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The Scientific Revolution and Atheism

There are many key moments in the Scientific Revolution that proved important for later developments in atheism. Without these key moments, atheism would have remained in the starting gate, munching its hay. But with these crucial changes of perspective, atheism was out of the gates and around the first turn.

Atheism gained momentum with the start of the Scientific Revolution, marked by Copernicus’s theory of the sun-centered solar system , published in 1543. The author wasn’t around when it hit the shelves, having wisely died a few weeks earlier. Even though few people read it and even fewer believed it at the time, this moment changed the way the world thought forever.

You need to bear in mind that this revolution wasn’t really about particular theories. It was about defining a powerful new way to think about the universe. By trying to control biases and establish objective frames of reference, this new way of asking questions and questioning answers revolutionized not just the sciences but humanity’s view of itself and its place in the scheme of things.

Though it wasn’t intended to address questions of God, this pursuit of objectivity was a big step in making the atheist point of view possible. As long as everyone was thinking inside a religious system built on unquestionable assumptions — among them the assumption that Scriptures are true because they say they’re true — it’s pretty hard to find the exit.

By establishing objectivity as a goal worth striving for and showing just how amazing the results can be when you give it a try, the Scientific Revolution laid the groundwork for the Enlightenment’s challenges to religious thought and just about everything that came afterward.

The Enlightenment and the Renaissance were two of the biggest developments in Western history. But compared to the Scientific Revolution, they’re pebbles dropped into the human pond, and the Scientific Revolution is a Jack Black cannonball.

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