Abstract

Abstract:

Historians of atheism have long agreed that the earliest published avowal of atheism in Britain came out in 1782. The present article resets the timeline for the history of avowed atheism by discussing a previously unknown atheistic pamphlet. Published anonymously in London in 1745, The Origins of Moral Virtue and Religion Assigned is not only the earliest explicitly atheistic tract known to date, but also one of the most radical documents in eighteenth-century intellectual history. It advocates for a return to a state of nature in which there would be no vices or virtues, and actions such as incest or murder would be seen as morally neutral. I make a cautious attribution of authorship to John, Lord Hervey, on the basis of biographical and stylistic evidence as well as philosophical affinity.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-315X
Print ISSN
0013-2586
Pages
pp. 357-379
Launched on MUSE
2021-02-05
Open Access
No
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