Thursday, October 20, 2011

Balthasar Bekker and Superstition

Balthasar Bekker (1634-1698) was a Dutchman who did a great deal to end the terrible witchcraft persecutions that were set alight in Europe, and even Puritan New England, in the years between 1450-1700.

He was thrown out of the ministry for his preaching against religious customs that helped inspire superstition and mistrust.

His best known work was The World Bewitched (1695), in which he examined critically the phenomena generally ascribed to spiritual agency. He attacked the belief in sorcery and possession by the devil. During the witchcraft persecutions, countless victims, mainly elderly women, were killed when they were really showing signs of dementia (Alzheimer's) or other physical maladies. Even men and women with cataracts were seen to be as possessed by the devil.

The book had a sensational effect and was one of the key works of the Enlightenment in Europe. It was almost certainly the most controversial. Bekker became a heroic figure defying the superstition of the age.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Charles Darwin and his daughter....

One of my favorite books is Darwin, his daughter, and Human Evolution by Randall Keynes. He was a great great grandson of Darwin.

Students are learning about Social Darwinism in 20th Century I. Of course, the Robber Barons were accused of using unfair business practices and workplace malpractice to gain profits on the backs of the poor.

However, the Robber Barons called themselves "Captains of Industry." They felt that the money they earned allowed them to increase production, build plants and provide jobs. Both Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller were famous Robber Barons.

Yet, what about Darwin? He died before his ideas were applied to the workplace. He never entered a church after he wrote Origin of the Species. However, years later, his great great grandson found among Darwin's things was a small box filled with mementos from the life of his daughter Annie, who died from a lingering illness at age 10. Darwin's wife worried that he could not draw religious comfort from their tragic loss. This story is the basis of the move Creation made a few years ago.