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Atheists: The Origin of the Species [Hardcover]

Nick Spencer
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

8 May 2014
The clash between atheism and religion has become the defining battle of the 21st century. Books on and about atheism retain high profile and popularity, and atheist movements on both sides of the Atlantic capture headlines with high-profile campaigns and adverts. However, very little has been written on the history of atheism, and this book fills that conspicuous gap.

Instead of treating atheism just as a philosophical or scientific idea about the non-existence of God, Atheists: The Origin of the Species places the movement in its proper social and political context. Because atheism in Europe developed in reaction to the Christianity that dominated the continent's intellectual, social and political life, it adopted, adapted and reacted against its institutions as well as its ideas. Accordingly, the history of atheism is as much about social and political movements as it is scientific or philosophical ideas.

This is the story not only of Hobbes, Hume, and Darwin, but also of Thomas Aitkenhead hung for blasphemous atheism, Percy Shelley expelled for adolescent atheism, and the Marquis de Sade imprisoned for libertine atheism; of the French revolutionary Terror and the Soviet League of the Militant Godless; of the rise of the US Religious Right and of Islamic terrorism.

Looking at atheism in its full sociopolitical context helps explain why it has looked so very different in different countries. It also explains why there has been a recent upsurge in atheism, particularly in Britain and the US, where religion has unexpectedly come to play such a significant role in political affairs. This leads us to a somewhat paradoxical conclusion: we should expect to hear more about atheism in the future for the simple reason that God is back.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Continuum (8 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1472902963
  • ISBN-13: 978-1472902962
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 13.7 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 190,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Nick Spencer is Research Director of Theos, the public theology think tank, and the author of Freedom and Order: History, Politics and the English Bible, Darwin and God and God and Government. He is a frequent contributor to the national press.

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Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars
3.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative, entertaining and witty 9 May 2014
By Sally
I very much enjoyed this whistle-stop tour through the history of unbelief. The characters are fascinating- many are noble and courageous, others utterly vile. The final section of analysis of where we are now was particularly helpful.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Flawed 24 May 2014
By raymie
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I found the book interesting in historical detail, but pretty partisan in its portrayal of atheists as just rebelling believers
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4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stop before the end! 14 Jun 2014
By David
I enjoyed the first parts of this book on the history of atheism but was left feeling a bit cheated by the superficial final section on contemporary atheism, which gives the impression that the author only wrote the book in order to have a chance to be rude about Richard Dawkins among others.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This Christian makes a good case for Atheism 2 July 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Very interesting - it led me on to read Testament.
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11 of 31 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Christian Apologist Fail 9 Jun 2014
By Beanson
Ha ha, some books you can read by the cover- you just know from the distastefully abusive cover here- with it's line of respectable thinkers demeaned and reduced to copybook evolution poster- that this book will be all about bashing those nasty new atheists. There is Dawkins, humiliatingly naked and slob-like, clutching his, presumably, most important book (TGD!- do these christian idiots even know that he is an evolutionary biologist) under arm and looking over his shoulder at the various ape-like philosophers trailing in his wake. (Hilariously, the well-endowed Bertrand Russell is carrying Principia Mathematica which doesn't contain much atheism- perhaps the couldn't fit `Why I am Not A Christian' into the space)

So this is another desperate book by a committed christian (faith not explicitly stated naturally) which expands on a flawed premiss viz: that Atheism is a creed in itself (a `parasitic' creed no less).

He arrives at this start point by noting that the various atheists throughout history have held remarkably different ideas - some have been Marxist, some have been Positivist, some have been ancient Greeks etc- therefore each of these must be different varieties of atheism or perhaps `atheistic creeds' .

This is the usual absurd mistake which we have seen so many make (and as it has been pointed out to them so many times one does not think they commit it unknowingly). Those who make this error of thought assume that because Atheism is counter to Religion it must be another `religion'- the people who think this are stuck in the channels of their blinkered thought- it's just self-regarding religious thought in action.

Atheism- whatever definition those with a biased viewpoint might try to foist upon it - simply means `lack of belief in gods'.
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