The classical version of atheism is vastly different than the atheism that is known today. – Some consider “modern atheism” as one of the greatest achievements of human intellect. Immortalization in Greek myths meant “infinite extension of existence, not the infinite projection of moral qualities” – Classical Greek atheism denied “traditional religion of the Athenian establishment” – Protestant reformers wrote against church’s corruption and straying from “authentic models of the New Testament” – Protestantism eventually gained popularity in Western Europe in 1600s -“Historical origins of modern atheism lie primarily in an extended criticism of the power and status of the church – The 18th century was regarded the “most creative period of atheist experimentation and reflection”
Historians date the birth of ‘avowed’ or intentional atheism in Britain to around the year 1782 Credit for the serious advancement of atheism on he eve of the Victorian era is most due to William Godwin. He believed that social vision rested on the assumption of the perfectibility of humanity through reason. Mary Robinson wrote that, “nature was emancipated from being God’s creation, and became a divinity in its own right. Percy Shelley argued that since compelling evidence for the existence of God is lacking, here is no intellectual obligation to believe in God.
However, Shelley never explicitly denies the existence of a God in general. Shelley seems to argue against institutional religion. Mary Ann Evans aka George Eliot, grew up an evangelical, but turned into an atheist because she was of the increasingly dogmatic and impersonal constructs of the Christian faith. Evans/Eliot turned to a religion of human sympathy, she believed that the moral aspects of faith could be maintained without Christianity. A. C. Swinburne was more avant-garde and aggressive in his approach to spreading atheism. He visualized god as a birch-wielding tyrant that oppresses humanity.
Swineburne believed that only the rejection of God would open the way to human self-fulfillment. By the middle of the Nineteenth Century Jesus was seen as a moral sage, or as a role model. George Tyrrell was appalled that Jesus was seen as less captivating, but conceded that the Christ was a “pale reflection” of his biblical self. Chapter 6 Dostoyevsky was a Russian novelist that wrote on a fictional Russia that turned to atheism to solve its problems. While he showed attractive of that choice, he also presented some of its more troubling features.
His criticisms were directed more toward the world God supposedly created, more than critiquing God himself. Nietzsche emphasized that the belief in the Christian God became unbelievable. Nietzsche admits that the realization that “God is dead” will travel slowly because it is just too “unthinkable”. For nihilism, a religious worldview is oppressive because it insists that we will be held accountable for our actions. In a nihilistic view, there are no sins, because nothing matters in the end. Albert Camus argued that human life is rendered meaningless by death, which prevents the individual from making sense of existence.