By Gavin Hyman
The previous couple of years have visible a striking surge of renowned 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 frequent dialogue within the media. The ubiquity of public debates approximately atheism, in particular in wakeful competition to the perceived social chance posed by way of religion and faith, has been startling. although, as Gavin Hyman issues out, regardless of their occurrence and recognition, what usually characterizes those debates is a scarcity of nuance and class. they are often shrill, blind to 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 the way atheistic rules originated and built, so one can light up their modern relevance and alertness. That job is what the writer undertakes right here. Exploring the increase of atheism as an particular philosophical place (notably within the paintings of Denis Diderot), Hyman lines its improvement within the later principles of Descartes, Locke, and Berkeley. Drawing additionally at the paintings of up to date students like Amos Funkenstein and Michael J Buckley, the writer indicates that, on account that in fresh 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 may have us think.
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Extra info for A Short History of Atheism (Library of Modern Religion)
In light of this wider commonality and in light of subsequent philosophical developments, the dispute over what the nature of this foundation should be appears to be relatively minor. Furthermore, like Descartes, Locke also attempted to force the theological concept of God into a framework in which it was ill at ease. There is, however, a case for saying that in Locke’s case the incongruity between the concept of God and the framework into which that concept was being inserted was even more severe than it was for Descartes.
In contrast, such a purpose may be served by the data of our empirical senses. For Locke, this was not simply a prescriptive philosophical methodology. It claimed to be, more fundamentally, a descriptive account of how our knowledge is, in fact, formed. Famously, Locke portrayed an image of the mind, in its pre-formative state, as being a tabula rasa (blank slate) upon which sense data leave their impressions. These impressions then serve as the ‘building blocks’ on the basis of which knowledge is formed.
Stephen Toulmin, for instance, has suggested that the intellectual, psychological and artistic conditions for the emergence of the cultural Zeitgeist of the 1960s were already well in place by as early as 1914. 24 But whatever the explanation for the apparent delay, there can be little doubt that by the 1960s the predictions of Newman and Nietzsche were rapidly coming to pass. In the affluent West, at least, there emerged a ‘radical godlessness’ that was, by world historical standards, unique. As Buckley expresses this: It is critical to notice the historical uniqueness of the contemporary experience: the rise of a radical godlessness which is as much a part of the consciousness of millions of ordinary human beings as it is the persuasion of the intellectual.
A Short History of Atheism (Library of Modern Religion) by Gavin Hyman