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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In this third episode dedicated to Tim Whitmarsh's book, Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World, we review his section on the Hellenistic Era where kings were sometimes worshiped as "gods". Some philosophers, however, were skeptical of such ideas and adopted an agnostic position toward the existence of gods. Epicureans, on the other hand,believed in gods but not in their involvement in the world, and since the gods were different in matter and not part of this world, they even thought that there existed a plurality of universes; a concept similar to what is now referred to as "multiverse".


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We continue our discussion of Whitmarsh's Battling the the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World. The second part of his book deals with the atheism in Classical Athens (5th-4th centuries BCE). In this episode, some important figures of that time period such as Thucydides (author of the Peloponnesian War), Protagoras, Democritus, Aristophanes, Euripides, Plato, as well as Anaxagoras, Diogoras of Melos, Socrates, and Theodorus of Cyrene and their impact on atheistic thought are reviewed.

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February 2, 2015  
The idea that the gospel writers imitated ancient classical texts has been explored by several authors. D.R. MacDonald has written a book explaining how the New Testament gospels were the product of mimesis, and that Homer's Iliad and Odyssey served as foundational texts from which the writers build their own stories of Jesus. In the podcast we explore mimetic criticism and offer an assessment of MacDonald's hypothesis and criteria used in the study of ancient religious texts.

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