Final Frontier Voyager (FES) The Flat Earth Society
History of the flat-earth Theory
The long association between Christianity and the flat-earth theory begins in the sixth century
when a Greek monk of Alexandria, Cosmas, who had traveled widely in the East, retired to a
cloister in Sinai and wrote his Christian Topography. In it he refuted the 'false and heathen'
notion that the earth is a sphere, and showed that it is really a rectangular plane arched over
by the firmament which separates us from heaven. The inhabited earth, with Jerusalem at its hub,
is at the centre of the plane, and it is surrounded by oceans beyond which lies Adam's paradise.
The sun revolves round a north polar mountain, circling its peak in summer and its base in
Christian Topography was well received by the Church, whose policy at the time was to eradicate
all previous knowledge and establish itself as the sole authority in religion, philosophy and
science. The flat-earth theory, hitched on to the geocentric cosmology of Ptolemy, prevailed
among clergymen (if not among navigators) until the sixteenth century, when Copernicus called it
into question by venturing the idea that the earth is a planet orbiting the sun. He was not very
assertive. The preface to his book emphasized that the heliocentric system was merely a
hypothesis, and Copernicus avoided controversy with the reviewers by dying on the day it was
The Flat Earth Society
"The facts are simple," says Charles K. Johnson, president of the International Flat Earth
Research Society. "The earth is flat."
As you stand in his front yard, it is hard to argue the point. From among the Joshua trees,
creosote bushes, and tumbleweeds surrounding his southern California hillside home, you have a
spectacular view of the Mojave Desert. It looks as flat as a pool table. Nearly 20 miles to the
west lies the small city of Lancaster; you can see right over it. Beyond Lancaster, 20 more
miles as the cueball rolls, the Tehachepi Mountains rise up from the desert floor. Los Angeles
is not far to the south. Near Lancaster, you see the Rockwell International plant where the
Space Shuttle was built. To the north, beyond the next hill, lies Edwards Air Force Base, where
the Shuttle was tested. There, also, the Shuttle will land when it returns from orbiting the
earth. (At least, that's NASA's story.)
"You can't orbit a flat earth," says Mr. Johnson. "The Space Shuttle is a joke--and a very
ludicrous joke." His soft voice carries conviction, for Charles Johnson is on the level. He
believes that the main purpose of the space program is to prop up a dying myth--the myth that
the earth is a globe. "Nobody knows anything about the true shape of the world," he contends.
"The known, inhabited world is flat. Just as a guess, I'd say that the dome of heaven is about
4,000 miles away, and the stars are about as far as San Francisco is from Boston."
As shown in a map published by Johnson, the known world is as circular and as flat as a
phonograph record. The North Pole is at the center. At the outer edge lies the southern ice,
reputed to be a wall 150 feet high; no one has ever crossed it, and therefore what lies beyond
is unknown. The sun and moon, in the Johnson version, are only about 32 miles in diameter. They
circle above the earth in the vicinity of the equator, and their apparent rising and setting are
tricks of perspective, like railroad tracks that appear to meet in the distance. The moon shines
by its own light and is not eclipsed by the earth. Rather, lunar eclipses are caused by an
unseen dark body occasionally passing in front of the moon.
Johnson's beliefs are firmly grounded in the Bible. Many verses of the Old Testament imply that
the earth is flat, but there's more to it than that.
According to the New Testament, Jesus
ascended up into heaven. "The whole point of the Copernican theory is to get rid of Jesus by
saying there is no up and no down," declares Johnson. "The spinning ball thing just makes the
whole Bible a big joke."