Friday, June 3, 2011

Religion Has Always Been Doubted

I've just published a new edition of my book about the Greek philosophers and what they thought about religion, their gods, and the myths about them: Cosmos of the Ancients. I was curious about how much they actually believed in their gods. Not much at all, I found.

Generally, we tend to take for granted that in ancient times, doubts about religious matters were almost unfathomable. We expect that the further back in time we go, the less people were able to see through the religious concepts or question them at all. The gods were as real to them as the sky, the sun, and the moon.

I was not so sure of it, considering the nature of the human mind, which has been about the same – as far as we know – for hundreds of thousands of years. That's how long the human brain size has been about the same. This big thing must have been put to use in all kinds of matters, especially those that appeared from inside of it.

We are unable to scrutinize human though in any detail, way back to the stone age, but there are lots of thoughts preserved from Ancient Greece. That's at least some 2,400 years back, in a time where gods were worshipped and myths about them were common knowledge. So, I decided to investigate what the Greek philosophers revealed about their thoughts on religious matters.

They were the finest minds of the time, no doubt, so what they concluded might not have been the views of the common man. But if they were at all able to question the existence of the gods and the accuracy of the myths about them, then all the people of that time would at least have had the ability to do the same. It could not have been beyond their mental capacity.

Indeed, most of the philosophers expressed some kind of disbelief regarding religious views. Several of them were outright atheists, others regarded the gods as symbols of sorts, or imagined supernatural powers of other kinds. Actually, philosophers with a belief in the common myhtology were hard to find.

This might very well be true for any time and any culture. The religious beliefs are not embraced by all, at least not entirely. There has always been doubt and alternative ideas about it all. This needs to be considered wherever religion is studied. We can't take blind belief for granted, even when we go far back or examine a culture where religion seemed to rule the world view. Its rule was probably never absolute.

People's minds wander. They've always done so. The one thing that is the hardest to find, upon closer examination, is consensus. That's probably how we progress at all.

Here's my book about the Greek philosophers and their religious views on Amazon.
It's also a Kindle ebook.
And here is more information about the book on my website.


  1. I just got the book delivered to me today. I've been catching up on my classics and just read "Metamorfosis" again and listened to a bunch of very interesting lectures on greek and roman mythology. I got very curious about your take on the myths and so...

  2. Magnus, I hope you let me know what you think about the book. The Greek philosophers had very creative ways of looking at the myths.