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16 April 2010, JellyBean @ 10:23 am

What some people call the clash of civilizations is not a fight between Islam and the West but between science and faith. The religious rightists in America may want us to believe that they are different from the theocrats of Iran and the fundamentalist of Al Qaeda who teach their suicide bombers that they are targeting “infidel” Christians or Jews, but in fact, the dogmatically religious have more in common with each other than with non-believers.

We live in an age of intense materialism in which scientists are on the verge of understanding how the universe was formed, but we also live at a time of resurgent faith that remains as hostile to science as when Galileo was locked up for observing the centrality of the sun.

The Shroud of Turin, place back on exhibit this week in Turin after eight years, predates Galileo but is one of the most scientifically analyzed religious relics in history. It is said to have come from Jerusalem, possibly brought over by the Knights Templar, a monastic Christian fighting sect formed to protect pilgrims to the Holy Land in the twelfth century. The Shroud is the most well-known of Europe’s thousands of relics. No cathedral worth its arches and gargoyles was ever complete without one of these objects, delivered through fantastic peril from the Holy Land, and ranging from the picturesque — the Virgin Mary’s four-inch-wide green onyx wedding ring in Perugia, Italy, for example — to macabre bits of saints’ bones and enough skulls of John the Baptist to populate a very large choir.

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