A.N.D. Haksar, Alex Watson and Tim Whitmarsh in conversation with Arshia Sattar

 

How new is atheism? Although adherents and opponents alike today present it as an invention of the European Enlightenment when the forces of science and secularism broadly challenged those of faith, disbelief in the gods, it in fact, originated in a far more remote past. In Battling the Gods, Tim Whitmarsh journeys into the ancient Mediterranean to recover the stories and voices of those who first refused the divinities. Among these were some of the greatest ancient poets and philosophers and writers including Diagoras of Melos, perhaps the first self-professed Greek atheist, Democritus, the first Mediterranean materialist, Socrates, executed for rejecting the gods of the Athenian state, and Epicurus and his followers, and the brilliantly mischievous satirist Lucian of Samosata. Meanwhile A.N.D. Haksar and Alex Watson talk about atheism in ancient India, especially the sceptical Charvaka school, dating back to the 6th century BC, which denied the existence of any transcendental deity and may have been one of several atheistic, materialist schools that existed in ancient India.