Two Historical Events I'd Like to Learn More About Which Are Relevant to Atheism

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Although I enjoyed learning about history when I was in school, it was one of the more teacher-dependent topics. Poor teachers who did not bring any enthusiasm to the subject could make it unbearable. Those who seemed even somewhat interested could hook me. The downside of history was that I often felt overwhelmed by the amount of it. After finishing school, I'd sometimes joke with friends that I couldn't wait until retirement so I could become a history buff.

Digging into history requires one to be selective. Since there is too much of it out there for anyone to get their head around, one must pick a few specific areas to explore. I've been thinking about this even though I still don't have enough time to do much more than that. I have been asking myself what historical events or periods I'd like to start with if I had time to pick up a few books. I've come up with two ideas so far, and both of them are relevant to atheism.

Christian Persecution of Witches

The first topic involves the Christian persecution of witches in the United States. I am thinking of the period that culminated with the Salem witch trials. Some Christians did not seem to learn anything from this chapter of history. This is unfortunate because many of us find it a scary reminder of what religion can do. The topic has been on my shortlist for a long time. I have read a little bit about it, but doing so always left me wanting more.

If I had the time, I'd like to read a few more books on these events. I'm familiar with the perspective that these events were about controlling women's sexuality. That often goes with Christian extremism, doesn't it? I don't know enough about the events or other perspectives on them. This is an area of ignorance that I'd like to fill in a bit.

Christians' Satanic Panic

The second topic I'd like to study is much more recent. In fact, I lived through it. I'd like to learn more about the Satanic panic that raged in the United States during the 1980s. Christians became convinced that Satanic cults were widespread. They harmed many innocent people in their hysteria.

It may seem odd to want to learn more about historical events so recent that I can remember them. I am aware that my memories were shaped by news report that may have been flawed. Some of what I think I know may be incomplete or inaccurate. Thus, this is another set of events I'd like to learn more about.

Have you read any books on either of these events that you'd recommend? If so, I'd appreciate some recommendations. I started a list of books on both topics a couple of years ago but seem to have lost it.

But Why Pick These Two Historical Events?

That is an easy question to answer. I am interested in learning more about many other historical events too. These two are on my list because both hold important lessons for the present and future.

Christian extremism continues to be a serious problem today. Christian privilege saturates our culture and provides an environment where Christian extremism thrives. Christian extremism poses a danger to those of us who are outside of Christianity. These historical events provide vivid reminders of the harm those gripped by it can do.

They seek to abolish reproductive rights for women and ban same-sex marriage. They hope to return us to the days of coerced prayer in public schools. As disturbing as this is, it is a small part of their agenda. They will not be content to stop there. They have been clear about that. We have been too quick to dismiss some of their crazier pronouncements as not having sufficient support to gain traction. Following the Trump presidency, I'd hope we'd recognize how close we are to losing much of what we have.

The good news is that there are things those of us who oppose Christian extremism can do about it. You can find a few thoughts on what you can do to oppose Christian extremism here. I do not think it is going to go away on its own, but there are some things we can do to make it more likely to go away.