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The Birth of Modern Belief$
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Ethan H. Shagan

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780691174747

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691174747.001.0001

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The Invention of the Unbeliever

The Invention of the Unbeliever

(p.98) Chapter Three The Invention of the Unbeliever
The Birth of Modern Belief

Ethan H. Shagan

Princeton University Press

This chapter analyzes how generations of scholars have trawled through several materials for evidence of “real” atheism, with limited success. More recently, a number of scholars have demonstrated that early modern atheism was a coherent concept with its own contours and meanings rather than simply a derogatory slur. As seen before, the Reformation and Counter-Reformation collaborated to transform belief into a principle of exclusion, making belief hard. The effect of this confessional logic is the discovery that a supposedly Christian society was in fact populated by legions of unbelievers. The chapter shows how the invention of the unbeliever was both a major component of the sixteenth-century revolution in belief and an important reason on why that revolution failed.

Keywords:   atheism, unbelievers, sixteenth century, Christian society, belief, Reformation, Counter-Reformation

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