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A Historical Bibliography> Table of Contents> United Kingdom

Please credit San Diego State University, Department of Religious Studies in publications. Copyright San Diego State University.

Deist Beginnings, Flowering, and Beyond

Edward Herbert, Baron of Cherbury (1583-1648)

Charles Blount (1654-1693)

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)

John Locke (information to come)

Matthew Tindal (1657-1733)

Thomas Chubb (1679-1747)

John Toland (1670-1722)

Anthony Collins (1676-1729)

Peter Annet (1693-1769)

David Hume (1711-1776)

Unitarianism in Great Britain

Joseph Priestley (1733- 1804)

Unbelief in England—the Nineteenth Century

Percy Shelley (1792-1822) and the Romantics

William Godwin (1756-1836)

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

Richard Carlile (1790-1843)

George Jacob Holyoake (1817-1906) and Austin Holyoake (1827-1874)

The Agnostic Tradition

Charles Bradlaugh (1833-1891) and the National Secular Society

Annie Besant

Twentieth-Century Humanism and Atheism in England

John Mackinnon Robertson (1856-1933)

Joseph Martin McCabe (1867-1955)

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

Antony Flew (1923-2010)

Unbelief in Australia and New Zealand


Deist Beginnings, Flowering, and Beyond

The British Isles were home to several stages of the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century. England broke with the Church in Rome but otherwise remained Catholic in faith and practice until Henry VIII (r.1509-1547) passed from the scene. It tried Protestantism and Catholicism for brief periods under Edward IV (r.1547-1553) and Mary I (r.1553-1558), and finally settled on the Anglican compromise under Elizabeth I (r.1558-1603). Meanwhile, a Calvinist reformation carried the day in Scotland and Presbyterianism came to the fore. England would brief try Presbyterianism in the seventeenth century during the Commonwealth (1649-1660), but Anglicanism again became the faith of the Church of England with the Restoration.

Non-Trinitarianism emerged quietly in the more radical of the Puritan sectarian groups in the seventeenth century, but its progress was inhibited by laws banning Unitarianism that were in place until the early nineteenth century. Meanwhile, unbelief in the essential doctrines of Christianity, in some cases implied and then positively advocated, began to appear in the seventeenth century. By the eighteenth century, Deism provoked a public controversy among the literate elite. The pioneering Deists texts, which beginning with the writings of John Toland (1670-1722) became bolder and bolder in their dissent from the religious consensus, provoked a veritable flood of responses by Christian authors from the popular to the academic. 

Deism was largely an intellectual challenge posed by individuals who were nominally Anglicans, and carried out as a war of ideas, a primary concern being it’s reaching out to a public that was increasingly liberal. Throughout the seventeenth century, individuals would be arrested and tried for publishing views considered a rejection of Christian belief. Deism was seen as a more serious concern once it was tied to the events of the French Revolution, and the religion of reason associated with the Reign of Terror (1793–1794).

Deism had little impact among the masses as a movement as it did not assume a social dimension by founding organizations that perpetuated its ideas. Discussions were carried out in clubs and societies that featured debates as a form of entertainment. Organization of groups that advocated various aspects of unbelief would be left to the Unitarians. Their initial chapels began to challenge the laws in the later seventeenth century.

In the nineteenth century, the Unitarian movement would finally attain legal status, and Deism would give way to full-blown atheism/Freethought.


Aldridge, A. Owen. “Shaftesbury and the Deist Manifesto.” Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 41, 2. Philadelphia: 1951.

Benn, Alfred William. The History of English Rationalism in the Nineteenth Century. 2 vols. London: Longmans Green, 1906. Rpt.: New York: Russell & Russell, 1962.

Berman, David. "Deism, Immortality, and the Art of Theological Lying." In J. A. Leo May, ed. Deism, Masonry, and the Enlightenment. Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press, 1987.

-----. “The Genesis of Avowed Atheism in Britain.” Question 11 (1978).

-----. A History of Atheism in Britain from Hobbes to Russell. London: Croom Helm, 1988. Rpt.: New York: Routledge, 1990.

Bernstein, John A., “Shaftesbury's Reformation of the Reformation: Reflections on the Relation between Deism and Pauline Christianity.” Journal of Religious Ethics, 6 (1978): 257-278.

Braly, Earl Burk. The Reputation of David Hume in America. Austin, TX: University of Texas, Ph.D. dissertation, 1955.

Buckley, George. Atheism in the English Renaissance. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1932. Rpt.: New York: Russell & Russell, 1965.

Byrne, Peter. Natural Religion and the Nature of Religion: The Legacy of Deism. London and New York: Routledge, 1989.

Champion, J. A. I. The Pillars of Priestcraft Shaken: The Church of England and Its Enemies, 1660–1730. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Craig, William Lane. The Historical Argument for the Resurrection of Jesus during the Deist Controversy. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1985.

Farrar, Adam Storey. Critical History of Free Thought in Reference to the Christian Religion. Eight Lectures Preached Before the University of Oxford, in the Year 1862, on the Foundation of John Bampton. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1963. 487 pp.

Grean, Stanley, Shaftesbury's Philosophy of Religion and Ethics, Athens: Ohio University Press, 1967.

Jacob, Margaret C.  The Newtonians and the English Revolution, 1689–1720. New York: Gordon and Breach, 1990.

——. The Radical Enlightenment: Pantheists, Freemasons, and Republicans. London: Allen and Unwin, 1981. 304 pp.

Hazard, Paul European Thought in the Eighteenth Century from Montesquieu to Lessing. Cleveland, OH: World Publishing Company, 1965.

Herrick, James A. The Radical Rhetoric of the English Deists: The Discourse of Skepticism, 1680-1750. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Hudson, Wayne. The English Deists: Studies in Early Enlightenment. London: Pickering & Chatto Publishers, 2008. 208 pp.

-----. Enlightenment and Modernity: The English Deists and Reform. London: Pickering & Chatto, 2009. 225 pp.

Kors, Alan Charles, ed. Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment. 4 vols. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Korshin, Paul, and Alan Charles Kors. Anticipations of the Enlightenment in England, France and Germany. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987. 320 pp.

Kroll, Peter, Richard Ashcraft, and Peter Zagorin. Philosophy, Science and Religion in England 1640-1700. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Lemay, J. A. Leo, ed. Deism, Masonry, and the Enlightenment. Essays Honoring Alfred Owen Aldridge. Newark, University of Delaware Press, 1987.

Lovejoy, Arthur O. “The Parallel of Deism and Classicism.” In Essays in the History of Ideas. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1948.

Lund, Roger D., ed. The Margins of Orthodoxy: Heterodox Writing and Cultural Response, 1660–1750. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
Important collection of essays related to Deism.

Manuel, Frank E. The Eighteenth Century Confronts the Gods. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1959.

May, J. A. Leo. Deism, Masonry, and the Enlightenment. Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press, 1987.

Orr, John. English Deism: Its Roots and Its Fruits. -- Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1934.

Page, Anthony. John Jeeb and the Enlightenment Origins of British Radicalism. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003.

Porter, Roy. The Creation of the Modern World: The Untold Story of the British Enlightenment. New York: W. W. Norton, 2000.

Reid, W. H. The Rise and Dissolution of the Infidel Societies in This Metropolis: Including, the Origin of Modern Deism and Atheism: the Genius and Conduct of Those Associations: Their Lecture-Rooms, Field-Meetings, and Deputations. London, 1800.

Siebert, Fredwerick S. Freedom of the Press in England, 1476-1776. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1952.

Stephen, Leslie. History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century. 2 vols. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1876. Rpt.: New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1962.

Stromberg, Roland.  Religious Liberalism in Eighteenth-Century England. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1954.

Toole, Robert, “Shaftesbury on God and His Relationships to the World,” International Studies in Philosophy, 8 (1976): 81-100.

Torrey, N. L. Voltaire and the English Deists. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1930.

Voitle, Robert B. The Third Earl of Shaftesbury, 1671-1713. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1984.

Waring, G. Graham. Deism and Natural Religion: A Source Book. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1967. 276 pp.

Wickwar, William H. The Struggle for Freedom of the Press, 1619-1832. London: Allen & Unwin, 1928.

Wiley, Basil.  The Eighteenth Century Background: Studies on the Idea of Nature in the Thought of the Period. Boston: Beacon Press, 1940, 1962. 302pp

-----. More Nineteenth Century Studies: A Group of Honest Doubters. London: Chatto & Windus, 1956.

-----. The Seventeenth Century Background: Studies on the Thought of the Age in Relation to Poetry and Religion.  London: Chatto & Windus, 1942.  Rev. ed.: London Ark Paperbacks, 1986. 288 pp.

Wollaston, William. The Religion of Nature Delineated. London, 1724.

Yolton, John. Thinking Matter: Materialism in Eighteenth Century Britain. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1984

Early Anti-Deist Writings

Clarke, Samuel. A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God. London: James Knapton, 1705.

Leland, John. A View of the Principal Deistical Writers that Have Appeared in England in the Last and Present Century. London: B. Dod, 1754–1756. 3rd ed. 1757. Rpt. New York: 1978.

Ogilvie, John (1733–1814). An inquiry into the causes of the infidelity and skepticism of the times: with observations on the writings of Herbert, Shaftesbury, Bolingbroke, Hume, Gibbon, Toulmin, &c. &c. London: Richardson and Urquahart, 1783, xvi, 462 pp.

Woolston, Thomas. Six Discourses on the Miracles of our Savior and Defences of His Discourses. New York: Garland, 1979.

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Edward Herbert, Baron of Cherbury (1583-1648)

Seventeenth-century British intellectual Edward Herbert, Baron Herbert of Cherbury, was an early proponent of Deism which grew out of a desire to build the search for truth solidly upon  the foundation of reason. This thesis was presented most forcefully in his 1624 publication De Veritate (On Truth)initially published in Paris. Herbert affirmed a belief in God, but rejected the idea of revealed religion. His approach would lead to the philosophical search for what we can know about God and the universe apart from revelation, a discipline usually termed “natural theology.” His writings would be common reading by the seventeenth-century Deists in both Europe and America.

Primary Sources

Herbert, Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury. Autobiography. Ed. by J. M. Shuttleworth. London: London: Walter Scott, 1988. 193 pp.  Rpt. as The Life of Lord Herbert of Cherbury. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Library, 2009. 216 pp.

-----. De Religione Laici. New York: Yale University Press, 1944. 199 pp.

-----.  De Veritate. 1624.  English ed. as: On Truth. Trans. by Meyrick H. Carre.  Bristol, UK: University of Bristol, 1937.
The first English translation of the reputedly "first" classic expression of Deism;

-----. The Poems, English and Latin, of Edward Lord Herbert of Cherbury. Ed. by John Churton Collins. 1881. Rpt.: New York: AMS Press, 1987.169 pp.

Secondary Sources

Bedford, R. D. The Defence of Truth: Herbert of Cherbury and the Seventeenth Century. Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 1979. 271 pp.

Hill, Eugene D. Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury. Boston: Twayne Publishing, 1987. 139 pp.

Ogilvie, John (1733–1814). An inquiry into the causes of the infidelity and skepticism of the times: with observations on the writings of Herbert, Shaftesbury, Bolingbroke, Hume, Gibbon, Toulmin, &c. &c. London: Richardson and Urquahart, 1783. 462 pp.

Stephens, William. An Account of the Growth of Deism in England. London: Printed for the Author, 1696. 32 pp.

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Charles Blount (1654-1693)

Charles Blount, a British Deist, who began publishing a set of skeptical writings in England beginning in 1673. He was unheralded in his lifetime, as all his writings appeared anonymously. His views were intertwined with emerging anti-Tory politics in the still infant Whig Party, founded in 1678.

His first book on religion, Anima mundi, was a almost comical survey of Pagan beliefs on the afterlife that in the end made fun of the idea of immortality. He followed with Great Diana of the Ephesians and The Two First Books of Philostratus concerning the Life of Apollonius Tyaneus, which included direct attacks on Christianity and its beliefs throughout in the footnotes. His final book, published the year of his death, The Oracles of Reason, included essays that challenged the possibility of Divine revelation and miracles. It also suggested that other worlds with life on them existed.

Blount lived a quiet life of relative ease in Staffordshire. He died following a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Several years after his death, his writings and a biographical sketch were published in a collected edition by Charles Gildon, who had edited The Oracles of Reason.

Primary Sources

Blount, Charles. Anima mundi. London: Will. Cademan, 1679.  109 pp.

-----. Great is Diana of the Ephesians. London, 1680. Rpt. 1695. 45 pp.

-----. The Miscellaneous Works of Charles Blount. Containing I. The Oracles of Reason. II. Anima Mundi... III. Great is Diana of the Ephesians... IV. An Appeal from the Country to the City for the Preservation of his Majesties Person, Liberty, and Property.... V. A just Vindication of Learning, and of the Liberty of the Press.... VI. A Supposed Dialogue betwixt the late King James and King William ....To which is prefix'd the Life of the Author, and an Account and Vindication of his Death. With the Contents of the Whole Volumes. Ed. by Charls Gildon. London, 1695.

-----. The Oracles of Reason. 1693.  Rpt. Whitefish, NT: Kissinger Publishing, 2010. 256 pp.

-----. The Two First Books of Philostratus concerning the Life of Apollonius Tyaneus. 1680.

-----, Thomas Sydenham, and John Dryden. A summary account of the Deists religion: in a letter to that excellent physician, the late Dr. Thomas Sydenham. To which are annex’d, some curious remarks on the immortality of the soul, and an essay by the celebrated poet, John Dryden, Esq; to prove that natural religion is alone necessary to salvation, in opposition to all divine revelation. 1745.

Secondary Sources

Champion, Justin A. I. “Deism.” In R. H. Popkin, ed. The History of Western Philosophy. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

-----. Pillars of Priestcraft Shaken: The Church of England and Its Enemies, 1660-1730. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Goldie, M. A. “Priestcraft and the Birth of Whiggism.” In Nicholas Phillipson and Quentin Skinner, ed. Political Discourse in Early Modern Britain. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993. 464 pp.

Ward, A. W., A. R. Waller, W. P. Trent, J. Erskine, S. P. Sherman, and Charles Van Doren, eds.  The Cambridge history of English and American literature: An encyclopedia in eighteen volumes. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons; Cambridge, England: University Press, 1907–21. See volume XI, Chapter 10, “The Deistical Controversy in English Theology; Charles Blount; Charles Leslie as Champion of Orthodoxy.

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Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)

Philosopher Thomas Hobbes was born in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, England, the son of an Anglican clergyman. After his graduation from Magdalen Hall, Oxford in 1608, he was employed by a well-to-do family as a tutor and remained in the employ of the family most of his life. He thus had access to a relatively large library and the intellectual world of contemporary philosophers and scientists. His primary contribution was to political thought, but his writings ranged over broad areas of knowledge. He emerged as a materialist and a nominalist (abstract terms merely pointed to the common attributes of particulars).

Religiously Hobbes has been seen by very differently by recent commentators, some viewing him as an orthodox Christian, other as an atheist, with various shades in between. Hobbes opened himself to various interpretations by excluding most religious questions from what he saw as his primary field of inquiry—philosophy. 

Relative to the basic question concerning god’s existence, Hobbes often talked and wrote as if God existed and in one text, the Elements of Law, he includes a cosmological argument for the God’s existence. He follows with a discussion reflecting some early Christian theologians that nothing can be know of God apart from His existence due to our finite state. In spite of Hobbes’ many references to God, some, such as Douglas Jesseph, claim that his ambiguous references really hid an underlying atheism.

While Hobbes is somewhat cryptic about his understanding of God (often contradictory and at time citing opinions that may or may not be his), he is less ambiguous about his criticisms of many widely held religious opinions.  He is most clearly downgrading of claims of dreams/visions in which contact with God is claimed and miracles stories.

Hobbes has bene the subject of several bibliographical studies. See William Sachsteder, Hobbes Studies 1879 1979: A Bibliography (Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Philosophy, 1982) and Hugh MacDonald and Mary Hargreaves, Thomas Hobbes: A Bibliography (London: Bibliographical Society, 1952): 84 pp. From the large selection of material, items cited below have been chosen for their relevance to Hobbes’ views on religion and God.

Primary Sources

Note: Oxford University Press is currently issuing what is becoming the standard edition of Hobbes’ works as the Clarendon Edition, which is slated to be completed with some 23 volumes.  As of 2010 about half of the proposed volumes have appeared. In the meantime, the Molesworth edition (which has been reprinted in modern inexpensive copies) remains the most complete.

Hobbes, Thomas. The English Works of Thomas Hobbes. Ed. by W. Molesworth. London: John Bohn, 1839–40.

-----. Leviathan. Ed. by A. P. Marinich. Broadview Press, 2002. 629 pp. Various editions.

Ralph Ross, Herbert W Schneider, Theodore Waldman, eds. Thomas Hobbes in His Time. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1975.

Secondary Sources

Ayres, C. E. “Thomas Hobbes and the Apologetic Philosophy.” Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods 16, 18 (1919): 477-486.

Blount, Charles. The Oracles of Reason. . . In Several Letters to Mr. Hobbs and Other Persons of Eminent Quality and Learning. London, 1693.

Bobbio, Norberto. Thomas Hobbes and the Natural Law Tradition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

Coleman, Alisa White Coleman. "Calvin and Hobbes": A Critique of Society's Values.” Journal of Mass Media Ethics 15, 1 (2000): 17-28.

Curley, E M.  “Calvin and Hobbes, or, Hobbes as an Orthodox Christian.” Journal of the History of Philosophy 34, 2 (1996).

Duncan, Stewart. “Hobbes's Materialism in the Early 1640s.” British Journal for the History of Philosophy 13, 3 (2005): 437-48.

Courtland, Shane D. “A Prima Facie Defense of Hobbesian Absolutism.” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 90, 4 (2009): 419-449.

Edwards, Jonathan J. (2009). “Calvin and Hobbes: Trinity, Authority, and Community.” Philosophy and Rhetoric 42, 2 (2009): 115-133.

Hampsher-Monk, Iain. A History of Modern Political Thought: Major Political Thinkers from Hobbes to Marx. Oxford: Blackwell, 1992.

Hampton, Jean. “Hobbes and Ethical Naturalism.” Philosophical Perspectives 6 (1992): 333-353.

Jesseph, Douglas M. “Hobbes's Atheism.” Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 26 (2002): 140–66.

-----. Squaring the Circle: The War between Hobbes and Wallis. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999. 433 pp.

Malcolm, Noel.. Aspects of Hobbes. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Martinich, Aloysius P. “Hobbes.” Journal of the History of Philosophy 27, 1 (1989).

-----.  Hobbes. New York: Routledge, 2005.

-----. “Leviathan.” British Journal for the History of Philosophy 13, 2 (2005): 349-359.

-----. The Two Gods of Leviathan: Thomas Hobbes on Religion and Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. 452 pp.

Milner, Benjamin. “Hobbes: On Religion.” Political Theory 16, 3 (1988): 400-425.

Mitchell, Joshua Mitchell (1993). “Hobbes and the Equality of All under the One.” Political Theory 21, 1 (1992): 78-100.

Paganini, Gianni. “Hobbes, Valla and the Trinity.” British Journal for the History of Philosophy 11, 2 (2003): 183 – 218.

Parkin, Jon. Taming the Leviathan: The Reception of the Political and Religious Ideas of Thomas Hobbes in England 1640-1700. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006. 470 pp.

Rosenberg, Aaron. Thomas Hobbes: An English Philosopher in the Age of Reason.  New York: Rosen Publishing Group, 2006.

Ross, Ralph Gilbert, Herbert Wallace Schneider, and Theodore Waldman. Thomas Hobbes in His Time. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1974.

Skinner, Quentin. 1996. Reason and Rhetoric in the Philosophy of Hobbes's. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Sorell, T., ed..  The Cambridge Companion to Hobbes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Springborg, Patricia, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Hobbes's Leviathan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. 554 pp.

-----. “The Enlightenment of Thomas Hobbes.” British Journal for the History of Philosophy 12, 3 (2004): 513-34.

Strauss, Leo. Hobbes's Critique of Religion and Related Writings. Trans. by

Gabriel Bartlett and Svetozar Minkov. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2011. 192 pp.

Tuck, Richard. Hobbes: A Very Short Introduction. London: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Whipple, John. “Hobbes on Miracles.” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 89, 1 (2008): 117–142.

Williams, Garrath. “Normatively Demanding Creatures: Hobbes, the Fall and Individual Responsibility.” Res Publica 6, 3 (2000).

Wright, George. Religion, Politics and Thomas Hobbes. New York: Springer, 2010. 357 pp.

Zagorin, Perez. Hobbes and the Law of Nature. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009.

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Matthew Tindal (1657-1733)

Matthew Tindal was one of the leading Deist writers of the early eighteenth century, his major work Christianity as Old and Creation becoming a favorite target of traditional Christian authors for a generation. Born the son of a Church of England minister, Tindal attended Lincoln College, Oxford and was later named a fellow of All Souls College. The student of a high church professor, he joined the Roman Catholic Church, but remained there only a brief time. Tindal’s early writing out of his legal training had a role in liberalizing the laws on the freedom of the press.

Tindal’s first significantly controversial book, the first part of The Rights of the Christian Church associated against the Romish and all other priests who claim an independent power over it was published anonymously in 1706. He argued for the state’s right over misbehaving Christians. Church authorities roundly condemned it, and it was publicly burned.

It was Christianity as Old as the Creation; or, the Gospel a Republication of the Religion of Nature (1730), however, that made Tindal’s reputation and set him on a pedestal as the leading Deist thinker in England. Drawing on the new approaches to human understanding articulated by Locke, Tindal argued that true religion must be both eternal and universal, and at the same time simple and perfect. Religion consists of nothing but the simple and universal duties towards God and man, that is, morality. His approach to religion suggested that particular revelations were to be disregarded and that worship was to be replaced with moral uprightness. Christianity should deliver humanity from the superstitions that caused them to deviate from true religion. The book would be translated into German and become the fountainhead of British Deist though in the German states. 

The writings of Matthew Tindal have been included in the massive Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) project by Gale Research Company and are also available in relatively inexpensive reprint editions.

Primary Sources

Tindal, Matthew. Christianity as Old as Creation. or, The Gospel a Replication of the Religion of Nature.  London, 1730. Posted at

------. The Defection Consider'd, and the Designs of Those Who Divided the Friends of the Government, Set in a True Light. London: Printed and Sold by J. Roberts, 1717. 55p.

-----. The merciful judgments of high-church triumphant on offending clergymen, and others, in the reign of Charles I. Together with the Lord Falkland's speech in Parliament 1640. relating to that subject. London, 1710.

Secondary Sources

Berman, David, and Stephen Lalor. “The Suppression of Tindal’s Christianity as Old as Creation, Volume 2.” Notes and Queries 229 (March 1984).

Lalor, Stephen. Matthew Tyndall and the Eighteenth-century Assault on Religion. Dublin: Trinity College, M. A. thesis, 1979.

-----. Matthew Tindal, Freethinker: An Eighteenth-century Assault on Religion. London: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd., 2006.

Reed, Orville. Beginnings of Rational Christianity in England, Culminating in Matthew Tindal's Philosophy of Religion.   1905.

Waring, G. Graham. Deism and Natural Religion: A Source Book. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1967. 276 pp.

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Thomas Chubb (1679-1747)

Thomas Chubb was unusual among the contributors to the growth of deism as he was not formally trained in any standard academic disciplines, rather he was a common man who worked as a glove maker and tallow chandler. Nevertheless, he authored more than 50 brief works on religious subjects, beginning with a non-Trinitarian assertion of the unity of God in 1715. In his Discourse concerning Reason, his most famous work, he argued against the changes in Jesus’ religion that begins with the Apostles and has grown into the institutionalized church and its theology. He proposes a stripped down religion very similar to that proposed by John Toland.

The leading theologian in the American colonies in the eighteenth century, Jonathan Edwards critiqued Chubb in his notable text, Freedom of the Will.

Primary Sources

Chubb, Thomas. A Collection of Tracts on Various Subjects. London, 1730.

-----. A Discourse concerning Reason with Regard to Religion and Divine Reason. London, 1731.

Secondary Sources

Benn, Alfred William. The History of English Rationalism in the Nineteenth Century. 2 vols. London: Longmans Green, 1906. Rpt.: New York: Russell & Russell, 1962.

Bushell, Thomas L. The Sage of Salisbury: Thomas Chubb (1679-1747). New York: Philosophical Library 1967. 159 pp.

Claggett, John. Arianism Anatomized: or Animadversions on Mr. Thomas Chubb's Book Intitled the Supremacy of the Father Asserted Etc. London: J. Darby. 1719. 99 pp.

Fleming, Caleb. Various Answers etc. to Thomas Chubb. 1738.

Horler, Joseph. Memoirs of Thomas Chubb, Late of Salisbury: Or a Fuller and More Faithful Account of His Life, Writings, Character and Death (1747). London, 1747. Rpt.: Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing 2010. 80 pp.

A Short and Faithful Account of the Life and Character of the Celebrated Mr. Thomas Chubb, Who Died Lately at Salisbury. in a Letter From a Gentleman of That City to His Friend in London. London: Printed for John Noon, 1747. 25 pp.

Stephen, Leslie. History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century. 2 vols. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1876. Rpt.: New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1962.

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John Toland (1670-1722)

John Toland, an Irishman, became one of the most well-known of the eighteenth-century Deists. Born in Ardagh, Ireland, he later attended the universities at Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leiden and Oxford. Shortly after completing his studies in Oxford, he published his first and still most notable book, Christianity Not Mysterious (1696). He attacked the idea of revelation in the Bible. As a good deist, he argues that the truth of religion could be discerned by reason from nature. All knowledge attributed to revelation was, in fact, discovered by reason, it was not a message from the divine. A grand jury attacked him in London, and his fellow Irishmen (already upset by his renouncing his childhood Catholicism) burnt his book in public.

Toland settled in London and wrote numerous books, most of an anti-clerical nature. He would be the first person labeled a freethinker, a derisive term at the time. He is also the first person to use the term “pantheist,” and some believe that the secretive Pantheist society described in one of his books actually existed. In any case, today’s pantheists look to Toland as the fountainhead of their belief.

He also became involved in the Treatise of the Three Impostors hoax, The treatise was a book rumored to existed (but never actually seen by anyone) in which Christianity, Judaism and Islam were branded as three great political frauds. Originally, Pope Gregory IX (r.1227-1241) claimed had been written by Frederick II and was cited as a reason for Frederick’s excommunication. At one point, Toland claimed to have a copy of the manuscript which he passed on to a French colleague, who published a French edition.

Historian David Berman has argued for the most radical reading of Toland as an atheist. Berman argues that Toland understood and knowingly wrote as one who had concluded that a God stripped of his most important characteristics is no God at all. Ultimately, Deism must lead to atheism.

Primary Sources

Toland, John. Christianity Not Mysterious; or, A Treatise Showing, That There Is Nothing in the Gospel Contrary to Reason, Nor Above It, and That No Christian Doctrine Can Be Properly Call'd a Mystery. London, 1696.

-----. John Toland’s Christianity not Mysterious, Text, Associated Works and Critical Essays.  Ed. by Philip McGuinness, Alan Harrison, and Richard Kearney.  Dublin: The Lilliput Press, 1997.

——. Letters to Serena. London: Bernard Lintot, 1704.

------. Miscellaneous works now first published from his original manuscripts. To the whole is prefixed a copious account of Mr. Toland's life and writings by Mr. Des Maizeaux. London: Printed for J. Whiston, S. Baker, and J. Robinson, 1747. 590 pp. Currently available from several print-on-demand publishers.

——. Reasons for Naturalising the Jews in Great Britain and Ireland. London, 1714.

-----. The Theological and Philological Works of the Late Mr. John Toland: Being a System of Jewish, Gentile and Mahometan Christianity. London: W. Mears, 1732.

Secondary Sources

Berman, David. "Disclaimers in Blount and Toland." In: Hunter & Wootton (eds.), Atheism from the Reformation to the Enlightenment. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1992, pp. 268-272.
------. A History of Atheism in Britain: From Hobbes to Russell. London: Routledge Kegan & Paul, 1988. 262 pp.

Champion, Justin. Republican Learning: John Toland and the Crisis of Christian Culture, 1696-1722. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2009. 264 pp.

Daniel, Stephen H. John Toland His Methods, Manners, and Mind. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1984.

Evans, Robert Rees. Pantheisticon: The Career of John Toland. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1991. 232 pp.

Fouke, Daniel C. Philosophy and Theology in a Burlesque Mode: John Toland and the Way of Paradox. New York: Prometheus Books, 2008.

Jacob, Margaret C.  The Newtonians and the English Revolution, 1689–1720. New York: Gordon and Breach, 1990. 288 pp.

------. The Radical Enlightenment: Pantheists, Freemasons, and Republicans. London: Allen and Unwin, 1981. 304 pp.

Sullivan, Robert E. John Toland and the Deist Controversy: A Study in Adaptations. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1959. 355 pp.

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Anthony Collins (1676-1729)

Anthony Collins was a English free-thinker, deist and materialist, a contemporary of  John Toland, Samuel Bold, Matthew Tindal, Thomas Woolston, and William Wollaston, and the aging John Locke. The son of a lawyer, he later attended King’s College, Cambridge and became a lawyer. He developed a broad network among contemporary thinkers and conducted a lengthy controversy through correspondence with the philosopher Samuel Clarke, a friend of Isaac Newton.

Much of Collins’ work, including his correspondence with Clarke, was related to issues of the nature of the soul and the free will-determinism question. Collins was determinist. Relative to the existence of god, contemporary scholars differ on Collins. James O’ Higgins sees him as a Deist, while David Berman argues that he is in fact an atheist. While clearly rejecting revelation. Collins can be read as either supporting natural religion or rejecting religion and God altogether.

Primary Sources

Collins, Anthony.  A Discourse of Free-thinking Occasioned by the Rise and Growth of a Sect call'd Free-Thinkers. 1707. New ed. by Peter Schouls. New York, Garland Press, 1984.

-----. An Essay Concerning the Use of Reason in Propositions.  London: 1707.

——. A Discourse of the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion. London, 1724.

-----. A Philosophical Inquiry Concerning Human Freedom. Rpt. in James O'Higgins. Determinism and Free Will. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1976.

Secondary Sources

Berman, David. “Anthony Collins and the Question of Atheism in the Early Part of the Eighteenth Century.” Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy (1975).

-----. “Anthony Collins: Aspects of his Thought and Writings.” Hermathena (1975).

-----. “Anthony Collins’ Essays in The Independent Whig.” Journal of the History of Philosophy (1975)

-----. “Anthony Collins: His Thought and Writing.” Hermathena (1975): 49-70.

O'Higgins, James. Anthony Collins: The Man and His Works. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1970.

Rowe, William. “Causality and Free Will in the Controversy between Collins and Clarke.” Journal of the History of Philosophy  25 (1987): 52-67.

Snoblen, Stephen. “An Eighteenth Century Debate between William Whiston and Anthony Collins.” Lumen 15 (1996): 195-213.

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Peter Annet (1693-1769)

Deist philosopher and writer Peter Annet was a schoolteacher dismissed from his post for his impious opinions toward Christianity and the bible and general hostility to the clergy. He initially gained some prominence as a deist writer at the end of the 1730s with his pamphlet, Judging for Ourselves, or Freethinking the Great Duty of Religion (1739), the catalyst for his loosing his teaching job. He also attacked the idea of miracles and the arguments for Christianity based on the credibility of the early Christian witness to the biblical events. He was among the first to put forth the notion that Jesus did not die on the cross, i.e., he was merely unconscious, and was revived in the tomb.

Annet’s writings have been included in the massive ECCO project by Gale Research, and his prominent works are now also available in inexpensive on-demand paperback reprints.

Primary Sources

Annet, Peter.  A Collection of the Tracts of a Certain Free Enquirer, Noted by His Sufferings for His Opinions. London, 1769. Rpt.: London: Routledge / Thoemmes Press, 1995. 458 pp.

-----. Supernaturals examined: in four dissertations on three treatises. . .  London: printed for F. Page, [1750?]. 147 pp. Rpt.” Charleston, SC: Gale ECCO, 2010,

------, and Smith Loftus.  The History Of The Man After God's Own Heart. London, 1766. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2010. 196 pp.

Secondary Sources

Herrick, James A. The Radical Rhetoric of the English Deists: The Discourse of Skepticism, 1680-1750. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Hudson, Wayne. The English Deists: Studies in Early Enlightenment. London: Pickering & Chatto Publishers (December 30, 2008. 208 pp.

-----. Enlightenment and Modernity: The English Deists and Reform. London: Pickering & Chatto Ltd (October 21, 2009. 225 pp.

Twyman, Ellen. Peter Annet, 1693-1769. London: Pioneer Press, 1938.

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David Hume (1711-1776)

One of the most outstanding of modern philosophers,  David Hume was the author of four of the most influential books of the seventeenth century, books still read today—A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-1740), the Enquiries concerning Human Understanding (1748), concerning the Principles of Morals (1751), Dialogues concerning Natural Religion (1779)–the last published posthumously. Born in Edinburgh, Hume was recognized as a precocious youth. He received little formal education, however, and, being largely self-educated, never held an academic post. He moved away from the Presbyterianism of his youth and even in his first book adopted a critical approach to Christianity (though he cut a chapter on miracles from the text in order to get it published without significant controversy).

Hume is best known for his empiricist views, based in his observation that the stuff in our minds about which we think and deliberate originates in either sense perceptions or from our ruminations about those perceptions. From sense perceptions we are able to build simple ideas which can then be combined into complex ideas. His position led him to attack a priori notions about the assumed connection between cause and effect, and from that position to a negative assessment of the many reports of miracles.

Hume eventually arrived at a reductionist view of religion, which he believed originated in the postulating of supernatural forces to account for phenomena otherwise unexplainable by people in the ancient past. Religion was originally polytheistic and relatively tolerant of variant views. It eventually became monotheistic and Hume believed monotheism was inherently intolerant. He thought that humans could eventually dispose of religion. His last book, the Dialogues concerning Natural Religion, includes a strong destructive critique of the argument for God from design, which had emerged as the most popular argument for God’s existence in Christian circles.  

Hume was accepted as a fellow atheist by Freethinkers in the generations since his Dialogues, though some still attempt to place him in the Deist camp. He never declared himself an atheist, but his arguments certainly allow such an opinion of him to be justified.

The literature on Hume is extensive, and those who wish to pursuer his thought may find many additional resources in Peter Millican, ed. Reading Hume on Human Understanding. Oxford University Press, 2002. Milliken also has an important David Hume Internet site at Additional bibliographical studies include T. E. Jessop, A Bibliography of David Hume and of Scottish Philosophy from Francis Hutcheson to Lord Balfour (London: A. Brown, 1938; rpt. New York: Russell & Russell, 1966); Roland Hall, Fifty Years of Hume Scholarship: A Bibliographical Guide (Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press, 1978); William E. Morris, "The Hume Literature, 1986-1993," Hume Studies 20:2 (Nov. 1994): 299-326; and James Fieser, A Bibliography of Hume’s Writings and Early Responses (Bristol, UK: Thoemmes Press, 2003): 211 pp.  Scholarship is correlated through The Hume Society,  It publishes the journal, Hume Studies, and has posted a complete index and volumes 1-31 online for the general public to access.

Hume’s major writings are readily available in a spectrum of reprint editions, and online through Project Gutenberg and other sites. The listing below of secondary sources centers on the questions of God and religious belief.

Primary Sources

Hume, David. A Concise and Genuine Account of the Dispute between Mr Hume and Mr Rousseau. London, T. Becket & P.A. De Hondt, 1766.

-----. Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. London, Robinson, 1779. Online at Project Gutenberg

-----. Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. Ed. by Norman Kemp Smith. Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill, 1962.

-----. An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals. London, A. Millar, 1751. The 1777 edition is available online at Project Gutenberg.

------. Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects. 4 vols. London, A. Millar/ Edinburgh, A. Kincaid & A. Donaldson, 1753.

-----. Essays, Moral and Political. 2 vol.  Edinburgh, A. Kincaid; 1742. Include in Essays, Moral and Political. London, A. Millar, Edinburgh, A. Kincaid, 1748.

-----. The Life of David Hume, Esq. Written by Himself. London, W. Strahan & T. Caddell, 1777.

-----. The Natural History of Religion. Ed. by H.E. Root. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1957.

-----. Philosophical Essays Concerning Human Understanding. London, A. Millar, 1748. Rev. ed. as: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding in Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects. London, A. Millar/ Edinburgh, A. Kincaid & A. Donaldson, 1758.   

-----. A Treatise of Human Nature: Being an Attempt to Introduce the Experimental Method of Reasoning into Moral Subjects, 3 vols. Vols. 1 & 2. London, John Noon, 1739. Vol. 3. London, Thomas Longman, 1740.   

Secondary Sources

Andre, Shane. “Was Hume An Atheist?” Hume Studies XIX, 1 (April 1993):141-166.

Beauchamp, Tom L. and Alexander Rosenberg. Hume and the Problem of Causation. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981

Bennett, Jonathan. Locke, Berkeley, Hume: Central Themes. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971

Berman, David. “David Hume and the Suppression of Atheism.” Journal of the History of Philosophy 21, 3 (1983): 375-387.

Braly, Earl Burk. The Reputation of David Hume in America. Austin, TX: University of Texas, Ph.D. dissertation, 1955.

Buckle, Stephen. Hume's Enlightenment Tract: The Unity and Purpose of An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2001.

Burns, R. M. The Great Debate on Miracles: From Joseph Glanville to David Hume. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1981.

 Dicker, Georges. Hume's Epistemology and Metaphysics: An Introduction. London and New York: Routledge, 1998.

Earman, John. Hume's Abject Failure: The Argument against Miracles. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Ernest Campbell Mossner, The Life of David Hume. Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson: 1954. 2nd ed.: Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980.

Flew, Antony. David Hume: Philosopher of Moral Science. Oxford: Blackwell, 1986.

-----. “On the Interpretation of Hume.” Philosophy 38, 144 (1963): 178ff..

Fogelin, Robert J. A Defense of Hume on Miracles. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003.

-----. Hume's Scepticism in the Treatise of Human Nature. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1985.

Fosl, Peter S. “Hume, Skepticism, and Early American Deism.” Hume Studies XXV, 1 & 2 (April/November 1999): 171-192.

Gaskin, J. C. A. Hume's Philosophy of Religion. London: Macmillan, 1978. 2nd ed.: 1988.

Hall, Roland. Fifty Years of Hume Scholarship: A Bibliographical Guide. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1978.

Harris, James A. Of Liberty and Necessity: The Free Will Debate in Eighteenth-Century British Philosophy. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005

Huntley, William B. “David Hume and Charles Darwin.” Festschrift for Philip P. Wiener.  Journal of the History of Ideas 33, 3 (July-Sept. 1972): 457-470. Posted at

Hurlbutt, Robert H. Hume, Newton and the Design Argument. Rev. ed.: Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1985.

Huxley, Thomas Henry.  Hume, with Helps to the Study of Berkeley: Essays. London: Macmillan & Co., 1887. 208 pp. Rpt.: New York D. Appleton & Company 1898.

Livingston, Donald W. Hume's Philosophy of Common Life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984.

Mossner, Ernest Campbell. The Life of David Hume. London: Nelson, 1954.

Noonan, Harold W. Hume on Knowledge. London and New York: Routledge, 1999.

Norton, David Fate, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Hume. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

-----. David Hume, Common Sense Moralist, Sceptical Metaphysician. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982.

Noxon, James . “In Defence of "Hume's Agnosticism". Journal of the History of Philosophy 14, 4 (1976).

-----. Hume's Agnosticism. Philosophical Review 73, 2 (1964): 248-261.

O'Connor, David. Hume on Religion. London & New York: Routledge, 2001.

Ogilvie, John (1733–1814). An inquiry into the causes of the infidelity and skepticism of the times: with observations on the writings of Herbert, Shaftesbury, Bolingbroke, Hume, Gibbon, Toulmin, &c. &c. London: Richardson and Urquahart, 1783. 462 pp.

Owen, David. Hume's Reason, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Penelhum, Terence. Themes in Hume: The Will, the Self, Religion. Oxford Clarendon Press, 2000.

-----. Hume. London: Macmillan, 1975.

Radcliffe, Elizabeth S. A Companion to Hume. Oxford: Blackwell, 2007.

Russell, Paul. “’Atheism’ and the Title-Page of Hume's Treatise.” Hume Studies XIV, 2 (November 1988): 408-423.

-----. The Riddle of Hume's Treatise: Scepticism, Naturalism and Irreligion. Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

 Smith, Norman Kemp. The Philosophy of David Hume. London: Macmillan, 1941.

Stanistreet, Paul. Hume's Scepticism and the Science of Human Nature. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002.

Stewart, M. A. and John P. Wright. Hume and Hume's Connexions. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1994.

Stroud, Barry. Hume. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1977.

Traiger, Saul. The Blackwell Guide to Hume's Treatise. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006.

Tweyman, Stanley. David Hume: Critical Assessments. Six Volumes, London and New York: Routledge, 1995.

Wright, John P. The Sceptical Realism of David Hume. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983.

Yandell, Keith E. Hume's ‘Inexplicable Mystery’: His Views on Religion. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990.

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Unitarianism in Great Britain

Anti-Trinitarian views appeared in England in the middle of the sixteenth century and throughout the Elizabethan Era, executions of individuals for holding such views sporadically occurred. The number of anti-Trinitarians began to grow in the seventeenth century with the arrival of Socinians from Eastern Europe. Anti-Trinitarian views would grow during the years that the Commonwealth set aside the Anglican establishment (1649-1660)

John Biddle (1615-1662), a school teacher in Gloucester, who spent the 1640s in and out fo prison for his views, published a tract Twelve Arguments Drawn Out of Scripture (1647) that argued that the Christian Scriptures did not support the doctrine of the Trinity.  His time in prison eventually took a toll on his health, and he died while in jail in 1662.

A non-Trinitarian religious movement began to take shape in the 1660s and become more public after the Act of Toleration (1689) extended new rights to dissenting groups. The Act, however, covered only those groups that did not deny Christian essentials, and most individuals who held a Unitarian belief remained within the Baptist, Presbyterian and Congregational churches. Unitarianism thus existed as a theological option within groups that were officially Trinitarian in their doctrine. An early attempt to gather a Unitarian congregation was made by Thomas Emlyn (1663–1741) in London in 1705.

In 1773, Theophilus Lindsey (1723–1808) left the Anglican Church, and established the Essex Street Chapel, with the assistance two clergy colleagues Joseph Priestley and Richard Price (1723-1791). With the aid of a few highly placed sympathizers, the chapel remained open until the Doctrine of the Trinity Act 1813, took away legal penalties for denying the Trinity. The British and Foreign Unitarian Association was formed in 1825. The Unitarians still faced considerable negative public opinion that only dissipated in the last half of the century.

Unitarians differed from Deists in that they were attempting to develop a non-Trinitarian Christian theology, whereas for deists, the critique of religion in general and Christianity in particular was at the forefront of their agenda. In the wake of their critique, Desist took the logical next step to atheism.

Unitarianism’s disagreements with Trinitarian Christianity indirectly helped prepare the way for the emergence of atheism, though as atheism emerged, its proponents would attack the Unitarians as a means of distinguishing their non-theistic position from the more conservative Unitarian dissent. In the twentieth century. Through the twentieth century, Unitarianism would nurture religious dissent and thus without prior intent provide a context in which a number of people would move toward a non-theistic perspective.


Bolam, C., Jermy Goring, H. L. Short, and Roger Thomas. The English Presbyterians from Elizabethan Puritanism to Modern Unitarianism. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1968.

Gordon, Alexander. Addresses biographical and historical. London: The Lindsey Press, 1922.

-----. Heads of English Unitarian History with appended lectures on Baxter and Priestley. London: Philip Green, 1895.

-----. Heresy: its ancient wrongs and modern rights. London: Lindsey Press, 1913.

Goring, Jeremy. “Unitarianism: history, myth or make-believe.” TUHS 19:4 (1990): 213-227

Hill, Andrew McKean A Liberal Religious Heritage: Unitarian and Universalist foundations in Europe, America and elsewhere. London, Unitarian Publications, n.d.

Holt, Raymond Vincent. The Story of Unitarianism. London: The Lindsey Press, 1931.

-----. “Strata in the Formation of Unitarian Church Tradition.” TUHS 3:1 (1923): 11-19

-----. The Unitarian contribution to social progress in England. London: The Lindsey Press, 1938.

Kenworthy, Fred. “The Unitarian Tradition in Liberal Christianity.”' TUHS 8, 2 (1944): 58-67.

Kielty, John. British Unitarianism, past, present and future [The Minns lectures 1959]. London: Lindsey Press, 1960.

Lloyd, Walter. The Story of Protestant Dissent and English Unitarianism. London, Philip Green, 1899.

McLachlan, Herbert. Essays and Addresses. Manchester: University Press, 1950.

-----. The Unitarian Movement in the Religious Life of England: 1. its contribution to thought and learning 1700-1900. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1934.

Mellone, S. H. Unitarian teachers: their lead in thought and work. London. The Lindsey Press, 1923.

Mickelwright, F. H. Amphlett. “A New Approach to Unitarian History.”  TUHS 8, 3 (1945) 122-129.

Short, Harry Lismer. Dissent and the Community. London: Lindsey Press, 1962.

Tayler, John James. A Retrospect of the Religious Life of England; or, the Church, Puritanism, and Free Inquiry. London: John Chapman, 1853.

Thomas, Roger. 'The Unitarian Tradition and its Significance.”  The Inquirer 6783 (January 30, 1973).

------. “The Unitarian Tradition and its Wider Horizons.” The Inquirer 6784 (February 3, 1973).

Webb R. K. “The background: English Unitarianism in the nineteenth century.” In Len Smith et al. Unitarian to the Core: Unitarian College Manchester, 1854-2004. Lancaster, UK:  Carnegie Publishing, 2004, pp. 1-29.

Webb, Robert K. “Quakers and Unitarians'.” In D. G. Paz. Nineteenth-century English Religious Traditions: Retrospect and Prospect. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995, pp. 85-115.

Wigmore-Beddoes, Dennis G. Yesterday's Radicals: a study of the affinity between Unitarianism and broad church Anglicanism in the nineteenth century. Cambridge, UK: James Clarke and Co, 1971. 184 pp.

Wilbur, Earl Morse. A History of Unitarianism. Vol. 2. In Transylvania, England and America Cambridge, MA:Harvard University Press 1952.

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Joseph Priestley (1733- 1804)

Joseph Priestley an eighteenth-century British scientist recognized for his discovery of several elements in their gaseous state, including oxygen, and prolific writer, was also known as a dissenting Protestant minister who held Unitarian views. A broadly learned scholar, he contributed studies in a variety of fields—history, education, grammar, etc. In 1767, he settled in Leeds as the pastor of the Mill Hill Chapel, a Calvinist congregation. While there he published the three-volume treatise, Institutes of Natural and Revealed Religion (1772–74), in which his Unitarian views became plainly stated. He also argued that one should only accept those revealed religious truths that could be aligned with one's experience of the natural world. He argued for his more primitive and simple view of Christianity over against what he saw as layers of accumulations represented by contemporary orthodoxy.

Over the years, Priestley defended dissenting churches and their right to exist. When in 1774, his friend Theophilus Lindsey (1723-1808) founded the Unitarian movement in England, Priestly defended him, attended his church, and on occasion preached for him. Priestley support of the American and then the French Revolution capped a quarter century of controversy, and he eventually found it convenient to move to the United States, where he participated in the founding of Unitarianism in North America.  

Interestingly, the first avowedly atheistic book published in Great Britain was an anonymous text, now generally attributed to a Dr. Matthew Turner, entitled an Answer to Dr. Priestley's letters to a philosophical unbeliever (London, 1782).

For more extensive coverage of material on Priestley, see R. E. Crook’s A Bibliography of Joseph Priestley (London: Library Association, 1966).

Primary Sources

Priestley, Joseph. Autobiography of Joseph Priestley. Ed. by Jack Lindsay. Teaneck, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1970.

-----. Collected Theological and Miscellaneous Works of Joseph Priestley. Ed. by John T. Rutt. 2 vols. London: George Smallfield, 1832.

-----. Life and Correspondence of Joseph Priestley. Ed. by John T. Rutt. 2 vols. London: George Smallfield, 1831.

-----.  Priestley: Political Writings. Ed. by Peter N. Miller. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

-----. Priestley's Writings on Philosophy, Science and Politics. Ed. by John A. Passmore. New York: Collier Books, 1964.

-----. A Scientific Autobiography of Joseph Priestley (1733–1804): Selected Scientific Correspondence. Ed. by Robert E. Schofield. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1966.

Secondary Sources

Anderson, R. G. W. and Christopher Lawrence. Science, Medicine and Dissent: Joseph Priestley (1733–1804). London: Wellcome Trust, 1987.

Bowers, J. D. Joseph Priestley and English Unitarianism in America. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2007.

Braithwaite, Helen. Romanticism, Publishing and Dissent: Joseph Johnson and the Cause of Liberty. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

Conant, J. B., ed. "The Overthrow of the Phlogiston Theory: The Chemical Revolution of 1775–1789." Harvard Case Histories in Experimental Science. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1950.

Crossland, Maurice. "The Image of Science as a Threat: Burke versus Priestley and the 'Philosophic Revolution'." British Journal for the History of Science 20 (1987): 277–307.

Donovan, Arthur. Antoine Lavoisier: Science, Administration and Revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Eshet, Dan. "Rereading Priestley." History of Science 39, 2 (2001): 127–59.

Fitzpatrick, Martin. "Joseph Priestley and the Cause of Universal Toleration." The Price-Priestley Newsletter 1 (1977): 3–30.

Fruton, Joseph S. Methods and Styles in the Development of Chemistry. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 2002.

Garrett, Clarke. "Joseph Priestley, the Millennium, and the French Revolution." Journal of the History of Ideas 34, 1 (1973): 51–66.

Gibbs, F. W. Joseph Priestley: Adventurer in Science and Champion of Truth. London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1965.

Graham, Jenny. Revolutionary in Exile: The Emigration of Joseph Priestley to America, 1794–1804. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 85 (1995).

Haakonssen, Knud, ed. Enlightenment and Religion: Rational Dissent in Eighteenth-Century Britain. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

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Unbelief in England—the Nineteenth Century

Nineteenth-century England proved to be one of the more creative places in the Western world and was certainly the time/place in which the Unbelief community moved from being a few voices crying in the wilderness to become a visible minority community that was actively engaged in changing society especially in relation to religious diversity, concern for blasphemy, the role of women, and free speech laws. The first purely atheistic book published in Great Britain was the anonymously issued Answer to Dr. Priestley's Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever (London, 1782). But just a generation later, the nineteenth century would be launched with a spectrum of prominent people who expressing their atheist views in print, none more prominent that poet Percy Brysshe Shelley. Largely inspired by French thinking, atheism, forms of socialism, much based in communalism, and ideas for social reconstruction that challenged assumptions of the religious tradition emerged in relative abundance.

The century of struggle to open space for atheists perspectives in England is punctuated by a variety of notable events including the legalizing of Unitarianism (1813); notable trials for blasphemy (Richard Carlile, 1818; Edward Moxon, 1841; Charles Southwell, 1841; George Jacob Holyoake, 1842; G. W. Foote, 1883); the founding of the Leicester Secular Society, the world’s oldest (1851); the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species (1859); the definition of agnosticism by T. F. Huxley (1860s); the founding of the Secular Society (1866); and the launch of The Freethinker by G. W. Foote (1881).

It was also the case that atheism would not have the prominence in British academia that it had, for example, in Germany, and that most atheist thinkers, beginning with the likes of John Stuart Mill, would push the cause forward with a implicit atheism, avoiding more direct challenges to theistic positions. Most notably non-theistic assumptions would hover in the background as major advances were put forward in the biological and geological sciences whose findings set many against Christian assumptions concerning the age of the earth and the manner of Divine creation.

The century would culminate in the careers of Charles Bradlaugh (1833-1891) and Annie Besant (1847-1933). Bradlaugh would emerge as the head of the Freethought movement and Besant one of its most able orators. After a notable career as an atheist, Besant would at the end of the 1880s convert to Theosophy, and have an equally outstanding life as its leader internationally. Besant’s conversion, often viewed as an embarrassing fact by some contemporary atheists, is primarily further illustration of the nineteenth century convergence of the Freethought and Esoteric communities, both of who opposed Christian hegemony in society and decried what they saw as the naïve supernaturalism in church life. Bradlaugh was, for example, himself a Freemason. Esoteric believers were generally theists, but posited a deity was quite similar to that of the Deists (and in France would be dispensed with by the Freemasons).

Besant was but one of the prominent females involved in Freethought and its associated issues relative to the status and role of women. Note is made of Harriet Martineau (1802–1876): Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1707-1851), Jane and Mary Carlile, George Eliot [pseudonym of Mary Ann Evans] (1819-1880); and Lady Monson (1803-1891). An additional number of women with Deist and Unitarian beliefs were prominent in many of the Victorian era social movements.

An early Unitarian group, the Philadelphians, founded in 1793, would through the last half of the century move toward atheism. Since 1824, it had operated out of a chapel at South Place, Finsbury, London, and assumed the name South Place Religious Society. In 1888, while under the leadership of Stanton Coit (1857-1944), an American who brought the Ethical Culture movement to England, it became the South Place Ethical Society. Coit also founded several other Ethical Cultures centers in the greater London area. All of these centers except the South Place group came together as the Union of Ethical Societies in 1896.

In the middle of the century, George Jacob Holyoake (1817-1906), encouraged the foundation of a number of secular societies, the one at Leicester being the oldest still in existence. The emergence of these groups led to the formation of a National Secular Society by Charles Bradlaugh in 1866. The National Secular Society would later be joined by the Rational Press Association in 1899.


Alfred, Guy A. The Devil’s Chaplain: The Story of the Rev. Robert Taylor, M. A,, M.R.C.S. (1784-1834). Glasgow: Strickland Press, 1945.

Annan, Noel. Leslie Stephen: The Godless Victorian. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986. 448 pp.

Barker, Ambrose G. Henry Hetherington, 1729-1849. London: Pioneer Press,                     1938. 62 pp.

Benn, Alfred William. The History of English Rationalism in the Nineteenth Century. 2 vols. London: Longmans, Green, 1906.

Blyth, Jack A. “The Origins of Secularism in Early Nineteenth-century Britain.” Dalhousie Review 92 (1972): 237-250.

Booth, A. J. Booth. Robert Owen, the Founder of Socialism in England. London, 1869. Rpt Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2010. 226 pp.

Budd, Susan. The British Humanist Movement, 1860-1966. Oxford: University of Oxford, Ph. D. dissertation, 1969.

-----. “Reasons for Unbelief among Members of the Secular Movement in England, 1850-1950.” Past and Present 36 (April 1967): 106-25.

-----. Varieties of Unbelief: Atheists and Agnostics in English Society, 1850-1960. London:  Heinemann Educational Publishers, 1977. 314 pp.                         

Burtis, Mary Elizabeth. Moncure Conway. New Brunswick. NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1952. 260 pp.

Chadwick, Owen. The Secularization of the European Mind in the Nineteenth Century. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990. 286pp.

Cockshut, A. O. J. The Unbelievers: English Agnostic Thought, 1840-1890. London: Collins, 1964.

Cole, G. D. Richard Carlile, 1790-1843. London: Victor Gollancz and The Fabian Society, 1943. 37 pp.

Conway, Moncure Daniel. Centenary History of the South Place Society: based on four discourses given in the chapel in May and June, 1893. London/Edinburgh: Williams and Norgate, 1894.

Courtney, Janet Elizabeth. Freethinkers of the Nineteenth Century. London: Chapman & Hall, 1920.

Davies, Charles Maurice. Heterodox London: or, Phases of Free Thought in the Metropolis. London: Tinsley Brothers, 1974. 386 pp.

-----. Unorthodox London: or, Phases of Religious Life in the Metropolis. London: Tinsley Brothers, 1875. 381 pp.

Davis, R. A., and F. J. O'Hagan. Robert Owen. London; Continuum Press, 2010.

Davis, Richard W., and Richard J. Helmstadter, eds. Religion and Irreligion in Victorian Society. London: Routledge, 1992. 205 pp.

Eisen, Sydney, and Bernard Lightman. Victorian Science and Religion: A Bibliography with Emphasis on Evolution, Belief, and Unbelief, Comprised of Works Published from c. 1900-1975. Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1984. 696 pp.

Eros, John. “The Rise of Organized Freethought in Mid-Victorian England.” Sociological Review New Series 2 (July 1954): 98-120.

Farrar, Adam Storey. Critical History of Free Thought in Reference to the Christian Religion. Eight Lectures Preached Before the University of Oxford, in the Year 1862, on the Foundation of John Bampton. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1963. 487 pp.

Foote, G. W. The Bible Handbook for Freethinkers and Inquiring Christians. 8th ed. London: Secular Society/Pioneer Press. 1937. 179 pp.

-----. Christianity and Progress. With a Chapter on Mohammedanism. London: Pioneer Press, n.d.  32 pp.

-----. Flowers of Freethought. London: R. Forder, 1893. 213 pp.

-----. Infidel Death Beds. London: Progressive Publishing Company, 1888. 180 pp.

-----. Reminiscences of Charles Bradlaugh. 1891. Rpt.: Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2010. 37 pp.

-----, and J. M. Wheeler. Frauds, Forgeries and Relics. London: North London Branch, National Secular Society. 1965. 32p.

Godwin, William. Memoirs of Mary Wollstonecraft. London: Constable, 1927.

Gould, Frederick James. History of the Leicester Secular Society. Leicester: Leicester Secular Society, 1900.

-----. The Pioneers of Johnson’s Court: A History of the Rationalist Press Association from 1899 Onward. London: Watts & Co., 1929. 160 pp.

Grugel, Lee E. George Jacob Holyoake. Philadelphia:  Porcupine Press, 1977. 225 pp.

Hartzel. Karl Drew. The Origins of the English Humanist Movement. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, Ph.D. dissertation, 1934.

Jacobs, Leo. Three Types of Practical Ethical Movements in the Past Half Century. New York. The Macmillan Company, 1922.

Knight, Margaret. Humanist Anthology. London Barrie and Rockliff, 1961.

Lane, Christopher. The Age of Doubt: Tracing the Roots of Our Religious Uncertainty. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011, 248 pp.

McCabe, Joseph. Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake. London: Watts, 1908. 120 pp.

McGee, John Edwin. A History of the British Secular Movement. Girard, Kans.: Haldeman-Julius Publications, 1948.

MacKillop, Ian. The British Ethical Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

Marsh, Joss. Word Crimes: Blasphemy, Culture, and Literature in Nineteenth-Century England. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1998. 362 pp.

Morton, A. L. The Life and Ideas of Robert Owen. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1962.

Mullen, Shirley A. (1992). "Keeping the Faith: the struggle for a militant atheist press." Victorian Periodicals Review 25, 4 (Winter 1992): 150–158.

-----. Organized Freethought: The Religion of Unbelief in Victorian England. New York: Garland Publishing, 1987.

-----. The Religion of Atheism in Victorian England. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Ph.D. dissertation, 1985. 264 pp.

Owen, Robert, and Alexander Campbell. The Evidence of Christianity: A Debate between Robert Owen of New Lanark, Scotland, and Alexander Campbell, President of Bethany College, VA, containing an Examination of the the “Social System” and all of the Systems of Skeptism of Ancient and Modern times, Held in the City of Cincinnati, Ohio, in April 1929. 1829. Rpt.: Nashville, TN: McQuiddy Printing Company, 1957.

Paz, D. G. Nineteenth-Century English Religious Traditions: Retrospect and Prospect. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1995. 232 pp.

Preistman, Martin. Romantic Atheism: Poetry and Freethought, 1780-1830. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Royle, Edward, ed. The Infidel Tradition from Paine to Bradlaugh. London: MacMillan Press Ltd, 1976.

-----. Radical Politics, 1790-1900: Religion and Unbelief. London: Longman. 1971.

-----. Radicals, Secularists, and Republicans: Popular Freethought in Britain, 1866-1915.  Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1980.

-----. Victorian Infidels: The Origins of the British Secularist Movement, 1791-1866. Manchester: University of Manchester Press, 1974.

-----, and James Walvin. English Radicals and Reformers 1760-1848. London: The Harvester Press, 1982. Rpt.: Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky. 1982.

Smith, Warren Sylvester. The London Heretics, 1870-1914. New York: Dodd-Mead, 1968. 319 pp.

-----. The Religious Speeches of George Bernard Shaw. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1949.

Smoker, Barbara. Freethoughts: Atheism, Secularism, Humanism - Selected Egotistically from "The Freethinker. London: G.W. Foote & Co., 2002

[Southwell, Charles]. An Apology for Atheism. London: J. Watson, 1846

-----. Superstition Unveiled. London: Edward Truelove, 1854.

Stein, Gordon. Freethought in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.  Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1981. 183 pp.

Stenhouse, John. "Imperialism, Atheism, and Race: Charles Southwell, Old Corruption, and the Maori." Journal of British Studies 44, 4 October 2005): 754–774.

Tames, Richard. Radicals, Railways & Reform. London, B. T. Batsford, 1986.

Tribe, David H. 100 Years of Freethought. London: Elek, 1967.

Turner, Frank M. Between Science and Religion: The Reaction to Scientific Naturalism in Late Victorian England. New Haven, Conn.: YaleUniversityPress, 1974.

——. Contesting Cultural Authority: Essays in Victorian Intellectual Life. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Wood, Herbert George. Belief and Unbelief since 1850. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1955.

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Percy Shelley (1792-1822) and the Romantics

In the transition from Deism to atheism in the nineteenth century, the romantic poets play an important role, none more so that Shelley who, like his friend Lord Byron was a Freethinker, only much more assertively so. The publication of his brief work, “The Necessity of Atheism,” in 1811 caused his expulsion from Oxford, though he escapes a trial for blasphemy. His father’s attempted intervention, and Shelley’s further refusal to recant his view, led to a break within the family. Subsequent visits to William Godwin’s bookshop in London led to his acquaintance with and eventual marriage to Mary Wollstonecraft (the author of both A Vindication of the Rights of Women and Frankenstein).

Shortly before Shelley’s untimely death at the age of 30, he joined with his poet colleagues Leigh Hunt and Lord Byron in the creation of a journal that was to be called The Liberal, in which their controversial writings on a variety of subjects including religion could be published.

Primary Sources

Shelley, Percy Bysshe. The Atheist Viewpoint: Selected Essays on Atheism. New York: Arno Press/New York Times 1972, 96 pp.

-----. The Complete Poetic Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley. Ed. by George Edward Woodberry. Boston, Houghton Mifflin Co, 1901.

-----. The Necessity of Atheism. Ed. by Nicolas Walter. London: G. W. Foote, 1998.  Rpt.: Girard, KS: Haldeman-Julius Co., n.d. 32 pp. Little Blue Book No. 935.

-----. The Necessity of Atheism and Other Essays. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books 1993.

-----.  The Shelly Papers: The Memoir of Percy Bysshe Shelley. London: Whittaker, Treacher, & Co., 1833.

-----. Shelley’s Prose. Ed. by David Lee Smith. London: Fourth Estate, 1988.

Secondary Sources

Bieri, James . Percy Bysshe Shelley: A Biography. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.

Blunden, Edmund. Shelley: A Life Story. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1965.

Chorley, Lady Katherine. “Victorian Agnostics and Wordworth.” Month 11 (April 1954): 2072-21.

Garrett, Martin. George Gordon, Lord Byron. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Hay, Daisy. Young Romantics: the Shelleys, Byron, and Other Tangled Lives. London: Bloomsbury, 2010.

Holmes, Richard. Shelley: The Pursuit. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1975.

Leighton, Margaret Tcarverr. Shelley's Mary: a Life of Mary Godwin Shelley. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1973. 234 pp.

Morley, Margaret. Wild Spirit: The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1993.

Preistman, Martin. Romantic Atheism: Poetry and Freethought, 1780-1830. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

St Clair, William. The Godwins and the Shelleys: A Biography of a Family. London: Faber and Faber, 1990.

Sloan, Gary. “Lord Byron: The Demons of Calvinism.” American Atheist 40, 4 (2002).

Weiner, Joel H. Radicalism and Freethought in Victorian Britain. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1983.

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William Godwin (1756-1836)

Political theorist William Godwin was raised in the home of a Presbyterian minister. He maintained the strict Calvinist theology through his early life but then evolved progressively from deism, agnosticism, atheism and then returned to a form of deism which he termed a "vague theism." He had already developed an interest in political issues when the French Revolution began. He generally supported the revolution thought upset about what he saw as irrational parts of it, and participated in an effort to publish Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man. He followed with a new analysis of society and how it should be governed which appeared in 1893 as An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Political Justice, and Its Influence on General Virtue and Happiness

In 1791 he met Mary Wollstonecraft whom he eventually married. She died giving birth to their daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, who later married Percy Bysshe Shelley. Godwin went on to become popular novelist and for many years ran a bookstore which became a popular meeting place for those holding radical political and religious views. He is remembered fondly by people holding anarchist views, as well as by feminists who consider him a man ahead of his time. His last works were some essays on Christianity, which he attacked for offering hope of a false afterlife.

Primary Sources

Godwin, William. Essays, Never before published, by the late William Godwin.  Ed. by C. Kegan Paul. London, H.S. King, 1873. Includes reedited version of The Genius of Christianity Unveiled.

-----.  Godwin & Mary; Letters of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft. Ed. by Rlph M. Wardle. Lawrence, KA: University of Kansas Press, 1966. Rpt.: Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, [1976].

-----. Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Ed. by W. Clark Durant. New York: Haskell House Publishers, 1969.

-----. The Anarchist Writings of William Godwin.  Ed. by Peter Marshall. London: Freedom Press, 1986.

-----. Collected Novels and Memoirs of William Godwin. Ed. by M. Philp. 8 vols. London:  William Pickering, 1992.

-----. Political and Philosophical Writings of William Godwin. Ed. by M. Philp. 7 vols. London: William Pickering, 1993.

Secondary Sources

Butler, M. Burke, Paine, Godwin, and the Revolution Controversy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1984.

Clark, John P. The Philosophical Anarchism of William Godwin. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1977.

Detre, Jean. A Most Extraordinary Pair: Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. Garden City, N.Y. Doubleday & Company, 1975. 328 pp.

Evans, Frank B. "Shelley, Godwin, Hume and the Doctrine of Necessity."  Studies in Philology 37 (October 1940): 632-40.

Kegan Paul, Charles. William Godwin: His Friends and Contemporaries. 2 vols. London: Henry S. King, 1876.

Kingsland, W. G. "Shelley and Godwin." In Poet-Lore. London: Robinson, 1898.

Leighton, Margaret Tcarverr. Shelley's Mary: a Life of Mary Godwin Shelley. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1973. 234 pp.

Locke, Don. A Fantasy of Reason: The Life and Thought of William Godwin. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1980.

Marshall, Peter. William Godwin. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984.

Monro, D. H. Godwin's Moral Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1953.

Pollin, Burton R. Education and Enlightenment in the Works of William Godwin. New York: Las Americas Publishing Company, 1962.

-----. Godwin Criticism: A synoptic bibliography. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967.

Stafford, W. "Dissenting Religion Translated into Politics: Godwin's Political Justice." History of Political Thought 1 (1980): 279-99.

Woodcock, George. William Godwin: a biographical study. Montreal; New York: Black Rose Books, 1989.

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John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

John Stuart Mill has been considered by many as being the most influential English-speaking philosopher of the nineteenth century. His far-reaching works on political theory, human rights, and moral behavior provide substantial evidence of such an opinion. He wrote less on religion, but much of his writing on other subjects led his contemporaries to assume his status as an unbeliever, especially the utilitarian moral philosophy for which he is most fondly remembered.

Mill was raised apart from any religious training during his childhood and youth. He then wrote little publically about religion out of fear it would distract from the public acceptance of his other writings. His essays on religion were published posthumously, and revealed his favoring a utilitarian approach to religion. Religion had a certain social utility because of its ability to inculcate a widely accepted moral code. At the same time he had concluded that belief in God and the supernatural was no longer useful and might have actually become detrimental. In his last essay on “Theism,” he left a slim opening for the possibility that God existed, but, in the end, surrounded that possibility with so many observations about any evidence of his handiwork and to negate any hope for God’s having a role in human life.

Primary Sources

Mill’s major writings are currently in print in a variety of editions, and the text of most are available online.

Mill, John Stuart. Mill, J. S., Collected Works of John Stuart Mill. Ed. by J. M. Robson, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1963- .

-----. Essential Works of John Stuart Mill. New York: Bamtam, 1965. 431 pp.

-----. Nature and Utility of Religion. Indianapolis, IN:  Bobbs-Merrill 1958. 80 pp.

-----. Three Essays on Religion: Nature, the Utility of Religion and Theism. London: Watts & Co. for the Rationalist Press Association, Limited, 1904. 112 p. Rpt.: Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books 1998. 257 pp.

Secondary Sources

Anschutz, R. P. Philosophy of John Stuart Mill. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1953.

Bain, A. John Stuart Mill: A Criticism. London: Longmans, 1882.

Berger, F. R. Happiness, Justice and Freedom: The Moral and Political Philosophy of John Stuart Mill. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984.

Britton, K. John Stuart Mill. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1953.

Brodbeck, M. “Methodological Individualisms: Definition and Reduction.” in M. Brodbeck, ed., Readings in the Philosophy of the Social Sciences, New York: Macmillan, 1968, pp. 280-303.

Bromwich, D., and G. Kateb, eds. John Stuart Mill on Liberty. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.

Carr, R. “The Religious Thought of John Stuart Mill: A Study in Religious Scepticism,” Journal of the History of Ideas, 23 (1962): 475-95.

Courtney, W. L. The Metaphysics of John Stuart Mill. London: Kegan Paul, 1879.

Di Stefano, Christine. “Rereading J. S. Mill: Interpolations from the (M)Otherworld.” In M. S. Barr and R. Feldstein, eds. Disconnected Discourses: Feminism/Textual Intervention/Psychoanalysis. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1989, pp. 160-172.

Donner, W. “John Stuart Mill's Liberal Feminism.” Philosophical Studies, 69 (1993): 155-66.

Donner, W. The Liberal Self: John Stuart Mill's Moral and Political Philosophy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991.

Donner, W., and R. Fumerton. “John Stuart Mill.” In S. M. Emmanuel, ed. The Blackwell Guide to Modern Philosophers, from Descartes to Nietzsche. Oxford: Blackwell 2001, pp.343-369.

Douglas, C. M. John Stuart Mill: A Study of His Philosophy. Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1895.

Duncan, G. Marx and Mill: Two Views of Social Conflict and Social Harmony. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973

Gilbert, Margaret. On Social Facts. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989.

Green, Michelle. “Sympathy and Self-Interest: The Crisis in Mill's Mental History.” Utilitas 1 (1989): 259-277.

Griffen, J. Well-Being: Its Meaning, Measurement and Moral Importance. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.

Halevy, E. The Growth of Philosophic Radicalism. Trans. by M. Morris. London: Faber and Faber, 1934.

Holyoake, George Jacob. John Stuart Mill: as some of the working classes knew him. London: Trubner & Co. 1873. 29 pp.

Jacobs, S. Science and British Liberalism: Locke, Bentham, Mill and Popper. Avebury: Aldershot, 1991.

Letwin, Shirley. The Pursuit of Certainty: David Hume, Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Beatrice Webb. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965.

Lipkes, Jeff. Politics, Religion and Classical Political Economy in Britain: John Stuart Mill and His Followers. College Park, MD: Delmar Publishers, 1998. 228 pp.

Okin, S. Women in Western Political Philosophy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1979.

Pappe, H. O. John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor. Melbourne: University of Melbourne Press, 1960.

Plamenatz, J. The English Utilitarians. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1949.

Popper, K. The Open Society and Its Enemies. 2 vols. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1950.

Raeder, Linda C. John Stuart Mill and the Religion of Humanity. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press 2002. 402 pp.

Reaves, Richard. John Stuart Mill: Victorian Firebrand. London: Atlantic Books, 2009. 544 pp.

Rossi, Alice, ed., John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor, Essays on Sex Equality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970.

Ryan, A. J. S. Mill. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1974.

Scarre, G. Logic and Reality in the Philosophy of John Stuart Mill. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer, 1989.

Schneewind, J. B., ed. Mill: A Collection of Critical Essays. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1968.

Skorupski, J. John Stuart Mill. London: Routledge, 1989.

-----, ed. The Cambridge Companion to John Stuart Mill, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Stephen, Leslie. English Utilitarians. 3 vols. London: Duckworth, 1900.

West, Henry R., ed. The Blackwell Guide to Mill's Utilitarianism. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006.

Whewell, W. History of the Inductive Sciences. 3 vols., London: J. Parker, 1837.

Wilson, F. “Mill and Comte on the Method of Introspection.” Journal of the History of Behavioral Science 27 (1991): 107-129.

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Richard Carlile (1790-1843)

Atheist publisher Richard Carlile began his adult life as a tinsmith in London. He became politically active and began to publish and distribute the writings of people who called for the reform of Parliament, including Thomas Paine, initially as a way of supplementing his income. In 1817 he formed a small publishing house, and a month later published a book parodying the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer whose author had been arrested. He was himself briefly arrested for his publishing the work. He also purchased the journal Sherwin’s Political Register, which supported political reform and found support from sympathetic voices such as Percy Shelley and Lord Byron.

Carlile was arrested for blasphemy (and several related charges), in part for publishing Paine’s Age of Reason.  In 1819 he was found guilty and sentenced to three years in jail. While there, he completed his transition to atheism and in 1821 he published his Address to Men of Science. That same year, his wife Jane and her sister Mary were also arrested and sentenced to prison sentences. More than 150 people associated with him were also arrested in a general suppression of his work.

Once able he resumed his publishing and championed a variety of causes including the equality and liberation [sexual and otherwise] of women.

Toward the end of the decade, now free from prison, Carlile became associated with one Rev. Robert Taylor who opened a center called the Rotunda that became a gathering place for both political reformers and politicians. Taylor published a satirical publication The Devil’s Pulpit, the issues of which reprinted sermons he had delivered attacking church.

Carlile was arrested again for his political radicalism. This last imprisonment bankrupted him and he was unable to resume his publications. He died a decade later in poverty and obscurity.

Primary Sources

Carlile, Richard. An Address to Men of Science. London: Printed and published by R. Carlile, 1821. 48 pp.

-----. The Deist, or, Moral Philosopher. Being an impartial inquiry after moral & theological truths: selected from the writings of the most celebrated authors in ancient and modern times. 2 vols. London: printed & published by R. Carlile, 1819, 1820.

-----. The Life of Thomas Paine: written purposely to bind with his writings. London: Printed and published by R. Carlile, 1821. 28 pp.

-----. Manual Of Freemasonry: In Three Parts. With an Explanatory Introduction to the Science and a Free Translation of Some of the Sacred Scripture Names. London: Richard Carlile, 1858 . 331 pp.

Carlile, Richard, and Michael L. Bush. What Is Love?: Richard Carlile's Philosophy of Sex. London: Verso, 1998, 214 pp.

Secondary Sources

Aldred, Guy Alfred. Richard Carlile, Agitator: His life and times.  London: The Pioneer Press, 1923. Rpt.:  Glasgow: Strickland Press, 1941. 160 pp.

-----. Richard Carlile: His Battle for a Free Press: How Defiance Defeated Government Terrorism. London: The Bakunin Press, 1912. 39 pp.

Alfred, Guy A. The Devil’s Chaplain: The Story of the Rev. Robert Taylor, M. A,, M.R.C.S. (1784-1834). Glasgow: Strickland Press, 1945.

Calder-Marshall, Arthur. Lewd, Blasphemous, and Obscene: Being the Trials and Tribluations of Sundry Founding Fathers of today's alternative Societies Most Notably: William Hone; Richard Carlile; George Jacob Holyoak; & George William Foote. London: Hutchinson, 1972. 248 pp.

Campbell. Theophilia Carlile. The Battle of the Press, as Told in the Story of the Life of Richard Carlile. London: A. & H. B. Bonner, 1899. 319 pp.

Cole, G. D. H. Richard Carlile 1790-1843. London: Victor Gollancz & The Fabian Society, n.d. 37 pp.

Fenton, S. J. “Richard Carlile: His Life and Masonic Writings.” Ars Quatuor Caranatorum 49 (1952): 83-121.

Holyoake, George Jacob. The Life and Character of Richard Carlisle. London: J. Watson, 1849. 40 pp.

McLaren, Angus. “George Jacob Holyoake and the Secular Society: British Popular Freethought., 1951-1958.” Canadian Journal of History 7 (December 1970): 235-51.

Nott, John William. The Artisan as Agitator: Richard Carlile, 1816-1843. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin, Ph.D. dissertation, 1970. 277 pp.

Prescott, Andrew. “'The Devil's Freemason': Richard Carlile and his Manual of Freemasonry.” A lecture presented to the Sheffield Masonic Study Circle, 2000. View online

Standring, George. Richard Carlile: a brief sketch of his public life. London: E. Truelove, n.d. 8 pp.

Wiener, Joel H. Radicalism and Free-thought in Nineteenth-century Britain: Life of Richard Carlile. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1983. 285 pp.

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George Jacob Holyoake (1817-1906) and Austin Holyoake (1827-1874)

George Jacob Holyoake was a British unbeliever who coined the term "secularism," which became a popular alternative self-designation for atheists in Victorian England. He became associated with journalist Charles Southwell (1814-1860) with whom he shared an interest in Robert Owen’s utopianism. Southwell founded an atheist journal, The Oracle of Reason, and when he was arrested, Holyoake picked up the editor’s role.

Holyoake lectured widely and wrote a number of shorter works published as pamphlets. Following a lecture in 1842 in Cheltenham, he was arrested and convicted of blasphemy. As it turned out, this conviction was the last in England for blasphemy (though not the last trial).

The Oracle ceased publication at the end of 1843, and Holyoake subsequently founded a new periodical, The Movement, which took a less extreme position and centered more on the promotion of communalism. It would later be superseded by the Reasoner.

George Jacob’s brother Austin was also active in the Freethought movement and for a period worked with Charles Bradlaugh, who founded the National Secular Society.

For a more detailed bibliography on the Holyoake brothers, see the “National Co-operative Archive: George Jacob Holyoake Collection,” posted at:

Primary Sources

Holyoake, Austin. Thoughts on Atheism, or, Can Man by Searching Find Out God? London: Watts & Co., n.d. 8 pp.

-----. Sixty Years of an Agitator’s Life. 2 vols. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1892.

-----, and Charles Watts, eds. The Secularist's Manual of Songs and Ceremonies. London: Austin & Co., n.d, 128 pp.

Holyoake, George Jacob. The Co-operative Movement Today. London: Methuen & Co., 1891. 5th ed.: 1912. 198 pp.

-----. English Secularism: A Confession of Belief. Chicago: Open Court, 1896.

-----. Excluded Evidence on the Ground of Speculative Opinion. London: London Book Store, 1865. 16 pp.

-----. The History of Co-operation. 2 vols. London: T Fisher & Unwin. 1906. 691 pp.

-----. John Stuart Mill: as some of the working classes knew him. London: Trubner & Co. 1873. 29 pp.

-----. The Last Trial for Atheism in England: a fragment of autobiography. 4th rev.  ed. London: Trubner & Co. 1871. 124 pp.

-----. Lectures and Debates: their terms conditions and character. N.p.: The Author, 1851. 8 pp.

-----. The Life and Character of Richard Carlisle. London: J. Watson, 1849. 40 pp.

-----. Life and Character of Henry Hetherington. London: 1849.

-----. Life and Last Days of Robert Owen of New Lanark. London: Holyoake & Co., 1859. 28 pp.

-----. The Limits of Atheism. Or why should sceptics be outlaws? J. A. Brook, 1874. 16 pp.

-----. The Logic of Death, or why should the atheist fear to die? London: Austin & Co., 1870. 16 pp.

-----. A Logic of Facts: or plain hints on reasoning. London: Watson. 1848. 92 pp.

-----. The Logic of Life: deduced from the principle of freethought.  London: Austin & Co., 1870. 16 pp.

-----. The Principles of Secularism. 3rd rev. ed. London: Austin & Co., 1870. 50 pp.

-----. Rationalism: a treatise for the times. London: J. Watson, 1845. 47pp.

-----. Sixty Years of an Agitator's Life. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1893.

-----. The Spirit of Bonner in the Disciples of Jesus: or the cruelty and intolerance of Christianity. 2nd ed. Hetherington, 1843. 16pp.

-----. The Trial of Theism: Accused of Obstructing Secular Life. London: Holyoake & Co., 1858. 176pp.

-----. The Uselessness of Prayer. Austin & Co., 1860. 2pp. (Secular Tracts No. 5)

-----, and Charles Bradlaugh. Secularism, Scepticism and Atheism: . . . two night's public debate. London: Austin & Co., 1870. 78 pp.

Secondary Sources

Blaszak, Barbara J. George Jacob Holyoake: an attitudinal study. Albany, NY: State University of New York, Ph.D. dissertation, 1978. 341 pp

-----. George Jacob Holyoake (1817-1906) and the Development of the British Cooperative Movement. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press. 1988. 120pp.

Collet, Sophia Dobson. George Jacob Holyoake and Modern Atheism. A biographical and critical essay. London: Trübner & Co., 1855.

-----. Phases of Atheism: described, examined and answered. London : Holyoake, 1860.

Grugel, Lee E. George Jacob Holyoake: A Study in the Evolution of a Victorian Radical. Philadelphia: Porcupine Press, 1976. 189 pp.

McCabe, Joseph. George Jacob Holyoake. London: Watts & Co. 1922. 120pp.

-----. Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake. 2 vols. London: Watts & Co. 1908.

Micklewright, Frederick Henmry Amphlett. “The Local History of Victorian Secularism.” Local Historian 8 (1969): 222-7.

Royle, Edward. George Jacob Holyoake and the Secularist Movement in Britain 1841-1861. Cambridge: Cambridge University, Ph.D. dissertation, 1968. 411 pp.

-----. The Infidel Tradition from Paine to Bradlaugh. London: Macmillan, 1976. 228 pp.

Smith, Francis Barrymore. “The Atheist Mission, 1840-1900.” In Robert Robson, ed. Ideas and Institutions of Victorian Britain. London: G. Bell & Sons, 1967, pp. 205-35.

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The Agnostic Tradition

The term “agnosticism” was coined by Professor Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895) in the 1860s. It has come to be used to denote on a personal level a position of indecision relative to the existence of god and on a social level as an assertion of the impossibility of reaching a conclusion. Many atheists have seen it as a way of assuming an atheist position while trying to avoid the social stigma that can come from making the final leap to full-blown atheism. For Huxley, agnosticism appeared to be a utilitarian position that provided a useful perspective to carry on discussions and debates on a variety of issues, but especially evolution and scientific methodology. He notably offered as a definition of agnosticism in an oft-quoted essay on the subject:

Agnosticism is not a creed but a method, the essence of which lies in the vigorous application of a single principle . . . Positively the principle may be expressed as in matters of intellect, do not pretend conclusions are certain that are not demonstrated or demonstrable.

He elaborated on this point by suggesting that one erred in professing certainty of the objective truth of a proposition apart from providing evidence that logically justifies such a level that of certainty. From this beginning, agnostics and the idea of agnosticism have become an essential element of the tradition of Unbelief. Such notables as Robert G. Ingersoll and H. K. Mencken described themselves as agnostics.


Adams, R. N. “T. H. Huxley and His Clan.” Scientific American 219 (1968): 135-39.

Allen, D. E. The Naturalist in Britain: A Social History. London: Penguin, 1978. 312 pp.

Annas, J., and  J. Barnes, eds. Outlines of Scepticism: Sextus Empiricus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Armstrong, Richard A. Agnosticism and Theism in the Nineteenth Century:  An Historical Survey of Religious Thought. London: Philip Green, 1905. 207 pp.

Barr, Alan P., ed. Thomas Henry Huxley’s Place in Science and Letters. Centenary Essays. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1997.

Bibby, Cyril. Scientist Extraordinary: The Life and Scientific Work of Thomas Henry Huxley. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972.

Block, Ed., Jr. “T. H. Huxley's Rhetoric and the Popularization of Victorian Scientific Ideas, 1854-1874.” Victorian Studies 29 (Spring 1986): 363-86.

Budd, Susan Varieties of Unbelief: Atheists and Agnostics in English Society, 1850-1960. London: Heinemann, 1977. 

Chorley, Lady Katherine. “Victorian Agnostics and Wordworth.” Month 11 (April 1954): 2072-21.

Churchill, R. C. English Literature and the Agnostic.  London: Watts 1940.

Clausen, Christopher. “Agnosticism, Religion, and Science: Some Unexamined Implications.” Bulletin of the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association 30 (1976): 73-86.

Cockshut, A. O. J. The Unbelievers: English Agnostic Thought, 1840-1890. London: Collins, 1864. 

Cohen, Chapman. Agnosticism or . . .? London: The Pioneer Press, n.d. 16 pp.

Creaven, Sean. “Materialism, Agnosticism and God.” Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 31, 4 (2001): 419–448.

Crowe, M. B. “Huxley and Humanism.” Studies 49 (Autumn 1960): 249-60.

Dawson, Warren R. The Huxley Papers: A Descriptive Catalogue of the Correspondence, Manuscripts and Miscellaneous Papers of the Rt. Hon. Thomas Henry Huxley. London: Imperial College of Science and Technology, 1946.

Desmond, Adrian. Huxley: From Devil's Disciple to Evolution's High Priest. London: Penguin, 1998.

DiGregorio, Mario A. T. H. Huxley's Place in Natural Science. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1984.

Dockrill, D. W. “The Origin and Development of Nineteenth Century English Agnosticism.” Historical Journal l, 4 (1971): 3-31.

-----. “T. H. Huxley and the Meaning of ‘Agnosticism.’" Theology 74 (1971): 461-77.

Fabro, C. God in Exile: Modern Atheism. A Study of the Internal Dynamic of Modern Atheism, from its Roots in the Cartesian Cogito to the Present Day. Westminster, MD: Newman Press 1968.

Flint, Robert. Agnosticism. Edinburgh-London: W. Blackwood, 1903.  Rpt. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1903. 628 pp. View online

-----. Anti-Theistic Theories. London: William Blackwood and Sons,1899.

Foote, G. W. What Is Agnosticism? With observations on Huxley, Bradlaugh, and Ingersoll, and a reply to George Jacob Holyoake; also a defense of atheism. London: 1902.

Forester, George. The Faith of an Agnostic or First Essays in Rationalism. London: Watts & Co., 1902.

Hallam, George. “Source of the Word ‘Agnostic.’” Modern Language Notes 70 (April 1955), 265-69.

Helmstadter, Richard J., and Bernard Lightman, eds. Victorian Faith in Crisis: Essays on Continuity and Change in Nineteenth-Century Religious Belief. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1990.

Hudson, Thomson Jay. The Divine Pedigree of Man, or the Testimony of Evolution and Psychology to the Fatherhood of God. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co., 1907. 379 pp.  Includes a chapter later reprinted as a pamphlet on agnosticism.

Humphrys, John. In God We Doubt: Confessions Of An Angry Agnostic. London: Hodder & Stoughton 2008.

Huxley, Julian. “Thomas Henry Huxley and Religion.” In Essays in Popular Science, London: Chatto and Windus, 1933, pp. 137-62.

Huxley, Leonard, ed. The Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley. 2 vols. New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1900.

Huxley, Thomas Henry. Huxley, Thomas H. "Agnosticism," Nineteenth Century 25 (1889): 169–194. Rpt. in In Thomas Henry Huxley. Collected Essays. Vol. 5. London: Macmillan, 1893–1894, pp. 237–239.

-----. "Agnosticism: A Rejoinder," Nineteenth Century 25 (1889): 481–504.

-----. "Agnosticism and Christianity." Nineteenth Century 25 (1889): 937–964.

-----. Selected Essays and Addresses of Thomas Henry Huxley. Ed. by Philip Melvyn Buck. NY:1921.

-----. Selections from the Essays of Thomas Henry Huxley. Ed. by Alburey Castell. NY: 1948.

Joshi, S. T. H. L. Mencken: An Annotated Bibliography. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 2009 . 392 pp.

Jensen, J. V. The Rhetoric of Thomas H Huxley and Robert G. Ingersoll in Relation to the Conflict between Science and Theology. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Ph.D. dissertation, 1959.

Joshi, S. T.  An Agnostic Reader. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2007.

Karnoutsos, George. “Agnosticism.” Journal of Critical Analysis 2 (July 1970):1-12.

Kenny, Anthony. The Unknown God: Agnostic Essays. New York/London: Continuum, 2004. 232 pp.

Le Poidevin, Robin. Agnosticism: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. 134 pp.

Lightman, Bernard. “’Fighting Even With Death’: Balfour, Scientific Naturalism, and Thomas Henry Huxley’s Final Battle.” In Alan Barr, ed. T. H. Huxley’s Place in Science and Letters: Centenary Essays. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1997, pp. 323-350.*

-----. “Henry Longueville Mansel and the Origins of Agnosticism.” History of European Ideas 5, 1 (1984): 45-64.

-----. “Huxley and Scientific Agnosticism: The Strange History of a Failed Rhetorical Strategy.” British Journal for the History of Science 35 (2002): 271-289.

-----. “Ideology, Evolution, and Late-Victorian Agnostic Popularizers.” In James R. Moore, ed. History, Humanity and Evolution. Essays for John C. Greene. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1989, pp. 285-309.

-----. “Interpreting Agnosticism as a Nonconformist Sect: T. H. Huxley’s 'New Reformation.'” In Paul Wood, ed. Science and Dissent in England, 1688-1945. Aldershot, Hampshire, UK: Ashgate, 2004, pp. 197-214.

-----. The Origins of Agnosticism: Victorian Unbelief and the Limits of Knowledge. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987. 249 pp.

-----. “Pope Huxley and the Church Agnostic: The Religion of Science.” In Historical Papers (1983): 150-163).

Livington, James C. “British Agnosticism.” In Ninian Smart, John Clayton, Patrick Sherry, and Steven T. Katz, eds.  Nineteenth Century Religious Thought in the West. 2 viols. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

Lucas, George J. Agnosticism and Religion: Being an Examination of Spencer's Religion of the Unknowable, Preceded By a History of Agnosticism. New York: Christian Press Association Publishing Co., 1895. 136 pp.

McCabe, Joseph. Freethought and Agnosticism: Lies and Confusion in Conventional Literature (Little Blue Book 1791). Girard, KS: Haldeman-Julius 1943. 32 pp.

Oppy, Graham. “Weak Agnosticism Defended.” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 36, 3 (1994).

Peel, J. D. Y. Herbert Spencer: The Evolution of a Sociologist. New York: Basic Books, 1971.

Pingree, Jeanne. T. H. Huxley: A List of His Scientific Papers. London: Imperial College of Science and Technology 1968.

-----. Thomas Henry Huxley: List of His Correspondence with Miss Henrietta Heathorn, 1847-1854. London: Imperial College of Science and Technology 1969.

Popkin, R. H. The History of Scepticism from Erasmus to Spinoza. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979.

-----.  The History of Scepticism from Savonarola to Bayle. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

-----, and C. B. Schmitt, eds., Scepticism from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1987.

Porpora, Douglas V. “Methodological Atheism, Methodological Agnosticism and Religious Experience.” Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 36, 1 (2006): 57–75.

Pyle, Andrew, ed. Agnosticism: Contemporary Responses to Spencer and Huxley. Bristol: Thoemmes, 1995.

Reed, Thomas McHugh. “Christianity and Agnosticism.” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 52, 2 (2002): 81-95.

Rosenkranz, Sven. “Agnosticism as a Third Stance.” Mind 116, 461 (2007): 55-104.

Schurman, Jacob G. Agnosticism and Religion. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1896. 190 pp.

Spencer, Herbert. First Principles. London: Williams and Norgate, 1862.

Stenerson, Douglas C. H. L. Mencken: Iconoclast from Baltimore. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971.

Steven, Leslie. An Agnostic's Apology and Other Essays. London: Watts, 1937. 231 pp.

Turner, Frank M. Between Science and Religion: The Reaction to Scientific Naturalism in Late Victorian England. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Pres, 1974. 

Wall, James Kirk. To Be an Agnostic: An Agnostic Approach to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2009. 176 pp.

Ward, James, Naturalism and Agnosticism. 2 vols. New York Macmillan Company, 1899.

White, Paul. Thomas Huxley: Making the "Man of Science." Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

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Charles Bradlaugh (1833-1891) and the National Secular Society

Political activist Charles Bradlaugh was the most outstanding of the late-nineteenth century Freethinkers. Born in London, he was raised as an Anglican. He left the church as a teenager and was was thrown out of the family home. He lived for a time with Elizabeth Sharples Carlile, the widow of Richard Carlile, and soon came to know George Jacob Holyoake, who coined the tern secularism.  He was but 17 when he authored his first publication representing his new Freethought position, A Few Words on the Christian Creed.

After a stint in the army, Bradlaugh settled in London in 1853 and began to write under the pseudonym "Iconoclast." He became president of the London Secular Society in 1858 and two-year later editor of the National Reformer. In 1866 he co-founded the National Secular Society, which would soon become the leading Freethought organization in England. He also came to know Annie Besant, the former wife of an Anglican minister with whom he worked closely for many years. Together they opposed blasphemy laws and worked for freedom of speech on birth control issues. The pair was tried for obscenity in 1877. Though convicted, they escaped imprisonment.

In 1880, Bradlaugh was elected a Member of Parliament for Northampton, his election setting off an eight-year period of debates and actions challenging the religious nature of the oath for taking office. A new Oaths Act was finally passed which responded to Bradlaugh’s challenge. He is today memorialized by celebrations on his birthday, a statue in Northampton, and Bradlaugh Hall at the University of Northampton.

A prolific writer, Bradlaugh wrote numerous pamphlets and articles. These have been the subject of many anthologies and collected works. Also, many of his writings are now available online, especially at

Primary Sources

Bradlaugh, Charles. Debates and Essays-a Bound Collection of 13 Core Bradlaugh Pamphlets and Tracts Incl. 'is It Reasonable to Worship God', 'Christian Theism' and 'Christian Evidences.' London: Freethought Publishing Company [1880-1900].

-----. Essays on Freethought and Allied Subjects. A bound collection of 14 pamphlets and tracts including Evolutionary Ethics, Foreign Missions, Woman and Christianity, and Pioneer Leaflets. London; Freethought Publishing Company [1882-1890].

-----. A Few Words About the Devil, and Other Biographical Sketches and Essays. New York: A. K. Butts & Co., 1874.

-----. Hall of Science Thursday Lectures. London: Freethought Publishing Co., 1882.
Includes Bradlaugh lectures on Anthropology, as well as Annie Besant and Hypatia Bradlaugh’s lectures on the physiology and chemistry of the home, and Edward Aveling’s lectures on Shakespeare.

-----. Humanity’s Gain from Unbelief and Other Selections from the Works of Charles Bradlaugh. Ed. by Hypathia Bradlaugh Bonner. London, Great Britain: Watts & Co, 1932. 148pp. The Thinker's Library #4.

-----. A Plea for Atheism.  London: Austin & Co., London, [1864]. 23 pp.

-----. A Selection of the Political Pamphlets of Charles Bradlaugh. Ed. By J. Saville. New York: Kelley, 1970.

Grant, Brewin, and Charles Bradlaugh. Discussion on Atheism: Report of a Public Discussion Between the Rev. Brewin Grant, B.A., and Charles Bradlaugh. London: Henry Hodge, 1875. 255 pp.

Secondary Works

Arnstein, Walter L. The Bradlaugh Case: a Study in Late Victorian Opinion and Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1965. 2nd ed. as: The Bradlaugh Case: Atheism, Sex and Politics Among the Late Victorians, Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1983.

Besant, Annie. Charles Bradlaugh: a sketch of his life and work. San Francisco: The Reader's Library, 1891. 39 p. The Reader's Library Vol. 1, no. 1. Posted at

Bonner, Hypathia Bradlaugh. Charles Bradlaugh: A Record of his Life and Work. With an Account of his Parliamentary Struggle, Politics and Teachings by John M. Robertson, M.P. 2 vols. 1894. Rpt. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1908.

-----. “Charles Bradlaugh as a Freemason.” Notes and Queries 166 (May 26, 1934): 370; (June 9, 1934): 411-12.

Chandrasekhar, Aripati. A Dirty Filthy Book: The Writings of Charles Knowlton and Annie Besant on Reproductive Physiology and Birth Control and an Account of the Bradlaugh-Besant Trial. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1981. 232 pp.

Cockshut, A. O. J. The Unbelievers: English Agnostic Thought, 1840-1890. London: Collins, 1964.

Courtney, James E. Freethinkers of the Nineteenth Century. London: Chapman & Hall, 1920.

Davies, Charles Maurice. Heterodox London: or, Phases of Free Thought in the Metropolis. London: Tinsley Brothers, 1974. 386 pp.

Foote, George William. Reminiscences of Charles Bradlaugh. 1891. Rpt.:  Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2010. 37 pp.

Gilmour, James, ed.  Charles Bradlaugh: Champion of Liberty. London: C. A. Watts, 1933. 346 pp.  (A collection of works by Bradlaugh with a variety of appreciations written for the centennial of his birth.)

Headingley, Adolphe S. The Biography of Charles Bradlaugh. Remington & Co.. 1880. London: Freethought Publishing Company, 1883. 212 pp.  Rpt.: Kessinger Publishing, 2004. 212 pp.

Herrick, Jim. Vision and Reform: the Freethinker 1881 to 1981. London: G. W. Foote, 1982.

Holyoake, George J. and Charles Bradlaugh. Secularism. Scepticism and Atheism (a two-night public debate). London: Austin, 1870.

Ilardo, J. A. “Charles Bradlaugh: Victorian Atheist Reformer.” Today’s Speech: Journal of the Speech Association of the Eastern States 17 (November 1969) 25-34.

Krantz, Charles Krzentowski. The British Secularist Movement: A Study of Militant Dissent. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester, Ph.D. dissertation, 9164.

McCann, James, and Charles Bradlaugh. Secularism: unphilosophical, immoral, and anti-social: verbatim report of a three nights' debate between the Rev. Dr. McCann and Charles Bradlaugh, in the Hall of Science, London, on December 7th, 14th, and 21st, 1881.  1881. Rpt.: Pranava Books, New. 2008. 

McGee, John Edwin. A History of the British Secular Movement. Girard, Kans.: Haldeman-Julius Publications, 1948.

Mackay, Charles R. Life of Charles Bradlaugh, M. P.    D. J. Gunn & Co., 1888.

Manvell, Roger. The Trial of Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh. New York: Horizon Press, 1976. 182 pp.

Nelson, Walter D. British Rational Secularism: Unbelief from Bradlaugh to the Mid-twentieth Century. Seattle, WA: University of Washington, Ph.D. dissertation, 1963.

Royle, Edward, ed. The Infidel Tradition from Paine to Bradlaugh. London: MacMillan Press Ltd, 1976.

-----. Radical Politics, 1790-1900: Religion and Unbelief. London: Longman. 1971. 

-----. Radicals, Secularists, and Republicans: Popular Freethought in Britain, 1866-1915.  Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1980.

-----. Victorian Infidels: The Origins of the British Secularist Movement, 1791-1866. Manchester: University of Manchester Press, 1974.

Steele, Michael Rhoads. Secularist Literature of Victorian England: 1870-1880. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University, Ph.D. dissertation, 1975.

Tribe, David H. 100 Years of Freethought. London: Elek Books, 1967.

-----. President Charles Bradlaugh, M.P. London: Elek, 1971.
Tribe was the president of the National Secular Society and editor of The Freethinker.

-----. “Secular Centenary.” Contemporary Review 209 (1966): 200-205.

Watson, John Gillard. “From Secularism to Humanism: An Aspect of Victorian Thought.” Hibbert Journal 60 (January 1962): 133-40.

Weiner, Joel H. Radicalism and Freethought in Victorian Britain. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1983.

West, Geoffrey. The Life of Annie Besant. London: Gerald Howe. 1929. 295pp.

White, A. Gowans. “Victorian Rationalism and Religion.” Rationalist Annual (1949): 81-88.

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Annie Besant

Annie Besant, one of the most controversial figures in the history of Freethought, was the wife of an Anglican clergyman, who lost her faith and became an atheist. Following her separation from her husband, she became associated with Charles Bradlaugh, and with her oratorical skills, became one of the most popular public advocates of atheism, the promotion of the status and role of women, and the end of blasphemy (and obscenity) laws. Many of her lectures were transcribed and published as pamphlets.

The most controversial action came at the end of the 1880s when she developed a relationship with Helena P. Blavatsky, co-founder of the Theosophical Society, she eventually left her position with the National Secular Society to head the Esoteri Section of the Theosophical Society and then to succeed Henry Steel Olcott as the society’s international president. She would hold that post for more than a quarter of a century.

Besant’s action in becoming a theosophist was seen by many atheists as a betrayal and a sharp break with her life as a secularist. Many contemporary writers simple leave her out of the history as much as possible. Others, however, have seen her move to Theosophy as a less radical move, that maintained much continuity with the Freethought. In the nineteenth century a convergence of Unbelief and Esotericism existed as both struggled with the power of the churches and traditional theology. Both movements shared roots in the Deist thinking of the previous century. Also, as a theosophist, Besant continued many of the causes she had championed as a secularist, especially the work for the upward mobility of women, and further broadened her social consciousness.

The references below are selected from Besant’s many relevant works with an emphasis on her years as an atheist working with Bradlaugh. Several collections covering these years now exist and make the more representative publications readily available. Many of the works were originally published anonymously. For a more complete bibliography, covering the atheist years as well as the other phases of Besant’s life and work, see Kurt Leland’s “The Annie Besant Shrine: A Bibliography of Annie Besant (1847-1933)” posted at

Collected Works

-----. The Origins of Theosophy: Annie Besant--The Atheist Years. Comp. by J. Gordon Melton. New York, NY: Garland Publishing 1990.
Includes 13 Secular and Freethought pamphlets: 1) The Gospel of Christianity and the Gospel of Freethought; 2) The Christian Creed; 3) The World without God; 4) The Jesus of the Gospels; 5) The World and Its Gods; 6) Life, Death, and Immortality; 7) Biblical Biology; 8) A Burden on Labor; 9) A Creature of Crown and Parliament; 10) Why I Do Not Believe in God; 11) The Teachings of Christianity; 12) The Fruits of Christianity; 13) Christian Progress.

-----. My Path to Atheism. London: T. Scott, 1877. 3rd edition: 1885
A collection of pamphlets Including: 1) On the Deity of Jesus of Nazareth; 2) A Comparison between the Fourth Gospel and the Three Synoptics; 3) On the Atonement; 4) On the Mediation and Salvation of Ecclesiastical Christianity; 5) On Eternal Torture; 6) On Inspiration; 7) On the Religious Education of Children; 8) Natural Religion versus Revealed Religion; 9) On the Nature and the Existence of God; 10) Euthanasia; 11) On Prayer; 12) Constructive Rationalism; 13) The Beauties of the Prayer-Book, pt. I; 14) The Beauties of the Prayer-Book, pt. II; 15) The Beauties of the Prayer-Book, pt. III; 16) The Church of England Catechism.

-----. A Selection of the Social and Political Pamphlets of Annie Besant. Ed. by J. Saville. New York: Kelley, 1970.

Single titles

Besant, Annie. Annie Besant: An Autobiography. London: T. Fisher Unwin. 1893. 368pp. Frequently reprinted.

-----. Blasphemy. London: Freethought Publishing Company, 1882.

-----. The Christian Creed; or, What It Is Blasphemy to Deny. London: Freethought Publishing Company, 1884.

-----. Civil and Religious Liberty: With Some Hints Taken from the French Revolution. Lecture. London: C. Watts, 1874.

-----. Constructive Rationalism. London. T. Scott, 1975.

-----. The Freethinker’s Text-Book. Part 2: Christianity, Its Evidences, Its Origin, Its Morality, Its History. London: Freethought Publishing Company, 1876.

-----. The Gospel of Christianity, and the Gospel of Freethought. London: C. Watts, 1877.

-----. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. London: C. Watts, 1874.

-----. Natural Religion versus Revealed Religion. London: T. Scott, 1874.

[-----]. On the Deity of Jesus of Nazareth. An Enquiry into the Nature of Jesus by an Examination of the Synoptic Gospels. By the Wife of a Beneficed Clergyman [Annie Besant]. Ed. by Rev. Charles Voysey. London: T. Scott, 1873. One of Besant’s first works.

[-----].On the Mediation and Salvation of Ecclesiastical Christianity. London: T. Scott, 1975.

-----. On the Nature and Existence of God. London: T. Scott, 1875.

-----. “Why I Became a Theosophist.” 2 parts.  Lucifer 4 (August 1889): 448ff.; 5 (September 1889): 47ff.

Secondary Sources

Besterman, Theodore. A Bibliography of Annie Besant. Theosophical Society. 1924. 114pp.

-----. Mrs Annie Besant: A Modern Prophet. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd.. 1934.

Manvell, Roger. The Trial of Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh. London: Elek, 1976. 182 pp.  Rpt.: New York: Horizon Press 1976. 182 pp.

Nethercott, A. H. The First Five Lives of Annie Besant. London: Rupert Hart Davis, 1961.

Oppenheim, Janet. "The Odyssey of Annie Besant." History Today 39 (September 1989): 12.

Taylor, Anne. Annie Besant: A Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. 383 pp. (also US edition 1992

Williams, Gertrude Marvin. The Passionate Pilgrim: A Life of Annie Besant. New York, NY: Coward-McCann. 1931. 382pp.

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Twentieth-Century Humanism and Atheism in England

Having been freed from persecution for blasphemy, atheism and its related perspectives blossomed through the twentieth century. A number of prominent philosophers who espoused atheism emerged, as did a spectrum of popular writers. The National Secular Society continues as a leading Atheist organization and it has been joined by the Ethical Culture movement and humanst groups to present a complete spectrum of perspectives to the public.

During the last half of the nineteenth century, a number of social theorists from Karl Marx to Émile Durkheim had suggested that the modernization of society coincide with a decline in religious belief and practice, a theory that also coincided with their own preference for a secular society. That view settled within the social and psychological sciences and found it greatest verification in the declining support for established churches, especially in England and France.

England has been home to a number of notable advocates of atheism and its related perspectives. Included would be philosophers Bertrand Russell, (1872–1970), A. J. Ayer (1910–1989), Karl Popper (1902-1994), and Peter Lipton (1954–2007). Still active are Simon Blackburn (1944- ) and A. C. Grayling (1949- ), Robin Le Poidevin (b.1962), Michael Palmer (b.1945), Julian Baggini (b. 1968).

As the twentieth century began, the Unbelief community in England was focused on the National Secular Society, the Leicester Secular Society, the South Place Ethical Society, the Union of Ethical Societies, and the Rational Press Association. The National Secular Society remains the most prominent and has included a string of outstanding presidents through the twentieth century including G. W. Foote, editor of The Freethinker, Chapman Cohen (president for more than three decades, 1915-1949), David Tribe, and Barbara Smoker. Smoker is also an honorary vice president of the recently formed Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association.

The Union of Ethical Societies moved away from Ethical Culture and its religious associations toward a secular humanist stance and in 1967 changed it name to British Humanist Association. Among its outstanding presidents were philosopher A. J. Ayer and biologist Julian Huxley. Huxley, who at various times described himself as a humanist, religious naturalist, and agnostic, actively participated in various British atheist groups. He was an Honorary Associate of the Rationalist Press Association and the first president of the British Humanist Association, and presided over the founding Congress of the International Humanist and Ethical Union

Biologist Richard Dawkins currently serves as one of the British Humanist Association’s vice-presidents. Though now most popular in the United States, the new “Neo-Atheist” movement which emerged around his writings, had its origin in England in the middle of the first decade of the twenty-first century (and is covered in the Contemporary Perspectives section of this bibliography).


Avrich, Paul. The Modern School Movement. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980.

Ayer, A. J. The Concept of a Person and Other Essays, London: Macmillan, 1963.

-----. The Humanist Outlook. London: Pemberton, 1968.

-----. Metaphysics and Common Sense. London: Macmillan, 1969.

-----. More of My Life. London: Collins, 1984.

-----. Part of My Life. London: Collins, 1977.

-----. Philosophical Essays. London: Macmillan, 1954.

Ayer, A. J. “What I Believe.” Humanist 81, 8 (1966): 226-228.

Baggini, Julian. Atheism: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. 136 pp.

Blackburn, Simon. Being Good: a Short Introduction to Ethics. London: Oxford University Press, 2001. 176 pp.

-----. How To Read Hume. London: Granta Books, 20009. 128 pp.

-----. Truth: a Guide. London: Oxford University Press, 2005. 238 pp.

Blackham, H. J. The Human Tradition. Boston: Beacon Press, 1953. 252 pp.

-----. Humanism. London: Penguin, 1968.

-----. “Modern Humanism.” Journal of World History/Cahiers D’Histoire Mondiale III (1964): 5, 101-20.

-----. Objections to Humanism. Westprot, CT: Greenwood Press. 1974.

-----, and Harold Loukes. Humanists and Quakers: An Exchange of Letters. London: Friends Home Service Committee, 1969.

Bridges, Horace J., Stanton Coit, G. E. O'Dell, and Harry Snell. The Ethical Movement: Its Principles and Aims. London: Union of Ethical Societies, 1912. 138 pp.

Brown, Marshall G., and Gordon Stein. Freethought in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth: A Descriptive Bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1981.

Budd, Susan. Varieties of Unbelief: Atheists and Agnostics in English Society, 1850-1960. London: Heinemann Educational Publishers, 1977. 307 pp.

Cave, Peter. Humanism: A Beginner's Guide. London: Oneworld Publications, 2009. 208 pp.

Clark, Ronald W. Sir Julian Huxley. London: Phoenix, 1960.

Cohen, Chapman. Agnosticism or . . .? London: Pioneer Press, n.d. 16 pp.

-----. Almost an Autobiography. London: Pioneer Press, 1940.

-----. Atheism. London: The Pioneer Press, n.d. 14pp.

-----. God and the Universe: Eddington, Jeans, Huxley, and Einstein, with a Reply to A. S. Eddington. London n.d.

-----. The Grammar of Freethought. London: Pioneer Press, 1941.

-----. Materialism re-stated. London: Pioneer Press 1927. 123 pp.

-----. Must we have a religion? London: The Pioneer Press, 1952. 14pp.

-----. What Is Freethought? London: The Pioneer Press, n.p. 15pp,

Coit, Stanton. The Message of Man: A Book of Ethical Scriptures Gathered from Many Sources and Arranged. London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co., n.d. 323 pp.

-----. The One Sure Foundation for Democracy. Conway Memorial Lecture delivered at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square W.C.1 on May 26, 1937. London: Watts & Co., 1937. 56 pp.

-----. The Subjection of Women. London: Longmans, Green and CO., 1909.

Cooke, Bill. The Gathering of Infidels: A Hundred Years of the Rationalist Press Association. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2004. 356 pp.

Gordon, Mick, and A. C. Grayling. On Religion. London: Oberon Books, 2006. 96 pp.

Grayling, A. C. Against All Gods: Six Polemics on Religion and an Essay on Kindness. London: Oberon Books, 2007. 64pp.

-----. To Set Prometheus Free: Religion, Reason and Humanity. London: Oberon Books, 2009. 112 pp.

Herrick, Jim. Vision and Reform: the Freethinker 1881 to 1981. London: G. W. Foote, 1982.

-----. “Bertrand Russell: A Passionate Rationalist.” In Against the Faith.     Posted at:

Huxley, Julian. Essays of a Humanist. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1969. 295 pp.

-----. Evolutionary Humanism. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books. 1992. 287 pp.

-----. Memories. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1970.

-----. Memories II. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1973.

-----. Religion without Revelation. London: Watts & Co, 1941. 118 pp.

-----. Towards the Open A Preface to Scientific Humanism. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1927. 257 pp.

Knight, Margaret, and Jim Herrick, eds. Humanist Anthology: From Confucius to Attenborough. Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 1995. 220 pp.

Le Poidevin, Robin. Agnosticism: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. 144 pp.

-----. Arguing for Atheism: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. London: Routledge, 1996. 184 pp.

Mackintire, William. Ethical Religion. London: Watts & Co 1905. 128 pp.

Palmer, Michael. The Atheist’s Creed. Cambridge: The Lutterworth Press, 2010. 356 pp.

-----. The Question of God: An Introduction and Sourcebook. London: Routledge, 2001. 384 pp.

Popper, Karl. Unended Quest: An Intellectual Autobiography. Glasgow: Fontana/Collins, 1977. 255 pp.

Waters, C. Kenneth, and Albert Van Helden, eds. Julian Huxley: biologist and statesman of science. Houston: Rice University Press, 1993.

Whyte, Adam Gowans. The Story of the R.P.A. 1899-1949. London: Watts & Co., 1949.

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John Mackinnon Robertson (1856-1933)

Born on the Isle of Arran off the coast of Scotland, John M. Robertson dropped out of school when he was thirteen but went on to become an editor at one of Edinburgh’s newspapers. As a young man he then became a dedicated secularist and joined the National Secular Union led by Charles Bradlaugh. He soon moved to London to write for the movement’s periodical, the National Reformer. He succeeded Bradlaugh as editor in 1891. He assumed leadership of the South Place Ethical Society in 1899, a post he held for several decades.

He is remembered today primarily for his monumental two volume history of Freethought and the other historical and biographical materials he authored on the pioneers of Freethought in the United Kingdom. He also wrote a large number of additional Freethought books and pamphlets. One of his favorite themes was the attack on Christianity as a religion built on a purely mythological base, and he advocated the idea that Jesus did not exist as a historical person, a subject upon which he penned several texts. 

Much of his writing has now been posted online. See the Online Books page

Primary Sources

Robertson, John Mackinnon. Christianity and Mythology. London: Watts, 1900. Posted online

-----. The Historical Jesus: A Survey of Positions. London: Watts, 1916.

-----. History of Freethought in the Nineteenth Century. 2 vols. 1899. Rpt. Bristol, UK: Thoemmes Press. 2001.

-----. Jesus and Judas: A Textual and Historical Investigation. London: Watts, 1927.

-----. The Jesus Problem: A Restatement of the Myth Theory. London: Watts, 1917.

-----. Letters on Reasoning. London: Watts, 1902. 2nd ed.: 1905.  Posted online.

-----. Modern Humanists: Sociological Studies of Carlyle, Mill, Emerson, Arnold, Ruskin and Spencer. London: S. Sonnenschein and Co., 1891.

-----. Modern Humanists Reconsidered. London: Watts and Co., 1927.

-----. Pagan Christs. London: Watts & Co., 1903, 1911. Posted at

-----. Pioneer Humanists. London: Watts, 1907.

-----. A Short History of Christianity. London: Watts & Co., 1901. Posted online (1902)

-----. A Short History of Freethought, Ancient and Modern. London: Swan Sonnenschein, 1899; 2nd ed.: London: Watts & Co., 1906. 3rd ed. 1914; 4th ed. 1915; 5th ed. as A History of Freethought Ancient and Modern, to the Period of the French Revolution. 2 vols. London: Watts, 1936.
1915 edition posted online.

-----. A Short History of Morals. London: Watts, 1920.

-----. Studies in Religious Fallacy. London: Watts, 1900.

Secondary Sources

Andreski, Stanislav (April 1979), "A Forgotten Genius: John Mackinnon Robertson (1856-1933)." Question 12 (April 1979): 61-73.

Britain’s Unknown Genius: The Life-Work of J. M. Robertson. London: South Place Ethical Society, 1984.

Dekkers, Odin. J. M. Robertson.  Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1998.

Kaczkowski, Conrad Joseph, John Mackinnon Robertson: Freethinker and Radical. St. Louis, MO: St. Louis University, Ph.D. dissertation, 1964.

Tame, Chris. The Critical Liberalism of J.M. Robertson (1856-1933). London: Libertarian Alliance, 1998. Posted at

Wells, G. A., ed. J. M. Robertson (1856-1933): Liberal, Rationalist, and Scholar. London: Pemberton Publishing, 1987.

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Joseph Martin McCabe (1867-1955)

Joseph Martin McCabe was a British Roman Catholic and Franciscan priest who left the order and became an atheist. His story was initially told in From Rome to Rationalism (1897), later published in an expanded edition as Twelve Years in a Monastery (1897). He subsequently served as secretary of the Leicester Secular Society and he became one of the founders of the Rationalist Press Association. He wrote numerous books and booklets, many originally published in London by the Freethought-oriented press, Watts & Co., and later published in the United States by Haldeman-Julius either as Little Blue Books or Big Blue Books.

A selection of many of McCabe’s titles is currently available on line at and/or

Primary Sources

McCabe, Joseph. A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists. London: Watts & Co., 1920. 

-----. A Biographical Dictionary of Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Freethinkers. Girard, Kansas: Haldeman-Julius Publications, 1945.

-----.  Crises in the History of the Papacy. London: Watts, 1916.

-----. Eighty Years a Rebel; Autobiography. Girard, Kansas: Haldeman-Julius Publications, 1947.

-----. The Existence of God. The Inquirer's Library 1. London: Watts & Co., 1913.

-----. A History of the Popes. London: Watts, 1939.

-----. Is The Position Of Atheism Getting Stronger? Girard, Kansas: Haldeman-Julius Publications, 1936.

-----. Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake. 2 vols. London: Watts, Issued for the Rationalist Press Association, 1908.

-----. A Rationalist Encyclopædia: A Book of Reference, On Religion, Philosophy, Ethics, and Science. London: Watts & Co., 1948.

-----. The Riddle of the Universe To-day. London: Watts & Co., 1934.

-----. The Social Record of Christianity. Thinker's Library 51. London: Watts & Co., 1935. 144 pp.

-----. The Sources of the Morality of the Gospels. London: Watts & Co., 1914.

-----. The Story of Evolution. London: Hutchinson & Co., 1912.

-----. The Story of Religious Controversy. Boston: The Stratford Company, 1929.

-----. Twelve Years in a Monastery. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1897. Rpt.: London: Watts & Co., 1912. Posted at

-----, and W. T. Lee.  Christianity or Secularism: Which is the Better for Mankind?: a verbatim report on two nights' debate between W.T. Lee and Joseph McCabe,: held at the town hall Holborn on Thursday and Friday evenings March 9 and 10 1911.  London: Watts, 1911. 72 pp.

Shebbeare, C. J.  The Design Argument Reconsidered—A Discussion Between the Rev C. J. Shebbeare and Joseph McCabe. London: Watts & Co., 1923.

Secondary Sources

Cooke, Bill. A Rebel to His Last Breath: Joseph McCabe and Rationalism. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2003.

Goldberg, Isaac. Joseph McCabe: Fighter for Freethought. Girard, KS: Haldeman-Julius, 1936.

Haldeman-Julius, Marcet. Talks with Joseph McCabe and Other Confidential Sketches. Girard, KS: Haldeman-Julius, n.d.

Verb, Hal. "Joseph McCabe: Atheist Prophet for Our Time." Free Thought Today (2003). Posted at

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Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

Philosopher Bertrand Russell, widely acknowledged as one of the great analytic minds of the twentieth century, a co-founder of analytic philosophy, was also a public atheist and advocate of many liberal social causes. He was the son of an atheist father who had asked the aging John Stuart Mill to act as the equivalent of a godfather for his son.  He left a provision in his will that the children be raised as agnostics, which his wife went to court to break following his death. Young Bertrand’s move to atheism was spurred in part by his discovery of the writings of the poet Shelley during his teen years. He later attended and graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge.

He specialized in the study of mathematics and logic and early in his career collaborated with Alfred north Whitehead on the monumental Principia Mathematica. While teaching at Cambridge, Russell accepted Ludwig Wittenstein as his student and with him would begin what became analytic philosophy.

Russell lost his post at Cambridge for his pacifism during World War I, merely the first incident in an at-times tumultuous academic career. Russell eventually moved to the United States. He taught successively at the University of Chicago, the University of California--Los Angeles, and the City College of New York. However, his career in New York was cut short when his views on sexuality were deemed unfit to share with his students. John Dewey and Horace M. Kallen edited a collection of articles on the CCNY affair in The Bertrand Russell Case. Russell finally made his way back to Cambridge and was able to reassume his former position at Trinity College. In 1950, his career was capped with the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Russell’s personal atheistic humanism found initial expression in his essays from the 1920s, most notably “What I Believe” and “Why I Am not a Christian.” The latter was originally delivered as a speech for the South London Branch of the National Secular Society. He would follow with a set of Sceptical Essays (1928) and a volume on Religion and Science (1935), and he included his original speech as the lead item in his 1957 anthology, Why I Am Not A Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects.

The Bertrand Russell centre at McMaster University in Toronto ( has become the focal point for ongoing Russell studies. It publishes Russell: the Journal of Bertrand Russell Studies and in 1983 began the publication of The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell. Volume 29 (of 36 projected volumes) in this series appeared in 2003. The series also includes Kenneth Blackwell’s A Bibliography of Bertrand Russell (London: Routledge, 1994). Meanwhile, a selection of Russell’s essays on religion and Unbelief have been made available online at the “Positive Atheism” site,

Primary Sources

Russell, Bertrand.  Atheism. New York: Arno Press, 1972.

-----. The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell. 3 vols. London: Allen & Unwin, 1967-1969.

-----. The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell. Ed. by Robert E. Egner and Lester E. Denonn. London: Allen & Unwin, 1961.

-----. Bertrand Russell on God and Religion. Al Seckel.  Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1986. 350 pp.
Includes text of debate with Frederick Copleston on the existence of God that was broadcast on the BBC in 1948.

-----. Bertrand Russell Speaks His Mind. Cleveland & New York: World, 1960.

-----. The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell. Ed. by Kenneth Blackwell. London: Routledge, 1983. 28 vols.

-----. Essays in Skepticism. New York: Philosophical Library, 1963.

-----. Has Religion Made Useful Contributions to Civilization?: An Examination and a Criticism. London: Watts, 1930.

-----. A History of Western Philosophy: Its Connection with Political and Social Circumstances from the Earliest Times to the Present Day. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1945.

-----. The Life of Bertrand Russell in Pictures and His Own Words. Ed. by Christopher Farley and David Hodgson. Nottingham, UK: Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, 1972.

-----. My Own Philosophy. Hamilton, ON: McMaster University Library Press, 1972.

-----. My Philosophical Development. London: Allen & Unwin, 1959

-----. The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism. London: Allen & Unwin, 1920. Rpt. as: Bolshevism: Practice and Theory. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Howe, 1920.

-----. Religion and Science. New York: Holt, 1935.

-----. Russell on Religion: Selections from the Writings of Bertrand Russell. Ed. by  Stefan Andersson and Louis Greenspan. London: Routledge, 1999. 272 pp. 

-----. Sceptical Essays. New York: Norton, 1928.

-----. The Scientific Outlook. New York: W.W. Norton, 1931.

-----. The Selected Letters of Bertrand Russell. Ed. by Nicholas Griffin assisted by Alison Roberts Miculan. London: Routledge, 2001.

-----. Selected Papers of Bertrand Russell. New York: Modern Library, 1927.

-----. Unpopular Essays. London: Allen & Unwin, 1950.

-----. What I Believe. New York: Dutton, 1925

-----. Why I Am Not a Christian. London: Watts, 1927.

-----. Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects. London: Allen & Unwin, 1957.

-----. Wisdom of the West: A Historical Survey of Western Philosophy in Its Social and Political Setting. Ed. by Paul Foulkes. London: Macdonald, 1959.

Secondary Sources

Andersson, Stefan. In Quest of Certainty: Bertrand Russell's Search for Certainty in Religion and Mathematics Up to the Principles of Mathematics. London: Coronet Books, 1994. 192 pp.

Carey, Rosalind, and John Ongley. Historical Dictionary of Bertrand Russell's Philosophy. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, 2009. 336 pp.

Clark, Ronald William. The Life of Bertrand Russell. London: Cape, 1975.

Denton, Peter A. The ABC of Armageddon: Bertrand Russell on Science, Religion, and the Next War, 1919-1938. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2001. 174 pp.

Dewey, John, and Horace M. Kallen, eds. The Bertrand Russell Case. New York: Viking, 1941.

Leggett, Harry W. Bertrand Russell, O.M.: a pictorial biography. London: Lincolns - Praeger Publishers, 1949. 78 pp.

Griffin, Nicholas. The Cambridge Companion to Bertrand Russell. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003

Roberts, George W., ed. Bertrand Russell Memorial Volume, London: Allen and Unwin, 1979.

Watling, John. Bertrand Russell. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1970.

Wielenberg, Eril J. God and the Reach of Reason: C. S. Lewis, David Hume, and Bertrand Russell. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007. 254 pp.

Wood, Alan. Bertrand Russell: The Passionate Sceptic. London: Allen and Unwin, 1957.

Wood, George Herbert. Living Issues in Religious Thought. From George Fox to Bertrand Russell. New York: George H. Doran Company, 1924. 187 pp. Rpt.: Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1966. 187 pp.

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Antony Flew (1923-2010)

Antony Flew was a prominent philosopher and public atheist in the last half of the twentieth century. He completed his education after World War II at St John's College, Oxford. And subsequently taught at Christ’s College, Oxford, the University of Aberdeen, the University of Keele, University of Reading, and York University, Toronto. He wrote numerous books and articles, and frequently and publicly debated key issues with Christians and other believers.

After many years defending atheism, in 2005 he announced an acceptance of a Deist position, an action that raised new controversy. A few claimed that the changes was a hoax while others were led to call into question his lifetime of advocacy for Unbelief.

Primary Sources

Flew, Antony. Atheistic Humanism. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1993. 302 pp.

-----. Evolutionary Ethics. N. Y. Macmillan/St Martin Press, 1967. 70 pp.

-----. “Falsification and Hypothesis in Theology.” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 40, 3 (1962):318-323.

-----. God and Philosophy. London: Hutchinson & Co., 1966. Rpt. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2005, 210 pp.

-----. God, Freedom, and Immortality: A Critical Analysis. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1984. 183 pp.

-----. “Humanism and Ethics.” Journal of Moral Education 5, 1 (1975): 85-90.

-----. A New Approach to Psychical Research. London: Watts & Co., 1953.

----- and Alasdair MacIntyre, eds., New Essays in Philosophical Theology (London: SCM Press, 1955.

-----, ed. New Essays in Philosophical Theology. New York, Macmillan, 1964.

-----. The Presumption of Atheism, and other Philosophical Essays on God, Freedom and Immortality. New York : Barnes & Noble, 1976. 183 pp.

-----. “The Presuppositions of Survival.” Philosophy 62, 239 (1987):17ff.

-----. “A Religious Form of Scientific Life.” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 30, 2 (1979):183-186.

Collaborative works

Bagget, David J., ed. Did the Resurrection Happen? A Conversation with Gary Habermas and Antony Flew. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009. 184 pp.

Flew, Antony, with Roy Abraham Varghese.   There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.  New York: HarperOne, 2008. 256 pp.

Meithe, Terry l., and Antony Flew. Does God Exist?: A Believer and an Atheist Debate. London: Harpercollins, 1991. 224 pp.

Wallace, Stan W. ed.  Does God Exist: The Craig-Flew Debate.  Ashgate Publishing, 2003, 230 pp.
In 1998, William Craig and Antony Flew debated god’s existence occasioned by the 50th anniversary of a similar debate by Frederick Copleston and Bertrand Russell that had been broadcast over the BBC.

Warren, Thomas B., and Antony G. N. The Warren-Flew Debate on the Existence of God. Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press, 1977.  237 pp.

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Unbelief in Australia and New Zealand

Unbelief in Australia and New Zealand can be traced to the immigration of freethinker Charles Southwell (1814-1860), who arrive in Australia in April 1855 and then settled in New Zealand the next year. Southwell had had a falling out with British secularist George Jacob Holyoake. His career focused more on politics than religious issues and was brief as he passed away in 1860.

He was followed by Daniel Wallwork, who founded the first Freethought organization in Australia in the early 1860s. The first periodical serving the cause was the Harbinger of Light, founded in 1870 (the same year that the government in New South Wales passed an anti-blasphemy law) primarily served Spiritualists, but was an additional indicator of the close relationship between Freethought and other forms of religious dissent. Spiritualist would also stand behind the Liberal Association of New South Wales, founded in 1881 to promote a spectrum of progressive causes. The doubts about Spiritualist phenomena would spur the formation of a number of local groups more clearly focused on Freethought and secularism.

In 1894 the community was joined by British secularist Joseph Symes (1841-1906). He would immediately assume a leading role in the Freethought community, but soon become one of its most controversial members. His colleagues complained of his autocratic ways and embarrassed by his pamphlet, Ancient and Modern Phallic or Sex-worship.  During the 1890s, the cause would be decimated by the national financial crises that hit Australia, the deaths of a number of its first generation leaders, and the fragmentation of the movement.

In 1901, the various states of the subcontinent were unified into the Commonwealth of Australia. The new constitution guarantees religious freedom, including the right not to believe any religion. Soon afterwards, Joseph McCabe came from England to lecture under the auspices of the National Secular Society. While in the country, he led in the founding of the Rationalist Press Association, which in turn led to the Freethought community’s evolving into a more rationalist-oriented movement through the first decades of the twentieth century. Humanism would largely supersede rationalism after World War II. The first Humanist society was formed in 1960, and a national organization emerged five years later.  However, during the last quarter of the twentieth century, the current broad spectrum of organizations supporting an Unbelief perspective gradually appeared.

Also, through the twentieth century, a number of academics have made their atheist opinions known, including a set of leading philosophers such as John Leslie Mackie (1917-1981), John Anderson (1893-1962), ethicist Peter Singer (b.1946), and Graham Oppy (b. 1960).

Organized Unbelief in Australia and New Zealand is currently focused in the Australia New Zealand Secular Association (formerly the Australian National Secular Association), the Rationalist Society of Australia, the New Zealand Association Of Rationalists and Humanists, the Atheist Foundation of Australia and the Council of Australian Humanist Societies. The Global Atheist Convention, sponsored by the Atheist Foundation and held in 2010 in Melbourne, became the largest gathering of Australian in the country’s history.

Unitarianism was introduced into Australia in the 1850s and three churches were initially founded in Adelaide, Sydney, and Melbourne. The Auckland, New Zealand, congregation was organized in 1897. As the number of congregations grew, they united as the Australian Assembly of Unitarian and Liberal Christian Churches, which was superseded by the more inclusive Australian and New Zealand Unitarian Universalist Association in 1974. 


Adams, Phillip. Adams Vs. God. Melbourne: Nelson, 1985.

-----. Adams Vs. God: The Rematch. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2007. 304 pp.

Anderson, John. Studies in Empirical Philosophy. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1962.

Baker, A J. Anderson's Social Philosophy: The Social Thought and Political Life of Professor John Anderson. Sydney: Angus & Robertson 1979.

Baker, A. J. Australian Realism: The Systematic Philosophy of John Anderson. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

Barber, Lawrence H. The Church Defence Society of Otago and Southland, 1897. Palmerston North: Massey University, M.A. thesis in history, 1970.

Bell, Gerda. Ernest Dieffenbach. Rebel and Humanist. Palmerston North: Dunmore Press, 1976.

Bonett, Warren, ed.. The Australian Book of Atheism. Melbourne, Victoria, Aust.: Scribe, 2010. 440 pp.

Burgess, Henry T., and James Milne. Frazer Prize Essay on Agnosticism from a Moral and Spiritual Point of View. By Veritas Vincit and Beta. Sydney: George Robertson & Co., 1888. 236 p.

Campbell, John D. Freethought in the Manawatu and Wanganui in the 1880s. Palmerston North: Massey University, B.A. honors thesis, 1990.

Campbell, Patrick. “Early New Zealand Freethought.”'  New Zealand Rationalist, (Jan/Feb. 1963).

Castle, F. W. Annals of the Auckland Unitarian Church. Auckland: Unitarian Church, 1980.

Cooke, Bill. Heathen in Godzone: Seventy Years of Rationalism in New Zealand. Auckland: New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists, 1998.

Dahlitz, Ray. Secular Who's Who: A biographical directory of freethinkers, secularists, rationalists, humanists, and others involved in Australia's secular movement from 1850 onwards. The author, 1994. 192 pp.

Dakin, Jim. “A History of the Humanist Society of New Zealand.” 1982. Posted at

-----. “New Zealand's Freethought Heritage.” Posted at

-----. "The Origins and Beginnings of the Humanist Society of New Zealand." New Zealand Humanist, no. 96 (1987): 5-6.

-----, Jack Shallcrass, and Anne Ferguson, eds.  Honest to Goodness, Wellington: Humanist Society of New Zealand, 1992.

The Divine Origin of Christianity, Debate between M W Green and Charles Bright. Dunedin, NZ:  George T Clarke, 1879.

Earles, Beverley. "Humanism." In Peter Donovan, ed.  Religions of New Zealanders. Palmerston North: Dunmore Press, 1990, pp. 173-85.

Edwards, Ian. A Humanist View. Sydney, Aust.: Angus & Robertson, 1969.

Fox, Nancy M., Jindra Rutherford, and Bill Allen. Unitarians in New Zealand. Wanganui: N.Z. Society of Unitarians, 1964.

Frame, Tom. Losing My Religion: Unbelief in Australia. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 2009. 352 pp.

Franklin, James. Corrupting the Youth: A History of Philosophy in Australia. Paddinton, NSW: Macleay Press, 2003. 

Kennedy, B.  A Passion to Oppose: John Anderson, Philosopher.  Carlton South, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1995.

Lineham, Peter J. "Christian Reaction to Freethought and Rationalism in New Zealand." Journal of Religious History 15, 2 (1988): 236-50.

-----. "Freethinkers in Nineteenth-Century New Zealand." New Zealand Journal of History 19, no. 1 (1985): 61-81.

-----. "Secularists and Secularisation in Nineteenth Century New Zealand." Religion and Change. Papers of International Religious Studies Conference. Printed by Victoria University of Wellington, 1983, pp. 302-24.

Mackie, John Leslie. Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong. New York: Viking Press, 1977.

-----. The Miracle of Theism: Arguments for and against the Existence of God. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982. 278 pp.

Maindonald, J. H. A Church for Heretics? Auckland Unitarians and the Unitarian Tradition. Auckland: Auckland Unitarian Church, [1989].

-----. A Radical Religious Heritage: Auckland Unitarian Church and Its Wider Connections, 1898 (Building 1901) - 1991. Auckland: Auckland Unitarian Church, 1991.

Marshall, A. J. Darwin and Huxley in Australia. Sydney: Hodder and Stoughton, 1970.

Oppy, Graham. Arguing about Gods. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009. 472 pp.

-----. Philosophical Perspectives on Infinity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press 2009. 336 pp.

Owen, Mark. The Tyranny of God. Gympie, Queensland, Aust.: Felicity Press, 1990, 57 pp.

Pataki, Tamas. Against Religion. Carlton North, Victoria, Aust.: Scribe Publications, 2008. 144 pp.

Pearce, Harry H. "Early Dunedin Freethought." N.Z. Rationalist 9 (1938-1941): 21ff.

Perkins, John. “The Immorality of Religion.” Australian Humanist 66 (Winter 2002).

-----. “Humanism and Morality.” Australian Humanist 69 (Autumn 2003).

-----. “Peace Prosperity and Propriety: Is Religion Really Good?” The Australian Rationalist 71 (Spring 2005).

-----. “Creating a Better Australia: Reinventing Secularism.”  Australian Humanist 82 (Autumn 2006).

------. “The Need for Secular Multiculturalism.” The Australian Atheist 2 (March-April 2007).

Pilmer, Ian. Telling Lies for God: Reason vs. Creationism. Melbourne: Random House Australia, 1997. 303 pp.

Scott, K. J. Freedom of Thought in New Zealand. Wellington: University of New Zealand M.A. thesis in Philosophy, 1934.

Singer, Peter. A Darwinian Left: Politics, Evolution, and Cooperation. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 2000. 64 pp.

-----. Rethinking Life and Death: The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 1996. 320 pp.

Sinnott, Nigel H. "Joseph Symes in New Zealand." N.Z. Rationalist and Humanist (1979): 2-4.

-----. Joseph Symes: The Flower of Atheism. Atheist Society of Australia 1977. 34 pp.

Smart, J. J. C., and J. J. Haldane. Atheism and Theism. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1997. 232 pp.

Smith, F. Barrymore. Religion and Freethought in Melbourne, 1870-1890. Melbourne: University of Melbourne,  M.A. thesis, 1960.

 [Southwell, Charles]. An Apology for Atheism. London: J. Watson, 1846

-----. Superstition Unveiled. London: Edward Truelove, 1854.

Stenhouse, John. "Imperialism, Atheism, and Race: Charles Southwell, Old Corruption, and the Maori." Journal of British Studies 44, 4 October 2005): 754–774.

-----. "The War Between Science and Religion in Nineteenth Century New Zealand: Robert Stout and Social Darwinism." Pacifica: Australian Theological Studies 2,. 1 (1989): 61-86.

Symes, Joseph. Is atheism or theism the more rational? A discussion between J. Symes and G. St. Clair. 1882. Rpt. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2010. 102 pp.

Tribe, David. “Unbelief in Australia.” In Gordon Stein, ed. The Encyclopedia of Unbelief. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1985, pp. 29-26.

Walker, Bertha. “Henry Scott Bennett: An Appreciation.” Labour History 16 (May 1969).

Wallace, Max.  The Purple Economy: Supernatural Charities, Tax and the State. Milsons Point NSW:  Australian National Secular Association, 2007. 260 pp. 

-----, ed. Realising Secularism: Australia and New Zealand.  Hawksburn, Vic., Aust.: Rationalist Society of Australia, 2008. 200 pp.  

Williams, Robyn. Unintelligent Design: Why God Isn't as Smart as She Thinks She Is. Crows Nest, NSW, Aust.: Allen & Unwin, 2007. 176 pp.

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