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Battling the Gods

Tim Whitmarsh

A superb narrative of a thousand years of struggle for atheism, rational inquiry and intellectual freedom. Shortlisted for the 2016 Runciman Award.

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How new is atheism?

Long before the Enlightenment sowed seeds of disbelief in a deeply Christian Europe, atheism was a matter of serious public debate in the Greek world. But history is written by those who prevail, so the lively free-thinking voices of antiquity were mostly suppressed.

Tim Whitmarsh brings to life the origins of the secular values at the heart of the modern state, and reveals how atheism and doubt, far from being modern phenomena, have intrigued the human imagination for thousands of years.

Critic Reviews

Tim Whitmarsh’s brilliant new book about ancient atheism makes a compelling case that various forms of religious disbelief have been with us for the past two and a half millennia, with greater and lesser degrees of cultural prominence ... This is an invigorating, urgent book that makes an important contribution to a central contemporary debate. '

Guardian, Emily Wilson
Critic Reviews

As learned as it is intellectually thrilling. Covering the millenium and more that separates Homer from Theodosius the Great, Battling the Gods fills a gap that probably few of us had even been aware of, and does so comprehensively ... The great achievement of Battling the Gods is to trace in a manner that can be followed readily the evolution of sceptical attitudes towards the divine across the whole span of ancient history.

Tom Holland, New Statesman
Critic Reviews

In the face of many crude modern discussions of atheism . . . , it's great to have Tim Whitmarsh's sophisticated exploration of various versions of ancient disbelief.

Mary Beard
Critic Reviews

[A] lively, learned and cliche-busting book. In a work of openly committed scholarship, [Whitmarsh] aims to rescue ancient doubt and disbelief from a long tradition of slander and opprobrium. And he has an eye-opening story to tell.

Boyd Tonkin, Independent
Critic Reviews

A well-written and fascinating glimpse of the Greek philosophers and writers who are the founding fathers of modern atheism ... Whitmarsh is an adept historian, but perhaps a better matchmaker, as he introduces us to entertaining, savvy and sometimes raucous ancient thinkers who can be easily paired with the new atheists of the 21st century.

Candida Moss, Times Higher Education Supplement
Critic Reviews

Excellent ... Whitmarsh's book deserves to be read for its verve and quality but also because the more the existence of the rich history and heritage of humanist thought is known by the public, the better it will be for society.

Andrew Copson, New Humanist

Tim Whitmarsh is the A. G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at Cambridge University. A well-known specialist in the civilisations of ancient Greece and Rome, he has appeared on BBC radio and TV, and written for the Guardian, Times Literary Supplement, London Review of Books and Literary Review.

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