RLB514 Transformations of Modern Atheism

Faculty of Arts
Autumn 2020
Extent and Intensity
1/1/0. 5 credit(s). Type of Completion: k (colloquium).
Taught online.
doc. PhDr. David Václavík, Ph.D. (lecturer)
Guaranteed by
doc. PhDr. David Zbíral, Ph.D.
Department for the Study of Religions - Faculty of Arts
Contact Person: Mgr. Ivona Vrzalová
Supplier department: Department for the Study of Religions - Faculty of Arts
each odd Thursday 16:00–17:40 B2.44
Course Enrolment Limitations
The course is only offered to the students of the study fields the course is directly associated with.

The capacity limit for the course is 30 student(s).
Current registration and enrolment status: enrolled: 0/30, only registered: 0/30
fields of study / plans the course is directly associated with
Course objectives
The course is focused on the analysis of the transformations of atheism in European thought and society during the Modern Era. It concentrates on several levels that relate to the phenomenon. The first one is the semantic level, then the philosophical level and finally the socio-political level. The aim is to show that modern atheism is essentially an ideological-political concept, whose analytical use in science is very limited. In connection with the examination of this hypothesis, attention will be paid not only to the analyses and critical assessment of the "classical" forms of modern atheism (e.g., Enlightenment atheism, Marxist atheism, Positivist atheism, etc.), but also its contemporary forms, mainly so-called new atheism, as well as recent attempts to critically deal with the phenomenon of atheism in contemporary Western society, which are linked to attempts to redefine it and apply new typologies, as well as the introduction of new categories, particularly the category of unbelief.
Learning outcomes
After completing the course, students will be able to:
  • define the basic types of atheism;
  • analyze and interpret selected key texts of modern atheism;
  • critically analyze the differences between atheism, agnosticism, apathy;
  • describe differences between secularism and atheism.
  • Syllabus
    • Basic definition of atheism: Genealogy of the term and its oldest uses
    • Modern redefinition of atheism: From a theological category to a political category
    • Basic forms of modern atheism I: Enlightenment atheism.
    • Basic forms of modern atheism II: Marxist atheism.
    • Basic forms of modern atheism III: Positivist atheism.
    • Basic forms of modern atheism IV: Existentialist atheism.
    • Atheism, secularism and modern society: Attempts to create an analytical category.
    • The so-called New atheism: An attempt to revive one concept.
    • Current attempts at a new definition I: Sociological perspective and concept of unbelief.
    • Current attempts at a new definition II: Atheism from the perspective of the cognitive science of religion.
      required literature
    • NORENZAYAN, Ara. Big gods : how religion transformed cooperation and conflict. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013. xiii, 248. ISBN 9780691151212. info
    • MCGRATH, Alister E. The twilight of atheism : the rise and fall of disbelief in the modern world. 1st ed. London: Rider, 2004. xiii, 306. ISBN 9781844131556. info
    • BAGGINI, Julian. Atheism : a very short introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. 119 p. ISBN 0192804243. info
    • FEUERBACH, Ludvík. Přednášky o podstatě náboženství. Translated by Zbyněk Sekal. Praha: Státní nakladatelství politické literatury, 1953. 326 s. info
      recommended literature
    • PURZYCKI, Benjamin Grant, Joseph HENRICH, Coren APICELLA, Quentin ATKINSON, Adam BAIMEL, Emma COHEN, Rita MCNAMARA, Aiyana WILLARD, Dimitrios XYGALATAS and Ara NORENZAYAN. The evolution of religion and morality : A synthesis of ethnographic and experimental evidence from eight societies. Religion, Brain & Behavior. Routledge, 2018, vol. 8, No 2, p. 101-132. ISSN 2153-599X. doi:10.1080/2153599X.2016.1267027. info
    • Religion and the new atheism : a critical appraisal. Edited by Amarnath Amarasingam. Boston: Brill, 2010. xv, 253. ISBN 9789004185579. info
    • SMITH, George H. Why atheism? Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2000. 250 p. ISBN 1573922684. info
      not specified
    • A short history of atheism. Edited by Gavin Hyman. New York: In the United States of America and Canada distributed by Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. xx, 212 p. ISBN 9781848851375. info
    • The Cambridge companion to atheism. Edited by Michael Martin. First publishing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. xix, 331. ISBN 9780521603676. info
    Teaching methods
    Lecture, discussion, reading and analysis of texts.
    Assessment methods
    Active participation (20 %); final paper (50 %); excerpts (30 %).
    Language of instruction
    Further Comments
    Study Materials
    The course is taught each semester.
    The course is also listed under the following terms Spring 2017.
    • Enrolment Statistics (recent)
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