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Flat Earth Society

The Flat Earth Society was an organization based in Lancaster, California which advocated the belief that the Earth is not a sphere but is flat (see flat earth). No other modern religious fundamentalists have published support for this belief, and scientists universally reject it. This exposed the Society to much outside ridicule and made it a popular metaphor for dogmatic thinking.

Table of contents
1 Origins: Zetetic Astronomy
2 Flat Earth from Space
3 Charles K. Johnson: The Last Flat-Earther?
4 Sources and links

Origins: Zetetic Astronomy

A renewed belief in a flat Earth was popularized in the 19th century by the Englishman Samuel Birley Rowbotham, who, after his 1849 publication of a 16-page-pamphlet, Zetetic Astronomy: A Description of Several Experiments which Prove that the Surface of the Sea Is a Perfect Plane and that the Earth Is Not a Globe!, spent the next 35 years publishing and lecturing about his beliefs. He supported his statements both with observational claims and scriptural references. For example, Rowbotham believed that observations of lighthouses by mariners at considerable distances defied the theory of the Earth's rotundity. However, it was shown by his contemporaries that he selectively chose only data from lighthouses that supported his view (about 1.5% of the sample), and ignored that which did not (lighthouses which were no longer visible); the remaining deviation could be explained with atmospheric refraction. Regardless, Rowbotham's devotion paid off as the Universal Zetetic Society was founded with branches in Great Britain and the United States (New York, 1873).

Flat Earth from Space

In 1956, Samuel Shenton, renamed the American UZS to International Flat Earth Society. With the advent of the space program, the Society found itself confronted with pictures of Earth made by orbiting satellites and, eventually, by astronauts who had landed on the moon. When confronted with first NASA photographs of Earth from deep space, Shenton reportedly remarked: "It's easy to see how a photograph like that could fool the untrained eye." The Society took the position that the Apollo moon landings were a hoax, staged by Hollywood and based on a script by Arthur C. Clarke.

Charles K. Johnson: The Last Flat-Earther?

In 1971, Shenton passed away and Charles K. Johnson became the new president of the Flat Earth Society. Under his leadership, over the next three decades, the group grew in size from a few members to around 3,000. Johnson distributed newsletters, flyers, maps etc. to anyone who asked for them, and managed all membership applications together with his wife, Marjory, who was also a flat-earther. Membership inquiries came from many religious countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and India.

The last world model propagated by the Flat Earth Society holds that we live on a disc, with the North Pole at its center and a 150-feet-high wall of ice at the outer edge. In this model, the sun and moon are each a mere 32 miles in diameter.

A newsletter from the Society has been digitized. While incoherent, it gives some insight into Johnson's mindset (all errors original):

Aim: To carefully observe, think freely rediscove forgotten fact and oppose theoretical dogmatic assumptions. To help establish the United States...of the world on this flat earth. Replace the science religion...with SANITY

The International Flat Earth Society is the oldest continuous Society existing on the world today. It began with the Creation of the Creation. First the water...the face of the deep...without form or limits...just Water. Then the Land sitting in and on the Water, the Water then as now being flat and level, as is the very Nature of Water. There are, of course, mountains and valleys on the Land but since most of the World is Water, we say, "The World is Flat." Historical accounts and spoken history tell us the Land part may have been square, all in one mass at one time, then as now, the magnetic north being the Center. Vast cataclysmic events and shaking no doubt broke the land apart, divided the Land to be our present continents or islands as they exist today. One thing we know for sure about this world...the known inhabited world is Flat, Level, a Plain World.

We maintain that what is called 'Science' today and 'scientists' consist of the same old gang of witch doctors, sorcerers, tellers of tales, the 'Priest-Entertainers' for the common people. 'Science' consists of a weird, way-out occult concoction of jibberish theory-theology...unrelated to the real world of facts, technology and inventions, tall buildings and fast cars, airplanes and other Real and Good things in life; technology is not in any way related to the web of idiotic scientific theory. ALL inventors have been anti-science. The Wright brothers said: "Science theory held us up for years. When we threw out all science, started from experiment and experience, then we invented the airplane." By the way, airplanes all fly level on this Plane earth.

On March 19, 2001, Charles Johnson passed away, leaving the fate of the Flat Earth Society uncertain.

Sources and links

Flat Earth Society is also a song by the punk rock band Bad Religion from their 1990 album Against the Grain.