Flanagan cites Jeffrey Burton Russell’s book “Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians”. Dr. Bussell is a professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Dr. Russell writes:
[W]ith extraordinary few exceptions no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the earth was flat. A round earth appears at least as early as the sixth century BC with Pythagoras, who was followed by Aristotle, Euclid, and Aristarchus, among others in observing that the earth was a sphere. Although there were a few dissenters—Leukippos and Demokritos for example–by the time of Eratosthenes (3 c. BC), followed by Crates(2 c. BC), Strabo (3 c. BC), and Ptolemy (first c. AD), the sphericity of the earth was accepted by all educated Greeks and Romans.
Nor did this situation change with the advent of Christianity. A few—at least two and at most five—early Christian fathers denied the spherically of earth by mistakenly taking passages such as Ps. 104:2-3 as geographical rather than metaphorical statements. On the other side tens of thousands of Christian theologians, poets, artists, and scientists took the spherical view throughout the early, medieval, and modern church. The point is that no educated person believed otherwise.
So where did this myth come from? And why has it persisted so long in school textbooks?
Click through and read the rest of Matt’s post to find the surprising answers.
My view is that stories like global warming and evolution are really just the latest round of flat-earth myths which have no basis in fact but are believed solely because they are useful for powerful people who want to undermine traditional moral values by misleading children in government-run schools. The elites want to act sinfully, but they don’t want anyone to judge them. They think that if they can trick enough people to believe lies about God, that God might cease to exist because we voted him out. Unfortunately for them, building a consensus of people who are mistaken doesn’t change objective reality. And God doesn’t grade on a curve.
Those who reject Christianity need to be careful about letting their feelings determine what they believe.
What should atheists be doing instead of believing myths?
Instead of just calling people names and making jokes, they should investigating the actual scientific evidence:
- The origin of the universe from nothing
- The fine-tuning of the cosmological constants to permit life
- The fine-tuning of the galaxy, solar system, and planet to permit life
- Origin of the building blocks in the simplest replicating cell
- Origin of biological information in the simplest replicating cell
- Sudden origins of all major body plans in the Cambrian explosion
- Irreducible complexity in molecular machines
- The limits on what natural selection and random mutation can do
Then, perhaps a philosophical investigation on some common objections to belief in God:
- Why does God allow evil and suffering?
- Why isn’t there more evidence for God’s existence?
- What about those who never heard about Jesus?
- Is religion more like ice cream or medicine?
- Aren’t all religions basically the same?
- What makes Christianity so special?
But for most atheists, the purpose of life isn’t to find the truth.