Monday, January 17, 2011 Login

Same As It Ever Was

One of the great things about science is that it has obviously progressed over time.

One of the terrible things about religion is that it’s progressed so little despite having a much longer history.

While scientists have embraced increasingly sophisticated techniques and theories over the centuries, religious adherents seem to have been content to stay in the same muddy little patch of the human imagination, endlessly spinning their wheels (when not engaging in demolition derbies with each other).

Here’s a recent story that reminded me of this:

NY Mosque Debate Echoes Fears Of 225 Years Ago (Paul Vitello/The New York Times/The Columbus Dispatch; Oct 10)

Many New Yorkers were suspicious of the newcomers’ plans to build a house of worship in Manhattan. Some feared the project was being underwritten by foreigners. Others said the strangers’ beliefs were incompatible with democratic principles.

Concerned residents held demonstrations, some of which turned bitter.

But cooler heads prevailed; the project proceeded to completion. And this week, St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in lower Manhattan — the locus of that controversy two centuries ago — is celebrating the 225th anniversary of the laying of its cornerstone.

The Rev. Kevin V. Madigan, who is the pastor of St. Peter’s, was not initially struck by the parallels between the opposition the church had faced and what present-day Muslims have encountered in proposing a community center and mosque two blocks from ground zero.

But as an uproar enveloped the Islamic project over the summer, the priest said he was startled by how closely the opposition mirrored that brought in 1785 against St. Peter’s, blocks from the proposed mosque site.

City officials in 18th-century New York urged project organizers to change the church’s location, in what was then the heart of the city, to outside the city. Unlike the organizers of Park51, the Catholics complied.

Then there were fears about nefarious foreign backers. Just as some opponents of Park51 have said that the $100 million-plus project will be financed by the same Saudi sheiks who bankroll terrorists, many early Protestants saw the pope as the enemy of democracy. They feared the church would lead a papal assault on the new U.S. government.

The Park51 organizers say they will not accept foreign backing. But St. Peter’s Church was made possible by a handsome gift from King Charles III of Spain.

The angry eruptions at demonstrations this summer against the Muslim center were not as vehement as those directed at St. Peter’s, Madigan said.

Two decades after the church was built, Protestants started a melee that killed a policeman. They were incensed at a celebration going on inside that they viewed as an exercise in “popish superstition” — Christmas.

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Originally posted at: Atheist Under Ur Bed

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