Were there atheists in Ancient Greece?

The history of atheism and thrill seeking behaviour

Were there atheists in Ancient Greece?

View of Mount Olympus from Petra, Pieria by Cristo Vlahos, April 2016

Most of us think of atheism as a modern movement, born from the massive leaps in science and technology since the 19th century. Even if people questioned the existence of some divine force in the past surely they kept it to themselves.

In his latest book, Battling the Gods, Cambridge classicist Tim Whitmarsh looks at the state of atheism in the ancient world. Focusing on the Mediterranean he shows how people were willing to question and even openly denounce the existence of any god or gods. But what happened to those that did?

Tim and Susan Cahill journey through the history of godlessness, exploring how people in the ancient world lost their religion and how the wider society reacted to their faithlessness.

Though atheists have probably always been part of society, they have been in the minority for the most part. Similarly most people in history have sought out comfort and the easy life. There will always be people who swim against the current though and history is full of people who chose adversity over relaxation.

Such people are the focus of, Extreme, a new book by Emma Barrett and Paul Martin. More than a simple exploration of what makes thrill seekers tick, this work explores the benefit these individuals can have on wider society and what happens when this behaviour goes wrong. 

Opening the show Susan talks with Emma about the people who choose to live at the edge, and why they do this instead of stay safe at home.

This week's music to read to,

This week's music comes from Berlin based electronic artist, Nils Frahm.