After having read one dialogue by Plato, a question occured to me: Did the Greeks really believe in the real existence of their gods?

In Plato's dialogue there are many references to gods, but I have trouble accepting that this philosopher could believe that for example on Mount Olympus there actually lived some god-like entities.

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    I think all the evidence suggests that they really did believe in their gods. As this answer - with sources - to another question on this site shows, that belief survived at least as long as the ninth century AD, despite concerted efforts by the established church to convert them to Christianity. Jul 11, 2017 at 13:03
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    – T.E.D.
    Jul 11, 2017 at 14:07
  • Do modern people believe in existence of Krishna? The question makes no sense. Some believed, others not.
    – Alex
    Jul 11, 2017 at 22:19

2 Answers 2


Oh yes, they did.

Probably not all Greeks of course, but enough of them.

One of the popular fads in late antiquity was Mystery Religions. These were religions that had secret belief systems that you only progressively learn as you get initiated deeper into the religion.* The gods Cybele and Dionysus had very popular mystery religions, which just flat out would not work if people didn't believe in the gods in question.

Many argue early Christianity borrowed quite a lot of elements from these mystery religions. Particularly the ritual meal, baptism, and the language in John 1 ("In the beginning was the Logos...")

The Ancient Greeks are documented to have sentenced quite a few men to death for the crime of impiety. This "crime" is not much of a social problem, unless you have large numbers of people who do believe, and are thus worried that the impiety will anger the gods, and thus cause misfortune for the community.

A lot of the early anti-Christian riots in the Roman Empire had this as at least part of the motivation. Christians denied all other gods, which would be seen as a severe danger to the community if you are a person who believes those gods exist and punish disrespect.

* - The addictive power of this scheme should be fairly obvious to anyone who understands how our own Stack Exchange network's reputation/moderation system works.

  • I considered adding Socrates as a specific example, but he wasn't convicted just on impiety, and what their actual problem with him was seems to be a matter of debate. Should I add him anyway?
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 11, 2017 at 15:28
  • On the contrary, the people can punish impiety very severely just because they are showing off their piety that does not really exist. Like that in contemporary Russia.
    – Gangnus
    Jul 12, 2017 at 14:49

Of course, yes. Is the sentence of Socrat not enough as an argument?

On the other hand, Sokolovsky in Russia this year was condemned, to 4 years of conditional imprisonment, for his doubts in God's existence and in Immaculate conception, and 50% of population are not christians...

I am afraid, the question can be correctly answered only after we decide what can serve as a check for if some people really believe in its gods. How many people believe so that they can walk across a swimming pool? Filled.

BTW, Opera Jesus Christ - superstar is already considered as antichristian in Russia. Fanatics or these that are playing fanatics are so unlogical that it is very hard to measure them by logic.

  • Good point. They wouldn't have killed him if their gods were a fairy tale to them, or just an intellectual exercise.
    – Ne Mo
    Jul 11, 2017 at 15:01

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