Atheism in pagan antiquity

By Anders Björn Drachmann

First published in:

About this book

From the introduction:

The present inquiry is the outcome of a request to write an article on “Atheism” for a projected dictionary of the religious history of classical antiquity. On going through the sources I found that the subject might well deserve a more comprehensive treatment than the scope of a dictionary would allow. It is such a treatment that I have attempted in the following pages.

A difficulty that occurred at the very beginning of the inquiry was how to define the notion of atheism. Nowadays the term is taken to designate the attitude which denies every idea of God. Even antiquity sometimes referred to atheism in this sense; but an inquiry dealing with the history of religion could not start from a definition of that kind. It would have to keep in view, not the philosophical notion of God, but the conceptions of the gods as they appear in the religion of antiquity. Hence I came to define atheism in Pagan antiquity as the point of view which denies the existence of the ancient gods. It is in this sense that the word will be used in the following inquiry.