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 showing the improvement of atheism from Hobbes to Russell. even though avowed atheism seemed strangely overdue – 1782 in Britain – there have been covert atheists within the heart 17th century. via tracing its improvement from so early a date, Dr Berman provides an account of an incredible and interesting strand of highbrow history.
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Additional info for A History of Atheism in Britain: From Hobbes to Russell
Thus the persons who deny sexuality do, nonetheless, witness behaviour such as masturbation; all their denial is able to accomplish is a reclassification of this as 'childish naughtiness'. If the repressive tendency were stronger, however, we might imagine their being unable even to recognise the masturbation. At the moment they are unable only to see it for what it is. On the other hand, there seems to be a certain amount of reinterpretation or reclassification in the fetishistic disavowers of the nonexistence of the penis in females.
Just as it is probably more effective not to take something seriously, rather than to fight directly against it, so it is wiser to refrain from even mentioning the thing one wants to keep down. We can see something of this tactic in Wise's suggestion that the term 'mixt atheism' should be substituted for 'speculative atheist'. We have also noted Freud's observation that those who denied infantile sexuality tried to inhibit or discourage it not under that name, but as 'childish naughtiness'. I think that we can see this more subtle tactic in operation in the ingenious 1697 ~t for the effectual suppressing of blasphemy and profaneness', by which it was made punishable to 'deny anyone of the persons in the holy Trinity to be God, or ...
In this way he may be seen as arguing for the impossibility of atheism, rather than for its falsity. Consequently, we are not irresistibly drawn to interpret Herbert's denial as a device for repressing atheism. On the other hand, Herbert certainly wished that there were no atheists; for they would undermine his pioneer deistic system. Nor can we exclude the possibility that - despite its evident absurdity - he was also directing his denial and arguments against atheists. Hence I am inclined to think that his denial also contains a repressive element.