No, not THAT Bruno, this Bruno:
Religion has been in the business of misinformation even killing information for millenia now, mainly by threatening, torturing, and/or killing those who hold or dare to disseminate information contrary to religious dogma.
Heretics, apostates, heathens, blasphemers, etc., were so named because they dared to believe and speak of ideas different from what the dominant religion of a given the time and place demands allegiance to.
Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake at the onset of the 17th century on behalf of the Catholic Church’s Office of the Holy Inquisition because he held ideas against the trinity, transubstantiation, and the like but also for upholding heliocentric Copernican theory thereby denying the earth centered universe of the Bible and for presciently expressing the idea that there may be many inhabited worlds orbiting stars like our sun.
Pretty standard fare now but in 1600 it got you killed by religious authorities.
400 years later, thanks to Bruno, Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, and countless other scientists and educators the information has won. It is unchallenged common knowledge that the earth is not the center of the universe as the Book of Genesis and the Catholic Church maintained… a tiny but significant piece of religion has been killed by that information
Information has been killing Religion instead, ever since Bruno.
We have come a long way and still have a long way to go, but the progress made since those barbaric, ignorant times is formidable.
Four centuries ago, citizens of the civilized, developed world of Europe and England “the West” were incomparably more religious than the vast majority of us are today. Let’s examine Xianity in the West for the purpose of this discussion.
Most people unquestionably believed what the Church taught them (like Bruno, they didn’t have much choice): the earth was the center of the universe, Creation took 6 days, Noah and the Great Flood, Adam and Eve, Babel, etc., etc., all as Genesis and other parts of the Bible described and as interpreted literally by the Catholic and Protestant churches.
Today, no-one believes in an earth centered universe (well, almost nobody), 1/2 of the US population doesn’t buy Creationism, fewer still believe in the literal truth of Noah or Adam and Eve, and fewer still think we should stone adulterers on the edge of town…
We have all become greatly less religious since the 1600’s.
For example, back in those good old days, if one exhibited symptoms of a mental disorder: bipolar, OCD, schizophrenia, etc., it was for certain you were possessed by demons and exorcism was in order rather than mood stabilizers, antipsychotics and compassionate therapy as is the norm today.
Few today believe in demonic possession as the causal factor of mental disease, despite the Catholic Church’s insistence that exorcism, though rare, is a distinct possibility (check it out, here).
“According to the Vatican guidelines issued in 1999, ‘the person who claims to be possessed must be evaluated by doctors to rule out a mental or physical illness.’ Most reported cases do not require an exorcism because twentieth-century Catholic officials regard genuine demonic possession as an extremely rare phenomenon that is easily confounded with natural mental disturbances.”
Even the cognoscenti of the mighty Catholic Church has had to back off due to better knowledge and is now “cautious” about diagnosing possession, although they do still have hundreds of exorcists on staff… ready to take your call!
Most sane folks however, do not believe demons and possession are behind any mental illness, when 4 centuries ago everyone did.
What happened to dispel this and other widespread notions, the previously undeniable articles of faith listed above?
Information Better Information Real, True, Factual Information
The Catholic Church and the Evangelical Xians still cling to some of these absurd archaic beliefs but the majority of folks, Xian or not, don’t swallow them hook line and sinker anymore.
In 1600, and the subsequent years of the plague for example, nearly all believed horrific calamities like cholera, small pox and the dreaded plague were undoubted “Acts of God.” God’s wrath was the unquestioned explanation of diseases and natural disasters: the populace has sinned and God is meting out just punishment.
Nowadays the vast majority of us dont give that explanation a first much less a second thought… and why?
Why has this centuries old explanation fallen by the wayside?
Information Kills Religion now more than it ever did.
Religion is still trying to maintain plenty of primitive explanations and succeeds all too well with Creationism for example, bullshitting half the population into buying it (on the surface at least) but wholly unlike the 1600’s today we have continual public debate across all media every day over the Creationism/Evolution controversy and to the extent of nationally publicized events like the recent Ham/Nye debate.
SO why dont we believe in God’s wrath as the cause of disease?
We know better.
We believe the “Germ Theory of Disease” as Louis Pasteur first termed it in the mid 1800’s because we have learned new, real, factual information about germs: microbes, bacteria and viruses and the diseases they cause. We are incomparably less religious as a result. Like demonic possession as the sole force behind aberrant mental behavior, we have utterly discarded “God’s wrath” as the unquestioned cause of our diseases, and natural disasters as well.
Currently, most folks still believe in some sort of afterlife but only a watered down version of the graphic depictions of Hell taken as undeniable fact centuries ago. Information, or lack thereof has diminished that belief significantly despite the churches insistence on some version of afterlife and accordingly most in the US also still believe in the existence of a soul.
But back then everybody did.
There was an immortal soul and the fires of hell were just a breath away for everyone.
Why don’t a good portion of us believe anymore?
After nearly 3,000 years or so of wishful thinking by most if not all of the worlds major religions and 150 years of exponentially more investigative and delineating neuroscience, there is not one shred of evidence for either the existence of a soul or an afterlife. Subsequently, many of us, even Xians when pressed, realize that when we die our personality and intellect disintegrate with the death of the brain, and no-one in all those centuries has ever come back from a visit to heaven of hell.
Except maybe Frank Zappa who said “there is no Hell, only France.”
So as dismaying as it may be, especially in the hyper-religious US of A to see so many cling to medieval thinking promulgated solely by the Xian churches, we have to realize how far we have come in four centuries for so many of us to become predominantly secular and scientific, REALISTIC in our thinking when we ALL used to be unquestionably hyper-religious by default, design and coercion.
Tellingly, 33 years after Bruno’s murder, burned at the stake at the behest of Xiansanity™: they didnt kill Galileo. They convicted him of heresy as well, showed him the instruments of torture and then confined him to house arrest.
Maybe they fucked up and should have killed him too.
Galileo had significant connections with the Inquisitors and the Pope himself which undoubtedly influenced his palpably less cruel treatment, but MAYBE the information itself may have had as great an influence in sparing him from torture and a barbaric death.
Bruno supported Copernican theory which was not widely accepted yet and promulgated his forward thinking theories of the cosmos but he had no new information, no proof of his conjectures, his pure speculations.
Galileo on the other hand, had information, proof, lots of it…not mere speculations.
Maybe he had too much information in the form of the imperfections of the moon, the phases of Venus and the undeniable orbits of the moons of Jupiter all perfectly accessible to anyone with a telescope for him to be summarily executed.
How times have changed since the death of Bruno and the sparing of Galileo.
The conjunction of those two wholly opposite outcomes may have marked a real watershed.
Education is the key.
We can’t stop exposing, ridiculing, attacking religious nonsense.
And we can do better.
We’ve come a long way in 400 years and given the current information explosion driven in large part by the Internet and the effect of the New Enlightenment’s insistence on the necessity and social acceptability of questioning, discussing, analyzing, and criticizing of religious claims we can make some real, I believe, greatly accelerated progress in the next few decades.