In this talk Hecht speaks about the rise of what she calls Poetic Atheism. Lately Atheism has been chiefly associated with science, but through history doubters and atheists have had an equally extraordinary relationship with the arts. Many of the great poets wrote many of the greatest poems about the empty sky and the sublime, horrible, majesty of being human. Life is difficult enough without trying to go it alone: we need our history. The next wave of religious doubt should be a poetic atheism that is keenly aware of our past.
Jennifer Michael Hecht is the author of three history books and two volumes of poetry. Her bestseller Doubt: A History (Harper One, 2003) demonstrates a long, strong history of religious doubt. Hecht’s The End of the Soul: Scientific Modernity, Atheism, and Anthropology (Columbia University, 2003) won the Phi Beta Kappa Society’s 2004 Ralph Waldo Emerson Award “for scholarly studies that contribute significantly to interpretations of the intellectual and cultural condition of humanity.” Her most recent book, The Happiness Myth (Harper One, 2007) brought a skeptical eye to modern wisdom about the good life. Hecht’s poetry books are The Next Ancient World (which won the Poetry Society of America’s first book prize), and Funny which Publisher’s Weekly called “one of the most original and entertaining books of the year.” Her prose and poetry appear in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Washington Post. Hecht earned her Ph.D. in the History of Science from Columbia University in 1995 and now teaches in the Graduate Writing Program at The New School University.