Note to the Reader
This paper is designed to be a conversation. I am presenting a collection of some of the more controversial ideas from the early chapters of my book on the history of disbelief. The ideas are organized loosely around a single theme: the Roman leader Pompey's forced entry into the most sacred place of the Jewish temple. At issue are the origins and prevalence of doubt, even at the heart of religion.
The paper is also an experiment. The Institute for the Future of the Book has devised a new format, through which readers can engage with me and with each other, directly alongside the text. This site is a rough prototype. Each of the paper's twelve sections has a dynamic margin to the right of the text. There, you can post responses to individual paragraphs, and also annotate the text with links and refereneces to related materials.
The paper will be initially presented, with comments and additions, to the working group on "Secularism, Religious Authority, and the Mediation of Knowledge" of the Center for Religion and Media at New York University on December 8, 2006. However, it is our hope that the accumulation of ideas and information will continue beyond that date.
— Mitchell Stephens