A.G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture, University of Cambridge
Anschließend Gespräch mit Prof. Dr. Melanie Möller, Berlin, und Prof. Dr. Susanne Gödde, Berlin
Were there ancient Greek atheists? Is there, more generally, a deep history of atheism that stretches back beyond the European enlightenment and secular modernity?
The word ‘atheist’ derives from a Greek word atheos, which means ‘without god’: it was used first in a religious sense, to indicate people who had been abandoned by gods, and a little later in a ‘philosophical’ sense, to mean those who denied the existence of gods. Who were these people, and were they a significant social force in ancient societies? Was classical Athens, where the atheoi are best attested, representative of Greek culture as a whole? And did their form of atheism correspond in any sense to atheism in the modern, post-Enlightenment sense?
This talk will consider the evidence, the problems, the challenges and the implications of such questions. As we shall see, the issues are only partly historical, in the strict sense. They also reflect back upon us, asking us to rethink the categories that we use to define ‘religious’ and ‘non-religious’ behaviour – and so to think harder about the relationship between humanity and religion.