That Old-Time Religion

I didn’t wish to begin a debate about the issues surrounding religion in the 16th and 17th-century, nor would I ever wish to stop anyone from taking in interest in history. All I wanted to do was to point out that history is an academic discipline the same as any other, and it is dangerous to make pronouncements of such a dogmatic nature in the subject in which one has not been trained.

Little in Jim Ring’s reply to my letter persuades me that I am wrong. I still think that the comment about Archbishop Laud implies that he was executed for burning heretics, otherwise why say “while burning heretics was still a pious duty it could have unfortunate consequences, particularly for archbishops”.

However, it is possible that in the area of toleration we are talking at cross-purposes. Toleration was strictly limited in its application in the 16th and most of the 17th century. Catholics for instance, were discriminated against for almost all of this time. Quakers and other minority religious sects were fiercely persecuted after the deposition of Charles 1.

But I would like to say that while I take a lay person’s interest in evolution and have read some of the works produced for lay people, I would not dream of rising an article about evolution for the Skeptic without any reference to sources, or any qualification of my assertions.

The books that Ring has read are indeed by professional historians and probably a cut above my scientific reading in that they are not specifically produced for lay reader. However, to be perfectly blunt they, are both quite out of date. Trevor-Roper was not considered to be at the cutting edge of historical research when I was at school 35 years ago. History, like paleontology, does change in its interpretation with time and new scholarship. Perhaps I made the points in my first letter in too testy a fashion, in which case I apologize (I am known as a curmudgeon). Having said that I would maintain no matter what the subject one should be careful about what one says when one not trained in the discipline.

Bob Metcalfe

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