Inquisitive Minds Podcast Critical Thinking on History, Religion, Politics and Culture

This last episode on Whitmarsh's Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World focuses on atheism in the Roman Empire. The rise of Rome brought with it the belief that the Empire's existence was the result of a divine mandate. Some opposing voices were raised against this idea of divine providence. Atheistic arguments circulated through various doxographies written mostly by people opposing non-believers. These texts give us insight into how disbelievers argued somewhat successfully against theistic perspectives. As Rome embraced Christianity, rulers such as Theodosius I (379-395 CE) established that it was now insufficient to simply adopt the right religion; one also needed to adhere to the right theological position on the right religion. Codex Theodosianus goes as far as treating "heresy" (which was now clearly understood as an incorrect theological position) as crime against the state. According to this law, "any crime committed against divine religion is treated as an aggression against everyone".

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Many believers think their religion is the ultimate true religion. If people did not believe this to be so, they would probably just convert to another religion. This implies that other religions are wrong. Is there a unique true religion or are all religions true? How can one explain the different beliefs, practices and experiences of various religious traditions in the world? Can religion be understood in terms of culture? What is the role of culture, cognition and embodiment with respect to religion? How is religion to be defined?

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