(How We Have Sought to Live Since the Death of God)
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2014
I’ve always regarded the word atheist as a quagmire. What does it mean, really? People mean so many different things in using it. Even after reading Watson’s book, I’m still puzzled. So let’s more away from that term and look at the meat of the book.
Watson traces the history of thought following Friedrich Nietzche’s 1882 pronouncement, “God is dead.” The big questions about the meaning of life and how to live it are quested after by artists, writers, poets, philosophers, and scientists. The 626 page tome follows hundreds of individuals and their pursuit to answer the stickiest of questions in a post-modern world where salvation doesn’t exist.
This is a book for everyone because it is about our collective history. Unless you have a PhD in philosophy, you won’t know all the people Watson brings up in his survey, but names like James Joyce, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein and countless others, will ground you in the familiar. Some chapters are absolutely fascinating. Did you know that some people thought poetry would supplant God? Or that many intellectuals looked forward to WWI as a way to purge the modern age? Other chapters are a slog to get through. But persist.
Watson takes us on a journey to understand where we’ve been and perhaps where we’ve going. In the end, we see the search for meaning seems to be universal and that many have answered the call by looking to transcend this life while others (the subject of Watson’s book) look for meaning in this world in diverse and rich ways.
7 responses to “The Age of Atheists by Peter Watson”
This looks really interesting and relevant as I’m doing some research on atheism and culture. Thanks for sharing, I’ll add it to my too-read list!
This I find fascinating! In the theologies of two millennia (well, OK, perhaps one and a quarter) battalions of very intelligent people have made their life’s work in explanation, rationalization and interpretation of something which simply – very simply – does not exist. Now it seems we are about to spawn further generations of very intelligent people who will make it their life’s work to explain WHY it doesn’t exist! Am I the only one who sees the joke, here?
What doesn’t exist? God? A meaning to life? Both? More?
exactly my questions, ellis!
Very interesting. I’ve read some critiques of this book and Watson in general. My own take on atheism is that it’s the same coin as theism –still involved in the search, so to speak–unlike agnostics who have given up. For many atheists I know, science has assumed the deity’s position. I could go on for days on that score, but I’ll save it for another day. Thanks so much for a great blog. I’ll have to pick this tome up at some point and actually read it myself.
I really liked Sheldrake’s, The Science Delusion where he takes on science as another dogma. http://www.amazon.com/Science-Delusion-Freeing-Spirit-Enquiry/dp/144472794X/ref=sr_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1440706367&sr=1-9&keywords=rupert+sheldrake
Sounds so interesting. I’ve out it on my to read list! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.
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