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Why Was Galileo Convicted of Heresy?


The Roman Catholic Church convicted Galileo of heresy. It was not merely because it was contrary to Holy Scripture that Christianity regarded his Copernican theory as heretical. Christianity and Judaism are paternal religions that came into power after overcoming maternal religions. The Catholic Church thought of Galileo’s heliocentrism as the revival of a maternal religion, because it implies that Mother Earth moves by itself and makes the sun, the symbol of Father God, fall. Since Galileo wrote popular dialogues in Italian that the general public could easily understand, the Catholic Church feared that the general public who realized the truth of Mother Nature would move by themselves and make the Catholic Church fall. Galileo was convicted because he was thought to threaten the domination of the Catholic Church in these two senses.

An imaginary picture of Galileo’s Inquisition drawn by Joseph Nicolas Robert-Fleury (1797-1890). [1]

1. Did Christianity really oppress Copernicanism?

It is well known that the Holy Office (Latin: Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei or Santo Oficio) of the Roman Catholic Church found Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) guilty of having held the heliocentric opinions that the Sun lies motionless at the center of the universe and the Earth moves around it. After his abjuration Galileo was told to mutter the rebellious phrase “and yet it moves (Eppur si muove)." This legend is suspicious. If he had muttered in a voice loud enough for the others to hear, then they should have restarted the inquisition. If he had muttered in too small a voice for the others to hear, nobody could have recorded the legend.

Anyway it is a historical fact that the Roman Inquisition tried Galileo in 1633 and sentenced him to indefinite imprisonment. If he had rejected the abjuration, he should have followed the same fate as Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) who refused the abjuration and was burnt at the stake in Rome in 1600. Later Galileo was allowed to return to his villa, where he spent the remainder of his life under house arrest, but he was forbidden to publish any works including Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.

The Roman Catholic Church, however, did not oppress thoroughly Copernicanism from the beginning. The Church had allowed anyone to read freely De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres) written by Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) under their jurisdiction until 1616, although it proposed the heliocentric theory prior to Galileo. Because nobody except Galileo was convicted of the heliocentric theory, some doubt whether the Church have ever oppressed Copernicanism[2]. So, we must first recognize that the Church really oppressed the opinions that the Earth travels around the stationary Sun. Then I will explain why only Galileo was convicted.

1.1. Copernicanism was regarded as heresy from the beginning.

Both Catholics and Protestants considered Copernicanism to be heretical as early as the publication of Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus. As for the Catholic side, Giovanimaria Tolosani wrote a manuscript that condemned the book for heresy in 1547. It suggested that his Dominican colleague, Bartolomeo Spina, the Master of the Sacred Palace from 1542 until his death in 1547, sought to have Copernicus’ book banned.

The Master of the Sacred and Apostolic Palace had planned to condemn this book, but, prevented first by illness and then by death, he could not fulfill this intention. However, I have taken care to accomplish it in this little work for the purpose of preserving the truth to the common advantage of the Holy Church.[3]

Giovanimaria Tolosani himself also died in 1549 without publishing his manuscript. The next Master of the Sacred Palace as well as the pope did not condemn De Revolutionibus so that the book was allowed to be read without any correction by the Holy Office.

Protestant condemnation was earlier than it. Copernicus wrote a manuscript called Commentariolus that declared his heliocentric idea and let it circulate among friends and colleagues before publishing De Revolutionibus. Hearing the rumor of the Copernican theory, Martin Luther censured it in one of his “Table Talks" in 1539.

This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred Scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth.[4]

Generally speaking, however, the protestant countries where the clergy did not have political power were generous to the Copernican theory. In spite of succeeding to and developing it, Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) in Germany had never been blamed for Copernicanism nor had the Roman Catholic Church persecuted Copernicus in his lifetime, though he was a Catholic priest. Why was Galileo punished unlike Copernicus and Kepler? There are some reasons for this.

1.2. The region and the period of oppression were limited.

First, the period of oppression was limited. When Copernicus was engaged in the astronomical research, the Roman Catholic Church, in order to enact an accurate calendar, had to encourage free astronomical research to mend the gap between the real seasons and the Julian calendar adopted in the first Council of Nicaea in 325. Of course, the Roman Catholic Church did not approve the heliocentric theory as a physical theory. They tolerated the Copernican theory just as a mathematical hypothesis convenient to aid astronomical computation.

Although Copernicus himself was a Platonist who believed in the reality of mathematical astronomy, he seemed to be aware that his belief would be heretical. We can find a passage from a letter that suggests it. The letter is a reply from a Lutheran preacher, Andreas Osiander (1498-1552), to Copernicus cited in Kepler’s A Defence of Tycho against Ursus (Apologia Pro Tychone Contra Ursum).

I have always been of the opinion that hypotheses are not articles of faith, but bases for calculation, so that even if they are false it does not matter provided they yield the phenomena of the motions exactly. For who could make us surer that the unequal motion of the sun is due to an epicycle than that it is due to an eccentric, if we follow Ptolemy’s hypotheses, since it could happen in either way? So it would seem to be a good idea for you to say something on this matter in the preface. For thus you would pacify the peripatetics and the theologians whom you fear to be about to raise objections.[5]

The original letter of Copernicus addressed to Osiander is lost, but we can conjecture that he feared the peripatetics (Aristotelians) and the theologians would condemn him for heresy and therefore he hesitated to publish De Revolutionibus during his lifetime.

In an effort to reduce the controversial impact of De Revolutionibus, Osiander added his own unsigned letter titled To the Reader Concerning the Hypotheses of this Work (Ad lectorem de hypothesibu huius operis) printed in front of Copernicus’ preface so that readers misunderstood Copernicus wrote the letter. Osiander’s letter stated that the Copernican system was a mathematical hypothesis only for the calculation purpose and concluded with the following sentence that denied the reality of astronomy.

So far as hypotheses are concerned, let no one expect anything certain from astronomy, since astronomy can offer nothing certain, lest, if anyone take as true what has been constructed for another purpose, depart from this study a greater fool than when he entered it. [6]

This letter was effective. De Revolutionibus was allowed to be published with no corrections required by the Holy Office. Most of the peripatetics and the theologians did not oppose to it. In 1609, however, Kepler published Astronomia Nova, where he disclosed that the author of the letter was Osiander and Copernicus did not agree about it. The disclosure hardened the position of the Catholic Church.

Since the Gregorian calendar was enacted in 1582, the Catholic Church no longer needed to protect astronomy as earnestly as before. Fighting against the rising Protestantism, the Catholic Church lost generosity toward heresy. It was not because he advocated the heliocentric dctrine that the Holy Office executed Bruno in 1600, but because he denied the traditional geocentric doctrine in his book Cause, Principle and Unity, Thomas Kuhn guessed that this might cause the Holy Office to make stringent regulations on the heliocentric theories in 1616[7]. In fact in 1616 Galileo was submitted to the first Inquisition and the Holy Office ordered a work titled Letter concerning the Opinion of the Pythagoreans and Copernicus about the Mobility of the Earth and Stability of the Sun, and about the New Pythagorean System of the World[8] written by Paolo Antonio Foscarini (1565-1616) to be banned and Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus to be suspended until corrected in 1620.

Not only the period but also the region of oppression was limited. The Holy Office could exercise their judicial power only in Italy. Even the List of Prohibited Books (Index Librorum Prohibitorum) was not fully respected outside Italy. When Bruno learned that an indictment was being prepared against him in Naples in 1576, he took refuge in other countries which were not under the control of the Roman Catholic Church and was not arrested until he returned to Italy in 1592. Kepler who lived in Germany, Austria, and Czech had never been persecuted. Had Copernicus lived after 1616, the Holy Office could not have arrested him, because he lived in Poland. Galileo was unlucky in that he was born in Italy and engaged in research and enlightenment in Italy after 1616.

1.3. Criticism in vernacular languages was especially oppressed.

Another reason that Galileo was punished while Copernicus and Kepler were not consists in that the latter wrote their treatises in Latin while the former wrote most of his works including Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems in Italian. The Catholic Church oppressed criticism in vernacular languages more severely than those in Latin. Although Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (1466-1536) wrote books written in Latin which blamed the Catholic Church for corruption, the Catholic Church had never attacked him during his lifetime. On the other hand, the criticism of the Church in vernacular languages or the translation of the Bible into vernacular languages that could trigger it off was the target for a severe persecution[9].

During the Renaissance many heretical leaders translated the Bible into vernacular languages and showed the people who could not read Latin the difference between the original doctrine of Jesus and the interpretation of the Catholic Church. Pierre Valdo (1140-1218) translated Bible into the Franco-Provençal language, John Wycliffe (1320-1384) into English and Jan Hus (1369-1415) into Czech. The Catholic Church persecuted these leaders and their followers. Bruno wrote Cause, Principle and Unity in Italian and Galileo wrote most of his works except Sidereus Nuncius (The Sidereal Messenger) in Italian. That is why they were put on the blacklist of the Catholic Church.

Why did the Catholic Church oppress criticism in vernacular languages more severely than those in Latin? Latin was the language of the clergy in the Middle Ages and few secular people were able to read Latin. The Renaissance did not change it. Only intellectuals in the church or university were able to read criticism of the Church in Latin, while the general public read the books in vernacular languages. When Galileo published his books in Italian, typography had already been widespread, and as many as 1000 copies (a huge number at that time) of Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems were printed and sold. Because Galileo adopted the dialogue style and explained science in an easy-to-understand way, his books were popular among the mass. The Catholic Church feared that Galileo’s books might lead the populace to find the Catholic doctrine was wrong and thus threaten the dominance of the Church.

So, criticism in vernacular languages did more damage to the Church than that in Latin, just as an employee who has noticed a secret problem of his workplace does more damage to his corporation when he tips it off to a gossip magazine than when he appeals to his boss for improvement. The latter can exercise a positive effect on it, if the boss fixes the problem, while the former will surely bring about a negative effect, because it injures the reputation of the corporation.

The fear of the Catholic Church was not groundless. The people who noticed the difference between the original doctrine of Jesus and the interpretation of the Catholic Church became distrustful of them, which led to the Protestant Reformation. When Martin Luther (1483-1546) wrote The Ninety-Five Theses (Latin: Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiarum">The Ninety-Five Theses in 1517, he used Latin, because he had no intention to be hostile to the Catholic Church at first and just tried to solve the problem inside the Church. But soon <cite title="Latin: Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiarum) was translated into German and the frustration of the people erupted into the Protestant Reformation. The Catholic Church attempted the Counter-Reformation, never to regain the previous status.

The religious war between Protestants and Catholics in the Holy Roman Empire developed into the Thirty Years’ War in 1618. In 1623, Maffeo Vincenzo Barberini (1568-1644) was chosen as Pope and took the name Urban VIII. He favored the anti-Hapsburg policy of France, because the territory of the Hapsburg dynasty surrounded the Papal State and the Pope wanted to expand the papal territory by force of arms. Though France was a Catholic kingdom, it supported the Protestants in Germany, so his anti-Hapsburg policy injured the catholic cause. Thus Urban VIII was under attack by Spanish cardinals for being too tolerant of heretics. To fend off the attack, he decided to make Galileo a scapegoat.

Galileo was originally on friendly terms with Maffeo Barberini and met him six times after Maffeo became Urban VIII. This personal relationship might have put him off his guard. He made a big mistake. Galileo put what the Pope talked about the Copernican theory in the mouth of Simplicio, a character of Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems who played the role of a silly Aristotelian. Apparently Urban VIII would have felt the book insulted him. The Holy Office claimed that the book was against the alleged Inquisition’s injunction in 1616 that ordered Galileo not to hold, teach, or defend the Copernican theory orally or in writing. The second Inquisition started in this way.

2. Why is Copernicanism contrary to the Bible?

Though there were various incidental factors behind Galileo affair, the most essential reason for it lay in that Copernicanism was contrary to the doctrine of Christianity. As we have already recognized, both Catholics and Protestants considered Copernicanism to be heretical as early as the publication of Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus. What part of the Bible contradicts the Copernican theory and what religious implication does it have? We can find such a geocentric expression as “The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, and hurries to its place where it rises[10]" , but this is a conventional expression with no religious implications. Even those who believe in the heliocentric theory today use this sort of wording. The real religious problems consist in the following two types of discrepancies.

2.1. Copernicanism denies God’s establishment of the stable Earth.

Some verses (Psalms, 93:1;96:10;104:5;Chronicles 1, 16:30) indicate that God makes the Earth stable. The following is an example of them.

The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength; indeed, the world is established, firm and secure.[11]

The word “world (תֵּ֝בֵ֗ל)" in this verse is not the same as “earth (הָאָ֔רֶץ)", but the next verse shows that the Earth, however it may attempt, cannot jolt the world established by God.

Tremble before him, all the earth! The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.[12]

The stability of the Earth established by God assumes a religious significance. Judaism and the Christianity are paternal religions that worship the Heaven as a holy place, and it conflicts with maternal religions that worship Mother Earth. So, the stability of Mother Earth established by Father God means that the paternal religion has overcome maternal religions. In other words, the Copernican moving Earth implied a provocative action against Father God.

Cardinal Bellarmine (Roberto Francesco Romolo Bellarmino; 1542 -1621), who summoned Galileo and ordered him to abandon the Copernican doctrine of the mobility of the Earth and the immobility of the Sun in 1616, wrote a letter to Foscarini to point out its problem.

I say that it seems to me that Your Reverence and Mr. Galileo did prudently content yourself with speaking hypothetically, and not absolutely, as I have always believed that Copernicus spoke. For to say that, assuming the earth moves and the sun stands still, all the appearances are saved better than with eccentrics and epicycles, is to speak well; there is no danger in this, and it is sufficient for mathematicians. But to want to affirm that the sun really is fixed in the center of the heavens and only revolves around itself without traveling from east to west, and that the earth is situated in the third sphere and revolves with great speed around the sun, is a very dangerous thing, not only by irritating all the philosophers and scholastic theologians, but also by injuring our holy faith and rendering the Holy Scriptures false.[13]

This was the formal Catholic position on the Copernican doctrine. They admitted it was theoretically possible for the Earth to move and for the Sun to stand still, but forbade assuming it to be real. This was not a compromise with heresy. If the Earth did not move theoretically and potentially, we could not ascribe its stability to God. The theoretical or potential mobility of the Earth was rather necessary to demonstrate the greatness of God that was thought to be able to sustain its stability.

2.2. Copernicanism denies God’s control over the motion of the Sun.

The Bible also tells that God stopped or reversed the movement of the Sun. The following reports that God showed his sign by the reversal of the solar movement.

Hezekiah had asked Isaiah, “What will be the sign that the Lord will heal me and that I will go up to the temple of the Lord on the third day from now?”

Isaiah answered, “This is the Lord’s sign to you that the Lord will do what he has promised: Shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or shall it go back ten steps?”

“It is a simple matter for the shadow to go forward ten steps,” said Hezekiah. “Rather, have it go back ten steps.”

Then the prophet Isaiah called on the Lord, and the Lord made the shadow go back the ten steps it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.[14]

These cannot be the Biblical ground for the geocentric doctrine, because the reversal of the Earth’s rotation brings about the same phenomenon. We can find the most obvious evidence for the Biblical geocentric position in the following verses that Luther quoted.

On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel: “Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon."

So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day.

There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel! [15]

If the Sun does not actually move, Joshua’s order that the Sun should stand still will be meaningless. Though this story that God’s prolongation of the daytime brought about the victory of Israel is a quotation from the “Book of Jashar", an ancient Hebrew hymnbook containing nationalistic songs that celebrates great battles and notable characters in Israel’s history, Christians have accepted it as the Biblical absolute truth.

In Letter to Madame Christina (A madama Cristina di Lorena granduchessa di Toscana) Galileo pointed out that these verses rather contradict the Ptolemaic system, because according to it the Sun travels through the ecliptic from west to east, while the whole celestial sphere rotates from east to west, hence if the sun should cease its own proper motion, the day would become shorter, and not longer. Galileo paid attention to the description that Joshua commanded not only the Sun but also the Moon to stop. He concluded that what God stopped was not the Sun only but all the heavenly bodies including the Earth without disturbing their mutual positions and therefore this passage would agree with the Copernican doctrine.

Galileo also took notice of the expression “the sun stopped in the middle of the sky." If “in the middle of the sky (הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם בַּחֲצִ֣י)" means “at the meridian", it seems unnecessary to pray for a lengthened day in order to pursue victory in battle, with seven hours remaining before nightfall. Hence he interpreted it as “in the center of the celestial orbs and planetary rotations" and claimed that the expression should imply the heliocentric cosmology, but this view is extremely farfetched.

Since the author of Joshua knew neither the Ptolemaic system nor the Copernican one, the interpretation by reference to them is anachronistic. I guess that the author of the Book of Jashar just felt the battle to be long as if the Sun had stood still and exaggerated its length, which the author of Joshua construed it as the divine miracle. Anyway, as is usual with the Bible, here we can grasp the symbolism peculiar to the paternal religion.

According to Joshua, the five kings of the Amorites resented that the people of Gibeon had made a treaty of peace with Israel. They decided to punish the betrayers, moved up with all their troops, and attacked Gibeon. Knowing it, Joshua marched up with his entire army and took the Amorites by surprise. Joshua and the Israelites defeated them completely at Gibeon. Israel pursued them along the road going up to Beth Horon and cut them down all the way to Azekah and Makkedah. As they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, God hurled deadly hailstones down on them, and more of them died from the hail than were killed by the swords of the Israelites.

The hail suggests cloudy weather and it seems unnecessary to stop the Sun and the Moon above cloud during the battle. The picture below is a work by John Martin representing the situation. The weather is fine and cloudy at once. As Joshua wrote, the Sun is shining above the town of Gibeon, while the dark clouds blankets the sky over the battlefield, the Valley of Aijalon, as if it is threatening to hail, with the weak moonlight breaking through the gloomy clouds.

The picture drawn by John Martin (19 July 1789-17 February 1854) in 1816.[16]

Galileo thought the prolonged daylight hours contributed to the victory of Israel but this assumption is not consistent with the story of the hail attack. God might make it hail in fine weather, but the prolongation of daylight hours was not necessarily more advantageous to the Israelites than the Amorites. Suppose the bright sunlight was more advantageous to the Israelites than the Amorites. Why was the Sun shining over Gibeon rather than over the battlefield, the Valley of Aijalon? How can we say that “the Lord was fighting for Israel" because the Sun stood still over Gibeon and the Moon over the Valley of Aijalon?

Here let’s consider what the Sun and the Moon stand for. The Sun is male, the Earth is female and the Moon is bisexual. Pope Innocent III (Innocentius III; 1161 – 1216) compared the relation between the papal authority and the royal power to the Sun and the Moon or the ruler of the soul and the ruler of the body[17] so that he regarded the royal power as the intermediate between the papal authority and the mass, or the body as the intermediate between the soul and the material. As the paternal religion prohibits the idol worship, the Sun cannot be God himself, but it can be a symbol of Father God. The report that the Sun stood still over Gibeon means Gibeon was under the protection of God and that the Moon stood over the Valley of Aijalon means it was where God was fighting against the enemy. Both the Sun and the Moon emit light and the light is the symbol of the paternal dignity and truth. The allegation that both the Sun and the Moon stood still until the end of the fight means Father God did not desert the Israelites to the last.

If this symbolistic interpretation is right, the Copernican doctrine of the mobility of the Earth and the immobility of the Sun is not only literally contrary to the Holy Scripture, it symbolically denies the predominance of the paternal religion over the maternal religion. Galileo, quoting from a famous phrase of Cesare Baronio (1538-1607), said, “The intention of the Holy Ghost is to teach us how one goes to heaven, not how heaven goes[18]" , but the former is not irrelevant to the latter.

If the diurnal motion of the Sun is caused by the daily rotation of the Earth, it means that not the Heaven but the Earth has the power to change the day and the night. In other words the Copernican doctrine transfers the power to decide the presence and the absence of light from the Heaven as Father God to the Earth as Mother Goddess. Paternal religion cannot accept it, because it leads to the negation of paternal power.

2.3. The center of the universe was not at stake.

Heliocentrism is a theory that locates the Sun at the center of the universe and does not necessarily mean that the Earth moves and the Sun stands still. Geocentrism is a theory that locates the Earth at the center of the universe and does not necessarily mean that the Sun moves and the Earth stands still. Heraclides Ponticus (Ἡρακλείδης ὁ Ποντικός; c. 390 BC – c. 310 BC) as well as the Pythagoreans Hicetas (Ἱκέτας or Ἱκέτης; ca. 400 BC – ca. 335 BC) and Ecphantus (Ἔκφαντος; 4th century BC) believed that the Earth rotated on its axis but remained at the center of the universe. The current common idea that both the Sun and the Earth are neither stationary nor at the center of the universe is neither heliocentric nor geocentric.

Typically, of course, heliocentrism presupposes the motion of the Earth and the motionlessness of the Sun while geocentrism presupposes the motion of the Sun and the motionlessness of the Earth. The ancient pioneer of the former is Aristarchus of Samos (Αρίσταρχος ο Σάμιος; 310 BC – 230 BC) and the representative proponent of the latter is Aristotle (Ἀριστοτέλης; 384 BC – 322 BC). The most influential model of the solar system until the Renaissance was astronomy of Claudius Ptolemy (Κλαύδιος Πτολεμαῖος; c. AD 90 – c. AD 168), who assumed that the circular path of the annual motion of the sun was centered on a point called the eccentric, some distance away from the earth. Strictly speaking, therefore, the Ptolemaic system was not geocentric, but the Catholic Church did not cavil such a trivial matter. In fact which of the Sun and the Earth was actually moving was more important for the Catholic Church than which was the center of the universe.

The paradigm shift from geocentrism to heliocentrism is often characterized as a breakaway from the “Human-Centered Universe[19]" , but the Catholic Church did not persecute the Copernican doctrine because they did not want to abandon geocentrism as anthropocentrism, which was rather peculiar to Aristotelian school. According to Aristotle the center of the universe is the Earth, because earth, the heaviest element of the four, tends to fall toward the center of the universe, while light elements such as fire tend to rise upward, away from the center. The celestial bodies are composed of the lightest element, aether, which is qualitatively different from terrestrial four elements. Galileo denied Aristotelian theses of the geocentric cosmology and the qualitative difference between the terrestrial and the celestial worlds. Though the Church had accepted this cosmology, it was not essential to the original doctrine of Christianity. Therefore they had no reasons to ban the Sun-centered cosmology so long as it was not associated with the motion of the Earth and the motionlessness of the Sun.

The Holy Office ordered the correction of some parts of De Revolutionibus in 1620. A passage about the center of the universe in Chapter 5 was changed into “it makes no difference whether the earth exists in the middle of the universe, or away from the middle[20]“. As for Chapter 8, the Committee of Cardinals commented, “The whole of this chapter may cut out, since it avowedly treats of the truth of the earth’s motion, while it refutes the reasons of the ancients proving its immobility.[21]" It is apparent the Church regarded the motion of the Earth as more problematic than the Earth-centered cosmology.

3. What is the essence of the Christian oppression?

We must abstract accidental reasons to know the essential reasons Christianity convicted Galileo. Here I compare the Catholic Inquisition with the witch trial and the Copernican theory with the Darwinian theory to elucidate what is the essence of the Christian oppression in general.

3.1. What does the Inquisition share with the witch trial?

The Inquisition is different from the witchcraft trial in that the former is the judicial system to combat heresy and the latter is the judicial system to combat pagans. But they have some features in common. For example, the guilty was burnt at the stake in both cases. Why were pagans and heretics burned alive, though there were other kinds of death penalties?

The reason is evident if you think of the opposition of the paternal religion to the maternal religion. Fire as well as light is the attribute of the Sun and the symbol of the paternal religion. Burning the outsider of the paternal religion at the stake, whether they are witches or heretics, enemies or betrayers, has a symbolic significance.

Be careful not to forget the covenant of the Lord your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the Lord your God has forbidden.

For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.[22]

The metaphor of fire also implies that its light of the truth can enlighten the darkness of ignorance. The fact that female criminals were burnt at the stake until the end of the 18th century indicates it was a gender conscious punishment that the paternal religion brought on the remnants of the maternal religion.

Witches were assumed to take part in Sabbath gatherings in the dead of night, because the darkness is the symbol of the maternal religion. When the Sun disappears, planets named after pagan gods in Greek or Roman myths appear and go into irregular orbits like Sabbath’s dancers. As the origin of the word indicates, planets are wandering stars, symbolizing disorder in contrast to the order of the solar regular orbit.

The Sabbath was believed to end at dawn on the paternal ground that light can eradicate the dark wickedness of the Sabbath. Burning witches at the stake was based on the same ground. If the Sun moves and the Earth stands still, the Heaven as Father God has the initiative in ending the witches’ Sabbath. If the Earth moves and the Sun stands still, the Earth as Mother Goddess has the initiative in commencing the witches’ Sabbath or making the Sun disappear. The paternal religion cannot tolerate losing the initiative and this is why Christianity prohibited the Copernicanism.

Not all of the heretics and witches worshiped maternal religions, but as most of the pagans worshiped Earth Mother when Christianity came into being, all of the heretics and pagans were stereotyped as worshippers of maternal religions. To tell the truth, the Copernican doctrine was based on Neoplatonism, a sort of paternal religion that worshiped the Sun, but the similarity rather threatened the Roman Catholic Church. In fact the Roman Catholic Church regarded Platonism as potentially dangerous and Cardinal Bellarmino proposed abolishing the Platonic chair at the University of the Sapienza in Rome.

Bellarmine judged that Platonism contained more insidious subtleties than Aristotelianism — not because it was more erroneous but on account of its deceptive affinity with Christianity. Platonism was therefore more dangerous than paganism, and Bellarmine recommended suppression of the chair.[23]

Both Christianity and Platonism shared the paternal idea that the light of the Sun is more admirable than the darkness of the Earth, but Neoplatonism regarded the center of the universe as the supreme place that the Sun should occupy while Christians regarded the center of the universe, namely the center of the Earth as the most miserable place where they believed Hell existed.

3.2. What does Copernicanism share with Darwinism?

A scientific theory even more intolerable for Christians appeared in the 19th century, namely the theory of evolution. They especially censured On the Origin of Species written by Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882) in 1859. Darwinism was not only contrary to the doctrine of the Bible that God created every living thing individually but also against the fundamental principle of the paternal religion.

Since evolutionism itself had existed before Darwinism, the historical significance of On the Origin of Species consists not in pointing out the fact of evolution but explaining it in terms of natural selection. This means that species were created not by Father God but by Mother Nature. Because natural selection is accidental and blind, it also denies the intelligent design by God in the light of reason. In addition, Darwin emphasized the role of sexual selection, which means that not the male but the female have taken the initiative in evolution. It is also against the Christian belief that God created the female (Eve) from the male (Adam).

The most unacceptable to Christians of those days was the idea that the human being that they believed was created after God evolved from animals that they despised. Until the rise in the paternal religions humans worshiped totem animals or therianthropic gods. The paternal religions, because of their anti-naturalism, demoted animals from the divine beings to the subhuman beings. The believers in the paternal religions cannot admit animals as their ancestors, because that means the recovery of totemism or animism that they have overcome.

The opposition of Darwinism and Christianity is based on animals versus humans, Mother Nature versus Father God, blind accident versus light of reason, in short, maternal religion versus paternal religion. The latter does not allow the former to move by itself. The Church oppressed Copernicanism because they did not allow Mother Earth to move by itself beyond Father God’s control and the Church oppressed Darwinism because they did not allow Mother Nature to create life by itself beyond Father God’s control. Though the Roman Catholic Church no longer oppresses heliocentrism and evolutionism, some Christians still insist on geocentrism and creationism even today.

3.3. The Church and Galileo misunderstood each other.

The comparison between the Inquisition and witch trials, Copernicanism and Darwinism unveils that the Christian oppression is based on symbolism peculiar to the paternal religion. The Catholic Church thought of Galileo’s heliocentrism as the revival of a maternal religion, because it implies that Mother Earth moves by itself and makes the sun, the symbol of Father God, fall. Since Galileo wrote popular dialogues in Italian that the general public could easily understand, the Catholic Church feared that the general public who realized the truth of Mother Nature would move of themselves and make the Catholic Church fall. Galileo was convicted because he was thought to threaten the domination of the Catholic Church in these two senses. This is the conclusion of this article.

Of course, Galileo had no intention to threaten the domination of the Roman Catholic Church. He was a pious Christian and did not think his theory was heretical. He did not flee from Italy, though he was able to do so, if he would. Since he had no intention to criticize or insult the Roman Catholic Church, the Holy Office assessed his heliocentrism as “formally heretical[24]" in “Consultant’s Report on Copernicanism" on 24 February 1616, though the second Inquisition no longer regarded his heresy as formal. Anyway, symbolism is originally formal and formality did not prevent his innocent heresy from implying the anti-Christian consequence.

Galileo did not understand the symbolism and thought that Copernicanism conflicted only with the literal interpretation of the Bible. Galileo opposed the literal interpretation and said, “God is no less excellently revealed in Nature’s actions than in the sacred statements of the Bible[25]" in the Letter to Madame Christina. But Galileo should have recalled the proposition, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [26]" The paternal religion puts priority on the Word (λόγος) over the Nature. Galileo’s idea that in the beginning was the Nature was symbolically heretical for the Holy Office.

While Galileo misunderstood the Roman Catholic Church, the Roman Catholic Church also misunderstood the modern scientific revolution. It was not the regressive movement to revive maternal religions. To compare the 17th century scientific revolution to a stage of life, it corresponds to the stage when a boy becomes independent of his father. It is not regression to infancy before castration. Getting out of the submission to his father or the dependence on his mother, a boy grows up to be a man who seeks a woman of equal status and tries to be a father himself. The medieval Europeans who had submitted to omnipotent and omniscient Father God grew up to be the modern Europeans who try to be an omnipotent and omniscient being themselves. The scientific revolution certainly weakened the power of the Church but strengthened the power of human beings.

4. References

  1. Joseph-Nicolas Robert-Fleury. “Galileo before The Holy Office." Licensed under CC-0.
  2. 地動説と宗教」ウィキペディア日本語版 2013年5月23日固定リンク.
  3. Giovanimaria Tolosani. “De caelo supremo immobili et terra infima stabili, ceterisque coelis et elementis intermediis mobilibus." in God and Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter between Christianity and Science. University of California Press; First edition (April 29, 1986). p. 89.
  4. “Der Narr will die ganze Kunst Astronomiae umkehren! Aber wie die „Heilige Schrift“ anzeigt, so hieß Josua die Sonne stillstehen und nicht das Erdreich!" Martin Luthers sämtliche Schriften, Bd.22: Colloquia oder Tischreden. ed. J.G. Walch. Wentworth Press (July 28, 2018). p. 2260.
  5. Cited in Nicholas Jardine. The Birth of History and Philosophy of Science: Kepler’s 'A Defence of Tycho against Ursus’ with Essays on its Provenance and Significance. Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (August 31, 1984). p. 152.
  6. “Neque quisquam, quod ad hypotheses attinet, quicquam certi ab Astronomia expectet, cum ipsa nihil tale præstare queat, ne si in alium usum conficta pro veris arripiat, stultior ab hac disciplina discedat, quam accesserit." Nicolaus Copernicus. De revolutionibus orbium coelestium. Ad lectorem de hypothesibu huius operis. Octavo; Bilingual edition (March 15, 1999).
  7. Thomas S. Kuhn. The Copernican Revolution: Planetary Astronomy in the Development of Western Thought. Harvard University Press; Revised edition (January 1, 1992). p. 199.
  8. Paolo Antonio Foscarini. Lettera sopra l’Opinione de’ Pittagorici, e del Copernico della Mobilità della Terra, e Stabilità del Sole, e del Nuove Pittagorica Systema del Mondo. Forgotten Books (March 15, 2018).
  9. 山本義隆.『磁力と重力の発見〈2〉ルネサンス』みすず書房 (May 23, 2003). p. 574-583.
  10. “וְזָרַ֥ח הַשֶּׁ֖מֶשׁ וּבָ֣א הַשָּׁ֑מֶשׁ וְאֶ֨ל־ מְקֹומֹ֔ו שֹׁואֵ֛ף זֹורֵ֥חַֽ ה֖וּא שָֽׁם׃" The Old Testament, Ecclesiastes, 1:5
  11. “יְהוָ֣ה מָלָךְ֮ גֵּא֪וּת לָ֫בֵ֥שׁ לָבֵ֣שׁ יְ֭הוָה עֹ֣ז הִתְאַזָּ֑ר אַף־ תִּכֹּ֥ון תֵּ֝בֵ֗ל בַּל־ תִּמֹּֽוט׃." The Old Testament.
    Psalms, 93:1.
  12. “חִ֤ילוּ מִלְּפָנָיו֙ כָּל־ הָאָ֔רֶץ אַף־ תִּכֹּ֥ון תֵּבֵ֖ל בַּל־ תִּמֹּֽוט׃." The Old Testament.Chronicles 1, 16:30.
  13. “Dico che mi pare che V. P. et il Sig.r Galileo facciano prudentemente a contentarsi di parlare ex suppositione e non assolutamente, come io ho sempre creduto che habbia parlato il Copernico. Perché il dire che, supposto che la terra si muova et il sole stia fermo si salvano tutte l’apparenze meglio che con porre gli eccentrici et epicicli, è benissimo detto, e non ha pericolo nessuno; e questo basta al matematico: ma volere affermare che realmente il sole stia nel centro del mondo, e solo si rivolti in se stesso senza correre dall’oriente all’occidente, e che la terra stia nel 3° cielo e giri con somma velocità intorno al sole, è cosa molto pericolosa non solo d’irritare tutti i filosofi e theologi scolastici, ma anco di nuocere alla Santa Fede con rendere false le Scritture Sante." Roberto Bellarmino. " Lettera al P. Paolo A. Foscarini, 12 aprile 1615." Da Galileo Galilei, Opere. a cura di A. Favaro, Giunti-Barbera, Firenze 1968, vol. XII, pp. 171-172.
  14. “.וַיִּקְרָ֛א יְשַׁעְיָ֥הוּ הַנָּבִ֖יא אֶל־יְהוָ֑ה וַיָּ֣שֶׁב אֶת־הַצֵּ֗ל בַּֽ֠מַּעֲלֹות אֲשֶׁ֨ר יָרְדָ֜ה בְּמַעֲלֹ֥ות אָחָ֛ז אֲחֹֽרַנִּ֖ית עֶ֥שֶׂר מַעֲלֹֽות׃ פ .וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ יְחִזְקִיָּ֔הוּ נָקֵ֣ל לַצֵּ֔ל לִנְטֹ֖ות עֶ֣שֶׂר מַעֲלֹ֑ות לֹ֣א כִ֔י יָשׁ֥וּב הַצֵּ֛ל אֲחֹרַנִּ֖ית עֶ֥שֶׂר מַעֲלֹֽות׃ .וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְשַׁעְיָ֗הוּ זֶה־לְּךָ֤ הָאֹות֙ מֵאֵ֣ת יְהוָ֔ה כִּ֚י יַעֲשֶׂ֣ה יְהוָ֔ה אֶת־הַדָּבָ֖ר אֲשֶׁ֣ר דִּבֵּ֑ר הָלַ֤ךְ הַצֵּל֙ עֶ֣שֶׂר מַֽעֲלֹ֔ות אִם־יָשׁ֖וּב עֶ֥שֶׂר מַעֲלֹֽות׃ .וַיֹּ֤אמֶר חִזְקִיָּ֙הוּ֙ אֶֽל־יְשַׁעְיָ֔הוּ מָ֣ה אֹ֔ות כִּֽי־יִרְפָּ֥א יְהוָ֖ה לִ֑י וְעָלִ֛יתִי בַּיֹּ֥ום הַשְּׁלִישִׁ֖י בֵּ֥ית יְהוָֽה׃." The Old Testament.Kings 2, 20:8 – 11.
  15. “וְלֹ֨א הָיָ֜ה כַּיֹּ֤ום הַהוּא֙ לְפָנָ֣יו וְאַחֲרָ֔יו לִשְׁמֹ֥עַ יְהוָ֖ה בְּקֹ֣ול אִ֑ישׁ כִּ֣י יְהוָ֔ה נִלְחָ֖ם לְיִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ פ .וַיִּדֹּ֨ם הַשֶּׁ֜מֶשׁ וְיָרֵ֣חַ עָמָ֗ד עַד־יִקֹּ֥ם גֹּוי֙ אֹֽיְבָ֔יו הֲלֹא־הִ֥יא כְתוּבָ֖ה עַל־סֵ֣פֶר הַיָּשָׁ֑ר וַיַּעֲמֹ֤ד הַשֶּׁ֙מֶשׁ֙ בַּחֲצִ֣י הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וְלֹא־אָ֥ץ לָבֹ֖וא כְּיֹ֥ום תָּמִֽים׃ .אָ֣ז יְדַבֵּ֤ר יְהֹושֻׁעַ֙ לַֽיהוָ֔ה בְּיֹ֗ום תֵּ֤ת יְהוָה֙ אֶת־הָ֣אֱמֹרִ֔י לִפְנֵ֖י בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיֹּ֣אמֶר ׀ לְעֵינֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל מֶשׁ בְּגִבְעֹ֣ון דֹּ֔ום וְיָרֵ֖חַ בְּעֵ֥מֶק אַיָּלֹֽון׃" The Old Testament.Joshua, 10:12 – 14.
  16. John Martin. “Joshua commanding the sun to stand still upon Gideon.” 1816. Licensed under CC-0.
  17. Innocentius III. “Letter to the prefect Acerbius and the nobles of Tuscany." 1198. The Internet History Sourcebooks Project.
  18. “ciò è l’intenzione delle Spirito Santo essere d’insegnarci come si vadia al cielo, e non come vadia il cielo" Galileo Galilei. “Lettera a Madama Cristina di Lorena granduchessa di Toscana." Translation: “Letter to Madame Christina of Lorraine, Grand Duchess of Tuscany“.
  19. Steven Shapin. The Scientific Revolution. University of Chicago Press; Second edition (November 5, 2018). p. 20-21.
  20. “nihil refert terram in medio mundi, vel extra medium existere." Source: “Monitum ad Nicolai Copernici lectorem, ejusque emendatio, permissio, et correctio" in Le opere di Galileo Galilei Vol. 19. Forgotten Books (August 21, 2018). p. 400.
  21. “Totum hoc caput potest expungi, quia ex professo tractat de veritate motus Terræ, dum solvit veterum rationes probantes ejus quietem." Source: “Monitum ad Nicolai Copernici lectorem, ejusque emendatio, permissio, et correctio" in Le opere di Galileo Galilei Vol. 19. Forgotten Books (August 21, 2018). p. 400.
  22. “כִּ֚י יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ אֵ֥שׁ אֹכְלָ֖ה ה֑וּא אֵ֖ל קַנָּֽא׃ פ” “הִשָּׁמְר֣וּ לָכֶ֗ם פֶּֽן־ תִּשְׁכְּחוּ֙ אֶת־ בְּרִ֤ית יְהוָה֙ אֱלֹ֣הֵיכֶ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר כָּרַ֖ת עִמָּכֶ֑ם וַעֲשִׂיתֶ֨ם לָכֶ֥ם פֶּ֙סֶל֙ תְּמ֣וּנַת כֹּ֔ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר צִוְּךָ֖ יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶֽיךָ׃" The Old Testament.Deuteronomy, 4:23-24.
  23. William Shea. “Galileo and the Church." in God and Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter between Christianity and Science. University of California Press; First edition (April 29, 1986). p. 115.
  24. “formaliter haereticam" Jerome J. Langford. Galileo, Science and the Church. University of Michigan Press; Third edition (October 12, 1992). p. 89.
  25. “né meno eccelentemente ci si scuopre Iddio negli effetti di natura che ne’ sacri detti delle Scritture." Galileo Galilei. “Lettera a Madama Cristina di Lorena granduchessa di Toscana." Translation: “Letter to Madame Christina of Lorraine, Grand Duchess of Tuscany“.
  26. “Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος." The New Testament.John, 1:1.