Category Archive: Expose

On the Need for a Society for Heresy Studies:
Edward Simon

Note: This post is part of a series of exposés by ISHS members on what attracts them to heresy, blasphemy, or unbelief as a subject of study. We encourage everyone to respond to the exposés in the comments section. If you are an ISHS member and would like to write an exposé, please contact us.

Edward Simon
Doctoral Candidate, Lehigh University (Bethlehem, PA)

In 1592 an English Jesuit priest by the name of Robert Persons wrote of a secret “School of Atheism.” Various writers, statesman, and scholars were identified with this heresy that was more often feared than visible. Supposedly centered around the courtier, poet, and explorer Walter Raleigh, the “school” included the astronomer and New World colonist Thomas Harriot, the playwright George Chapman, and Christopher Marlowe who was already largely associated with his ominous “Dr. Faustus.” In a society that was permeated with religious faith atheism seemed impossible and in many ways may have actually been impossible. Despite this, the threat of non-belief, of heresy, and of blasphemy were very real to a man like Persons who was himself exiled from England for deviating from his society’s current orthodoxy. While most modern scholars think that such a school’s existence was apocryphal, an academic a century ago renamed the supposed society with a line from Shakespeare: “Black is the badge of hell/The hue of dungeons and the school of night.” Whether it existed or not, the idea of a “School of Night” exerts a profound power, one that should not be dismissed simply because it may not be a historical reality. Read the rest of this entry »

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