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328 pages, notes

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Contemporary Responses to Spencer and Huxley

Pyle, Andrew, editor

Until the nineteenth century, thinkers who entertained doubts about the existence of God were branded “atheists” and “infidels,” and were subject to persecutions. But in the late nineteenth-century Britain a group of highly respectable thinkers emerged who argued for the radical conclusion that theology is impossible, and that we humans cannot know what, if anything, lies behind the veil of appearances. This volume provides extracts of the best-known agnostics (Spencer, Huxley, Stephen, Clifford, and Tyndall), and their less well-known theological opponents. The debate marks a major turning point in Western attitudes toward religious belief; the burden of proof was henceforth firmly placed on the shoulders of the theologians.