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The Age of Doubt: Tracing the Roots of Our Religious Uncertainty Hardcover – March 29, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Lane asks the right questions of the doubting pundits, past and present. Easy to read and render[ing] complicated ideas accessible, [his book] is an altogether admirable study—and ends with an amusing tour of the intellectual trivialities at American Creationist 'museums.''—Edward Norman, Literary Review
(Edward Norman Literary Review (UK) )

"As Christopher Lane argue[s] in The Age of Doubt, the explosion of questioning among Christian thinkers in the Victorian era transformed the idea of doubt from a sin or lapse to necessary exploration"--Julia Baird, New York Times

“Lane has hit upon something interesting. While many people believe that human history is the story of 2,000 years of blanket Christianity followed by a recent emergence of atheism, the book stresses the very important fact that theological and philosophical squabbles over these subjects are nothing new (and indeed, far more fierce than some of our debates today)... The Age of Doubt is a call for others to examine this material.”—Christopher Holden, PopMatters
(Christopher Holden PopMatters )

"The charm of The Age of Doubt is that it returns us to Victorian England, when the absence of God was a new idea—a new idea, at any rate, to a number of intelligent people raised in the Anglican Church who would happily have continued subscribing to their realm's official faith if science hadn't lately posed so many inconvenient contradictions."—Michael Miner, The Chicago Reader
(Michael Miner The Chicago Reader )

"The story of Victorian doubt is both fascinating and important for understanding why we continue to be mired in fierce cultural battles over the status of evolution and the value of religious faith. This provocative book is well worth the read."—Bernard Lightman, York University
(Bernard Lightman 20100916)

"A fresh and nuanced examination of how the major scientific assumptions of the nineteenth century informed and were shaped by doubt."—Jude V. Nixon, Professor of English & Dean of Arts & Sciences, Salem State University, and Editor of Victorian Religious Discourse
(Jude V. Nixon 20100916)

“[This] is a well-written work, stylistically speaking: very clear and honest. The argument is well structured and, more to the point, he never loses his theme for a moment. The hardcover is beautifully published, tied into a neat cover, . . . providing a feast for the eye and the mind. Highly recommended, without hesitation.”—Karel D’huyvetters, Kroniek
(Karel D'huyvetters Kroniek )

"A welcome and timely entry into the discussion . . . The Age of Doubt is important reading for all who want to better understand the way our culture has unfolded while uncovering the roots of our religious skepticism. Lane creates a very readable volume in which these struggles of faith and doubt come to life . . . compelling reading."—Bryan Berghoef, Englewood Review of Books
(Bryan Berghoef Englewood Review of Books )

“Lane’s stimulating analysis asks whether acknowledging how science, religion, and society have produced a growing chasm between faith and doubt, and even destroyed belief, can offer a way forward.”—Keith Thomson, author of Before Darwin and The Young Charles Darwin
(Keith Thomson )

In this elegantly written book, Christopher Lane tells the story of Victorian doubt by exploring the public and private writing of figures such as Thomas Carlyle, Charles Lyell, Robert Chambers, J. A. Froude, Alfred Tennyson, George Eliot, Herbert Spencer, and Leslie Stephen. While some of their personal stories are better known than others, in each case Lane finds something insightful to say about the nature of belief and “what it felt like to lose one’s religious faith—as an individual and, more broadly, as a people and society”—Mark Knight, University of Toronto
(Mark Knight Victorian Studies )

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition edition (March 29, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300141920
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300141924
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,793,638 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Christopher Lane, Ph.D., teaches literature and intellectual history at Northwestern University and is a past Guggenheim fellow. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, Slate, Chronicle Review, and several other newspapers and periodicals. He is the author of five books, most recently The Age of Doubt: Tracing the Roots of Our Religious Uncertainty (Yale, 2011) and Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness (Yale, 2007), winner of the Prescrire Prize for Medical Writing (France, 2010) and now in six translations.

He is completing a book on psychology, psychiatry, and the remaking of religious life in 1950s' America.

He writes a blog for Psychology Today called "Side Effects." He also writes for the Huffington Post.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Carrie J. on February 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I'm about two-thirds through Lane's book, having read it so far in two sittings, and it's a compelling book about doubt and faith. Much of the history was new to me, but it's presented in a dynamic way that brings the conflict alive. I love what he has to say about Richard Dawkins and "The God Delusion." Hard to put down. Five stars.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By bookclubber on March 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Lane has given today's public conversation a much needed intellectual history of theology. Recently, for some reason, the most publicized and influential American thinkers have felt the need (unnecessarily) to polarize this debate. Believers, atheists and agnostics will all learn from this well-researched and stylistically engaging book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amy Mann on January 24, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Taking readers from the freethinkers of eighteenth century Britain to the recent American play and movie Doubt, The Age of Doubt is a fast-paced, absorbing history of agnosticism. I was especially interested in Darwin's struggle with religious doubt and how it impacted his thinking. The focus on lesser known writers and thinkers like Anne Bronte and Robert Chambers was also helpful and informative. The book ends by detailing tensions between agnostics and "new" atheists and why Richard Dawkins, in particular, has been so dismissive of the first group. This is a smart, accessible book that adds much to the debates over faith and doubt.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mark on June 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Lane's engrossing book reveals his vast erudition about an extremely complex topic. His description of 19th century intellectual and religious battles makes the arguments seem fresh and relevant to today's religious struggles, and indeed they are. I particularly enjoyed learning the roles played by Tennyson, Bronte, and other prominent writers in this important drama. The illustrations are exceptionally good, as pertinent and beautiful as those in any of Braudel's great works of history. I highly recommend this book.
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