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Without God, Without Creed: The Origins of Unbelief in America (New Studies in American Intellectual and Cultural History) Paperback – August 1, 1986


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Without God, Without Creed: The Origins of Unbelief in America (New Studies in American Intellectual and Cultural History) + The One, the Three and the Many: God, Creation and the Culture of Modernity / The 1992 Bampton Lectures
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Product Details

  • Series: New Studies in American Intellectual and Cultural History
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press (August 1, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801834074
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801834073
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #313,303 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Turner's treatment of the nineteenth century is excellent and often brilliantly perceptive.

(Robert Nisbet The New York Times Book Review)

A crafted, intelligent book. The prose is remarkably clear, as is the argument. Turner offers us intellectual history in something like the grand manner.

(David D. Hall Reviews in American History)

Customer Reviews

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Highly recommended for readers of all scientific and religious backgrounds.
Ian Drummond
I finished the book with a much greater understanding not only of the history of atheism and agnosticism, but with Christianity, science, and the Western world.
Riley Balikian
James Turner is a professor of history and it shows in this fascinating and educational read.
Sue

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Ian Drummond on December 8, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is excellently written and very illuminating on the subject of how it came to be possible that a person could say 'I don't believe in God.' Turner takes the reader through history from the Rennaissance to the mid-19th century to show the progress of unbelief. Interestingly, his thesis, which is very well argued, is that it was the Church herself who let in the demons of unbelief, which usually came in the form of scientific discovery. In brief, the Church shot herself in the foot.
This is not a tract against the Church, though. It is very clearly written to show how those events and beliefs which undermined the legitimacy of the Church were not necessarily bad; it was the Church who made them so. For example, scientific discovery in itself was not bad, but the Church before the scientific revolution had based its legitimacy so strongly on the literal account of Creation, for example, that when there was doubt thrown on that theory, everything began to crumble.
Turner is pretty much done with his story by the mid 1800s, before Darwin's _Origin of Species_ was published. Contrary to popular imagination, Darwin's theory was not particularly groundbreaking in the case for atheism; the groundwork had already been set.
This book is not difficult to read at all, yet it tackles some tough subject material. Highly recommended for readers of all scientific and religious backgrounds.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By David Withun on June 11, 2011
Format: Paperback
It's unfortunate that the history of modern atheism and naturalism and its developments over time have been so understudied by historians. This book, however, is a great start to what I hope is a bright future for that area of historical study. Turner masterfully discusses the cultural, religious, philosophical, and economic factors that developed in America after (and often as a result of) the Enlightenment and which led directly to the "coming of age" of unbelief as a viable option in modern America. He also, importantly, reports on the reactions of Christians to these changing socioeconomic factors and how these reactions often led to further unbelief. Very importantly, for a topic like this, which is still developing historically even as historians begin to examine its roots, I put down this book unable, in spite of my best attempts, to decipher whether the author was a "believer" or an "unbeliever" -- a true testimony to good, impartial, unbiased, and thorough historical research.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Riley Balikian on April 15, 2013
Format: Paperback
Had to read this for a class at a Christian college, and it was probably the best book of the semester. It was very informative and fun to read. I finished the book with a much greater understanding not only of the history of atheism and agnosticism, but with Christianity, science, and the Western world. Highly recommend this book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Michael D. Reynolds on December 6, 2013
Format: Paperback
"without God" is an account by present-day historian James Turner of the growth of non-theism in the modern era. The author states that his purview is "Western culture" and "Europeans and Americans." But his study deals chiefly with the writings of 19th-century American intellectuals and clergymen. The USA is a peculiarly religious Western nation, and seems unsuited as the focus of an attempt to study the "general causes" of "widespread unbelief...throughout the West." The author's theory is that the principal cause of the rise of non-theism was the faulty response of Protestant clergy and theologians to the intellectual and social changes that were taking place.
Turner alleges that non-theism "emerged" as a cultural alternative only after the middle of the 19th century. He states that "atheism" was almost non-existent in Europe and America before the last third of that century. These ideas require him to minimize the extent of skeptical and non-theistic thought and writings. Later works, such as the anthology "Atheism from the Reformation to the Enlightenment" (edited by Michael Hunter and David Wootton) and David Berman's "A History of Atheism in Britain," demonstrate that non-theistic thinking in Europe was earlier and more extensive than Turner perceives. Frankly non-theistic (not merely skeptical or agnostic) works started to appear in the first third of the 18th century. During the last third of that century multiple such books were published and disseminated, despite grave risks to everyone involved. (Non-theism is inseparably connected with the struggle to win freedom of thought and speech and freedom of religion, but this subject is outside Turner's purview.
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