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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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Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson
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I found it very interesting to read early critical arguments against the existence of Gods, a lot of which were quite powerful. I sort of always thought that the Roman or Hindu Gods were simply accepted as real by just about everyone in ancient times or those who doubted were cowed into silence by threat of violence. I was delighted to see that skepticism has existed probably as long as belief and the skeptics were not unknown figures but peoples whose names I was aware of but didn’t realize were skeptics. I was also delighted to see that many of these ancient thinkers employed some very clever logical arguments. I pay fairly close attention to atheist arguments and some of these were new even to me. For instance one thinking ponders that if one is reincarnated with no knowledge of a previous existence isn’t that the same as dying.
Although the book clearly has atheist sympathies it’s not an out and out attack on religion and I appreciated that. It’s not that I mind attacks on religion in the least but I do enjoy reading books promoting skepticism that don’t immediately send theists fleeing (see Sam Harris). Hecht’s book doesn’t have the entertainment value of say a Christopher Hitchens book but it’s historically informative and still fun to read.
It's the best primer ever for students and lovers of philosophy, especially in the face of superstitions and their dogmas. Supremely well-researched. The Notes and Bibliography are treasure troves for sources. I've never seen anything so indispensable to a scholar, a thinker, a skeptic, a doubter than this. The new linchpin in my philosophy/science/religion library. A source you can trust.
Given the current international situation, with fundamentalism as a core issue, I was delighted to find mention of the modern author Ibn Warraq (a pseudonym), an ex-Muslim who wrote "Why I Am Not a Muslim" and who castigates Western society for not subjecting Islam to the critical method, as Christianity and other religions have been, and instead being afraid to criticize it. Something to think about.