Death and Immortality

Thomas Dixon

in The Invention of Altruism

Published by British Academy

Published in print May 2008 | ISBN: 9780197264263
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734816 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship Monographs

Death and Immortality

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One of the main appeals of the language of altruism, especially in the first twenty or thirty years of its existence, was its association with a scientific and humanistic religiosity. Its growing acceptance by users of the English language both enabled and reflected intellectual and institutional shifts away from Christianity and towards some form of humanism. Altruism in the 1870s was strongly associated with the denial not only of the existence of God but also of the immortality of the soul. It was the watchword of an atheistic and humanistic ethics. In sermons, books, and articles in periodicals, defenders of Christianity found this and other reasons to resist the humanistic ideology which they believed the advocacy of altruism entailed, and which they associated with positivists and high-minded unbelievers such as Frederic Harrison and George Eliot.

Keywords: humanistic religiosity; positivism; atheistic ethics; George Eliot; Frederic Harrison; Christianity

Chapter.  15860 words.  Illustrated.

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