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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ruth Hurmence Green: "There was a time when religion ruled the world. It is known as the Dark Ages."

‘Dark Ages’. A term employed in the 17th and 18th cents. to indicate the intellectual darkness which was believed to have descended on Europe with the ending of the Roman empire until new light was provided by the Renaissance[*].  Since the achievements of the Middle Ages have come to be properly recognized the term has been in retreat, but it still has a stronghold in what should be more appropriately described as the early Middle Ages (c.400-c.1000).
JOHN CANNON. "‘Dark Ages’." The Oxford Companion to British History. 2002. Retrieved November 07, 2011 from
The period of the Dark Ages saw cultural and economic decline though in the past this has been exaggerated. The period saw the foundation of Christian monasteries, which kept scholarship alive. The 7th and 8th centuries saw relative stability and during the 9th century learning was encouraged at the courts of CHARLEMAGNE and ALFRED the Great
"Dark Ages." A Dictionary of World History. 2000. Retrieved November 07, 2011 from

Translation: There was no such thing as the "Dark Ages"- or, at the very least, the extent of the "cultural and economic [although I would add "scientific" here as well] decline... has been exaggerated.  Either way, the second entry makes clear that "Christian monasteries" helped preserve scholarship rather than hindering it.
So why do we think that Christianity was opposed to scholarship?  Because Renaissance thinkers wanted to discredit the church and steal the credit for the rise of science from it, to bolster the "claim that science burst forth only when weakened Christianity could no longer prevent it, and as the recovery of classical learning made it possible"

N.B.: while searching for "dark ages" on the web, I noticed that makes a similar point against the same quote by Green here.  If I had read this webpage prior to making the post, I have long forgotten doing so and my (re-)use of the quote is inadvertent.
* another term that has more to do with propaganda than reality- of the same sort that occurred in the naming of the "Age of Enlightenment" and calling skeptics "freethinkers" and "brights".

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