By David Berman
Probably no doctrine has excited as a lot horror and abuse as atheism. this primary historical past of British atheism, first released in 1987, tries to give an explanation for this response whereas displaying the improvement of atheism from Hobbes to Russell. even supposing avowed atheism seemed strangely past due – 1782 in Britain – there have been covert atheists within the center 17th century. by way of tracing its improvement from so early a date, Dr Berman provides an account of a tremendous and interesting strand of highbrow history.
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Additional info for A History of Atheism in Britain: From Hobbes to Russell
Herbert's apparent atheist may remind us of More's 'famouslylearned men' who were not as superstitious as others, and were thus 'traduced for atheists'; but Herbert seems to be saying that the apparent atheists also believed - although mistakenly - themselves to be atheists. But there are significant differences between Herbert's denial and those we have encountered. There is not, for example, the same crucial clash. This is not to say that Herbert does not argue for the existence of God, but rather that his argumentation does not so clearly suppose (even very indirectly) the existence of the atheism 30 The Repression of Atheis"l which he directly denied.
But even if we suppose that he is directing his discourse to fellow theists alone, this would not necessarily show that he was arguing for the impossibility of atheism. For what other purpose would he have in addressing them on this subject but to reassure them? But if they need reassurance, then surely atheism must be at least a potential danger - and in that case it is not impossible. We saw in Cudworth that one of the primary aims in the 1Tue intellectual system was the 'confirmation of weak, staggering and sceptical Theists'.
On the whole, Fotherby tends to identify this class with unthinking and practical atheists. But sometimes, as we have seen, he suggests that a few pure atheists may exist; and he also allows that there are atheists who believe 'it [that there is no God] weakely'. ' Fotherby's method of dealing with possible pure or speculative atheists is closer to Wise's than it IS to Herbert's. Both Fotherbyand Wise construct an ideal class: 'pure atheists' and 'absolute speculative atheists', by means of which they are able to reclassify 33 The Repression of Atheism atheists.
A History of Atheism in Britain: From Hobbes to Russell by David Berman