Modern Period of Atheism
By the 1770s, atheism was ceasing to be a dangerous accusation that required denial, and was evolving into a position openly avowed by some. The first open denial of the existence of god and avowal of atheism since classical times may be that of Paul Baron d'Holbach (1723–1789) in his 1770 work, The System of Nature. D'Holbach was a Parisian social figure who conducted a famous salon widely attended by many intellectual notables of the day, including Diderot, Jean Jacques Rousseau, David Hume, Adam Smith, and Benjamin Franklin. Nevertheless, his book was published under a pseudonym, and was banned and publicly burned by the Executioner.
The pamphlet Answer to Dr Priestley's Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever (1782) is considered to be the first published declaration of atheism in Britain — plausibly the first in English (as distinct from covert or cryptically atheist works). The otherwise unknown 'William Hammon' (possibly a pseudonym) signed the preface and postscript as editor of the work, and the anonymous main text is attributed to Matthew Turner (d. 1788?), a Liverpool physician who may have known Priestley. Historian of atheism David Berman has argued strongly for Turner's authorship, but also suggested that there may have been two authors (see Berman 1988, Chapter 5).
Afterward, the French Revolution of 1789 catapulted atheistic thought into political notability, and opened the way for the 19th century movements of Rationalism, Freethought, and Liberalism. An early atheistic influence in Germany was The Essence of Christianity by Ludwig Feuerbach (1804–1872). He influenced other German 19th century atheistic thinkers like Karl Marx, Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900).