An atheist post online used the following as a signature:
“Fables should be taught as fables, myths as myths, and miracles as poetic fancies. To teach superstitions as truths is a most terrible thing. The child-mind accepts and believes them, and only through great pain and perhaps tragedy can he be in after-years relieved of them. In fact, men will fight for a superstition quite as quickly as for a living truth – often more so, since a superstition is so intangible you can not get at it to refute it, but truth is a point of view, and so is changeable.”
No reference was given, but the passage can be found attributed to a letter by Synesius. Unfortunately it seems clear that this is not part of the standard English translation by Fitzgerald, which is online at Livius.org:
So… does anyone know where Synesius says anything like this?
I am suspicious. Much of this doesn’t sound right.
UPDATE: No sign of this anywhere in Fitzgerald’s translation. Looking in Google books, I find the saying in Elbert Hubbard, Little Journeys to the homes of great teachers, 1908, p.84-5 (without reference, of course). I can’t find anything earlier than that.
There’s going to be is a movie made about Hypatia, the late fourth-century Neo-Platonist and friend of Synesius who was lynched after venturing into Alexandrian politics.
Let’s welcome it. It should stir up interest in late antiquity, particularly if they can make the Byzantine world glow with light and colour. It doesn’t really matter if a shoal of false impressions get created. What we need to think of is the impressionable teenagers staring open-mouthed at the screen and thinking “Wow! I want to know more about that.” Some will go on to become academics, more will buy books about the subject, and a few will get rich in the stock market and fund archaeological expeditions.
Looks as if Cyril of Alexandria is being cast as the baddie — he’s going to be played by Actor-With-An-Arab-Name (i.e. Not One Of Us), while Hypatia will be played by the distinctly anglo-saxon Rachel Weisz. But I can live with that, if the directors can; some of those Greeks may get quite shirty if a favourite saint is demonised, and they can be aggressive when they put their minds to it!
Update: The movie is called Agora and has already been made. A trailer exists here; with all the titles in Italian! Thanks to Christopher Ecclestone for the link.