Socrates is usually described as having been convicted of corrupting the youth of Athens. Plato suggests that the charge accuses Socrates of political heresy: By publicly rejecting the Homeric gods, Socrates placed himself outside of the community. As an atheist, or so his accusers alleged, he had failed as a citizen.
Socrates, of course, was not an atheist at all (a point which he made repeatedly, labeling atheism an unjust crime), nor were the Christians who were called atheists and persecuted by Roman emperors for rejecting the state religion. Atheism, in its most technical sense, is the rejection of a god or gods, but the word carries a historical insult: An atheist is someone who has rejected civil society.TAGGED: Harvard