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Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World by Tim Whitmarsh

By Tim Whitmarsh

How new is atheism? even if adherents and competitors alike this present day current it as an invention of the eu Enlightenment, whilst the forces of technological know-how and secularism largely challenged these of religion, disbelief within the gods, in truth, originated in a much more distant previous. In Battling the Gods, Tim Whitmarsh trips into the traditional Mediterranean, a global virtually unimaginably assorted from our personal, to get well the tales and voices of these who first refused the divinities.

Homer’s epic poems of human striving, traveling, and fervour have been historical Greece’s in simple terms “sacred texts,” yet no historic Greek idea two times approximately wondering or mocking his tales of the gods. clergymen have been functionaries instead of assets of ethical or cosmological knowledge. The absence of centralized spiritual authority made for a rare number of views on sacred issues, from the devotional to the atheos, or “godless.” Whitmarsh explores this kaleidoscopic variety of principles in regards to the gods, concentrating on the colourful people who challenged their life. between those have been a few of the maximum historical poets and philosophers and writers, in addition to the fewer renowned: Diagoras of Melos, possibly the 1st self-professed atheist; Democritus, the 1st materialist; Socrates, finished for rejecting the gods of the Athenian nation; Epicurus and his fans, who concept gods couldn't intrude in human affairs; the brilliantly mischievous satirist Lucian of Samosata.

Before the revolutions of past due antiquity, which observed the scriptural religions of Christianity and Islam enforced via imperial may perhaps, there have been few constraints on trust. every little thing replaced, notwithstanding, within the millennium among the looks of the Homeric poems and Christianity’s institution as Rome’s nation faith within the fourth century advert. As successive Greco-Roman empires grew in measurement and complexity, and tool used to be more and more centred in principal capitals, states sought to impose collective non secular adherence, first to cults dedicated to person rulers, and finally to monotheism. during this new international, there has been no room for outright disbelief: the label “atheist” used to be used now to demonize a person who simply disagreed with the orthodoxy—and so it will stay for centuries.

As the twenty-first century shapes up right into a time of mass details, but in addition, mockingly, of collective amnesia in regards to the tangled histories of religions, Whitmarsh offers a bracing antidote to our assumptions in regards to the roots of freethinking. by way of shining a mild on atheism’s first thousand years, Battling the Gods deals a well timed reminder that nonbelief has a wealth of culture of its personal, and, certainly, its personal heroes.

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Extra info for Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World

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Such a conclusion, once again, is not unique to atheism or characteristic of a particular philosophy: Revelation is the first to prohibit the conceptualization of that which ‘‘bears the name which is above every name’’ (Philippians 2:9), which is to say ‘‘the love which surpasses all knowledge’’ (Ephesians 3:19). God therefore is distinguished as well by the impossibility of being conceptualized. ∂. The Impossible Experience Confronted with this double impossibility, we have no choice but to proceed from the common determination of phenomenality to the conclusion that the phenomenon of God is impossible.

Metaphysics, to the extent that it constructs the ‘‘God of the philosophers and scientists,’’ construes God as the omnipotent case, the case in which power is possessed over all things, including over what remains impossible for us. ≤∞ This determination has such deep roots that not even efforts to marginalize the question of God fail to endorse and privilege divine omnipotence. ’’≤≤ 2. ≤∂ Not even the rift cut into 25 Jean-Luc Marion philosophy by the ‘‘end of metaphysics’’ seems to jeopardize the paradox that God comes to thought only as the possibility of impossibility.

As long as the ‘‘Differenz zwischen Sein und Seiendem erscheint dann [. ] als die Transzendenz, d. h. als das Meta-Physische,’’∞≠ transcendence remains metaphysical, even when it overcomes metaphysics. Transcendence that is taken according to these meanings does not open up transcendence but instead slams it shut. ’’∞∞ It follows that the end of metaphysics and even the repetition of Seinsfrage, far from ruling out or relativizing the question of God, bring instead and by means of contrast its irreducible character to light: Do we have access to a transcendence without condition or measure?

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