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(VI.) HISTORY - The Coming of Christianity

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Author Topic: (VI.) HISTORY - The Coming of Christianity  (Read 277 times)
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« on: August 17, 2007, 06:54:24 pm »

The trouble with Augustine's anti-astrological arguments is that they are founded (like those of so many other critics throughout history) on a misunderstanding of the nature of the astrological theory, even as it was practised in his own time.

Very few astrologers argued that the planets absolutely controlled every aspect of the life of man, much less that every living thing was under a similar governance. When he points out that astrology is ridiculous because a cow and a human baby born at the same instant do not have precisely the same life, he simply displays his own ignorance of what astrology claims, and his stronger arguments are proportionally weakened. His supposition that astrologers claim that the time and place of birth and nothing else control a man's destiny leads him to concentrate on that point to the exclusion of more eccentric claims which would have offered him a wider target.

He seems to have read very little astrological literature (not, for instance, the Tetrabiblos, which might be thought required reading for anyone preparing an attack on astrology).

St Augustine is still often set up as the prime Christian opponent of astrology; and so he is. But that is not saying much. Even he admits that the Sun and planets have an effect on some material things such as the tides, and hence on some living things such as shellfish. It might be argued that he performed a considerable service to astrology by attacking its occult aspects, while not condemning out of hand the kind of scientific astrology that was to provide the more rewarding areas of experiment in the future.

The City of God is seen as the apogee of Christianity's attacks on astrology, and so in a sense it was. That it is an unintelligent, derivative and ineffectual attack is neither here nor there; happily, the Christian church's generally antagonistic view of science in general has in the long run been equally ineffectual.

When Augustine argued that 'Christians have many better and more serious things to occupy their time than such subtle investigations concerning the relative magnitude of the stars and the intervals of space between them', he was setting the tone for the official Church attitude to science for many centuries. It has not, in the end, prevailed, even in schools.
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