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date: 02 February 2023

belief, ancient religiouslocked

belief, ancient religiouslocked

  • Charles Stewart
  •  and John North


Currently ‘belief’ has at least three different meanings in the context of religion: (1) an inner psychological state of pious commitment; (2) the acceptance of received ideas; and (3) the doctrines held by others, contrasted with ‘our’ knowledge. Granted this polysemy, the use of the term ‘belief’ in the study of other societies has often introduced confusion. Furthermore, a particular western history beginning with the rise of Christianity (see below) has fundamentally shaped contemporary understandings of ‘belief’, rendering it inapplicable to pre-Christian antiquity. This history includes the advent of Protestant sects emphasizing the individualistic interiority of faith, and the Enlightenment propagation of a scientific rationality that displaced belief in God amongst a significant portion of the population. Belief has today become, implicitly, if not always explicitly, an affirmation of religious conviction in the face of surrounding scepticism. The peculiarity of modern belief is this propositional and assertive quality.The embrace of the gods throughout Greek and Roman antiquity was, by contrast, dispositional—a fact of socialization only infrequently subjected to sceptical reflection. Belief in the gods was normally a matter of unchallenged acceptance, not of debate: the jurisdiction of the Olympian gods is so pervasively assumed in *Homer's Iliad that even the Trojans perform rituals for the Olympians and enjoy their protection.


  • Greek Myth and Religion
  • Roman Myth and Religion

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