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3 September 2017

Quite apart  from modern political symbolism rainbows have in the past also been appropriated for dubious reasons. For example, they once had a deep religious significance as they were viewed as a divine sign from God to Noah to signal the end of the Flood event. Isaac Newton was heavily criticised by some factions of the establishment when in 1704 he shone a light through a glass prism to show that when light was bent it split into its component colours – the spectrum of the rainbow. Hence, it is now accepted by science that when the Sun shines through a shower of rain each raindrop behaves like a tiny prism, splitting the light into its various shades – the colours of the rainbow. When he published his theory it was far from welcome by some factions, such as the church heirarchy. Even poets accused Newton of stripping the rainbow of its beauty. The problem was that the mystery of the rainbow was highly valued and once the bubble had burst it meant other natural phenomena with equally mysterious qualities would also be rationalised – and the Church used natural phenomena in many subtle ways. Indeed, it could be said the Church had a vested interest in natural events – especially natural disasters. Newton, who was not an atheist, was a scientist with an enquiring mind. His view would perhaps have been that it is better that people know how things work than using them to hoodwink. The Church, up until a couple of centuries ago, conducted its services in Latin – and most of the congregation would have had little idea of what was being said. That is why stain glass windows were invented – to tell a tale from the Bible in easily digestible images. These people were expected to adhere to the status quo – and aquiesce to their betters. The nobs on the other hand regarded them as inferior – intellectually. The use of Latin was rolled back by the non-conformists and by the translation of the Bible into English. As a result of this there was a great rush of religious enthusiasm with a host of new sects of Christianity springing up all over the place, as people could for once read what the actual Bible said, and there was a lot of stuff contained in the Bible little mentioned from the pulpit. All this was going on during the lifetime of Newton, including the attempt by Charles II to suppress the non-conformists. It is reasonable to assume Newton was sympathetic to the Puritan line of theology and unremarkable that Charles II was converted to Catholicism on his deathbed. How the mice play in the church organ.

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