Summary Of Battling The Gods By Tim Whitmarsh

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Whitmarsh, Tim. Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World. Vintage Books, 2015. Throughout Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World, author Tim Whitmarsh redefines classical history through the lens of the often neglected and demonized perspectives of Atheists. Through these perspectives, Whitmarsh emphasizes the significance of atheism in classical history, with a clear intention of opposing the frequent neglect atheists and atheist history receive from influential historians and educators. To this end, Whitmarsh aims to disprove the misconception that religion is inherently natural in humans, thus recognizing and acknowledging atheist history as equally significant to religious history. Such a platform is consistent …show more content…

Characterized as capricious, selfish, and often comical, the Greek gods and goddesses hardly served as moral precedents, as can be seen through Zeus’ various exploits and Ares’ violent and cruel tendencies (Whitmarsh 31-32). To this end, the Greek gods and goddesses served as symbolic manifestations of all aspects of humanity, embodying the urges, ingenuity, hardships, and faults of all people (31). Consequently, the Greek people tended to criticize divine elements in Homer’s and Hesiod’s works, undermining, questioning, and even parodying the adventures of the heroes (36). A significant instance of this can be found within the writings of Palaephatus, a skeptical Athenian. Regarding the mythological creatures known as centaurs, Palaephatus writes, “... it is impossible. Horse and human natures are not compatible, nor are their foods the same …show more content…

As an example of this, Whitmarsh cites one of historian Thucydides’ most prominent works, the History of the Peloponnesian War. Having studied pre-Socratic philosophy to the extent in which he was rumored to be an Atheist, Thucydides solidified his position through his historical account of the infamous war between Athens and Sparta (Whitmarsh 82). Unlike many historians of his time, Thucydides actively rejected divine or supernatural interpretations of the war, endeavoring to only record naturalistic causality while deliberately criticizing the invocation of deities in alternate accounts. Consequently, the History of the Peloponnesian War serves as the earliest known “Atheist narrative” of history

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