Thursday

MULTIPLE PROBLEMS WITH ATHEISM: Part 5 Anachronism

The ideas in atheism were discussed in philosophy far before atheism ever existed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There are many accounts of the history of atheism, but they disagree substantially over its beginnings and its main protagonists. ... Fritz Mauthner's Atheism and its History in the West [Der Atheismus und seine Geschichte im Abendlande] (1922-24), and Michael Hunter and David Wootton's Atheism from the Reformation to the Enlightenment (1992), to name just two prominent ones, work with too broad too broad a definition of atheism, which besides strict negation of God's existence also covers various forms of religious criticism, heterodoxy and nonconformity. As the German contemporary scholar of atheism Winfried Schroeder points out, a 'history of atheism' can often in fact amount to something more like a history of various religious departures from orthodoxy than of atheism in any strict sense. ... Schroeder notes that in Hunter and Wootton’s view the church critic Paolo Sarpi, the deist Jean Bodin, the Jewish questioner of the authority of the Torah and the immortality of the soul Uriel da Costa and the strictly atheistic clandestine text Theophrastus redivivus are all lumped together under the broad catch-all term 'atheism.’ In fact only the latter text has a clear claim to being described as atheistic.[3] However, Hunter and Wootton's fusing of the history of atheism with the history of certain forms of heterodoxy can gives the impression that there has been a continuous history of atheism from the Reformation (or earlier) to the Enlightenment, a thesis which is open to question. By contrast, Lucien Febvre's Le probleme de l'incroyance au XVIe siecle (1942), and Paul Oskar Kristeller's The Myth of Renaissance Atheism and the French Tradition of Free-Thought (1968) employ a narrower (and more modern) definition of atheism that more strictly distinguishes blasphemy, heresy and anticlericalism from direct questioning of God's existence. [4] They conclude that there is no good evidence for atheism (in this stricter sense) prior to the seventeenth century. According to these historians, accusations of atheism in the sixteenth century and earlier amount to nothing more than an indication that the accuser was in some respect or other hostile to the position of the accused, not that there was any genuine atheism around.[5]

Depending on the history of atheism consulted, the interested reader can come away either with the impression that contemporary atheism has a long lineage stretching back through the atheists of the French Enlightenment, the Paduan Averroists of the sixteenth century, the middle ages and back to antiquity; or that it appears surprisingly late in history, no earlier than the mid seventeenth century.

From http://www.investigatingatheism.info/history.html

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What is the one and only true history of atheism? Who is a "true atheist"? It sounds exactly the same as fundamentalist Christians fighting over their one and only true history and who is and is not a "true Christian". Just substitute "true Christian" for "true atheist".

I do not define myself as an a-murderist though I am against murder. Atheists do define themselves as being against theism as the etymology of the word demonstrates.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
atheist (n.)
1570s, from French athéiste (16c.), from Greek atheos "without god, denying the gods; abandoned of the gods; godless, ungodly," from a- "without" + theos "a god" (see Thea).

From http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=atheist

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Note that the etymology indicates that the term "atheist" did not exist before the 16th century. It is an anachronism to use the term "atheist" to anything before the 16th century.