By David Berman
Probably no doctrine has excited as a lot horror and abuse as atheism. this primary historical past of British atheism, first released in 1987, tries to give an explanation for this response whereas showing the improvement of atheism from Hobbes to Russell. even though avowed atheism seemed strangely past due – 1782 in Britain – there have been covert atheists within the center 17th century. by way of tracing its improvement from so early a date, Dr Berman offers an account of a major and interesting strand of highbrow history.
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Additional info for A History of Atheism in Britain: From Hobbes to Russell
The denial or doubt in Broughton, the Encyclopedia, Curteis and Wise takes a descriptive rather than a conceptual form: there have, as a matter of fact, been no speculative atheists. But these denials - with the possible exception ofCurteis - are not defended in the way we should expect. The defence takes a conceptual rather than a descriptive form: putative atheists cannot be speculative because they must be practical or unthinking atheists (Encyclopedia); or they cannot be speculative atheists because the necessary conditions laid down make this impossible: atheists have been defined out of their speculative atheism and into 29 The Repression of Atheism mixt or unthinking atheism in Curteis and Wise.
Although he says that he is disputing with nonspeculative atheists, he also calls attention to speculative atheists, or, at least, atheists who pretend to speculate. In the Preface to the reader, he says: 'Now this is the worst kinde of Atheisme of all other, when as Atheisme is grounded, not so much upon Ignorance, as it is upon the opinion of knowledge. ' Of course, this may be an expression of the attitude, sometimes expressed by churchmen, that their own age is the worst and most wicked. ) However, I suspect that there is really something in Fotherby's claim that the atheism of his time is 'grounded upon the opinion of knowledge', for he spends a suspiciously large number of pages denying the existence of atheism and defending his denial.
295): It is no objection that temples or regions sacred to the Gods are not found among savages. For in their own fashion they consulted oracles and undertook no serious task without propitiating their Deity. I am aware that an author of reputation has said that in one remote region no religious practice can be observed. But this statement has been rejected by a later writer who pointed out that the author was ignorant of the language of that country. Now, if there is no clash between denial and argument, then we have not the same grounds for positing repression.
A History of Atheism in Britain: From Hobbes to Russell by David Berman