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Rewriting History and the Shroud of Turin

imageAdam. Your blog, Grey turning blue, is interesting and well written. I will need to explore it more.

I note that you just read an article in the New Yorker that you found interesting. Indeed, the article by Lawrence Wright, “Paul Haggis vs. the Church of Scientology,” is not only interesting, it is potentially a major blow to Scientology. You, however, found the article interesting because “the topic,” as you put it, “could have easily been replaced with another topic and still been true.” As you wrote: 

If you read the following, what would you think the author is talking about?

[His] material must be and is applied precisely as written," Davis said. "It’s never altered. It’s never changed. And there probably is no more heretical or more horrific transgression that you could have in the [X] religion than to alter the [writings]

Davis is referring to scientology that has only been around since 1953. When Christianity was this new, we don’t even know for sure what writings existed; the canon of the New Testament did not really start to evolve until more than 200 years after Jesus’ death. In 367, Athanasius presented his list of 27 books in what he called the canonical list. This list was finally approved at the Synod of Hippo in 393. Scholars generally agree that in the years leading up to then and since, the writings have been “altered” or “corrected” numerous times. I would hardly say it was heretical or a horrific transgression, though some fundamentalist Christians deny it and do think it would be horrific. They would agree with Davis if he wasn’t a scientologist.

And, as we now know, Hubbard’s (Scientology’s) writings have been changed. And based on what Lawrence Wright discovered, only in some of the newer editions; history was selectively rewritten.

But that isn’t what I really want to disagree with. You wrote: 

For those of you who ARE religious (I will pose a Catholic hypothetical), . . . In reading this article, those were the questions I asked myself as the parallels kept mounting. Re-writing of history (Catholicism: We never condemned Galileo or killed anyone during the Crusades. . . The list goes on, but these are just two examples). The disbelief by practitioners in clear, tangible evidence that could possible cause the slightest doubt in a small tenet of belief (see Catholic devotion to the Shroud of Turin, an obvious hoax that is not even canonical or Church approved, but which most every Catholic will defend because to cast doubt would begin to pull a single thread of the fabric of belief).

I cannot disagree in stronger terms. The church bungled the handling of Galileo and amended their attitude over the years. But they did not rewrite history, at least not in any significant way that I can see. In 1992, Pope John Paul II expressed regret and acknowledged the errors committed by the Catholic Church. You can’t do that and rewrite history. As for your comment about the crusades, can you provide a source for that claim?

As for the Shroud of Turin, you need to understand that as a relic that might be apologetically significant, that has only been the case since 1898. There was plenty of faith without it before then and there is plenty of faith without needing to know about it since. In fact, I have never met a Catholic (or Anglican or Presbyterian or Baptist or whatever type of Christian) who feels that if he or she were to be convinced that it was a fake that it would “pull a single thread of the fabric or [their] belief.” I know plenty of Catholics and other Christians who do not believe it is real. Moreover I know Jews and other non-Christians and at least one Atheist who think the shroud is, in fact, genuine, given the latest scientific and historical evidence. I’m also amazed at how many Christians I meet, including Catholics, who have never heard of the Shroud of Turin.

Adam, the rewriting of history is a terrible thing when it happens. It happens all the time, both inside and outside of the church (think Texas inspired textbooks). But the examples you give are probably not valid. You can try to change my mind. I’ll listen. And thanks for listening to me.

See Adam’s blog Grey turning Blue…: the baby of religions

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