Atheism in the Eyes of an Eighteenth Century Writer

An antiquarian book entitled “The Evidences of the Christian Religion” published in 1753 has an interesting chapter on atheism. The following excerpt may offend, however the intention of this post is raise a question: has the discourse between theists and atheists progressed 259 years later?

“I cannot for bear mentioning a monstrous species of men, who one would not think had any existence in nature, were they not to be met with in ordinary conversation, I mean the Zealots in Atheism. One would fancy that these men, tho’ they fall short, in every other respect, of those who make a profession of religion, would at least out-shine them in this particular, and be exempt from that single fault which seems to grow out of the imprudent fervours of religion: But so it is, that Infidelity is propagated with as much fierceness and contention, wrath and indignation, as if the safety of mankind depended upon it. There is something so ridiculous and perverse in this kind of Zealots, that one does not know how to set them out in the proper colours. They are a sort of gamesters who are eternally upon the fret, tho’ they play for nothing. They are perpetually teizing their friends to come over to them, though at the same time they allow that neither of them shall get anything by the bargain. In short, the zeal of spreading Atheism is, if possible, more absurd than Atheism itself. Since I have mentioned this unaccountable Zeal which appears in Atheists, and Infidels, I must further observe that they are likewise in a most particular manner possessed with the spirit of bigotry. They are wedded to opinions full of contradiction and impossibility, and at the same time look upon the smallest difficulty in an article of faith as sufficient reason for rejecting it…I say, supporting such a Creed as this were formed, and imposed upon any one people in the world, whether it would not require an infinitely greater measure of faith, than any set of articles which they violently oppose. Let me therefore advise this generation of Wranglers, for their own and for the public good, to act at least consistently with themselves, as not to burn with Zeal for Irreligion, and Bigotry for Non-sense.”[1]
[1] The Evidences of the Christian Religion, by the Right Honourable Joseph Addison. Fourth Edition. London. 1753. Pages 222 – 224.
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Comments (2)

  1. Although it is a little rude, I guess it can sum up some of the atheist fundamentalist types. It would be useful if you can maybe show us a picture or a scan of the book.

    • Dear Mairi,You have hit the nail on the head. What I am saying, as a beeviler in God myself, is that this is how religion is viewed by those from the opposite perspective. It is not a perspective I can relate to but is one I am surrounded by. Unfortunately, followers of various religions give people valid reasons to believe religion was invented to manipulate people.

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