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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

Chapter:
(p.98) Chapter Three The Invention of the Unbeliever
Source:
The Birth of Modern Belief
Author(s):

Ethan H. Shagan

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691174747.003.0004

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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