6 Modern Myths About Christianity & Western Civilization, By Philip J. Sampson

6 Modern Myths About Christianity & Western Civilization

by Philip J. Sampson

6 Modern Myths About Christianity & Western Civilization
  • Length: 197 pages
  • Published: January 11, 2001
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: 2281
  • ISBN: 9780830822812

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When did you last encounter a myth? Maybe watching a movie, touring a museum or browsing the sci-fi section of your local bookstore? To contemporary men and women, myths seem mere relics of a premodern era--legendary stories of capricious gods, heroic deeds and lost cities. The physical and social anxieties that gave rise to myths have been dealt with more productively in our century by science, government and art. Right?

"Not at all," says Philip Sampson. In 6 Modern Myths he shows that all societies, even sophisticated and skeptical societies like ours, nurture myths that distort both science and history to further cultural goals. Such myths are important guides to a society's understanding of itself.

How often have you heard the story, for example, of plucky Galileo, armed merely with a telescope and reason, doing battle with a superstitious church only to be condemned as a heretic and harshly imprisoned? Even though most of the "facts" commonly assumed to be true about this story are just not so, the romanticized myth of Galileo boldly marches forward.

Sampson dispels this myth and five others--that the rise of Christianity led to ecological crisis, that missionaries have oppressed native peoples, that Darwin's evolutionary ideas were embraced by scientists but vilified by religious leaders, that the church was responsible for persecution of witches, and that Christianity teaches the repression of bodily pleasures--all woven nearly inextricably into the fabric of Christianity and Western civilization. To tease apart historical fact from cultural fiction Sampson tells different stories, rich in historical detail, fascinating characters and surprising twists. 6 Modern Myths offers you a historical tapestry that unsettles conventional wisdom and provides an enlightening look at the complexities of truth.

"Philip Sampson's altogether helpful book gently deflates many of the important myths of modern Western culture. Sampson first patiently unfolds these myths--like the heroism of Galileo versus the benighted tyranny of the Catholic Church or the mindless colonialism of Christian missionaries versus the noble savagery of indigenous peoples. Then he shows that the myths rest not on facts or reasoning but on persistently repeated stories. For the sharpening of thinking, especially among those who suspect that Christianity has never been as repressive as often claimed, this is illuminating reading at its best."

Mark Noll, professor of history, Wheaton College


Introduction: Stories Myths
1. Galileo: A Story of a Hero of Science
2. Darwin: A Story of Origins
3. The Environment: A Story of Mastery
4. The Missionaries: A Story of Oppression
5. The Human Body: A Story of Repression
6. Witches: A Story of Persecution
Conclusion: Modern Myths in a Postmodern World


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Sampson is a mediator, family court advisor and research fellow. He holds a Ph.D. in social sciences from the University of Southampton in England.