When I began “History for Atheists” in October 2015 it was largely as an opportunity to put down some summaries of why certain persistent New Atheist pseudo historical myths are wrong, curate the positions of expert historians and other scholars on relevant issues and direct readers to reliable information on history. This was at least, in part, because I found myself writing refutations to the same nonsense claims over and over again and was starting to find the repetition pretty wearisome. I also had (and still have) the idea of writing a book on the subject of New Atheist bad history and saw some of these posts as the basis for some future chapters in that work, particularly the posts in my “Great Myths” series.
So originally this blog was largely so I could post a link to a given article and say “see this – it debunks what you’re claiming in detail” rather than bashing out yet another forum post or blog comment on Hypatia’s murder, Galileo’s trials or Bruno’s execution etc. I originally put it up on Blogger because it’s free, it’s easy to use and generally pretty workable as a platform. Two years later, however, “History for Atheists” now has a sizeable and solid audience of regular readers, an active comments section and is getting traffic that spikes significantly higher every month. This means I recently decided it was time the blog graduated from its humble beginnings and got its own domain name and the bells and whistles that WordPress.org can provide.
As you can see, I’ve brought the previous posts and comments over to the new platform and, apart from a few minor formatting muddles and a couple of other bugs that I’m still trying to fix, the transition has gone fairly smoothly. I’m on a steep learning curve to get myself conversant with WordPress’ tools and add-ons and have been tinkering with some CSS, so expect to see periodic changes over the next few weeks, hopefully for the better. Please let me know if there are any links or redirects which don’t work or any other functionality issues that I may not have noticed.
Over the next couple of months I hope to tackle the major myth of the destruction of the Great Library of Alexandria as part of the “Great Myths” series. And just today I received my copy of Edward J. Watts’ highly anticipated new book Hypatia: The Life and Legend of an Ancient Philosopher (Oxford: 2017). This is the first scholarly monograph on Hypatia by a historian of the period (as opposed to pop histories by non-academics and hobbyists) since Maria Dzielka’s excellent Hypatia of Alexandria (Harvard: 1996) over 20 years ago, so it’s a welcome addition to literature on a subject that is often infested with nonsense in popular treatments. Last year I had the pleasure of reading Watts’ superb book The Final Pagan Generation (University of California Press: 2015) and his analysis there showed an enormous depth of understanding of the later Roman Empire’s transition from paganism to Christianity which was refreshingly free of modern ideological biases and baggage. It seems he is going to be drawing on that knowledge and perspective to focus on Alexandria in Hypatia’s time as a microcosm of late fourth century culture, society and religion, rather than as the usual Gibbonian moral fable about the beginning of “the dark ages”. I’ll make sure I’ve read his book before posting on the pseudo history that surrounds the death of Hypatia.
While I’m posting about the blog rather than posting on it, any suggestions or feedback is very welcome in the comments section below.