I just finished the book Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson by Jennifer Hecht for my Humanist book club. Here are 13 recurring ideas from the book, with doubters from antiquity juxtaposed with modern atheists. I've sought to
The Cynics and the Stoics might be understood as Proto-Humanists, with their emphasis on leading a virtuous life rather than worrying about the next one. Just as the Rationalists rejected anthropomorphic gods, the Cynics rejected obscurantist, obligatory ritual and the Stoics rejected fear. I isolated the acknowledgement of mortality from the Cynic sages and the resistance to coercion from the Stoics.
Blasphemy #1: Rationalism
Everything and nothing is sacred; everything and nothing is profane.
There are no miracles; awe is just mystery without the ignorance.
Discovery trumps revealed faith; prophesy is hearsay.
Immortality is a narcissistic fantasy.
Determined faith is wishful thinking.
Faith calls for resignation of the will.
Blasphemy #7: Universalism
Rival faiths are mutually contradictory; sectarian dogma is internally inconsistent.
Blasphemy #8: Antitheism
Divine intervention is a nepotism fantasy; there is no ultimate meaning or plan.
Blasphemy #9: Agnosticism
Certainty licenses coercion; compulsory faith is often insincere and obscurantist.
Compassion is a human quality; faith calls for acquiescence to an arbitrary moral code.
The incorporeal is immaterial; where there is no mass there is no substance.
Civil law trumps religious law; reason is the common currency of civil society.
Faith calls for suspension of the intellect.