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Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson Paperback – September 7, 2004
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Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
More About the Author
I like to think about human meaning, especially the kind that exists outside the individual, in the culture and the community. The feeling of meaning is sufficient to the definition of meaning, just as the feeling of love is sufficient to the definition of love. (Of course we sometimes don't feel love, but that doesn't make us say love doesn't exist.) I believe Stay's approach to the question of suicide allows us to see ourselves as more profoundly connected to each other, and able to relax our need to each generate the entire meaning of life on our own.
For me, poetry is the best way to get to truth underneath what we think we know. My nonfiction also requests a flip in perspective. I love to hear from people! Contact me on my website: http://www.jennifermichaelhecht.com/
Top Customer Reviews
What I found as I went through this book is that for every belief system someone somewhere came up with, some other person somewhere else deflated it. As Hecht explained each system, I was tempted to think, "Ah, there's a philosophy I can adopt!" But, no. As I continued reading, the flaws in the system were pointed out by the great thinkers of all time (and sometimes by Hecht herself), and I thought, "Well, no -- I guess that one gets thrown in the trash pile of history, too."
This is why this book is NOT good for those seeking answers -- especially those who need validation of their own belief system. For, in the last analysis, this book leaves one thinking there ARE no answers (at least, at this time). Maybe it's all beyond the human brain, and always will be. I was left realizing that we're living in a Universe which is -- to use Churchill's phrase about the Soviet Union -- a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
If one is open minded -- and especially if one is already a "doubter" and needs validation of their doubts -- I can hardly recommend this book highly enough. It's comprehensive, accessible, witty and more fun to read than you'd expect a book about philosophy could be.
The Freethought Society and Humanist Association in Philadelphia co-sponsor a Secular Book Club, and Doubt: A History was the first book we discussed. Surprisingly, the moderator said the book wasn't recommended to him, but rather, he found it by browsing in a book store. That's a shame because this book is such a wonderful survey of religious doubt in the Western World, that also touches on some aspects of doubt in the Eastern World as they influenced and related to the West.
Jennifer Hecht is a historian and award-winning poet. Her writing style is narrative, clear, and full of personality. At my book club meeting we spent several minutes just raving about how much we enjoyed the writing style.
The story begins with the ancient Greeks, then moves into ancient Judaism, Rome, and early Christianity. Jesus himself becomes an important figure in the history of doubt because by emphasizing faith in a way that Judaism never did, Christianity invented the doubt of the believer and the concept of doubt itself as a grave sin. (Jews, Greeks, and Romans were fine with you as long as you practiced religion. Genuine belief was secondary.) From there it moves into Buddhism and some lesser Eastern schools of thought, Islam, and relates them all to how Christianity and Judaism evolved over the middle ages and into the Enlightenment and modern times. Of course it discusses the role of religion in politics, especially in the era of the secular state, covering the French revolution and the foundation of the United States. The book touches on so many figures in the history of Doubt that even the seasoned freethinker is sure to encounter some new names and stories.Read more ›
How much more useful to humankind it would be if history were taught like this: as the struggle of the concepts underpinning human liberty and dignity -- physical, intellectual, spiritual -- to survive and thrive in the face of human ignorance and knavery. We debase the human spirit when we hold up the worst blunders of Aristotle and Plato as greatness -- because they were co-opted by church and state power in the centuries to come and became great instruments of human slavery in the process -- and ignore the genius of thinkers Democritus and Epicurus, which helped human beings learn to be free every time they were discovered and rediscovered over the years.
Today we're steeped in a culture that equates doubt and thought with deviance and immorality. The culture-warriors of the Right wouldn't be able to get away with it, though, if the masses knew the history that is laid out clearly and delightfully in this book. When you realize that throughout recorded history men and women with no prior knowledge of modern physics and biology were able to dismiss the manipulations of the religious state with nothing more than curiosity, honesty, and common sense as their allies -- that's a history that does a body good.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As youngsters most of us were not encouraged to question what our religious authority figures said. As we grow older and wiser AND FREER, most of us can allow ourselves to doubt... Read morePublished 15 days ago by Tom Z
A marvelous, dense, but readable history of religious doubt, from the earliest writings to the 21st century. Read morePublished 3 months ago by M. Bailey
This book struck me as a bit odd. It's about what it claims to be, but I expected something a bit different. It's really a discussion of being on the fence with regard to belief. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Robert F. DeVellis
I was drawn to this book because Jennifer Hecht was listed on a website as one of the top voices of Atheism and this appears to be her most well-known book. Read morePublished 4 months ago by David Swan
It's a good read, until you watch a recent interview of the author in which she goes against EVERYTHING she says in the book.Published 4 months ago by Joe I.
A survey to recollect, compare, contrast, sift, and summarize humanity's attempts to ask and analyze the great questions of universal meaning, including religion and theism. Read morePublished 5 months ago by George L Kennedy
If you like reading books that actually expand your knowledge and understanding, that when you finish them you don't feel like, "well there's some time I'll never get back"... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Zero
More guidance in re atheism thru the ages. Time to get real -- there simply is not a supernatural being guiding this mess.Published 6 months ago by N. Robinson