- How was atheism created?
- Hans-Georg Lundahl
- Studied religions as curious parallels and contrasts to Xtian faith since 9, 10?
- Answered just now
- Several of the answers given already concentrate on atheism being natural.
However it may be with that, atheism as a societal phenomenon is not in historic continuity from immemorial, neither in Occident, nor anywhere else.
Even Chinese and Ceylonese Atheisms, i e Mencian Confucianism and Theravada Buddhism, point back to an even older tradition of Theistic Confucianism (at worst Deistic) and Hindoo or similar Polytheism.
Natural or not, history doesn’t show it natural.
So, how was atheism created as a societal phenomenon? I will here not deal with Mencian, Theravada, or Epicurean Atheism, but with Western Atheism.
Significant ingredients are:
- England after English Revolutionary wars (like Catholics and Puritans supporting different régimes)
- Hobbes as having an atheistic view of human rights : they only exist as byproducts of agreements, including his favourite one, absolute monarchy (he was pro-Stuart, while, fortunately, not all Jacobites are pro-Hobbes)
- Protestantism challenging most of the religious and supernatural claims of Catholicism, perhaps not the most important ones, but the most numerous and most recent ones. “St Peter gave a lame man his use of legs back, as per [Acts Of Apostles 3:6]” - Protestants agree. Except perhaps on prefixing Peter with the word saint. - “St Francis cured a leper” - Protestants (historically, not as per 20th C Anglicanism, but back when Atheism was created) disagree “no, there are no real divine miracles since the death of the apostles” (see quote from Calvin’s commentary on Mark 16:17 below)
- Influence from esoteric societies, which, trying to give divine honours to the esoteric masters as such had an interest in downplaying the real divine, in the case of Campanella in Renaissance Italy a knowledge of Atheistic currents like Epicureans and Democritus, in the case of Rosocrucians, starting in Germany, a similar fatigue with Thirty Years War (to this day, complaining about reigious wars in Abrahamic religions is a staple of Atheistic argument)
- Possibly some influence from Sikhism, which tried to bridge the gap between Hindoos and Muslims, not directly, but via Enlightenment
- Freemasons dispensing with all religion except “the natural one on which all men of honour agree” (Freemasonry in its English original was definitely NOT directly atheistic, unlike some now extant derivatives in Latin countries, the “Grand Orient” type) - unlike previous, this is certain, but like it, it is not directly, but via Enlightenment
- Commonsense blasé-ness with some esoteric claims
- Standing against these based on Scientific Method as per Francis Bacon of Verulam
- Some rehabilitation of Democritean atomism
- English apologetics against this NOT having the aid from recent miracles (see below for why Protestants reject Catholic miracles).
As I have said, Protestants reject miracles later than, say, Apostles, or possibly a bit longer. It has a basis in Calvin’s Bible commentary, which I will now quote.
- Quoting Calvin’s pseudo-exegesis on Mark 16:17:
- Verse 17
17And these signs shall follow them that shall believe. As the Lord, while he still lived with men in the world, had ratified the faith of his gospel by miracles, so now he extends the same power to the future, lest the disciples should imagine that it could not be separated from his bodily presence. For it was of very great importance that this divine power of Christ should continue to be exerted amongst believers, that it might be certainly known that he was risen from, the dead, and that thus his doctrine might remain unimpaired, and that his name might be immortal. When he says that believers will receive this gift, we must not understand this as applying to every one of them; for we know that gifts were distributed variously, so that the power of working miracles was possessed by only a few persons. But as that which was bestowed on a few was common to the whole Church, and as the miracles performed by one individual served for the confirmation of all, Christ properly uses the word believers in an indefinite sense. The meaning, therefore, is, that believers will be ministers of the same power which had formerly excited admiration in Christ, that during his absence the sealing of the gospel may be more fully ascertained, as he promises
that they will do the same things, and greater,
To testify the glory and the divinity of Christ, it was enough that a few of the believers should be endued with this power.
Though Christ does not expressly state whether he intends this gift to be temporary, or to remain perpetually in his Church, yet it is more probable that miracles were promised only for a time, in order to give luster to the gospel, while it was new and in a state of obscurity. It is possible, no doubt, that the world may have been deprived of this honor through the guilt of its own ingratitude; but I think that the true design for which miracles were appointed was, that nothing which was necessary for proving the doctrine of the gospel should be wanting at its commencement. And certainly we see that the use of them ceased not long afterwards, or, at least, that instances of them were so rare as to entitle us to conclude that they would not be equally common in all ages.
Yet those who came after them, that they might not allow it to be supposed that they were entirely destitute of miracles, were led by foolish avarice or ambition to forge for themselves miracles which had no reality. Thus was the door opened for the impostures of Satan, not only that delusions might be substituted for truth, but that, under the pretense of miracles, the simple might be led aside from the true faith. And certainly it was proper that men of eager curiosity, who, not satisfied with lawful proof, were every day asking new miracles, should be carried away by such impostures. This is the reason why Christ, in another passage, foretold that the reign of Antichrist would be full of lying signs, (Matthew 24:24;) and Paul makes a similar declaration, (2 Thessalonians 2:9.)
That our faith may be duly confirmed by miracles, let our minds be kept within that moderation which I have mentioned. Hence, also, it follows that it is a silly calumny which is advanced by those who object against our doctrine, that it wants the aid of miracles; as if it were not the same doctrine which Christ long ago has abundantly sealed. But on this subject I use greater brevity, because I have already treated it more fully in many passages.
Mark 16 Commentary - John Calvin's Commentaries on the Bible