Whether the Index was a “good” or “bad” thing I will leave to those who like their history served with value judgements. I find Presentist judgements of the past by the values of the present have little or no purpose and prefer to simply examine what happened as objectively as possible.
…I have no problems with condemning those today who try to apply the standards of the seventeenth century to intellectual expression today. But condemning seventeenth century people for not thinking like twenty-first century people makes zero sense.
Both slavery and the Holocaust can be and were condemned according to the morality of the time. Condemning early modern polities (ie all governments and religious institutions, not just the Catholic Church) for not upholding a principle of unfettered freedom of expression that didn’t exist at that stage makes about as much sense as condemning them for not having driving licences.
…condemning people in the distant past for not thinking the way we do makes no sense. I can say “I find ancient slavery repugnant and distasteful”. But to say “They were evil for enslaving others” is nonsensical. “Evil” according to who? This kind of thinking not only assumes some kind of universal objective morality but also assumes it just happens to be embodied in us.
An old post, but worth revisiting. Tim O’Neill is an atheist historian worth reading because he is so utterly objective and he has the rare trait lacking in most Western academicians: he does not pepper his analysis with moral pontifications or value judgements. Thus in this particular article, he has no vested interest in advancing simplistic narratives about the opposition of science and religion or the alleged benefits of atheism for science, etc, but tells the history as it is.
Might have something to do with the fact that he is an Australian rather than an American.