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Atheists in the 16-1700s (in the US/13 Colonies)

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Ready Steady Yeti View Drop Down
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    Posted: 20 Jul 2016 at 12:50
Does anyone have information about how atheists were viewed back in the mid 16 to late 1700s (in the colonies and newly founded country)? And how they acted, particularly?

What I really want to know is how discreet they were, and if they pretended to be Christians? I am especially interested in knowing how atheists got by in the Puritan area of the US (New England mostly), where it was looked down upon with much greater intensity I'd say than the south and definitely more than the Quaker areas. I wonder how secretive atheists in the Puritan area (which I'm almost certain there were a few) had to be.

I also would like to know how the ATHEISTS thought of the religious people, i.e. if they discriminated against them, or if they tended to be respectful of other religions.

Did they often go to church like the rest of the people (again, especially in Puritan areas) in order not to be prosecuted? Or were they more introverted and did they tend to stay away from the general population enough to the point where it would be harder for the population to know, or for them to even have a reason to prosecute the alleged atheist?

Idk, I just think it's a good topic of discussion. Anybody?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Montrose Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Dec 2018 at 01:22
I can't say how atheists and agnostics skated around the issue in puritanical 17th century New England, but I do know that more than a few of the Founding Fathers of the 18th -- Jefferson, Paine, Franklin, for example -- managed to avoid the stake or noose by declaring themselves deists. Deism is a belief that there is/was in fact a Creator, but that he doesn't interfere in the cares or goings-on of his creations. It's as though he took one look at these good-for-nothings, threw up his hands in disgust, and decided to let them fend for themselves. Consequently he answers no prayers and takes no sides in human affairs.

Consider that pre-Darwinist freethinkers, especially those in the public eye, weren't disposed to openly voice their opinions on the subject of religion; especially those with hopes of attaining high political office such as governor, senator, or president. Back then you couldn't get elected dogcatcher if you expressed any doubt whatsoever in orthodox Christianity. Then again, in my lifetime I've yet to see a candidate for high office who openly expresses his doubts as to the existence of God. Some things never change...
By doubt we come to inquiry; by inquiry we come to truth.
- Peter Abelard
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote toyomotor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Dec 2018 at 10:14
Had I been an atheist in those times, I would have definitely kept that to myself, even to the extent of attending church regularly.

Religious intolerance has been the cause of millions of deaths over the centuries. 
It's not that I was born in Ireland,
It's the Ireland that was born in me.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Montrose Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Dec 2018 at 03:50
Originally posted by toyomotor toyomotor wrote:

Had I been an atheist in those times, I would have definitely kept that to myself, even to the extent of attending church regularly.

Religious intolerance has been the cause of millions of deaths over the centuries. 
Being agnostic myself, I once got into a debate with a couple Christians over whether or not they, or theists of any persuasion for that matter, can really be deemed all that intelligent. I won't go into specifics or the main points brought up (in a nutshell mine was the fact, not premise, of evolution; theirs, "Because it says so in the Bible, and the Bible's without error!"), but these two were under the impression they had me on the ropes by countering that more than a few of the most brilliant thinkers and scientists of yore professed belief in Christianity; people such as Galileo and Newton, to name but a couple. Yeah, you'd better believe they expressed belief; if they didn't it would mean a most horrific death at the hands of the secular govt. via the Church's steadfast insistence, command, actually. They at least, were nobody's fools.


Someone once said that men are never more willing, more enthusiastic to kill one another than in the name of religion. Some of these bloodthirsty "religionists" believe they're going straight to Heaven if they kill in the name of their variety of God; no rotting away in a worm-infested coffin waiting around for Judgement Days for these dudes, uh-uh. They're tuning up and strumming their harps as we poor chumps attend their funerals.
By doubt we come to inquiry; by inquiry we come to truth.
- Peter Abelard
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote toyomotor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Dec 2018 at 09:41
Quote Someone once said that men are never more willing, more enthusiastic to kill one another than in the name of religion. Some of these bloodthirsty "religionists" believe they're going straight to Heaven if they kill in the name of their variety of God; no rotting away in a worm-infested coffin waiting around for Judgement Days for these dudes, uh-uh. They're tuning up and strumming their harps as we poor chumps attend their funerals. 

As a fellow agnostic, I agree with you.

Although raised as a Christian, attending church every Sunday, getting baptised and confirmed, as I grew older I began to question many of the Bible's contents.

I simply cannot tolerate people's intolerance of others, for what ever reason!!!Wink
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote franciscosan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Dec 2018 at 10:27
Voltaire was an atheist, so was Helvetius,  the French Enlightenment tended to be atheistic, Hume, on the other hand, was said to be too much of a theist for France, and too much of an atheist for Scotland (or England??).  
David Hume once fell into a bog while walking across Scotland, and old woman found him and made him say the Lord's prayer before throwing him a branch.  (he had a reputation of being an atheist).

I think that both Galileo and Newton believed in God, although Newton may have had some unconventional views of Jesus.  Newton read the Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides, and his view of a transcendent God (like Maimonides' transcendent Jewish God) allowed for him to develop his ideas of physics.

Atheists seem to think that the choice is between atheism and theism.  I think the choice is between separation of state and church or no separation of state and church.  Atheism and agnosticism might be able to "defeat" Christianity, but in doing so, I think they will only open the door to an Islamic fundamentalist state.  Islam has no idea of separation of church and state, and is not interested in such things.  So I ask you, what is your choice, keeping Christianity alive and vibrant with a division between church and state, or killing off Christianity, thus allowing Islam to come flooding in?

toyomotor,
So which intolerance will you accept, a mild Christian disapproval or Islamic fatwas ordering death to the infidel?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote toyomotor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Dec 2018 at 17:37
I think I'd have to go for the former.

Radicalised members of any religion are anathema.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote franciscosan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Dec 2018 at 12:38
now let's take the comparison a step further, would you prefer a moderate muslim or a fundamentalist Christian?  Keep in mind the moderate muslim may be indifferent to your agnosticism personally, but has no conception of separation of church and state and would be happy to support radical Islamists, like the velvet underground would be happy to support the red army faction.  There is no such thing as "radical Islam" because if you talk to muslims there is no such thing as going too far in support of Islam.

A fundamentalist on the other hand, may like the idea of a theocracy, but let's face it, a fundamentalist Christian (except Amish and mennonites) have the reformation and separation of church and state in their cultural background.  Also, let's face it, if we had a Christian theocracy there would be the question of whose theocracy, and everyone else in Christendom, would probably gang up on them.  Islam, on the other hand, has two major factions that have been at each other's throats since almost the beginning.  

So which would you prefer, a "moderate" who worships at the feet of a warlord like Moham-mad, or a fundamentalist who comes (perhaps reluctantly) out of the background of the reformation?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote franciscosan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Dec 2018 at 09:00
Fareed Zakariah talks about the muslim world right now going through its own reformation.  Of course, the Christian reformation was not that smooth either.  I think that it is a good idea for outsiders to encourage moderation in Islam, but at the same time, we should realize that that is not necessarily were Islam has come from, but may be where it is going.  But piety is not something that, if one is religious, one should be "moderate" about.  Protestants are not necessarily moderate, they just are more private and personal in their religion, preferring a direct interaction with the Bible, unmoderated by saints, and patriarchs.  Islam (IMO) needs to figure out how to play nice with others, and be "moderate" in the public realm, or at least the international public realm.  That is not to say they have to agree with everything, in fact Christians have often become wishy-washy in their beliefs, and in that respect maybe they could learn something from Islam about getting their spine back. 
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