Volume 61, 2018
Philosophy of Religion
Historical Religious Indifference and its Links to Contemporary Apatheism
The term “apatheism” was coined in a May 2003 article in the Atlantic magazine by Jonathan Rauch and was used to describe a certain attitude towards religious belief described as “[…] a disinclination to care all that much about one’s own religion, and an even stronger disinclination to care about other people’s [religion][…]”. Rauch explains that both religious believers as well as non-believers can be apatheists, arguing that apatheism is not a new position alongside theism, atheism, and agnosticism, but rather an attitude one has towards religious belief or non-belief, and that this attitude is a new and most importantly a positive development in human culture. In this paper, I will compare this contemporary view of apatheism with similar manifestations throughout different times in the history of ideas, including the idea of practical atheism as well as the Western Christian concept of indifferentism and Pascal’s treatment of that concept. I’ll also describe what these historical precedents have in common as well as how they differ; concluding with what I believe is the chief difference between them, namely, that the sense of apatheism that Rauch is advocating is inherently positive as opposed to the negative connotations traditionally associated with such a stance.