The Age of Atheists (Hardcover)

How We Have Sought to Live Since the Death of God

By Peter Watson

Simon & Schuster, 9781476754314, 640pp.

Publication Date: February 18, 2014

Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (12/23/2014)

List Price: 35.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.

Description

A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2014

From one of England’s most distinguished intellectual historians comes “an exhilarating ride…that will stand the test of time as a masterful account of” (The Boston Globe) one of the West’s most important intellectual movements: Atheism.

In 1882, Friedrich Nietzche declared that “God is dead” and ever since tens of thousands of brilliant, courageous, thoughtful individuals have devoted their creative energies to devising ways to live without God with self-reliance, invention, hope, wit, and enthusiasm. Now, for the first time, their story is revealed.

A captivating story of contest, failure, and success, The Age of Atheists sweeps up William James and the pragmatists; Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis; Pablo Picasso, James Joyce, and Albert Camus; the poets of World War One and the novelists of World War Two; scientists, from Albert Einstein to Stephen Hawking; and the rise of the new Atheists—Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens. This is a story of courage, of the thousands of individuals who, sometimes at great risk, devoted tremendous creative energies to devising ways to fill a godless world with self-reliance, invention, hope, wit, and enthusiasm. Watson explains how atheism has evolved and reveals that the greatest works of art and literature, of science and philosophy of the last century can be traced to the rise of secularism.

From Nietzsche to Daniel Dennett, Watson’s stirring intellectual history manages to take the revolutionary ideas and big questions of these great minds and movements and explain them, making the connections and concepts simple without being simplistic. The Age of Atheists is “highly readable and immensely wide-ranging…For anybody who has wondered about the meaning of life…an enthralling and mind-expanding experience” (The Washington Post).


About the Author

Peter Watson is an intellectual historian, journalist, and the author of thirteen books, including Convergence; Ideas: A History; The Age of Atheists; The German Genius; The Medici Conspiracy; and The Great Divide. He has written for The Sunday Times, The New York Times, the Observer, and the Spectator. He lives in London.


Praise For The Age of Atheists: How We Have Sought to Live Since the Death of God

"Peter Watson’s hindsight, foresight and insight into the role atheists play in creating our cultures makes The Age of Atheists a must read. Readers will gain a deeper appreciation of the rich world in which we live."
— Charles de Groot, co-chair of The de Groot Foundation

"Peter Watson's book has made the extraordinary leap of assessing each of the 20th century's important secular philosophic traditions. Along the way, as an ultimate reference, he has also given us the intuitive methods and insights of that century's leading poets, painters, musicians and choreographers. Perhaps no one else at this moment has the background for such an adventure. Whether as a guide to the last century's thinkers or as a reference to the insights of its artists, The Age of Atheists is an indispensable map to locate our present."
— William Kistler, poet and essayist

"Watson’s encompassing treatment of a difficult subject, in a world growing no less uncertain, is impressive and, ultimately, reassuring."
— Booklist (starred)

“The beauty of this book is Watson's ability to impose order on a riot of ideas…even the casual reader will find much to delight and enlighten as Watson elegantly connects the dots from Nietzsche and William James to Bob Dylan and jazz.”

"H]ighly readable and immensely wide-ranging….Peter Watson has produced what is, in every way, a big book, one that bears reading thoughtfully, with a pencil in hand. For anybody who has wondered about the meaning of life, and that pretty much covers everyone past the age of 12, discovering “The Age of Atheists” will be an enthralling and mind­expanding experience."
— Michael Dirda

"A vividly engaging conspectus of the formative ideas of the past century, The Age of Atheists shows how Nietzche's diagnosis evoked responses in many areas of cultural life, including some surprising parts of the political spectrum."

"[A]n exhilarating ride through the cerebra of disparate men…who have tried to fashion a Godless yet nonetheless ordered and sustaining worldview. It is a topical book, to be sure, but also one that will stand the test of time as a masterful account of its subject."