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William Blake: Prophet of Hell

Why does the great Romantic poet appeal to so many atheists?

By Jason Whittaker  

Satan Smiting Job with Sore Boils by William Blake. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

In his 2010 novel The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, Philip Pullman recounts the famous dark night of the soul in Gethsemane, during which Jesus concludes: “You’ve gone away, haven’t you, you’ve abandoned us.”

Drawing the distinction between a thoroughly humanist Jesus and his scheming doppelganger, Christ, this is not simply a moment of profound doubt before spiritual illumination, but the moment when the religious game is up. For Pullman, Jesus’ final words on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”, are not a rhetorical flourish but the moment that, dying, he…

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