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Atheism from the Reformation to the Enlightenment$
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Michael Hunter and David Wootton

Print publication date: 1992

Print ISBN-13: 9780198227366

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198227366.001.0001

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‘Aikenhead the Atheist’: The Context and Consequences of Articulate Irreligion in the Late Seventeenth Century  

‘Aikenhead the Atheist’: The Context and Consequences of Articulate Irreligion in the Late Seventeenth Century  

Chapter:
(p.221) 8 ‘Aikenhead the Atheist’: The Context and Consequences of Articulate Irreligion in the Late Seventeenth Century 
Source:
Atheism from the Reformation to the Enlightenment
Author(s):

Michael Hunter

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198227366.003.0009

This chapter examines an actual case of articulate irreligion that ended up in the courts. Aikenhead was a student who derived some of his ideas from books to which he had access, which included the writings of Vanini and Spinoza. It notes Aikenhead's ingenuity in adapting such views. The discussion argues that his perceived outrageousness provoked an explosive reaction in the narrow context of Presbyterian Scotland, leading to Aikenhead's execution. The unusual detail of the available material makes it possible to assess the relative significance of this event in fuelling concern about the growth of irreligious tendencies in the period. This chapter concludes that Aikenhead's fate made clear to others the need for circumspection.

Keywords:   Aikenhead, Presbyterian Scotland, articulate irreligion, Vanini, Spinoza, execution

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