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Empires of Belief

Why We Need More Scepticism and Doubt in the Twenty-First Century

Stuart Sim

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Challenges all forms of fundamentalism and unexamined belief systems from a philosophical and sceptical viewpoint.

Is unquestioning belief making a global comeback? The growth of religious fundamentalism seems to suggest so. For the sceptically minded, this is a deeply worrying trend, not just confined to religion. Political, economic, and scientific theories can demand the same unquestioning obedience from the general public. Stuart Sim outlines the history of scepticism in both the Western and Islamic cultural traditions, and from the Enlightenment to postmodernism. Setting out what a sceptical politics might be like, Empires of Belief argues that we need less belief and more doubt: an engaged scepticism to replace the pervasive dogmatism that threatens our democracies.

Key Features:

  • New book from the author of the highly successful Fundamentalist World
  • Questions belief systems, including science and technology
  • Intervenes in current debates around terrorism and fundamentalism
  • Explores sceptical thought within different cultural traditions, especially Islam
  • Suggests that scepticism can play a greater role in public and political life


1) Introduction: Empires of Belief, Campaigns for Scepticism
2) Scepticism: A Brief Philosophical History
3) Enlightenment Scepticism: A Campaign Against Unnecessary Hypotheses
4) Super-Scepticism: The Postmodern World
5) Science and Technology as Belief Systems
6) Towards a Sceptical Politics
7) Reasonable Doubt?
8) Conclusion: The Sceptic Fights Back

About the Author

Stuart Sim is retired Professor of Critical Theory at Northumbria University. He has published widely on critical theory, and is a Fellow of the English Association. Amongst his recent publications are The Lyotard Dictionary (2011), Addicted to Profit: Reclaiming Our Lives from the Free Market (2012), Fifty Key Postmodern Thinkers (2013), and, with Brett Wilson and Barbara Hawkins (eds) Art, Science & Cultural Understanding (2014).


A timely book reminding us that without scepticism, the world will be led into chaos by dogmatic and protectionist leaders who increasingly demand immunity from censure from the people they rule over.
- Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, columnist on the Independent and Evening Standard and author of Who Do We Think We Are? and Some of My Best Friends Are …
In this vigorous and challenging book Stuart Sim calls for less belief and more doubt in a world that threatens to tear itself apart over competing certainties. But the book is much more than an analysis of feuding fundamentalisms: it is a call for sceptics everywhere to get organised and do something.
- Richard Holloway, writer and broadcaster, former Bishop of Edinburgh, author of Looking in the Distance