Galileo, born in 1564, was an Italian astronomer and physicist. He has been called the founder of modern experimental science.  Galileo’s first important observations in astronomy concerned the moon, and opposed the teachings of Aristotle. With his telescopes, Galileo discovered that the moon was not a smooth sphere, that it had valleys and mountains and that it showed only the light it reflected, not shining by its own light. 

Galileo firmly upheld the theory of Copernicus, that the earth moves around the sun. This caused a dispute between Pope Paul V, Head of the Catholic Church, other high-church officials and scientists. The Church also bitterly opposed Galileo’s reports on sunspots. In 1632, Galileo published his masterpiece, A dialogue on the Two Principal Systems of the World. The Holy Office or Inquisition immediately called Galileo to appear before it. After a long trial in 1633, the Church forced Galileo to say that he gave up his belief in the Copernican theory, and sentenced him to an indefinite prison term. He was confined to his villa in Arcetri, where he died on January 8, 1642

John Shelby Spong, an Episcopal Bishop of Newark, New Jersey supports the World Book Encyclopedia regarding Galileo and the Church. In his book Liberating the Gospels, the Bishop wrote that the Catholic Church interpreted the Bible as: 

“The God who dominated the biblical narrative was a God who was conceived of inside a worldview that Copernicus and Galileo had rendered all but meaningless. It is no wonder that the leaders of the Church reacted with such vehemence to the publication of Galileo’s ideas, for they struck at the very heart of the Church’s authority. 

The entire biblical frame of reference was challenged by Galileo’s concepts. So the church condemned Galileo and forced him to choose between recanting and death. The text used to challenge the work of Galileo was found in the book of Joshua, where Joshua ordered the sun to stand still in the sky (Joshua 10:12). This proved to the Church that the earth was the static center of the universe around which the sun moved each day. The Bible, every word of it, had been invested with ultimate and literal truth. 

Therefore, anything contrary to the Bible was, by definition, false. Galileo did recant in order to save his life, and the Church presumed that a great victory had been won. However, no external authority can ultimately repress the truth, and in 1991, the Vatican admitted that Galileo had been correct and the Church and the Bible had been wrong. 

“This confession of error on the part of the Church was 350 years too late. The credibility of the Church was as poorly served by that arrogant confession as it had been by its original closed-minded ignorance. Besides that, the Church, even in its admission of guilt, hardly dealt with the major threat to its power: namely, that if Galileo was correct, what happens to the whole context in which was written?“ 

“Perhaps the religious hierarchy assumed that no one would raise this question,” so wrote Bishop Spong.

"Fear believes, courage doubts. Fear falls upon the earth and prays, courage stands erect and thinks. Fear retreats, courage advances. Fear is barbarism, courage is civilization. Fear believes in witchcraft, in devils and in ghosts. Fear is religion, courage is science." -Robert G. Ingersoll (1833-1899)




The World book Encyclopedia – Galileo, page 11-12

Episcopal Bishop John Shelby SpongLiberating the Gospels, page 7