HIST427: Belief and Unbelief: Gods and Pagans from Antiquity to Today
Course Convenor: Professor Michael Hughes
This module examines the nature of Belief and Unbelief from the late Roman period down to the present day. It is often assumed that there has been a movement down the centuries from 'Belief' to 'Unbelief', especially in the West, where the intellectual impact of the Enlightenment and the growth of industrial society have widely been seen as fostering 'the death of religion'.
The reality has been more complicated.
In the medieval and early modern periods, the dominant religion was constantly challenged by various forms of alternative belief: pagan, superstition, etc. In the modern period, religious belief has survived the enormous social and intellectual upheavals of the last two centuries. Both modern cognitive science and the growth of 'New Age' beliefs suggests that the religious instinct is rooted deeply in the human psyche. The development of terrorist activities committed to asserting the primacy of faith shows how modernity does not necessarily lead to the triumph of unbelief over belief.
Taught: Lent Term