Unbelievers: An Emotional History of Doubt

Harvard Univ.. Nov. 2019. 288p. notes. index. ISBN 9780674241824. $27.95. REL
Emotional histories of religion can be hard to find, but this latest book, after Protestants: The Faith That Made the Modern World, from Ryrie (Christianity, Durham Univ.) highlights the dynamic role that emotions have played in the very human tendency to disbelieve religious claims. Two emotions particularly run through the work like a guiding current: anxiety and anger. With these two currents, Ryrie has an explanatory tool to pry apart the historical narrative of the rise of atheism during the Enlightenment. In doing so, he finds that unbelief is much older and more nuanced than many historians have credited. This is a history of unbelief that carries readers from ancient to modern times. Ryrie does well to insist that unbelief can be found in the religiously motivated as well as in those who have no need for any notion of God or gods. The author does stick to what he knows best; that is, the book is written predominantly with Christianity in mind.
VERDICT Those with an interest in the history of religion will be treated to a new perspective on the old opposition between believers and nonbelievers.
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