Galileo was seen as an opponent of the church, but his daughter was in a convent and seemed to be very devout. What does this say about his religious beliefs?
Galileo understood himself as a devout Catholic. Like many in his time period, he believed and wrote that "Holy Scripture and Nature ... are both emanations from the divine word" (64). He wrote to Castelli that he didn't think that God meant people to ignore "our senses, our speech, our intellect" (65) when God gave these gifts to humankind.
Galileo believed that humans could decipher God's intents and laws through both the Bible and by observing nature, which showed the orderly working of God's plan for the universe. He thought the two forms of divine revelation could be reconciled.
Unfortunately, Galileo came up against a church hierarchy that not so much felt differently, but which had a different agenda and set of priorities from his. The church valued tradition and hierarchy, and expected Galileo to be obedient to the pope, regardless of what his own opinions were. While many in the church thought his ideas about the earth revolving around the sun were ludicrous, his true crime in the eyes of the church was publishing his findings without papal permission. This desire for obedience collided with Galileo's yearning to reveal the truth as he understood it as a scientist and devout Catholic.
Further, the pope was under a great deal of pressure because his side was losing the Thirty Years' War, in which the backers of the holy Catholic Church were supposed to defeat the heretic German Lutheran princes. He needed to demonstrate he was weeding out heresy in his own ranks. Galileo was the most famous scientist in Europe and therefore a good target to prove in a high-profile way that the church was serious about purifying its ranks.
Galileo believed himself a faithful Catholic, but his disobedient actions, in the eyes of the church, did not show him to be one. Galileo wanted above all to speak the truth, while the church wanted orthodoxy (obedience)—and since the church had more power, it won.
As for his daughters, it was completely consistent with Galileo's beliefs to put them in a convent, but it was also a pragmatic way to take care of his illegitimate offspring once his sister could no longer care for them.
check Approved by eNotes Editorial