Old propaganda becomes mythologised. When a claim is invented and it appeals to a mindset it joins that fabulous tableaux. I live in a waspish culture. So it is their cache of tropes I was immersed in. My misfortune is, I have no comfort in it. Several of the tropes are utterly false, while others are highly debatable and suspect. Yet, they are resistant to change. Several of these show up, and rattled off in, even, college history survey courses. They are so accepted, that they have become proverbial. They have become successful, so successful that, even, those whom they are directed against believe them. The following are certain, anti-catholic chestnuts. Now, there are other believed fictions in the non-religious sphere also; they are frequent in fields where opposing camps have divided themselves, such as in politics*. When factual corrections, and logical, even irrefutable, evidence is given, the false position, often, withstands the assault of reality.
angels on a pin's head, or needle's point
Isaac D'Israeli (1766-1848), the father of premier Benjamin Disraeli, wished to ridicule Thomas Aquinas and other scholastics and he, not they, brought forth this argument. He may have been familiar with a handful satires written between his time and Thomas' time. He is the author of this fiction. Saint Thomas tells us that angels are non corporeal, so the question never was his.
mediæval flat earth
The man who invented Rip van Winkle, and Ichabod Crane, invented this one. Washington Irving wrote a book on the voyages of Columbus. Salamanca, the spanish university, in 1486 had a discussion on the circumference of the spherical earth, not whether the earth was spherical. The american 'mediæval' mind created this theory in 1828.
adam's belly button
Some people, fundamentalist protestants, are upset with Michelangelo's Sistine painting of Adam. Adam has a navel. This was neither a renaissance, nor mediæval dilemma. God created man (Adam) completely and perfectly intact. Before people read the Bible, in certain protestant manners, and thought processes, this issue was unthinkable.
bibles were kept locked and chained to prevent reading
Bibles, and other books, were chained, in part, for the same reasons some reference books in twentieth century libraries, telephone books in booths, registry books in guard shacks and hotels were--so that people didn't walk off with them, and that the next person could use them. Also some of these mediæval tomes were very valuable, and artworks in themselves. Further, before movable type and the printing press, literacy rates were lower. Further, access to cheap books for a mass public was a nineteenth century phenomenon, as was still greater rates of education and literacy. The rationale depicted in this myth is easily demonstrable as ridiculous, but its true purpose is to project a successful slander.
Luther and the church door posting is a fiction, that, Luther in his own time denied. It is a dramatic, theatrical invention to trumpet his rôle.
In some versions 50 million or more were executed. Spain has not that population now in a far more populous world. Where did the bodies come from?
The spanish inquisition went on for centuries. Many real historians would cite the number of executions from one to ten thousand. This is part of the black legend that elizabethan propagandists used to slander, and libel, the spanish enemy. The tudor queen had an extensive terror, torture, and killing operation. A chief difference, between the two, was that the spanish institution allowed for legal defenses for the accused, while much of the english persecution was secret, and extra-legal, confere the tactics of the busheviks.
Galileo was under a condition of house arrest, not torture, nor execution.
mediæval burning of witches
The greatest number of witch trials were during the age of reason. The first english witch was executed in Elizabeth's reign. The scots first executed a great number of supposed witches beginning in 1590, in North Berwick. They were tortured and burnt. James VI was the instigator. Even greater numbers (a few thousand) during the seventeenth century. Calvinists, on both side of the Atlantic, hunted witches. Twenty were executed (nineteen hanged, one crushed) and five died in detention, all in Salem of Massachusetts Bay Colony, during 1692-3. In November of 1688 the irish, catholic, gaelic speaking, ex-slave, Mary Glover was hanged in Boston. Cotton Mather judged her guilty for all that she was as proof of being a witch.
In this, supposedly, ignorant span of centuries the church created the university and the hospital as institutions. As a corrective one can read Régine Pernoud († 1998). Her quick, enjoyable read is available in english translation, Those Terrible Middle Ages (1997). Pernoud points out many historical fallacies, including the mussulman civilising influence, protestantism as liberating (in great contrast to a recent guest, Serene Jones, on the most recent Bill Moyers Journal, where she propagandised on Calvin as I turned on, and then off the set; usually Mr. Moyers has more accurate and credible guests), modernity as freedom and so on.
*Republican talk radio is substantially of this nature, as is Fox television. John McCain had to tell a disbelieving woman that Obama was a christian, and not what she had heard. The false issue, that doubts his citizenship is of like nature, but this has always been the modus operandi of the Republicans. Oft told lies, especially appealing lies, are convincing.