By now, it’s pretty well established that the first Englishman to hold that position was Richard III.
But did this happen before Richard III?
In fact, the first recorded use of the word “atheist” is in a 13th-century English novel called A Prayer to the Almighty, written by Thomas Moore and published by John Milton in 1640.
The story begins with the death of Richard III, who is accused of treason and hanged.
“The Lord have mercy on thee, thy Lord, thou art so high, that the heaven of heaven should shake him,” Moore writes in the novel.
“Then God made a great cry in heaven, and said, Thou art an atheist, for thou art an evil man.”
In the story, Moore also states that “the world’s greatest atheists”, including William Shakespeare, Thomas Paine, and Thomas More, were also atheists.
It’s interesting that Moore’s novel was published before Shakespeare’s plays were even published.
It is very likely that Moore, as an atheist himself, had heard about the story and considered it, rather than being influenced by Shakespeare.
Moore’s novel also mentions the death penalty for atheism, but he doesn’t say why it was used against him.
Perhaps Moore was more upset that he was put to death than that he didn’t die as an honest man.
In fact, it is not known whether he was punished for his atheism, or for the treason that led to his execution.
Moore is often credited with writing the first non-religious novel, which is ironic given that the man who wrote the first atheist novel, Edmund Burke, was a Catholic.
Burke wrote in his diary that he “never felt so anxious to please my Maker” as he did during his two-year stay in London at the age of 21.
He wrote:I have no idea why they hang us, but it is better than death, if they cannot get us.
Moore’s story was written in 1645, which suggests that he might have been in London by then.
In 1649, it was published in the Edinburgh Review.
A book entitled The First Englishman was published around 1650.
While it doesn’t provide a complete list of the people who held the title, it does provide the date on which it was written, in 1649.
It’s unclear what Moore’s name is in the book, but if we assume that he is a Protestant and that he wrote the novel while in London, it would make sense that the book would include references to him.
If Moore was an atheist before 1650, it doesn