Seven Types of Atheism by John Gray review – fascinating study of disbelief

The British philosopher has produced a thought-provoking account of the tradition of atheism and the problems with it

There is an old story of two atheists in Northern Ireland who expressed relief that they had risen above the religious rivalry of their contemporaries. Then one defined himself as a “Protestant atheist” and the other as a “Catholic atheist” and they split apart. The serious point here is that there are many forms of atheism and their meaning depends on what God or gods are being rejected. The first Christians were called atheists because they refused to worship the state deities. John Gray is scathing about the intellectual pretensions of the “new atheists” with their “smears and fulminations” but sees in them a fault line that has run right through most forms of atheism since the 18th century. This is that in reacting against the creator-God of the Jewish and Christian ...