Revisiting the old books
by: John Tyrrell
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Last month, I republished on this site The Essence of Religion by Ludwig Feuerbach. I'm following it up this month with Faith or Fact by Henry M. Taber, a longer book, but I think, more accessible. You'll find, if you look back to the early years of the site, I put up a few such books previously, but let the project die as it was too much effort. But now, I intend trying to add another old volume each month.*
Why? Not because it's easier, by any means. It's much less work to turn out a rant castigating an outrageous comment by some fundamentalist preacher no-one has ever heard of before he put a video up on youTube.
But I have found through observing comments in various non-believer forums that there is for most participants a total disconnect from the past - an unawareness that the atheism, agnosticism, skepticism, humanism, and freethought of today is built on the ideas published more than a century ago. For those who read books (most don't seem to - they get their ideas from the Internet), it almost seems that disbelief started with Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and Dennett. And while I'm not criticizing them, modern atheism and agnosticism did not start with them. We should look to the latter part of the nineteenth century.
Oh - I know it is harder to read those old books - if you can find them. They didn't seem to know when to end a sentence - and even knew less about ending a paragraph. The train of thought seems convoluted, some words have changed their spelling and/or their meanings. Sorting out the arguments into the smaller chunks we are used to today can be time consuming. But I think the effort gives the reader greater understanding.
In the case of Taber's book, Faith or Fact, I ask you to at least read the Introduction and the Preface written by Ingersoll. Both are quite readable even by today's standards. I can only hope they are sufficient to tempt you into reading further as I add additional chapters.
The opening chapter, Christian Civilization and Christian Morality may seem a little dated, and definitely anti-English, but it is perhaps an interesting exercise to consider what Taber would write of the current actions of his own nation which today considers itself to be the leading Christian country. The second chapter, The Famous Thirty-six Infidels, also published today deals amusingly with a situation I have written about several times on this site - the lying Christian clergyman. It's interesting to see him track down the truth behind a Sunday sermon anecdote. Other chapters will follow every couple of days as I find time to proofread the computer text recognition.
* Recommendations will be gratefully accepted - hopefully with a source; even better if already in a publishable text format that I don't have to proofread.
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