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December 7, 2005

The Book: A History of Disbelief

Most civilizations have been founded on the belief the universe is commanded by a magisterial Being (or beings), who monitors our lives, enforces our morality, endorses our power structures and offers eternal life. The subject of this blog is a book, eventually to be published by Carroll and Graf, that will tell the story of those who have dared disagree.

Some of these nonbelievers remain well known--Cicero, Diderot, Shelley, Marx, Freud and Rushdie, among them. Others--no less important in their time, perhaps even more daring--have been mostly forgotten. Most societies have scorned their ideas, persecuted them, or otherwise tried to end the discussion. Yet their ideas have survived, and as humankind has gained more understanding of the natural world and of its own condition, their ideas have deepened. Indeed, I will argue that the thinking of such nonbelievers has played a crucial role in our understanding of the natural world and of our condition.

The book will proceed chronologically, beginning with preliterate societies and ending with the fear of secularism that has made the orthodox so edgy (and dangerous) today. With the help of the most interesting and influential atheists of the last few millennia, it will restore the missing discussion of these ideas and attempt to advance it.

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at December 7, 2005 12:26 PM


surely someone's pointed out michel onfray's _traité d'athéologie_, right? more info here.

Posted by: dan visel at December 8, 2005 4:20 PM

thanks for the tip.
I'm pleased to see it seems more an argument than a competing history. guess I, like the person on the Guardian site, will have to strain my French on it, though.

Posted by: mitch at December 26, 2005 11:20 AM

Great idea. I can't wait.

Posted by: UberKuh at January 3, 2006 7:33 PM

Why does the "issues-now" cell of your table contain only "squabbles among atheists"?
What about cooperative efforts & coalitions like the Secular Coalition for America @ http://www.secular.org/about.html , International Humanist and Ethical Union @ http://iheu.org/ , and Institute for Humanist Studies @ http://www.humaniststudies.org/ ?

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Posted by: gnkuvz tlrqy at October 26, 2006 9:04 PM

How will this differ from Alister McGrath's history of atheism? Seems that the topic has already been covered in detail.

Posted by: trudy at December 20, 2006 2:10 PM

McGraph's history is essentially a dismissal -- wrong, I think, in many ways. Mine won't be.

Posted by: mitch at December 21, 2006 11:30 PM

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