POV: Ayn Rand excerpts on Religion
by Ayn Rand | 1988
The New Atheists
by The Editors | December 05, 2014
Religion in America
by The Editors | December 05, 2014
Religion vs. Freedom
by Onkar Ghate | December 03, 2014
Bernie Madoff, Steve Jobs, and Wall Street Greed
by Don Watkins | September 26, 2013
Abortion Rights Are Pro-life
by Leonard Peikoff | January 23, 2013
Capitalism without Guilt
by Yaron Brook | January 21, 2013
Does America Need Ayn Rand or Jesus?
by Onkar Ghate | June 29, 2011
The Guilt Pledge
by Don Watkins | September 22, 2010
Our Moral Code Is Out of Date
by Yaron Brook | September 16, 2010
Atlas Shrugged’s Timeless Moral: Profit-Making Is Virtue, Not Vice
by Yaron Brook | July 20, 2010
Commercialism Only Adds to Joy of the Holidays
by Onkar Ghate | December 18, 2009
No More Green Guilt
by Keith Lockitch | May 01, 2009
No “Footprint,” No Life
by Keith Lockitch | January 09, 2009
The Easter Masquerade
by Keith Lockitch | March 22, 2008
After Ten Years, States Still Resist Assisted Suicide
by Tom Bowden | November 02, 2007
It Isn’t Easy Being Green
by Keith Lockitch | October 16, 2007
The Road to 9/11: How America's Selfless Policies Unleashed the Jihadists
by Elan Journo | September 10, 2007
The Real Disgrace: Washington’s Battlefield “Ethics”
by Elan Journo | July 28, 2007
Atlas Shrugged — America's Second Declaration of Independence
by Onkar Ghate | March 01, 2007
Religion and Morality
by Onkar Ghate | October 18, 2006
The Jihad on America
by Elan Journo | Fall 2006
The Conservatives’ War on Birth Control
by Keith Lockitch | September 18, 2006
“Just War Theory” vs. American Self-Defense
by Yaron Brook | Spring 2006
The Twilight of Freedom of Speech
by Onkar Ghate | February 21, 2006
“Intelligent Design” Is about Religion versus Reason
by Keith Lockitch | December 11, 2005
Creationism in Camouflage: The “Intelligent Design” Deception
by Keith Lockitch | November 17, 2005
The Foreign Policy of Guilt
by Onkar Ghate | September 29, 2005
The Bait and Switch of “Intelligent Design”
by Keith Lockitch | August 04, 2005
The Faith-Based Attack on Rational Government
by Tom Bowden | June 27, 2005
The “Sin” of Pride
by Edwin Locke | May 18, 2005
Morality of War
by Yaron Brook | September 09, 2004
Council on Bioethics Antagonistic to Man’s Well-Being
by Elan Journo | April 08, 2004
A Passion Against Man
by Onkar Ghate | March 15, 2004
America vs. Americans
by Leonard Peikoff | April 21, 2003
“End States Who Sponsor Terrorism”
by Leonard Peikoff | October 02, 2001
Fact and Value
by Leonard Peikoff | May 18, 1989
On Moral Sanctions
by Peter Schwartz | May 18, 1989
Religious Terrorism vs. Free Speech
by Leonard Peikoff | 1989
Lexicon excerpts on Religion
by Ayn Rand | 1988
Religion vs. America
by Leonard Peikoff | 1986
The Sanction of the Victims
by Ayn Rand | November 21, 1981
The Age of Mediocrity
by Ayn Rand | April 26, 1981
The Intellectual Bankruptcy of Our Age
by Ayn Rand | 1961


Culture And Society in Voice for Reason
Culture & SocietyReligion & Morality

The Easter Masquerade

by Keith Lockitch | March 22, 2008

In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII established our modern calendar and fixed the rules determining the date of Easter. This year Easter falls on March 23, but from year to year it can shift by as much as a month on the Gregorian calendar.

Finding Easter’s date for a given year requires a surprising degree of scientific acumen. The last things one might expect to see in, say, the Book of Common Prayer are tables of numbers and rules for mathematical calculations — but there they are, nevertheless.

At first glance, this seems to exemplify a kind of harmony between religion and science, a peaceful concord between faith and reason. Indeed, a variety of public figures — from prominent scientists to the Pope — have promoted the view that science and religion are not adversaries but complementary and mutually supporting fields. “Truth cannot contradict truth,” they declare, implying that the truths discovered by reasoning from sensory evidence cannot clash with the “truths” of religious dogma.

A closer look, however, reveals the long history of the hostility of faith towards reason — which continues to this day. Violent clashes between the two are not only possible but unavoidable, and the notion that religion can coexist on friendly terms with science and reason is false.

For reasons both biblical and astronomical, Easter is defined as the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox (the first day of spring). To get his calendar rules right, Pope Gregory had to rely on some of the best astronomers and mathematicians of his day. Ironically, one of these was Nicolas Copernicus, whose sun-centered astronomy engendered one of history’s most famous clashes between science and religion.

A faithful canon of the Catholic Church, Copernicus supported the calendar project happily. His scientific work was partly motivated by the goal of predicting more accurately the first day of spring and the subsequent full moon. He modestly expressed the hope that by facilitating the calculation of Easter his labors would “contribute somewhat even to the Commonwealth of the Church.”

At first Copernicus’s work was warmly accepted by Church officials — but only because they didn’t take it seriously. Sixteenth-century common sense held that the Sun orbits the Earth, which is motionless at the center of the universe. More important, Church scholars held that the true structure of the world is established not by science but by official interpretation of Scripture. Hence, they regarded the motion of the Earth as nothing more than a convenient mathematical assumption — an idea justified solely by its utility in making astronomical predictions. Thinking they could evade a clash between reason and revelation, they denied the reality of the Earth’s motion but used the Copernican theory nonetheless.

This contradiction became inescapable decades after the Gregorian reform when Galileo removed the objections from common sense by explaining the physics of the moving Earth. But the objections from faith proved more intractable. Galileo’s outspoken defense of the Earth’s motion as a serious physical idea forced Church leaders to take a stand — and when they got off the fence, they came down firmly against science. That the Church persecuted Galileo for defending Copernican theory is well-known. Less frequently acknowledged is the utter hypocrisy of that act: the Church persecuted Galileo for defending the very ideas on which its Easter reform depended.

In 1992 Pope John Paul II grudgingly admitted — 350 years too late — that his predecessors had been wrong. He called the Church’s persecution of Galileo a “sad misunderstanding” that “now belongs to the past.”

But does it?

Although few would now declare the Earth the motionless center of the universe, it is not difficult to find those who claim it to be 6,000 years old and deny the long, slow evolution of its species. More alarming is that the same Dark Ages mentality that dragged Galileo before the Inquisition now seeks to prohibit entire fields of scientific research, such as therapeutic cloning. The war of religion against science has merely shifted to new battlegrounds, but it still rages on.

Religion’s alleged harmony with science is a fraudulent masquerade, extending only insofar as religious dogmas are not called into question. True defenders of science must be committed to reason as an absolute principle — following facts wherever they lead and bowing to no authorities but logic and reality. And they must understand that the servile obedience demanded by faith is wholly incompatible with science — and with the rational thinking on which all human progress and prosperity depends.

About The Author

Keith Lockitch

Vice President of Education and Senior Fellow, Ayn Rand Institute