Jennifer Michael Hecht, author of Doubt: A History, recently gave a talk at Rutgers University about her new research into “Poetic Atheism.”
The historical research is really interesting to me, and Hecht argues that the New Atheist movement breaks with our history, which was often based more in the humanities than the hard sciences. She argues that many of the great storytellers of history were potentially less religious than assumed, including William Shakespeare.
“If all of the great poets were believers, they would have been religious writers,” she said. “They didn’t believe dominant stories about what meaning is … John Keats, he never mentions Jesus. In Shakespeare, there’s none of this kind of religious thinking.”
She further suggests that many of the great writers wouldn’t have used the word ‘God’ if they had known the intellectual baggage it would carry today.
While some of these ideas sound a bit far-reaching, I’ll hold out judgement until I read the book. It wouldn’t be the first time that a news article glossed over the key details of a complex argument.
It sounds like a fascinating talk. I’ve never had the pleasure of hearing Hecht speak, but she’s definitely on my must-see list.
What are people’s favourite atheist poems (or at least poems that can be interpreted atheistically)?