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The Unbelievers: The Evolution of Modern Atheism

3.50  ·  Rating Details  ·  24 Ratings  ·  5 Reviews
Atheism, once a minority view, is now openly embraced by an increasing number of scientists, philosophers, politicians, and celebrities. How did this formerly closeted secular perspective gain its current prominence as a philosophically viable and challenging worldview? In this succinct history of modern atheism, a prolific author, editor, and scholar traces the developmen ...more
Paperback, 271 pages
Published February 1st 2011 by Prometheus Books
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Andrew
Aug 14, 2011 Andrew rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, 2011
Given the subtitle, I expected to read about the history of atheist rhetoric, political activism, and media coverage. I thought The Unbelievers would trace the legacies and competing interpretations of particular writers, arguments, or events over time. This book has none of that. Though allotted their own chapters, historical figures such as Mill, Twain, and Lovecraft are almost never linked in any meaningful way (if at all) to subsequent writers and events. Mencken and Darrow are obvious excep ...more
Walt
May 06, 2014 Walt rated it it was ok
Shelves: religion
Most commentators have already pointed out that this book is rather a collection of thumbnail biographies of famous people whose writings could be interpreted as atheistic or agnostic. As a general reader, I remain unconvinced that each person was an atheist. Possibly it is due to my lack of direct familiarity with their writings. But some of the chapters in Joshi's book seem forced. When discussing Mark Twain, Joshi acknowledges that the writings he is citing were written shortly after Twain lo ...more
Allison
Aug 09, 2014 Allison rated it liked it
Quite interesting. Stronger in some sections than others; the treatments of Leslie Stephens and T.H. Huxley are standouts, and the essay on Sam Harris is so critical that one is left wondering why Joshi bothered including Harris at all, and his weak justification feels like a cop-out. Absolutely riddled with distracting grammatical errors (misspellings, missing words, etc.), so it's rather amusing when he criticizes Madalyn Murray O'Hair's error-filled prose. The essays also get more argumentati ...more
Mike
Jul 08, 2013 Mike rated it liked it
Interesting comments on the 1800s, but for recent info, read the originals: The End of Faith, The God Delusion, and of course, God Is Not Great.
Steve
Sep 11, 2014 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
A very informative, mostly fair-minded, enjoyable read. First time I've read about some of these famous atheists. Great to read about their ideas within their historical and cultural contexts. Becomes a bit unnecessarily derogatory of Christians at the end but, overall, a good overview. I can't assess the historical accuracy of the information. But author comes across as very knowledgable and credible. Definitely worth a read.
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Sunand Tryambak Joshi (b. 22 June 1958 in Pune, India) is an Indian American literary scholar, and a leading figure in the study of Howard Phillips Lovecraft and other authors. Besides what some critics consider to be the definitive biography of Lovecraft (H. P. Lovecraft: A Life, 1996), Joshi has written about Ambrose Bierce, H. L. Mencken, Lord Dunsany, and M.R. James, and has edited collections ...more
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“Even a superstitious man has certain inalienable rights. He has a right to harbor and indulge his imbecilities as long as he pleases, provided
only he does not try to inflict them upon other men by force. He has a right to argue for them as eloquently as he can, in season and out of season. He has a right to teach them to his children. But certainly he has no right to be protected against the free criticism of those who do not hold them. He has no right to demand that they be treated as sacred. He has no right to preach them without challenge....
The meaning of religious freedom, I fear, is sometimes greatly misapprehended. It is taken to be a sort of immunity, not merely from governmental control but also from public opinion. A dunderhead gets himself a long-tailed coat, rises behind the sacred desk and emits such bilge as would gag a Hottentot. Is it to pass unchallenged? If so, then what we have is not religious freedom at all, but the most intolerable and outrageous variety of religious despotism. Any fool, once he is admitted to holy orders, becomes infallible. Any half-wit, by the simple device of ascribing his delusions to revelation, takes on an authority that is denied to all the rest of us. (MR 216)”
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“Since the earliest days the church as an organization has thrown itself violently against every effort to liberate the body and mind of man. It has been, at all times and everywhere, the habitual and incorrigible defender of bad governments, bad laws, bad social theories, bad institutions. It was, for centuries, an apologist for slavery, as it was apologist for the divine right of kings.... In the domain of pure ideas one branch of the church clings to the archaic speculations of Thomas Aquinas and the other labors under the preposterous nonsense of John Calvin....
The only real way to reconcile science and religion is to set up something that is not science and something that is not religion.... To argue that the gaps in knowledge which still confront the seeker must be filled, not by patient inquiry, but by intuition or revelation, is simply to give ignorance a gratuitous and preposterous dignity. When a man so indulges himself it is only to confess that, to that extent at least, he is not a scientist at all, but a theologian, for he attempts to reconcile science and religion by the sorry device of admitting that the latter is somehow superior to the former, and is thus entitled to all territories that remain unoccupied. (TG 260-61)”
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