The necessity of atheism: making sense of secularisation

Brown, C. G. (2017) The necessity of atheism: making sense of secularisation. Journal of Religious History, 41(4), pp. 439-456. (doi:10.1111/1467-9809.12448)

128823.pdf - Accepted Version



Atheists and atheism have a negligible place in the historiography of secularisation. This is because, it is argued here, secularisation is something that is too often measured from religion and, in one influential narrative, has a strongly Christian character to its progress and its outcome. Taking Charles Taylor's A Secular Age (2007) as a foil, this article explores longstanding suppositions about the nature of the religious past. It explores on the one hand the persistence of the notion of the “enchanted world” of medieval Europe despite the accumulating evidence to the contrary, and on the other hand the conception of late-modern secularity as veined through with concealed religiosity. Instead, the author posits that secularisation requires an appreciation of the possibility of atheism in all human periods, and quickly assesses some of the evidence, and then argues from oral history evidence that much can be learned from examining contemporary atheist life narratives about the diversity of forms this takes. The article proposes five foundational principles about atheism across the last 1,500 years.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Brown, Professor Callum
Authors: Brown, C. G.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > History
Journal Name:Journal of Religious History
ISSN (Online):1467-9809
Published Online:28 April 2017
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2017 Religious History Association
First Published:First published in Journal of Religious History 41(4): 439-456
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record