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date: 23 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Were there atheists and was there atheism in the Renaissance and the Reformation? There are no clear records for self-professed atheists at the twilight of the period, yet it is largely at that time that the semantic field of atheism began to be assembled and articulated. In one way or another various strategies have been adopted to study the history of atheism and atheists in order to negotiate the lack of evidence of self-professed atheists. Some scholars categorically deny the existence of atheists beyond the level of accusations, while others point to esoteric atheists. Some look for more visible evidence by studying atheism as a product of modern secularism, others by studying the history of theism. The essay offers an overview of the major scholarly approaches of those who have sought to answer this historical question, and presents a concluding case study of the humanist and philosopher Marsilio Ficino’s engagement with atheism.

Keywords: Marsilio Ficino, humanism, impiety, philosophy, Renaissance, Reformation, Rhetoric, secularism, theism, theology

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