Man Against God: What Explains the Rise of Atheism?

Eighteenth-century thinkers rejected the existence of God not because they proved that there is no God, but because for them belief in his existence was an affront to their dignity. The shallowness of contemporary atheism, which mocks believers, misses the tremendous revolution the movement fomented

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An edited version of “God the Father,” by Cima da Conegliano (c.1510-​1517)
An edited version of “God the Father,” by Cima da Conegliano (c.1510-​1517)
Tomer Persico
Tomer Persico

At a certain point in his book “The Great Cat Massacre,” American historian Robert Darnton surveys the diary of the policeman-investigator Joseph d’Hémery, who surveilled intellectuals in mid-18th century Paris in search of atheists. “D’Hémery did not separate impiety from politics. Although he had no interest in theological arguments, he believed that atheism undercut the authority of the crown.”

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