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Negative Theology and its Interpretation as an Atheistic Attitude in 5th Century Athens

La théologie négative et son interprétation comme attitude athée à Athènes au ve siècle
Pablo Pinel Martínez
p. 277-290

Abstracts

In the following paper I try to show that there was most likely a connection between the rise of atheistic ideas towards the end of the 5th century BCE, and the previous existence of a tradition of negative theology. This would have started with Xenophanes of Colophon, in whose writings we seem to find traces of both negative theology and epistemological as well as theological skepticism. These two views would have allowed the apparition of doubt regarding the existence of the gods, which is best presented in Protagoras’ writings. This agnosticism, in turn, would have given way to the appearance of positive atheism. This may explain, as well, why theology started to raise suspicions amongst the Athenian population.

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Text / excerpt

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Outline

Introduction
Xenophanes: negative theology and skepticism
From skepticism to atheism
Conclusion: a narrow safety zone

Text / first lines

Introduction

Rational theology is the discipline which tries to understand the divine through reason, and, as Sarah Broadie has explained, it does not necessarily include every theory that makes use of a concept of the divine, but rather reflections whose focus is in this very concept, such as proofs of the existence of god, or speculation on its nature. It is usually agreed that the first thinker who properly fits this profile is Xenophanes of Colophon, in the 6th century BCE. There is also consensus in saying that, despite his harsh criticism of the myths in Homer and Hesiod, this philosopher’s intention was never to reject religion as a whole, or the concept of the divine in general, but rather to reform the ideas of the gods in order to turn them into something more deserving of praise and prayers. From its very beginning, therefore, rational theology was intended to be beneficial for religiousness, and not against it, and this, indeed, is not surprising for us at all: enquiries ...

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References

Bibliographical reference

Pablo Pinel Martínez, « Negative Theology and its Interpretation as an Atheistic Attitude in 5th Century Athens », Revue de l’histoire des religions, 2 | 2020, 277-290.

Electronic reference

Pablo Pinel Martínez, « Negative Theology and its Interpretation as an Atheistic Attitude in 5th Century Athens », Revue de l’histoire des religions [Online], 2 | 2020, Online since 03 January 2024, connection on 05 August 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/rhr/10543 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/rhr.10543

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About the author

Pablo Pinel Martínez

Universidad Complutense de Madrid
ppinel[at]ucm.es

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Copyright

Tous droits réservés

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