The Athenians demonstrated incredible audacity in affirming that human freedom must be understood without the gods, who are held not to be implicated in human affairs--no longer at the helm, so to speak. That affirmation is the source of philosophy, as we learn from Plato's Apology.
Socrates' "question[ing] all of Athenian society...revealed a rupture that gave birth to philosophy:"
The divine word is a mystery; it can mean everything or nothing. Zeus neither speaks nor holds his tongue but makes a sign, as Heraclitus said. Man discovers that he himself is responsible for giving meaning to this sign. The word from above, or from elsewhere, must be deciphered. This is the Greek genius: the separation of heaven and earth. [...] ...the Greek experience seems more radical than that of the monotheisms, since it presupposes no adherence to a unique word that would dominate the thought and freedom of men and women. For the Greeks, there was no way around the permanent crisis that constitutes the existence of a free human being.
Glucksmann continues by observing that "Athens taught us that free will and critical thinking go together:"
The necessity of submitting celestial voices and their dictates to the painstaking criticisms of reason is a matter not of pride but of modesty: it is not because I think myself good or intelligent, but because I know I am fallible and capable of deceiving myself... [...] No prophet opened the Red Sea for Athens, no god showed it the path to follow. Freedom gave rise from the beginning to disorder: how to think, survive, act, and resist in the jumble of human relations.
Glucksmann's book from which the article was adapted, La Plus Belle Histoire de la Liberté, is currently available only in French. It looks to be a fine companion to Paul Woodruff's First Democracy: The Challenge of an Ancient Idea, a book that has been languishing unread on my shelves for far too long.