The first historical mention of atheism is through the Clandestine Manuscripts, which were published in the mid-17th century. These documents were written and distributed anonymously. At this time, atheism was actually considered to be a mental illness, as any scientific theories for existence were strongly censored, and of course, very elementary.
It wasn’t until over 100 years later that there was a specific name attached to atheism. When Paul-Henri Thiry, a French-German philosopher, published D’Holbach’s System of Nature it was the first text flaunted as being atheistic. In his work, he openly stated that religion obstructed human progress, and that all of existence could be explained scientifically. This work is the closest thing to a Bible that atheists have.
By the 19th century, many widely acclaimed philosophers took atheism to new heights. While earlier, most philosophers had disputed theism, these men worked under the presumption that there was no God. It’s an important distinction, and it comes through clearly in their work. Men like Marx, Nietzsche, and Huxley published many volumes of philosophical work, many touching on aspects of theism that at this time, still made most uncomfortable.
In fact, it would be very easy to attribute these 19th century philosophers for the intensity of atheism’s growth in recent times. You can’t enter a college campus without seeing a poster of one of these men. And they’ve helped generate some of our most quotable quotes. They even helped inspire some of the greatest writers of the 20th century.
And then you have Che Guevara, a communist and an atheist. I have two questions I want you to honestly consider before reading on. Do you know who he is? Then why do you have a poster and two Che-shirts? (If this does not apply to you, just consider the sentiment.)
This is the real problem: the brief history of atheism you’ve just read is more than most “atheists” know themselves.
It’s a shame that the chance atheism has to be taken seriously as an organized religion (perhaps achieving a capital A!) is all but naught due to the ignorance of the majority of it’s supporters. A belief system based on science and logical decision-making could do a lot to benefit mankind; but how can a system based on such be taken seriously by the theists of the world when the most vocal group of followers don’t understand what they’re flouting?
It is “internet-chic” to not believe in God. And that needs to change for any modern-day atheist scholar to be truly taken seriously.
disclaimer: the writer is agnostic
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