Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Clearing the record …

… Atheists: The Origin of the Species by Nick Spencer, reviewed.

Spencer’s account too often trades depth for breadth, but one of his most trenchant themes is that it is more proper to speak of atheisms and of various species of atheist. (One wonders, therefore, why his subtitle adds a definite article to Darwin’s title.) Atheism in the sense of unbelief is probably as old as the gods—although you often had to keep your unbelief under your heretical hat if you wanted your head to remain under it as well. But there is a monster-crammed abyss between finding the notion of a creator implausible and the full-blast anti-Christianity of Nietzsche, who, as Terry Eagleton writes in Culture and the Death of God, “has a strong claim to being the first real atheist.” “The only really effective antidote to the dreariness of reading the New Atheists,” Hart has written, “is rereading Nietzsche.”

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