Five parts to this book, by the way: Understanding atheism, history, great works, living the atheist life, and a Dummies staple called the Part of Tens. More on that later.
Working on history at the moment, including something that always fascinates me — China and India. So two things. Both had thriving schools of nontheistic philosophy and religion cheek and jowl with theism, right from the Axial get-go. And it continues right through the Middle Ages while Europe goes into the orthodox deep freeze.
Just as Einstein’s use of “God” to mean “no, not really God” confuses people into thinking he’s a theist (see how I’m stuck in present tense??), so Chinese philosophy is obsessively focused for centuries on t’ien or tian, which translates loosely as “heaven,” but really means “no, not really heaven.” Nothing to do with a place for human souls after death. Instead, t’ien means “that which causes the world to be as it is.” Theistic philosophers use it to mean a god or spirit realm, while the nontheists use the same word to mean natural, physical law.
(Tiananmen Square = gate of heavenly peace, uh…square)
I’ve also learned why Confucius was obsessively focu