2000 Years of Disbelief
by James A. Haught
People talk about the history of religion frequently. The Christian religion dates itself back approximately 2000 years, and the Jewish religion is far older. When one thinks of the people of past times, one generally thinks of their religion as well. The Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians all had vast pantheons of gods and other mystical creatures populating their worlds.
What many people do not know is that history is not entirely the property of the religious. Far from it. Atheists, agnostics, skeptics and freethinkers have been around as long as religion has, and many of their thoughts and feelings have been recorded.
That is exactly what James Haught has endeavored to record in his book, 2000 Years of Disbelief. This book is divided into seven different time periods, and includes quotes from some of the greatest names in human history. You might be surprised to find who has spoken words questioning religion, the religious, and the existance of divinity.
Part One: The Beginnings of Rationalism includes quotes from the ancients and Omar Khayyam. Part Two: The Renaissance includes quotes from playwrights Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare, among others. Part Three: The European Enlightenment includes quotes from John Lock, Voltaire, David Hume, and Thomas Hobbes.
Part Four: The American Rationalists includes such famous names as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, Ethan Allen, and Thomas Jefferson. Part Five: The Nineteenth Century (and the Turn of the Twentieth) includes quotes from Johann Von Goethe, Napoleon Bonaparte, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce and many, many others.
Part Six: The Early Twentieth Century includes quotes from Sigmund Freud, George Bernard Shaw, George Santayana, Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein. Part Seven: The Mid and Late Twentieth Century includes quotes from Margaret Sanger, Isaac Asimov, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Steve Allen, and Ayn Rand.
Nowhere in this book is the claim made that all of those listed are atheists or even agnostics. It is, however, noted that all of those included in the book have made statements regarding a lack of belief, a questioning of religious truth, or other skeptical statements.
Even if you are not a nonbeliever yourself, you will probably find this book fascinating. Quotes from famous people are always interesting, and many of the quotes listed within this book will surprise you.
September 21, 2002