scientists who maintain that the sun revolves around the earth, and Sagredo (Galileo himself) represents Copernican heliocentrism.
So what happened to Galileo? Carl Sagan said he was placed “in a Catholic dungeon threatened with torture.” (cited in D’Souza, 101) Sam Harris writes of the Christian tradition of “torturing scholars to the point of madness speculating about the nature of the stars.” (Ib.) Bruce Jalosky writes: “Copernicus’s views were not embraced by the church; the history of his persecution is well known.” (Ib.) And, writes Dinesh D’Souza, “Daniel Dennett singles out the Catholic church and faults ‘its unfortunate legacy of persecution of its own scientists.'” (Ib.)
So I always thought. And I was wrong. See Stanford’s D’Souza, in his brilliant What’s So Great About Christanity, Chapter Ten – “An Atheist Fable: Reopening the Galileo Case.”
1. Neither Copernicus nor Galileo were “tortured” for their scientific views.
2. Galileo was treated fairly by the Inquisition. D’Souza cites historian Gary Ferngren, who writes: “The traditional picture of Galileo as a martyr to intellectual freedom and a victim of the church’s opposition to science has been demonstrated to be little more than a caricature.” (Ib., 110)
3. Galileo was found faulty for certain religious teachings that had nothing to do with science.
4. Galileo was correct in affirming Copernican heliocentrism. But Galileo’s proof for this was incorrect. For example, one of his main arguments was that the rapid motion of the earth around the sun was responsibile for the ocean tides. As we now know, this is false. And, it was questioned at the time.
5. After Galileo recanted from lying, he was treated quite nicely and allowed to continue other forms of scientific research.
See the entire chapter for many more details as D’Souza gives a historically convincing argument that all the atheistic fuss about the church mistreating and even brutalizing Galileo and other scientists is simply a fable.




National Geographic’s Serious Error Re. The Gospel of Judas

The 2006 National Geographic special on The Gospel of Judas was wrong about Judas being a “hero.” Actually, the correct interpretation of GJ is that Judas is even more villainous that portrayed in the biblical Gospels.
To see how people ate this up check out these reviews at And for the debunking of the “Good Judas” interpretation see this essay in the current Chronicle Review. Here are some direct quotes from this essay.
“In all of its materials, the view of Judas as good guy was front and center. In an online video clip, Meyer calls the text’s Judas the “most insightful and the most loyal of all the disciples.” In Ehrman’s essay, Judas is “Jesus’ closest friend, the one who understood Jesus better than anyone else, who turned Jesus over to the authorities because Jesus wanted him to do so.” The teaser on the documentary’s DVD case asks, “What if this account turned Jesus’ betrayal on its head, and in it the villain became a hero?” The discovery of an ancient document titled “The Gospel of Judas” is exciting enough. But the twist of a good Judas — well, that’s a great story.”
“Reporters ate it up. Word of the discovery made the front pages of newspapers around the world. “Ancient Text Says Jesus Asked Judas to Hand Him to the Romans” was The Arizona Republic’s headline. USA Today said the gospel “recasts” Judas. The Austin American-Statesman put it this way: “Ancient Judas as ‘good guy,’ not Jesus’ betrayer.” More than seven million viewers tuned in to see the documentary (counting the first couple of reruns), and 300,000 copies of the book containing the translation and the critical essays are now in print. The barrage of media coverage, aided by the good-Judas spin, seemed to have the desired effect.”

“One of the seven million people who watched the National Geographic documentary was April D. DeConick. Admittedly, DeConick, a professor of biblical studies at Rice University, was not your average viewer. As a Coptologist, she had long been aware of the existence of the Gospel of Judas and was friends with several of those who had worked on the so-called dream team. It’s fair to say she watched the documentary with special interest.”

“As soon as the show ended, she went to her computer and downloaded the English translation from the National Geographic Web site. Almost immediately she began to have concerns. From her reading, even in translation, it seemed obvious that Judas was not turning in Jesus as a friendly gesture, but rather sacrificing him to a demon god named Saklas. This alone would suggest, strongly, that Judas was not acting with Jesus’ best interests in mind — which would undercut the thesis of the National Geographic team. She turned to her husband, Wade, and said: “Oh no. Something is really wrong.””
“She started the next day on her own translation of the Coptic transcription, also posted on the National Geographic Web site. That’s when she came across what she considered a major, almost unbelievable error. It had to do with the translation of the word “daimon,” which Jesus uses to address Judas. The National Geographic team translates this as “spirit,” an unusual choice and inconsistent with translations of other early Christian texts, where it is usually rendered as “demon.” In this passage, however, Jesus’ calling Judas a demon would completely alter the meaning. “O 13th spirit, why do you try so hard?” becomes “O 13th demon, why do you try so hard?” A gentle inquiry turns into a vicious rebuke.”
“Then there’s the number 13. The Gospel of Judas is thought to have been written by a sect of Gnostics known as Sethians, for whom the number 13 would indicate a realm ruled by the demon Ialdabaoth. Calling someone a demon from the 13th realm would not be a compliment. In another passage, the National Geographic translation says that Judas “would ascend to the holy generation.” But DeConick says it’s clear from the transcription that a negative has been left out and that Judas will not ascend to the holy generation (this error has been corrected in the second edition). DeConick also objected to a phrase that says Judas has been “set apart for the holy generation.” She argues it should be translated “set apart from the holy generation” — again, the opposite meaning. In the later critical edition, the National Geographic translators offer both as legitimate possibilities.”
These discoveries filled her with dread. “I was like, this is bad, and these are my friends,” she says. It’s worth noting that it didn’t take DeConick months of painstaking research to reach her conclusions. Within minutes, she thought something was wrong. Within a day, she was convinced that significant mistakes had been made. Why, if it was so obvious to her, had these other scholars missed it? Why had they seen a good Judas where, according to DeConick, none exists?
“Maybe because they were looking for him. “ [Emphasis mine]

The fiercest criticism of the National Geographic team came in the form of a New York Times opinion essay by DeConick, published in December. It is, like the professor herself, plain-spoken and blunt. She writes that “a more careful reading” makes it clear that Judas is no hero, implying, none too subtly, that the National Geographic team was not careful. She accuses its members of making “serious mistakes” and wonders aloud whether they are guilty of intentional mistranslation. “Were they genuine errors, or was something more deliberate going on?” she writes. “This is the question of the hour, and I do not have a satisfactory answer.”

“Some of the sharpest digs have been reserved for Ehrman, who was the first member of the National Geographic team to publish a book on Judas. Publicly Ehrman has been the most vocal in embracing Judas as hero, and he has been pilloried for it. Scholar after scholar at the Rice conference took shots at him. Turner said he didn’t read Ehrman’s book because he “wouldn’t expect to learn anything from it.”

Ehrman thinks he has been unfairly caricatured as a cheerleader for the positive Judas theory.”

“Then, concerned that she has been too harsh, DeConick tries to soften the blow. “I don’t want you to print that they messed up,” she says. “Say there were errors. There were serious errors.””

Lenny Kravitz Sings About Jesus



It’s Memorial Day and I’m enjoying the sun and 80 degrees and doing lawn work and listening to Lenny Kravitz’s songs about God and Jesus. I’ve been playing his “Baptized” over and over -whew! It’s a killer song with a deep groove.

Also – “Believe,” “Love Revolution,” Storm,” “Bring It On,” and “God Save Us All.”

Dead Woman in West Virginia Comes Back to Life


Yesterday, in West Virginia, a woman died. She had had three heart attacks. She was on life support. The doctors took her off life support. Rigor mortis had set in.

For over 17 minutes, she showed no sign of a pulse or brain activity whatsoever, this after suffering two heart attacks. The issue of organ donation was already underway when she came back to life after life support was disconnected for 10 minutes.”

Ten minutes after removing the respirator  she came back to life and spoke. Now she’s sitting up in bed talking. She has no heart damage even after three heart attacks. Her heart has an electrical problem that will be looked at. “Even the doctors are baffled.”

“It’s a mystery to doctors how she managed to escape death for so long, but Thomas maintains it’s not science at work, but God. She said, “I know God has something in store for me, another purpose. I don’t know what it is but I’m sure he’ll tell me.””

Check out the news video here.

Pilots run out of fuel, pray, land near Jesus sign

This AP story appeared today. I picked it up at Here it is in its entirety.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – It seemed like an almost literal answer to their prayers. When two New Zealand pilots ran out of fuel in a microlight airplane they offered prayers and were able to make an emergency landing in a field — coming to rest right next to a sign reading, “Jesus is Lord.”

Grant Stubbs and Owen Wilson, both from the town of Blenheim on the country’s South Island, were flying up the sloping valley of Pelorus Sound when the engine spluttered, coughed and died.

“My friend and I are both Christians so our immediate reaction in a life-threatening situation was to ask for God’s help,” Stubbs told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

He said he prayed during the ill-fated flight Sunday that the tiny craft would get over the top of a ridge and that they would find a landing site that was not too steep — or in the nearby sea.

Wilson said that the pair would have been in deep trouble if the fuel had run out five minutes earlier.

“If it had to run out, that was the place to be,” he said. “There was an instantaneous answer to prayer as we crossed the ridge and there was an airfield — I didn’t know it existed till then.”

After Wilson glided the powerless craft to a landing on the grassy strip, the pair noticed they were beside a 20-foot-tall sign that read, “Jesus is Lord — The Bible.”

“When we saw that, we started laughing,” Stubbs said.

Nearby residents provided them with gas to fly the home-built plane back to base.

Jesus Came to Bring Fire to the Earth


(Mount of Olives, Jerusalem)


In Luke 12:49 Jesus tells us that he has come to the earth to bring fire, and adds “I wish that it were already kindled.” In our church we sing some worship songs that cry out for God to send us His fire. What might that mean? What did Jesus mean when He said He’s come to bring fire on the earth? Do we know what we’re really asking for?


The first thing Jesus means by this has to do with “judgment.” For many people the idea of judgment is offensive. It’s one of the things some people don’t like about Christianity. But the Real Jesus did talk about fire and judgment and crisis, and I think that’s a good thing and to me it makes a lot of sense. And, by the way, anyone who says it’s wrong to talk about judgment is themselves making a judgment. So I conclude that the judgment-thing is unavoidable. The deeper issue is always: what is the truth? All truth divides.


In Luke 3:9 Jesus says that “every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” Jesus views people, and you, like fruit trees. You exist, from Jesus’ POV, to produce fruit. In this regard there are only two kinds of trees; viz., trees that bear fruit and trees that don’t bear fruit. There are no quasi-fruit-bearing trees. This is an either-or situation (also called, by theologians, “Two-Way Theology). To bear fruit or not to bear fruit; that is the question. To find the answer to that question is, precisely, to render a judgment. The fire Jesus brings renders such a judgment.


From this it follows that Jesus-fire purifies. A refiner’s fire falls on a lump of gold and burns away all impurities and leaves pure gold (Micah 3:2-4). In this sense such a fire, ipso facto, judges. It burns away the “either” of impurity and leaves the “or” of pure gold. In this sense, when you cry out to God “Baptize me with fire!” you’re asking for God to refine your heart so that He will burn away impure things and leave a heart pure towards Him. It’s a heart-cry for holiness. It’s a way of seeking first God’s kingdom and His righteousness. Jesus says that He came to bring fire to the earth, and part of what this means is that He came to call forth a pure “Bride.”


Fire-baptism is also about an impartation of power given by the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist said that after him comes a more powerful One who will not baptize with water but baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Luke 3:16). The initial Spirit-fire-baptism happened in Acts 2, where the Holy Spirit comes on people accompanied by what look like “tongues of flame” (Acts 2:3). This Spirit-baptism-fire event brings “power” (Acts 1:8-9) for real Jesus-followers to be His “witnesses.” So, when we cry out to God, “Baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire,” we’re asking God for two things: 1) purification of the heart; and 2) power to be witnesses to Jesus and His Kingdom and all that this entails. And it is precisely this that then makes a separation or division. It creates a di-vision; viz., two visions of reality, or two visions of the truth.

Essentials of Prayer

(The Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem)

This week, like every week for the past 38 years, I am going to spend time praying. Tomorrow afternoon I’ll go, probably to one of my favorite prayer places – Sterling State Park, and pray for 3-5 hours. This is a habit I’ve been doing for 26 years. Here are some basics about prayer that are important to me.

  1. God exists. God is real. There is a God.
  2. God is a personal being. God desires relationship. This is why the Christian idea of God as a Trinity makes conceptual sense. God, in His being, is 3-Persons-in-One. God, in essence, is relational.
  3. God made you. For what” For relationship with Him. Why did God do this? Because (I repeat) God is a relational being in essence. God desires relationship. He made you for such a thing as this.
  4. God loves you.
  5. God knows you.
  6. God desires you to love and know Him in return.
  7. This is where prayer comes in. Prayer is talking with God about what the both of you are doing together. To pray is to enter into a loving-knowing relationship with God.
  8. When you talk with God in prayer begin by asking God a question – “God, is everything all right between You and me?” Then listen. If God shows you something that’s breaking relationship with Him, confess this to Him. It then becomes God’s delight to forgive you. God loves doing this because God is love, and God desires relationship with you. (But note: God’s grace is amazing but it’s not cheap. I will cost you something to be in relationship with God. This should not surprise you, since it will cost you something to be in real relationship with anyone. Love is sacrifice. There are no exceptions to this.)
  9. In prayer talk and listen. Talk – express your love to God and your concerns. Don’t hesitate to ask for your own self. I meet some people who feel odd about asking for their own self. This feeling is not a feeling from God. And, pray for others. Listen – when God speaks to you, write it down. Start a spiritual journal, which is a record of the voice of God to you. Remember the things God speaks to you. His words are more precious than gold.
  10. God has much to say to you – today, and this week. God has plans and purposes for you, which have to do with His Kingdom and His righteousness. Seek these two things first. Then God will add all good things unto you. (“Good” = the kind of things God values, things like love and honor and reconciliation and joy and peace and compassion and real, authentic relationship.

Eugene Peterson’s Radical Non-American Jesus



For my birthday I received a copy of Eugene Peterson’s The Jesus Way: Conversations on the Ways That Jesus Is the Way. I’ve long been a Peterson fan, way before he translated the Bible into The Message.

I read the Introduction, called “The Purification of Means,” and was blown away. Peterson, now writing late in his life, is talking about the Real Jesus. And the Real Jesus is NOT the American Jesus. Of course Peterson is correct about this. Listen to some Peterson quotes… and think…


“The ways Jesus goes about loving and saving the world are personal…; …The ways employed in our North American culture are conspicuously impersonal.”

In churches today “the vocabulary of numbers is preferred over names…”

“Jesus is an alternative to the dominant ways of the world, not a supplement to them.”

“The North American church at present is conspicuous for replacing the Jesus way with the American way.”

In America “we are the world’s champion consumers, so why shouldn’t we have state-of-the-art consumer churches?… [T]his is the best and most effective way for gathering large and prosperous congregations. Americans lead the world in showing how to do it. There is only one thing wrong: this is not the way in which… we become less and Jesus becomes more.”

“A consumer church is an antichrist church.”

“We can’t gather a God-fearing, God-worshiping congregation by cultivating a consumer-pleasing, commodity-oriented congregation.”

“North American Christians are conspicuous for going along with whatever culture decides is charismatic, successful, influential – whatever gets things done, whatever can gather a crowd of followers – hardly noticing that these ways and means are at odds with the clearly marked way that Jesus walked and called us to follow.”

“Jesus’ metaphor, kingdom of God, defines the world in which we live. We live in a world where Christ is King. If Christ is King, everything, quite literally, everything, every thing and every one, has to be re-imagined, re-configured, re-oriented to a way of life that consists in an obedient following of Jesus.”

“The ways and means promoted and practiced in the world are a systematic attempt to substitute human sovereignty for God’s rule. The world as such has no interest in following the crucified King.”

“Once we start paying attention to Jesus’ ways, it doesn’t take us long to realize that following Jesus is radically different from following anyone else.”

Uh-huh. That’s exactly right. I’ll be reading this book very slowly…