Charles Bradlaugh (1833 – 1891) was one of Britain (and the 19th century’s) leading atheist and secular voices. He also practiced law and tried a hand at politics. Bradlaugh was, like Robert Ingersol, famous in his time, but is less known now. Below is part of what wrote about him on the Secular Perspectives blog http://secularhumanist.blogspot.com/search/label/Charles%20Bradlaugh.
From this era I especially enjoyed writings like the 1864 A Plea For Atheism http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/charles_bradlaugh/plea_f... (see more links to his writings). Like Ingersoll’s writings these are succinct, thought provoking, insightful
and still contemporary on many issues. He had much to say about atheism
as well as secularism and the relation of the two. On atheism he reminds me of Dawkins and his 7 point scale (see my blog on Framing Arguments: You say Flaming Atheists and I Say Non-Confronta...).
Bradlaugh discussed atheism in his 1876 book The Freethinker's Text Book this way:
"Atheism is without God. It does not assert no God. The atheist does not say
that there is no God, but he says 'I know not what you mean by God. I am
without the idea of God. The word God to me is a sound conveying no
clear or distinct affirmation. I do not deny God, because I cannot deny
that of which I have no conception, and the conception of which by its
affirmer is so imperfect that he is unable to define it for me. "
He reminds me of Chomsky answering questions he considers trivial and
unworthy of a strained conversation with this quote on the topic of God
from the National Reformer:
"I do not deny "God", because that word conveys to me no idea, and I
cannot deny that which presents to me no distinct affirmation, and of
which the would-be affirmer has no conception. I cannot war with a
nonentity. If, however, God is affirmed to represent an existence which
is distinct from the existence of which I am a mode, and which it is
alleged is not the noumenon of which the word "I" represents only a
speciality of phenomena, then I deny "God", and affirm that it is
impossible "God" can be."
-- Charles Bradlaugh, in the National Reformer, quoted from Jim Herrick, "Bradlaugh and Secularism: 'The Province of the Real'"