Unbelievers: An Emotional History of Doubt

Alec Ryrie. Belknap, $27.95 (272) ISBN 978-0-674-24182-4
This brief, entertaining volume from Ryrie (Protestants) explores the experience and practice of “unbelief” as it emerged in the modern Western cultures. He defines unbelief as a state of dissociation from or dissatisfaction with a dominant Christian religious narrative, and categorizes these responses as either an emotional story of anger or an anxiety that individuals put upon themselves. The former he considers a reaction against an overwhelmingly homogenous Christian society; the latter as the inability to keep one’s faith as sturdy as one feels it should be. Ryrie begins with a careful discussion of the history and changing definitions of atheist and unbeliever, and his reasons for using these particular terms. The bulk of the work concerns unbelief in Western Europe in the centuries around the Reformation, through the experiences of Protestants, Catholics, and various breakaway groups that sought to locate belief outside the organized church. Wrapping in and analyzing the writing of Machiavelli, Christopher Marlowe, and Walter Raleigh, as well as lesser-known figures such as Hannah Allen, Ludovic Muggleton, and Caspar Schwenkfield, Ryrie’s comprehensive research makes this a masterly piece of work. Ryrie’s deeply researched work is an enlightening ramble through intellectual history of opposition to Christian belief that will appeal to any reader interested in religious scholarship. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 08/16/2019
Release date: 11/01/2019
Genre: Religion
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