I’ve recently finished the 1796 novel The Monk by Matthew Lewis. The following appears in the last chapter:
(the full text is available here.)
I know that there has always been a great deal of philosophical debate based on the existence of God and the perceived literal truth of the Bible, so I guess that this is a conclusion taken as a given following a lifetime of unswerving faith.
Having said that, he says that ‘his knowledge was too extensive, his understanding too solid and just’, which certainly implies a great deal of thought having gone into this position.
Firstly, can anyone tell me what would have been the ‘extensive’ knowledge and the ‘solid and just’ understanding that so disregarded atheism at this time? Was it the sort of reasoning along the lines of: 1. It says in the Bible that God exists. 2 The Bible is always right ergo God exists? Or would it have been something a bit more robust?
I suspect I can safely assume that there have always been atheists. I guess, too, that for much of the time atheists were in the massive minority, and atheists form a higher percenatge of the population now than in, say in the late eighteenth century. Assuming the above is correct, does anyone know when this shift started to occur or why? Did anything precipitate more conversions?
I’m reasonably well-read on the contemporary arguments for and against the existence of God, but I’m really interested in the nature of this debate through history.
Thank you all!