By Gavin Hyman
The previous couple of years have visible a notable surge of well known curiosity within the subject of atheism. Books approximately atheism by way of writers like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have figured prominently in bestseller lists and feature attracted common dialogue within the media. The ubiquity of public debates approximately atheism, specifically in wakeful competition to the perceived social risk posed by means of religion and faith, has been startling. notwithstanding, as Gavin Hyman issues out, regardless of their incidence and recognition, what frequently characterizes those debates is a scarcity of nuance and class. they are often shrill, unaware of the ancient complexity of debates approximately trust, and have a tendency to lapse into comic strip. what's wanted is a transparent and good proficient presentation of ways atheistic principles originated and constructed, on the way to remove darkness from their modern relevance and alertness. That job is what the writer undertakes the following. Exploring the increase of atheism as an specific philosophical place (notably within the paintings of Denis Diderot), Hyman strains its improvement within the later principles of Descartes, Locke, and Berkeley. Drawing additionally at the paintings of latest students like Amos Funkenstein and Michael J Buckley, the writer indicates that, considering that in contemporary theology the concept that of God which atheists negate is altering, the triumph of its advocates is probably not particularly as unequivocal as Hitchens and Dawkins might have us think.
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Extra resources for A Short History of Atheism (Library of Modern Religion)
Knowledge of God is reliable the more that it can be traced back to and rooted within human empirical sensations. There are several consequences of these attempts to transplant a theological concept into a fundamentally a-theological framework. For all that Descartes and Locke were attempting to develop conceptions of and arguments for God that would be invulnerable to external attack, the practical outcome of their endeavours, in fact, turned out to be precisely the opposite, and this is so on two fronts in particular.
Was it the case that the working class consisted of predominantly theistic believers who were nonetheless suspicious and distrustful of (in England especially) a class-ridden and intimidating Church? Or was their indifference such that it amounted to a practical agnosticism? It may well be that both interpretations are, to some degree, correct, but either way it appears that, even among the notoriously irreligious working classes, the avowal of outright atheism was still comparatively rare; it could not be equated with the emerging secularism of Holyoake or the atheism of Bradlaugh.
In the face of his self-imposed scepticism, he may well be drowning in a sea of doubt, but of one thing he can be sure: there is something doing the doubting. This is something he knows and experiences beyond question; there must be something that is doing the 02c_Atheism_019-046 9/7/10 2:58 pm Page 25 The Development of Atheism in Modern Thought 25 doubting. ’6 Cogito ergo sum: I think, therefore I am. Descartes had thus isolated his indubitable foundation on which certain knowledge could be built: the knowing subject, and he thereby also inaugurated what has become known as the ‘age of the subject’.