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The Blasphemies of Thomas AikenheadBoundaries of Belief on the Eve of the Enlightenment$
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Michael F. Graham

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780748634262

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748634262.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
The Blasphemies of Thomas Aikenhead

Michael F. Graham

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter talks about Thomas Aikenhead, a twenty-year-old student from the town college of Edinburgh who was executed for blasphemy. Those hanged rarely died instantly, so onlookers would probably have watched him shudder for several minutes, fists clenched, nose and mouth oozing bloody mucus, gradually suffocating. Many had died for causes related to religion, particularly in the period of highly politicised covenants after 1638, but these victims had found themselves on the wrong side of political struggles, and were more likely to meet their ends on the battlefield than the scaffold. There was no such obviously political element in Aikenhead's demise. The Aikenhead case was born in the initial collision between Covenanted Presbyterianism and the countercurrents of deism, biblical criticism, and religious scepticism.

Keywords:   Thomas Aikenhead, Edinburgh, blasphemy, religion, biblical criticism, religious scepticism

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