How to Be an Atheist — The Ancient Greek Way

Lecture Center for Global Humanities Lecture/Seminar Series

Tim Whitmarsh

Tim Whitmarsh

Many people will tell you that atheism is a modern phenomenon: this is a myth that has proven useful both to those among the religious who wish to see it as a pathological symptom of modern decadence and to those atheists who believe that "science and progress" has eclipsed the primitive fantasies of the ancients. In fact, doubt about the existence of the gods is attested in many ancient societies: Indian, Chinese, Israelite and Greco-Roman. It is, however, the ancient Greek material that survives most plentifully, and which gives us the best opportunities for exploring how a society very different to our own explored issues that are very similar to those we face now. Can we learn from the past? You bet.


Tim Whitmarsh is A. G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at the University of Cambridge, UK; he also holds honorary positions at the universities of Pretoria, Exeter and Oxford. He has written a number of books on ancient Greek and Roman literature, culture and thought. In 2015, he was awarded the Goodwin Order of Merit by the Society of Classical Studies. Battling the Gods was widely covered by mainstream press in North America and across Europe: "excellent" (New York Times); "beautifully written and highly persuasive" (Literary Review); "as learned as it is intellectually thrilling" (New Statesman); "brilliant … illuminating … an invigorating, urgent book" (The Guardian). He has appeared on TV and radio in America, Britain, Canada, Australia and South Africa.

Assigned Reading

Tim Whitmarsh, Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World (Knopf, 2015)


5 p.m. in the Newberry Room, Alumni Hall

CGH Tim Whitmarsh
6:00 PM
WCHP Lecture Hall in Parker Pavilion


Free and open to the public