From one of Britain’s most distinguished historians comes the stirring story of one of the modern world’s most important yet controversial intellectual achievements: atheism.
Since Friedrich Nietzsche roundly declared that “God is dead” in 1882, a raft of reflective and courageous individuals have devoted their creative energies to devising ways to live without Him, turning instead to invention, enthusiasm, hope, wit and, above all, various forms of self-reliance. Their brave, imaginative story has gone untold—until now. In The Age of Atheists, acclaimed historian Peter Watson offers a sweeping narrative of the secular philosophers and poets, psychologists and scientists, painters and playwrights, novelists and even choreographers who have forged a thrilling, bold path in the absence of religious belief.
Synthesizing nearly a century and a half of recent history, The Age of Atheists is a stunning, magisterial celebration of life without recourse to the supernatural.
From Paul Valéry and George Santayana to Richard Rorty and Ronald Dworkin, from Georges- Pierre Seurat and Constantin Brâncuşi to Jackson Pollock and Robert Rauschenberg, from André Gide to Philip Roth, from Rudolf Laban to Merce Cunningham, from Henrik Ibsen to Samuel Beckett, from Wallace Stevens and Rainer Maria Rilke to Elizabeth Bishop and Czesław Miłosz, from Sigmund Freud and Benjamin Spock to E. O. Wilson and Sam Harris, The Age of Atheists brilliantly explores how atheism has evolved, deepened and matured, and gained unprecedented resonance and popularity as it has sought to replace an unknowable God in the afterlife with the voluptuous detail and warmth of this life, to be found in art, philosophy and science, all woven into a rational, secular morality.
Atheism has had its share of ideologues, tyrants and charlatans, but it is above all a history of brave accomplishment—and one that is far from finished.
From Nietzsche and his nihilism to Dawkins and Dennett, Nagel and Habermas, Watson’s stimulating intellectual narrative explores the revolutionary ideas and big questions provoked by these great minds and movements. A sparkling and ultimately triumphant history, The Age of Atheists is the first full story of our efforts to live without God.