Can Atheism be Rational? A Reading of Thomas Aquinas

Can Atheism be Rational? A Reading of Thomas Aquinas


Acta Philosophica, vol. 11 (2002)


Does St Thomas Aquinas have anything to teach us on the subject of atheism? We might doubt it, even if we share his basic outlook. The reason would be the very fact that in his day there were so few who did not share it. It was, as they say, an age of faith. The profession of some sort of religious belief, indeed monotheism, was virtually universal, not just in Europe but in practically all of what Europeans then knew of the world. No doubt there were individual cases of “godlessness”. The learned would also have known something about atheistic philosophies in pagan antiquity. But on the whole, the medievals seem to have had little incentive to take atheism very seriously. It hardly comes as a surprise to find that St Thomas’s own writings contain no thematic treatment of it2. Only in modernity does “serious” atheism seem to resurface.

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