Atheists: A Social History in the West HIST4254

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 60
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Runs Throughout Semesters 1 and 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: No

Short Description

The course will look at a succession of key themes: including ecclesiastical and state power, gender, class, ethnicity, sexual freedom and fertility control. It will use sources of various kinds which "reach" the voices of the nones: personal testimony in court cases, in autobiography and memoir, in essays and scientific exposition, and in oral history testimony. The course will emphasise approaching atheism as an experiential issue rather than as a philosophical or ideological position, and push first-hand testimony and social history of the personal to the forefront.


Three hours per week over 20 weeks as scheduled on MyCampus.

This is of the Honours options in History, and may not run every year. The options that are running in the current session are available on MyCampus.

Requirements of Entry

Successful completion of Junior Honours in History.

Excluded Courses





■ Two Examinations (2-hour duration) - 25% each

■ Two Essays (2,500 words) - 10% each

■ Two Seminar Presentations (20 minutes) accompanied by materials as advised in course instructions - 10% each

■ Two (1,00 words) Blog entries and 250-word responses to commentaries upon them - 5% each

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course will provide the opportunity to:


■ Prepare students for independent and original analysis of a complex range of evidence, including source materials, thereby developing intellectual skills which will be of benefit in a wide range of careers.

■ Ensure, through student-led discussion, that the validity of alternative historical interpretations is assessed and judged.

■ Develop professional and practical skills such as the selection, sifting, and synthesis of information from a wide range of primary and secondary sources, available in print, oral or internet, to access historical sources and information.

■ Develop transferable skills including oral and written communication, the ability both to lead a group and to work as part of a group, respect for the reasoned views of others, and the ability to manage and take responsibility for one's own learning.

■ Encourage students to develop the confidence, imagination, skills and self-discipline required to excel in similar demanding work in postgraduate work or in employment.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ Discuss and elaborate upon different concepts and terms applied to the decay of religious faith in the western world - largely Europe, North America and Australasia.

■ Compare the nature of unbelief in different epochs and cultures of the west.

■ Be able to distinguish between, and evaluate, different types of evidence of relevant to different aspects of the subject.

■ Understand and assess different interpretations of historical and sociological debates relating to secularisation, belief and unbelief.

■ Present such understanding in clear and concise prose in examinations, coursework essays, seminar papers and alternative written formats, and in verbal presentations involving PowerPoint slides or handouts, and incorporating a range of substantiating evidence.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.