chapter  5
8 Pages

Atheism and history

ByJONATHAN RÉE

Scratch a modern atheist, and the chances are you will find a historian: not a studious archive-sleuth, but a broad-brush anecdotalist, regaling you with stories about the steady decline of religion and the irresistible rise of secular enlightenment. Or perhaps I should say historicist rather than historian: someone motivated not so much by curiosity as to what actually happened as by a determination to see the past as a journey towards a definite and desirable destination. Either way, we atheists seem not to be content with arguing against the existence of God: we have difficulty getting through our intellectual lives without telling ourselves that we are on the side of progress and our ultimate triumph is inevitable. Our atheism has a secret affinity with history, it seems: we may not know it but it does.