1499 years ago roughly in this period (the Lent), Hypatia of Alexandria, philosopher of the neoplatonic school was stripped naked and stoned to death by a mob of christian fanatics for daring to teach to men, for being a pagan, and for spreading a knowledge that was not the one they believed in. These religious fanatics were an instrument in the hands of bishop Cyril, who during his office tried to seize the power over the city and wrestle it from the Imperial Prefect Orestes. In order to do so, he encouraged his most fanatic followers, including the parabalans, into an escalation of religious riots against non-christians, resulting in the banishing of all the Jews from the city as their houses were plundered and their riches confiscated.
Hypatia, who had been teacher of Prefect Orestes, was a victim of this escalation of intolerance. She had always preached the freedom of thought, taught sciences and was admired for her wisdom by all but the jealous Cyril and his followers who could not tolerate her friendship with Prefect Orestes.
Cyril has been made saint by the church. Not enough time ago, pope Ratzinger praised him as a "guardian of the true faith" mauricepinay.blogspot.it/2007/… (one might, maybe should cringe at the idea of a german pope praising a man who oppressed the Jews).
Hypatia is my personal hero. And she is twice a hero because she was a scientist woman who stood for what she believed in, a message of tolerance and love for knowledge, against a world that shunned women, treated them like objects, and could not tolerate that they had as much say or as much knowledge as men did. The letter of so-called saint Paul to Tymothy says: "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet." Today, this passage is still part of the new testament.
1600 years after the murder of one of the most admirable persons in history, there is still much to do to undo the damage that religious intolerance did to the world.
Remember Hypatia of Alexandria.
One of her quotes I love most:
Fables should be taught as fables, myths as myths, and miracles as poetic fantasies. 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.