I have been reading Philip Hughes’ A Popular History of The Catholic Church, (Macmillan, 1962). Beginning on page 221 Hughes wrote of the basic principal of the reformers, “the right of private judgment”, where the individual “with the Bible at his disposal would…come surely and safely to a knowledge of divine truth” without an “impersonal teaching authority in religious matters”.
He continued, “From the first months of the movement there were however, divergences among the Bible readers as to the meaning of what they read. With the centuries these divergences grew and the sects multiplied. Such a development was inevitable, and there being one solution to whatever difficulties the sacred text or the remnants of the traditional doctrine presented-namely the honest opinion of the individual-it was no long time before skepticism as to the truths alleged to be taught by the Bible began to grow, skepticism as to such fundamental truths even as the very existence of God”.
He wrote that there had always been an “undercurrent of atheism in Europe which was closely connected to the natural sciences and allied to the practice of an unmoral life”. And then he asserted “the breakdown of belief in religious authority throughout Europe brought about by the Lutheran-Calvinist revolution finally set it, (atheism), free to develop, scarcely hindered now save by convention”.
His contention that atheism was helped by dissention and revolution in the Church, due to its causing a more widespread skepticism in the world, is intriguing to me and I am asking if members of this forum have heard of or thought of that connection before, and does the fact that Christianity is so “decentralized/fragmented” and argues so much fuel atheism?
Peace to All