Friday, September 04, 2015

Thomas Aikenhead: Ahead of his time

Thomas Aikenhead was a Scottish student from Edinburgh, who was prosecuted and executed in 1697 at the age of 20 on a charge of blasphemy. He was the last person in Britain to be executed for blasphemy. This was 85 years after the death of Edward Wightman (1612), the last person to be burned at the stake for heresy in England.

That...the prisoner had repeatedly maintained, in conversation, that theology was a rhapsody of ill-invented nonsense, patched up partly of the moral doctrines of philosophers, and partly of poetical fictions and extravagant chimeras: That he ridiculed the holy scriptures, calling the Old Testament Ezra’s fables, in profane allusion to Esop’s Fables; That he railed on Christ, saying, he had learned magick in Egypt, which enabled him to perform those pranks which were called miracles: That he called the New Testament the history of the imposter Christ; That he said Moses was the better artist and the better politician; and he preferred Muhammad to Christ: That the Holy Scriptures were stuffed with such madness, nonsense, and contradictions, that he admired the stupidity of the world in being so long deluded by them: That he rejected the mystery of the Trinity as unworthy of refutation; and scoffed at the incarnation of Christ.

Thomas Babington Macaulay: "the preachers who were the poor boy's murderers crowded round him at the gallows, and...insulted heaven with prayers more blasphemous than anything he had uttered."

Not much Aikenhead allegedly said to disagree with, except the reference to "magick" and his preference for Muhammad over Christ. Aikenhead was just way ahead of his time.

Thanks to Harry's Place.

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