On the 20th of October, the Centre d’Action Laïque organised the book launch of De geschiedenis van het atheïsme in België/Histoire de l’athéisme en Belgique (‘The History of Atheism in Belgium’), a new scientific publication that addresses the role of atheism in a selection of political, cultural and philosophical milieus from the early 19th century onwards. The chapters explore how scientists, philosophers and freethinkers brought various scientific, philosophical and moral arguments to the fore to deny the existence of (the Judeo-Christian) God. Various contributions also analyse how the label ‘atheist’/’atheism’ was used in the Belgian context as an outgroup label by those who wanted to stigmatise heterodox thinkers, even though a wide spectrum of beliefs existed between the radical denial of the existence of God and religious orthodoxy.
Different VUB-based members of SSAB contributed to the volume, together with colleagues from the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Maastricht University, Ghent University, Utrecht University, the ‘Centre de recherche et d’information socio-politiques’ and various cultural heritage organisations. SSAB-member Christoph De Spiegeleer(co-)edited the book and wrote an article on the growing role of atheism in the Brussels’ freethinkers’ movement throughout the 19th century. Willem Elias wrote a chapter on the Belgian atheist philosopher Leopold Flam (1912-1995). Niels De Nutte contributed to a chapter on the impact of the foundation of a new academic program in ‘moral sciences’ at the (State) University of Ghent during the 1960s. SSAB-president Jeffrey Tyssens looked at the relationship between Freemasonry and atheism throughout the 19th– and 20th-century.
The book is the result of a joint project between Liberas, partner of SSAB, and the Association Belge des Athées and came out in a French and a Dutch version. Thanks to the book launch, various francophone media outlets have picked up the topic of atheism in Belgium. The book project has already instigated new debates on the possible reasons behind the growing number of people who identify themselves as atheist in surveys on religious attitudes, as well as the scientific limits of these surveys.
The registered introductory lectures of (among others) Christoph De Spiegeleer and Jeffrey Tyssens during the bi-lingual book launch are available on the youtube channel of the Association Belge des Athées:
The Dutch version of the book is for sale on the following webshop . The book can be ordered in your local bookstore.
The French version of the book is for sale through the following website. The book can be ordered in your local bookstore.