The Benefit of the Doubt. Between Skepticism and Godlessness, Critique or Indifference in Religious Traditions of the Ancient World

The Benefit of the Doubt. Between Skepticism and Godlessness, Critique or Indifference in Religious Traditions of the Ancient World

Dr. Nicole Hartmann, Dr. Franziska Naether
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Theologische Fakultät
Vom - Bis
21.02.2019 - 22.02.2019
Nicole Hartmann

The international Workshop brings scholars from Ancient History, Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Classics, Egyptology, Early Judaism and Christianity to Religious Studies in dialogue about critical discourses on religion prevalent in their field of interest. What forms of expressing doubts or skepticism about the passed-down religious narratives, practices and authoritative structures are specific for a certain religious culture? And what common motifs and topics can we trace in critique of religious fields like divination or mourning rituals across the disciplines? We will hear of priests that openly question their own daily business and of attempts to systematise doubts and critique in order to mark the boundaries between acceptable scruples and blasphemy. With this interdisciplinary meeting we wish to allow for inspiring and fruitful discussions and many new methodological and theoretical insights


Thursday, 21 February 2019

13.30 Registration

14:00-14:30 Welcome and Introduction: Nicole Hartmann and Franziska Naether

14:30-15:15 Kenneth Yu (University of Toronto): Ritual Lament and Blasphemy in Plato’s Laws (7, 800b8-e9)

15:15-16:00 John Gee (Brigham Young University): Internal and External Critiques of Egyptian Religion in the Graeco-Roman Period

16.00-16:30 Coffee

16:30-17:30 PhD-Panel:

Giulia Fiore (Universitá di Bologna): „Why should I dance? The worship of the god is perishing“ Doubting the Divine in Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus

Ramón Soneira Martínez (Max Weber Kolleg Erfurt): Ἡ νόσος of declaring that gods do not exist. Condemnation and persecution of atheist positions in Plato’s Laws

Punsara Amarasinghe (School of Advanced Studies Pisa): Understanding Pyrrho’s Skepticism parallel to Madhyamika School in Buddhism

Pablo Pinel Martínez (Universidad Complutense Madrid): The Quest for Arguments for Disbelief in Ancient Greece

17:30-18:00 Response: Michael Satlow (Brown University)

18:30-19:30 Public Lecture: Nickolas P. Roubekas (Vienna University): Doubting vs. Explaining Religion. From 'Atheism' to Theorizing about Religion in Antiquity

20:00 Common Dinner

Friday 22 February 2019

09:30-10:15 Livio Warbinek (Tel Aviv University): Hittites and their Oracles. They believed in them, although they did not trust them

10:15-11:00 Franziska Naether (Leipzig University): Doubting Priests and Practitioners in Ancient Egyptian Religion

11:00-11:30 Coffee

11:30-12:15 Darja Šterbenc Erker (Humboldt University Berlin): Skepticism and Doubt in Religious Traditions in Rome: Deification of Mortals

12:15-13:00 Fernando Bermejo-Rubio (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia Madrid): Laughing at the Promised Salvation – Doubters and Scoffers in Early Christianity

13:00-14:30 Lunch

14:30-15:15 Ioannis Papadogiannakis (King’s College London): The Greek Christian Literature of Questions-and-Answers (erotapokriseis) as Literature of Doubt

15:15-16:00 Reuven Kiperwasser (Hebrew University Jerusalem): Chatting with God and the Benefit of the Doubt. Skeptical Theism in Late-Antique Rabbinic Stories

16.00-16:30 Coffee

16:30-17:15 Nicole Hartmann (Humboldt University Berlin): Exploring the Dimensions of Godlessness in the Roman Empire
17:15-17:45 Final Discussion

19:00 Possibility for Common Dinner

Attendence is free of charge. If you would like to attend, please RSVP shortly to Dr. Nicole Hartmann ( or Dr. Franziska Naether (



Nicole Hartmann
Theologische Fakultät/Antikes Christentum
Burgstr. 26
10178 Berlin
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