May – Ancient Atheism: Exploring the Greco-Roman Heritage of the Godless

In this course, Richard Carrier (Ph.D., Columbia University) takes you on a journey through atheism’s history back to its beginnings.

Description: This course explains how atheism was argued in antiquity, who the leading atheist thinkers were, what differences and similarities there were with modern atheism, and how modern atheism can be informed or transformed by ancient atheism. This course also dispels a number of myths about ancient atheism and ancient religion. Nonbelievers and skeptics, this is your chance to learn about your heritage under the guidance of a published expert in ancient history, who can answer all the questions you’ll have about this part of your history, and help you understand the scholarship and literature. Believers, this is your chance to study how Western atheism began, and its actual context of doubt and religion, and of even Christianity itself, which was as much in opposition to skeptics as to believers in other gods.

This course includes discussion of ancient debates between creationists and naturalists, which eerily resemble debates today. We will explore one part of the four-part course text each week: Archaic Greece (Chs. 1-4: looking at the earliest records of Western atheism that we have); Classical Athens (Chs. 5-9: looking at the earliest detailed philosophical discussions of atheism, in the era of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle); The Hellenistic Era (Chs. 10-12: looking at the evolution of godless thought after Aristotle, including Epicurean and Cyrenaic atheism, and beyond); and The Roman Era (Chs. 13-16: looking at the last battles over godlessness in the ancient world, including famous Roman Skeptics, and the polemics of Christians against atheism, and whether Christians were really ever called atheists). The story ends with atheism being outlawed by Theodosius in 395 A.D.

start/end dates – May 1 / May 31, 2019
DEADLINE for registration – May 10th

Secular sage level registration- $79 (choose ‘Carrier-Ancient Science’ on the next screen)
Academy Certificate registration- $139 (choose ‘Carrier-Ancient Science-cert’ on the next screen)

Schedule: Specific reading and discussion goals are set for every week, completing four units in four weeks, but within that framework you can participate in every element on your own time. There are no live events to be missed. One book by Richard Carrier is required reading (see below). Everything else about the course is provided inside the classroom website. Course lectures, academic papers, links to websites, and forums for discussions with the instructor and students are included in the Moodle website classroom. Visit the class anytime to contribute your posts and receive Dr. Carrier’s replies in discussion forums.

Course Reading: The required course text (which students must purchase, in print or electronic form) is Tim Whitmarsh, Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World. All other materials will be provided for free, including other books and research papers discussed, and excerpts from ancient writers.

GENERAL INFORMATION: Online classrooms and their discussion threads are accessible 24/7, so you can participate at any hour of the day when there’s some time in your busy schedule. Instructors will not be on live video and you won’t be either – there is nothing happening on camera and no particular time of day you have to be present. If an instructor posts a pre-recorded video, you can view it at your convenience. There’s nothing ‘live’ to be missed, and course instructor respond individually and promptly to all questions and comments. Instructors lead everyone through lectures and readings, but no attendance is taken and there are no assignments to complete – instructors are always available when you are ready to engage them about what is on your mind.

Ask Richard about his course by posting on his facebook wall at

Richard Carrier
Richard Carrier, PhD, is the renowned author of several books, including Sense and Goodness without God and Proving History, as well as numerous articles online and in print. He received his PhD in ancient history from Columbia University in 2008, and now specializes in the modern philosophy of naturalism, the origins of Christianity, and the intellectual history of Greece and Rome. For more about Richard and his work visit