Are you familiar with the New Atheists? The late Christopher Hitchens wrote biting books about religion as “poison,” Richard Dawkins champions a sort of scientism as a replacement for faith, and people like Bill Maher spend time each evening poking fun at the pious. Despite their unofficial “New Atheist” title, they’re perhaps not actually all that new. Award-winning historian Leigh Eric Schmidt sees them as ancestors of village atheists of days gone by.
Atheists in American history have often been at the forefront of debates about the necessity of religion for healthy social life. They’ve fought legal battles over free speech and minority rights. In this episode, you’ll hear Schmidt tell the stories of four controversial folks who called themselves freethinkers—stories of integrity and courage, humor and hypocrisy.
We’re talking about Leigh Eric Schmidt’s new book Village Atheists: How America’s Unbelievers Made Their Way in a Godly Nation.
About the Guest
Leigh Eric Schmidt is the Edward C. Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor at the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis. He is author of the highly acclaimed book Hearing Things: Religion, Illusion, and the American Enlightenment, among other titles. His latest is called Village Atheists: How America’s Unbelievers Made Their Way In a Godly Nation (Princeton University Press).
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