I said: “A long time ago, people believed that the earth was at the center, and the moon and sun revolved around it. That man, Copernicus, said: ‘Wrong!'”
My seven year-old Tuwa added: “It’s the sun that is in the middle.”
“That’s right. It was Copernicus who first said. He wrote it in a big book. People got angry with him for saying that.”
“Why?” Tuwa wondered.
“Sometimes the truth hurts,” I said and tugged her to move on.
We were at Nowy Street in Warsaw where Copernicus – the monument – sat, holding a sun – with six planets revolving around it. Copernicus (1473-1543) was born and died in Royal Prussia, a region that was part of the Kingdom of Poland. So now in modern days, Poland calls him theirs.
My seven-year-old didn’t understand of course what was so painful about the sun being the center. Especially at a modern time when every body else is saying that. But I felt uneasy to take up the topic of blindness to religion.
I did exactly as my grade school teacher did when she mentioned Copernicus, but never delved in the controversy around Copernicus’ heliocentric hypothesis.
In the old days when Copernicus proved heliocentrism, he angered many religious circles, mainly protestants and Roman Catholics, who firmly believed that the “earth was at the center, while the sun moved around it in great speed” – as based in the Bible, in the books of Genesis, Psalms, Ecclesiastis and Joshua. Even Martin Luther scorned Copernicus.
Poor Copernicus was called a heretic.
Someone bold enough backed him up – Galileo – but even Galileo was convicted of grave suspicion of heresy for following Copernicus’ theory and was thus put to house arrest for the rest of his life!
But now, times have changed. Copernicus, who was once mocked, is now hailed the world over – with monuments and a science center built for him, and a chemical element named after him.
I am a firm believer of a higher being. I come from a country with a strong sense of faith. But I also refuse to be blinded by religion.
One day, I know Tuwa will find out about Copernicus and Darwin and how religious people treated such scientists. For sure, there will be new “truths” unveiled. And Tuwa, Marcus and I will talk about it. And that it’s ok, to both believe in an inspiring, will-strengthening God, while embracing – not scorning – science.
And one day, she will choose her faith – or perhaps, as in secular Sweden, none at all. Until then I will show her my way – those I learned from my religious traditions and new religious ways – without expecting her to choose it herself. So help me, God, to have the humility to accept what feels right for her.