Black Freethinkers argues that, contrary to historical and popular depictions of African Americans as naturally religious, freethought has been central to black political and intellectual life from the nineteenth century to the present. Freethought encompasses many different schools of thought, including atheism, agnosticism, and nontraditional orientations such as deism and paganism.
Christopher Cameron suggests an alternative origin of nonbelief and religious skepticism in America, namely the brutality of the institution of slavery. He also traces the growth of atheism and agnosticism among African Americans in two major political and intellectual movements of the 1920s: the New Negro Renaissance and the growth of black socialism and communism. In a final chapter, he explores the critical importance of freethought among participants in the civil rights and Black Power movements of the 1960s and 1970s.
Examining a wealth of sources, including slave narratives, travel accounts, novels, poetry, memoirs, newspapers, and archival sources such as church records, sermons, and letters, the study follows the lives and contributions of well-known figures, including Frederick Douglass, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, and Alice Walker, as well as lesser-known thinkers such as Louise Thompson Patterson, Sarah Webster Fabio, and David Cincore.
The autocratic rule of both tsar and church in imperial Russia gave rise not only to a revolutionary movement in the nineteenth century but also to a crisis of meaning among members of the intelligentsia. Personal faith became the subject of intense scrutiny as individuals debated the existence of God and the immortality of the soul, debates reflected in the best-known novels of the day. Friendships were formed and broken in exchanges over the status of the eternal. The salvation of the entire country, not just of each individual, seemed to depend on the answers to questions about belief.
Victoria Frede looks at how and why atheism took on such importance among several generations of Russian intellectuals from the 1820s to the 1860s, drawing on meticulous and extensive research of both published and archival documents, including letters, poetry, philosophical tracts, police files, fiction, and literary criticism. She argues that young Russians were less concerned about theology and the Bible than they were about the moral, political, and social status of the individual person. They sought to maintain their integrity against the pressures exerted by an autocratic state and rigidly hierarchical society. As individuals sought to shape their own destinies and searched for truths that would give meaning to their lives, they came to question the legitimacy both of the tsar and of Russia’s highest authority, God.
Asks freethinkers to declare their atheism in defiance of the stigmatization of disbelief.
With the rise of religious fundamentalism worldwide and a new 'spiritualism' in North America, expressed disbelief in God or gods has become a taboo once again in the Anglo-American world. In the last few years, however, atheism has witnessed a resurgence exemplified by the best-selling works of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.
Faith in Faithlessness is intended to contribute to the reassertion of the legitimacy of godlessness as a philosophical and moral stance. It is a unique anthology that presents a comprehensive selection of writings, by some of the world's most celebrated thinkers, past and present, who eloquently address the most significant questions concerning religious belief.
Included are essays by Benedict de Spinoza, Diderot, Paul-Henry Thiry D'Holbach, David Hume, Thomas Paine, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Stuart Mill, George Elliot, W.E.H. Lecky, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Charles Bradlaugh, Anatole France, Charles Darwin, Friedrich Nietzsche, Robert G. Ingersoll, Ludwig Feuerbach, Michael Bakunin, Karl Marx, Emma Goldman, H.L. Mencken, Clarence Darrow, Carl Van Doren, Bertrand Russell, Sigmund Freud, Albert Camus, Albert Einstein, Francis Crick, Gore Vidal, Kai Nielsen, Christine Overall, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Michel Onfray, Elizabeth Second Anderson, Tariq Ali, Salman Rushdie, Kurt Vonnegut. Also included are other celebrity atheists and a major resource guide.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
FROM THE EARLY CLASSICS
1. Theologico-Political Treatise - Benedict de Spinoza
2. Thoughts on Religion - Denis Diderot
3. The System of Nature - Paul-Henry Thiry, Baron d'Holbach
4. The Natural History of Religion - David Hume
5. The Age of Reason - Thomas Paine
6. A Refutation of Deism - Percy Bysshe Shelley
7. Immortality - John Stuart Mill
8. Evangelical Teaching - George Eliot
9. The Spirit of Rationalism in Europe - W.E.H. Lecky
10. The Christian Church and Women - Elizabeth Cady Stanton
11. Humanity's Gain from Unbelief - Charles Bradlaugh
12. Miracle - Anatole France
13. Autobiography - Charles Darwin
14. The Antichrist - Friedrich Nietzsche
15. God and the Constitution - Robert G. Ingersoll
16. The Essence of Religion in General - Ludwig Feuerbach
17. God and the State - Michael Bakunin
18. Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right - Karl Marx
FROM THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY CLASSICS
19. The Philosophy of Atheism - Emma Goldman
20. On the Scopes Trial - H.L. Mencken
21. The Lord's Day Alliance - Clarence Darrow
22. Why I Am an Unbeliever - Clarence Darrow
23. Is There a God? - Bertrand Russell
24. The Claims of Theology - A.J. Ayer
25. The UNbelievers and the Christians - Albert Camus
26. Science and Religion - Albert Einstein
FROM THE LATER 20th CENTURY and 21st CENTURY
27. Monotheism and Its Discontents - Gore Vidal
28. How Is Atheism to Be Characterized? - Kai Nielsen
29. Atheism - Christine Overall
30. The Atheist Manifesto - Sam Harris
31. Why There Almost Certainly Is No God - Richard Dawkins
32. Religion as an Original Sin - Christopher Hitchens
33. In the Service of the Death Fixation - Michel Onfray
34. Thank Goodness! - Daniel C. Dennett
35. For the Love of Reason - Louise M. Anthony
36. If God Is Dead, Is Everything Permitted? - Elizabeth Second Anderson
37. An Atheist Childhood - Tariq Ali
A Rapper's Song - Greydon Square
38. Humanism and the Territory of Novelists - Salman Rushdie
39. Why My Dog Is Not a Humanist - Kurt Vonnegut
EPILOGUE: A New Enlightenment: The Second Wave - Dimitrios Roussopoulos
NOTES ON THE CONTRIBUTORS
RESOURCE GUIDE from the Website of Richard Dawkins
CREDITS AND PERMISSIONS
Celebrity quotes throughout, including from George Bernard Shaw, Voltaire, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Aldous HUxley, Tennessee Williams, Charles Bukowski, Jean-Paul Sartre, Noam Chomsky, Sigmund Freud, Ingmar Bergman, Katharine Hepburn, John Malkovich, Robert Altman, Jodie Foster, Bill Gates, Angelina Jolie, Jack Nicholson, Howard Stern, Isaac Asimov, Woody Allen, Richard Leakey, James Watson, Jean Roddenberry, Gloria Steinem.
DIMITRIOS ROUSSOPOULOS is author and/or editor of some eighteen books.
The central contention of the “New Atheism” of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens is that there has for several centuries been a war between science and religion, that religion has been steadily losing that war, and that at this point in human history a completely secular scientific account of the world has been worked out in such thorough and convincing detail that there is no longer any reason why a rational and educated person should find the claims of any religion the least bit worthy of attention.
But as Edward Feser argues in The Last Superstition, in fact there is not, and never has been, any war between science and religion at all. There has instead been a conflict between two entirely philosophical conceptions of the natural order: on the one hand, the classical “teleological” vision of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, on which purpose or goal-directedness is as inherent a feature of the physical world as mass or electric charge; and the modern “mechanical” vision of Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, and Hume, according to which the physical world is comprised of nothing more than purposeless, meaningless particles in motion. As it happens, on the classical teleological picture, the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, and the natural-law conception of morality are rationally unavoidable. Modern atheism and secularism have thus always crucially depended for their rational credentials on the insinuation that the modern, mechanical picture of the world has somehow been established by science.
Yet this modern “mechanical” picture has never been established by science, and cannot be, for it is not a scientific theory in the first place but merely a philosophical interpretation of science. Moreover, as Feser shows, the philosophical arguments in its favor given by the early modern philosophers were notable only for being surprisingly weak.
However, not only is this modern philosophical picture rationally unfounded, it is demonstrably false. For the “mechanical” conception of the natural world, when worked
out consistently, absurdly entails that rationality, and indeed the human mind itself, is illusory. The so-called “scientific worldview” championed by the New Atheists thus inevitably undermines its own rational foundations; and into the bargain (and contrary to the moralistic posturing of the New Atheists) it undermines the foundations of any possible morality as well. By contrast, and as The Last Superstition demonstrates, the classical teleological picture of nature can be seen to find powerful confirmation in developments from contemporary philosophy, biology, and physics; moreover, morality and reason itself cannot possibly be made sense of apart from it. The teleological vision of the ancients and medievals is thereby rationally vindicated – and with it the religious worldview they based upon it.
Winner of the 2008 Book of the Year in Religion from ForeWord Magazine and the only 2008 Editors’ Choice for Religion from the American Library Association’s Booklist, The Last Superstition remains the most cogent and powerful refutation of the New Atheism extent.
The Meaning of Belief
Tim Crane Harvard University Press, 2017 Library of Congress BD215.C823 2017 | Dewey Decimal 202.2
Current debate about religion seems to be going nowhere. Atheists persist with their arguments, many plausible and some unanswerable, but they make no impact on believers. Defenders of religion find atheists equally unwilling to cede ground. Noting that religion is not what atheists think it is, Tim Crane offers a way out of this stalemate.
Religion without God
Ronald Dworkin Harvard University Press, 2013 Library of Congress BL51.D96 2013 | Dewey Decimal 200
In his last book, Ronald Dworkin addresses timeless questions: What is religion and what is God's place in it? What are death and immortality? He joins a sense of cosmic mystery and beauty to the claim that value is objective, independent of mind, and immanent in the world. Belief in God is one manifestation of this view, but not the only one.
Long before philosophers started making the case for atheism, powerful, affectively laden cultural currents were sowing doubt in Europe. Alec Ryrie looks to the history of the Reformation and argues that emotions—anger at priestly corruption and anxieties attending the erosion of time-honored certainties—were the handmaidens of atheism.
In 1883 the editor of a penny newspaper stood trial three times for the "obsolete" crime of blasphemy. The editor was G. W. Foote, the paper was the Freethinker, and the trial was the defining event of the decade. Foote's "martyrdom" completed blasphemy's nineteenth-century transformation from a religious offense to a class and cultural crime.
From extensive archival and literary research, Joss Marsh reconstructs a unified and particular account of blasphemy in Victorian England. Rewriting English history from the bottom up, she tells the forgotten stories of more than two hundred working-class "blasphemers," like Foote, whose stubborn refusal to silence their "hooligan" voices helped secure our rights to speak and write freely today. The new standards of criminality used to judge their "word crimes" rewrote the terms of literary judgment, demoting the Bible to literary masterpiece and raising Literature as the primary standard of Victorian cultural value.