I found a nice little essay that provides a calm, rational explanation of the The Galileo Affair. It’s written by Tim O’Neill, who describes himself as “Atheist, Medievalist, Sceptic and amateur Historian”
Here’s an excerpt:
In November 2009 the comedian and actor Stephen Fry joined the late Christopher Hitchens in a televised debate with two Catholics on the question of whether the Catholic Church was “a force for good in the world.” Fry and Hitchens won the debate hands down, but at one point Fry referred passionately to “the fact that [Galileo] was tortured” by the Inquisition. In his book The End of Faith, Sam Harris seems to be trying to refer to Galileo when he talks of the Church “torturing scholars to the point of madness for merely speculating about the nature of the stars”. Voltaire famously wrote of how Galileo “groaned away his days in the dungeons of the Inquisition” and the idea that Galileo only backed down because of his (understandable) fear of being burnt at the stake is a mainstay of the fables about the Galileo Affair. All these ideas are nonsense.
You can read the rest here