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Publication Date: 16 Mar 2017
Publisher: SPCK Publishing
Page Count: 276
Author: Rodney Stark
ISBN-13: 9780281077748, 9780281077755

Bearing False Witness

Debunking Centuries Of Anti-Catholic History
By Rodney Stark
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ISBN: 9780281077748
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The following historical statements all appear in well-established textbooks, and have become part of our common culture. Which of them would you say are true?

* The Catholic Church incited and actively colluded in nearly two millennia of anti-Semitic violence, and Pope Pius XII is still rightfully known as ‘Hitler’s Pope’.
* Only recently have we become aware of ancient and remarkably enlightened Christian gospels, which narrow-minded Catholic authorities tried to suppress.
* Once in power as the official Church of Rome, Christians quickly and brutally persecuted paganism out of existence.
* The fall of Rome and the ascendancy of the Church precipitated Europe’s decline into a millennium of ignorance and backwardness, which lasted until the Renaissance.
* Initiated by the pope, the Crusades were but the first bloody chapter in the history of unprovoked and brutal Christian colonialism.
* The Spanish Inquisition tortured and murdered huge numbers of innocent people for ‘imaginary’ crimes, such as witchcraft and blasphemy.
* The Catholic Church persecuted and tried to suppress scientists such as Galileo, and the Scientific ‘Revolution’ therefore occurred mainly in more tolerant Protestant societies.
* Being entirely comfortable with slavery, the Catholic Church did nothing to oppose its introduction in the New World, or to make it more humane.
* Until very recently, Catholicism’s hierarchical view of the ideal state has resulted in its bitter resistance to all efforts to establish more liberal governments and its eager support for right-wing dictators.
* It was the Protestant Reformation that broke the repressive Catholic grip on progress and ushered in capitalism, religious freedom and the modern world.

In this powerful and persuasive book Rodney Stark subjects these and other widely-held beliefs to a rigorous historical assessment. He gives a compelling account of how each of them became accepted as the conventional wisdom, how egotism and ideology often worked together to create false or highly distorted pictures of people and events, and how we need to work hard to recover the truth if we’re to undo the cultural damage that centuries of anti-Catholic history has done.


1. Sins of Anti- Semitism
2. The Suppressed Gospels
3. Persecuting the Tolerant Pagans
4. Imposing the Dark Ages
5. Crusading for Land, Loot, and Converts
6. Monsters of the Inquisition
7. Scientific Heresies
8. Blessed Be Slavery
9. Holy Authoritarianism
10. Protestant Modernity
About the Author
Rodney Stark is Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences and Co-Director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University, Texas. He is Founding Editor of the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, Honorary Professor of Sociology at Peking University in Beijing, China, and past president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and of the Association for the Sociology of Religion. His bestselling book The Rise of Christianity was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist and three of his other books have received Distinguished Book Awards.

Raised as a Lutheran, he has identified himself as an agnostic but now calls himself an ‘independent Christian’.
Press Reviews

If one does not accurately understand the Church, one will not understand Western, or indeed much of world culture. Stark’s chapter on religion and science is alone worth the book, since the Church has done so much to foster real scientific advancement. . . Stark writes as an historian, not an apologist; but the truth is not only good history but also the best defence of the Church.

- National Catholic Register

Rodney Stark takes aim at one “myth” after another about Catholicism. . . He is like a man carefully setting up skittles before firing down bowling balls of fact and argument to send them scattering. . . Bearing False Witness is stirring, compelling, often convincing stuff.

- Catholic Herald

Even if you are not Catholic, to understand today s culture wars, you must understand Catholic history. This book has my highest endorsement for everyone from Catholics to atheists who appreciate brave truth-telling on important topics.

- FrontPage Magazine

Rodney Stark mounts an exhilarating display of clay-pigeon shooting at an Olympic level. He fires at a succession of false myths – the Crusades as brutal European colonialism, or the suppression of enlightened rival Christian gospels – and shatters them completely.

- Christopher Howse, The Daily Telegraph

Welcom[ing], but also enlightening [and] wholly convincing.

- Standpoint, May issue

‘A convincing and enjoyable to read'

- The Tablet

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