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Atheists: The Origin of the Species Hardcover – 8 May 2014


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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: 14.2 x 2.8 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 376,476 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

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Sally on 9 May 2014
Format: Hardcover
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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7 of 14 people found the following review helpful By raymie on 24 May 2014
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 By David on 14 Jun. 2014
Format: Hardcover
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 By JFBitmead on 2 July 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very interesting - it led me on to read Testament.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 9 reviews
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
More History than Philosophy 5 Dec. 2014
By The W - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I just finished reading the book and found it average. Other reviewers have commented that it's too full of history, and what they mean by that is it's full of disjointed history. The author, Nick Spencer, gives a comprehensive treatment to a lot of sources of atheist thought, but never goes into any real depth about the philosophy of any particular person or group. Even big names like Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud seem glossed over, while lesser known names are given very little narrative (<5 pages) which relate mostly to the person's biography as it influenced personal ideology.

My impression from reading the book is that this disjointed feel maybe a result of the difficulty writing about atheists, a group that often possesses ill-defined and highly variable sets of beliefs and objectives. Atheists ranging from Christians simply critical of church authority in the Middle Ages to political groups seeking to decouple royal authority from religious ones to end religious wars during the 18th Century to Nazi or communists heads of state seeking to consolidate power in the mid-20th Century. The reader will get a somewhat broad understanding of the history of atheism, but Spencer's book may have been been better spent focusing on a discrete range of time or ideological lineage for better depth.

Anyway, if you want a broad history book about atheism, then this is it. If you want a nuanced critique or rundown on the various philosophies and implications of atheists thought, then find another book. If you want a feel for what kind of book this is, skip the Introduction and read parts of an actual chapter (the Intro is great, but the opposite of how he writes the rest of the book). I'm not sure what I got out of this book, other than I used the reference section to find other (hopefully more interesting, more focused, more philosophical) books to read.

Final Note:
With regards to reading this book, I basically picked up a history book thinking it was a philosophy book. As much as possible, my rating is focused on the book, its content, and how it read rather than trying to punish the author for my mistake.
32 of 52 people found the following review helpful
Well written and provocative 9 July 2014
By andy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Well written and provocative. The idea that many contemporary atheists may be as superficial and anti-intellectual as the people they criticize may not sit well with some atheists (those who believe their atheism somehow by definition places them on a higher intellectual plane than others), but it is a valid and tenchant argument nontheless.\

The central point is powerful and true--atheism requires an understanding of Western intellectual history, which includes religion.
The dismissive approach towards this idea taken by superficial atheists tags them as lazy thinkers who seem to be content defining themselves by what they are not, instead of understanding who they are.
2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Good insights into the viewpoints of atheists 5 Sept. 2014
By M. F. Crowl - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a good overview of the history of atheism, especially as it's been 'lived' in the last few centuries. I don't know if the author is a Christian or not since the book wasn't published by a Christian publishing house, but it's very possible that he is. Be that as it may, he doesn't have to put down atheists at any point. They do it regularly enough for themselves.
And he clarifies a lot of the arguments that have been so prevalent amongst the 'Brights' in recent years, shows their failings as arguments, and also shows just how old and insubstantial most of them are.
21 of 41 people found the following review helpful
So much potential, so little delivery... 11 July 2014
By Scott Dennison - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
I grabbed the hardcover from my sister-in-law hoping that it would be an engaging history of atheism. It was not. It read like a dry, heartless master's thesis written by an burned-out grad student that doesn't really care about the subject matter he chose anymore. Honestly, it was like a horrible movie that you just can't turn off because you're just SURE that it will get better, but it doesn't. instead, you end up angry that you'll never get those hours back.

That said, it's a fascinating subject that I hope a more inspired author might tackle in the future?
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Three Stars 19 Nov. 2014
By nick nichols - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Book condition was good, history was too in depth
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