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

4.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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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: 6.3 x 1 x 9.9 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: #2,191,353 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I never had a doubt that this book by C Lane would not be full of interesting and thoughtful information. I was overwhelmed with the scope of this book and thrilled to be able to pinpoint the source of many of my long held myth's and their origin . I heartily recommend this book for the doubters in us all.
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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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Format: Hardcover
The idea behind this book is that doubt--good, true, Victorian doubt--cuts two ways. It does not allow us to believe in the Watchmaker-Caretaker God, but it also does not allow us to be a Dawkinsian Christian-Hater (or as Dawkins, weirdly, would have it: a Bright). Doubt may even make some other sort of faith possible.

The problem I had with this book is that Lane's portrait of the Victorian doubters never really became the indictment of today's scientistic church militant that Lane meant it to be. I heard him say it (and rightly so), but I never really saw it. The religious figures in Lane's Victorian narrative were always the "bad" guys with the exception of Newman, although he never actually makes a case for Newman's Catholicism as respectable. Indeed, the picture I saw displayed today's Bright British Atheism as a fairly natural consequence of yesterday's Hard-nosed British Agnosticism.

This brings me to the one very useful thing I learned from this book: Dawkins and his movement (including its American wanna-bes) is very British. His way of talking about God comes straight out of a Victorian script. His God is the God isolated by Victorians struggling to deal with geological time and evolution. The similarity of language is striking. At bottom, the God of Dawkins--like that of Lyell, Chambers, Darwin, Huxley and others--is the God who drew up a blueprint of the earth and its fixed species, assembled it the way your or I would assemble a garden, and frequently prunes and waters it for the pleasure of his darlings. This is all Victorian British stuff. It is as if the essence of religion were actually Bad Natural History with a dash of Kindly Uncle. Clinging too tightly to this one view of religion betrays, in my opinion, a lack of imagination, literacy, or experience.
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