“Atheism and Deism Revalued: Heterodox Religious Identities in Britain, 1650-1800” (Hudson et al. eds.)

In December, Ashgate Publishing will release “Atheism and Deism Revalued: Heterodox Religious Identities in Britain, 1650-1800” edited by Wayne Hudson (Charles Sturt University), Diego Lucci (American University in Bulgaria), and Jeffrey R. Wigelsworth (Red Deer College). The publisher’s description follows:

Given the central role played by religion in early-modern Britain, it is perhaps surprising that historians have not always paid close attention to the shifting and nuanced subtleties of terms used in religious controversies. In this collection particular attention is focussed upon two of the most contentious of these terms: ‘atheism’ and ‘deism’, terms that have shaped significant parts of the scholarship on the Enlightenment.

This volume argues that in the seventeenth and eighteenth century atheism and deism involved fine distinctions that have not always been preserved by later scholars. The original deployment and usage of these terms were often more complicated than much of the historical scholarship suggests. Indeed, in much of the literature static definitions are often taken for granted, resulting in depictions of the past constructed upon anachronistic assumptions.

Offering reassessments of the historical figures most associated with ‘atheism’ and ‘deism’ in early modern Britain, this collection opens the subject up for debate and shows how the new historiography of deism changes our understanding of heterodox religious identities in Britain from 1650 to 1800. It problematises the older view that individuals were atheist or deists in a straightforward sense and instead explores the plurality and flexibility of religious identities during this period. Drawing on the most recent scholarship, the volume enriches the debate about heterodoxy, offering new perspectives on a range of prominent figures and providing an overview of major changes in the field.

Among the Creationists: What’s so Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding?

Early next year, Jason Rosenhouse, associate professor of Mathematics at James Madison University, will publish Among the Creationists: Dispatches from the Anti-Evolutionist Front Line with Oxford University Press.

Rosenhouse, a believer in evolutionary theory, was puzzled—as am I, admittedly—that so many Americans still insisted that God created the world and human beings 10,000 years ago precisely as described in Genesis (in December 2010, Gallup reported that a staggering 40% did).  In the hopes of understanding why, Rosenhouse began attending Creationist events around the country.  In fact, Rosenhouse did so for ten years.

What he discovered challenges the conventional characterizations of Creationists as uninquisitive Bible-thumpers; rather, Rosenhouse encountered Creationists of many stripes and, through congenial discussion, learned their views could enrich his own, even if his belief in evolution remained intact.

Rosenhouse’s approach exemplifies the laudable objective of mutual respect that figures like Richard Dawkins sorely lack (see my Commentary posts on Dawkins here and here).  Rosenhouse did not become a Creationist in his journeys, and I speculate that he did not convince any Creationists that evolution was valid.  But I admire Rosenhouse’s genuine attempt to understand and treat with respect views different from his own.

Read OUP’s description of the book after the jump.  Also, read Rosenhouse’s brief description of his book here. Continue reading

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