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Unbelievers: An Emotional History of Doubt

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  27 ratings  ·  9 reviews
The award-winning author of Protestants offers a new vision of the birth of the secular age, looking to the feelings of ordinary men and women--so often left out of the history of atheism.

Why have societies that were once overwhelmingly Christian become so secular? We think we know the answer, but in this lively and startlingly original reconsideration, Alec Ryrie argues
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Hardcover, 272 pages
Published November 19th 2019 by Belknap Press
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Elliot Hanowski
Dec 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very interesting! I disagree with some of its assumptions and conclusions but overall this is a very thoughtful look at late medieval and early modern varieties of doubt and unbelief. It's striking if not surprising how many now-common skeptical ideas already existed in the absence of self-declared atheists; sometimes just as a troubling voice in the head of an anxious Christian. Ryrie is quite right that, like religious belief, much unbelief flowed from emotional sources rather than pure ...more
Paul
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is just brilliant. I learned more from this than I did taking all the courses in religion I did when I was in college. The author summarizes the entire history of Protestant Christianity and even some of Roman Catholic Christianity in one book that summarizes scores of historical, religious, literary, philosophical, political, and cultural threads. The book concludes that morality today is based on opposition to Nazism, the philosophy that current world culture concedes is the worst ...more
Joy
Not what I was expecting. The book has too much religion and not enough atheism, not to mention the atheism is treated with condescension. My antennae went up when the author called King Almaric's skepticism "shallow-rooted." All religious beliefs can be called shallow-rooted by someone who believes otherwise. I expected a little more respect for doubters and unbelievers. I sensed this disdain throughout the book. I'm sure it was not easy for King Almaric to express his doubts to his Bishop in ...more
Richard Nelson
Jan 20, 2020 rated it liked it
The best pages are the last ones, when Ryrie finally engages, for a few pages, with the growing number of people who claim no religion and examines why this is. Put another way: Hitler was the best part of this book.
The other John
Western culture has tended to look at history as a linear story, assuming that it has a beginning and an end. So when we look at the state of religion in the West--the decline in church membership and rise of secularism in the public square--folks tend to assume that this is a new development in an ongoing story. (and that's regardless if they think it's a step toward utopia or armageddon) In Unbelievers, Professor Ryrie surveys the history of unbelievers* since the Reformation--where many would ...more
Francis Bede
Feb 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
As Placates the Persecutor once said - Toss a coin: heads there is God, tails there is no God, tossed by every living human: and chance is what remains.

The ethics of atheists might harken back to pre-religious eras, before myth, and before when humans were telling each other that their drives and motivations originated from somewhere outside of them, not within. They were the same ethics as they are now, that is, the ethics of survival.

Professor Ryrie has taken the reader back to a time we
...more
Larry Saunders
Mar 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I was not familiar with this historian even though I am seminary-educated, but saw this book at my local library recently and just picked it up, not sure what to expect. As it turns out, Alec Ryrie is a first-class historian, a practicing lay-pastor of some sort and a professor of church history at Durham University. I found his approach to mapping European religious skepticism from the 15th to 17th centuries through the perspective of emotional filters of anger and anxiety seems to work pitch ...more
Dorothy Greco
Jan 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
From the book jacket, "Ryrie makes the case for how cultural currents have been changing traditional faith." A bit on the academic side but helpful.
Genesis Nieves
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to enjoy this factual based history of atheism but I really couldn't get into this book.
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Alec Ryrie is a prize-winning historian of the Reformation and Protestantism. He is the author of Unbelievers: An Emotional History of Doubt and Protestants: The Faith That Made the Modern World. Ryrie is Professor of the History of Christianity at Durham University and Professor of Divinity at Gresham College, London.

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