A History of Atheism in Britain: From Hobbes to Russell by David Berman

By David Berman

Probably no doctrine has excited as a lot horror and abuse as atheism. this primary heritage of British atheism, first released in 1987, tries to provide an explanation for this response whereas showing the advance of atheism from Hobbes to Russell. even though avowed atheism seemed unusually past due – 1782 in Britain – there have been covert atheists within the center 17th century. through tracing its improvement from so early a date, Dr Berman supplies an account of a huge and engaging strand of highbrow history.

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Indirect and inadvertent denials: Bentley and Cudworth In the first of his Boyle Lectures Richard Bentley shows considerable interest in the question whether there are, and ever have been, any atheists. 16 He is aware of a tradition that denies the existence of speculative atheists. Commenting on his text from the fourteenth psalm: 'The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God', Bentley states: 'I know not any Interpreters that will allow it to be spoken of such as flatly deny the Being of God; but of them, believing his Existence, do yet seclude him from directing the affairs of the World, from observing and judging the actions of Men' (p.

Repression and suppression The more overt the danger of atheism, the more one would expect suppression rather than repression. Conversely, to the extent that one finds suppression one should expect to find atheism more formidable. A decisive date in this respect is 1770, the year d'Holbach published the first avowedly atheistic work, The system of nature. After this extensively argued defence of atheism, and detailed refutation of theistic arguments, no well-informed theologian could easily claim that there were no speculative atheists.

The existence of God] is unknown,45 - with a mixture of pity and annoyance. ,46 For St John believes that 'man's mind is naturally fitted for the acquisition of certain ideas ... ' And to support his disagreement with Locke he quotes 'the testimony of Baldaeus, whose opinion on the general question [he says] exactly coincides with my own' (pp. 184-5). Here is the passage he quotes (p. 185) from Baldaeus: The existence of a God, or Supreme Being, is so firmly rooted in the heart of mankind, that there is no nation in the world but has acknowledged the same.

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