Richard Carrier writes:
There is a trend to try and deny the Dark Ages ever existed; even to portray them as really lovely, light and wonderful ages of goodness and achievement. I’m exaggerating. But only a little. I’ve debunked this a lot. ...If that is really true, and Europe dropped a millennium behind the rest of the world, then how it is that, starting in the 15th century, it rapidly advanced to being a millennium ahead? How is that even possible?
I mentioned in particular McDaniel’s piece debunking the Dark Ages, which has a lot of good material rightly debunking a lot of misconceptions about the Dark Ages. For instance, that wasn’t the era of mass witch hunts (the Inquisition, for example, was actually a much later phenomenon of a far more prosperous time) or of the kind of “armored knights” people usually imagine, and so on. And pretty much all educated persons knew the earth was a sphere, even in the Middle Ages. ...
For example, McDaniel argues that publicly seen depictions of the universe as a sphere indicate popular knowledge the earth was a sphere, but that’s incorrect: those spheres illustrate the entire cosmos, not the earth. The belief that a flat earth inhabited a spherical universe remained widespread—among the illiterate, who indeed also still thought such things as that lunar eclipses were caused by witch magic and not orbital shadows ...
Yes, the Dark Ages happened. They occupied the period from the 5th to the 10th century. And they took five hundred more years to fully recover from, bringing Western civilization back by the 15th century to all the peak markers of accomplishment that it had achieved by the 2nd century. That’s a thousand years we were set back.
The atheists might argue: The enlightenment scholars discovered reason, and that was so much more powerful than religion.
But those Enlightment advances were all done by Christians, working in Christian institutions. And the non-Christian countries fell many centuries behind Europe.
In recent decades, medieval scholars have persistently advanced the thesis that the Dark and Middle Ages were not actually dark — that the 1,000-year period stretching from the fall of Rome (roughly 500 AD) to the Renaissance (roughly 1500) was an era of significant intellectual and cultural advance. ...So he denies that Christianity was a force of reason because some heresies were suppressed!
The thesis of Stark’s book is that the Catholic Church promoted a cultural commitment to reason that enabled the West to rise. Medieval Christianity was fundamentally, perhaps exclusively, responsible for the great progress wrought by Western Civilization in philosophy, the arts, science, technology, and freedom. ...
A reader will search Stark’s book in vain for any reference to the Church’s suppression of innovative thinkers. For example, the terms “heresy” and “heretics” are not listed in his Index.
And of course he complains about Galileo, and misstates his dispute with the Pope. But of course Galileo was a Christian, and did his best work with the support of the Church.
Go ahead and read these essays for yourself. If Christianity was so bad, tell me where non-Christians did any better.
The Dark Ages did see a decline in some of the Roman accomplishments, such as construction, money, and law and order. But at the same time, it embarked on the long and difficult task of Christianizing the continent, and achieving a civilization far greater than anywhere else.