Rethinking Atheism in the Early Modern World – An Interdisciplinary Workshop

Date / time: 10 February, 5:00 pm

Call for Papers, deadline – 10 February 2023, 5 pm 

The workshop welcomes 20-minute paper proposals on any topic relating to the historical, theological, and cultural dimensions of ‘atheism’ in the early modern world broadly conceived. Please submit a paper title, a 250-word abstract, and a 100-word author biography, to no later than 5:00PM (GMT) on Friday 10 February 2023.

Disrupting the conventional assumption that people in the pre-modern era experienced the world around them through an all-encompassing religious lens, historians have increasingly identified individuals throughout the ancient, medieval, and early modern eras who were convinced that atheism was a palpable presence, not only among others, but also within themselves. These studies are beginning to reveal the multifarious ways in which people have understood and experienced the absence or rejection of God, uncovering narratives of those who seemed to live as if there were no God, those who denied his existence outright, those who wrestled with grave doubts about religious principles or practices, and those who endured – or surrendered to – moments of uncertainty, pangs of unbelief, or absences of faith that called God into question. These scenarios disrupt oppositional distinctions between ‘self’ and ‘other’, ‘orthodox’ and ‘unorthodox’, ‘belief’ and ‘unbelief’, ‘theism’ and ‘atheism’. Beginning with the premise that these categories are fluid, overlapping processes rather than static, binary conditions, this workshop further develops novel approaches to atheism: In what ways have people perceived, understood, and encountered atheism and atheists? How have people described, depicted, or engaged with atheism through textual and non-textual means? To what extent can scholars study atheism as lived experience? What can past ‘atheisms’ tell us about present religious and non-religious identities? How can we continue to reinvigorate the study of atheism in early modern history?

To Be Held Online – The workshop will take place virtually on Friday 31 March 2023. The workshop is supported by the Leverhulme Trust and the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Durham. It is held in partnership with the International Society for Historians of Atheism, Secularism, and Humanism.

Image: Wiki Commons – Fête de la Raison 1793