Augustine of Hippo

From RationalWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Wanted for pear theft!
Christ died for
our articles about

Icon christianity.svg
A multi-chef broth
Devil's in the details
The pearly gates
Augustine was a self-centered fantasist and an earth-centered ignoramus: he was guiltily convinced that God cared about his trivial theft from some unimportant pear trees, and quite persuaded — by an analogous solipsism — that the sun revolved around the earth. He also fabricated the mad and cruel idea that the souls of unbaptized children were sent to "limbo". Who can guess the load of misery that this diseased "theory" has placed on millions of Catholic parents down the years, until its shamefaced and only partial revision by the church in our own time?
Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything[1]

Augustine of Hippo (354–430 CE), otherwise known as St. Augustine, was the first great Christian philosopher or theologian. He was heavily influenced by Platonism, and wrote the extremely influential City of God Against the Pagans and the autobiographical Confessions, along with about a thousand other things.

It is often forgotten that Augustine was actually North African, specifically of Berber descent.

Christians, don't be stupid[edit]

Augustine is ripe for quote mining on all sides, due at least in part to the vast amount he wrote. But some statements key to Rationalwiki's mission include:

It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian.

It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are.

In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation.[2]

So even a major Christian theologian saw that biblical literalism is ridiculous (which is understandable, since literalism, in the dogmatic form we know it today, was not really a feature of Christian theology until the Protestant Reformation).


In particular, he rejects the idea that the seven days were literal days, preferring instead to see them as a single instant, though he specifically rejects the contemporary non-Christian idea of deep time (in those days infinite time, over which the Earth and humanity had existed roughly unchanged). This underlies the acceptance of an old Earth by Catholics,[notes 1] Eastern Orthodox, and some Protestants.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Works of Augustine of Hippo in Latin and English on Wikisource


  1. Some Catholics, particularly those living in certain Protestant-dominated countries, might disagree.


  1. Page 64.
  2. The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 1:19–20, Chapt. 19 [AD 408]