“Only someone with a superficial interest in atheism will be satisfied with a vague and nebular treatment of the subject, but renowned author S.T. Joshi is anything but superficial. He knows, and here demonstrates, that there are many atheisms, not one, and that each covers different grounds. One might almost say each rejects a different God! And Joshi's deft, detailed analyses of Mark Twain, H.L. Mencken, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, H.P. Lovecraft, Friedrich Nietzsche, and fully eight others sets forth the distinctives of each notorious unbeliever in much the same way analogous guidebooks have enabled readers on the other side of the coin to grasp the nuances of the range of theologians. I am grateful for this book!”
ROBERT M. PRICE
Professor of theology and scriptural studies, Johnnie Colemon Theological Seminary; professor of Biblical criticism, Center for Inquiry Institute
"In this important, incisive work S.T. Joshi paints sympathetic yet critical portraits of fourteen representative nontheists of the past century and a half, particularly those who have been outspoken in their opposition to conservative religious traditions and ideas."
President, Americans for Religious Liberty;
past president, American Humanist Association
Atheism, once a minority view, is now openly embraced by an increasing number of scientists, philosophers, politicians, and celebrities. How did this formerly closeted secular perspective gain its current prominence as a philosophically viable and challenging worldview? In this succinct history of modern atheism, prolific author, editor, and scholar S. T. Joshi traces the development of atheist, agnostic, and secularist thought over the past century and a half.
Beginning in the nineteenth century, when intellectuals first openly voiced skepticism about long-standing Christian beliefs, Joshi considers the impact of several leading thinkers: Thomas Henry Huxley (“Darwin’s Bulldog”), Leslie Stephen, John Stuart Mill, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Mark Twain. Each of these writers, in different ways, made searing criticisms of such religious conceptions as the immortality of the soul, the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, and the existence of God, at a time when such notions were largely taken for granted.
Next, Joshi examines prominent atheist thinkers of the early twentieth century: attorney Clarence Darrow, journalist H. L. Mencken, philosopher Bertrand Russell, and horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. Around the same time as Darrow and Mencken were involved in the celebrated Scopes trial in America, which resulted in a triumph for the theory of evolution, Bertrand Russell in England was becoming well known as a forthright atheist. And Lovecraft was championing atheism in his novels and tales.
Turning to recent decades, Joshi considers the uproar caused by outspoken atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair and the controversial 1962 “school prayer” Supreme Court decision. Finally, he evaluates the work of best-selling authors Gore Vidal, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens. In each case, he carefully dissects the views of the writers in question and points out both the strengths and fallacies or ambiguities in their arguments.
This excellent intellectual history will be a welcome addition to the libraries of readers of both secular and religious orientations seeking a greater understanding of contemporary atheism.
Shipping Weight: 1lbs
S. T. Joshi is a freelance writer, scholar, and editor. His books include The Unbelievers: The Evolution of Modern Atheism; Documents of American Prejudice; In Her Place: A Documentary History of Prejudice against Women; God’s Defenders: What They Believe and Why They Are Wrong; Atheism: A Reader; H. L. Mencken on Religion; The Agnostic Reader; What Is Man? and Other Irreverent Essays by Mark Twain and The Angry Right: Why Conservatives Keep Getting It Wrong.