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Atheism – Wikipedia

Atheism is, in the broadest sense, the absence of belief in the existence of deities.[1][2][3][4] Less broadly, atheism is the rejection of belief that any deities exist.[5][6] In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.[1][2][7][8] Atheism is contrasted with theism,[9][10] which, in its most general form, is the belief that at least one deity exists.[10][11][12]

The etymological root for the word atheism originated before the 5th century BCE from the ancient Greek (atheos), meaning “without god(s)”. In antiquity it had multiple uses as a pejorative term applied to those thought to reject the gods worshiped by the larger society,[13] those who were forsaken by the gods or those who had no commitment to belief in the gods.[14] The term denoted a social category created by orthodox religionists into which those who did not share their religious beliefs were placed.[14] The actual term atheism emerged first in the 16th century.[15] With the spread of freethought, skeptical inquiry, and subsequent increase in criticism of religion, application of the term narrowed in scope. The first individuals to identify themselves using the word atheist lived in the 18th century during the Age of Enlightenment.[15] The French Revolution, noted for its “unprecedented atheism,” witnessed the first major political movement in history to advocate for the supremacy of human reason.[17] The French Revolution can be described as the first period where atheism became implemented politically.

Arguments for atheism range from the philosophical to social and historical approaches. Rationales for not believing in deities include arguments that there is a lack of empirical evidence,[18][19] the problem of evil, the argument from inconsistent revelations, the rejection of concepts that cannot be falsified, and the argument from nonbelief.[18][20] Proponents contend that atheism is a more parsimonious position than theism and that it is the position in which everyone is born; therefore, they argue that the burden of proof lies not on the atheist to disprove the existence of God but on the theist to provide a rationale for theism.[21][1] However, others have disagreed with the view of being born into such a position.[22][23] Although some atheists have adopted secular philosophies (e.g. secular humanism),[24][25] there is no one ideology or set of behaviors to which all atheists adhere.[26]

Since conceptions of atheism vary, accurate estimations of current numbers of atheists are difficult.[27] According to global Win-Gallup International studies, 13% of respondents were “convinced atheists” in 2012,[28] 11% were “convinced atheists” in 2015,[29] and in 2017, 9% were “convinced atheists”.[30] However, other researchers have advised caution with WIN/Gallup figures since other surveys which have used the same wording for decades and have a bigger sample size have consistently reached lower figures.[31] An older survey by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 2004 recorded atheists as comprising 8% of the world’s population.[32] Other older estimates have indicated that atheists comprise 2% of the world’s population, while the irreligious add a further 12%.[33] According to these polls, Europe and East Asia are the regions with the highest rates of atheism. In 2015, 61% of people in China reported that they were atheists.[34] The figures for a 2010 Eurobarometer survey in the European Union (EU) reported that 20% of the EU population claimed not to believe in “any sort of spirit, God or life force”.[35]

Writers disagree on how best to define and classify atheism,[36] contesting what supernatural entities are considered gods, whether it is a philosophic position in its own right or merely the absence of one, and whether it requires a conscious, explicit rejection. Atheism has been regarded as compatible with agnosticism,[37][38][39][40][41][42][43] and has also been contrasted with it.[44][45][46] A variety of categories have been used to distinguish the different forms of atheism.

Some of the ambiguity and controversy involved in defining atheism arises from difficulty in reaching a consensus for the definitions of words like deity and god. The plurality of wildly different conceptions of God and deities leads to differing ideas regarding atheism’s applicability. The ancient Romans accused Christians of being atheists for not worshiping the pagan deities. Gradually, this view fell into disfavor as theism came to be understood as encompassing belief in any divinity.

With respect to the range of phenomena being rejected, atheism may counter anything from the existence of a deity, to the existence of any spiritual, supernatural, or transcendental concepts, such as those of Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Taoism.[48]

Definitions of atheism also vary in the degree of consideration a person must put to the idea of gods to be considered an atheist. Atheism has sometimes been defined to include the simple absence of belief that any deities exist. This broad definition would include newborns and other people who have not been exposed to theistic ideas. As far back as 1772, Baron d’Holbach said that “All children are born Atheists; they have no idea of God.”[49] Similarly, George H. Smith (1979) suggested that: “The man who is unacquainted with theism is an atheist because he does not believe in a god. This category would also include the child with the conceptual capacity to grasp the issues involved, but who is still unaware of those issues. The fact that this child does not believe in god qualifies him as an atheist.”[50] Smith coined the term implicit atheism to refer to “the absence of theistic belief without a conscious rejection of it” and explicit atheism to refer to the more common definition of conscious disbelief. Ernest Nagel contradicts Smith’s definition of atheism as merely “absence of theism”, acknowledging only explicit atheism as true “atheism”.[22] Graham Oppy classifies as innocents those who never considered the question because they lack any understanding of what a god is. According to Oppy, these could be one-month-old babies, humans with severe traumatic brain injuries, or patients with advanced dementia.

Philosophers such as Antony Flew[52] and Michael Martin have contrasted positive (strong/hard) atheism with negative (weak/soft) atheism. Positive atheism is the explicit affirmation that gods do not exist. Negative atheism includes all other forms of non-theism. According to this categorization, anyone who is not a theist is either a negative or a positive atheist. The terms weak and strong are relatively recent, while the terms negative and positive atheism are of older origin, having been used (in slightly different ways) in the philosophical literature[52] and in Catholic apologetics.[53] Under this demarcation of atheism, most agnostics qualify as negative atheists.

While Martin, for example, asserts that agnosticism entails negative atheism,[40] many agnostics see their view as distinct from atheism,[54][55] which they may consider no more justified than theism or requiring an equal conviction.[54] The assertion of unattainability of knowledge for or against the existence of gods is sometimes seen as an indication that atheism requires a leap of faith.[56][57] Common atheist responses to this argument include that unproven religious propositions deserve as much disbelief as all other unproven propositions,[58] and that the unprovability of a god’s existence does not imply equal probability of either possibility.[59] Australian philosopher J. J. C. Smart even argues that “sometimes a person who is really an atheist may describe herself, even passionately, as an agnostic because of unreasonable generalized philosophical skepticism which would preclude us from saying that we know anything whatever, except perhaps the truths of mathematics and formal logic.”[60] Consequently, some atheist authors such as Richard Dawkins prefer distinguishing theist, agnostic and atheist positions along a spectrum of theistic probabilitythe likelihood that each assigns to the statement “God exists”.

Before the 18th century, the existence of God was so accepted in the western world that even the possibility of true atheism was questioned. This is called theistic innatismthe notion that all people believe in God from birth; within this view was the connotation that atheists are simply in denial.[62]

There is also a position claiming that atheists are quick to believe in God in times of crisis, that atheists make deathbed conversions, or that “there are no atheists in foxholes”.[63] There have however been examples to the contrary, among them examples of literal “atheists in foxholes”.[64]

Some atheists have doubted the very need for the term “atheism”. In his book Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris wrote:

In fact, “atheism” is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a “non-astrologer” or a “non-alchemist”. We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.

Pragmatic atheism is the view one should reject a belief in a god or gods because it is unnecessary for a pragmatic life. This view is related to apatheism and practical atheism.[66]

Atheists have also argued that people cannot know a God or prove the existence of a God. The latter is called agnosticism, which takes a variety of forms. In the philosophy of immanence, divinity is inseparable from the world itself, including a person’s mind, and each person’s consciousness is locked in the subject. According to this form of agnosticism, this limitation in perspective prevents any objective inference from belief in a god to assertions of its existence. The rationalistic agnosticism of Kant and the Enlightenment only accepts knowledge deduced with human rationality; this form of atheism holds that gods are not discernible as a matter of principle, and therefore cannot be known to exist. Skepticism, based on the ideas of Hume, asserts that certainty about anything is impossible, so one can never know for sure whether or not a god exists. Hume, however, held that such unobservable metaphysical concepts should be rejected as “sophistry and illusion”.[68] The allocation of agnosticism to atheism is disputed; it can also be regarded as an independent, basic worldview.[69]

Other arguments for atheism that can be classified as epistemological or ontological, including ignosticism, assert the meaninglessness or unintelligibility of basic terms such as “God” and statements such as “God is all-powerful.” Theological noncognitivism holds that the statement “God exists” does not express a proposition, but is nonsensical or cognitively meaningless. It has been argued both ways as to whether such individuals can be classified into some form of atheism or agnosticism. Philosophers A. J. Ayer and Theodore M. Drange reject both categories, stating that both camps accept “God exists” as a proposition; they instead place noncognitivism in its own category.[70][71]

Philosopher, Zofia Zdybicka writes:

“Metaphysical atheism… includes all doctrines that hold to metaphysical monism (the homogeneity of reality). Metaphysical atheism may be either: a) absolute an explicit denial of God’s existence associated with materialistic monism (all materialistic trends, both in ancient and modern times); b) relative the implicit denial of God in all philosophies that, while they accept the existence of an absolute, conceive of the absolute as not possessing any of the attributes proper to God: transcendence, a personal character or unity. Relative atheism is associated with idealistic monism (pantheism, panentheism, deism).”[72]

Some atheists hold the view that the various conceptions of gods, such as the personal god of Christianity, are ascribed logically inconsistent qualities. Such atheists present deductive arguments against the existence of God, which assert the incompatibility between certain traits, such as perfection, creator-status, immutability, omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, omnibenevolence, transcendence, personhood (a personal being), nonphysicality, justice, and mercy.[18]

Theodicean atheists believe that the world as they experience it cannot be reconciled with the qualities commonly ascribed to God and gods by theologians. They argue that an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent God is not compatible with a world where there is evil and suffering, and where divine love is hidden from many people.[20] A similar argument is attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism.[74]

Philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach[75] and psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud have argued that God and other religious beliefs are human inventions, created to fulfill various psychological and emotional wants or needs. This is also a view of many Buddhists.[76] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, influenced by the work of Feuerbach, argued that belief in God and religion are social functions, used by those in power to oppress the working class. According to Mikhail Bakunin, “the idea of God implies the abdication of human reason and justice; it is the most decisive negation of human liberty, and necessarily ends in the enslavement of mankind, in theory and practice.” He reversed Voltaire’s famous aphorism that if God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him, writing instead that “if God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him.”[77]

Atheism is not mutually exclusive with respect to some religious and spiritual belief systems, including Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Syntheism, Ralism,[78] and Neopagan movements[79] such as Wicca.[80] stika schools in Hinduism hold atheism to be a valid path to moksha, but extremely difficult, for the atheist can not expect any help from the divine on their journey.[81] Jainism believes the universe is eternal and has no need for a creator deity, however Tirthankaras are revered that can transcend space and time [82] and have more power than the god Indra.[83] Secular Buddhism does not advocate belief in gods. Early Buddhism was atheistic as Gautama Buddha’s path involved no mention of gods. Later conceptions of Buddhism consider Buddha himself a god, suggest adherents can attain godhood, and revere Bodhisattvas[84] and Eternal Buddha.

Apophatic theology is often assessed as being a version of atheism or agnosticism, since it cannot say truly that God exists.[85] “The comparison is crude, however, for conventional atheism treats the existence of God as a predicate that can be denied (God is nonexistent), whereas negative theology denies that God has predicates”.[86] “God or the Divine is” without being able to attribute qualities about “what He is” would be the prerequisite of positive theology in negative theology that distinguishes theism from atheism. “Negative theology is a complement to, not the enemy of, positive theology”.[87]

Axiological, or constructive, atheism rejects the existence of gods in favor of a “higher absolute”, such as humanity. This form of atheism favors humanity as the absolute source of ethics and values, and permits individuals to resolve moral problems without resorting to God. Marx and Freud used this argument to convey messages of liberation, full-development, and unfettered happiness.[69] One of the most common criticisms of atheism has been to the contrary: that denying the existence of a god either leads to moral relativism and leaves one with no moral or ethical foundation,[88] or renders life meaningless and miserable.[89] Blaise Pascal argued this view in his Penses.[90]

French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre identified himself as a representative of an “atheist existentialism” concerned less with denying the existence of God than with establishing that “man needs… to find himself again and to understand that nothing can save him from himself, not even a valid proof of the existence of God.” Sartre said a corollary of his atheism was that “if God does not exist, there is at least one being in whom existence precedes essence, a being who exists before he can be defined by any concept, and… this being is man.” The practical consequence of this atheism was described by Sartre as meaning that there are no a priori rules or absolute values that can be invoked to govern human conduct, and that humans are “condemned” to invent these for themselves, making “man” absolutely “responsible for everything he does”.

Sociologist Phil Zuckerman analyzed previous social science research on secularity and non-belief, and concluded that societal well-being is positively correlated with irreligion. He found that there are much lower concentrations of atheism and secularity in poorer, less developed nations (particularly in Africa and South America) than in the richer industrialized democracies.[94][95] His findings relating specifically to atheism in the US were that compared to religious people in the US, “atheists and secular people” are less nationalistic, prejudiced, antisemitic, racist, dogmatic, ethnocentric, closed-minded, and authoritarian, and in US states with the highest percentages of atheists, the murder rate is lower than average. In the most religious states, the murder rate is higher than average.[96][97]

People who self-identify as atheists are often assumed to be irreligious, but some sects within major religions reject the existence of a personal, creator deity.[99] In recent years, certain religious denominations have accumulated a number of openly atheistic followers, such as atheistic or humanistic Judaism[100][101] and Christian atheists.[102][103][104]

The strictest sense of positive atheism does not entail any specific beliefs outside of disbelief in any deity; as such, atheists can hold any number of spiritual beliefs. For the same reason, atheists can hold a wide variety of ethical beliefs, ranging from the moral universalism of humanism, which holds that a moral code should be applied consistently to all humans, to moral nihilism, which holds that morality is meaningless.[105] Atheism is accepted as a valid philosophical position within some varieties of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism.[106]

Philosophers such as Slavoj iek,[107] Alain de Botton,[108] and Alexander Bard and Jan Sderqvist,[109] have all argued that atheists should reclaim religion as an act of defiance against theism, precisely not to leave religion as an unwarranted monopoly to theists.

According to Plato’s Euthyphro dilemma, the role of the gods in determining right from wrong is either unnecessary or arbitrary. The argument that morality must be derived from God, and cannot exist without a wise creator, has been a persistent feature of political if not so much philosophical debate.[110][111][112] Moral precepts such as “murder is wrong” are seen as divine laws, requiring a divine lawmaker and judge. However, many atheists argue that treating morality legalistically involves a false analogy, and that morality does not depend on a lawmaker in the same way that laws do.[113] Friedrich Nietzsche believed in a morality independent of theistic belief, and stated that morality based upon God “has truth only if God is truthit stands or falls with faith in God.”[114][115][116]

There exist normative ethical systems that do not require principles and rules to be given by a deity. Some include virtue ethics, social contract, Kantian ethics, utilitarianism, and Objectivism. Sam Harris has proposed that moral prescription (ethical rule making) is not just an issue to be explored by philosophy, but that we can meaningfully practice a science of morality. Any such scientific system must, nevertheless, respond to the criticism embodied in the naturalistic fallacy.[117]

Philosophers Susan Neiman[118] and Julian Baggini[119] (among others) assert that behaving ethically only because of divine mandate is not true ethical behavior but merely blind obedience. Baggini argues that atheism is a superior basis for ethics, claiming that a moral basis external to religious imperatives is necessary to evaluate the morality of the imperatives themselvesto be able to discern, for example, that “thou shalt steal” is immoral even if one’s religion instructs itand that atheists, therefore, have the advantage of being more inclined to make such evaluations.[120] The contemporary British political philosopher Martin Cohen has offered the more historically telling example of Biblical injunctions in favor of torture and slavery as evidence of how religious injunctions follow political and social customs, rather than vice versa, but also noted that the same tendency seems to be true of supposedly dispassionate and objective philosophers.[121] Cohen extends this argument in more detail in Political Philosophy from Plato to Mao, where he argues that the Qur’an played a role in perpetuating social codes from the early 7th century despite changes in secular society.[122]

Some prominent atheistsmost recently Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins, and following such thinkers as Bertrand Russell, Robert G. Ingersoll, Voltaire, and novelist Jos Saramagohave criticized religions, citing harmful aspects of religious practices and doctrines.[123]

The 19th-century German political theorist and sociologist Karl Marx called religion “the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people”. He goes on to say, “The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.”[124] Lenin said that “every religious idea and every idea of God is unutterable vileness… of the most dangerous kind, ‘contagion’ of the most abominable kind. Millions of sins, filthy deeds, acts of violence and physical contagions… are far less dangerous than the subtle, spiritual idea of God decked out in the smartest ideological constumes…”[125]

Sam Harris criticizes Western religion’s reliance on divine authority as lending itself to authoritarianism and dogmatism. There is a correlation between religious fundamentalism and extrinsic religion (when religion is held because it serves ulterior interests)[127] and authoritarianism, dogmatism, and prejudice.[128] These argumentscombined with historical events that are argued to demonstrate the dangers of religion, such as the Crusades, inquisitions, witch trials, and terrorist attackshave been used in response to claims of beneficial effects of belief in religion.[129] Believers counter-argue that some regimes that espouse atheism, such as the Soviet Union, have also been guilty of mass murder.[130][131] In response to those claims, atheists such as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins have stated that Stalin’s atrocities were influenced not by atheism but by dogmatic Marxism, and that while Stalin and Mao happened to be atheists, they did not do their deeds in the name of atheism.[133]

In early ancient Greek, the adjective theos (, from the privative – + “god”) meant “godless”. It was first used as a term of censure roughly meaning “ungodly” or “impious”. In the 5th century BCE, the word began to indicate more deliberate and active godlessness in the sense of “severing relations with the gods” or “denying the gods”. The term (asebs) then came to be applied against those who impiously denied or disrespected the local gods, even if they believed in other gods. Modern translations of classical texts sometimes render theos as “atheistic”. As an abstract noun, there was also (atheots), “atheism”. Cicero transliterated the Greek word into the Latin theos. The term found frequent use in the debate between early Christians and Hellenists, with each side attributing it, in the pejorative sense, to the other.[13]

The term atheist (from Fr. athe), in the sense of “one who… denies the existence of God or gods”,[135] predates atheism in English, being first found as early as 1566,[136] and again in 1571.[137] Atheist as a label of practical godlessness was used at least as early as 1577.[138] The term atheism was derived from the French athisme,[139] and appears in English about 1587.[140] An earlier work, from about 1534, used the term atheonism.[141][142] Related words emerged later: deist in 1621,[143] theist in 1662,[144] deism in 1675,[145] and theism in 1678.[146] At that time “deist” and “deism” already carried their modern meaning. The term theism came to be contrasted with deism.

Karen Armstrong writes that “During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the word ‘atheist’ was still reserved exclusively for polemic… The term ‘atheist’ was an insult. Nobody would have dreamed of calling himself an atheist.”

Atheism was first used to describe a self-avowed belief in late 18th-century Europe, specifically denoting disbelief in the monotheistic Abrahamic god.[147] In the 20th century, globalization contributed to the expansion of the term to refer to disbelief in all deities, though it remains common in Western society to describe atheism as simply “disbelief in God”.

While the earliest-found usage of the term atheism is in 16th-century France,[139][140] ideas that would be recognized today as atheistic are documented from the Vedic period and the classical antiquity.

Atheistic schools are found in early Indian thought and have existed from the times of the historical Vedic religion.[148] Among the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy, Samkhya, the oldest philosophical school of thought, does not accept God, and the early Mimamsa also rejected the notion of God.[149] The thoroughly materialistic and anti-theistic philosophical Crvka (or Lokyata) school that originated in India around the 6th century BCE is probably the most explicitly atheistic school of philosophy in India, similar to the Greek Cyrenaic school. This branch of Indian philosophy is classified as heterodox due to its rejection of the authority of Vedas and hence is not considered part of the six orthodox schools of Hinduism, but it is noteworthy as evidence of a materialistic movement within Hinduism.[150] Chatterjee and Datta explain that our understanding of Crvka philosophy is fragmentary, based largely on criticism of the ideas by other schools, and that it is not a living tradition:

“Though materialism in some form or other has always been present in India, and occasional references are found in the Vedas, the Buddhistic literature, the Epics, as well as in the later philosophical works we do not find any systematic work on materialism, nor any organized school of followers as the other philosophical schools possess. But almost every work of the other schools states, for refutation, the materialistic views. Our knowledge of Indian materialism is chiefly based on these.”[151]

Other Indian philosophies generally regarded as atheistic include Classical Samkhya and Purva Mimamsa. The rejection of a personal creator God is also seen in Jainism and Buddhism in India.[152]

Western atheism has its roots in pre-Socratic Greek philosophy,[155][156] but atheism in the modern sense was nonexistent or extremely rare in ancient Greece.[157][158][156] Pre-Socratic Atomists such as Democritus attempted to explain the world in a purely materialistic way and interpreted religion as a human reaction to natural phenomena,[153] but did not explicitly deny the gods’ existence.[153] In the late fifth century BCE, the Greek lyric poet Diagoras of Melos was sentenced to death in Athens under the charge of being a “godless person” () after he made fun of the Eleusinian Mysteries,[157][158][153] but he fled the city to escape punishment.[157][158][153] Later writers have cited Diagoras as the “first atheist”,[159][160] but he was probably not an atheist in the modern sense of the word.[158]

A fragment from the lost satyr play Sisyphus, which has been attributed to both Critias and Euripides, claims that a clever man invented “the fear of the gods” in order to frighten people into behaving morally.[161][158][162][158][156] This statement, however, originally did not mean that the gods themselves were nonexistent, but rather that their powers were a hoax.[156] Atheistic statements have also been attributed to the philosopher Prodicus. Philodemus reports that Prodicus believed that “the gods of popular belief do not exist nor do they know, but primitive man, [out of admiration, deified] the fruits of the earth and virtually everything that contributed to his existence”. Protagoras has sometimes been taken to be an atheist, but rather espoused agnostic views, commenting that “Concerning the gods I am unable to discover whether they exist or not, or what they are like in form; for there are many hindrances to knowledge, the obscurity of the subject and the brevity of human life.”[163][157]

The Athenian public associated Socrates (c. 470399 BCE) with the trends in pre-Socratic philosophy towards naturalistic inquiry and the rejection of divine explanations for phenomena.[153][154] Aristophanes’ comic play The Clouds (performed 423 BCE) portrays Socrates as teaching his students that the traditional Greek deities do not exist.[153][154] Socrates was later tried and executed under the charge of not believing in the gods of the state and instead worshipping foreign gods.[153][154] Socrates himself vehemently denied the charges of atheism at his trial[153][154][164] and all the surviving sources about him indicate that he was a very devout man, who prayed to the rising sun and believed that the oracle at Delphi spoke the word of Apollo.[153] Euhemerus (c. 300 BCE) published his view that the gods were only the deified rulers, conquerors and founders of the past, and that their cults and religions were in essence the continuation of vanished kingdoms and earlier political structures.[165] Although not strictly an atheist, Euhemerus was later criticized for having “spread atheism over the whole inhabited earth by obliterating the gods”.[166]

The most important Greek thinker in the development of atheism was Epicurus (c. 300 BCE).[156] Drawing on the ideas of Democritus and the Atomists, he espoused a materialistic philosophy according to which the universe was governed by the laws of chance without the need for divine intervention (see scientific determinism).[167] Although Epicurus still maintained that the gods existed,[156][167] he believed that they were uninterested in human affairs.[167] The aim of the Epicureans was to attain ataraxia (“peace of mind”) and one important way of doing this was by exposing fear of divine wrath as irrational. The Epicureans also denied the existence of an afterlife and the need to fear divine punishment after death.[167] In the 3rd-century BCE, the Greek philosophers Theodorus Cyrenaicus[160][168] and Strato of Lampsacus[169] did not believe in the existence of gods. The Roman philosopher Sextus Empiricus held that one should suspend judgment about virtually all beliefsa form of skepticism known as Pyrrhonismthat nothing was inherently evil, and that ataraxia is attainable by withholding one’s judgment. His relatively large volume of surviving works had a lasting influence on later philosophers.[170]

The meaning of “atheist” changed over the course of classical antiquity.[158] Early Christians were widely reviled as “atheists” because they did not believe in the existence of the Graeco-Roman deities.[171][pageneeded][158][172][173] During the Roman Empire, Christians were executed for their rejection of the Roman gods in general and Emperor-worship in particular.[173][174] When Christianity became the state religion of Rome under Theodosius I in 381, heresy became a punishable offense.[174]

During the Early Middle Ages, the Islamic world experienced a Golden Age. Along with advances in science and philosophy, Arab and Persian lands produced outspoken rationalists and atheists, including Muhammad al Warraq (fl. 9th century), Ibn al-Rawandi (827911), Al-Razi (854925), and Al-Maarri (9731058). Al-Ma’arri wrote and taught that religion itself was a “fable invented by the ancients”[175] and that humans were “of two sorts: those with brains, but no religion, and those with religion, but no brains.”[176] Despite their being relatively prolific writers, little of their work survives, mainly being preserved through quotations and excerpts in later works by Muslim apologists attempting to refute them.[177] Other prominent Golden Age scholars have been associated with rationalist thought and atheism as well, although the current intellectual atmosphere in the Islamic world, and the scant evidence that survives from the era, make this point a contentious one today.

In Europe, the espousal of atheistic views was rare during the Early Middle Ages and Middle Ages (see Medieval Inquisition); metaphysics and theology were the dominant interests pertaining to religion.[178] There were, however, movements within this period that furthered heterodox conceptions of the Christian god, including differing views of the nature, transcendence, and knowability of God. Individuals and groups such as Johannes Scotus Eriugena, David of Dinant, Amalric of Bena, and the Brethren of the Free Spirit maintained Christian viewpoints with pantheistic tendencies. Nicholas of Cusa held to a form of fideism he called docta ignorantia (“learned ignorance”), asserting that God is beyond human categorization, and thus our knowledge of him is limited to conjecture. William of Ockham inspired anti-metaphysical tendencies with his nominalistic limitation of human knowledge to singular objects, and asserted that the divine essence could not be intuitively or rationally apprehended by human intellect. Followers of Ockham, such as John of Mirecourt and Nicholas of Autrecourt furthered this view. The resulting division between faith and reason influenced later radical and reformist theologians such as John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, and Martin Luther.[178]

The Renaissance did much to expand the scope of free thought and skeptical inquiry. Individuals such as Leonardo da Vinci sought experimentation as a means of explanation, and opposed arguments from religious authority. Other critics of religion and the Church during this time included Niccol Machiavelli, Bonaventure des Priers, Michel de Montaigne, and Franois Rabelais.[170]

Historian Geoffrey Blainey wrote that the Reformation had paved the way for atheists by attacking the authority of the Catholic Church, which in turn “quietly inspired other thinkers to attack the authority of the new Protestant churches”.[179] Deism gained influence in France, Prussia, and England. The philosopher Baruch Spinoza was “probably the first well known ‘semi-atheist’ to announce himself in a Christian land in the modern era”, according to Blainey. Spinoza believed that natural laws explained the workings of the universe. In 1661 he published his Short Treatise on God.[180]

Criticism of Christianity became increasingly frequent in the 17th and 18th centuries, especially in France and England, where there appears to have been a religious malaise, according to contemporary sources. Some Protestant thinkers, such as Thomas Hobbes, espoused a materialist philosophy and skepticism toward supernatural occurrences, while Spinoza rejected divine providence in favor of a panentheistic naturalism. By the late 17th century, deism came to be openly espoused by intellectuals such as John Toland who coined the term “pantheist”.[181]

The first known explicit atheist was the German critic of religion Matthias Knutzen in his three writings of 1674.[182] He was followed by two other explicit atheist writers, the Polish ex-Jesuit philosopher Kazimierz yszczyski and in the 1720s by the French priest Jean Meslier.[183] In the course of the 18th century, other openly atheistic thinkers followed, such as Baron d’Holbach, Jacques-Andr Naigeon, and other French materialists.[184] John Locke in contrast, though an advocate of tolerance, urged authorities not to tolerate atheism, believing that the denial of God’s existence would undermine the social order and lead to chaos.[185]

The philosopher David Hume developed a skeptical epistemology grounded in empiricism, and Immanuel Kant’s philosophy has strongly questioned the very possibility of a metaphysical knowledge. Both philosophers undermined the metaphysical basis of natural theology and criticized classical arguments for the existence of God.

Blainey notes that, although Voltaire is widely considered to have strongly contributed to atheistic thinking during the Revolution, he also considered fear of God to have discouraged further disorder, having said “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”[186] In Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), the philosopher Edmund Burke denounced atheism, writing of a “literary cabal” who had “some years ago formed something like a regular plan for the destruction of the Christian religion. This object they pursued with a degree of zeal which hitherto had been discovered only in the propagators of some system of piety… These atheistical fathers have a bigotry of their own…”. But, Burke asserted, “man is by his constitution a religious animal” and “atheism is against, not only our reason, but our instincts; and… it cannot prevail long”.[187]

Baron d’Holbach was a prominent figure in the French Enlightenment who is best known for his atheism and for his voluminous writings against religion, the most famous of them being The System of Nature (1770) but also Christianity Unveiled. One goal of the French Revolution was a restructuring and subordination of the clergy with respect to the state through the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Attempts to enforce it led to anti-clerical violence and the expulsion of many clergy from France, lasting until the Thermidorian Reaction. The radical Jacobins seized power in 1793, ushering in the Reign of Terror. The Jacobins were deists and introduced the Cult of the Supreme Being as a new French state religion. Some atheists surrounding Jacques Hbert instead sought to establish a Cult of Reason, a form of atheistic pseudo-religion with a goddess personifying reason. The Napoleonic era further institutionalized the secularization of French society.

In the latter half of the 19th century, atheism rose to prominence under the influence of rationalistic and freethinking philosophers. Many prominent German philosophers of this era denied the existence of deities and were critical of religion, including Ludwig Feuerbach, Arthur Schopenhauer, Max Stirner, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Nietzsche.[188]

George Holyoake was the last person (1842) imprisoned in Great Britain due to atheist beliefs. Law notes that he may have also been the first imprisoned on such a charge. Stephen Law states that Holyoake “first coined the term ‘secularism'”.[189][190]

Atheism, particularly in the form of practical atheism, advanced in many societies in the 20th century. Atheistic thought found recognition in a wide variety of other, broader philosophies, such as existentialism, objectivism, secular humanism, nihilism, anarchism, logical positivism, Marxism, feminism,[191] and the general scientific and rationalist movement.

In addition, state atheism emerged in Eastern Europe and Asia during that period, particularly in the Soviet Union under Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin, and in Communist China under Mao Zedong. Atheist and anti-religious policies in the Soviet Union included numerous legislative acts, the outlawing of religious instruction in the schools, and the emergence of the League of Militant Atheists.[192][193] After Mao, the Chinese Communist Party remains an atheist organization, and regulates, but does not forbid, the practice of religion in mainland China.[194][195][196]

While Geoffrey Blainey has written that “the most ruthless leaders in the Second World War were atheists and secularists who were intensely hostile to both Judaism and Christianity”,[197] Richard Madsen has pointed out that Hitler and Stalin each opened and closed churches as a matter of political expedience, and Stalin softened his opposition to Christianity in order to improve public acceptance of his regime during the war.[198] Blackford and Schklenk have written that “the Soviet Union was undeniably an atheist state, and the same applies to Maoist China and Pol Pot’s fanatical Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia in the 1970s. That does not, however, show that the atrocities committed by these totalitarian dictatorships were the result of atheist beliefs, carried out in the name of atheism, or caused primarily by the atheistic aspects of the relevant forms of communism.”[199]

Logical positivism and scientism paved the way for neopositivism, analytical philosophy, structuralism, and naturalism. Neopositivism and analytical philosophy discarded classical rationalism and metaphysics in favor of strict empiricism and epistemological nominalism. Proponents such as Bertrand Russell emphatically rejected belief in God. In his early work, Ludwig Wittgenstein attempted to separate metaphysical and supernatural language from rational discourse. A. J. Ayer asserted the unverifiability and meaninglessness of religious statements, citing his adherence to the empirical sciences. Relatedly the applied structuralism of Lvi-Strauss sourced religious language to the human subconscious in denying its transcendental meaning. J. N. Findlay and J. J. C. Smart argued that the existence of God is not logically necessary. Naturalists and materialistic monists such as John Dewey considered the natural world to be the basis of everything, denying the existence of God or immortality.[60][200]

Other leaders like Periyar E. V. Ramasamy, a prominent atheist leader of India, fought against Hinduism and Brahmins for discriminating and dividing people in the name of caste and religion.[201] This was highlighted in 1956 when he arranged for the erection of a statue depicting a Hindu god in a humble representation and made antitheistic statements.[202]

Atheist Vashti McCollum was the plaintiff in a landmark 1948 Supreme Court case that struck down religious education in US public schools.[203] Madalyn Murray O’Hair was perhaps one of the most influential American atheists; she brought forth the 1963 Supreme Court case Murray v. Curlett which banned compulsory prayer in public schools.[204] In 1966, Time magazine asked “Is God Dead?”[205] in response to the Death of God theological movement, citing the estimation that nearly half of all people in the world lived under an anti-religious power, and millions more in Africa, Asia, and South America seemed to lack knowledge of the Christian view of theology.[206] The Freedom From Religion Foundation was co-founded by Anne Nicol Gaylor and her daughter, Annie Laurie Gaylor, in 1976 in the United States, and incorporated nationally in 1978. It promotes the separation of church and state.[207][208]

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the number of actively anti-religious regimes has reduced considerably. In 2006, Timothy Shah of the Pew Forum noted “a worldwide trend across all major religious groups, in which God-based and faith-based movements in general are experiencing increasing confidence and influence vis–vis secular movements and ideologies.”[209] However, Gregory S. Paul and Phil Zuckerman consider this a myth and suggest that the actual situation is much more complex and nuanced.[210]

A 2010 survey found that those identifying themselves as atheists or agnostics are on average more knowledgeable about religion than followers of major faiths. Nonbelievers scored better on questions about tenets central to Protestant and Catholic faiths. Only Mormon and Jewish faithful scored as well as atheists and agnostics.[211]

In 2012, the first “Women in Secularism” conference was held in Arlington, Virginia.[212] Secular Woman was organized in 2012 as a national organization focused on nonreligious women.[213] The atheist feminist movement has also become increasingly focused on fighting sexism and sexual harassment within the atheist movement itself.[214] In August 2012, Jennifer McCreight (the organizer of Boobquake) founded a movement within atheism known as Atheism Plus, or A+, that “applies skepticism to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, politics, poverty, and crime”.[215][216][217]

In 2013 the first atheist monument on American government property was unveiled at the Bradford County Courthouse in Florida: a 1,500-pound granite bench and plinth inscribed with quotes by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Madalyn Murray O’Hair.[218][219]

“New Atheism” is the name that has been given to a movement among some early-21st-century atheist writers who have advocated the view that “religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises.”[220] The movement is commonly associated with Sam Harris, Daniel C. Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Victor J. Stenger, Christopher Hitchens, and to some extent Ayaan Hirsi Ali.[221] Several best-selling books by these authors, published between 2004 and 2007, form the basis for much of the discussion of “New” Atheism.

In best selling books, the religiously motivated terrorist events of 9/11 and the partially successful attempts of the Discovery Institute to change the American science curriculum to include creationist ideas, together with support for those ideas from George W. Bush in 2005, have been cited by authors such as Harris, Dennett, Dawkins, Stenger, and Hitchens as evidence of a need to move toward a more secular society.[223]

It is difficult to quantify the number of atheists in the world. Respondents to religious-belief polls may define “atheism” differently or draw different distinctions between atheism, non-religious beliefs, and non-theistic religious and spiritual beliefs.[224] A Hindu atheist would declare oneself as a Hindu, although also being an atheist at the same time.[225] A 2010 survey published in Encyclopdia Britannica found that the non-religious made up about 9.6% of the world’s population, and atheists about 2.0%, with a very large majority based in Asia. This figure did not include those who follow atheistic religions, such as some Buddhists.[226] The average annual change for atheism from 2000 to 2010 was 0.17%.[226] Broad estimates of those who have an absence of belief in a god range from 500 million to 1.1 billion people worldwide.[227][228]

According to global Win-Gallup International studies, 13% of respondents were “convinced atheists” in 2012,[229] 11% were “convinced atheists” in 2015,[29] and in 2017, 9% were “convinced atheists”.[30] As of 2012[update], the top 10 surveyed countries with people who viewed themselves as “convinced atheists” were China (47%), Japan (31%), the Czech Republic (30%), France (29%), South Korea (15%), Germany (15%), Netherlands (14%), Austria (10%), Iceland (10%), Australia (10%), and the Republic of Ireland (10%).[230]

According to the 2010 Eurobarometer Poll, the percentage of those polled who agreed with the statement “you don’t believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force” varied from a high percentage in France (40%), Czech Republic (37%), Sweden (34%), Netherlands (30%), and Estonia (29%); medium-high percentage in Germany (27%), Belgium (27%), UK (25%); to very low in Poland (5%), Greece (4%), Cyprus (3%), Malta (2%), and Romania (1%), with the European Union as a whole at 20%.[35] In a 2012 Eurobarometer poll on discrimination in the European Union, 16% of those polled considered themselves non believers/agnostics and 7% considered themselves atheists.[232]

According to a Pew Research Center survey in 2012 religiously unaffiliated (including agnostics and atheists) make up about 18% of Europeans.[233] According to the same survey, the religiously unaffiliated are the majority of the population only in two European countries: Czech Republic (75%) and Estonia (60%).[233]

There are another four countries where the unaffiliated make up a majority of the population: North Korea (71%), Japan (57%), Hong Kong (56%), and China (52%).[233]

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 30% of Australians have “no religion”, a category that includes atheists.[234]

In a 2013 census, 41.9% of New Zealanders reported having no religion, up from 29.6% in 1991.[235] Men were more likely than women to report no religion.

According to the World Values Survey, 4.4% of Americans self-identified as atheists in 2014.[236] However, the same survey showed that 11.1% of all respondents stated “no” when asked if they believed in God.[236] In 1984, these same figures were 1.1% and 2.2%, respectively. According to a 2014 report by the Pew Research Center, 3.1% of the US adult population identify as atheist, up from 1.6% in 2007; and within the religiously unaffiliated (or “no religion”) demographic, atheists made up 13.6%.[237] According to the 2015 General Sociological Survey the number of atheists and agnostics in the US has remained relatively flat in the past 23 years since in 1991 only 2% identified as atheist and 4% identified as agnostic and in 2014 only 3% identified as atheists and 5% identified as agnostics.[238]

According to the American Family Survey, 34% was found to be religiously unaffiliated in 2017 (23% ‘nothing in particular’, 6% agnostic, 5% atheist).[239][240] According to the Pew Research Center, in 2014, 22.8% of the American population does not identify with a religion, including atheists (3.1%) and agnostics (4%).[241] According to a PRRI survey, 24% of the population is unaffiliated. Atheists and agnostics combined make up about a quarter of this unaffiliated demographic.[242]

In recent years, the profile of atheism has risen substantially in the Arab world.[243] In major cities across the region, such as Cairo, atheists have been organizing in cafs and social media, despite regular crackdowns from authoritarian governments.[243] A 2012 poll by Gallup International revealed that 5% of Saudis considered themselves to be “convinced atheists.”[243] However, very few young people in the Arab world have atheists in their circle of friends or acquaintances. According to one study, less than 1% did in Morocco, Egypt, Saudia Arabia, or Jordan; only 3% to 7% in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Palestine.[244] When asked whether they have “seen or heard traces of atheism in [their] locality, community, and society” only about 3% to 8% responded yes in all the countries surveyed. The only exception was the UAE, with 51%.[244]

A study noted positive correlations between levels of education and secularism, including atheism, in America.[96] According to evolutionary psychologist Nigel Barber, atheism blossoms in places where most people feel economically secure, particularly in the social democracies of Europe, as there is less uncertainty about the future with extensive social safety nets and better health care resulting in a greater quality of life and higher life expectancy. By contrast, in underdeveloped countries, there are virtually no atheists.[245]

In a 2008 study, researchers found intelligence to be negatively related to religious belief in Europe and the United States. In a sample of 137 countries, the correlation between national IQ and disbelief in God was found to be 0.60.[246] Evolutionary psychologist Nigel Barber states that the reason atheists are more intelligent than religious people is better explained by social, environmental, and wealth factors which happen to correlate with loss of religious belief as well. He doubts that religion causes stupidity, noting that some highly intelligent people have also been religious, but he says it is plausible that higher intelligence correlates to rejection of improbable religious beliefs and that the situation between intelligence and rejection of religious beliefs is quite complex.[247]

In a 2017 study, it was shown that compared to religious individuals, atheists have higher reasoning capacities and this difference seemed to be unrelated to sociodemographic factors such as age, education and country of origin.[248]

Statistically, atheists are held in poor regard across the globe. Non-atheists, and possibly even fellow atheists, seem to implicitly view atheists as prone to exhibit immoral behaviors ranging from mass murder to not paying at a restaurant.[249][250][251] In addition, according to a 2016 Pew Research Center publication, 15% of French people, 45% of Americans, and 99% of Indonesians explicitly believe that a person must believe in God to be moral. Pew furthermore noted that, in a U.S. poll, atheists and Muslims tied for the lowest rating among the major religious demographics on a “feeling thermometer”.[252]

Links to related articles

Read this article:

Atheism – Wikipedia

Atheism – Conservapedia

Atheism, as defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and other philosophy reference works, is the denial of the existence of God.[1] Paul Edwards, who was a prominent atheist and editor of the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, defined an atheist as “a person who maintains that there is no God.”[2]

Beginning in the latter portion of the 20th century and continuing beyond, many agnostics and atheists have argued that the definition of atheism should be a lack of belief in God or gods.[2][3][4][5]

Atheism has been examined by many disciplines in terms of its effects on individuals and on societies and these effects will be covered below.

As far as individuals adopting an atheistic worldview, atheism has a number of causal factors and these will be elaborated on below as well.

See also: Schools of atheist thought and Atheist factions

The history of atheism can be dated to as early as the 5th century B.C. Diagoras of Melos was a 5th-century B.C. Greek atheist, poet and Sophist. Since this time, there have been many schools of atheist thought that have developed.

See also: Weak atheism and Strong atheism

Atheists claim there are two main reasons for their denial of the existence of God and/or disbelief in God: the conviction that there is positive evidence or argument that God does not exist (strong atheism, which is also sometimes called positive atheism), and their claim that theists bear the burden of proof to show that God exists, that they have failed to do so, and that belief is therefore unwarranted (weak atheism).

As alluded to above, theists and others have posited a number of causes of atheism and this matter will be further addressed in this article.

In 1876, Charles Bradlaugh proposed that atheism does not assert “there is no God,” and by doing so he endeavored to dilute the traditional definition of atheism.[3][6] As noted above, in the latter portion of the 20th century, the proposition that the definition of atheism be defined as a mere lack of belief in God or gods began to be commonly advanced by agnostics/atheists.[3][7] It is now common for atheists/agnostics and theists to debate the meaning of the word atheism.[3][8]

Critics of a broader definition of atheism to be a mere lack of belief often point out that such a definition is contrary to the traditional/historical meaning of the word and that such a definition makes atheism indistinguishable from agnosticism.[2][3][9]

For more information, please see:

Below are a few common ways that atheism manifests itself:

1. Militant atheism, which continues to suppress and oppress religious believers today.

Topics related to militant atheism:

2. Philosophical atheism – Atheist philosophers assert that God does not exist. (See also: Naturalism and Materialism)

Secular humanism is a philosophy which holds that human beings are the most important figures, and that social problems are best solved without the involvement of religious doctrine.

The philosophy of postmodernism is atheistic (see: Atheism and postmodernism).

3. Atheistic Buddhism (some schools of Buddhism are theistic)

4. Practical atheism: atheism of the life – that is, living as though God does not exist.[10]

5. Other schools of atheist thought: Schools of atheist thought

See also: Atheist factions and Western atheism, schisms and political polarization and Atheist organizations

In 2015, Dr. J. Gordon Melton said about the atheist movement (organized atheism) that atheism is not a movement which tends to create community, but in the last few years there has been some growth of organized atheism.[11] See also: Atheist factions and Atheist organizations

Jacques Rousseau wrote in the Daily Maverick: “Elevatorgate..has resulted in three weeks of infighting in the secular community. Some might observe that we indulge in these squabbles fairly frequently.”[12] An ex-atheist wrote: “As an Atheist for 40 years, I noticed that there is not just a wide variety of Atheist positions, but there exists an actual battle between certain Atheist factions.”[13]

See also: Atheist movement and Atheism and anger

Blair Scott served on the American Atheists board of directors.[14] Mr. Scott formerly served as a State Director for the American Atheists organization in the state of Alabama. On December 1, 2012, he quit his post as a director of outreach for the American Atheists due to infighting within the American atheist movement.[15]

Mr. Blair wrote:

The atheist Neil Carter wrote:

The atheist David Smalley said about the atheist movement: “We’re eating our own… Were disintegrating.”[17]

See also: Atheist organizations and fundraising and Atheist fundraising vs. religious fundraising and Atheism and charity

In 2017, the atheist activist Lee Moore declared about American atheist organizations:

See also: Atheism and social intelligence and Atheism and emotional intelligence

The American atheist activist Eddie Tabash said in a speech to the Michigan Atheists State Convention, “Since we are a bit of a cantankerous, opinionated lot…”.[19]

See also: Atheism and anger and Atheism and unforgiveness

The Christian philosopher James S. Spiegel says that the path from Christianity to atheism among several of his friends involved moral slippage such as resentment or unforgiveness.[20] See: Atheism and unforgiveness

On January 1, 2011, CNN reported:

In studies on college students, atheists and agnostics reported more anger at God during their lifetimes than believers.[21]

According to Anthony DeStefano:

You bet they are. The truth is, the atheist position is incapable of supporting any coherent system of morality other than ruthless social Darwinism. Thats why it has caused more deaths, murders and bloodshed than any other belief system in the history of the world.

Atheists, of course, are always claiming hysterically that Christianity has been responsible for most of the worlds wars, but thats just another example of atheistic ignorance. The main reasons for war have always been economic gain, territorial gain, civil and revolutionary conflicts. According to Philip Axelrods monumental “Encyclopedia of Wars,” only 6.98 percent or all wars from 8000 BC to present were religious in nature. If you subtract Islamic wars from the equation, only 3.2 percent of wars were due to specifically Christian causes. That means that over 96 percent of all the wars on this planet were due to worldly reasons.[22]

Various studies found that traumatic events in people’s lives has a positive correlation with “emotional atheism”.[23]

The atheist and lesbian Greta Christina told the journalist Chris Mooney on the Point of Inquiry podcast, “there isn’t one emotion” that affects atheists “but anger is one of the emotions that many of us have …[it] drives others to participate in the movement.”[24]

Social science research indicates that antitheists score the highest among atheists when it comes to personality traits such as narcissism, dogmatism, and anger.[25] Furthermore, they scored lowest when it comes to agreeableness and positive relations with others.[26]

For additional information, please see: Atheism and social intelligence and Atheism and emotional intelligence and Atheism and unforgiveness and Atheism and bitterness

See also: Atheism and its retention rate in individuals and Atheism and children and Desecularization and Atheism and apathy

In 2012, a Georgetown University study was published indicating that only about 30 percent of those who grow up in an atheist household remain atheists as adults.[27] See also: Atheism and children

A 2012 study by the General Social Survey of the social science research organization NORC at the University of Chicago found that belief in God rises with age, even in atheistic nations.[28] The Pew Forum reports about American atheists: “Among self-identified atheists and agnostics, the median age is 34, and roughly four-in-ten adults in these categories are between the ages of 18 and 29.”[29] See also: Atheism and immaturity.

In addition, in atheistic Communist China, Christianity is experiencing rapid growth (see: Growth of Christianity in China). Also, there was a collapse of atheism in the former Soviet Union (see: Collapse of atheism in the former Soviet Union).

See also:

See also: Atheism and loneliness and Atheism and apathy and Internet atheism and Atheists and church attendance

According to an international study done by William Bainbridge, atheism is frequent among people whose interpersonal social obligations are weak and is also linked to lower fertility rates in advanced industrial nations (See also: Atheism and fertility rates).[30] See also: Atheism and loneliness and Atheism and social skills

In comparison to many religious groups, which have many meetings/conferences in numerous places in a given day or week which are convenient to attend, atheist meetings and atheist conferences are sparse. One of the causes of this situation is the apathy of many atheists (see: Atheism and apathy).

In recent times, the number of people attending atheist conferences has grown smaller.[31] Atheist David Smalley wrote: “And we wonder why were losing elections, losing funding, and our conferences are getting smaller.”[17] In 2017, the atheist activist Lee Moore said about atheist conferences, “Most conferences are gone now. They’re either gone or in some kind of life support form.”[32]

Atheist Francois Tremblay wrote about the difficulty of motivating atheists to engage in activities related to atheism: “One last problem that undermines any propagation of atheism is inspiration. Let’s be honest here, “there is no god!” is not a very motivating call for most people.” (see also: Atheism and inspiration).[33] The atheist Jerry Coyne said about atheist meetings/conferences, “But to me the speakers and talks have often seemed repetitive: the same crew of jet-set skeptics giving the same talks.”[34]

In an essay entitled How the Atheist Movement Failed Me, an atheist woman noted that participation in the atheist community is often expensive due to the cost of attending atheist conferences and even local atheist meetings in restaurants and bars challenged her modest budget.[35] As a result of the challenges that atheists commonly have in terms of socializing in person, many atheists turn to the internet in terms of communicating with other atheists.[36] Often internet communication between atheists turns turns contentious (see: Atheist factions).

For more information, please see: Atheism and loneliness

See also: Decline of the atheist movement and Desecularization

Numerous atheists have declared that the “atheist movement is dead” or that it is dying.[38]

In 2017, atheist David Smalley has indicated that leftist/progressive atheists were “killing the atheist movement” through being contentious and divisive (see also: Atheist factions).[17] Former new atheist PZ Myers, who subscribes to progressive politics, says he is no longer a member of the atheist movement.[39]

The atheist movement saw a number of setbacks during the latter portion of the 20th century and beyond in terms of historical events/trends (See: Causes of desecularization). As a result, it has lost a considerable amount of confidence (see also: Decline of the atheist movement and Atheists and the endurance of religion).

Globally, the atheist population is declining in terms of percentage of the world’s population that are atheists (see: Global atheism statistics).

see also: Atheism and communism and Militant atheism and Atheism and economics and Atheism and mass murder and Atheist cults and Atheism and Karl Marx

Karl Marx said “[Religion] is the opium of the people.” Marx also stated: “Communism begins from the outset (Owen) with atheism; but atheism is at first far from being communism; indeed, that atheism is still mostly an abstraction.”[40]

Vladimir Lenin similarly wrote regarding atheism and Communism: “A Marxist must be a materialist, i.e., an enemy of religion, but a dialectical materialist, i.e., one who treats the struggle against religion not in an abstract way, not on the basis of remote, purely theoretical, never varying preaching, but in a concrete way, on the basis of the class struggle which is going on in practice and is educating the masses more and better than anything else could.”[41]

In 1955, the Chinese Communist leader Chou En-lai declared, “We Communists are atheists”.[42]

In 2014, the Communist Party of China reaffirmed that members of their party must be atheists.[43]

In 2016, the International Business Times reported:

According to the University of Cambridge, historically, the “most notable spread of atheism was achieved through the success of the 1917 Russian Revolution, which brought the Marxist-Leninists to power.”[45]

Vitalij Lazarevi Ginzburg, a Soviet physicist, wrote that the “Bolshevik communists were not merely atheists but, according to Lenin’s terminology, militant atheists.”[46] However, prior to this, the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution established a state which was anti-Roman Catholicism/Christian in nature [47] (anti-clerical deism and anti-religious atheism and played a significant role in the French Revolution[48]), with the official ideology being the Cult of Reason; during this time thousands of believers were suppressed and executed by the guillotine.[49]

See also: Atheism and mass murder and Atheist atrocities

It has been estimated that in less than the past 100 years, governments under the banner of Communism have caused the death of somewhere between 40,472,000 and 259,432,000 human lives.[50] Dr. R. J. Rummel, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Hawaii, is the scholar who first coined the term democide (death by government). Dr. R. J. Rummel’s mid estimate regarding the loss of life due to communism is that communism caused the death of approximately 110,286,000 people between 1917 and 1987.[51] Richard Dawkins has attempted to engage in historical revisionism concerning atheist atrocities and Dawkins was shown to be in gross error. See also: Atheism and historical revisionism

Christian apologist Gregory Koukl wrote relative to atheism and mass murder that “the assertion is that religion has caused most of the killing and bloodshed in the world.There are people who make accusations and assertions that are empirically false. This is one of them.”[52]Koukl details the number of people killed in various events involving theism and compares them to the much higher tens of millions of people killed under regimes which advocated atheism.[52] As noted earlier, Richard Dawkins has attempted to engage in historical revisionism concerning atheist atrocities and Dawkins was shown to be in gross error.

Koukl summarized by stating:

Theodore Beale notes concerning atheism and mass murder:

The total body count for the ninety years between 1917 and 2007 is approximately 148 million dead at the bloody hands of fifty-two atheists, three times more than all the human beings killed by war, civil war, and individual crime in the entire twentieth century combined.

The historical record of collective atheism is thus 182,716 times worse on an annual basis than Christianitys worst and most infamous misdeed, the Spanish Inquisition. It is not only Stalin and Mao who were so murderously inclined, they were merely the worst of the whole Hell-bound lot. For every Pol Pot whose infamous name is still spoken with horror today, there was a Mengistu, a Bierut, and a Choibalsan, godless men whose names are now forgotten everywhere but in the lands they once ruled with a red hand.

Is a 58 percent chance that an atheist leader will murder a noticeable percentage of the population over which he rules sufficient evidence that atheism does, in fact, provide a systematic influence to do bad things? If that is not deemed to be conclusive, how about the fact that the average atheist crime against humanity is 18.3 million percent worse than the very worst depredation committed by Christians, even though atheists have had less than one-twentieth the number of opportunities with which to commit them. If one considers the statistically significant size of the historical atheist set and contrasts it with the fact that not one in a thousand religious leaders have committed similarly large-scale atrocities, it is impossible to conclude otherwise, even if we do not yet understand exactly why this should be the case. Once might be an accident, even twice could be coincidence, but fifty-two incidents in ninety years reeks of causation![53]

See also:

See also: Communism and religious persecution and Atheistic communism and torture and Atheism and forced labor and China and involuntary organ harvesting

The atheism in Communist regimes has been and continues to be militant atheism and various acts of repression including the razing of thousands of religious buildings and the killing, imprisoning, and oppression of religious leaders and believers.[54]

See also: Soviet atheism

The persecution of Christians in the Soviet Union was the result of the violently atheist Soviet government. In the first five years after the October Revolution, 28 bishops and 1,200 priests were murdered, many on the orders of Leon Trotsky. When Joseph Stalin came to power in 1927, he ordered his secret police, under Genrikh Yagoda to intensify persecution of Christians. In the next few years, 50,000 clergy were murdered, many were tortured, including crucifixion. “Russia turned red with the blood of martyrs”, said Father Gleb Yakunin of the Russian Orthodox Church.[55] According to Orthodox Church sources, as many as fifty million Orthodox believers may have died in the twentieth century, mainly from persecution by Communists.[56]

The religious landscape of China is quickly changing, however, due to the rapid growth of Christianity. See also: China and atheism and Global atheism

In addition, in the atheistic and Communist Soviet Union, 44 anti-religious museums were opened and the largest was the ‘The Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism’ in Leningrads Kazan cathedral.[58] Despite intense effort by the atheistic leaders of the Soviet Union, their efforts were not effective in converting the masses to atheism.[59]

See also: China and atheism

China has the world’s largest atheist population (see: China and atheism).[60][61] China is a Communist country. In 1999, the publication Christian Century reported that “China has persecuted religious believers by means of harassment, prolonged detention, and incarceration in prison or ‘reform-through-labor’ camps and police closure of places of worship.” In 2003, owners of Bibles in China were sent to prison camps and 125 Chinese churches were closed.[62] China continues to practice religious oppression today.[63]

The efforts of China’s atheist leaders in promoting atheism, however, is increasingly losing its effectiveness and the number of Christians in China is rapidly growing (see: Growth of Christianity in China). China’s state sponsored atheism and atheistic indoctrination has been a failure and a 2007 religious survey in China indicated that only 15% of Chinese identified themselves as atheists.[64]

Researchers estimate that tens of thousands of Falun Gong prisoners in Communist China have been killed to supply a financially lucrative trade in human organs and cadavers, and that these human rights abuses may be ongoing concern.[65]

North Korea is a repressive Communist state and is officially atheistic.[68] The North Korean government practices brutal repression and atrocities against North Korean Christians.[69] Open Doors, an organization based in the United States, has put North Korea at the very top of its list of countries where Christians face significant persecution – for 12 years in a row.[70]

See: Atheistic communism and torture

See also: Atheism and forced labor and Atheism and slavery

In atheistic Communist regimes forced labor has often played a significant role in their economies and this practice continues to this day (see: Atheism and forced labor).[71]

Historically, atheists have favored the left side of the political aisle (see: Atheism and politics).

According to the Pew Forum, in the United States: “About two-thirds of atheists (69%) identify as Democrats (or lean in that direction), and a majority (56%) call themselves political liberals (compared with just one-in-ten who say they are conservatives).”[73]

In some regions where the secular left has considerable influence, they are losing an increasing amount of their power. For example, in secular Europe right-wing, nationalist parties are growing and in China conservative Protestantism is growing rapidly (see: Growth of Christianity in China).[74]

For more information please see:

See also: Atheists and historical illiteracy and History of atheism and Atheist indoctrination and Atheism and historical revisionism

The history of atheism: History of atheism

A common complaint concerning many atheists is their lack of depth when it comes to knowledge of history and historiography – particularly in areas such as historicity of Jesus Christ and atheist mass murders in history.[76]

For more information, please see:

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Atheism – Conservapedia

History of atheism – Wikipedia

Atheism (derived from the Ancient Greek atheos meaning “without gods; godless; secular; denying or disdaining the gods, especially officially sanctioned gods”[1]) is the absence or rejection of the belief that deities exist. The English term was used at least as early as the sixteenth century and atheistic ideas and their influence have a longer history. Over the centuries, atheists have supported their lack of belief in gods through a variety of avenues, including scientific, philosophical, and ideological notions.

In the East, a contemplative life not centered on the idea of deities began in the sixth century BCE with the rise of Jainism, Buddhism, and various sects of Hinduism in India, and of Taoism in China. Within the astika (“orthodox”) schools of Hindu philosophy, the Samkhya and the early Mimamsa school did not accept a creator-deity in their respective systems.

Philosophical atheist thought began to appear in Europe and Asia in the sixth or fifth century BCE. Will Durant, in his The Story of Civilization, explained that certain pygmy tribes found in Africa were observed to have no identifiable cults or rites. There were no totems, no deities, and no spirits. Their dead were buried without special ceremonies or accompanying items and received no further attention. They even appeared to lack simple superstitions, according to travelers’ reports. The Vedas of Ceylon admitted only the possibility that deities might exist but went no further. Neither prayers nor sacrifices were suggested in any way by the tribes.[2]

In the East, a contemplative life not centered on the idea of deities began in the sixth century BCE with the rise of Jainism, Buddhism, and various sects of Hinduism in India, and of Taoism in China. These religions offered a philosophic and salvific path not involving deity worship. Deities are not seen as necessary to the salvific goal of the early Buddhist tradition, their reality is explicitly questioned and often rejected. There is a fundamental incompatibility between the notion of gods and basic Buddhist principles, at least in some interpretations.[3]

Within the astika (“orthodox”) schools of Hindu philosophy, the Samkhya and the early Mimamsa school did not accept a creator-deity in their respective systems.

The principal text of the Samkhya school, the Samkhya Karika, was written by Ishvara Krishna in the fourth century CE, by which time it was already a dominant Hindu school. The origins of the school are much older and are lost in legend. The school was both dualistic and atheistic. They believed in a dual existence of Prakriti (“nature”) and Purusha (“spirit”) and had no place for an Ishvara (“God”) in its system, arguing that the existence of Ishvara cannot be proved and hence cannot be admitted to exist. The school dominated Hindu philosophy in its day, but declined after the tenth century, although commentaries were still being written as late as the sixteenth century.

The foundational text for the Mimamsa school is the Purva Mimamsa Sutras of Jaimini (c. third to first century BCE). The school reached its height c. 700 CE, and for some time in the Early Middle Ages exerted near-dominant influence on learned Hindu thought. The Mimamsa school saw their primary enquiry was into the nature of dharma based on close interpretation of the Vedas. Its core tenets were ritualism (orthopraxy), antiasceticism and antimysticism. The early Mimamsakas believed in an adrishta (“unseen”) that is the result of performing karmas (“works”) and saw no need for an Ishvara (“God”) in their system. Mimamsa persists in some subschools of Hinduism today.

Jains see their tradition as eternal. Organized Jainism can be dated back to Parshva who lived in the ninth century BCE, and, more reliably, to Mahavira, a teacher of the sixth century BCE, and a contemporary of the Buddha. Jainism is a dualistic religion with the universe made up of matter and souls. The universe, and the matter and souls within it, is eternal and uncreated, and there is no omnipotent creator deity in Jainism. There are, however, “gods” and other spirits who exist within the universe and Jains believe that the soul can attain “godhood”; however, none of these supernatural beings exercise any sort of creative activity or have the capacity or ability to intervene in answers to prayers.

The thoroughly materialistic and antireligious philosophical Crvka school that originated in India with the Brhaspatya-stras (final centuries BCE) is probably the most explicitly atheist school of philosophy in the region. The school grew out of the generic skepticism in the Mauryan period. Already in the sixth century BCE, Ajita Kesakambalin, was quoted in Pali scriptures by the Buddhists with whom he was debating, teaching that “with the break-up of the body, the wise and the foolish alike are annihilated, destroyed. They do not exist after death.”[4] Crvkan philosophy is now known principally from its Astika and Buddhist opponents. The proper aim of a Crvkan, according to these sources, was to live a prosperous, happy, productive life in this world. The Tattvopaplavasimha of Jayarashi Bhatta (c. 8th century) is sometimes cited as a surviving Carvaka text. The school appears to have died out sometime around the fifteenth century.

The nonadherence[5] to the notion of a supreme deity or a prime mover is seen by many as a key distinction between Buddhism and other religions. While Buddhist traditions do not deny the existence of supernatural beings (many are discussed in Buddhist scripture), it does not ascribe powers, in the typical Western sense, for creation, salvation or judgement, to the “gods”, however, praying to enlightened deities is sometimes seen as leading to some degree of spiritual merit.

Buddhists accept the existence of beings in higher realms, known as devas, but they, like humans, are said to be suffering in samsara,[6] and not particularly wiser than we are. In fact the Buddha is often portrayed as a teacher of the deities,[7] and superior to them.[8] Despite this they do have some enlightened Devas in the path of buddhahood.

In later Mahayana literature, however, the idea of an eternal, all-pervading, all-knowing, immaculate, uncreated, and deathless Ground of Being (the dharmadhatu, inherently linked to the sattvadhatu, the realm of beings), which is the Awakened Mind (bodhicitta) or dharmakaya (“body of Truth”) of the Buddha himself, is attributed to the Buddha in a number of Mahayana sutras and is found in various tantras as well. In some Mahayana texts, such a principle is occasionally presented as manifesting in a more personalized form as a primordial Buddha, such as Samantabhadra, Vajradhara, Vairochana, Amitabha, and Adi-Buddha, among others.

In Western classical Antiquity, theism was the fundamental belief that supported the legitimacy of the state (the polis, later the Roman Empire). Historically, any person who did not believe in any deity supported by the state was fair game to accusations of atheism, a capital crime. For political reasons, Socrates in Athens (399 BCE) was accused of being atheos (“refusing to acknowledge the gods recognized by the state”).[9]

Christians in Rome were also considered subversive to the state religion and persecuted as atheists.[10] Thus, charges of atheism, meaning the subversion of religion, were often used similarly to charges of heresy and impiety as a political tool to eliminate enemies.

The roots of Western philosophy began in the Greek world in the sixth century BCE. The first Hellenic philosophers were not atheists, but they attempted to explain the world in terms of the processes of nature instead of by mythological accounts. Thus lightning was the result of “wind breaking out and parting the clouds”,[11] and earthquakes occurred when “the earth is considerably altered by heating and cooling”.[12] The early philosophers often criticized traditional religious notions. Xenophanes (6th century BCE) famously said that if cows and horses had hands, “then horses would draw the forms of gods like horses, and cows like cows”.[13] Another philosopher, Anaxagoras (5th century BCE), claimed that the Sun was “a fiery mass, larger than the Peloponnese”; a charge of impiety was brought against him, and he was forced to flee Athens.[14]

The first fully materialistic philosophy was produced by the atomists Leucippus and Democritus (5th century BCE), who attempted to explain the formation and development of the world in terms of the chance movements of atoms moving in infinite space.

Euripides (480406 BCE), in his play Bellerophon, had the eponymous main character say:

Doth some one say that there be gods above?There are not; no, there are not. Let no fool,Led by the old false fable, thus deceive you.[15]

A fragment from the lost satyr play Sisyphus, which has been attributed to both Critias and Euripides, claims that a clever man invented “the fear of the gods” in order to frighten people into behaving morally.[16][17][18][17][19] This statement, however, originally did not mean that the gods themselves were nonexistent, but rather that their powers were a hoax.[19]

Aristophanes (ca. 448380 BCE), known for his satirical style, wrote in his play the Knights: “Shrines! Shrines! Surely you don’t believe in the gods. What’s your argument? Where’s your proof?”[20]

In the fifth century BCE the Sophists began to question many of the traditional assumptions of Greek culture. Prodicus of Ceos was said to have believed that “it was the things which were serviceable to human life that had been regarded as gods”,[21] and Protagoras stated at the beginning of a book that “With regard to the gods I am unable to say either that they exist or do not exist”.[22]

In the late fifth century BCE, the Greek lyric poet Diagoras of Melos was sentenced to death in Athens under the charge of being a “godless person” () after he made fun of the Eleusinian Mysteries,[23][17][17][24][25] but he fled the city to escape punishment.[23][17][24] Later writers have cited Diagoras as the “first atheist”,[26][27] but he was probably not an atheist in the modern sense of the word.[17] Somewhat later (c. 300 BCE), the Cyrenaic philosopher Theodorus of Cyrene is supposed to have denied that gods exist and wrote a book On the Gods expounding his views.

Euhemerus (c. 330260 BCE) published his view that the gods were only the deified rulers, conquerors, and founders of the past, and that their cults and religions were in essence the continuation of vanished kingdoms and earlier political structures.[28] Although Euhemerus was later criticized for having “spread atheism over the whole inhabited earth by obliterating the gods”,[29] his worldview was not atheist in a strict and theoretical sense, because he differentiated that the primordial deities were “eternal and imperishable”.[30] Some historians have argued that he merely aimed at reinventing the old religions in the light of the beginning of deification of political rulers such as Alexander the Great.[31] Euhemerus’ work was translated into Latin by Ennius, possibly to mythographically pave the way for the planned divinization of Scipio Africanus in Rome.[32]

The most important Greek thinker in the development of atheism was Epicurus (c. 300 BCE).[19] Drawing on the ideas of Democritus and the Atomists, he espoused a materialistic philosophy according to which the universe was governed by the laws of chance without the need for divine intervention (see scientific determinism).[33] Although Epicurus still maintained that the gods existed,[19][33] he believed that they were uninterested in human affairs.[33] The aim of the Epicureans was to attain ataraxia (“peace of mind”) and one important way of doing this was by exposing fear of divine wrath as irrational. The Epicureans also denied the existence of an afterlife and the need to fear divine punishment after death.[33]

One of the most eloquent expressions of Epicurean thought is Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things (1st century BCE) in which he held that gods exist but argued that religious fear was one the chief cause of human unhappiness and that the gods did not involve themselves in the world.[34][35]

The Epicureans also denied the existence of an afterlife and hence dismissed the fear of death.[36]

Epicureans were not persecuted, but their teachings were controversial and were harshly attacked by the mainstream schools of Stoicism and Neoplatonism. The movement remained marginal, and gradually died out by the end of the Roman Empire.

In medieval Islam, Muslim scholars recognized the idea of atheism and frequently attacked unbelievers, although they were unable to name any atheists.[37] When individuals were accused of atheism, they were usually viewed as heretics rather than proponents of atheism.[38] However, outspoken rationalists and atheists existed, one notable figure being the ninth-century scholar Ibn al-Rawandi, who criticized the notion of religious prophecy, including that of Muhammad, and maintained that religious dogmas were not acceptable to reason and must be rejected.[39] Other critics of religion in the Islamic world include the physician and philosopher Abu Bakr al-Razi (865925), the poet Al-Maarri (9731057), and the scholar Abu Isa al-Warraq (fl. 9th century). Al-Maarri, for example, wrote and taught that religion itself was a “fable invented by the ancients”[40] and that humans were “of two sorts: those with brains, but no religion, and those with religion, but no brains.”[41]

In the European Middle Ages, no clear expression of atheism is known. The titular character of the Icelandic saga Hrafnkell, written in the late thirteenth century, says, “I think it is folly to have faith in gods”. After his temple to Freyr is burnt and he is enslaved, he vows never to perform another sacrifice, a position described in the sagas as golauss, “godless”. Jacob Grimm in his Teutonic Mythology observes,

It is remarkable that Old Norse legend occasionally mentions certain men who, turning away in utter disgust and doubt from the heathen faith, placed their reliance on their own strength and virtue. Thus in the Slar lio 17 we read of Vbogi and Rdey sik au tru, “in themselves they trusted”,[42]

citing several other examples, including two kings.

In Christian Europe, people were persecuted for heresy, especially in countries where the Inquisition was active. Prominent examples of dissent included the Cathers and the Waldensians. These sects, however antagonistic to the Church, are not examples of Atheism. While rebellions against the Church occurred, none could be considered exactly Atheist.[43]

Another phenomenon in the middle ages was proofs of the existence of God. Both Anselm of Canterbury, and later, William of Ockham acknowledge adversaries who doubt the existence of God. Thomas Aquinas’ five proofs of God’s existence and Anselm’s ontological argument implicitly acknowledged the validity of the question about God’s existence.[44] Frederick Copleston, however, explains that Thomas laid out his proofs not to counter atheism, but to address certain early Christian writers such as John of Damascus, who asserted that knowledge of God’s existence was naturally innate in man, based on his natural desire for happiness.[45] Thomas stated that although there is desire for happiness which forms the basis for a proof of God’s existence in man, further reflection is required to understand that this desire is only fulfilled in God, not for example in wealth or sensual pleasure.[45]

The charge of atheism was used to attack political or religious opponents. Pope Boniface VIII, because he insisted on the political supremacy of the church, was accused by his enemies after his death of holding (unlikely) positions such as “neither believing in the immortality nor incorruptibility of the soul, nor in a life to come”.[46]

John Arnold’s Belief and Unbelief in Medieval Europe discusses individuals who were indifferent to the Church and did not participate in faith practices. Arnold notes that while these examples could be perceived as simply people being lazy, it demonstrates that “belief was not universally fervent”. Arnold enumerates examples of people not attending church, and even those who excluded the Church from their marriage. Disbelief, Arnold argues, stemmed from boredom. Arnold argues that while some blasphemy implies the existence of God, laws demonstrate that there were also cases of blasphemy that directly attacked articles of faith. Italian preachers in the fourteenth century also warned of unbelievers and people who lacked belief.[47]

During the time of the Renaissance and the Reformation, criticism of the religious establishment became more frequent in predominantly Christian countries, but did not amount to atheism, per se.

The term athisme was coined in France in the sixteenth century. The word “atheist” appears in English books at least as early as 1566.[48] The concept of atheism re-emerged initially as a reaction to the intellectual and religious turmoil of the Age of Enlightenment and the Reformation, as a charge used by those who saw the denial of god and godlessness in the controversial positions being put forward by others. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the word ‘atheist’ was used exclusively as an insult; nobody wanted to be regarded as an atheist.[49] Although one overtly atheistic compendium known as the Theophrastus redivivus was published by an anonymous author in the seventeenth century, atheism was an epithet implying a lack of moral restraint.[50]

According to Geoffrey Blainey, the Reformation in Europe had paved the way for atheists by attacking the authority of the Catholic Church, which in turn “quietly inspired other thinkers to attack the authority of the new Protestant churches”. Deism gained influence in France, Prussia and England, and proffered belief in a noninterventionist deity, but “while some deists were atheists in disguise, most were religious, and by today’s standards would be called true believers”. The scientific and mathematical discoveries of such as Copernicus, Newton and Descartes sketched a pattern of natural laws that lent weight to this new outlook[51] Blainey wrote that the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza was “probably the first well known ‘semi-atheist’ to announce himself in a Christian land in the modern era”. Spinoza had been expelled from his synagogue for his protests against the teachings of its rabbis and for failing to attend Saturday services. He believed that God did not interfere in the running of the world, but rather that natural laws explained the workings of the universe. In 1661 he published his Short Treatise on God, but he was not a popular figure for the first century following his death: “An unbeliever was expected to be a rebel in almost everything and wicked in all his ways”, wrote Blainey, “but here was a virtuous one. He lived the good life and made his living in a useful way. . . . It took courage to be a Spinoza or even one of his supporters. If a handful of scholars agreed with his writings, they did not so say in public”.[52]

How dangerous it was to be accused of being an atheist at this time is illustrated by the examples of tienne Dolet, who was strangled and burned in 1546, and Giulio Cesare Vanini, who received a similar fate in 1619. In 1689 the Polish nobleman Kazimierz yszczyski, who had denied the existence of God in his philosophical treatise De non-existentia Dei, was imprisoned unlawfully; despite Warsaw Confederation tradition and king Sobieski’s intercession, yszczyski was condemned to death for atheism and beheaded in Warsaw after his tongue was pulled out with a burning iron and his hands slowly burned. Similarly in 1766, the French nobleman Franois-Jean de la Barre, was tortured, beheaded, and his body burned for alleged vandalism of a crucifix, a case that became a cause clbre because Voltaire tried unsuccessfully to have the judgment reversed.

The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (15881679) was also accused of atheism, but he denied it. His theism was unusual, in that he held god to be material. Even earlier, the British playwright and poet Christopher Marlowe (15631593) was accused of atheism when a tract denying the divinity of Christ was found in his home. Before he could finish defending himself against the charge, Marlowe was murdered.

In early modern times, the first explicit atheist known by name was the German-languaged Danish critic of religion Matthias Knutzen (1646after 1674), who published three atheist writings in 1674.[53]

Kazimierz yszczyski, a Polish philosopher (executed in 1689, following a hasty and controversial trial) demonstrated strong atheism in his work De non-existentia Dei:

II the Man is a creator of God, and God is a concept and creation of a Man. Hence the people are architects and engineers of God and God is not a true being, but a being existing only within mind, being chimaeric by its nature, because a God and a chimaera are the same.[54]

IV simple folk are cheated by the more cunning with the fabrication of God for their own oppression; whereas the same oppression is shielded by the folk in a way, that if the wise attempted to free them by the truth, they would be quelled by the very people.[55][56]

While not gaining converts from large portions of the population, versions of deism became influential in certain intellectual circles. Jean Jacques Rousseau challenged the Christian notion that human beings had been tainted by sin since the Garden of Eden, and instead proposed that humans were originally good, only later to be corrupted by civilization. The influential figure of Voltaire, spread deistic notions of to a wide audience. “After the French Revolution and its outbursts of atheism, Voltaire was widely condemned as one of the causes”, wrote Blainey, “Nonetheless, his writings did concede that fear of God was an essential policeman in a disorderly world: ‘If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him’, wrote Voltaire”.[57]

Arguably the first book in modern times solely dedicated to promoting atheism was written by French Catholic priest Jean Meslier (16641729), whose posthumously published lengthy philosophical essay (part of the original title: Thoughts and Feelings of Jean Meslier … Clear and Evident Demonstrations of the Vanity and Falsity of All the Religions of the World[58]) rejects the concept of god (both in the Christian and also in the Deistic sense), the soul, miracles and the discipline of theology.[59] Philosopher Michel Onfray states that Meslier’s work marks the beginning of “the history of true atheism”.[59]

By the 1770s, atheism in some predominantly Christian countries was ceasing to be a dangerous accusation that required denial, and was evolving into a position openly avowed by some. The first open denial of the existence of God and avowal of atheism since classical times may be that of Baron d’Holbach (17231789) in his 1770 work, The System of Nature. D’Holbach was a Parisian social figure who conducted a famous salon widely attended by many intellectual notables of the day, including Denis Diderot, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, David Hume, Adam Smith, and Benjamin Franklin. Nevertheless, his book was published under a pseudonym, and was banned and publicly burned by the Executioner.[citation needed] Diderot, one of the Enlightenment’s most prominent philosophes and editor-in-chief of the Encyclopdie, which sought to challenge religious, particularly Catholic, dogma said, “Reason is to the estimation of the philosophe what grace is to the Christian”, he wrote. “Grace determines the Christian’s action; reason the philosophe’s”.[60] Diderot was briefly imprisoned for his writing, some of which was banned and burned.[citation needed]

In Scotland, David Hume produced a six volume history of England in 1754, which gave little attention to God. He implied that if God existed he was impotent in the face of European upheaval. Hume ridiculed miracles, but walked a careful line so as to avoid being too dismissive of Christianity. With Hume’s presence, Edinburgh gained a reputation as a “haven of atheism”, alarming many ordinary Britons.[61]

The culte de la Raison developed during the uncertain period 179294 (Years I and III of the Revolution), following the September massacres, when Revolutionary France was ripe with fears of internal and foreign enemies. Several Parisian churches were transformed into Temples of Reason, notably the Church of Saint-Paul Saint-Louis in the Marais. The churches were closed in May 1793 and more securely 24 November 1793, when the Catholic Mass was forbidden.

Blainey wrote that “atheism seized the pedestal in revolutionary France in the 1790s. The secular symbols replaced the cross. In the cathedral of Notre Dame the altar, the holy place, was converted into a monument to Reason…” During the Terror of 179293, France’s Christian calendar was abolished, monasteries, convents and church properties were seized and monks and nuns expelled. Historic churches were dismantled.[62] The Cult of Reason was a creed based on atheism devised during the French Revolution by Jacques Hbert, Pierre Gaspard Chaumette, and their supporters. It was stopped by Maximilien Robespierre, a Deist, who instituted the Cult of the Supreme Being.[63] Both cults were the outcome of the “de-Christianization” of French society during the Revolution and part of the Reign of Terror.

The Cult of Reason was celebrated in a carnival atmosphere of parades, ransacking of churches, ceremonious iconoclasm, in which religious and royal images were defaced, and ceremonies which substituted the “martyrs of the Revolution” for Christian martyrs. The earliest public demonstrations took place en province, outside Paris, notably by Hbertists in Lyon, but took a further radical turn with the Fte de la Libert (“Festival of Liberty”) at Notre Dame de Paris, 10 November (20 Brumaire) 1793, in ceremonies devised and organised by Pierre-Gaspard Chaumette.

The pamphlet Answer to Dr. Priestley’s Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever (1782) is considered to be the first published declaration of atheism in Britainplausibly the first in English (as distinct from covert or cryptically atheist works). The otherwise unknown William Hammon (possibly a pseudonym) signed the preface and postscript as editor of the work, and the anonymous main text is attributed to Matthew Turner (d. 1788?), a Liverpool physician who may have known Priestley. Historian of atheism David Berman has argued strongly for Turner’s authorship, but also suggested that there may have been two authors.[64]

The French Revolution of 1789 catapulted atheistic thought into political notability in some Western countries, and opened the way for the nineteenth century movements of Rationalism, Freethought, and Liberalism. Born in 1792, Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, a child of the Age of Enlightenment, was expelled from England’s Oxford University in 1811 for submitting to the Dean an anonymous pamphlet that he wrote entitled, The Necessity of Atheism. This pamphlet is considered by scholars as the first atheistic tract published in the English language. An early atheistic influence in Germany was The Essence of Christianity by Ludwig Feuerbach (18041872). He influenced other German nineteenth century atheistic thinkers like Karl Marx, Max Stirner, Arthur Schopenhauer (17881860), and Friedrich Nietzsche (18441900).

The freethinker Charles Bradlaugh (18331891) was repeatedly elected to the British Parliament, but was not allowed to take his seat after his request to affirm rather than take the religious oath was turned down (he then offered to take the oath, but this too was denied him). After Bradlaugh was re-elected for the fourth time, a new Speaker allowed Bradlaugh to take the oath and permitted no objections.[65] He became the first outspoken atheist to sit in Parliament, where he participated in amending the Oaths Act.[66]

In 1844, Karl Marx (18181883), an atheistic political economist, wrote in his Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right: “Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” Marx believed that people turn to religion in order to dull the pain caused by the reality of social situations; that is, Marx suggests religion is an attempt at transcending the material state of affairs in a societythe pain of class oppressionby effectively creating a dream world, rendering the religious believer amenable to social control and exploitation in this world while they hope for relief and justice in life after death. In the same essay, Marx states, “[m]an creates religion, religion does not create man”.[67]

Friedrich Nietzsche, a prominent nineteenth century philosopher, is well known for coining the aphorism “God is dead” (German: “Gott ist tot”); incidentally the phrase was not spoken by Nietzsche directly, but was used as a dialogue for the characters in his works. Nietzsche argued that Christian theism as a belief system had been a moral foundation of the Western world, and that the rejection and collapse of this foundation as a result of modern thinking (the death of God) would naturally cause a rise in nihilism or the lack of values. While Nietzsche was staunchly atheistic, he was also concerned about the negative effects of nihilism on humanity. As such, he called for a re-evaluation of old values and a creation of new ones, hoping that in doing so humans would achieve a higher state he labeled the Overman (bermensch).

Atheist feminism also began in the nineteenth century. Atheist feminists oppose religion as a main source of female oppression and gender inequality, believing that the majority of religions are sexist and oppressive to women.[68]

Atheism in the twentieth century found recognition in a wide variety of other, broader philosophies in the Western tradition, such as existentialism, Objectivism,[69] secular humanism, nihilism, logical positivism, Marxism, anarchism, feminism,[70] and the general scientific and rationalist movement. Neopositivism and analytical philosophy discarded classical rationalism and metaphysics in favor of strict empiricism and epistemological nominalism. Proponents such as Bertrand Russell emphatically rejected belief in God. In his early work, Ludwig Wittgenstein attempted to separate metaphysical and supernatural language from rational discourse. H. L. Mencken sought to debunk both the idea that science and religion are compatible, and the idea that science is a dogmatic belief system just like any religion.[71]

A. J. Ayer asserted the unverifiability and meaninglessness of religious statements, citing his adherence to the empirical sciences. The structuralism of Lvi-Strauss sourced religious language to the human subconscious, denying its transcendental meaning. J. N. Findlay and J. J. C. Smart argued that the existence of God is not logically necessary. Naturalists and materialists such as John Dewey considered the natural world to be the basis of everything, denying the existence of God or immortality.[72][73]

The historian Geoffrey Blainey wrote that during the twentieth century, atheists in Western societies became more active and even militant, though they often “relied essentially on arguments used by numerous radical Christians since at least the eighteenth century”. They rejected the idea of an interventionist God, and said that Christianity promoted war and violence, though “the most ruthless leaders in the Second World War were atheists and secularists who were intensely hostile to both Judaism and Christianity” and “Later massive atrocities were committed in the East by those ardent atheists, Pol Pot and Mao Zedong”. Some scientists were meanwhile articulating a view that as the world becomes more educated, religion will be superseded.[74]

Often, the state’s opposition to religion took more violent forms. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn documents widespread persecution, imprisonments and torture of believers in his seminal work The Gulag Archipelago. Consequently, religious organizations, such as the Catholic Church, were among the most stringent opponents of communist regimes. In some cases, the initial strict measures of control and opposition to religious activity were gradually relaxed in communist states. Pope Pius XI followed his encyclicals challenging the new right-wing creeds of Italian Fascism (Non abbiamo bisogno, 1931) and Nazism (Mit brennender Sorge, 1937) with a denunciation of atheistic Communism in Divini redemptoris (1937).[75]

The Russian Orthodox Church, for centuries the strongest of all Orthodox Churches, was suppressed by the Soviet government.[76] In 1922, the Soviet regime arrested the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church.[77] Following the death of Vladimir Lenin, with his rejection of religious authority as a tool of oppression and his strategy of “patently explain,” Soviet leader Joseph Stalin energetically pursued the persecution of the Church through the 1920s and 1930s. Lenin wrote that every religious idea and every idea of God “is unutterable vileness… of the most dangerous kind, ‘contagion of the most abominable kind”.[78] Many priests were killed and imprisoned. Thousands of churches were closed, some turned into hospitals. In 1925 the government founded the League of Militant Atheists to intensify the persecution. The regime only relented in its persecution following the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.[76] Bullock wrote that “A Marxist regime was ‘godless’ by definition, and Stalin had mocked religious belief since his days in the Tiflis seminary”. His assault on the Russian peasantry, wrote Bullock, “had been as much an attack on their traditional religion as on their individual holdings, and the defense of it had played a major part in arousing peasant resistance . . . “.[79] In Divini Redemptoris, Pius XI said that atheistic Communism being led by Moscow was aimed at “upsetting the social order and at undermining the very foundations of Christian civilization”:[80]

The central figure in Italian Fascism was the atheist Benito Mussolini.[81] In his early career, Mussolini was a strident opponent of the Church, and the first Fascist program, written in 1919, had called for the secularization of Church property in Italy.[82] More pragmatic than his German ally Adolf Hitler, Mussolini later moderated his stance, and in office, permitted the teaching of religion in schools and came to terms with the Papacy in the Lateran Treaty.[81] Nevertheless, Non abbiamo bisogno condemned his Fascist movement’s “pagan worship of the State” and “revolution which snatches the young from the Church and from Jesus Christ, and which inculcates in its own young people hatred, violence and irreverence.”[83]

The Western Allies saw the war against Hitler as a war for “Christian Civilisation”,[84][85] while the atheist Stalin re-opened Russia’s churches to steel the Soviet population in the battle against Germany.[86][87] The Nazi leadership itself held a range of views on religion.[88] Hitler’s movement said it endorsed a form of Christianity stripped of its Jewish origins and certain key doctrines such as belief in the divinity of Christ.[88][89] In practice his government persecuted the churches, and worked to reduce the influence of the Christianity on society.[90] Richard J. Evans wrote that “Hitler emphasised again and again his belief that Nazism was a secular ideology founded on modern science. Science, he declared, would easily destroy the last remaining vestiges of superstition [. . .] ‘In the long run’, [Hitler] concluded in July 1941, ‘National Socialism and religion will no longer be able to exist together’ [. . .] The ideal solution would be to leave the religions to devour themselves, without persecutions’ “.[91][92]

Party membership was required for civil service jobs. The majority of Nazi Party members did not leave their churches. Evans wrote that, by 1939, 95 percent of Germans still called themselves Protestant or Catholic, while 3.5 percent were gottglubig (lit. “believing in god”) and 1.5 percent atheist. Most in these latter categories were “convinced Nazis who had left their Church at the behest of the Party, which had been trying since the mid 1930s to reduce the influence of Christianity in society”.[93] The majority of the three million Nazi Party members continued to pay their church taxes and register as either Roman Catholic or Evangelical Protestant Christians.[94] Gottglubig was a nondenominational Nazified outlook on god beliefs, often described as predominantly based on creationist and deistic views.[95] Heinrich Himmler, who himself was fascinated with Germanic paganism[citation needed], was a strong promoter of the gottglubig movement and didn’t allow atheists into the SS, arguing that their “refusal to acknowledge higher powers” would be a “potential source of indiscipline”.[96]

Across Eastern Europe following World War II, the parts of the Nazi Empire conquered by the Soviet Red Army, and Yugoslavia became one party Communist states, which, like the Soviet Union, were antipathetic to religion. Persecutions of religious leaders followed.[97][98] The Soviet Union ended its truce against the Russian Orthodox Church, and extended its persecutions to the newly Communist Eastern bloc: “In Poland, Hungary, Lithuania and other Eastern European countries, Catholic leaders who were unwilling to be silent were denounced, publicly humiliated or imprisoned by the Communists. Leaders of the national Orthodox Churches in Romania and Bulgaria had to be cautious and submissive”, wrote Blainey.[76] While the churches were generally not as severely treated as they had been in the USSR, nearly all their schools and many of their churches were closed, and they lost their formally prominent roles in public life. Children were taught atheism, and clergy were imprisoned by the thousands.[99]

Albania under Enver Hoxha became, in 1967, the first (and to date only) formally declared atheist state,[100][101] going far beyond what most other countries had attemptedcompletely prohibiting religious observance and systematically repressing and persecuting adherents. Article 37 of the Albanian Constitution of 1976 stipulated, “The state recognizes no religion, and supports atheistic propaganda in order to implant a scientific materialistic world outlook in people.”[102][103] The right to religious practice was restored with the fall of communism in 1991.

Further post-war communist victories in the East saw religion purged by atheist regimes across China, North Korea and much of Indo-China.[99] In 1949, China became a Communist state under the leadership of Mao Zedong’s Communist Party of China. China itself had been a cradle of religious thought since ancient times, being the birthplace of Confucianism and Daoism, and Buddhists having arrived in the first century AD. Under Mao, China became officially atheist, and though some religious practices were permitted to continue under State supervision, religious groups deemed a threat to order have been suppressedas with Tibetan Buddhism from 1959 and Falun Gong in recent years. Today around two-fifths of the population claim to be nonreligious or atheist.[104] Religious schools and social institutions were closed, foreign missionaries expelled, and local religious practices discouraged.[99] During the Cultural Revolution, Mao instigated “struggles” against the Four Olds: “old ideas, customs, culture, and habits of mind”.[105] In 1999, the Communist Party launched a three-year drive to promote atheism in Tibet, saying intensifying propaganda on atheism is “especially important for Tibet because atheism plays an extremely important role in promoting economic construction, social advancement and socialist spiritual civilization in the region”.[106]

In India, E. V. Ramasami Naicker (Periyar), a prominent atheist leader, fought against Hinduism and the Brahmins for discriminating and dividing people in the name of caste and religion.[107] This was highlighted in 1956 when he made the Hindu god Rama wear a garland made of slippers and made antitheistic statements.[108]

During this period, Christianity in the United States retained its popular appeal, and, wrote Blainey, the country “was the guardian, militarily of the “free world” and the defender of its religion in the face of militant communism”.[109] During the Cold War, wrote Thomas Aiello the United States often characterized its opponents as “godless communists”, which tended to reinforce the view that atheists were unreliable and unpatriotic.[110] Against this background, the words “under God” were inserted into the pledge of allegiance in 1954,[111] and the national motto was changed from E Pluribus Unum to In God We Trust in 1956. However, there were some prominent atheist activists active at this time. Atheist Vashti McCollum was the plaintiff in a landmark 1948 Supreme Court case (McCollum v. Board of Education) that struck down religious education in U.S. public schools.[112][113] Madalyn Murray O’Hair was perhaps one of the most influential American atheists; she brought forth the 1963 Supreme Court case Murray v. Curlett which banned compulsory prayer in public schools.[114] Also in 1963 she founded American Atheists, an organization dedicated to defending the civil liberties of atheists and advocating for the complete separation of church and state.[115][116]

The early twenty-first century has continued to see secularism, humanism and atheism promoted in the Western world, with the general consensus being that the number of people not affiliated with any particular religion has increased.[117][118] This has been assisted by non-profit organizations such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation in the United States (co-founded by Anne Nicol Gaylor and her daughter, Annie Laurie Gaylor, in 1976 and incorporated nationally in 1978, it promotes the separation of church and state[119][120]), and the Brights movement, which aims to promote public understanding and acknowledgment of science through a naturalistic, scientific and irreligious worldview,[121] defense of irreligious people’s human, civil and political rights who share it, and their societal recognition.[122] In addition, a large number of accessible antireligious, antitheist and secularist books, many of which have become bestsellers, have been published by scholars and scientists such as Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, Lawrence M. Krauss, Jerry Coyne, and Victor J. Stenger.[123][124]

This period saw the rise of the “New Atheism”, a label that has been applied, sometimes pejoratively, to outspoken critics of theism and religion,[125] prompted by a series of essays published in late 2006, including The God Delusion, Breaking the Spell, God Is Not Great, The End of Faith, and Letter to a Christian Nation. Richard Dawkins also propounds a more visible form of atheist activism which he light-heartedly describes as “militant atheism”.[126]

Atheist feminism has also become more prominent in the 2010s. In 2012 the first “Women in Secularism” conference was held.[127] Also, Secular Woman was founded on 28 June 2012 as the first national American organization focused on non-religious women. The mission of Secular Woman is to amplify the voice, presence, and influence of non-religious women. The atheist feminist movement has also become increasingly focused on fighting misogyny, sexism and sexual harassment within the atheist movement itself, especially since the upheaval following Michael Shermer’s allegations of sexual assault and coverage of his violent behavior applied by James Randi.[128]

In 2013 the first atheist monument on American government property was unveiled at the Bradford County Courthouse in Florida; it is a 1,500-pound granite bench and plinth inscribed with quotes by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Madalyn Murray O’Hair.[129][130]

In 2015, Madison, Wisconsin’s common council amended their city’s equal opportunity ordinance, adding atheism as a protected class in the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodations.[131] This makes Madison the first city in America to pass an ordinance protecting atheists.[131]

On 16 December 2016, Barack Obama signed into law the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, which amends the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 by specifically extending protection to non-theists as well as those who do not claim any particular religion.[132]

Go here to read the rest:

History of atheism – Wikipedia

Atheism – creation.com

Some atheists apparently dont like this video, A Fool’s Heart, but you can view it here. It recaps some of the effects of anti-Christian atheistic/evolutionary thinking in recent times, beginning with Robespierre, a leader of the French Revolution.

byKen Ammi

For many other articles on this topic, seeAtheism, agnosticism and humanism: godless religionsQuestions and Answers

There is confusion and debate about the term atheism and its definition.

The term atheism finds its etymology in the Greek combination of a and theos. What atheos means is, as with any term, subject to context (and perhaps personal interpretation). Note that if an atheist states, I do not believe in God, this is technically not a statement about Gods existence or lack thereof. Does atheos mean no God, without God, lack God belief or God does not exist?

References

EarlyChristians were referred to as atheists because they did not believe in the Greek or Roman gods. Yet, while they positively affirmed the non-existence of those gods they likely believed that those gods were deceptive demons whom they did believe existed (1Corinthians 8:46).

Let us consider other Greek-derived a words:

Generally, as popularized by the New Atheist movement, atheists prefer the definition of atheism as lacking belief in god(s). Thus, by applying the term atheist to themselves, such atheists are not technically making a statement about Gods existence or lack thereof.

This definition has been popularized, at least, since Charles Bradlaugh (circa 1876). It appears to be preferred so as to escape the philosophic difficulty of proving a negativeGod does not existand in order to shift the burden of proof to the theist, since the theist is making the positive affirmation that God exists.

On a polemical note there are two things to consider:

In reference to the above mentioned term agnostic, note that Thomas Henry Huxley coined this term in 1869.1 He explained that he noted two extremes: one was the atheist who positively affirmed Gods non-existence (claiming to know that God did not exist) and the other was the theists who positively affirmed Gods existence (claiming to know that God exists). Huxley said that he did not possess enough evidence to affirm positively either position. Thus, he coined a term which he saw as a middle position, which was that of lacking knowledge to decide either way (whether such knowledge actually exists outside of his personal knowledge or may someday be discovered is another issue).

As we will see next, there are various sects of atheism. There is a vast difference between the friendly atheist next door and the activists. Generally, even the activist types who are typified by the New Atheist movement will define atheism as a mere lack of belief in God. However, it is important to note that their activism demonstrates that their atheism is anything but mere lack: it is an anti-religion, anti-faith and anti-God movement.

1.1 Variations of Atheism

Atheists may be categorized under various technical terms as well as sociopolitical and cultural ones, which may overlap depending on the individual atheists preferences:

Some atheists claim that atheism is a religion3 and others have attempted to establish secular/civic/atheistic religions which we will elucidate below.

Michael Shermer, editor of The Skeptic magazine, draws a distinction between the atheist who claims, there is no God and the non-theist who claims to have no belief in God.4

As to the sociopolitical and/or cultural terms, these abound and some are: Brights, Freethinkers, Humanists, Naturalists, Rationalists, Skeptics, Secular Humanists andMaterialists.

Some atheists squabble about terminology. For example, American Atheists webmaster wrote, Atheists are NOT secular humanists, freethinkers, rationalists or ethical culturalists Often, people who are Atheists find it useful to masquerade behind such labels5 while the Freedom from Religion Foundation, claims that, Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists.6

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By nature worship and neo-paganism I refer to the atheists tendency to replace a sense of awe of God and seeking transcendence by relating to God with seeking awe and transcendence in nature. This natural high, as it were, is not merely enjoyed but it is enjoined and said to be holier than theism.

Referring to our ability to step off the Earth and look back at ourselves, as was done in Voyager 2, Carl Sagan stated,

The very first episode of his televised series entitled Cosmos, began with Carl Sagan stating,

Presupposing a God-free reality, why atheists seek transcendent experiences remains unanswered.

Michael Shermer stated that his study of evolution was, far more enlightening and transcendent, spiritual, than anything I had experienced in seven years of being a born again Christian.8

Michael Shermer made reference to the spiritual side of science, which he referred to as sciensuality:

Michael Ruse; philosophy professor (University of Guelph), ardent evolutionist and professedly an ex-Christian who has argued for the ACLU against the balanced treatment (of creation and evolution in schools) bill in the USA, wrote:

Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religiona full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today

“As a social reformer therefore, Huxley, known in the papers as Pope Huxley, was determined to find a substitute for Christianity. Evolution, with its stress on unbroken lawwhich could be used to reflect messages of social progresswas the perfect candidate. Life is on an upwardly moving escalator

Indeed, recognizing that a good religion needs a moral message as well as a history and promise of future reward, Huxley increasingly turned from Darwin (who was not very good at providing these things) toward another English evolutionist. Herbert Spencerprolific writer and immensely popular philosopher to the massesshared Huxleys vision of evolution as a kind of metaphysics rather than a straight science

Evolution now has its mystical visionary, its Saint John of the Cross. Harvard entomologist and sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson tells us that we now have an alternative mythology to defeat traditional religion If people want to make a religion of evolution, that is their business The important point is that we should recognize when people are going beyond the strict science, moving into moral and social claims, thinking of their theory as an all-embracing world picture.10

Addressing fellow atheist Jonathan Miller, Richard Dawkins stated:

you and I probably do have feelings that may very well be akin to a kind of mystical wonder when we contemplate the stars, when we contemplate the galaxies, when we contemplate life, the sheer expanse of geological time. I experience, and I expect you experience, internal feelings which sound pretty much like um, what mystics feel, and they call it God. Ifand Ive been called a very religious person for that reasonif I am called a religious person, then my retort to that is, Well, youre playing with words, because what the vast majority of people mean by religious is something utterly different from this sort of transcendent, mystical experience [ ]

The transcendent sense the transcendent, mystic sense, that people who are both religious and non-religious in my usage of the term, is something very very different. In that sense, I probably am a religious person. You probably are a religious person. But that doesnt mean we think that there is a supernatural being that interferes with the world, that does anything, that manipulates anything, or by the way, that its worth praying to or asking forgiveness of sins from, etc. [ ]

I prefer to use words like religion, like God, in the way that the vast majority of people in the world would understand them, and to reserve a different kind of language for the feeling that we share with possibly your clergyman [ ] the sense of wonder that one gets as a scientist contemplating the cosmos, or contemplating mitochondria is actually much grander than anything that you will get by contemplating the traditional objects of religious mysticism.11 [the un-bracketed ellipses appear in the original transcript denoting Richard Dawkins halting way of speaking, the bracketed ones were added]

Richard Dawkins, in Is Science a Religion? said,

science does have some of religions virtues All the great religions have a place for awe, for ecstatic transport at the wonder and beauty of creation. And its exactly this feeling of spine-shivering, breath-catching awealmost worshipthis flooding of the chest with ecstatic wonder, that modern science can provide. And it does so beyond the wildest dreams of saints and mystics

Science can offer a vision of life and the universe which, as Ive already remarked, for humbling poetic inspiration far outclasses any of the mutually contradictory faiths and disappointingly recent traditions of the worlds religions

The universe at large couldnt possibly be anything other than indifferent to Christ, his birth, his passion, and his death I want to return now to the charge that science is just a faith. The more extreme version of that chargeand one that I often encounter as both a scientist and a rationalistis an accusation of zealotry and bigotry in scientists themselves as great as that found in religious people. Sometimes there may be a little bit of justice in this accusation; but as zealous bigots, we scientists are mere amateurs at the game. Were content to argue with those who disagree with us. We dont kill them.

Stephen S. Hall, in Darwins Rottweiler Sir Richard Dawkins: Evolutions Fiercest Champion, Far Too Fierce, said:

Einsteinian religion is a kind of spirituality which is nonsupernatural And that doesnt mean that its somehow less than supernatural religion. Quite the contrary .Einstein was adamant in rejecting all ideas of a personal god. It is something bigger, something grander, something that I believe any scientist can subscribe to, including those scientists whom I would call atheists. Einstein, in my terms, was an atheist, although Einstein of course was very fond of using the word God. When Einstein would use the word God, he was using it as a kind of figure of speech. When he said things like God is subtle but hes not malicious, or He does not play dice, or Did God have a choice in creating the universe? what he meant was things like randomness do not lie at the heart of all things. Could the universe have been any other way than the way it is? Einstein chose to use the word God to phrase such profound, deep questions. That, it seems to me, is the good part of religion which we can all subscribe to

What I cant understand is why we are expected to show respect for good scientists, even great scientists, who at the same time believe in a god who does things like listen to our prayers, forgive our sins, perform cheap miracles which go against, presumably, everything that the god of the physicist, the divine cosmologist, set up when he set up his great laws of nature. So I dont understand a scientist who says, I am a Roman Catholic or I am a Baptist

I suppose my hope would be that sciencethe best kind of science, the sort of science which approaches the best sort of religion, the Einsteinian spirituality that I was talking aboutis so inspiring, so exciting that it should be sellable to everybody

We have something far better to offer Why are we freethinking secular scientists not getting into that same marketplace and selling what weve got to sell? Because its a far better product, and all weve got to do is hone our salesmanship to the level that they are already doing it. [italics in original]

Such sentiments appear to be fulfillments of the Apostle Pauls reference to:

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2.1 Atheist religion

Let us consider the atheists from the 18th to the 21stcenturies who express desires to establish an atheistic religion. Perhaps we should begin with Jean-Jacques Rousseau (17121778), who conceived of a civil religion:

Two other notable 18th century attempts are Claude Henri de Rouvroy, Comte de Saint-Simon (17601825) who conceived of a new Christianity which would be founded upon Humanism and scientific socialism. The secular priesthood would consist of scientists, philosophers and engineers. Lastly, Auguste Comte (17981857) conceived of a religion of humanity.

Forwarding to the 21stcentury we will consider Gary Wolfs interview with Sam Harris:

Gary Wolfs interview with Daniel Dennett:

Sam Harris, Selfless Consciousness without Faith:

Sam Harris, A Contemplative Science:

ABC Radio National, Stephen Crittenden interviews Sam Harris:

Sam Harris, Science Must Destroy Religion:

Sam Harris, Rational Mysticism:

Humanist Manifesto I (1933) states,

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There may be as many reasons that people choose atheism as there are individuals who make that choice. These range from philosophy or science to emotion or rebellion and various combinations of such factors.

Prominent Argentinean hyperrealism artist, Helmut Ditsch, retells part of his upbringing:

Joe Orso, writing on the origin of beliefs, interviewed atheist Ira Glass, who said:

I find that I dont seem to have a choice over whether or not I believe in God, I simply find that I do not. Either you have faith or you dont. Either you believe or you dont.

Orso: I was once talking with a Chinese friend. She asked whether I believed in God. I told her I did. I returned the question. She said no, and I asked her why not. Her father, she explained, had told her there was no God when she was a child. She hadnt really thought about it much since then.16 [emphasis added]

Note carefully the words of Thomas Nagel (B.Phil., Oxford; Ph.D., Harvard), Professor of Philosophy and Law, University Professor, and Fiorello La Guardia Professor of Law. He specializes in Political Philosophy, Ethics, Epistemology, and Philosophy of Mind. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Fellow of the British Academy, and has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities:

Consider the following words of Isaac Asimov, one of the most prolific scientific writers of the last century:

Gary Wolf , contributing editor to Wired magazine, includes himself in the following description: we lax agnostics, we noncommittal nonbelievers, we vague deists who would be embarrassed to defend antique absurdities like the Virgin Birth or the notion that Mary rose into heaven without dying, or any other blatant myth. He wrote:

At dinner parties or over drinks, I ask people to declare themselves. Who here is an atheist? I ask.

Usually, the first response is silence, accompanied by glances all around in the hope that somebody else will speak first. Then, after a moment, somebody does, almost always a man, almost always with a defiant smile and a tone of enthusiasm. He says happily, I am!

But it is the next comment that is telling. Somebody turns to him and says: You would be.

Why? Because you enjoy [irritating] people . Well, thats true.

This type of conversation takes place not in central Ohio, where I was born, or in Utah, where I was a teenager, but on the West Coast, among technical and scientific people, possibly the social group that is least likely among all Americans to be religious.13

Thus, we find various motivating factors which lead to atheism and have absolutely nothing to do with science or intellect.

Paul Vitz, Professor of Psychology at New York University, made a fascinating study of the lives of some of the most influential atheists. In his book Faith of the Fatherless: the Psychology of Atheism he concluded that these persons rejected God because they rejected their own fathers. This was due to their poor relationships with their fathers, or due to their fathers absence, or due to their rebellion against their fathers.20 Along this line of research, it would be interesting to consider the effect that the death of friends and family has had on the rejection of God. From Charles Darwin to Ted Turner the death of friends and family has played a part.

Gary Wolf noted,

The Associated Press reported on an interview with Ted Turner published in The New Yorker:

CNN founder Ted Turner was suicidal after the breakup of his marriage to Jane Fonda and his loss of control of Turner Broadcasting his marriage to Fonda broke up partly because of her decision to become a practicing Christian

Turner is a strident non-believer, having lost his faith after his sister, Mary Jane, died of a painful disease called systemic lupus erythematosus. I was taught that God was love and God was powerful, Turner said. And I couldnt understand how someone so innocent should be made or allowed to suffer so.

Tony Snow, who was the White House Press Secretary in 2006/2007, and was a Christian, died of cancer in July 2008. He wrote an essay entitled, Cancers Unexpected Blessings.23 Consider, in contrast, how a God-centered person dealt with his own impending death:

In contrast, consider the words of atheist William Provine, professor of the history of science at Cornell University:

With regards to his own cancer, a brain tumor, Provine has stated that he would shoot himself in the head if his brain tumor returned.25 Apparently, one less bio-organism is irrelevant in an absolutely materialistic world.

3.1 Natural born Atheist

Another reason for rejecting God (choosing atheism), is a willing acceptance of satanic deception.

The angel Lucifer (luminous one) fell and became Satan (adversary) due to his desire to supplant God. This was Lucifers single-minded obsession.

He not only rejected God by attempting to supplant Him, but he urged humans to do likewise. Satan urged Eve to choose against God for her own self-fulfilment:

He said to the woman, Did God actually say, You shall not eat of any tree in the garden? And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die. But the serpent said to the woman, You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. (Genesis 3:1-5 ESV).

The tactic is clear: firstly, question Gods statements, then, contradict Gods statements and, finally, urge rebellion in seeking equality with God.

This manifests in atheists as

This satanic deception appeals strongly to atheists as it bolsters two of their desired delusions: 1) absolute autonomybeing free to do as they please, and 2) the lack of ultimate accountabilitythere are no eternal consequences for doing as they please.

A subset of the question of why some people choose atheism is the atheist claim that we are all natural born atheists. In part this is incumbent upon which definition of atheism we are employing. Obviously, we are not born positively asserting Gods non-existence. Thus, the claim is that we are all born lacking a belief in God. Logically, this claim is accurate only at this point and is actually not successfully applicable beyond this point.

Atheists who make this argument claim that this argument demonstrates that man is not God-made but that God is man-made. In other words, they claim that we only believe in God because someone taught us to believe in God, often during childhood before we were able to consider the claim rationally. Yet, this claim is faulty on many levels, for example:

We are born knowing nothing at all and must be taught, and later take it upon ourselves to learn, anything and everything that we will ever know or believe, including atheism.

We are natural-born bed wetters but that does not mean that we should remain that way.

This is ultimately a form of the logically fallacious ad hominem (to the man). This fallacy occurs when what is supposed to be a counterargument attacks the person, the source of the original argument, while leaving the argument unanswered. Thus, just because belief in God is something that is taught does not discredit belief in God. It would be fallacious to claim that God does not exist because human beings invented the idea of Gods existenceGod wants us to discover His existence: you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).

Furthermore, this claim does not consider that many people came to believe in God in adulthood and having come from a completely secular (atheistic) upbringing.

Although, perhaps we could grant the claim: if atheists want to argue that atheism requires no more intellect than that which an infant can muster, why should we argue?

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Here is a video debate between an atheist and the author of this article: Morality: natural or supernatural?

Technically, ethics refers to what should be and morals to what is or; prescription and description. Atheists differ on the issue of ethics and morality; some claim that there are absolutes and some do not. As to the question of whether atheists can make absolute moral statements, this is tantamount to the first year theology student who, when asked, Do you believe in infant baptism? responded, Sure I do; Ive seen it done. Yes, atheists can make any statements about anything at allthe question is: are the statements viable?

Atheists make epistemic statements about morality but do not provide an ontological premise for ethics.26 That is to say that they can muse upon issues of morality and come to any conclusion that they please. However, these turn out to be arbitrary personal preferences that are expressed as dogmatic assertions.

Some atheists do make attempts at providing an ontological basis for ethics. These range quite widelyfrom considering the behavior of apes to Game Theory.

Read more from the original source:

Atheism – creation.com

Top 10 Atheism Quotes – Common Sense Atheism

There are hundreds of great atheism quotes out there. Like most skillful turns of phrase, they all sound good. But there are many I disagree with, for example All thinking men are atheists (Ernest Hemmingway).

Or consider this Julian Baggini quote: Goblins, hobbits truly everlasting gobstoppers God is just one of the things that atheists dont believe in, it just happens to be the thing that, for historical reasons, gave them their name. Actually, no. Perhaps we could say that God is just one of many things that naturalists dont believe in, or something like that, but atheism is defined only by a lack of belief in gods.

There are hundreds of other atheism quotes to choose from, but these are the ones that strike me most deeply right now.

When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.

Stephen Roberts

When I was a kid I had an imaginary friend and I used to think that he went everywhere with me, and that I could talk to him and that he could hear me, and that he could grant me wishes and stuff. And then I grew up, and I stopped going to church.

Jimmy Carr

Believe nothing,No matter where you read it,Or who has said it,Not even if I have said it,Unless it agrees with your own reasonAnd your own common sense.

Buddha

To understand via the heart is not to understand.

Michel de Montaigne

I dont know if God exists, but it would be better for His reputation if He didnt.

Jules Renard

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime; give a man religion and he will die praying for a fish.

Anonymous

Do not pass by my epitaph, traveler.But having stopped, listen and learn, then go your way.There is no boat in Hades, no ferryman Charon,No caretaker Aiakos, no dog Cerberus.All we who are dead belowHave become bones and ashes, but nothing else.I have spoken to you honestly, go on, traveler,Lest even while dead I seem talkative to you.

Ancient Roman tombstone

An atheist doesnt have to be someone who thinks he has a proof that there cant be a god. He only has to be someone who believes that the evidence on the God question is at a similar level to the evidence on the werewolf question.

John McCarthy

Men never commit evil so fully and joyfully as when they do it for religious convictions.

Blaise Pascal

Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.

Anonymous

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Top 10 Atheism Quotes – Common Sense Atheism

Atheist Apologist: My Favorite Atheism Quotes

Here is a collection of my favorite quotes about atheism and religion. They’re in no particular order:”I would challenge anyone here to think of a question upon which we once had a scientific answer, however inadequate, but for which now the best answer is a religious one. Now, you can think of an uncountable number of questions that run the other way, where we once had a religious answer and now the authority of religion has been battered and nullified by science, and by moral progress, and by secular progress generally. And I think thats not an accident.” — Sam Harris

“Why should I allow that same God to tell me how to raise my kids, who had to drown His own?” — Robert G. Ingersoll

“If god doesn’t like the way I live, Let him tell me, not you.” — Unknown

Eskimo: “If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?” Priest: “No, not if you did not know.” Eskimo: “Then why did you tell me?” — Annie Dillard, ‘Pilgrim at Tinker Creek’

“Faith does not give you the answers, it just stops you asking the questions.” — Frater Ravus

“‘I refuse to prove that I exist,’ says God, ‘for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.'” — Douglas Adams

“A man without religon is like a fish without a bicycle” — Unknown

“Without God, life is everything.” — Rev. Ron

“When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion.” — Robert M. Pirsig

“Prayer has no place in the public schools, just like facts have no place in organized religion.” — Superintendent Chalmers, The Simpsons

“Deaths in the Bible. God – 2,270,365 not including the victims of Noah’s flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, or the many plagues, famines, fiery serpents, etc because no specific numbers were given. Satan – 10” — Unknown

“The essence of Christianity is told us in the Garden of Eden history. The fruit that was forbidden was on the tree of knowledge. The subtext is, All the suffering you have is because you wanted to find out what was going on.” — Frank Zappa

“The Christian god makes man human, then burns him when he acts like one.” — HSM

“Blasphemy is a victimless crime” — Anonymous

“Why would some all powerful being create creatures capable of reason and then demand that they act in a manner contrary to their creation?” — Josh Charles

“I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.” — Richard Dawkins

“Do I think Im going to paradise? Of course not; I wouldnt go if I was asked. I dont want to live in some fucking celestial North Korea, for one thing, where all I get to do is praise the Dear Leader from dawn till dusk. I dont want this; it would be hell for me.” — Christopher Hitchens

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God? — Epicurus

“It is, I think, an error to believe that there is any need of religion to make life seem worth living.” – Sinclair Lewis

“I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” — Stephen Henry Roberts

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” — Blaise Pascal

“Blind faith is an ironic gift to return to the Creator of human intelligence.” — Anonymous

“If God wants us to do a thing he should make his wishes sufficiently clear. Sensible people will wait till he has done this before paying much attention to him.” — Samuel Butler

“I cannot believe in a God who has neither humor nor common sense.” — W. Somerset Maugham

“Question: How do you know you’re God?Answer: Simple. When I pray to him, I find I’m talking to myself.” — Peter O’Toole

“Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects?” — James Madison

“The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.” — George Bernard Shaw

“Gullibility and credulity are considered undesireable qualities in every department of human life — except religion … Why are we praised by godly men for surrendering our ‘godly gift’ of reason when we cross their mental thresholds?” — Christopher Hitchens

“If this is your God, he’s not very impressive. He has so many psychological problems; he’s so insecure. He demands worship every seven days. He goes out and creates faulty humans and then blames them for his own mistakes. He’s a pretty poor excuse for a Supreme Being.” — Gene Roddenberry

“Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nation, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have.” — James Baldwin

“I would believe any religion that could prove it had existed since the beginning of the world. But when I see Socrates, Plato, Moses, and Mohammed I do not think there is such a one. All religions owe their origin to man.” — Napoleon Bonaparte

“The existence of a world without God seems to me less absurd than the presence of a God, existing in all of his perfection, creating imperfect man in order to make him run the risk of Hell.” — Armand Salacrou

“It is an insult to God to believe in God. For on the one hand it is to suppose that he has perpetrated acts of incalculable cruelty. On the other, it is to suppose that he has perversely given his human creatures an instrument — their intellect — which must inevitably lead them, if they are dispassionate and honest, to deny his existence. It is tempting to conclude that if he exists, it is the atheists and agnostics that he loves best, among those with any pretensions to education. For they are the ones who have taken him most seriously.” — Galen Strawson

“The Way to see by Faith is to shut the Eye of Reason.” — Benjamin Franklin

“Once miracles are admitted, every scientific explanation is out of the question.” — Johannes Kepler

“None of the miracles with which ancient histories are filled, occurred under scientific conditions. Observation never once contradicted, teaches us that miracles occur only in periods and countries in which they are believed in and before persons disposed to believe in them.” — Ernest Renan

“Religion is an illusion and it derives its strength from its readiness to fit in with our instinctual wishful impulses.” — Sigmund Freud

“Only the atheist realizes how morally objectionable it is for survivors of a catastrophe to believe themselves spared by a loving God while this same God drowned infants in their cribs.” — Sam Harris

“If he is infinitely good, what reason should we have to fear him? If he is infinitely wise, why should we have doubts concerning our future? If he knows all, why warn him of our needs and fatigue him with our prayers? If he is everywhere, why erect temples to him?” — Percy Bysshe Shelley

“Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?” — Douglas Adams

“Why should I fear death? If I am, death is not. If death is, I am not. Why should I fear that which cannot exist when I do?” — Epicurus

“Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned.” — Anonymous

“You believe in a book which has talking animals, wizards, witches, demons, sticks turning into snakes, food falling from the sky, people walking on water, and all sorts of magical, absurd, and primitive stories; and you say that I am the one who is mentally ill?” — Dan Barker

“The continually progressive change to which the meaning of words is subject, the want of a universal language which renders translation necessary, the errors to which translations are again subject, the mistakes of copyists and printers, together with the possibility of willful alteration, are themselves evidences that human language, whether in speech or print, cannot be the vehicle of the Word of God.” — Thomas Paine

“As to the book called the Bible, it is blasphemy to call it the word of God. It is a book of lies and contradictions, and a history of bad times and bad men. There are but a few good characters in the whole book.” — Thomas Paine

“One’s convictions should be proportional to one’s evidence.” — Sam Harris

“Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day; give him a religion, and he’ll starve to death while praying for a fish.” — Anonymous

“A faith which cannot survive collision with the truth is not worth many regrets.” — Arthur C. Clarke

“The religion of one age is the literary entertainment of the next.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer.” — Anonymous

“Wherever morality is based on theology, wherever the right is made dependent on divine authority, the most immoral, unjust, infamous things can be justified and established.” — Ludwig Feuerbach

“I cannot see why we should expect an infinite God to do better in another world than he does in this.” — Robert G. Ingersoll

Is your favorite quote missing from here? E-mail it to atheistapologist@gmail.com and I’ll add it!

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Atheist Apologist: My Favorite Atheism Quotes

Atheism – Wikipedia

Atheism is, in the broadest sense, the absence of belief in the existence of deities.[1][2][3][4] Less broadly, atheism is the rejection of belief that any deities exist.[5][6] In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.[1][2][7][8] Atheism is contrasted with theism,[9][10] which, in its most general form, is the belief that at least one deity exists.[10][11][12]

The etymological root for the word atheism originated before the 5th century BCE from the ancient Greek (atheos), meaning “without god(s)”. In antiquity it had multiple uses as a pejorative term applied to those thought to reject the gods worshiped by the larger society,[13] those who were forsaken by the gods or those who had no commitment to belief in the gods.[14] The term denoted a social category created by orthodox religionists into which those who did not share their religious beliefs were placed.[14] The actual term atheism emerged first in the 16th century.[15] With the spread of freethought, skeptical inquiry, and subsequent increase in criticism of religion, application of the term narrowed in scope. The first individuals to identify themselves using the word atheist lived in the 18th century during the Age of Enlightenment.[15] The French Revolution, noted for its “unprecedented atheism,” witnessed the first major political movement in history to advocate for the supremacy of human reason.[17] The French Revolution can be described as the first period where atheism became implemented politically.

Arguments for atheism range from the philosophical to social and historical approaches. Rationales for not believing in deities include arguments that there is a lack of empirical evidence,[18][19] the problem of evil, the argument from inconsistent revelations, the rejection of concepts that cannot be falsified, and the argument from nonbelief.[18][20] Proponents contend that atheism is a more parsimonious position than theism and that it is the position in which everyone is born; therefore, they argue that the burden of proof lies not on the atheist to disprove the existence of God but on the theist to provide a rationale for theism.[21][1] However, others have disagreed with the view of being born into such a position.[22][23] Although some atheists have adopted secular philosophies (e.g. secular humanism),[24][25] there is no one ideology or set of behaviors to which all atheists adhere.[26]

Since conceptions of atheism vary, accurate estimations of current numbers of atheists are difficult.[27] According to global Win-Gallup International studies, 13% of respondents were “convinced atheists” in 2012,[28] 11% were “convinced atheists” in 2015,[29] and in 2017, 9% were “convinced atheists”.[30] However, other researchers have advised caution with WIN/Gallup figures since other surveys which have used the same wording for decades and have a bigger sample size have consistently reached lower figures.[31] An older survey by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 2004 recorded atheists as comprising 8% of the world’s population.[32] Other older estimates have indicated that atheists comprise 2% of the world’s population, while the irreligious add a further 12%.[33] According to these polls, Europe and East Asia are the regions with the highest rates of atheism. In 2015, 61% of people in China reported that they were atheists.[34] The figures for a 2010 Eurobarometer survey in the European Union (EU) reported that 20% of the EU population claimed not to believe in “any sort of spirit, God or life force”.[35]

Writers disagree on how best to define and classify atheism,[36] contesting what supernatural entities are considered gods, whether it is a philosophic position in its own right or merely the absence of one, and whether it requires a conscious, explicit rejection. Atheism has been regarded as compatible with agnosticism,[37][38][39][40][41][42][43] and has also been contrasted with it.[44][45][46] A variety of categories have been used to distinguish the different forms of atheism.

Some of the ambiguity and controversy involved in defining atheism arises from difficulty in reaching a consensus for the definitions of words like deity and god. The plurality of wildly different conceptions of God and deities leads to differing ideas regarding atheism’s applicability. The ancient Romans accused Christians of being atheists for not worshiping the pagan deities. Gradually, this view fell into disfavor as theism came to be understood as encompassing belief in any divinity.

With respect to the range of phenomena being rejected, atheism may counter anything from the existence of a deity, to the existence of any spiritual, supernatural, or transcendental concepts, such as those of Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Taoism.[48]

Definitions of atheism also vary in the degree of consideration a person must put to the idea of gods to be considered an atheist. Atheism has sometimes been defined to include the simple absence of belief that any deities exist. This broad definition would include newborns and other people who have not been exposed to theistic ideas. As far back as 1772, Baron d’Holbach said that “All children are born Atheists; they have no idea of God.”[49] Similarly, George H. Smith (1979) suggested that: “The man who is unacquainted with theism is an atheist because he does not believe in a god. This category would also include the child with the conceptual capacity to grasp the issues involved, but who is still unaware of those issues. The fact that this child does not believe in god qualifies him as an atheist.”[50] Smith coined the term implicit atheism to refer to “the absence of theistic belief without a conscious rejection of it” and explicit atheism to refer to the more common definition of conscious disbelief. Ernest Nagel contradicts Smith’s definition of atheism as merely “absence of theism”, acknowledging only explicit atheism as true “atheism”.[22] Graham Oppy classifies as innocents those who never considered the question because they lack any understanding of what a god is. According to Oppy, these could be one-month-old babies, humans with severe traumatic brain injuries, or patients with advanced dementia.

Philosophers such as Antony Flew[52] and Michael Martin have contrasted positive (strong/hard) atheism with negative (weak/soft) atheism. Positive atheism is the explicit affirmation that gods do not exist. Negative atheism includes all other forms of non-theism. According to this categorization, anyone who is not a theist is either a negative or a positive atheist. The terms weak and strong are relatively recent, while the terms negative and positive atheism are of older origin, having been used (in slightly different ways) in the philosophical literature[52] and in Catholic apologetics.[53] Under this demarcation of atheism, most agnostics qualify as negative atheists.

While Martin, for example, asserts that agnosticism entails negative atheism,[40] many agnostics see their view as distinct from atheism,[54][55] which they may consider no more justified than theism or requiring an equal conviction.[54] The assertion of unattainability of knowledge for or against the existence of gods is sometimes seen as an indication that atheism requires a leap of faith.[56][57] Common atheist responses to this argument include that unproven religious propositions deserve as much disbelief as all other unproven propositions,[58] and that the unprovability of a god’s existence does not imply equal probability of either possibility.[59] Australian philosopher J. J. C. Smart even argues that “sometimes a person who is really an atheist may describe herself, even passionately, as an agnostic because of unreasonable generalized philosophical skepticism which would preclude us from saying that we know anything whatever, except perhaps the truths of mathematics and formal logic.”[60] Consequently, some atheist authors such as Richard Dawkins prefer distinguishing theist, agnostic and atheist positions along a spectrum of theistic probabilitythe likelihood that each assigns to the statement “God exists”.

Before the 18th century, the existence of God was so accepted in the western world that even the possibility of true atheism was questioned. This is called theistic innatismthe notion that all people believe in God from birth; within this view was the connotation that atheists are simply in denial.[62]

There is also a position claiming that atheists are quick to believe in God in times of crisis, that atheists make deathbed conversions, or that “there are no atheists in foxholes”.[63] There have however been examples to the contrary, among them examples of literal “atheists in foxholes”.[64]

Some atheists have doubted the very need for the term “atheism”. In his book Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris wrote:

In fact, “atheism” is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a “non-astrologer” or a “non-alchemist”. We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.

Pragmatic atheism is the view one should reject a belief in a god or gods because it is unnecessary for a pragmatic life. This view is related to apatheism and practical atheism.[66]

Atheists have also argued that people cannot know a God or prove the existence of a God. The latter is called agnosticism, which takes a variety of forms. In the philosophy of immanence, divinity is inseparable from the world itself, including a person’s mind, and each person’s consciousness is locked in the subject. According to this form of agnosticism, this limitation in perspective prevents any objective inference from belief in a god to assertions of its existence. The rationalistic agnosticism of Kant and the Enlightenment only accepts knowledge deduced with human rationality; this form of atheism holds that gods are not discernible as a matter of principle, and therefore cannot be known to exist. Skepticism, based on the ideas of Hume, asserts that certainty about anything is impossible, so one can never know for sure whether or not a god exists. Hume, however, held that such unobservable metaphysical concepts should be rejected as “sophistry and illusion”.[68] The allocation of agnosticism to atheism is disputed; it can also be regarded as an independent, basic worldview.[69]

Other arguments for atheism that can be classified as epistemological or ontological, including ignosticism, assert the meaninglessness or unintelligibility of basic terms such as “God” and statements such as “God is all-powerful.” Theological noncognitivism holds that the statement “God exists” does not express a proposition, but is nonsensical or cognitively meaningless. It has been argued both ways as to whether such individuals can be classified into some form of atheism or agnosticism. Philosophers A. J. Ayer and Theodore M. Drange reject both categories, stating that both camps accept “God exists” as a proposition; they instead place noncognitivism in its own category.[70][71]

Philosopher, Zofia Zdybicka writes:

“Metaphysical atheism… includes all doctrines that hold to metaphysical monism (the homogeneity of reality). Metaphysical atheism may be either: a) absolute an explicit denial of God’s existence associated with materialistic monism (all materialistic trends, both in ancient and modern times); b) relative the implicit denial of God in all philosophies that, while they accept the existence of an absolute, conceive of the absolute as not possessing any of the attributes proper to God: transcendence, a personal character or unity. Relative atheism is associated with idealistic monism (pantheism, panentheism, deism).”[72]

Some atheists hold the view that the various conceptions of gods, such as the personal god of Christianity, are ascribed logically inconsistent qualities. Such atheists present deductive arguments against the existence of God, which assert the incompatibility between certain traits, such as perfection, creator-status, immutability, omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, omnibenevolence, transcendence, personhood (a personal being), nonphysicality, justice, and mercy.[18]

Theodicean atheists believe that the world as they experience it cannot be reconciled with the qualities commonly ascribed to God and gods by theologians. They argue that an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent God is not compatible with a world where there is evil and suffering, and where divine love is hidden from many people.[20] A similar argument is attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism.[74]

Philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach[75] and psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud have argued that God and other religious beliefs are human inventions, created to fulfill various psychological and emotional wants or needs. This is also a view of many Buddhists.[76] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, influenced by the work of Feuerbach, argued that belief in God and religion are social functions, used by those in power to oppress the working class. According to Mikhail Bakunin, “the idea of God implies the abdication of human reason and justice; it is the most decisive negation of human liberty, and necessarily ends in the enslavement of mankind, in theory and practice.” He reversed Voltaire’s famous aphorism that if God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him, writing instead that “if God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him.”[77]

Atheism is not mutually exclusive with respect to some religious and spiritual belief systems, including Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Syntheism, Ralism,[78] and Neopagan movements[79] such as Wicca.[80] stika schools in Hinduism hold atheism to be a valid path to moksha, but extremely difficult, for the atheist can not expect any help from the divine on their journey.[81] Jainism believes the universe is eternal and has no need for a creator deity, however Tirthankaras are revered that can transcend space and time [82] and have more power than the god Indra.[83] Secular Buddhism does not advocate belief in gods. Early Buddhism was atheistic as Gautama Buddha’s path involved no mention of gods. Later conceptions of Buddhism consider Buddha himself a god, suggest adherents can attain godhood, and revere Bodhisattvas[84] and Eternal Buddha.

Apophatic theology is often assessed as being a version of atheism or agnosticism, since it cannot say truly that God exists.[85] “The comparison is crude, however, for conventional atheism treats the existence of God as a predicate that can be denied (God is nonexistent), whereas negative theology denies that God has predicates”.[86] “God or the Divine is” without being able to attribute qualities about “what He is” would be the prerequisite of positive theology in negative theology that distinguishes theism from atheism. “Negative theology is a complement to, not the enemy of, positive theology”.[87]

Axiological, or constructive, atheism rejects the existence of gods in favor of a “higher absolute”, such as humanity. This form of atheism favors humanity as the absolute source of ethics and values, and permits individuals to resolve moral problems without resorting to God. Marx and Freud used this argument to convey messages of liberation, full-development, and unfettered happiness.[69] One of the most common criticisms of atheism has been to the contrary: that denying the existence of a god either leads to moral relativism and leaves one with no moral or ethical foundation,[88] or renders life meaningless and miserable.[89] Blaise Pascal argued this view in his Penses.[90]

French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre identified himself as a representative of an “atheist existentialism” concerned less with denying the existence of God than with establishing that “man needs… to find himself again and to understand that nothing can save him from himself, not even a valid proof of the existence of God.” Sartre said a corollary of his atheism was that “if God does not exist, there is at least one being in whom existence precedes essence, a being who exists before he can be defined by any concept, and… this being is man.” The practical consequence of this atheism was described by Sartre as meaning that there are no a priori rules or absolute values that can be invoked to govern human conduct, and that humans are “condemned” to invent these for themselves, making “man” absolutely “responsible for everything he does”.

Sociologist Phil Zuckerman analyzed previous social science research on secularity and non-belief, and concluded that societal well-being is positively correlated with irreligion. He found that there are much lower concentrations of atheism and secularity in poorer, less developed nations (particularly in Africa and South America) than in the richer industrialized democracies.[94][95] His findings relating specifically to atheism in the US were that compared to religious people in the US, “atheists and secular people” are less nationalistic, prejudiced, antisemitic, racist, dogmatic, ethnocentric, closed-minded, and authoritarian, and in US states with the highest percentages of atheists, the murder rate is lower than average. In the most religious states, the murder rate is higher than average.[96][97]

People who self-identify as atheists are often assumed to be irreligious, but some sects within major religions reject the existence of a personal, creator deity.[99] In recent years, certain religious denominations have accumulated a number of openly atheistic followers, such as atheistic or humanistic Judaism[100][101] and Christian atheists.[102][103][104]

The strictest sense of positive atheism does not entail any specific beliefs outside of disbelief in any deity; as such, atheists can hold any number of spiritual beliefs. For the same reason, atheists can hold a wide variety of ethical beliefs, ranging from the moral universalism of humanism, which holds that a moral code should be applied consistently to all humans, to moral nihilism, which holds that morality is meaningless.[105] Atheism is accepted as a valid philosophical position within some varieties of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism.[106]

Philosophers such as Slavoj iek,[107] Alain de Botton,[108] and Alexander Bard and Jan Sderqvist,[109] have all argued that atheists should reclaim religion as an act of defiance against theism, precisely not to leave religion as an unwarranted monopoly to theists.

According to Plato’s Euthyphro dilemma, the role of the gods in determining right from wrong is either unnecessary or arbitrary. The argument that morality must be derived from God, and cannot exist without a wise creator, has been a persistent feature of political if not so much philosophical debate.[110][111][112] Moral precepts such as “murder is wrong” are seen as divine laws, requiring a divine lawmaker and judge. However, many atheists argue that treating morality legalistically involves a false analogy, and that morality does not depend on a lawmaker in the same way that laws do.[113] Friedrich Nietzsche believed in a morality independent of theistic belief, and stated that morality based upon God “has truth only if God is truthit stands or falls with faith in God.”[114][115][116]

There exist normative ethical systems that do not require principles and rules to be given by a deity. Some include virtue ethics, social contract, Kantian ethics, utilitarianism, and Objectivism. Sam Harris has proposed that moral prescription (ethical rule making) is not just an issue to be explored by philosophy, but that we can meaningfully practice a science of morality. Any such scientific system must, nevertheless, respond to the criticism embodied in the naturalistic fallacy.[117]

Philosophers Susan Neiman[118] and Julian Baggini[119] (among others) assert that behaving ethically only because of divine mandate is not true ethical behavior but merely blind obedience. Baggini argues that atheism is a superior basis for ethics, claiming that a moral basis external to religious imperatives is necessary to evaluate the morality of the imperatives themselvesto be able to discern, for example, that “thou shalt steal” is immoral even if one’s religion instructs itand that atheists, therefore, have the advantage of being more inclined to make such evaluations.[120] The contemporary British political philosopher Martin Cohen has offered the more historically telling example of Biblical injunctions in favor of torture and slavery as evidence of how religious injunctions follow political and social customs, rather than vice versa, but also noted that the same tendency seems to be true of supposedly dispassionate and objective philosophers.[121] Cohen extends this argument in more detail in Political Philosophy from Plato to Mao, where he argues that the Qur’an played a role in perpetuating social codes from the early 7th century despite changes in secular society.[122]

Some prominent atheistsmost recently Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins, and following such thinkers as Bertrand Russell, Robert G. Ingersoll, Voltaire, and novelist Jos Saramagohave criticized religions, citing harmful aspects of religious practices and doctrines.[123]

The 19th-century German political theorist and sociologist Karl Marx called religion “the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people”. He goes on to say, “The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.”[124] Lenin said that “every religious idea and every idea of God is unutterable vileness… of the most dangerous kind, ‘contagion’ of the most abominable kind. Millions of sins, filthy deeds, acts of violence and physical contagions… are far less dangerous than the subtle, spiritual idea of God decked out in the smartest ideological constumes…”[125]

Sam Harris criticizes Western religion’s reliance on divine authority as lending itself to authoritarianism and dogmatism. There is a correlation between religious fundamentalism and extrinsic religion (when religion is held because it serves ulterior interests)[127] and authoritarianism, dogmatism, and prejudice.[128] These argumentscombined with historical events that are argued to demonstrate the dangers of religion, such as the Crusades, inquisitions, witch trials, and terrorist attackshave been used in response to claims of beneficial effects of belief in religion.[129] Believers counter-argue that some regimes that espouse atheism, such as the Soviet Union, have also been guilty of mass murder.[130][131] In response to those claims, atheists such as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins have stated that Stalin’s atrocities were influenced not by atheism but by dogmatic Marxism, and that while Stalin and Mao happened to be atheists, they did not do their deeds in the name of atheism.[133]

In early ancient Greek, the adjective theos (, from the privative – + “god”) meant “godless”. It was first used as a term of censure roughly meaning “ungodly” or “impious”. In the 5th century BCE, the word began to indicate more deliberate and active godlessness in the sense of “severing relations with the gods” or “denying the gods”. The term (asebs) then came to be applied against those who impiously denied or disrespected the local gods, even if they believed in other gods. Modern translations of classical texts sometimes render theos as “atheistic”. As an abstract noun, there was also (atheots), “atheism”. Cicero transliterated the Greek word into the Latin theos. The term found frequent use in the debate between early Christians and Hellenists, with each side attributing it, in the pejorative sense, to the other.[13]

The term atheist (from Fr. athe), in the sense of “one who… denies the existence of God or gods”,[135] predates atheism in English, being first found as early as 1566,[136] and again in 1571.[137] Atheist as a label of practical godlessness was used at least as early as 1577.[138] The term atheism was derived from the French athisme,[139] and appears in English about 1587.[140] An earlier work, from about 1534, used the term atheonism.[141][142] Related words emerged later: deist in 1621,[143] theist in 1662,[144] deism in 1675,[145] and theism in 1678.[146] At that time “deist” and “deism” already carried their modern meaning. The term theism came to be contrasted with deism.

Karen Armstrong writes that “During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the word ‘atheist’ was still reserved exclusively for polemic… The term ‘atheist’ was an insult. Nobody would have dreamed of calling himself an atheist.”

Atheism was first used to describe a self-avowed belief in late 18th-century Europe, specifically denoting disbelief in the monotheistic Abrahamic god.[147] In the 20th century, globalization contributed to the expansion of the term to refer to disbelief in all deities, though it remains common in Western society to describe atheism as simply “disbelief in God”.

While the earliest-found usage of the term atheism is in 16th-century France,[139][140] ideas that would be recognized today as atheistic are documented from the Vedic period and the classical antiquity.

Atheistic schools are found in early Indian thought and have existed from the times of the historical Vedic religion.[148] Among the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy, Samkhya, the oldest philosophical school of thought, does not accept God, and the early Mimamsa also rejected the notion of God.[149] The thoroughly materialistic and anti-theistic philosophical Crvka (or Lokyata) school that originated in India around the 6th century BCE is probably the most explicitly atheistic school of philosophy in India, similar to the Greek Cyrenaic school. This branch of Indian philosophy is classified as heterodox due to its rejection of the authority of Vedas and hence is not considered part of the six orthodox schools of Hinduism, but it is noteworthy as evidence of a materialistic movement within Hinduism.[150] Chatterjee and Datta explain that our understanding of Crvka philosophy is fragmentary, based largely on criticism of the ideas by other schools, and that it is not a living tradition:

“Though materialism in some form or other has always been present in India, and occasional references are found in the Vedas, the Buddhistic literature, the Epics, as well as in the later philosophical works we do not find any systematic work on materialism, nor any organized school of followers as the other philosophical schools possess. But almost every work of the other schools states, for refutation, the materialistic views. Our knowledge of Indian materialism is chiefly based on these.”[151]

Other Indian philosophies generally regarded as atheistic include Classical Samkhya and Purva Mimamsa. The rejection of a personal creator God is also seen in Jainism and Buddhism in India.[152]

Western atheism has its roots in pre-Socratic Greek philosophy,[155][156] but atheism in the modern sense was nonexistent or extremely rare in ancient Greece.[157][158][156] Pre-Socratic Atomists such as Democritus attempted to explain the world in a purely materialistic way and interpreted religion as a human reaction to natural phenomena,[153] but did not explicitly deny the gods’ existence.[153] In the late fifth century BCE, the Greek lyric poet Diagoras of Melos was sentenced to death in Athens under the charge of being a “godless person” () after he made fun of the Eleusinian Mysteries,[157][158][153] but he fled the city to escape punishment.[157][158][153] Later writers have cited Diagoras as the “first atheist”,[159][160] but he was probably not an atheist in the modern sense of the word.[158]

A fragment from the lost satyr play Sisyphus, which has been attributed to both Critias and Euripides, claims that a clever man invented “the fear of the gods” in order to frighten people into behaving morally.[161][158][162][158][156] This statement, however, originally did not mean that the gods themselves were nonexistent, but rather that their powers were a hoax.[156] Atheistic statements have also been attributed to the philosopher Prodicus. Philodemus reports that Prodicus believed that “the gods of popular belief do not exist nor do they know, but primitive man, [out of admiration, deified] the fruits of the earth and virtually everything that contributed to his existence”. Protagoras has sometimes been taken to be an atheist, but rather espoused agnostic views, commenting that “Concerning the gods I am unable to discover whether they exist or not, or what they are like in form; for there are many hindrances to knowledge, the obscurity of the subject and the brevity of human life.”[163][157]

The Athenian public associated Socrates (c. 470399 BCE) with the trends in pre-Socratic philosophy towards naturalistic inquiry and the rejection of divine explanations for phenomena.[153][154] Aristophanes’ comic play The Clouds (performed 423 BCE) portrays Socrates as teaching his students that the traditional Greek deities do not exist.[153][154] Socrates was later tried and executed under the charge of not believing in the gods of the state and instead worshipping foreign gods.[153][154] Socrates himself vehemently denied the charges of atheism at his trial[153][154][164] and all the surviving sources about him indicate that he was a very devout man, who prayed to the rising sun and believed that the oracle at Delphi spoke the word of Apollo.[153] Euhemerus (c. 300 BCE) published his view that the gods were only the deified rulers, conquerors and founders of the past, and that their cults and religions were in essence the continuation of vanished kingdoms and earlier political structures.[165] Although not strictly an atheist, Euhemerus was later criticized for having “spread atheism over the whole inhabited earth by obliterating the gods”.[166]

The most important Greek thinker in the development of atheism was Epicurus (c. 300 BCE).[156] Drawing on the ideas of Democritus and the Atomists, he espoused a materialistic philosophy according to which the universe was governed by the laws of chance without the need for divine intervention (see scientific determinism).[167] Although Epicurus still maintained that the gods existed,[156][167] he believed that they were uninterested in human affairs.[167] The aim of the Epicureans was to attain ataraxia (“peace of mind”) and one important way of doing this was by exposing fear of divine wrath as irrational. The Epicureans also denied the existence of an afterlife and the need to fear divine punishment after death.[167] In the 3rd-century BCE, the Greek philosophers Theodorus Cyrenaicus[160][168] and Strato of Lampsacus[169] did not believe in the existence of gods. The Roman philosopher Sextus Empiricus held that one should suspend judgment about virtually all beliefsa form of skepticism known as Pyrrhonismthat nothing was inherently evil, and that ataraxia is attainable by withholding one’s judgment. His relatively large volume of surviving works had a lasting influence on later philosophers.[170]

The meaning of “atheist” changed over the course of classical antiquity.[158] Early Christians were widely reviled as “atheists” because they did not believe in the existence of the Graeco-Roman deities.[171][pageneeded][158][172][173] During the Roman Empire, Christians were executed for their rejection of the Roman gods in general and Emperor-worship in particular.[173][174] When Christianity became the state religion of Rome under Theodosius I in 381, heresy became a punishable offense.[174]

During the Early Middle Ages, the Islamic world experienced a Golden Age. Along with advances in science and philosophy, Arab and Persian lands produced outspoken rationalists and atheists, including Muhammad al Warraq (fl. 9th century), Ibn al-Rawandi (827911), Al-Razi (854925), and Al-Maarri (9731058). Al-Ma’arri wrote and taught that religion itself was a “fable invented by the ancients”[175] and that humans were “of two sorts: those with brains, but no religion, and those with religion, but no brains.”[176] Despite their being relatively prolific writers, little of their work survives, mainly being preserved through quotations and excerpts in later works by Muslim apologists attempting to refute them.[177] Other prominent Golden Age scholars have been associated with rationalist thought and atheism as well, although the current intellectual atmosphere in the Islamic world, and the scant evidence that survives from the era, make this point a contentious one today.

In Europe, the espousal of atheistic views was rare during the Early Middle Ages and Middle Ages (see Medieval Inquisition); metaphysics and theology were the dominant interests pertaining to religion.[178] There were, however, movements within this period that furthered heterodox conceptions of the Christian god, including differing views of the nature, transcendence, and knowability of God. Individuals and groups such as Johannes Scotus Eriugena, David of Dinant, Amalric of Bena, and the Brethren of the Free Spirit maintained Christian viewpoints with pantheistic tendencies. Nicholas of Cusa held to a form of fideism he called docta ignorantia (“learned ignorance”), asserting that God is beyond human categorization, and thus our knowledge of him is limited to conjecture. William of Ockham inspired anti-metaphysical tendencies with his nominalistic limitation of human knowledge to singular objects, and asserted that the divine essence could not be intuitively or rationally apprehended by human intellect. Followers of Ockham, such as John of Mirecourt and Nicholas of Autrecourt furthered this view. The resulting division between faith and reason influenced later radical and reformist theologians such as John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, and Martin Luther.[178]

The Renaissance did much to expand the scope of free thought and skeptical inquiry. Individuals such as Leonardo da Vinci sought experimentation as a means of explanation, and opposed arguments from religious authority. Other critics of religion and the Church during this time included Niccol Machiavelli, Bonaventure des Priers, Michel de Montaigne, and Franois Rabelais.[170]

Historian Geoffrey Blainey wrote that the Reformation had paved the way for atheists by attacking the authority of the Catholic Church, which in turn “quietly inspired other thinkers to attack the authority of the new Protestant churches”.[179] Deism gained influence in France, Prussia, and England. The philosopher Baruch Spinoza was “probably the first well known ‘semi-atheist’ to announce himself in a Christian land in the modern era”, according to Blainey. Spinoza believed that natural laws explained the workings of the universe. In 1661 he published his Short Treatise on God.[180]

Criticism of Christianity became increasingly frequent in the 17th and 18th centuries, especially in France and England, where there appears to have been a religious malaise, according to contemporary sources. Some Protestant thinkers, such as Thomas Hobbes, espoused a materialist philosophy and skepticism toward supernatural occurrences, while Spinoza rejected divine providence in favor of a panentheistic naturalism. By the late 17th century, deism came to be openly espoused by intellectuals such as John Toland who coined the term “pantheist”.[181]

The first known explicit atheist was the German critic of religion Matthias Knutzen in his three writings of 1674.[182] He was followed by two other explicit atheist writers, the Polish ex-Jesuit philosopher Kazimierz yszczyski and in the 1720s by the French priest Jean Meslier.[183] In the course of the 18th century, other openly atheistic thinkers followed, such as Baron d’Holbach, Jacques-Andr Naigeon, and other French materialists.[184] John Locke in contrast, though an advocate of tolerance, urged authorities not to tolerate atheism, believing that the denial of God’s existence would undermine the social order and lead to chaos.[185]

The philosopher David Hume developed a skeptical epistemology grounded in empiricism, and Immanuel Kant’s philosophy has strongly questioned the very possibility of a metaphysical knowledge. Both philosophers undermined the metaphysical basis of natural theology and criticized classical arguments for the existence of God.

Blainey notes that, although Voltaire is widely considered to have strongly contributed to atheistic thinking during the Revolution, he also considered fear of God to have discouraged further disorder, having said “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”[186] In Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), the philosopher Edmund Burke denounced atheism, writing of a “literary cabal” who had “some years ago formed something like a regular plan for the destruction of the Christian religion. This object they pursued with a degree of zeal which hitherto had been discovered only in the propagators of some system of piety… These atheistical fathers have a bigotry of their own…”. But, Burke asserted, “man is by his constitution a religious animal” and “atheism is against, not only our reason, but our instincts; and… it cannot prevail long”.[187]

Baron d’Holbach was a prominent figure in the French Enlightenment who is best known for his atheism and for his voluminous writings against religion, the most famous of them being The System of Nature (1770) but also Christianity Unveiled. One goal of the French Revolution was a restructuring and subordination of the clergy with respect to the state through the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Attempts to enforce it led to anti-clerical violence and the expulsion of many clergy from France, lasting until the Thermidorian Reaction. The radical Jacobins seized power in 1793, ushering in the Reign of Terror. The Jacobins were deists and introduced the Cult of the Supreme Being as a new French state religion. Some atheists surrounding Jacques Hbert instead sought to establish a Cult of Reason, a form of atheistic pseudo-religion with a goddess personifying reason. The Napoleonic era further institutionalized the secularization of French society.

In the latter half of the 19th century, atheism rose to prominence under the influence of rationalistic and freethinking philosophers. Many prominent German philosophers of this era denied the existence of deities and were critical of religion, including Ludwig Feuerbach, Arthur Schopenhauer, Max Stirner, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Nietzsche.[188]

George Holyoake was the last person (1842) imprisoned in Great Britain due to atheist beliefs. Law notes that he may have also been the first imprisoned on such a charge. Stephen Law states that Holyoake “first coined the term ‘secularism'”.[189][190]

Atheism, particularly in the form of practical atheism, advanced in many societies in the 20th century. Atheistic thought found recognition in a wide variety of other, broader philosophies, such as existentialism, objectivism, secular humanism, nihilism, anarchism, logical positivism, Marxism, feminism,[191] and the general scientific and rationalist movement.

In addition, state atheism emerged in Eastern Europe and Asia during that period, particularly in the Soviet Union under Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin, and in Communist China under Mao Zedong. Atheist and anti-religious policies in the Soviet Union included numerous legislative acts, the outlawing of religious instruction in the schools, and the emergence of the League of Militant Atheists.[192][193] After Mao, the Chinese Communist Party remains an atheist organization, and regulates, but does not forbid, the practice of religion in mainland China.[194][195][196]

While Geoffrey Blainey has written that “the most ruthless leaders in the Second World War were atheists and secularists who were intensely hostile to both Judaism and Christianity”,[197] Richard Madsen has pointed out that Hitler and Stalin each opened and closed churches as a matter of political expedience, and Stalin softened his opposition to Christianity in order to improve public acceptance of his regime during the war.[198] Blackford and Schklenk have written that “the Soviet Union was undeniably an atheist state, and the same applies to Maoist China and Pol Pot’s fanatical Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia in the 1970s. That does not, however, show that the atrocities committed by these totalitarian dictatorships were the result of atheist beliefs, carried out in the name of atheism, or caused primarily by the atheistic aspects of the relevant forms of communism.”[199]

Logical positivism and scientism paved the way for neopositivism, analytical philosophy, structuralism, and naturalism. Neopositivism and analytical philosophy discarded classical rationalism and metaphysics in favor of strict empiricism and epistemological nominalism. Proponents such as Bertrand Russell emphatically rejected belief in God. In his early work, Ludwig Wittgenstein attempted to separate metaphysical and supernatural language from rational discourse. A. J. Ayer asserted the unverifiability and meaninglessness of religious statements, citing his adherence to the empirical sciences. Relatedly the applied structuralism of Lvi-Strauss sourced religious language to the human subconscious in denying its transcendental meaning. J. N. Findlay and J. J. C. Smart argued that the existence of God is not logically necessary. Naturalists and materialistic monists such as John Dewey considered the natural world to be the basis of everything, denying the existence of God or immortality.[60][200]

Other leaders like Periyar E. V. Ramasamy, a prominent atheist leader of India, fought against Hinduism and Brahmins for discriminating and dividing people in the name of caste and religion.[201] This was highlighted in 1956 when he arranged for the erection of a statue depicting a Hindu god in a humble representation and made antitheistic statements.[202]

Atheist Vashti McCollum was the plaintiff in a landmark 1948 Supreme Court case that struck down religious education in US public schools.[203] Madalyn Murray O’Hair was perhaps one of the most influential American atheists; she brought forth the 1963 Supreme Court case Murray v. Curlett which banned compulsory prayer in public schools.[204] In 1966, Time magazine asked “Is God Dead?”[205] in response to the Death of God theological movement, citing the estimation that nearly half of all people in the world lived under an anti-religious power, and millions more in Africa, Asia, and South America seemed to lack knowledge of the Christian view of theology.[206] The Freedom From Religion Foundation was co-founded by Anne Nicol Gaylor and her daughter, Annie Laurie Gaylor, in 1976 in the United States, and incorporated nationally in 1978. It promotes the separation of church and state.[207][208]

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the number of actively anti-religious regimes has reduced considerably. In 2006, Timothy Shah of the Pew Forum noted “a worldwide trend across all major religious groups, in which God-based and faith-based movements in general are experiencing increasing confidence and influence vis–vis secular movements and ideologies.”[209] However, Gregory S. Paul and Phil Zuckerman consider this a myth and suggest that the actual situation is much more complex and nuanced.[210]

A 2010 survey found that those identifying themselves as atheists or agnostics are on average more knowledgeable about religion than followers of major faiths. Nonbelievers scored better on questions about tenets central to Protestant and Catholic faiths. Only Mormon and Jewish faithful scored as well as atheists and agnostics.[211]

In 2012, the first “Women in Secularism” conference was held in Arlington, Virginia.[212] Secular Woman was organized in 2012 as a national organization focused on nonreligious women.[213] The atheist feminist movement has also become increasingly focused on fighting sexism and sexual harassment within the atheist movement itself.[214] In August 2012, Jennifer McCreight (the organizer of Boobquake) founded a movement within atheism known as Atheism Plus, or A+, that “applies skepticism to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, politics, poverty, and crime”.[215][216][217]

In 2013 the first atheist monument on American government property was unveiled at the Bradford County Courthouse in Florida: a 1,500-pound granite bench and plinth inscribed with quotes by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Madalyn Murray O’Hair.[218][219]

“New Atheism” is the name that has been given to a movement among some early-21st-century atheist writers who have advocated the view that “religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises.”[220] The movement is commonly associated with Sam Harris, Daniel C. Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Victor J. Stenger, Christopher Hitchens, and to some extent Ayaan Hirsi Ali.[221] Several best-selling books by these authors, published between 2004 and 2007, form the basis for much of the discussion of “New” Atheism.

In best selling books, the religiously motivated terrorist events of 9/11 and the partially successful attempts of the Discovery Institute to change the American science curriculum to include creationist ideas, together with support for those ideas from George W. Bush in 2005, have been cited by authors such as Harris, Dennett, Dawkins, Stenger, and Hitchens as evidence of a need to move toward a more secular society.[223]

It is difficult to quantify the number of atheists in the world. Respondents to religious-belief polls may define “atheism” differently or draw different distinctions between atheism, non-religious beliefs, and non-theistic religious and spiritual beliefs.[224] A Hindu atheist would declare oneself as a Hindu, although also being an atheist at the same time.[225] A 2010 survey published in Encyclopdia Britannica found that the non-religious made up about 9.6% of the world’s population, and atheists about 2.0%, with a very large majority based in Asia. This figure did not include those who follow atheistic religions, such as some Buddhists.[226] The average annual change for atheism from 2000 to 2010 was 0.17%.[226] Broad estimates of those who have an absence of belief in a god range from 500 million to 1.1 billion people worldwide.[227][228]

According to global Win-Gallup International studies, 13% of respondents were “convinced atheists” in 2012,[229] 11% were “convinced atheists” in 2015,[29] and in 2017, 9% were “convinced atheists”.[30] As of 2012[update], the top 10 surveyed countries with people who viewed themselves as “convinced atheists” were China (47%), Japan (31%), the Czech Republic (30%), France (29%), South Korea (15%), Germany (15%), Netherlands (14%), Austria (10%), Iceland (10%), Australia (10%), and the Republic of Ireland (10%).[230]

According to the 2010 Eurobarometer Poll, the percentage of those polled who agreed with the statement “you don’t believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force” varied from a high percentage in France (40%), Czech Republic (37%), Sweden (34%), Netherlands (30%), and Estonia (29%); medium-high percentage in Germany (27%), Belgium (27%), UK (25%); to very low in Poland (5%), Greece (4%), Cyprus (3%), Malta (2%), and Romania (1%), with the European Union as a whole at 20%.[35] In a 2012 Eurobarometer poll on discrimination in the European Union, 16% of those polled considered themselves non believers/agnostics and 7% considered themselves atheists.[232]

According to a Pew Research Center survey in 2012 religiously unaffiliated (including agnostics and atheists) make up about 18% of Europeans.[233] According to the same survey, the religiously unaffiliated are the majority of the population only in two European countries: Czech Republic (75%) and Estonia (60%).[233]

There are another four countries where the unaffiliated make up a majority of the population: North Korea (71%), Japan (57%), Hong Kong (56%), and China (52%).[233]

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 30% of Australians have “no religion”, a category that includes atheists.[234]

In a 2013 census, 41.9% of New Zealanders reported having no religion, up from 29.6% in 1991.[235] Men were more likely than women to report no religion.

According to the World Values Survey, 4.4% of Americans self-identified as atheists in 2014.[236] However, the same survey showed that 11.1% of all respondents stated “no” when asked if they believed in God.[236] In 1984, these same figures were 1.1% and 2.2%, respectively. According to a 2014 report by the Pew Research Center, 3.1% of the US adult population identify as atheist, up from 1.6% in 2007; and within the religiously unaffiliated (or “no religion”) demographic, atheists made up 13.6%.[237] According to the 2015 General Sociological Survey the number of atheists and agnostics in the US has remained relatively flat in the past 23 years since in 1991 only 2% identified as atheist and 4% identified as agnostic and in 2014 only 3% identified as atheists and 5% identified as agnostics.[238]

According to the American Family Survey, 34% was found to be religiously unaffiliated in 2017 (23% ‘nothing in particular’, 6% agnostic, 5% atheist).[239][240] According to the Pew Research Center, in 2014, 22.8% of the American population does not identify with a religion, including atheists (3.1%) and agnostics (4%).[241] According to a PRRI survey, 24% of the population is unaffiliated. Atheists and agnostics combined make up about a quarter of this unaffiliated demographic.[242]

In recent years, the profile of atheism has risen substantially in the Arab world.[243] In major cities across the region, such as Cairo, atheists have been organizing in cafs and social media, despite regular crackdowns from authoritarian governments.[243] A 2012 poll by Gallup International revealed that 5% of Saudis considered themselves to be “convinced atheists.”[243] However, very few young people in the Arab world have atheists in their circle of friends or acquaintances. According to one study, less than 1% did in Morocco, Egypt, Saudia Arabia, or Jordan; only 3% to 7% in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Palestine.[244] When asked whether they have “seen or heard traces of atheism in [their] locality, community, and society” only about 3% to 8% responded yes in all the countries surveyed. The only exception was the UAE, with 51%.[244]

A study noted positive correlations between levels of education and secularism, including atheism, in America.[96] According to evolutionary psychologist Nigel Barber, atheism blossoms in places where most people feel economically secure, particularly in the social democracies of Europe, as there is less uncertainty about the future with extensive social safety nets and better health care resulting in a greater quality of life and higher life expectancy. By contrast, in underdeveloped countries, there are virtually no atheists.[245]

In a 2008 study, researchers found intelligence to be negatively related to religious belief in Europe and the United States. In a sample of 137 countries, the correlation between national IQ and disbelief in God was found to be 0.60.[246] Evolutionary psychologist Nigel Barber states that the reason atheists are more intelligent than religious people is better explained by social, environmental, and wealth factors which happen to correlate with loss of religious belief as well. He doubts that religion causes stupidity, noting that some highly intelligent people have also been religious, but he says it is plausible that higher intelligence correlates to rejection of improbable religious beliefs and that the situation between intelligence and rejection of religious beliefs is quite complex.[247]

In a 2017 study, it was shown that compared to religious individuals, atheists have higher reasoning capacities and this difference seemed to be unrelated to sociodemographic factors such as age, education and country of origin.[248]

Statistically, atheists are held in poor regard across the globe. Non-atheists, and possibly even fellow atheists, seem to implicitly view atheists as prone to exhibit immoral behaviors ranging from mass murder to not paying at a restaurant.[249][250][251] In addition, according to a 2016 Pew Research Center publication, 15% of French people, 45% of Americans, and 99% of Indonesians explicitly believe that a person must believe in God to be moral. Pew furthermore noted that, in a U.S. poll, atheists and Muslims tied for the lowest rating among the major religious demographics on a “feeling thermometer”.[252]

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Atheism – Wikipedia

Atheism – Wikipedia

Atheism is, in the broadest sense, the absence of belief in the existence of deities.[1][2][3][4] Less broadly, atheism is the rejection of belief that any deities exist.[5][6] In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.[1][2][7][8] Atheism is contrasted with theism,[9][10] which, in its most general form, is the belief that at least one deity exists.[10][11][12]

The etymological root for the word atheism originated before the 5th century BCE from the ancient Greek (atheos), meaning “without god(s)”. In antiquity it had multiple uses as a pejorative term applied to those thought to reject the gods worshiped by the larger society,[13] those who were forsaken by the gods or those who had no commitment to belief in the gods.[14] The term denoted a social category created by orthodox religionists into which those who did not share their religious beliefs were placed.[14] The actual term atheism emerged first in the 16th century.[15] With the spread of freethought, skeptical inquiry, and subsequent increase in criticism of religion, application of the term narrowed in scope. The first individuals to identify themselves using the word atheist lived in the 18th century during the Age of Enlightenment.[15] The French Revolution, noted for its “unprecedented atheism,” witnessed the first major political movement in history to advocate for the supremacy of human reason.[17] The French Revolution can be described as the first period where atheism became implemented politically.

Arguments for atheism range from the philosophical to social and historical approaches. Rationales for not believing in deities include arguments that there is a lack of empirical evidence,[18][19] the problem of evil, the argument from inconsistent revelations, the rejection of concepts that cannot be falsified, and the argument from nonbelief.[18][20] Proponents contend that atheism is a more parsimonious position than theism and that it is the position in which everyone is born; therefore, they argue that the burden of proof lies not on the atheist to disprove the existence of God but on the theist to provide a rationale for theism.[21][1] However, others have disagreed with the view of being born into such a position.[22] Although some atheists have adopted secular philosophies (e.g. secular humanism),[23][24] there is no one ideology or set of behaviors to which all atheists adhere.[25]

Since conceptions of atheism vary, accurate estimations of current numbers of atheists are difficult.[26] According to global Win-Gallup International studies, 13% of respondents were “convinced atheists” in 2012,[27] 11% were “convinced atheists” in 2015,[28] and in 2017, 9% were “convinced atheists”.[29] However, other researchers have advised caution with WIN/Gallup figures since other surveys which have used the same wording for decades and have a bigger sample size have consistently reached lower figures.[30] An older survey by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 2004 recorded atheists as comprising 8% of the world’s population.[31] Other older estimates have indicated that atheists comprise 2% of the world’s population, while the irreligious add a further 12%.[32] According to these polls, Europe and East Asia are the regions with the highest rates of atheism. In 2015, 61% of people in China reported that they were atheists.[33] The figures for a 2010 Eurobarometer survey in the European Union (EU) reported that 20% of the EU population claimed not to believe in “any sort of spirit, God or life force”.[34]

Writers disagree on how best to define and classify atheism,[35] contesting what supernatural entities are considered gods, whether it is a philosophic position in its own right or merely the absence of one, and whether it requires a conscious, explicit rejection. Atheism has been regarded as compatible with agnosticism,[36][37][38][39][40][41][42] and has also been contrasted with it.[43][44][45] A variety of categories have been used to distinguish the different forms of atheism.

Some of the ambiguity and controversy involved in defining atheism arises from difficulty in reaching a consensus for the definitions of words like deity and god. The plurality of wildly different conceptions of God and deities leads to differing ideas regarding atheism’s applicability. The ancient Romans accused Christians of being atheists for not worshiping the pagan deities. Gradually, this view fell into disfavor as theism came to be understood as encompassing belief in any divinity.

With respect to the range of phenomena being rejected, atheism may counter anything from the existence of a deity, to the existence of any spiritual, supernatural, or transcendental concepts, such as those of Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Taoism.[47]

Definitions of atheism also vary in the degree of consideration a person must put to the idea of gods to be considered an atheist. Atheism has sometimes been defined to include the simple absence of belief that any deities exist. This broad definition would include newborns and other people who have not been exposed to theistic ideas. As far back as 1772, Baron d’Holbach said that “All children are born Atheists; they have no idea of God.”[48] Similarly, George H. Smith (1979) suggested that: “The man who is unacquainted with theism is an atheist because he does not believe in a god. This category would also include the child with the conceptual capacity to grasp the issues involved, but who is still unaware of those issues. The fact that this child does not believe in god qualifies him as an atheist.”[49] Smith coined the term implicit atheism to refer to “the absence of theistic belief without a conscious rejection of it” and explicit atheism to refer to the more common definition of conscious disbelief. Ernest Nagel contradicts Smith’s definition of atheism as merely “absence of theism”, acknowledging only explicit atheism as true “atheism”.[22]

Philosophers such as Antony Flew[50] and Michael Martin have contrasted positive (strong/hard) atheism with negative (weak/soft) atheism. Positive atheism is the explicit affirmation that gods do not exist. Negative atheism includes all other forms of non-theism. According to this categorization, anyone who is not a theist is either a negative or a positive atheist. The terms weak and strong are relatively recent, while the terms negative and positive atheism are of older origin, having been used (in slightly different ways) in the philosophical literature[50] and in Catholic apologetics.[51] Under this demarcation of atheism, most agnostics qualify as negative atheists.

While Martin, for example, asserts that agnosticism entails negative atheism,[39] many agnostics see their view as distinct from atheism,[52][53] which they may consider no more justified than theism or requiring an equal conviction.[52] The assertion of unattainability of knowledge for or against the existence of gods is sometimes seen as an indication that atheism requires a leap of faith.[54][55] Common atheist responses to this argument include that unproven religious propositions deserve as much disbelief as all other unproven propositions,[56] and that the unprovability of a god’s existence does not imply equal probability of either possibility.[57] Australian philosopher J. J. C. Smart even argues that “sometimes a person who is really an atheist may describe herself, even passionately, as an agnostic because of unreasonable generalized philosophical skepticism which would preclude us from saying that we know anything whatever, except perhaps the truths of mathematics and formal logic.”[58] Consequently, some atheist authors such as Richard Dawkins prefer distinguishing theist, agnostic and atheist positions along a spectrum of theistic probabilitythe likelihood that each assigns to the statement “God exists”.

Before the 18th century, the existence of God was so accepted in the western world that even the possibility of true atheism was questioned. This is called theistic innatismthe notion that all people believe in God from birth; within this view was the connotation that atheists are simply in denial.[60]

There is also a position claiming that atheists are quick to believe in God in times of crisis, that atheists make deathbed conversions, or that “there are no atheists in foxholes”.[61] There have however been examples to the contrary, among them examples of literal “atheists in foxholes”.[62]

Some atheists have doubted the very need for the term “atheism”. In his book Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris wrote:

In fact, “atheism” is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a “non-astrologer” or a “non-alchemist”. We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.

Pragmatic atheism is the view one should reject a belief in a god or gods because it is unnecessary for a pragmatic life. This view is related to apatheism and practical atheism.[64]

Atheists have also argued that people cannot know a God or prove the existence of a God. The latter is called agnosticism, which takes a variety of forms. In the philosophy of immanence, divinity is inseparable from the world itself, including a person’s mind, and each person’s consciousness is locked in the subject. According to this form of agnosticism, this limitation in perspective prevents any objective inference from belief in a god to assertions of its existence. The rationalistic agnosticism of Kant and the Enlightenment only accepts knowledge deduced with human rationality; this form of atheism holds that gods are not discernible as a matter of principle, and therefore cannot be known to exist. Skepticism, based on the ideas of Hume, asserts that certainty about anything is impossible, so one can never know for sure whether or not a god exists. Hume, however, held that such unobservable metaphysical concepts should be rejected as “sophistry and illusion”.[66] The allocation of agnosticism to atheism is disputed; it can also be regarded as an independent, basic worldview.[67]

Other arguments for atheism that can be classified as epistemological or ontological, including ignosticism, assert the meaninglessness or unintelligibility of basic terms such as “God” and statements such as “God is all-powerful.” Theological noncognitivism holds that the statement “God exists” does not express a proposition, but is nonsensical or cognitively meaningless. It has been argued both ways as to whether such individuals can be classified into some form of atheism or agnosticism. Philosophers A. J. Ayer and Theodore M. Drange reject both categories, stating that both camps accept “God exists” as a proposition; they instead place noncognitivism in its own category.[68][69]

Philosopher, Zofia Zdybicka writes:

“Metaphysical atheism… includes all doctrines that hold to metaphysical monism (the homogeneity of reality). Metaphysical atheism may be either: a) absolute an explicit denial of God’s existence associated with materialistic monism (all materialistic trends, both in ancient and modern times); b) relative the implicit denial of God in all philosophies that, while they accept the existence of an absolute, conceive of the absolute as not possessing any of the attributes proper to God: transcendence, a personal character or unity. Relative atheism is associated with idealistic monism (pantheism, panentheism, deism).”[70]

Some atheists hold the view that the various conceptions of gods, such as the personal god of Christianity, are ascribed logically inconsistent qualities. Such atheists present deductive arguments against the existence of God, which assert the incompatibility between certain traits, such as perfection, creator-status, immutability, omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, omnibenevolence, transcendence, personhood (a personal being), nonphysicality, justice, and mercy.[18]

Theodicean atheists believe that the world as they experience it cannot be reconciled with the qualities commonly ascribed to God and gods by theologians. They argue that an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent God is not compatible with a world where there is evil and suffering, and where divine love is hidden from many people.[20] A similar argument is attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism.[72]

Philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach[73] and psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud have argued that God and other religious beliefs are human inventions, created to fulfill various psychological and emotional wants or needs. This is also a view of many Buddhists.[74] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, influenced by the work of Feuerbach, argued that belief in God and religion are social functions, used by those in power to oppress the working class. According to Mikhail Bakunin, “the idea of God implies the abdication of human reason and justice; it is the most decisive negation of human liberty, and necessarily ends in the enslavement of mankind, in theory and practice.” He reversed Voltaire’s famous aphorism that if God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him, writing instead that “if God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him.”[75]

Atheism is not mutually exclusive with respect to some religious and spiritual belief systems, including Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Syntheism, Ralism,[76] and Neopagan movements[77] such as Wicca.[78] stika schools in Hinduism hold atheism to be a valid path to moksha, but extremely difficult, for the atheist can not expect any help from the divine on their journey.[79] Jainism believes the universe is eternal and has no need for a creator deity, however Tirthankaras are revered that can transcend space and time [80] and have more power than the god Indra.[81] Secular Buddhism does not advocate belief in gods. Early Buddhism was atheistic as Gautama Buddha’s path involved no mention of gods. Later conceptions of Buddhism consider Buddha himself a god, suggest adherents can attain godhood, and revere Bodhisattvas[82] and Eternal Buddha.

Apophatic theology is often assessed as being a version of atheism or agnosticism, since it cannot say truly that God exists.[83] “The comparison is crude, however, for conventional atheism treats the existence of God as a predicate that can be denied (God is nonexistent), whereas negative theology denies that God has predicates”.[84] “God or the Divine is” without being able to attribute qualities about “what He is” would be the prerequisite of positive theology in negative theology that distinguishes theism from atheism. “Negative theology is a complement to, not the enemy of, positive theology”.[85]

Axiological, or constructive, atheism rejects the existence of gods in favor of a “higher absolute”, such as humanity. This form of atheism favors humanity as the absolute source of ethics and values, and permits individuals to resolve moral problems without resorting to God. Marx and Freud used this argument to convey messages of liberation, full-development, and unfettered happiness.[67] One of the most common criticisms of atheism has been to the contrary: that denying the existence of a god either leads to moral relativism and leaves one with no moral or ethical foundation,[86] or renders life meaningless and miserable.[87] Blaise Pascal argued this view in his Penses.[88]

French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre identified himself as a representative of an “atheist existentialism” concerned less with denying the existence of God than with establishing that “man needs… to find himself again and to understand that nothing can save him from himself, not even a valid proof of the existence of God.” Sartre said a corollary of his atheism was that “if God does not exist, there is at least one being in whom existence precedes essence, a being who exists before he can be defined by any concept, and… this being is man.” The practical consequence of this atheism was described by Sartre as meaning that there are no a priori rules or absolute values that can be invoked to govern human conduct, and that humans are “condemned” to invent these for themselves, making “man” absolutely “responsible for everything he does”.

Sociologist Phil Zuckerman analyzed previous social science research on secularity and non-belief, and concluded that societal well-being is positively correlated with irreligion. He found that there are much lower concentrations of atheism and secularity in poorer, less developed nations (particularly in Africa and South America) than in the richer industrialized democracies.[92][93] His findings relating specifically to atheism in the US were that compared to religious people in the US, “atheists and secular people” are less nationalistic, prejudiced, antisemitic, racist, dogmatic, ethnocentric, closed-minded, and authoritarian, and in US states with the highest percentages of atheists, the murder rate is lower than average. In the most religious states, the murder rate is higher than average.[94][95]

People who self-identify as atheists are often assumed to be irreligious, but some sects within major religions reject the existence of a personal, creator deity.[97] In recent years, certain religious denominations have accumulated a number of openly atheistic followers, such as atheistic or humanistic Judaism[98][99] and Christian atheists.[100][101][102]

The strictest sense of positive atheism does not entail any specific beliefs outside of disbelief in any deity; as such, atheists can hold any number of spiritual beliefs. For the same reason, atheists can hold a wide variety of ethical beliefs, ranging from the moral universalism of humanism, which holds that a moral code should be applied consistently to all humans, to moral nihilism, which holds that morality is meaningless.[103] Atheism is accepted as a valid philosophical position within some varieties of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism.[104]

Philosophers such as Slavoj iek,[105] Alain de Botton,[106] and Alexander Bard and Jan Sderqvist,[107] have all argued that atheists should reclaim religion as an act of defiance against theism, precisely not to leave religion as an unwarranted monopoly to theists.

According to Plato’s Euthyphro dilemma, the role of the gods in determining right from wrong is either unnecessary or arbitrary. The argument that morality must be derived from God, and cannot exist without a wise creator, has been a persistent feature of political if not so much philosophical debate.[108][109][110] Moral precepts such as “murder is wrong” are seen as divine laws, requiring a divine lawmaker and judge. However, many atheists argue that treating morality legalistically involves a false analogy, and that morality does not depend on a lawmaker in the same way that laws do.[111] Friedrich Nietzsche believed in a morality independent of theistic belief, and stated that morality based upon God “has truth only if God is truthit stands or falls with faith in God.”[112][113][114]

There exist normative ethical systems that do not require principles and rules to be given by a deity. Some include virtue ethics, social contract, Kantian ethics, utilitarianism, and Objectivism. Sam Harris has proposed that moral prescription (ethical rule making) is not just an issue to be explored by philosophy, but that we can meaningfully practice a science of morality. Any such scientific system must, nevertheless, respond to the criticism embodied in the naturalistic fallacy.[115]

Philosophers Susan Neiman[116] and Julian Baggini[117] (among others) assert that behaving ethically only because of divine mandate is not true ethical behavior but merely blind obedience. Baggini argues that atheism is a superior basis for ethics, claiming that a moral basis external to religious imperatives is necessary to evaluate the morality of the imperatives themselvesto be able to discern, for example, that “thou shalt steal” is immoral even if one’s religion instructs itand that atheists, therefore, have the advantage of being more inclined to make such evaluations.[118] The contemporary British political philosopher Martin Cohen has offered the more historically telling example of Biblical injunctions in favor of torture and slavery as evidence of how religious injunctions follow political and social customs, rather than vice versa, but also noted that the same tendency seems to be true of supposedly dispassionate and objective philosophers.[119] Cohen extends this argument in more detail in Political Philosophy from Plato to Mao, where he argues that the Qur’an played a role in perpetuating social codes from the early 7th century despite changes in secular society.[120]

Some prominent atheistsmost recently Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins, and following such thinkers as Bertrand Russell, Robert G. Ingersoll, Voltaire, and novelist Jos Saramagohave criticized religions, citing harmful aspects of religious practices and doctrines.[121]

The 19th-century German political theorist and sociologist Karl Marx called religion “the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people”. He goes on to say, “The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.”[122] Lenin said that “every religious idea and every idea of God is unutterable vileness… of the most dangerous kind, ‘contagion’ of the most abominable kind. Millions of sins, filthy deeds, acts of violence and physical contagions… are far less dangerous than the subtle, spiritual idea of God decked out in the smartest ideological constumes…”[123]

Sam Harris criticizes Western religion’s reliance on divine authority as lending itself to authoritarianism and dogmatism. There is a correlation between religious fundamentalism and extrinsic religion (when religion is held because it serves ulterior interests)[125] and authoritarianism, dogmatism, and prejudice.[126] These argumentscombined with historical events that are argued to demonstrate the dangers of religion, such as the Crusades, inquisitions, witch trials, and terrorist attackshave been used in response to claims of beneficial effects of belief in religion.[127] Believers counter-argue that some regimes that espouse atheism, such as the Soviet Union, have also been guilty of mass murder.[128][129] In response to those claims, atheists such as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins have stated that Stalin’s atrocities were influenced not by atheism but by dogmatic Marxism, and that while Stalin and Mao happened to be atheists, they did not do their deeds in the name of atheism.[131]

In early ancient Greek, the adjective theos (, from the privative – + “god”) meant “godless”. It was first used as a term of censure roughly meaning “ungodly” or “impious”. In the 5th century BCE, the word began to indicate more deliberate and active godlessness in the sense of “severing relations with the gods” or “denying the gods”. The term (asebs) then came to be applied against those who impiously denied or disrespected the local gods, even if they believed in other gods. Modern translations of classical texts sometimes render theos as “atheistic”. As an abstract noun, there was also (atheots), “atheism”. Cicero transliterated the Greek word into the Latin theos. The term found frequent use in the debate between early Christians and Hellenists, with each side attributing it, in the pejorative sense, to the other.[13]

The term atheist (from Fr. athe), in the sense of “one who… denies the existence of God or gods”,[133] predates atheism in English, being first found as early as 1566,[134] and again in 1571.[135] Atheist as a label of practical godlessness was used at least as early as 1577.[136] The term atheism was derived from the French athisme,[137] and appears in English about 1587.[138] An earlier work, from about 1534, used the term atheonism.[139][140] Related words emerged later: deist in 1621,[141] theist in 1662,[142] deism in 1675,[143] and theism in 1678.[144] At that time “deist” and “deism” already carried their modern meaning. The term theism came to be contrasted with deism.

Karen Armstrong writes that “During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the word ‘atheist’ was still reserved exclusively for polemic… The term ‘atheist’ was an insult. Nobody would have dreamed of calling himself an atheist.”

Atheism was first used to describe a self-avowed belief in late 18th-century Europe, specifically denoting disbelief in the monotheistic Abrahamic god.[145] In the 20th century, globalization contributed to the expansion of the term to refer to disbelief in all deities, though it remains common in Western society to describe atheism as simply “disbelief in God”.

While the earliest-found usage of the term atheism is in 16th-century France,[137][138] ideas that would be recognized today as atheistic are documented from the Vedic period and the classical antiquity.

Atheistic schools are found in early Indian thought and have existed from the times of the historical Vedic religion.[146] Among the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy, Samkhya, the oldest philosophical school of thought, does not accept God, and the early Mimamsa also rejected the notion of God.[147] The thoroughly materialistic and anti-theistic philosophical Crvka (or Lokyata) school that originated in India around the 6th century BCE is probably the most explicitly atheistic school of philosophy in India, similar to the Greek Cyrenaic school. This branch of Indian philosophy is classified as heterodox due to its rejection of the authority of Vedas and hence is not considered part of the six orthodox schools of Hinduism, but it is noteworthy as evidence of a materialistic movement within Hinduism.[148] Chatterjee and Datta explain that our understanding of Crvka philosophy is fragmentary, based largely on criticism of the ideas by other schools, and that it is not a living tradition:

“Though materialism in some form or other has always been present in India, and occasional references are found in the Vedas, the Buddhistic literature, the Epics, as well as in the later philosophical works we do not find any systematic work on materialism, nor any organized school of followers as the other philosophical schools possess. But almost every work of the other schools states, for refutation, the materialistic views. Our knowledge of Indian materialism is chiefly based on these.”[149]

Other Indian philosophies generally regarded as atheistic include Classical Samkhya and Purva Mimamsa. The rejection of a personal creator God is also seen in Jainism and Buddhism in India.[150]

Western atheism has its roots in pre-Socratic Greek philosophy,[153][154] but atheism in the modern sense was nonexistent or extremely rare in ancient Greece.[155][156][154] Pre-Socratic Atomists such as Democritus attempted to explain the world in a purely materialistic way and interpreted religion as a human reaction to natural phenomena,[151] but did not explicitly deny the gods’ existence.[151] In the late fifth century BCE, the Greek lyric poet Diagoras of Melos was sentenced to death in Athens under the charge of being a “godless person” () after he made fun of the Eleusinian Mysteries,[155][156][151] but he fled the city to escape punishment.[155][156][151] Later writers have cited Diagoras as the “first atheist”,[157][158] but he was probably not an atheist in the modern sense of the word.[156]

A fragment from the lost satyr play Sisyphus, which has been attributed to both Critias and Euripides, claims that a clever man invented “the fear of the gods” in order to frighten people into behaving morally.[159][156][160][156][154] This statement, however, originally did not mean that the gods themselves were nonexistent, but rather that their powers were a hoax.[154] Atheistic statements have also been attributed to the philosopher Prodicus. Philodemus reports that Prodicus believed that “the gods of popular belief do not exist nor do they know, but primitive man, [out of admiration, deified] the fruits of the earth and virtually everything that contributed to his existence”. Protagoras has sometimes been taken to be an atheist, but rather espoused agnostic views, commenting that “Concerning the gods I am unable to discover whether they exist or not, or what they are like in form; for there are many hindrances to knowledge, the obscurity of the subject and the brevity of human life.”[161][155]

The Athenian public associated Socrates (c. 470399 BCE) with the trends in pre-Socratic philosophy towards naturalistic inquiry and the rejection of divine explanations for phenomena.[151][152] Aristophanes’ comic play The Clouds (performed 423 BCE) portrays Socrates as teaching his students that the traditional Greek deities do not exist.[151][152] Socrates was later tried and executed under the charge of not believing in the gods of the state and instead worshipping foreign gods.[151][152] Socrates himself vehemently denied the charges of atheism at his trial[151][152][162] and all the surviving sources about him indicate that he was a very devout man, who prayed to the rising sun and believed that the oracle at Delphi spoke the word of Apollo.[151] Euhemerus (c. 300 BCE) published his view that the gods were only the deified rulers, conquerors and founders of the past, and that their cults and religions were in essence the continuation of vanished kingdoms and earlier political structures.[163] Although not strictly an atheist, Euhemerus was later criticized for having “spread atheism over the whole inhabited earth by obliterating the gods”.[164]

The most important Greek thinker in the development of atheism was Epicurus (c. 300 BCE).[154] Drawing on the ideas of Democritus and the Atomists, he espoused a materialistic philosophy according to which the universe was governed by the laws of chance without the need for divine intervention (see scientific determinism).[165] Although Epicurus still maintained that the gods existed,[154][165] he believed that they were uninterested in human affairs.[165] The aim of the Epicureans was to attain ataraxia (“peace of mind”) and one important way of doing this was by exposing fear of divine wrath as irrational. The Epicureans also denied the existence of an afterlife and the need to fear divine punishment after death.[165] In the 3rd-century BCE, the Greek philosophers Theodorus Cyrenaicus[158][166] and Strato of Lampsacus[167] did not believe in the existence of gods. The Roman philosopher Sextus Empiricus held that one should suspend judgment about virtually all beliefsa form of skepticism known as Pyrrhonismthat nothing was inherently evil, and that ataraxia is attainable by withholding one’s judgment. His relatively large volume of surviving works had a lasting influence on later philosophers.[168]

The meaning of “atheist” changed over the course of classical antiquity.[156] Early Christians were widely reviled as “atheists” because they did not believe in the existence of the Graeco-Roman deities.[169][pageneeded][156][170][171] During the Roman Empire, Christians were executed for their rejection of the Roman gods in general and Emperor-worship in particular.[171][172] When Christianity became the state religion of Rome under Theodosius I in 381, heresy became a punishable offense.[172]

During the Early Middle Ages, the Islamic world experienced a Golden Age. Along with advances in science and philosophy, Arab and Persian lands produced outspoken rationalists and atheists, including Muhammad al Warraq (fl. 9th century), Ibn al-Rawandi (827911), Al-Razi (854925), and Al-Maarri (9731058). Al-Ma’arri wrote and taught that religion itself was a “fable invented by the ancients”[173] and that humans were “of two sorts: those with brains, but no religion, and those with religion, but no brains.”[174] Despite their being relatively prolific writers, little of their work survives, mainly being preserved through quotations and excerpts in later works by Muslim apologists attempting to refute them.[175] Other prominent Golden Age scholars have been associated with rationalist thought and atheism as well, although the current intellectual atmosphere in the Islamic world, and the scant evidence that survives from the era, make this point a contentious one today.

In Europe, the espousal of atheistic views was rare during the Early Middle Ages and Middle Ages (see Medieval Inquisition); metaphysics and theology were the dominant interests pertaining to religion.[176] There were, however, movements within this period that furthered heterodox conceptions of the Christian god, including differing views of the nature, transcendence, and knowability of God. Individuals and groups such as Johannes Scotus Eriugena, David of Dinant, Amalric of Bena, and the Brethren of the Free Spirit maintained Christian viewpoints with pantheistic tendencies. Nicholas of Cusa held to a form of fideism he called docta ignorantia (“learned ignorance”), asserting that God is beyond human categorization, and thus our knowledge of him is limited to conjecture. William of Ockham inspired anti-metaphysical tendencies with his nominalistic limitation of human knowledge to singular objects, and asserted that the divine essence could not be intuitively or rationally apprehended by human intellect. Followers of Ockham, such as John of Mirecourt and Nicholas of Autrecourt furthered this view. The resulting division between faith and reason influenced later radical and reformist theologians such as John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, and Martin Luther.[176]

The Renaissance did much to expand the scope of free thought and skeptical inquiry. Individuals such as Leonardo da Vinci sought experimentation as a means of explanation, and opposed arguments from religious authority. Other critics of religion and the Church during this time included Niccol Machiavelli, Bonaventure des Priers, Michel de Montaigne, and Franois Rabelais.[168]

Historian Geoffrey Blainey wrote that the Reformation had paved the way for atheists by attacking the authority of the Catholic Church, which in turn “quietly inspired other thinkers to attack the authority of the new Protestant churches”.[177] Deism gained influence in France, Prussia, and England. The philosopher Baruch Spinoza was “probably the first well known ‘semi-atheist’ to announce himself in a Christian land in the modern era”, according to Blainey. Spinoza believed that natural laws explained the workings of the universe. In 1661 he published his Short Treatise on God.[178]

Criticism of Christianity became increasingly frequent in the 17th and 18th centuries, especially in France and England, where there appears to have been a religious malaise, according to contemporary sources. Some Protestant thinkers, such as Thomas Hobbes, espoused a materialist philosophy and skepticism toward supernatural occurrences, while Spinoza rejected divine providence in favor of a panentheistic naturalism. By the late 17th century, deism came to be openly espoused by intellectuals such as John Toland who coined the term “pantheist”.[179]

The first known explicit atheist was the German critic of religion Matthias Knutzen in his three writings of 1674.[180] He was followed by two other explicit atheist writers, the Polish ex-Jesuit philosopher Kazimierz yszczyski and in the 1720s by the French priest Jean Meslier.[181] In the course of the 18th century, other openly atheistic thinkers followed, such as Baron d’Holbach, Jacques-Andr Naigeon, and other French materialists.[182] John Locke in contrast, though an advocate of tolerance, urged authorities not to tolerate atheism, believing that the denial of God’s existence would undermine the social order and lead to chaos.[183]

The philosopher David Hume developed a skeptical epistemology grounded in empiricism, and Immanuel Kant’s philosophy has strongly questioned the very possibility of a metaphysical knowledge. Both philosophers undermined the metaphysical basis of natural theology and criticized classical arguments for the existence of God.

Blainey notes that, although Voltaire is widely considered to have strongly contributed to atheistic thinking during the Revolution, he also considered fear of God to have discouraged further disorder, having said “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”[184] In Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), the philosopher Edmund Burke denounced atheism, writing of a “literary cabal” who had “some years ago formed something like a regular plan for the destruction of the Christian religion. This object they pursued with a degree of zeal which hitherto had been discovered only in the propagators of some system of piety… These atheistical fathers have a bigotry of their own…”. But, Burke asserted, “man is by his constitution a religious animal” and “atheism is against, not only our reason, but our instincts; and… it cannot prevail long”.[185]

Baron d’Holbach was a prominent figure in the French Enlightenment who is best known for his atheism and for his voluminous writings against religion, the most famous of them being The System of Nature (1770) but also Christianity Unveiled. One goal of the French Revolution was a restructuring and subordination of the clergy with respect to the state through the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Attempts to enforce it led to anti-clerical violence and the expulsion of many clergy from France, lasting until the Thermidorian Reaction. The radical Jacobins seized power in 1793, ushering in the Reign of Terror. The Jacobins were deists and introduced the Cult of the Supreme Being as a new French state religion. Some atheists surrounding Jacques Hbert instead sought to establish a Cult of Reason, a form of atheistic pseudo-religion with a goddess personifying reason. The Napoleonic era further institutionalized the secularization of French society.

In the latter half of the 19th century, atheism rose to prominence under the influence of rationalistic and freethinking philosophers. Many prominent German philosophers of this era denied the existence of deities and were critical of religion, including Ludwig Feuerbach, Arthur Schopenhauer, Max Stirner, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Nietzsche.[186]

George Holyoake was the last person (1842) imprisoned in Great Britain due to atheist beliefs. Law notes that he may have also been the first imprisoned on such a charge. Stephen Law states that Holyoake “first coined the term ‘secularism'”.[187][188]

Atheism, particularly in the form of practical atheism, advanced in many societies in the 20th century. Atheistic thought found recognition in a wide variety of other, broader philosophies, such as existentialism, objectivism, secular humanism, nihilism, anarchism, logical positivism, Marxism, feminism,[189] and the general scientific and rationalist movement.

In addition, state atheism emerged in Eastern Europe and Asia during that period, particularly in the Soviet Union under Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin, and in Communist China under Mao Zedong. Atheist and anti-religious policies in the Soviet Union included numerous legislative acts, the outlawing of religious instruction in the schools, and the emergence of the League of Militant Atheists.[190][191] After Mao, the Chinese Communist Party remains an atheist organization, and regulates, but does not forbid, the practice of religion in mainland China.[192][193][194]

While Geoffrey Blainey has written that “the most ruthless leaders in the Second World War were atheists and secularists who were intensely hostile to both Judaism and Christianity”,[195] Richard Madsen has pointed out that Hitler and Stalin each opened and closed churches as a matter of political expedience, and Stalin softened his opposition to Christianity in order to improve public acceptance of his regime during the war.[196] Blackford and Schklenk have written that “the Soviet Union was undeniably an atheist state, and the same applies to Maoist China and Pol Pot’s fanatical Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia in the 1970s. That does not, however, show that the atrocities committed by these totalitarian dictatorships were the result of atheist beliefs, carried out in the name of atheism, or caused primarily by the atheistic aspects of the relevant forms of communism.”[197]

Logical positivism and scientism paved the way for neopositivism, analytical philosophy, structuralism, and naturalism. Neopositivism and analytical philosophy discarded classical rationalism and metaphysics in favor of strict empiricism and epistemological nominalism. Proponents such as Bertrand Russell emphatically rejected belief in God. In his early work, Ludwig Wittgenstein attempted to separate metaphysical and supernatural language from rational discourse. A. J. Ayer asserted the unverifiability and meaninglessness of religious statements, citing his adherence to the empirical sciences. Relatedly the applied structuralism of Lvi-Strauss sourced religious language to the human subconscious in denying its transcendental meaning. J. N. Findlay and J. J. C. Smart argued that the existence of God is not logically necessary. Naturalists and materialistic monists such as John Dewey considered the natural world to be the basis of everything, denying the existence of God or immortality.[58][198]

Other leaders like Periyar E. V. Ramasamy, a prominent atheist leader of India, fought against Hinduism and Brahmins for discriminating and dividing people in the name of caste and religion.[199] This was highlighted in 1956 when he arranged for the erection of a statue depicting a Hindu god in a humble representation and made antitheistic statements.[200]

Atheist Vashti McCollum was the plaintiff in a landmark 1948 Supreme Court case that struck down religious education in US public schools.[201] Madalyn Murray O’Hair was perhaps one of the most influential American atheists; she brought forth the 1963 Supreme Court case Murray v. Curlett which banned compulsory prayer in public schools.[202] In 1966, Time magazine asked “Is God Dead?”[203] in response to the Death of God theological movement, citing the estimation that nearly half of all people in the world lived under an anti-religious power, and millions more in Africa, Asia, and South America seemed to lack knowledge of the Christian view of theology.[204] The Freedom From Religion Foundation was co-founded by Anne Nicol Gaylor and her daughter, Annie Laurie Gaylor, in 1976 in the United States, and incorporated nationally in 1978. It promotes the separation of church and state.[205][206]

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the number of actively anti-religious regimes has reduced considerably. In 2006, Timothy Shah of the Pew Forum noted “a worldwide trend across all major religious groups, in which God-based and faith-based movements in general are experiencing increasing confidence and influence vis–vis secular movements and ideologies.”[207] However, Gregory S. Paul and Phil Zuckerman consider this a myth and suggest that the actual situation is much more complex and nuanced.[208]

A 2010 survey found that those identifying themselves as atheists or agnostics are on average more knowledgeable about religion than followers of major faiths. Nonbelievers scored better on questions about tenets central to Protestant and Catholic faiths. Only Mormon and Jewish faithful scored as well as atheists and agnostics.[209]

In 2012, the first “Women in Secularism” conference was held in Arlington, Virginia.[210] Secular Woman was organized in 2012 as a national organization focused on nonreligious women.[211] The atheist feminist movement has also become increasingly focused on fighting sexism and sexual harassment within the atheist movement itself.[212] In August 2012, Jennifer McCreight (the organizer of Boobquake) founded a movement within atheism known as Atheism Plus, or A+, that “applies skepticism to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, politics, poverty, and crime”.[213][214][215]

In 2013 the first atheist monument on American government property was unveiled at the Bradford County Courthouse in Florida: a 1,500-pound granite bench and plinth inscribed with quotes by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Madalyn Murray O’Hair.[216][217]

“New Atheism” is the name that has been given to a movement among some early-21st-century atheist writers who have advocated the view that “religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises.”[218] The movement is commonly associated with Sam Harris, Daniel C. Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Victor J. Stenger, Christopher Hitchens, and to some extent Ayaan Hirsi Ali.[219] Several best-selling books by these authors, published between 2004 and 2007, form the basis for much of the discussion of “New” Atheism.

In best selling books, the religiously motivated terrorist events of 9/11 and the partially successful attempts of the Discovery Institute to change the American science curriculum to include creationist ideas, together with support for those ideas from George W. Bush in 2005, have been cited by authors such as Harris, Dennett, Dawkins, Stenger, and Hitchens as evidence of a need to move toward a more secular society.[221]

It is difficult to quantify the number of atheists in the world. Respondents to religious-belief polls may define “atheism” differently or draw different distinctions between atheism, non-religious beliefs, and non-theistic religious and spiritual beliefs.[222] A Hindu atheist would declare oneself as a Hindu, although also being an atheist at the same time.[223] A 2010 survey published in Encyclopdia Britannica found that the non-religious made up about 9.6% of the world’s population, and atheists about 2.0%, with a very large majority based in Asia. This figure did not include those who follow atheistic religions, such as some Buddhists.[224] The average annual change for atheism from 2000 to 2010 was 0.17%.[224] Broad estimates of those who have an absence of belief in a god range from 500 million to 1.1 billion people worldwide.[225][226]

According to global Win-Gallup International studies, 13% of respondents were “convinced atheists” in 2012,[227] 11% were “convinced atheists” in 2015,[28] and in 2017, 9% were “convinced atheists”.[29] As of 2012[update], the top 10 surveyed countries with people who viewed themselves as “convinced atheists” were China (47%), Japan (31%), the Czech Republic (30%), France (29%), South Korea (15%), Germany (15%), Netherlands (14%), Austria (10%), Iceland (10%), Australia (10%), and the Republic of Ireland (10%).[228]

According to the 2010 Eurobarometer Poll, the percentage of those polled who agreed with the statement “you don’t believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force” varied from a high percentage in France (40%), Czech Republic (37%), Sweden (34%), Netherlands (30%), and Estonia (29%); medium-high percentage in Germany (27%), Belgium (27%), UK (25%); to very low in Poland (5%), Greece (4%), Cyprus (3%), Malta (2%), and Romania (1%), with the European Union as a whole at 20%.[34] In a 2012 Eurobarometer poll on discrimination in the European Union, 16% of those polled considered themselves non believers/agnostics and 7% considered themselves atheists.[230]

According to a Pew Research Center survey in 2012 religiously unaffiliated (including agnostics and atheists) make up about 18% of Europeans.[231] According to the same survey, the religiously unaffiliated are the majority of the population only in two European countries: Czech Republic (75%) and Estonia (60%).[231]

There are another four countries where the unaffiliated make up a majority of the population: North Korea (71%), Japan (57%), Hong Kong (56%), and China (52%).[231]

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 30% of Australians have “no religion”, a category that includes atheists.[232]

In a 2013 census, 41.9% of New Zealanders reported having no religion, up from 29.6% in 1991.[233] Men were more likely than women to report no religion.

According to the World Values Survey, 4.4% of Americans self-identified as atheists in 2014.[234] However, the same survey showed that 11.1% of all respondents stated “no” when asked if they believed in God.[234] In 1984, these same figures were 1.1% and 2.2%, respectively. According to a 2014 report by the Pew Research Center, 3.1% of the US adult population identify as atheist, up from 1.6% in 2007; and within the religiously unaffiliated (or “no religion”) demographic, atheists made up 13.6%.[235] According to the 2015 General Sociological Survey the number of atheists and agnostics in the US has remained relatively flat in the past 23 years since in 1991 only 2% identified as atheist and 4% identified as agnostic and in 2014 only 3% identified as atheists and 5% identified as agnostics.[236]

According to the American Family Survey, 34% was found to be religiously unaffiliated in 2017 (23% ‘nothing in particular’, 6% agnostic, 5% atheist).[237][238] According to the Pew Research Center, in 2014, 22.8% of the American population does not identify with a religion, including atheists (3.1%) and agnostics (4%).[239] According to a PRRI survey, 24% of the population is unaffiliated. Atheists and agnostics combined make up about a quarter of this unaffiliated demographic.[240]

In recent years, the profile of atheism has risen substantially in the Arab world.[241] In major cities across the region, such as Cairo, atheists have been organizing in cafs and social media, despite regular crackdowns from authoritarian governments.[241] A 2012 poll by Gallup International revealed that 5% of Saudis considered themselves to be “convinced atheists.”[241] However, very few young people in the Arab world have atheists in their circle of friends or acquaintances. According to one study, less than 1% did in Morocco, Egypt, Saudia Arabia, or Jordan; only 3% to 7% in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Palestine.[242] When asked whether they have “seen or heard traces of atheism in [their] locality, community, and society” only about 3% to 8% responded yes in all the countries surveyed. The only exception was the UAE, with 51%.[242]

A study noted positive correlations between levels of education and secularism, including atheism, in America.[94] According to evolutionary psychologist Nigel Barber, atheism blossoms in places where most people feel economically secure, particularly in the social democracies of Europe, as there is less uncertainty about the future with extensive social safety nets and better health care resulting in a greater quality of life and higher life expectancy. By contrast, in underdeveloped countries, there are virtually no atheists.[243]

In a 2008 study, researchers found intelligence to be negatively related to religious belief in Europe and the United States. In a sample of 137 countries, the correlation between national IQ and disbelief in God was found to be 0.60.[244] Evolutionary psychologist Nigel Barber states that the reason atheists are more intelligent than religious people is better explained by social, environmental, and wealth factors which happen to correlate with loss of religious belief as well. He doubts that religion causes stupidity, noting that some highly intelligent people have also been religious, but he says it is plausible that higher intelligence correlates to rejection of improbable religious beliefs and that the situation between intelligence and rejection of religious beliefs is quite complex.[245]

In a 2017 study, it was shown that compared to religious individuals, atheists have higher reasoning capacities and this difference seemed to be unrelated to sociodemographic factors such as age, education and country of origin.[246]

Statistically, atheists are held in poor regard across the globe. Non-atheists, and possibly even fellow atheists, seem to implicitly view atheists as prone to exhibit immoral behaviors ranging from mass murder to not paying at a restaurant.[247][248][249] In addition, according to a 2016 Pew Research Center publication, 15% of French people, 45% of Americans, and 99% of Indonesians explicitly believe that a person must believe in God to be moral. Pew furthermore noted that, in a U.S. poll, atheists and Muslims tied for the lowest rating among the major religious demographics on a “feeling thermometer”.[250]

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Atheism – Wikipedia

What is Atheism? | American Atheists

Atheism is one thing: A lack of belief in gods.

Atheism isnot an affirmative belief that there is no god nor does it answer any other question about what a person believes. It is simply a rejection of the assertion that there are gods. Atheism is too oftendefined incorrectly as a belief system. To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.

Older dictionaries define atheism as a belief that there is no God. Clearly, theistic influence taints these definitions. The fact that dictionaries define Atheism as there is no God betrays the (mono)theistic influence. Without the (mono)theistic influence, the definition would at least read there are no gods.

While there are some religions that are atheistic (certain sects of Buddhism, for example), that does not mean that atheism is a religion. To put it in a more humorous way: If atheism is a religion, thennot collecting stamps is a hobby.

Despite the fact that atheism is not a religion, atheism is protected by many of the same Constitutional rights that protect religion. That, however, does not mean that atheism is itself a religion, only that our sincerely held (lack of) beliefs are protected in the same way as the religious beliefs of others. Similarly, many interfaith groups will include atheists. This, again, does not mean that atheism is a religious belief.

Some groups will use words like Agnostic, Humanist, Secular, Bright, Freethinker, or any number of other terms to self identify. Those words are perfectly fine as a self-identifier, but we strongly advocate using the word that people understand: Atheist. Dont use those other terms to disguise your atheism or to shy away from a word that some think has a negative connotation. We should be using the terminology that is most accurate and that answers the question that is actually being asked. We should use the term that binds all of us together.

If you call yourself a humanist, a freethinker, a bright, or even a cultural Catholic and lack belief in a god, you are an atheist. Dont shy away from the term. Embrace it.

Agnostic isnt just a weaker version of being an atheist. It answers a different question. Atheism is about what you believe. Agnosticism is about what you know.

In recent surveys, the Pew Research Center has grouped atheists, agnostics, and the unaffiliated into one category. The so-called Nones are the fastest growing religious demographic in the United States. Pewseparates out atheists from agnostics and the non-religious, but that is primarily a function of self-identification. Only about 5% of people call themselves atheists, but if you ask about belief in gods, 11% say they do not believe in gods. Those people are atheists, whether they choose to use the word or not.

A recent survey fromUniversity of Kentucky psychologists Will Gervais and Maxine Najle found that as many as 26% of Americans may be atheists. This study was designed to overcome the stigma associated with atheism and the potential for closeted atheists to abstain from outing themselves even when speaking anonymously to pollsters. The full study is awaiting publication inSocial Psychological and Personality Sciencejournal but a pre-print version is available here.

Even more people say that their definition of god is simply a unifying force between all people. Or that they arent sure what they believe.If you lack an active belief in gods, you are an atheist.

Being an atheist doesnt mean youre sure about every theological question, have answers to the way the world was created, or how evolution works. It just means that the assertion that gods exist has left you unconvinced.

Wishing that there was an afterlife, or a creator god, or a specific god doesnt mean youre not an atheist. Being an atheist is about what you believe and dont believe, not about what you wish to be true or would find comforting.

The only common thread that ties all atheists together is a lack of belief in gods. Some of the best debates we have ever had have been with fellow atheists. This is because atheists do not have a common belief system, sacred scripture or atheist Pope. This means atheists often disagree on many issues and ideas. Atheists come in a variety of shapes, colors, beliefs, convictions, and backgrounds. We are as unique as our fingerprints.

Atheists exist across the political spectrum. We are members of every race. We are members of the LGBTQ* community. There are atheists in urban, suburban, and rural communities and in every state of the nation.

We have more than 170 affiliates and local partners nationwide. If you are looking for a community, we strongly recommend reaching out to an affiliate in your area.

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Atheism | CARM.org

Atheism is a lack of belief in any God and deities as well as a total denial of the existence of any god. It is a growing movement that is becoming more aggressive, more demanding, and less tolerant of anything other than itself – as is exemplified by its adherents. Is atheism a sound philosophical system as a worldview or is it ultimately self-defeating? Is the requirement of empirical evidence for God a mistake in logic or is it a fair demand? Can we prove that God exists or is that impossible? Find out more about atheism, its arguments, and its problems here at CARM. Learn how to deal with the arguments raised against the existence of God that seek to replace Him with naturalism, materialism, and moral relativism.

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Atheism | CARM.org

atheism | Definition, Philosophy, & Comparison to …

Atheism, in general, the critique and denial of metaphysical beliefs in God or spiritual beings. As such, it is usually distinguished from theism, which affirms the reality of the divine and often seeks to demonstrate its existence. Atheism is also distinguished from agnosticism, which leaves open the question whether there is a god or not, professing to find the questions unanswered or unanswerable.

The dialectic of the argument between forms of belief and unbelief raises questions concerning the most perspicuous delineation, or characterization, of atheism, agnosticism, and theism. It is necessary not only to probe the warrant for atheism but also carefully to consider what is the most adequate definition of atheism. This article will start with what have been some widely accepted, but still in various ways mistaken or misleading, definitions of atheism and move to more adequate formulations that better capture the full range of atheist thought and more clearly separate unbelief from belief and atheism from agnosticism. In the course of this delineation the section also will consider key arguments for and against atheism.

A central, common core of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is the affirmation of the reality of one, and only one, God. Adherents of these faiths believe that there is a God who created the universe out of nothing and who has absolute sovereignty over all his creation; this includes, of course, human beingswho are not only utterly dependent on this creative power but also sinful and who, or so the faithful must believe, can only make adequate sense of their lives by accepting, without question, Gods ordinances for them. The varieties of atheism are numerous, but all atheists reject such a set of beliefs.

Atheism, however, casts a wider net and rejects all belief in spiritual beings, and to the extent that belief in spiritual beings is definitive of what it means for a system to be religious, atheism rejects religion. So atheism is not only a rejection of the central conceptions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; it is, as well, a rejection of the religious beliefs of such African religions as that of the Dinka and the Nuer, of the anthropomorphic gods of classical Greece and Rome, and of the transcendental conceptions of Hinduism and Buddhism. Generally atheism is a denial of God or of the gods, and if religion is defined in terms of belief in spiritual beings, then atheism is the rejection of all religious belief.

It is necessary, however, if a tolerably adequate understanding of atheism is to be achieved, to give a reading to rejection of religious belief and to come to realize how the characterization of atheism as the denial of God or the gods is inadequate.

To say that atheism is the denial of God or the gods and that it is the opposite of theism, a system of belief that affirms the reality of God and seeks to demonstrate his existence, is inadequate in a number of ways. First, not all theologians who regard themselves as defenders of the Christian faith or of Judaism or Islam regard themselves as defenders of theism. The influential 20th-century Protestant theologian Paul Tillich, for example, regards the God of theism as an idol and refuses to construe God as a being, even a supreme being, among beings or as an infinite being above finite beings. God, for him, is being-itself, the ground of being and meaning. The particulars of Tillichs view are in certain ways idiosyncratic, as well as being obscure and problematic, but they have been influential; and his rejection of theism, while retaining a belief in God, is not eccentric in contemporary theology, though it may very well affront the plain believer.

Second, and more important, it is not the case that all theists seek to demonstrate or even in any way rationally to establish the existence of God. Many theists regard such a demonstration as impossible, and fideistic believers (e.g., Johann Hamann and Sren Kierkegaard) regard such a demonstration, even if it were possible, as undesirable, for in their view it would undermine faith. If it could be proved, or known for certain, that God exists, people would not be in a position to accept him as their sovereign Lord humbly on faith with all the risks that entails. There are theologians who have argued that for genuine faith to be possible God must necessarily be a hidden God, the mysterious ultimate reality, whose existence and authority must be accepted simply on faith. This fideistic view has not, of course, gone without challenge from inside the major faiths, but it is of sufficient importance to make the above characterization of atheism inadequate.

Finally, and most important, not all denials of God are denials of his existence. Believers sometimes deny God while not being at all in a state of doubt that God exists. They either willfully reject what they take to be his authority by not acting in accordance with what they take to be his will, or else they simply live their lives as if God did not exist. In this important way they deny him. Such deniers are not atheists (unless we wish, misleadingly, to call them practical atheists). They are not even agnostics. They do not question that God exists; they deny him in other ways. An atheist denies the existence of God. As it is frequently said, atheists believe that it is false that God exists, or that Gods existence is a speculative hypothesis of an extremely low order of probability.

Yet it remains the case that such a characterization of atheism is inadequate in other ways. For one it is too narrow. There are atheists who believe that the very concept of God, at least in developed and less anthropomorphic forms of Judeo-Christianity and Islam, is so incoherent that certain central religious claims, such as God is my creator to whom everything is owed, are not genuine truth-claims; i.e., the claims could not be either true or false. Believers hold that such religious propositions are true, some atheists believe that they are false, and there are agnostics who cannot make up their minds whether to believe that they are true or false. (Agnostics think that the propositions are one or the other but believe that it is not possible to determine which.) But all three are mistaken, some atheists argue, for such putative truth-claims are not sufficiently intelligible to be genuine truth-claims that are either true or false. In reality there is nothing in them to be believed or disbelieved, though there is for the believer the powerful and humanly comforting illusion that there is. Such an atheism, it should be added, rooted for some conceptions of God in considerations about intelligibility and what it makes sense to say, has been strongly resisted by some pragmatists and logical empiricists.

While the above considerations about atheism and intelligibility show the second characterization of atheism to be too narrow, it is also the case that this characterization is in a way too broad. For there are fideistic believers, who quite unequivocally believe that when looked at objectively the proposition that God exists has a very low probability weight. They believe in God not because it is probable that he existsthey think it more probable that he does notbut because belief is thought by them to be necessary to make sense of human life. The second characterization of atheism does not distinguish a fideistic believer (a Blaise Pascal or a Soren Kierkegaard) or an agnostic (a T.H. Huxley or a Sir Leslie Stephen) from an atheist such as Baron dHolbach. All believe that there is a God and God protects humankind, however emotionally important they may be, are speculative hypotheses of an extremely low order of probability. But this, since it does not distinguish believers from nonbelievers and does not distinguish agnostics from atheists, cannot be an adequate characterization of atheism.

It may be retorted that to avoid apriorism and dogmatic atheism the existence of God should be regarded as a hypothesis. There are no ontological (purely a priori) proofs or disproofs of Gods existence. It is not reasonable to rule in advance that it makes no sense to say that God exists. What the atheist can reasonably claim is that there is no evidence that there is a God, and against that background he may very well be justified in asserting that there is no God. It has been argued, however, that it is simply dogmatic for an atheist to assert that no possible evidence could ever give one grounds for believing in God. Instead, atheists should justify their unbelief by showing (if they can) how the assertion is well-taken that there is no evidence that would warrant a belief in God. If atheism is justified, the atheist will have shown that in fact there is no adequate evidence for the belief that God exists, but it should not be part of his task to try to show that there could not be any evidence for the existence of God. If the atheist could somehow survive the death of his present body (assuming that such talk makes sense) and come, much to his surprise, to stand in the presence of God, his answer should be, Oh! Lord, you didnt give me enough evidence! He would have been mistaken, and realize that he had been mistaken, in his judgment that God did not exist. Still, he would not have been unjustified, in the light of the evidence available to him during his earthly life, in believing as he did. Not having any such postmortem experiences of the presence of God (assuming that he could have them), what he should say, as things stand and in the face of the evidence he actually has and is likely to be able to get, is that it is false that God exists. (Every time one legitimately asserts that a proposition is false one need not be certain that it is false. Knowing with certainty is not a pleonasm.) The claim is that this tentative posture is the reasonable position for the atheist to take.

An atheist who argues in this manner may also make a distinctive burden-of-proof argument. Given that God (if there is one) is by definition a very recherch realitya reality that must be (for there to be such a reality) transcendent to the worldthe burden of proof is not on the atheist to give grounds for believing that there is no reality of that order. Rather, the burden of proof is on the believer to give some evidence for Gods existencei.e., that there is such a reality. Given what God must be, if there is a God, the theist needs to present the evidence, for such a very strange reality. He needs to show that there is more in the world than is disclosed by common experience. The empirical method, and the empirical method alone, such an atheist asserts, affords a reliable method for establishing what is in fact the case. To the claim of the theist that there are in addition to varieties of empirical facts spiritual facts or transcendent facts, such as it being the case that there is a supernatural, self-existent, eternal power, the atheist can assert that such facts have not been shown.

It will, however, be argued by such atheists, against what they take to be dogmatic aprioristic atheists, that the atheist should be a fallibilist and remain open-minded about what the future may bring. There may, after all, be such transcendent facts, such metaphysical realities. It is not that such a fallibilistic atheist is really an agnostic who believes that he is not justified in either asserting that God exists or denying that he exists and that what he must reasonably do is suspend belief. On the contrary, such an atheist believes that he has very good grounds indeed, as things stand, for denying the existence of God. But he will, on the second conceptualization of what it is to be an atheist, not deny that things could be otherwise and that, if they were, he would be justified in believing in God or at least would no longer be justified in asserting that it is false that there is a God. Using reliable empirical techniques, proven methods for establishing matters of fact, the fallibilistic atheist has found nothing in the universe to make a belief that God exists justifiable or even, everything considered, the most rational option of the various options. He therefore draws the atheistical conclusion (also keeping in mind his burden-of-proof argument) that God does not exist. But he does not dogmatically in a priori fashion deny the existence of God. He remains a thorough and consistent fallibilist.

Such a form of atheism (the atheism of those pragmatists who are also naturalistic humanists), though less inadequate than the first formation of atheism, is still inadequate. God in developed forms of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is not, like Zeus or Odin, construed in a relatively plain anthropomorphic way. Nothing that could count as God in such religions could possibly be observed, literally encountered, or detected in the universe. God, in such a conception, is utterly transcendent to the world; he is conceived of as pure spirit, an infinite individual who created the universe out of nothing and who is distinct from the universe. Such a realitya reality that is taken to be an ultimate mysterycould not be identified as objects or processes in the universe can be identified. There can be no pointing at or to God, no ostensive teaching of God, to show what is meant. The word God can only be taught intralinguistically. God is taught to someone who does not understand what the word means by the use of descriptions such as the maker of the universe, the eternal, utterly independent being upon whom all other beings depend, the first cause, the sole ultimate reality, or a self-caused being. For someone who does not understand such descriptions, there can be no understanding of the concept of God. But the key terms of such descriptions are themselves no more capable of ostensive definition (of having their referents pointed out) than is God, where that term is not, like Zeus, construed anthropomorphically. (That does not mean that anyone has actually pointed to Zeus or observed Zeus but that one knows what it would be like to do so.)

In coming to understand what is meant by God in such discourses, it must be understood that God, whatever else he is, is a being that could not possibly be seen or be in any way else observed. He could not be anything material or empirical, and he is said by believers to be an intractable mystery. A nonmysterious God would not be the God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

This, in effect, makes it a mistake to claim that the existence of God can rightly be treated as a hypothesis and makes it a mistake to claim that, by the use of the experimental method or some other determinate empirical method, the existence of God can be confirmed or disconfirmed as can the existence of an empirical reality. The retort made by some atheists, who also like pragmatists remain thoroughgoing fallibilists, is that such a proposed way of coming to know, or failing to come to know, God makes no sense for anyone who understands what kind of reality God is supposed to be. Anything whose existence could be so verified would not be the God of Judeo-Christianity. God could not be a reality whose presence is even faintly adumbrated in experience, for anything that could even count as the God of Judeo-Christianity must be transcendent to the world. Anything that could actually be encountered or experienced could not be God.

At the very heart of a religion such as Christianity there stands a metaphysical belief in a reality that is alleged to transcend the empirical world. It is the metaphysical belief that there is an eternal, ever-present creative source and sustainer of the universe. The problem is how it is possible to know or reasonably believe that such a reality exists or even to understand what such talk is about.

It is not that God is like a theoretical entity in physics such as a proton or a neutrino. They are, where they are construed as realities rather than as heuristically useful conceptual fictions, thought to be part of the actual furniture of the universe. They are not said to be transcendent to the universe, but rather are invisible entities in the universe logically on a par with specks of dust and grains of sand, only much, much smaller. They are on the same continuum; they are not a different kind of reality. It is only the case that they, as a matter of fact, cannot be seen. Indeed no one has an understanding of what it would be like to see a proton or a neutrinoin that way they are like Godand no provision is made in physical theory for seeing them. Still, there is no logical ban on seeing them as there is on seeing God. They are among the things in the universe, and thus, though they are invisible, they can be postulated as causes of things that are seen. Since this is so it becomes at least logically possible indirectly to verify by empirical methods the existence of such realities. It is also the case that there is no logical ban on establishing what is necessary to establish a causal connection, namely a constant conjunction of two discrete empirical realities. But no such constant conjunction can be established or even intelligibly asserted between God and the universe, and thus the existence of God is not even indirectly verifiable. God is not a discrete empirical thing or being, and the universe is not a gigantic thing or process over and above the things and processes in the universe of which it makes sense to say that the universe has or had a cause. But then there is no way, directly or indirectly, that even the probability that there is a God could be empirically established.

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atheism r/atheism – reddit

So to give some context my SO came out as agnostic to her parents. Who are Georgia hardcore Christian. Already off to some lovely drama for no reason other than my brain bettah than your brain.

Next up on the block though is them noticing I’m not particularly religious. I avoid saying blessings involving God at family meals, I don’t bow my head at any blessing involving God, and overall have avoided church sermons. So they pop that fabulous question “What’s Tickle’s faith?” My SO knows I’m an unapologetic Atheist so she just nonchalantly tells them.

That was a week ago. Tonight I showed up and hoooooo boy was it a shitstorm. I wasn’t even in the house when the damn statements kick in.

“HOW CAN YOU DENY THE LORD’S TRUTH.”

“YOU’RE DAMNING YOUR SOUL TO TORMENT.”

“BLAH BLAH I WAS INDOCTRINATED IN A SIMILAR FASHION TO NORTH KOREAN CHILDREN FOR MY BELIEF SYSTEM AND YOU SHOULD BELIEVE THEM TO BECAUSE IT’S A SELF REINFORCING IDEA THAT SUPRESSES SELF CRITICAL REASONING BLAH BLAH.”

Fellow brethren. If this happens to you THAT is the warning flag to just walk away. You will get nowhere with this type of person. Unfortunately… these were my SO’s parents so I couldn’t.

Finally she calms down and Typical Christian ArguementTM start up.

“Who do you think made the Universe! Didn’t come from nothing!”

“How do you think [acendotal miracle based off perspective] happened?”

Over and fucking over I had to calmly fucking explain my views and how there just isn’t evidence for her claims.

Then she did it. The one thing that boils my fucking blood to levels that make the Earth’s core look cold. She gave me a Bible and acted like it was a damned trump card.

I literally chucked that fucker across the room into a dustbin. I can’t fucking stand the Bible in theology arguements. It’s a fucking block of swiss cheese that believers cherry pick through for their arguements to make sense whilst ignoring the rest because it doesn’t support their view. Even the different factions of Christianity can’t fucking decide if the 27 original books are enough. Suddenly they start pulling from biblical text that was taken out of the original or provide a supplement because the Bible can’t explain it well enough! (Looking at you Mormons!) I can watch THOMAS THAT GLORIOUS MOTHERFUCKING TANK ENGINE AND STILL GET THE SAME AMOUNT OF MORAL BACKBONE YOUR MAN-WRITTEN QUOTEBOOK PROVIDES.

Not mentioning that she blatantly is ignoring every bit of evidence I provide! Where’s your reason! YOUR BASIC LOGIC AND COMMON SENSE! Why is it you can sit there as a pediatric nurse and admit someone just coming back to life after being pronounced medically dead is pretty much impossible but suddenly I slap on the Jesus logo and suddenly you’re all nanas about the fucking ressurection!

Then she brings up that I’m not educated enough to make that decision! That I need to come to your church and talk to Preacher MyBallsThisIsAGoodPaycheckSuckers! Sorry I don’t hang off your every word and make you feel important and special! Why the hell can’t you just talk about your religion! Is it because you underwent social peer pressure when you were young that this is so great and everyone who does this is nice and never actually bothered to look behind the fucking curtain and realize NO ONE IS THERE. HMMMMMMM?!? That the only reason you never look is because you’re afraid your good girl ticket from church is not going to be void on that realization of nothing we call death!

Why does this preacher have to be involved anyways? Are you NOT HOLY ENOUGH? Why can’t you perform baptisms? Why can’t you lead blessings? Is holiness measurable? Can I redeem my GodBucks to become ordained? Or is it because most of you have no idea how this shit goes and blindly follow a crazy man who actually obsessed to learn all this off the premise that it’s still true! A preacher’s job should of been over when the literacy rate went above 50%!

Needless to say after that rather bombastic tyrade of pent-up inner ragetheism I sent her mother into tears and probably scarred her younger siblings.

Good news, my SO is slowly warming up to the idea of standing up to her mother about her faith.

Bad news, no more dinner at their house. She made some damn mean potatoes and was actually a decent person.

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Atheism – definition of atheism by The Free Dictionary

Nay, even that school which is most accused of atheism doth most demonstrate religion; that is, the school of Leucippus and Democritus and Epicurus.Zarathustra now meets the last pope, and, in a poetical form, we get Nietzsche’s description of the course Judaism and Christianity pursued before they reached their final break-up in Atheism, Agnosticism, and the like.You know, one of those uncouth new people one’s so often coming across nowadays, One of those free-thinkers you know, who are reared d’emblee in theories of atheism, scepticism, and materialism.Nothing less than a persuasion of universal depravity can lock up the charity of a good man; and this persuasion must lead him, I think, either into atheism, or enthusiasm; but surely it is unfair to argue such universal depravity from a few vicious individuals; nor was this, I believe, ever done by a man, who, upon searching his own mind, found one certain exception to the general rule.The essence of religious feeling has nothing to do with reason, or atheism, or crime, or acts of any kind–it has nothing to do with these things–and never had.Or is it, that as in essence whiteness is not so much a color as the visible absence of color, and at the same time the concrete of all colors; is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows –a colorless, all-color of atheism from which we shrink?And then,” said Aramis, with the tone of philosophical indifference which he had assumed since he had belonged to the church and in which there was more atheism than confidence in God, “what is the use of thinking of it all?Failing this, absurdity and atheism gape behind him.And hence bitter enmities had arisen; the professors of knowledge had revenged themselves by calling him a villainous corrupter of youth, and by repeating the commonplaces about atheism and materialism and sophistry, which are the stock-accusations against all philosophers when there is nothing else to be said of them.In especial, there is complete religious toleration, except for atheism, and except for those who urge their opinions with offensive violence.She had been rather fond of society, and much admired and run after before her marriage; and the London world to which she had belonged pitied poor Fanny Evelyn when she married the young clergyman, and went to settle in that smoky hole Turley; a very nest of Chartism and Atheism, in a part of the country which all the decent families had had to leave for years.Is it not therefore, a first step towards atheism to efface every sign of pious sorrow in this way, to neglect to impress on children who are not yet old enough to reflect, and on all other people who stand in need of example, the necessity of obedience to human law, by openly manifested resignation to the will of Providence, who chastens and consoles, who bestows and takes away worldly wealth?

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Atheism – definition of atheism by The Free Dictionary

Atheism – Wikipedia

Atheism is, in the broadest sense, the absence of belief in the existence of deities.[1][2][3][4] Less broadly, atheism is the rejection of belief that any deities exist.[5][6] In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.[1][2][7][8] Atheism is contrasted with theism,[9][10] which, in its most general form, is the belief that at least one deity exists.[10][11][12]

The etymological root for the word atheism originated before the 5th century BCE from the ancient Greek (atheos), meaning “without god(s)”. In antiquity it had multiple uses as a pejorative term applied to those thought to reject the gods worshiped by the larger society,[13] those who were forsaken by the gods or those who had no commitment to belief in the gods.[14] The term denoted a social category created by orthodox religionists into which those who did not share their religious beliefs were placed.[14] The actual term atheism emerged first in the 16th century.[15] With the spread of freethought, skeptical inquiry, and subsequent increase in criticism of religion, application of the term narrowed in scope. The first individuals to identify themselves using the word atheist lived in the 18th century during the Age of Enlightenment.[15] The French Revolution, noted for its “unprecedented atheism,” witnessed the first major political movement in history to advocate for the supremacy of human reason.[17] The French Revolution can be described as the first period where atheism became implemented politically.

Arguments for atheism range from the philosophical to social and historical approaches. Rationales for not believing in deities include arguments that there is a lack of empirical evidence,[18][19] the problem of evil, the argument from inconsistent revelations, the rejection of concepts that cannot be falsified, and the argument from nonbelief.[18][20] Proponents contend that atheism is a more parsimonious position than theism and that it is the position in which everyone is born; therefore, they argue that the burden of proof lies not on the atheist to disprove the existence of God but on the theist to provide a rationale for theism.[21][1] However, others have disagreed with the view of being born into such a position.[22] Although some atheists have adopted secular philosophies (e.g. secular humanism),[23][24] there is no one ideology or set of behaviors to which all atheists adhere.[25]

Since conceptions of atheism vary, accurate estimations of current numbers of atheists are difficult.[26] According to global Win-Gallup International studies, 13% of respondents were “convinced atheists” in 2012[27], 11% were “convinced atheists” in 2015[28], and in 2017, 9% were “convinced atheists”.[29] However, other researchers have advised caution with WIN/Gallup figures since other surveys which have used the same wording for decades and have a bigger sample size have consistently reached lower figures.[30] An older survey by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 2004 recorded atheists as comprising 8% of the world’s population.[31] Other older estimates have indicated that atheists comprise 2% of the world’s population, while the irreligious add a further 12%.[32] According to these polls, Europe and East Asia are the regions with the highest rates of atheism. In 2015, 61% of people in China reported that they were atheists.[33] The figures for a 2010 Eurobarometer survey in the European Union (EU) reported that 20% of the EU population claimed not to believe in “any sort of spirit, God or life force”.[34]

Writers disagree on how best to define and classify atheism,[35] contesting what supernatural entities are considered gods, whether it is a philosophic position in its own right or merely the absence of one, and whether it requires a conscious, explicit rejection. Atheism has been regarded as compatible with agnosticism,[36][37][38][39][40][41][42] and has also been contrasted with it.[43][44][45] A variety of categories have been used to distinguish the different forms of atheism.

Some of the ambiguity and controversy involved in defining atheism arises from difficulty in reaching a consensus for the definitions of words like deity and god. The plurality of wildly different conceptions of God and deities leads to differing ideas regarding atheism’s applicability. The ancient Romans accused Christians of being atheists for not worshiping the pagan deities. Gradually, this view fell into disfavor as theism came to be understood as encompassing belief in any divinity.

With respect to the range of phenomena being rejected, atheism may counter anything from the existence of a deity, to the existence of any spiritual, supernatural, or transcendental concepts, such as those of Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Taoism.[47]

Definitions of atheism also vary in the degree of consideration a person must put to the idea of gods to be considered an atheist. Atheism has sometimes been defined to include the simple absence of belief that any deities exist. This broad definition would include newborns and other people who have not been exposed to theistic ideas. As far back as 1772, Baron d’Holbach said that “All children are born Atheists; they have no idea of God.”[48] Similarly, George H. Smith (1979) suggested that: “The man who is unacquainted with theism is an atheist because he does not believe in a god. This category would also include the child with the conceptual capacity to grasp the issues involved, but who is still unaware of those issues. The fact that this child does not believe in god qualifies him as an atheist.”[49] Smith coined the term implicit atheism to refer to “the absence of theistic belief without a conscious rejection of it” and explicit atheism to refer to the more common definition of conscious disbelief. Ernest Nagel contradicts Smith’s definition of atheism as merely “absence of theism”, acknowledging only explicit atheism as true “atheism”.[22]

Philosophers such as Antony Flew[50] and Michael Martin have contrasted positive (strong/hard) atheism with negative (weak/soft) atheism. Positive atheism is the explicit affirmation that gods do not exist. Negative atheism includes all other forms of non-theism. According to this categorization, anyone who is not a theist is either a negative or a positive atheist. The terms weak and strong are relatively recent, while the terms negative and positive atheism are of older origin, having been used (in slightly different ways) in the philosophical literature[50] and in Catholic apologetics.[51] Under this demarcation of atheism, most agnostics qualify as negative atheists.

While Martin, for example, asserts that agnosticism entails negative atheism,[39] many agnostics see their view as distinct from atheism,[52][53] which they may consider no more justified than theism or requiring an equal conviction.[52] The assertion of unattainability of knowledge for or against the existence of gods is sometimes seen as an indication that atheism requires a leap of faith.[54][55] Common atheist responses to this argument include that unproven religious propositions deserve as much disbelief as all other unproven propositions,[56] and that the unprovability of a god’s existence does not imply equal probability of either possibility.[57] Australian philosopher J. J. C. Smart even argues that “sometimes a person who is really an atheist may describe herself, even passionately, as an agnostic because of unreasonable generalized philosophical skepticism which would preclude us from saying that we know anything whatever, except perhaps the truths of mathematics and formal logic.”[58] Consequently, some atheist authors such as Richard Dawkins prefer distinguishing theist, agnostic and atheist positions along a spectrum of theistic probabilitythe likelihood that each assigns to the statement “God exists”.

Before the 18th century, the existence of God was so accepted in the western world that even the possibility of true atheism was questioned. This is called theistic innatismthe notion that all people believe in God from birth; within this view was the connotation that atheists are simply in denial.[60]

There is also a position claiming that atheists are quick to believe in God in times of crisis, that atheists make deathbed conversions, or that “there are no atheists in foxholes”.[61] There have however been examples to the contrary, among them examples of literal “atheists in foxholes”.[62]

Some atheists have doubted the very need for the term “atheism”. In his book Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris wrote:

In fact, “atheism” is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a “non-astrologer” or a “non-alchemist”. We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.

Pragmatic atheism is the view one should reject a belief in a god or gods because it is unnecessary for a pragmatic life. This view is related to apatheism and practical atheism.[64]

Atheists have also argued that people cannot know a God or prove the existence of a God. The latter is called agnosticism, which takes a variety of forms. In the philosophy of immanence, divinity is inseparable from the world itself, including a person’s mind, and each person’s consciousness is locked in the subject. According to this form of agnosticism, this limitation in perspective prevents any objective inference from belief in a god to assertions of its existence. The rationalistic agnosticism of Kant and the Enlightenment only accepts knowledge deduced with human rationality; this form of atheism holds that gods are not discernible as a matter of principle, and therefore cannot be known to exist. Skepticism, based on the ideas of Hume, asserts that certainty about anything is impossible, so one can never know for sure whether or not a god exists. Hume, however, held that such unobservable metaphysical concepts should be rejected as “sophistry and illusion”.[66] The allocation of agnosticism to atheism is disputed; it can also be regarded as an independent, basic worldview.[67]

Other arguments for atheism that can be classified as epistemological or ontological, including ignosticism, assert the meaninglessness or unintelligibility of basic terms such as “God” and statements such as “God is all-powerful.” Theological noncognitivism holds that the statement “God exists” does not express a proposition, but is nonsensical or cognitively meaningless. It has been argued both ways as to whether such individuals can be classified into some form of atheism or agnosticism. Philosophers A. J. Ayer and Theodore M. Drange reject both categories, stating that both camps accept “God exists” as a proposition; they instead place noncognitivism in its own category.[68][69]

Philosopher, Zofia Zdybicka writes:

“Metaphysical atheism… includes all doctrines that hold to metaphysical monism (the homogeneity of reality). Metaphysical atheism may be either: a) absolute an explicit denial of God’s existence associated with materialistic monism (all materialistic trends, both in ancient and modern times); b) relative the implicit denial of God in all philosophies that, while they accept the existence of an absolute, conceive of the absolute as not possessing any of the attributes proper to God: transcendence, a personal character or unity. Relative atheism is associated with idealistic monism (pantheism, panentheism, deism).”[70]

Some atheists hold the view that the various conceptions of gods, such as the personal god of Christianity, are ascribed logically inconsistent qualities. Such atheists present deductive arguments against the existence of God, which assert the incompatibility between certain traits, such as perfection, creator-status, immutability, omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, omnibenevolence, transcendence, personhood (a personal being), nonphysicality, justice, and mercy.[18]

Theodicean atheists believe that the world as they experience it cannot be reconciled with the qualities commonly ascribed to God and gods by theologians. They argue that an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent God is not compatible with a world where there is evil and suffering, and where divine love is hidden from many people.[20] A similar argument is attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism.[72]

Philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach[73] and psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud have argued that God and other religious beliefs are human inventions, created to fulfill various psychological and emotional wants or needs. This is also a view of many Buddhists.[74] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, influenced by the work of Feuerbach, argued that belief in God and religion are social functions, used by those in power to oppress the working class. According to Mikhail Bakunin, “the idea of God implies the abdication of human reason and justice; it is the most decisive negation of human liberty, and necessarily ends in the enslavement of mankind, in theory and practice.” He reversed Voltaire’s famous aphorism that if God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him, writing instead that “if God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him.”[75]

Atheism is not mutually exclusive with respect to some religious and spiritual belief systems, including Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Syntheism, Ralism,[76] and Neopagan movements[77] such as Wicca.[78] stika schools in Hinduism hold atheism to be a valid path to moksha, but extremely difficult, for the atheist can not expect any help from the divine on their journey.[79] Jainism believes the universe is eternal and has no need for a creator deity, however Tirthankaras are revered that can transcend space and time [80] and have more power than the god Indra.[81] Secular Buddhism does not advocate belief in gods. Early Buddhism was atheistic as Gautama Buddha’s path involved no mention of gods. Later conceptions of Buddhism consider Buddha himself a god, suggest adherents can attain godhood, and revere Bodhisattvas[82] and Eternal Buddha.

Apophatic theology is often assessed as being a version of atheism or agnosticism, since it cannot say truly that God exists.[83] “The comparison is crude, however, for conventional atheism treats the existence of God as a predicate that can be denied (God is nonexistent), whereas negative theology denies that God has predicates”.[84] “God or the Divine is” without being able to attribute qualities about “what He is” would be the prerequisite of positive theology in negative theology that distinguishes theism from atheism. “Negative theology is a complement to, not the enemy of, positive theology”.[85]

Axiological, or constructive, atheism rejects the existence of gods in favor of a “higher absolute”, such as humanity. This form of atheism favors humanity as the absolute source of ethics and values, and permits individuals to resolve moral problems without resorting to God. Marx and Freud used this argument to convey messages of liberation, full-development, and unfettered happiness.[67] One of the most common criticisms of atheism has been to the contrary: that denying the existence of a god either leads to moral relativism and leaves one with no moral or ethical foundation,[86] or renders life meaningless and miserable.[87] Blaise Pascal argued this view in his Penses.[88]

French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre identified himself as a representative of an “atheist existentialism” concerned less with denying the existence of God than with establishing that “man needs… to find himself again and to understand that nothing can save him from himself, not even a valid proof of the existence of God.” Sartre said a corollary of his atheism was that “if God does not exist, there is at least one being in whom existence precedes essence, a being who exists before he can be defined by any concept, and… this being is man.” The practical consequence of this atheism was described by Sartre as meaning that there are no a priori rules or absolute values that can be invoked to govern human conduct, and that humans are “condemned” to invent these for themselves, making “man” absolutely “responsible for everything he does”.

Sociologist Phil Zuckerman analyzed previous social science research on secularity and non-belief, and concluded that societal well-being is positively correlated with irreligion. He found that there are much lower concentrations of atheism and secularity in poorer, less developed nations (particularly in Africa and South America) than in the richer industrialized democracies.[92][93] His findings relating specifically to atheism in the US were that compared to religious people in the US, “atheists and secular people” are less nationalistic, prejudiced, antisemitic, racist, dogmatic, ethnocentric, closed-minded, and authoritarian, and in US states with the highest percentages of atheists, the murder rate is lower than average. In the most religious states, the murder rate is higher than average.[94][95]

People who self-identify as atheists are often assumed to be irreligious, but some sects within major religions reject the existence of a personal, creator deity.[97] In recent years, certain religious denominations have accumulated a number of openly atheistic followers, such as atheistic or humanistic Judaism[98][99] and Christian atheists.[100][101][102]

The strictest sense of positive atheism does not entail any specific beliefs outside of disbelief in any deity; as such, atheists can hold any number of spiritual beliefs. For the same reason, atheists can hold a wide variety of ethical beliefs, ranging from the moral universalism of humanism, which holds that a moral code should be applied consistently to all humans, to moral nihilism, which holds that morality is meaningless.[103] Atheism is accepted as a valid philosophical position within some varieties of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism.[104]

Philosophers such as Slavoj iek,[105] Alain de Botton,[106] and Alexander Bard and Jan Sderqvist,[107] have all argued that atheists should reclaim religion as an act of defiance against theism, precisely not to leave religion as an unwarranted monopoly to theists.

According to Plato’s Euthyphro dilemma, the role of the gods in determining right from wrong is either unnecessary or arbitrary. The argument that morality must be derived from God, and cannot exist without a wise creator, has been a persistent feature of political if not so much philosophical debate.[108][109][110] Moral precepts such as “murder is wrong” are seen as divine laws, requiring a divine lawmaker and judge. However, many atheists argue that treating morality legalistically involves a false analogy, and that morality does not depend on a lawmaker in the same way that laws do.[111] Friedrich Nietzsche believed in a morality independent of theistic belief, and stated that morality based upon God “has truth only if God is truthit stands or falls with faith in God.”[112][113][114]

There exist normative ethical systems that do not require principles and rules to be given by a deity. Some include virtue ethics, social contract, Kantian ethics, utilitarianism, and Objectivism. Sam Harris has proposed that moral prescription (ethical rule making) is not just an issue to be explored by philosophy, but that we can meaningfully practice a science of morality. Any such scientific system must, nevertheless, respond to the criticism embodied in the naturalistic fallacy.[115]

Philosophers Susan Neiman[116] and Julian Baggini[117] (among others) assert that behaving ethically only because of divine mandate is not true ethical behavior but merely blind obedience. Baggini argues that atheism is a superior basis for ethics, claiming that a moral basis external to religious imperatives is necessary to evaluate the morality of the imperatives themselvesto be able to discern, for example, that “thou shalt steal” is immoral even if one’s religion instructs itand that atheists, therefore, have the advantage of being more inclined to make such evaluations.[118] The contemporary British political philosopher Martin Cohen has offered the more historically telling example of Biblical injunctions in favor of torture and slavery as evidence of how religious injunctions follow political and social customs, rather than vice versa, but also noted that the same tendency seems to be true of supposedly dispassionate and objective philosophers.[119] Cohen extends this argument in more detail in Political Philosophy from Plato to Mao, where he argues that the Qur’an played a role in perpetuating social codes from the early 7th century despite changes in secular society.[120]

Some prominent atheistsmost recently Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins, and following such thinkers as Bertrand Russell, Robert G. Ingersoll, Voltaire, and novelist Jos Saramagohave criticized religions, citing harmful aspects of religious practices and doctrines.[121]

The 19th-century German political theorist and sociologist Karl Marx called religion “the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people”. He goes on to say, “The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.”[122] Lenin said that “every religious idea and every idea of God is unutterable vileness… of the most dangerous kind, ‘contagion’ of the most abominable kind. Millions of sins, filthy deeds, acts of violence and physical contagions… are far less dangerous than the subtle, spiritual idea of God decked out in the smartest ideological constumes…”[123]

Sam Harris criticizes Western religion’s reliance on divine authority as lending itself to authoritarianism and dogmatism. There is a correlation between religious fundamentalism and extrinsic religion (when religion is held because it serves ulterior interests)[125] and authoritarianism, dogmatism, and prejudice.[126] These argumentscombined with historical events that are argued to demonstrate the dangers of religion, such as the Crusades, inquisitions, witch trials, and terrorist attackshave been used in response to claims of beneficial effects of belief in religion.[127] Believers counter-argue that some regimes that espouse atheism, such as the Soviet Union, have also been guilty of mass murder.[128][129] In response to those claims, atheists such as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins have stated that Stalin’s atrocities were influenced not by atheism but by dogmatic Marxism, and that while Stalin and Mao happened to be atheists, they did not do their deeds in the name of atheism.[131]

In early ancient Greek, the adjective theos (, from the privative – + “god”) meant “godless”. It was first used as a term of censure roughly meaning “ungodly” or “impious”. In the 5th century BCE, the word began to indicate more deliberate and active godlessness in the sense of “severing relations with the gods” or “denying the gods”. The term (asebs) then came to be applied against those who impiously denied or disrespected the local gods, even if they believed in other gods. Modern translations of classical texts sometimes render theos as “atheistic”. As an abstract noun, there was also (atheots), “atheism”. Cicero transliterated the Greek word into the Latin theos. The term found frequent use in the debate between early Christians and Hellenists, with each side attributing it, in the pejorative sense, to the other.[13]

The term atheist (from Fr. athe), in the sense of “one who… denies the existence of God or gods”,[133] predates atheism in English, being first found as early as 1566,[134] and again in 1571.[135] Atheist as a label of practical godlessness was used at least as early as 1577.[136] The term atheism was derived from the French athisme,[137] and appears in English about 1587.[138] An earlier work, from about 1534, used the term atheonism.[139][140] Related words emerged later: deist in 1621,[141] theist in 1662,[142] deism in 1675,[143] and theism in 1678.[144] At that time “deist” and “deism” already carried their modern meaning. The term theism came to be contrasted with deism.

Karen Armstrong writes that “During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the word ‘atheist’ was still reserved exclusively for polemic… The term ‘atheist’ was an insult. Nobody would have dreamed of calling himself an atheist.”

Atheism was first used to describe a self-avowed belief in late 18th-century Europe, specifically denoting disbelief in the monotheistic Abrahamic god.[145] In the 20th century, globalization contributed to the expansion of the term to refer to disbelief in all deities, though it remains common in Western society to describe atheism as simply “disbelief in God”.

While the earliest-found usage of the term atheism is in 16th-century France,[137][138] ideas that would be recognized today as atheistic are documented from the Vedic period and the classical antiquity.

Atheistic schools are found in early Indian thought and have existed from the times of the historical Vedic religion.[146] Among the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy, Samkhya, the oldest philosophical school of thought, does not accept God, and the early Mimamsa also rejected the notion of God.[147] The thoroughly materialistic and anti-theistic philosophical Crvka (or Lokyata) school that originated in India around the 6th century BCE is probably the most explicitly atheistic school of philosophy in India, similar to the Greek Cyrenaic school. This branch of Indian philosophy is classified as heterodox due to its rejection of the authority of Vedas and hence is not considered part of the six orthodox schools of Hinduism, but it is noteworthy as evidence of a materialistic movement within Hinduism.[148] Chatterjee and Datta explain that our understanding of Crvka philosophy is fragmentary, based largely on criticism of the ideas by other schools, and that it is not a living tradition:

“Though materialism in some form or other has always been present in India, and occasional references are found in the Vedas, the Buddhistic literature, the Epics, as well as in the later philosophical works we do not find any systematic work on materialism, nor any organized school of followers as the other philosophical schools possess. But almost every work of the other schools states, for refutation, the materialistic views. Our knowledge of Indian materialism is chiefly based on these.”[149]

Other Indian philosophies generally regarded as atheistic include Classical Samkhya and Purva Mimamsa. The rejection of a personal creator God is also seen in Jainism and Buddhism in India.[150]

Western atheism has its roots in pre-Socratic Greek philosophy,[153][154] but atheism in the modern sense was nonexistent or extremely rare in ancient Greece.[155][156][154] Pre-Socratic Atomists such as Democritus attempted to explain the world in a purely materialistic way and interpreted religion as a human reaction to natural phenomena,[151] but did not explicitly deny the gods’ existence.[151] In the late fifth century BCE, the Greek lyric poet Diagoras of Melos was sentenced to death in Athens under the charge of being a “godless person” () after he made fun of the Eleusinian Mysteries,[155][156][151] but he fled the city to escape punishment.[155][156][151] Later writers have cited Diagoras as the “first atheist”,[157][158] but he was probably not an atheist in the modern sense of the word.[156]

A fragment from the lost satyr play Sisyphus, which has been attributed to both Critias and Euripides, claims that a clever man invented “the fear of the gods” in order to frighten people into behaving morally.[159][156][160][156][154] This statement, however, originally did not mean that the gods themselves were nonexistent, but rather that their powers were a hoax.[154] Atheistic statements have also been attributed to the philosopher Prodicus. Philodemus reports that Prodicus believed that “the gods of popular belief do not exist nor do they know, but primitive man, [out of admiration, deified] the fruits of the earth and virtually everything that contributed to his existence”. Protagoras has sometimes been taken to be an atheist, but rather espoused agnostic views, commenting that “Concerning the gods I am unable to discover whether they exist or not, or what they are like in form; for there are many hindrances to knowledge, the obscurity of the subject and the brevity of human life.”[161][155]

The Athenian public associated Socrates (c. 470399 BCE) with the trends in pre-Socratic philosophy towards naturalistic inquiry and the rejection of divine explanations for phenomena.[151][152] Aristophanes’ comic play The Clouds (performed 423 BCE) portrays Socrates as teaching his students that the traditional Greek deities do not exist.[151][152] Socrates was later tried and executed under the charge of not believing in the gods of the state and instead worshipping foreign gods.[151][152] Socrates himself vehemently denied the charges of atheism at his trial[151][152][162] and all the surviving sources about him indicate that he was a very devout man, who prayed to the rising sun and believed that the oracle at Delphi spoke the word of Apollo.[151] Euhemerus (c. 300 BCE) published his view that the gods were only the deified rulers, conquerors and founders of the past, and that their cults and religions were in essence the continuation of vanished kingdoms and earlier political structures.[163] Although not strictly an atheist, Euhemerus was later criticized for having “spread atheism over the whole inhabited earth by obliterating the gods”.[164]

The most important Greek thinker in the development of atheism was Epicurus (c. 300 BCE).[154] Drawing on the ideas of Democritus and the Atomists, he espoused a materialistic philosophy according to which the universe was governed by the laws of chance without the need for divine intervention (see scientific determinism).[165] Although Epicurus still maintained that the gods existed,[154][165] he believed that they were uninterested in human affairs.[165] The aim of the Epicureans was to attain ataraxia (“peace of mind”) and one important way of doing this was by exposing fear of divine wrath as irrational. The Epicureans also denied the existence of an afterlife and the need to fear divine punishment after death.[165] In the 3rd-century BCE, the Greek philosophers Theodorus Cyrenaicus[158][166] and Strato of Lampsacus[167] did not believe in the existence of gods. The Roman philosopher Sextus Empiricus held that one should suspend judgment about virtually all beliefsa form of skepticism known as Pyrrhonismthat nothing was inherently evil, and that ataraxia is attainable by withholding one’s judgment. His relatively large volume of surviving works had a lasting influence on later philosophers.[168]

The meaning of “atheist” changed over the course of classical antiquity.[156] Early Christians were widely reviled as “atheists” because they did not believe in the existence of the Graeco-Roman deities.[169][pageneeded][156][170][171] During the Roman Empire, Christians were executed for their rejection of the Roman gods in general and Emperor-worship in particular.[171][172] When Christianity became the state religion of Rome under Theodosius I in 381, heresy became a punishable offense.[172]

During the Early Middle Ages, the Islamic world experienced a Golden Age. Along with advances in science and philosophy, Arab and Persian lands produced outspoken rationalists and atheists, including Muhammad al Warraq (fl. 9th century), Ibn al-Rawandi (827911), Al-Razi (854925), and Al-Maarri (9731058). Al-Ma’arri wrote and taught that religion itself was a “fable invented by the ancients”[173] and that humans were “of two sorts: those with brains, but no religion, and those with religion, but no brains.”[174] Despite their being relatively prolific writers, little of their work survives, mainly being preserved through quotations and excerpts in later works by Muslim apologists attempting to refute them.[175] Other prominent Golden Age scholars have been associated with rationalist thought and atheism as well, although the current intellectual atmosphere in the Islamic world, and the scant evidence that survives from the era, make this point a contentious one today.

In Europe, the espousal of atheistic views was rare during the Early Middle Ages and Middle Ages (see Medieval Inquisition); metaphysics and theology were the dominant interests pertaining to religion.[176] There were, however, movements within this period that furthered heterodox conceptions of the Christian god, including differing views of the nature, transcendence, and knowability of God. Individuals and groups such as Johannes Scotus Eriugena, David of Dinant, Amalric of Bena, and the Brethren of the Free Spirit maintained Christian viewpoints with pantheistic tendencies. Nicholas of Cusa held to a form of fideism he called docta ignorantia (“learned ignorance”), asserting that God is beyond human categorization, and thus our knowledge of him is limited to conjecture. William of Ockham inspired anti-metaphysical tendencies with his nominalistic limitation of human knowledge to singular objects, and asserted that the divine essence could not be intuitively or rationally apprehended by human intellect. Followers of Ockham, such as John of Mirecourt and Nicholas of Autrecourt furthered this view. The resulting division between faith and reason influenced later radical and reformist theologians such as John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, and Martin Luther.[176]

The Renaissance did much to expand the scope of free thought and skeptical inquiry. Individuals such as Leonardo da Vinci sought experimentation as a means of explanation, and opposed arguments from religious authority. Other critics of religion and the Church during this time included Niccol Machiavelli, Bonaventure des Priers, Michel de Montaigne, and Franois Rabelais.[168]

Historian Geoffrey Blainey wrote that the Reformation had paved the way for atheists by attacking the authority of the Catholic Church, which in turn “quietly inspired other thinkers to attack the authority of the new Protestant churches”.[177] Deism gained influence in France, Prussia, and England. The philosopher Baruch Spinoza was “probably the first well known ‘semi-atheist’ to announce himself in a Christian land in the modern era”, according to Blainey. Spinoza believed that natural laws explained the workings of the universe. In 1661 he published his Short Treatise on God.[178]

Criticism of Christianity became increasingly frequent in the 17th and 18th centuries, especially in France and England, where there appears to have been a religious malaise, according to contemporary sources. Some Protestant thinkers, such as Thomas Hobbes, espoused a materialist philosophy and skepticism toward supernatural occurrences, while Spinoza rejected divine providence in favor of a panentheistic naturalism. By the late 17th century, deism came to be openly espoused by intellectuals such as John Toland who coined the term “pantheist”.[179]

The first known explicit atheist was the German critic of religion Matthias Knutzen in his three writings of 1674.[180] He was followed by two other explicit atheist writers, the Polish ex-Jesuit philosopher Kazimierz yszczyski and in the 1720s by the French priest Jean Meslier.[181] In the course of the 18th century, other openly atheistic thinkers followed, such as Baron d’Holbach, Jacques-Andr Naigeon, and other French materialists.[182] John Locke in contrast, though an advocate of tolerance, urged authorities not to tolerate atheism, believing that the denial of God’s existence would undermine the social order and lead to chaos.[183]

The philosopher David Hume developed a skeptical epistemology grounded in empiricism, and Immanuel Kant’s philosophy has strongly questioned the very possibility of a metaphysical knowledge. Both philosophers undermined the metaphysical basis of natural theology and criticized classical arguments for the existence of God.

Blainey notes that, although Voltaire is widely considered to have strongly contributed to atheistic thinking during the Revolution, he also considered fear of God to have discouraged further disorder, having said “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”[184] In Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), the philosopher Edmund Burke denounced atheism, writing of a “literary cabal” who had “some years ago formed something like a regular plan for the destruction of the Christian religion. This object they pursued with a degree of zeal which hitherto had been discovered only in the propagators of some system of piety… These atheistical fathers have a bigotry of their own…”. But, Burke asserted, “man is by his constitution a religious animal” and “atheism is against, not only our reason, but our instincts; and… it cannot prevail long”.[185]

Baron d’Holbach was a prominent figure in the French Enlightenment who is best known for his atheism and for his voluminous writings against religion, the most famous of them being The System of Nature (1770) but also Christianity Unveiled. One goal of the French Revolution was a restructuring and subordination of the clergy with respect to the state through the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Attempts to enforce it led to anti-clerical violence and the expulsion of many clergy from France, lasting until the Thermidorian Reaction. The radical Jacobins seized power in 1793, ushering in the Reign of Terror. The Jacobins were deists and introduced the Cult of the Supreme Being as a new French state religion. Some atheists surrounding Jacques Hbert instead sought to establish a Cult of Reason, a form of atheistic pseudo-religion with a goddess personifying reason. The Napoleonic era further institutionalized the secularization of French society.

In the latter half of the 19th century, atheism rose to prominence under the influence of rationalistic and freethinking philosophers. Many prominent German philosophers of this era denied the existence of deities and were critical of religion, including Ludwig Feuerbach, Arthur Schopenhauer, Max Stirner, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Nietzsche.[186]

George Holyoake was the last person (1842) imprisoned in Great Britain due to atheist beliefs. Law notes that he may have also been the first imprisoned on such a charge. Stephen Law states that Holyoake “first coined the term ‘secularism'”.[187][188]

Atheism, particularly in the form of practical atheism, advanced in many societies in the 20th century. Atheistic thought found recognition in a wide variety of other, broader philosophies, such as existentialism, objectivism, secular humanism, nihilism, anarchism, logical positivism, Marxism, feminism,[189] and the general scientific and rationalist movement.

In addition, state atheism emerged in Eastern Europe and Asia during that period, particularly in the Soviet Union under Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin, and in Communist China under Mao Zedong. Atheist and anti-religious policies in the Soviet Union included numerous legislative acts, the outlawing of religious instruction in the schools, and the emergence of the League of Militant Atheists.[190][191] After Mao, the Chinese Communist Party remains an atheist organization, and regulates, but does not forbid, the practice of religion in mainland China.[192][193][194]

While Geoffrey Blainey has written that “the most ruthless leaders in the Second World War were atheists and secularists who were intensely hostile to both Judaism and Christianity”,[195] Richard Madsen has pointed out that Hitler and Stalin each opened and closed churches as a matter of political expedience, and Stalin softened his opposition to Christianity in order to improve public acceptance of his regime during the war.[196] Blackford and Schklenk have written that “the Soviet Union was undeniably an atheist state, and the same applies to Maoist China and Pol Pot’s fanatical Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia in the 1970s. That does not, however, show that the atrocities committed by these totalitarian dictatorships were the result of atheist beliefs, carried out in the name of atheism, or caused primarily by the atheistic aspects of the relevant forms of communism.”[197]

Logical positivism and scientism paved the way for neopositivism, analytical philosophy, structuralism, and naturalism. Neopositivism and analytical philosophy discarded classical rationalism and metaphysics in favor of strict empiricism and epistemological nominalism. Proponents such as Bertrand Russell emphatically rejected belief in God. In his early work, Ludwig Wittgenstein attempted to separate metaphysical and supernatural language from rational discourse. A. J. Ayer asserted the unverifiability and meaninglessness of religious statements, citing his adherence to the empirical sciences. Relatedly the applied structuralism of Lvi-Strauss sourced religious language to the human subconscious in denying its transcendental meaning. J. N. Findlay and J. J. C. Smart argued that the existence of God is not logically necessary. Naturalists and materialistic monists such as John Dewey considered the natural world to be the basis of everything, denying the existence of God or immortality.[58][198]

Other leaders like Periyar E. V. Ramasamy, a prominent atheist leader of India, fought against Hinduism and Brahmins for discriminating and dividing people in the name of caste and religion.[199] This was highlighted in 1956 when he arranged for the erection of a statue depicting a Hindu god in a humble representation and made antitheistic statements.[200]

Atheist Vashti McCollum was the plaintiff in a landmark 1948 Supreme Court case that struck down religious education in US public schools.[201] Madalyn Murray O’Hair was perhaps one of the most influential American atheists; she brought forth the 1963 Supreme Court case Murray v. Curlett which banned compulsory prayer in public schools.[202] In 1966, Time magazine asked “Is God Dead?”[203] in response to the Death of God theological movement, citing the estimation that nearly half of all people in the world lived under an anti-religious power, and millions more in Africa, Asia, and South America seemed to lack knowledge of the Christian view of theology.[204] The Freedom From Religion Foundation was co-founded by Anne Nicol Gaylor and her daughter, Annie Laurie Gaylor, in 1976 in the United States, and incorporated nationally in 1978. It promotes the separation of church and state.[205][206]

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the number of actively anti-religious regimes has reduced considerably. In 2006, Timothy Shah of the Pew Forum noted “a worldwide trend across all major religious groups, in which God-based and faith-based movements in general are experiencing increasing confidence and influence vis–vis secular movements and ideologies.”[207] However, Gregory S. Paul and Phil Zuckerman consider this a myth and suggest that the actual situation is much more complex and nuanced.[208]

A 2010 survey found that those identifying themselves as atheists or agnostics are on average more knowledgeable about religion than followers of major faiths. Nonbelievers scored better on questions about tenets central to Protestant and Catholic faiths. Only Mormon and Jewish faithful scored as well as atheists and agnostics.[209]

In 2012, the first “Women in Secularism” conference was held in Arlington, Virginia.[210] Secular Woman was organized in 2012 as a national organization focused on nonreligious women.[211] The atheist feminist movement has also become increasingly focused on fighting sexism and sexual harassment within the atheist movement itself.[212] In August 2012, Jennifer McCreight (the organizer of Boobquake) founded a movement within atheism known as Atheism Plus, or A+, that “applies skepticism to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, politics, poverty, and crime”.[213][214][215]

In 2013 the first atheist monument on American government property was unveiled at the Bradford County Courthouse in Florida: a 1,500-pound granite bench and plinth inscribed with quotes by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Madalyn Murray O’Hair.[216][217]

“New Atheism” is the name that has been given to a movement among some early-21st-century atheist writers who have advocated the view that “religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises.”[218] The movement is commonly associated with Sam Harris, Daniel C. Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Victor J. Stenger, Christopher Hitchens, and to some extent Ayaan Hirsi Ali.[219] Several best-selling books by these authors, published between 2004 and 2007, form the basis for much of the discussion of “New” Atheism.

In best selling books, the religiously motivated terrorist events of 9/11 and the partially successful attempts of the Discovery Institute to change the American science curriculum to include creationist ideas, together with support for those ideas from George W. Bush in 2005, have been cited by authors such as Harris, Dennett, Dawkins, Stenger, and Hitchens as evidence of a need to move toward a more secular society.[221]

It is difficult to quantify the number of atheists in the world. Respondents to religious-belief polls may define “atheism” differently or draw different distinctions between atheism, non-religious beliefs, and non-theistic religious and spiritual beliefs.[222] A Hindu atheist would declare oneself as a Hindu, although also being an atheist at the same time.[223] A 2010 survey published in Encyclopdia Britannica found that the non-religious made up about 9.6% of the world’s population, and atheists about 2.0%, with a very large majority based in Asia. This figure did not include those who follow atheistic religions, such as some Buddhists.[224] The average annual change for atheism from 2000 to 2010 was 0.17%.[224] Broad estimates of those who have an absence of belief in a god range from 500 million to 1.1 billion people worldwide.[225][226]

According to global Win-Gallup International studies, 13% of respondents were “convinced atheists” in 2012[227], 11% were “convinced atheists” in 2015[28], and in 2017, 9% were “convinced atheists”.[29] As of 2012[update], the top 10 surveyed countries with people who viewed themselves as “convinced atheists” were China (47%), Japan (31%), the Czech Republic (30%), France (29%), South Korea (15%), Germany (15%), Netherlands (14%), Austria (10%), Iceland (10%), Australia (10%), and the Republic of Ireland (10%).[228]

According to the 2010 Eurobarometer Poll, the percentage of those polled who agreed with the statement “you don’t believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force” varied from a high percentage in France (40%), Czech Republic (37%), Sweden (34%), Netherlands (30%), and Estonia (29%); medium-high percentage in Germany (27%), Belgium (27%), UK (25%); to very low in Poland (5%), Greece (4%), Cyprus (3%), Malta (2%), and Romania (1%), with the European Union as a whole at 20%.[34] In a 2012 Eurobarometer poll on discrimination in the European Union, 16% of those polled considered themselves non believers/agnostics and 7% considered themselves atheists.[230]

According to a Pew Research Center survey in 2012 religiously unaffiliated (including agnostics and atheists) make up about 18% of Europeans.[231] According to the same survey, the religiously unaffiliated are the majority of the population only in two European countries: Czech Republic (75%) and Estonia (60%).[231]

There are another four countries where the unaffiliated make up a majority of the population: North Korea (71%), Japan (57%), Hong Kong (56%), and China (52%).[231]

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 30% of Australians have “no religion”, a category that includes atheists.[232]

In a 2013 census, 41.9% of New Zealanders reported having no religion, up from 29.6% in 1991.[233] Men were more likely than women to report no religion.

According to the World Values Survey, 4.4% of Americans self-identified as atheists in 2014.[234] However, the same survey showed that 11.1% of all respondents stated “no” when asked if they believed in God.[234] In 1984, these same figures were 1.1% and 2.2%, respectively. According to a 2014 report by the Pew Research Center, 3.1% of the US adult population identify as atheist, up from 1.6% in 2007; and within the religiously unaffiliated (or “no religion”) demographic, atheists made up 13.6%.[235] According to the 2015 General Sociological Survey the number of atheists and agnostics in the US has remained relatively flat in the past 23 years since in 1991 only 2% identified as atheist and 4% identified as agnostic and in 2014 only 3% identified as atheists and 5% identified as agnostics.[236]

According the American Family Survey, 34% was found to be religiously unaffiliated in 2017 (23% ‘nothing in particular’, 6% agnostic, 5% atheist).[237][238] According to the Pew Research Center, in 2014, 22.8% of the American population does not identify with a religion, including atheists (3.1%) and agnostics (4%).[239] According to a PRRI survey, 24% of the population is unaffiliated. Atheists and agnostics combined make up about a quarter of this unaffiliated demographic.[240]

In recent years, the profile of atheism has risen substantially in the Arab world.[241] In major cities across the region, such as Cairo, atheists have been organizing in cafs and social media, despite regular crackdowns from authoritarian governments.[241] A 2012 poll by Gallup International revealed that 5% of Saudis considered themselves to be “convinced atheists.”[241] However, very few young people in the Arab world have atheists in their circle of friends or acquaintances. According to one study, less than 1% did in Morocco, Egypt, Saudia Arabia, or Jordan; only 3% to 7% in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Palestine.[242] When asked whether they have “seen or heard traces of atheism in [their] locality, community, and society” only about 3% to 8% responded yes in all the countries surveyed. The only exception was the UAE, with 51%.[242]

A study noted positive correlations between levels of education and secularism, including atheism, in America.[94] According to evolutionary psychologist Nigel Barber, atheism blossoms in places where most people feel economically secure, particularly in the social democracies of Europe, as there is less uncertainty about the future with extensive social safety nets and better health care resulting in a greater quality of life and higher life expectancy. By contrast, in underdeveloped countries, there are virtually no atheists.[243]

In a 2008 study, researchers found intelligence to be negatively related to religious belief in Europe and the United States. In a sample of 137 countries, the correlation between national IQ and disbelief in God was found to be 0.60.[244] Evolutionary psychologist Nigel Barber states that the reason atheists are more intelligent than religious people is better explained by social, environmental, and wealth factors which happen to correlate with loss of religious belief as well. He doubts that religion causes stupidity, noting that some highly intelligent people have also been religious, but he says it is plausible that higher intelligence correlates to rejection of improbable religious beliefs and that the situation between intelligence and rejection of religious beliefs is quite complex.[245]

In a 2017 study, it was shown that compared to religious individuals, atheists have higher reasoning capacities and this difference seemed to be unrelated to sociodemographic factors such as age, education and country of origin.[246]

Statistically, atheists are held in poor regard across the globe. Non-atheists, and possibly even fellow atheists, seem to implicitly view atheists as prone to exhibit immoral behaviors ranging from mass murder to not paying at a restaurant.[247][248][249] In addition, according to a 2016 Pew Research Center publication, 15% of French people, 45% of Americans, and 99% of Indonesians explicitly believe that a person must believe in God to be moral. Pew furthermore noted that, in a U.S. poll, atheists and Muslims tied for the lowest rating among the major religious demographics on a “feeling thermometer”.[250]

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Atheist Apologist: My Favorite Atheism Quotes

Here is a collection of my favorite quotes about atheism and religion. They’re in no particular order:”I would challenge anyone here to think of a question upon which we once had a scientific answer, however inadequate, but for which now the best answer is a religious one. Now, you can think of an uncountable number of questions that run the other way, where we once had a religious answer and now the authority of religion has been battered and nullified by science, and by moral progress, and by secular progress generally. And I think thats not an accident.” — Sam Harris

“Why should I allow that same God to tell me how to raise my kids, who had to drown His own?” — Robert G. Ingersoll

“If god doesn’t like the way I live, Let him tell me, not you.” — Unknown

Eskimo: “If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?” Priest: “No, not if you did not know.” Eskimo: “Then why did you tell me?” — Annie Dillard, ‘Pilgrim at Tinker Creek’

“Faith does not give you the answers, it just stops you asking the questions.” — Frater Ravus

“‘I refuse to prove that I exist,’ says God, ‘for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.'” — Douglas Adams

“A man without religon is like a fish without a bicycle” — Unknown

“Without God, life is everything.” — Rev. Ron

“When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion.” — Robert M. Pirsig

“Prayer has no place in the public schools, just like facts have no place in organized religion.” — Superintendent Chalmers, The Simpsons

“Deaths in the Bible. God – 2,270,365 not including the victims of Noah’s flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, or the many plagues, famines, fiery serpents, etc because no specific numbers were given. Satan – 10” — Unknown

“The essence of Christianity is told us in the Garden of Eden history. The fruit that was forbidden was on the tree of knowledge. The subtext is, All the suffering you have is because you wanted to find out what was going on.” — Frank Zappa

“The Christian god makes man human, then burns him when he acts like one.” — HSM

“Blasphemy is a victimless crime” — Anonymous

“Why would some all powerful being create creatures capable of reason and then demand that they act in a manner contrary to their creation?” — Josh Charles

“I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.” — Richard Dawkins

“Do I think Im going to paradise? Of course not; I wouldnt go if I was asked. I dont want to live in some fucking celestial North Korea, for one thing, where all I get to do is praise the Dear Leader from dawn till dusk. I dont want this; it would be hell for me.” — Christopher Hitchens

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God? — Epicurus

“It is, I think, an error to believe that there is any need of religion to make life seem worth living.” – Sinclair Lewis

“I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” — Stephen Henry Roberts

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” — Blaise Pascal

“Blind faith is an ironic gift to return to the Creator of human intelligence.” — Anonymous

“If God wants us to do a thing he should make his wishes sufficiently clear. Sensible people will wait till he has done this before paying much attention to him.” — Samuel Butler

“I cannot believe in a God who has neither humor nor common sense.” — W. Somerset Maugham

“Question: How do you know you’re God?Answer: Simple. When I pray to him, I find I’m talking to myself.” — Peter O’Toole

“Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects?” — James Madison

“The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.” — George Bernard Shaw

“Gullibility and credulity are considered undesireable qualities in every department of human life — except religion … Why are we praised by godly men for surrendering our ‘godly gift’ of reason when we cross their mental thresholds?” — Christopher Hitchens

“If this is your God, he’s not very impressive. He has so many psychological problems; he’s so insecure. He demands worship every seven days. He goes out and creates faulty humans and then blames them for his own mistakes. He’s a pretty poor excuse for a Supreme Being.” — Gene Roddenberry

“Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nation, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have.” — James Baldwin

“I would believe any religion that could prove it had existed since the beginning of the world. But when I see Socrates, Plato, Moses, and Mohammed I do not think there is such a one. All religions owe their origin to man.” — Napoleon Bonaparte

“The existence of a world without God seems to me less absurd than the presence of a God, existing in all of his perfection, creating imperfect man in order to make him run the risk of Hell.” — Armand Salacrou

“It is an insult to God to believe in God. For on the one hand it is to suppose that he has perpetrated acts of incalculable cruelty. On the other, it is to suppose that he has perversely given his human creatures an instrument — their intellect — which must inevitably lead them, if they are dispassionate and honest, to deny his existence. It is tempting to conclude that if he exists, it is the atheists and agnostics that he loves best, among those with any pretensions to education. For they are the ones who have taken him most seriously.” — Galen Strawson

“The Way to see by Faith is to shut the Eye of Reason.” — Benjamin Franklin

“Once miracles are admitted, every scientific explanation is out of the question.” — Johannes Kepler

“None of the miracles with which ancient histories are filled, occurred under scientific conditions. Observation never once contradicted, teaches us that miracles occur only in periods and countries in which they are believed in and before persons disposed to believe in them.” — Ernest Renan

“Religion is an illusion and it derives its strength from its readiness to fit in with our instinctual wishful impulses.” — Sigmund Freud

“Only the atheist realizes how morally objectionable it is for survivors of a catastrophe to believe themselves spared by a loving God while this same God drowned infants in their cribs.” — Sam Harris

“If he is infinitely good, what reason should we have to fear him? If he is infinitely wise, why should we have doubts concerning our future? If he knows all, why warn him of our needs and fatigue him with our prayers? If he is everywhere, why erect temples to him?” — Percy Bysshe Shelley

“Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?” — Douglas Adams

“Why should I fear death? If I am, death is not. If death is, I am not. Why should I fear that which cannot exist when I do?” — Epicurus

“Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned.” — Anonymous

“You believe in a book which has talking animals, wizards, witches, demons, sticks turning into snakes, food falling from the sky, people walking on water, and all sorts of magical, absurd, and primitive stories; and you say that I am the one who is mentally ill?” — Dan Barker

“The continually progressive change to which the meaning of words is subject, the want of a universal language which renders translation necessary, the errors to which translations are again subject, the mistakes of copyists and printers, together with the possibility of willful alteration, are themselves evidences that human language, whether in speech or print, cannot be the vehicle of the Word of God.” — Thomas Paine

“As to the book called the Bible, it is blasphemy to call it the word of God. It is a book of lies and contradictions, and a history of bad times and bad men. There are but a few good characters in the whole book.” — Thomas Paine

“One’s convictions should be proportional to one’s evidence.” — Sam Harris

“Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day; give him a religion, and he’ll starve to death while praying for a fish.” — Anonymous

“A faith which cannot survive collision with the truth is not worth many regrets.” — Arthur C. Clarke

“The religion of one age is the literary entertainment of the next.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer.” — Anonymous

“Wherever morality is based on theology, wherever the right is made dependent on divine authority, the most immoral, unjust, infamous things can be justified and established.” — Ludwig Feuerbach

“I cannot see why we should expect an infinite God to do better in another world than he does in this.” — Robert G. Ingersoll

Is your favorite quote missing from here? E-mail it to atheistapologist@gmail.com and I’ll add it!

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Atheist Apologist: My Favorite Atheism Quotes

Atheism – creation.com

by Ken Ammi

For many other articles on this topic, see Atheism, agnosticism and humanism: godless religionsQuestions and Answers

References

There is confusion and debate about the term atheism and its definition.

The term atheism finds its etymology in the Greek combination of a and theos. What atheos means is, as with any term, subject to context (and perhaps personal interpretation). Note that if an atheist states, I do not believe in God, this is technically not a statement about Gods existence or lack thereof. Does atheos mean no God, without God, lack God belief or God does not exist?

Early Christians were referred to as atheists because they did not believe in the Greek or Roman gods. Yet, while they positively affirmed the non-existence of those gods they likely believed that those gods were deceptive demons whom they did believe existed (1 Corinthians 8:46).

Let us consider other Greek-derived a words:

Generally, as popularized by the New Atheist movement, atheists prefer the definition of atheism as lacking belief in god(s). Thus, by applying the term atheist to themselves, such atheists are not technically making a statement about Gods existence or lack thereof.

This definition has been popularized, at least, since Charles Bradlaugh (circa 1876). It appears to be preferred so as to escape the philosophic difficulty of proving a negativeGod does not existand in order to shift the burden of proof to the theist, since the theist is making the positive affirmation that God exists.

On a polemical note there are two things to consider:

In reference to the above mentioned term agnostic, note that Thomas Henry Huxley coined this term in 1869.1 He explained that he noted two extremes: one was the atheist who positively affirmed Gods non-existence (claiming to know that God did not exist) and the other was the theists who positively affirmed Gods existence (claiming to know that God exists). Huxley said that he did not possess enough evidence to affirm positively either position. Thus, he coined a term which he saw as a middle position, which was that of lacking knowledge to decide either way (whether such knowledge actually exists outside of his personal knowledge or may someday be discovered is another issue).

As we will see next, there are various sects of atheism. There is a vast difference between the friendly atheist next door and the activists. Generally, even the activist types who are typified by the New Atheist movement will define atheism as a mere lack of belief in God. However, it is important to note that their activism demonstrates that their atheism is anything but mere lack: it is an anti-religion, anti-faith and anti-God movement.

1.1 Variations of Atheism

Atheists may be categorized under various technical terms as well as sociopolitical and cultural ones, which may overlap depending on the individual atheists preferences:

Some atheists claim that atheism is a religion3 and others have attempted to establish secular/civic/atheistic religions which we will elucidate below.

Michael Shermer, editor of The Skeptic magazine, draws a distinction between the atheist who claims, there is no God and the non-theist who claims to have no belief in God.4

As to the sociopolitical and/or cultural terms, these abound and some are: Brights, Freethinkers, Humanists, Naturalists, Rationalists, Skeptics, Secular Humanists andMaterialists.

Some atheists squabble about terminology. For example, American Atheists webmaster wrote, Atheists are NOT secular humanists, freethinkers, rationalists or ethical culturalists Often, people who are Atheists find it useful to masquerade behind such labels5 while the Freedom from Religion Foundation, claims that, Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists.6

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By nature worship and neo-paganism I refer to the atheists tendency to replace a sense of awe of God and seeking transcendence by relating to God with seeking awe and transcendence in nature. This natural high, as it were, is not merely enjoyed but it is enjoined and said to be holier than theism.

Referring to our ability to step off the Earth and look back at ourselves, as was done in Voyager 2, Carl Sagan stated,

The very first episode of his televised series entitled Cosmos, began with Carl Sagan stating,

Presupposing a God-free reality, why atheists seek transcendent experiences remains unanswered.

Michael Shermer stated that his study of evolution was, far more enlightening and transcendent, spiritual, than anything I had experienced in seven years of being a born again Christian.8

Michael Shermer made reference to the spiritual side of science, which he referred to as sciensuality:

Michael Ruse; philosophy professor (University of Guelph), ardent evolutionist and professedly an ex-Christian who has argued for the ACLU against the balanced treatment (of creation and evolution in schools) bill in the USA, wrote:

Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religiona full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today

“As a social reformer therefore, Huxley, known in the papers as Pope Huxley, was determined to find a substitute for Christianity. Evolution, with its stress on unbroken lawwhich could be used to reflect messages of social progresswas the perfect candidate. Life is on an upwardly moving escalator

Indeed, recognizing that a good religion needs a moral message as well as a history and promise of future reward, Huxley increasingly turned from Darwin (who was not very good at providing these things) toward another English evolutionist. Herbert Spencerprolific writer and immensely popular philosopher to the massesshared Huxleys vision of evolution as a kind of metaphysics rather than a straight science

Evolution now has its mystical visionary, its Saint John of the Cross. Harvard entomologist and sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson tells us that we now have an alternative mythology to defeat traditional religion If people want to make a religion of evolution, that is their business The important point is that we should recognize when people are going beyond the strict science, moving into moral and social claims, thinking of their theory as an all-embracing world picture.10

Addressing fellow atheist Jonathan Miller, Richard Dawkins stated:

you and I probably do have feelings that may very well be akin to a kind of mystical wonder when we contemplate the stars, when we contemplate the galaxies, when we contemplate life, the sheer expanse of geological time. I experience, and I expect you experience, internal feelings which sound pretty much like um, what mystics feel, and they call it God. Ifand Ive been called a very religious person for that reasonif I am called a religious person, then my retort to that is, Well, youre playing with words, because what the vast majority of people mean by religious is something utterly different from this sort of transcendent, mystical experience [ ]

The transcendent sense the transcendent, mystic sense, that people who are both religious and non-religious in my usage of the term, is something very very different. In that sense, I probably am a religious person. You probably are a religious person. But that doesnt mean we think that there is a supernatural being that interferes with the world, that does anything, that manipulates anything, or by the way, that its worth praying to or asking forgiveness of sins from, etc. [ ]

I prefer to use words like religion, like God, in the way that the vast majority of people in the world would understand them, and to reserve a different kind of language for the feeling that we share with possibly your clergyman [ ] the sense of wonder that one gets as a scientist contemplating the cosmos, or contemplating mitochondria is actually much grander than anything that you will get by contemplating the traditional objects of religious mysticism.11 [the un-bracketed ellipses appear in the original transcript denoting Richard Dawkins halting way of speaking, the bracketed ones were added]

Richard Dawkins, in Is Science a Religion? said,

science does have some of religions virtues All the great religions have a place for awe, for ecstatic transport at the wonder and beauty of creation. And its exactly this feeling of spine-shivering, breath-catching awealmost worshipthis flooding of the chest with ecstatic wonder, that modern science can provide. And it does so beyond the wildest dreams of saints and mystics

Science can offer a vision of life and the universe which, as Ive already remarked, for humbling poetic inspiration far outclasses any of the mutually contradictory faiths and disappointingly recent traditions of the worlds religions

The universe at large couldnt possibly be anything other than indifferent to Christ, his birth, his passion, and his death I want to return now to the charge that science is just a faith. The more extreme version of that chargeand one that I often encounter as both a scientist and a rationalistis an accusation of zealotry and bigotry in scientists themselves as great as that found in religious people. Sometimes there may be a little bit of justice in this accusation; but as zealous bigots, we scientists are mere amateurs at the game. Were content to argue with those who disagree with us. We dont kill them.

Stephen S. Hall, in Darwins Rottweiler Sir Richard Dawkins: Evolutions Fiercest Champion, Far Too Fierce, said:

Einsteinian religion is a kind of spirituality which is nonsupernatural And that doesnt mean that its somehow less than supernatural religion. Quite the contrary .Einstein was adamant in rejecting all ideas of a personal god. It is something bigger, something grander, something that I believe any scientist can subscribe to, including those scientists whom I would call atheists. Einstein, in my terms, was an atheist, although Einstein of course was very fond of using the word God. When Einstein would use the word God, he was using it as a kind of figure of speech. When he said things like God is subtle but hes not malicious, or He does not play dice, or Did God have a choice in creating the universe? what he meant was things like randomness do not lie at the heart of all things. Could the universe have been any other way than the way it is? Einstein chose to use the word God to phrase such profound, deep questions. That, it seems to me, is the good part of religion which we can all subscribe to

What I cant understand is why we are expected to show respect for good scientists, even great scientists, who at the same time believe in a god who does things like listen to our prayers, forgive our sins, perform cheap miracles which go against, presumably, everything that the god of the physicist, the divine cosmologist, set up when he set up his great laws of nature. So I dont understand a scientist who says, I am a Roman Catholic or I am a Baptist

I suppose my hope would be that sciencethe best kind of science, the sort of science which approaches the best sort of religion, the Einsteinian spirituality that I was talking aboutis so inspiring, so exciting that it should be sellable to everybody

We have something far better to offer Why are we freethinking secular scientists not getting into that same marketplace and selling what weve got to sell? Because its a far better product, and all weve got to do is hone our salesmanship to the level that they are already doing it. [italics in original]

Such sentiments appear to be fulfillments of the Apostle Pauls reference to:

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2.1 Atheist religion

Let us consider the atheists from the 18th to the 21stcenturies who express desires to establish an atheistic religion. Perhaps we should begin with Jean-Jacques Rousseau (17121778), who conceived of a civil religion:

Two other notable 18th century attempts are Claude Henri de Rouvroy, Comte de Saint-Simon (17601825) who conceived of a new Christianity which would be founded upon Humanism and scientific socialism. The secular priesthood would consist of scientists, philosophers and engineers. Lastly, Auguste Comte (17981857) conceived of a religion of humanity.

Forwarding to the 21stcentury we will consider Gary Wolfs interview with Sam Harris:

Gary Wolfs interview with Daniel Dennett:

Sam Harris, Selfless Consciousness without Faith:

Sam Harris, A Contemplative Science:

ABC Radio National, Stephen Crittenden interviews Sam Harris:

Sam Harris, Science Must Destroy Religion:

Sam Harris, Rational Mysticism:

Humanist Manifesto I (1933) states,

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There may be as many reasons that people choose atheism as there are individuals who make that choice. These range from philosophy or science to emotion or rebellion and various combinations of such factors.

Prominent Argentinean hyperrealism artist, Helmut Ditsch, retells part of his upbringing:

Joe Orso, writing on the origin of beliefs, interviewed atheist Ira Glass, who said:

I find that I dont seem to have a choice over whether or not I believe in God, I simply find that I do not. Either you have faith or you dont. Either you believe or you dont.

Orso: I was once talking with a Chinese friend. She asked whether I believed in God. I told her I did. I returned the question. She said no, and I asked her why not. Her father, she explained, had told her there was no God when she was a child. She hadnt really thought about it much since then.16 [emphasis added]

Note carefully the words of Thomas Nagel (B.Phil., Oxford; Ph.D., Harvard), Professor of Philosophy and Law, University Professor, and Fiorello La Guardia Professor of Law. He specializes in Political Philosophy, Ethics, Epistemology, and Philosophy of Mind. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Fellow of the British Academy, and has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities:

Consider the following words of Isaac Asimov, one of the most prolific scientific writers of the last century:

Gary Wolf , contributing editor to Wired magazine, includes himself in the following description: we lax agnostics, we noncommittal nonbelievers, we vague deists who would be embarrassed to defend antique absurdities like the Virgin Birth or the notion that Mary rose into heaven without dying, or any other blatant myth. He wrote:

At dinner parties or over drinks, I ask people to declare themselves. Who here is an atheist? I ask. Usually, the first response is silence, accompanied by glances all around in the hope that somebody else will speak first. Then, after a moment, somebody does, almost always a man, almost always with a defiant smile and a tone of enthusiasm. He says happily, I am!

But it is the next comment that is telling. Somebody turns to him and says: You would be.

Why? Because you enjoy [irritating] people . Well, thats true.

This type of conversation takes place not in central Ohio, where I was born, or in Utah, where I was a teenager, but on the West Coast, among technical and scientific people, possibly the social group that is least likely among all Americans to be religious.13

Thus, we find various motivating factors which lead to atheism and have absolutely nothing to do with science or intellect.

Paul Vitz, Professor of Psychology at New York University, made a fascinating study of the lives of some of the most influential atheists. In his book Faith of the Fatherless: the Psychology of Atheism he concluded that these persons rejected God because they rejected their own fathers. This was due to their poor relationships with their fathers, or due to their fathers absence, or due to their rebellion against their fathers.20 Along this line of research, it would be interesting to consider the effect that the death of friends and family has had on the rejection of God. From Charles Darwin to Ted Turner the death of friends and family has played a part.

Gary Wolf noted,

The Associated Press reported on an interview with Ted Turner published in The New Yorker: 22

CNN founder Ted Turner was suicidal after the breakup of his marriage to Jane Fonda and his loss of control of Turner Broadcasting his marriage to Fonda broke up partly because of her decision to become a practicing Christian 22

Turner is a strident non-believer, having lost his faith after his sister, Mary Jane, died of a painful disease called systemic lupus erythematosus. I was taught that God was love and God was powerful, Turner said. And I couldnt understand how someone so innocent should be made or allowed to suffer so.

Tony Snow, who was the White House Press Secretary in 2006/2007, and was a Christian, died of cancer in July 2008. He wrote an essay entitled, Cancers Unexpected Blessings.23 Consider, in contrast, how a God-centered person dealt with his own impending death:

In contrast, consider the words of atheist William Provine, professor of the history of science at Cornell University:

With regards to his own cancer, a brain tumor, Provine has stated that he would shoot himself in the head if his brain tumor returned.25 Apparently, one less bio-organism is irrelevant in an absolutely materialistic world.

3.1 Natural born Atheist

Another reason for rejecting God (choosing atheism), is a willing acceptance of satanic deception.

The angel Lucifer (luminous one) fell and became Satan (adversary) due to his desire to supplant God. This was Lucifers single-minded obsession.

He not only rejected God by attempting to supplant Him, but he urged humans to do likewise. Satan urged Eve to choose against God for her own self-fulfilment:

He said to the woman, Did God actually say, You shall not eat of any tree in the garden? And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die. But the serpent said to the woman, You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. (Genesis 3:1-5 ESV).

The tactic is clear: firstly, question Gods statements, then, contradict Gods statements and, finally, urge rebellion in seeking equality with God.

This manifests in atheists as

This satanic deception appeals strongly to atheists as it bolsters two of their desired delusions: 1) absolute autonomybeing free to do as they please, and 2) the lack of ultimate accountabilitythere are no eternal consequences for doing as they please.

A subset of the question of why some people choose atheism is the atheist claim that we are all natural born atheists. In part this is incumbent upon which definition of atheism we are employing. Obviously, we are not born positively asserting Gods non-existence. Thus, the claim is that we are all born lacking a belief in God. Logically, this claim is accurate only at this point and is actually not successfully applicable beyond this point.

Atheists who make this argument claim that this argument demonstrates that man is not God-made but that God is man-made. In other words, they claim that we only believe in God because someone taught us to believe in God, often during childhood before we were able to consider the claim rationally. Yet, this claim is faulty on many levels, for example:

We are born knowing nothing at all and must be taught, and later take it upon ourselves to learn, anything and everything that we will ever know or believe, including atheism.

We are natural-born bed wetters but that does not mean that we should remain that way.

This is ultimately a form of the logically fallacious ad hominem (to the man). This fallacy occurs when what is supposed to be a counterargument attacks the person, the source of the original argument, while leaving the argument unanswered. Thus, just because belief in God is something that is taught does not discredit belief in God. It would be fallacious to claim that God does not exist because human beings invented the idea of Gods existenceGod wants us to discover His existence: you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).

Furthermore, this claim does not consider that many people came to believe in God in adulthood and having come from a completely secular (atheistic) upbringing.

Although, perhaps we could grant the claim: if atheists want to argue that atheism requires no more intellect than that which an infant can muster, why should we argue?

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Here is a video debate between an atheist and the author of this article: Morality: natural or supernatural?

Technically, ethics refers to what should be and morals to what is or; prescription and description. Atheists differ on the issue of ethics and morality; some claim that there are absolutes and some do not. As to the question of whether atheists can make absolute moral statements, this is tantamount to the first year theology student who, when asked, Do you believe in infant baptism? responded, Sure I do; Ive seen it done. Yes, atheists can make any statements about anything at allthe question is: are the statements viable?

Atheists make epistemic statements about morality but do not provide an ontological premise for ethics.26 That is to say that they can muse upon issues of morality and come to any conclusion that they please. However, these turn out to be arbitrary personal preferences that are expressed as dogmatic assertions.

Some atheists do make attempts at providing an ontological basis for ethics. These range quite widelyfrom considering the behavior of apes to Game Theory.

In the first case, it is, of course, being presupposed that we share a common evolutionary lineage with apes and that their behavior tells us something about ours. Even when such observations successfully correlate their behaviors to ours, it is merely a description. Moreover, from such correlations it is inferred that morality is part of our overall evolution. This amounts to intuition or urges which we are free to act upon or disregard.

In the second case investigators concoct games that they claim dissect human behavior. With regards to Game Theory, Benjamin Wiker notes,

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Atheism – creation.com

600+ Atheism vs. Theism Debates

matt: I just listened to the loftus-dsouza debate and as a consequence left the william lane craig should debate john loftus group at facebook. I dont know what others here think, but I have never heard such terrible debating (loftus). dinesh dsouza is the most overrated and small-minded debater in the english speaking universe, as far as im concerned. his arguments are like cardboard cutout versions of anything william craig has to say, for one thing because he makes no effort to hide his cultural and ideological bigotry. (he actually claims with a straight face that christians invented empathy as a moral good. what an asshole.) loftus comes across as a well-meaning college student trying to argue with his professor. i dont understand why theres a movement to see him embarrass himself and atheism generally by publically confronting the Terminator of christian apologetics himself. soooo disappointing!

As entirely disappointing as it is to say this, I am in complete agreement with Matt. I am unwilling, after listening to this, to cast my name in the vote for Loftus to debate Mr. Craig. Naively, I was hoping, especially after becoming aware of the fervent almost zealous nature of Loftus pursuit of Craig, that this would not only be the introduction of a worthy gun-slinging atheist debate protagonist but that if this epic showdown took place, it would have the added poetry of it being the student who is finally able to best the theistic Samurai. Like I said; Naive.

Typically, I dont criticize without visiting some of the reasons for my criticism.

1) There are several themes Loftus runs with in this debate, they continually come up ineffectively and provide nothing of real substance. He opens up with one; essentially telling everyone that Dinesh is just brainwashed. Which, although true, isnt something that couldnt be slung right back at him as we all know theists to do as they believe we dont believe because we dont want culpability moral or otherwise, so therefore, weve brainwashed ourselves into disbelief. Fortunately, Dinesh doesnt pick up this thread and engage Loftus in playing a sort of merry-go-round styled No, youre the brainwashed one.. No, you are.. No, YOU are…

2) Another theme is his constant return to Well all the sects of these religions critique each other and theyre all right, effectively eliminating religion in front of our very eyes. This is repeated quite frequently in this debate and Im sure Ill have more to say about it later.

3) I was inconceivably shocked with his statement History is all in the mind. He quickly tried to cover his tracks by following that up with something like well, thats what some philosophers of history say, anyway. His reasoning, as it could be inferred from what he said just prior to this utterance, was basically that history writers can only write from their perspective so given what may be of that perspective, they may have rationale for remaining skeptical of something that actually happened. Yikes.

4)Generally, about his opening remarks, he is just all over the place. There is no introduction of his arguments he just shifts left and talks about Quantum fluctuation rendering the singularity at the inception of our universe not likely therefore removing the beginning of the universe theory out of the Christians favor then all of a sudden he shifts right and now were talking about Jesus not delivering his scriptural message well and thereby is responsible for all the religious wars in his name then if there is God, hes to blame for the tsunamis. Loftus, the opening statement is the only time you have to not scramble about trying to address all of your antagonists remarks. You should have complete lucidity at this point in the game. Perhaps collecting your thoughts at the outset and introducing your arguments with more clarity of mind, e.g.

Ok, our first batter up on the atheist lineup is going to be the evidential argument from evil, it goes like this:1) If there is an omniscient, omnipotent, all-loving God..

Our next argument is a quick rejoinder to the First Cause argument, which is something like this:1) Everything that begins to exist..

Instead of touching briefly on all of them, narrow your selection down to a few and expound on them in greater detail leaving Dinesh to either spend a huge chunk of his time rebutting you or, should he chose not to, being able in your first rebuttal to say Hey, remember that huge argument of the problem of evil looks like Dinesh agrees with me as he apparently has no reply.

5) Loftus, at a few points in the debate calls Dinesh something which must have been new to his huge ears: Charming. Dinesh Dsouza is not charming. He is an arrogant, unsophisticated, misleading to the point of purposefully deceiving bucket of fuck. He is good at appearing to have a legit reply to atheistic arguments which are so transparently fraught with specious reasoning and argumentative fallacies that they render him ineligible to be charming.

6) Ive actually taken the trouble to transcribe the next part because I didnt think people would believe me when I said I bet I could find the worst conceivable argument for the atheistic creation-scenario. This was in response to, and was in fact introduced as such by Loftus himself as, Now, Dinesh has asked me to give an account of the creation of the universe.

even though Im not a scientist, what I do know, is that scientists all agree that there was no cosmic singularity. Now I cant do the math. Uhh, I can not do Victor Stengers math. He has done the math. Uhh, ::clears throat:: But, he says, given the laws of nature, its a 60% chance that something should have happened, something should be there, something should exist. 60%. Given the laws of nature.

Yep. Word for word. You can hear this enlightening account of our origins at the 41:28 point. Prepare to be underwhelmed.

7) Loftus closing, opens with this gem: I guess things got heated a little bit.. but, uh, its you know, it doesnt have to be but it does. Illuminating. Loftus then spends more then his first minute of his five minute closing telling everyone that the real way to learn is from the books. I must say, I would feel a bit slapped in the face as someone who Ive paid to listen to tell me I should pay, instead, to read him. Im not saying hes wrong. You can certainly learn more from a 300 page dissection of theism then what collectively amounts to 35 or 40 minutes worth of lectures, but to use that time so inefficiently is irritating. How about using that time to effectively rebut one of Dineshs arguments? Or constructing one of your own against Christianity? A task youve been flown in and paid to do. He then spends the rest of his closing telling everyone they should just be agnostic because theyre agnostic/atheistic towards every other religion so basically, just be consistent. Have you read any other religions? No? Then you should just discard yours too. we deny scientology, we deny mormons, we deny muslims Im sorry, maybe Im being unfairly critical but who the hell has ever been converted after being told that line? Who, after being made to realize that they havent given fair intellectual treatment to greek mythology, has right then and there renounced Christ for good?

Loftus and Dsouza were very generous and permitted almost another hour of questioning following there closings.

Before I submit this rather harsh review of Loftus debating skills, I have to say, as I believe Ive stated before, Why I Became An Atheist was one of the best, most helpful books I read in the atheistic/agnostic/naturalist cannon of probably 20-30 books Ive read in the past 2 or 3 years. I enjoyed it thoroughly. Notes for future thoughts and arguments poured out of me while reading that book and I recommend and cite it in my own writing quite often. So maybe my resentment is as a result of placing so much FAITH in Mr Loftus as an author that I unfairly expected too much of him as a neophyte debater.

I do, with the utmost sincerity hope, that if you are reading this Mr Loftus (as I know you frequent this site) you take some note of how this looks to your fellow nonbelievers. Were relying on you, as one of the few out there headlining debates on our behalf. You know the crowd of people at your back are of an intellectual breed and as such, we demand the highest caliber arguments be offered in our defense. You clearly display a great deal of passion for these topics and Im hoping I can count on that to have you take better care to prepare your thoughts in the future. As well as to focus your arguments and speak with more clarity and precision. Look at your former mentor. He doesnt race through his speeches. He has a calm, very collected vibe and hardly repeats the same thing in a single debate whereas, a lot of what you said, you said in almost the same wording in multiple places (i.e. the religion cancels each other out argument).

Best,J.

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600+ Atheism vs. Theism Debates

Humanism vs. Atheism | Progressive Humanism

A couple of days ago, a 21 year-old student asked me: Is it a contradiction of terms to be a Humanist but not an Atheist? I replied approximately as follows:

It depends on how you define your terms. I believe that the essence of humanism is a sense that humanity as a whole is more important than any of its subgroups. Basic to humanism is an attitude that starts with a sense of togetherness, a sympathy and a sharing, accompanied by a sense that you as an individual share responsibility for our collective future with all the rest of humanity.

If you believe there is a God specifically dedicated to the protection or care of the group you happen to belong to, whether that group is defined by religion or race or whatever, and that your god supports your group as opposed to other groups, I dont think you can properly be considered a true humanist.

If you believe that there is a God up there someplace that you can invoke to alter specific things that are going to happen, you are not a true humanist. You are in effect passing the buck to an entity whose existence is unverifiable. The humanist says, in effect, the buck stops here.

If you dont submit to either of those two beliefs, however, you can be a humanist in practice even if you choose to believe in some higher power. Some atheists might dispute this, but I believe they are being unnecessarily exclusive, and underrate the need for all of us to work together to combat the pernicious forces of the conservative religious types. Issues like the separation of church and state are very important, and non-believers need to work together with sensible believers to make sure we suffer no return to theocratic tyranny.

******To put it in technical terms, there is a great gap between theists and deists, where deists believe there is a power up there but basically we are on our own. That gap is far more important, in practical terms, than the gap in belief between deists and atheists. As long as you recognize that human destiny is made here on earth, by us humans, and that we are solely responsible for what happens, whether you believe in God (the deist approach) or dont (atheism) is a matter of choice, and an individual seriously concerned with the future of humanity can go either way. A deist with strong humanist leanings is likely to be a person that makes a positive contribution to humanity as a whole. I am a humanist who prefers not to believe in any superior power, but I welcome humanism wherever I find it. We need each other.

CSC 7/16/00

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Humanism vs. Atheism | Progressive Humanism

The Trouble With Atheism | Documentary Heaven

The Trouble with Atheism is an hour-long documentary on atheism, presented by Rod Liddle. It aired on Channel 4 in December 2006. The documentary focuses on criticizing atheism, as well as science, for its perceived similarities to religion, as well as arrogance and intolerance. The programme includes interviews with a number of prominent scientists, including atheists Richard Dawkins and Peter Atkins and Anglican priest John Polkinghorne. It also includes an interview with Ellen Johnson, the president of American Atheists.

Liddle begins the documentary by surveying common criticisms of religion, and particularly antireligious arguments based on the prevalence of religious violence. He argues that the very stupid human craving for certainty and justification, not religion, is to blame for this violence, and that atheism is becoming just as dogmatic as religion.

In order to support his thesis, Liddle presents numerous examples of actions and words by atheists which he argues are direct parallels of religious attitudes. He characterizes Atkins and Dawkins as fundamentalist atheists and evangelists.

In response to atheistic appeals to science as a superior method for understanding the world than religion, Liddle argues that science itself is akin to religion: the problem for atheists is that science may not be as far away from religion as you might imagine.

He describes Fermilab, a U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory focused on particle physics, as a temple to science, and characterizes Charles Darwins The Origin of Species as a sacred text for atheists.

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The Trouble With Atheism | Documentary Heaven

Atheism – Wikipedia

Atheism is, in the broadest sense, the absence of belief in the existence of deities.[1][2][3][4] Less broadly, atheism is the rejection of belief that any deities exist.[5][6] In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.[1][2][7][8] Atheism is contrasted with theism,[9][10] which, in its most general form, is the belief that at least one deity exists.[10][11][12]

The etymological root for the word atheism originated before the 5th century BCE from the ancient Greek (atheos), meaning “without god(s)”. In antiquity it had multiple uses as a pejorative term applied to those thought to reject the gods worshiped by the larger society,[13] those who were forsaken by the gods or those who had no commitment to belief in the gods.[14] The term denoted a social category created by orthodox religionists into which those who did not share their religious beliefs were placed.[14] The actual term atheism emerged first in the 16th century.[15] With the spread of freethought, skeptical inquiry, and subsequent increase in criticism of religion, application of the term narrowed in scope. The first individuals to identify themselves using the word atheist lived in the 18th century during the Age of Enlightenment.[15] The French Revolution, noted for its “unprecedented atheism,” witnessed the first major political movement in history to advocate for the supremacy of human reason.[17] The French Revolution can be described as the first period where atheism became implemented politically.

Arguments for atheism range from the philosophical to social and historical approaches. Rationales for not believing in deities include arguments that there is a lack of empirical evidence,[18][19] the problem of evil, the argument from inconsistent revelations, the rejection of concepts that cannot be falsified, and the argument from nonbelief.[18][20] Proponents contend that atheism is a more parsimonious position than theism and that it is the position in which everyone is born; therefore, they argue that the burden of proof lies not on the atheist to disprove the existence of God but on the theist to provide a rationale for theism.[21][1] However, others have disagreed with the view of being born into such a position.[22] Although some atheists have adopted secular philosophies (e.g. secular humanism),[23][24] there is no one ideology or set of behaviors to which all atheists adhere.[25]

Since conceptions of atheism vary, accurate estimations of current numbers of atheists are difficult.[26] Two global polls on the subject have been conducted by WIN/Gallup International: their 2015 poll featured over 64,000 respondents and indicated that 11% were “convinced atheists” whereas an earlier 2012 poll found that 13% of respondents were “convinced atheists.”[27][28] However, other researchers have advised caution with WIN/Gallup figures since other surveys which have used the same wording for decades and have a bigger sample size have consistently reached lower figures.[29] An older survey by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 2004 recorded atheists as comprising 8% of the world’s population.[30] Other older estimates have indicated that atheists comprise 2% of the world’s population, while the irreligious add a further 12%.[31] According to these polls, Europe and East Asia are the regions with the highest rates of atheism. In 2015, 61% of people in China reported that they were atheists.[32] The figures for a 2010 Eurobarometer survey in the European Union (EU) reported that 20% of the EU population claimed not to believe in “any sort of spirit, God or life force”.[33]

Writers disagree on how best to define and classify atheism,[34] contesting what supernatural entities are considered gods, whether it is a philosophic position in its own right or merely the absence of one, and whether it requires a conscious, explicit rejection. Atheism has been regarded as compatible with agnosticism,[35][36][37][38][39][40][41] and has also been contrasted with it.[42][43][44] A variety of categories have been used to distinguish the different forms of atheism.

Some of the ambiguity and controversy involved in defining atheism arises from difficulty in reaching a consensus for the definitions of words like deity and god. The plurality of wildly different conceptions of God and deities leads to differing ideas regarding atheism’s applicability. The ancient Romans accused Christians of being atheists for not worshiping the pagan deities. Gradually, this view fell into disfavor as theism came to be understood as encompassing belief in any divinity.

With respect to the range of phenomena being rejected, atheism may counter anything from the existence of a deity, to the existence of any spiritual, supernatural, or transcendental concepts, such as those of Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Taoism.[46]

Definitions of atheism also vary in the degree of consideration a person must put to the idea of gods to be considered an atheist. Atheism has sometimes been defined to include the simple absence of belief that any deities exist. This broad definition would include newborns and other people who have not been exposed to theistic ideas. As far back as 1772, Baron d’Holbach said that “All children are born Atheists; they have no idea of God.”[47] Similarly, George H. Smith (1979) suggested that: “The man who is unacquainted with theism is an atheist because he does not believe in a god. This category would also include the child with the conceptual capacity to grasp the issues involved, but who is still unaware of those issues. The fact that this child does not believe in god qualifies him as an atheist.”[48] Smith coined the term implicit atheism to refer to “the absence of theistic belief without a conscious rejection of it” and explicit atheism to refer to the more common definition of conscious disbelief. Ernest Nagel contradicts Smith’s definition of atheism as merely “absence of theism”, acknowledging only explicit atheism as true “atheism”.[22]

Philosophers such as Antony Flew[49] and Michael Martin have contrasted positive (strong/hard) atheism with negative (weak/soft) atheism. Positive atheism is the explicit affirmation that gods do not exist. Negative atheism includes all other forms of non-theism. According to this categorization, anyone who is not a theist is either a negative or a positive atheist. The terms weak and strong are relatively recent, while the terms negative and positive atheism are of older origin, having been used (in slightly different ways) in the philosophical literature[49] and in Catholic apologetics.[50] Under this demarcation of atheism, most agnostics qualify as negative atheists.

While Martin, for example, asserts that agnosticism entails negative atheism,[38] many agnostics see their view as distinct from atheism,[51][52] which they may consider no more justified than theism or requiring an equal conviction.[51] The assertion of unattainability of knowledge for or against the existence of gods is sometimes seen as an indication that atheism requires a leap of faith.[53][54] Common atheist responses to this argument include that unproven religious propositions deserve as much disbelief as all other unproven propositions,[55] and that the unprovability of a god’s existence does not imply equal probability of either possibility.[56] Australian philosopher J. J. C. Smart even argues that “sometimes a person who is really an atheist may describe herself, even passionately, as an agnostic because of unreasonable generalized philosophical skepticism which would preclude us from saying that we know anything whatever, except perhaps the truths of mathematics and formal logic.”[57] Consequently, some atheist authors such as Richard Dawkins prefer distinguishing theist, agnostic and atheist positions along a spectrum of theistic probabilitythe likelihood that each assigns to the statement “God exists”.

Before the 18th century, the existence of God was so accepted in the western world that even the possibility of true atheism was questioned. This is called theistic innatismthe notion that all people believe in God from birth; within this view was the connotation that atheists are simply in denial.[59]

There is also a position claiming that atheists are quick to believe in God in times of crisis, that atheists make deathbed conversions, or that “there are no atheists in foxholes”.[60] There have however been examples to the contrary, among them examples of literal “atheists in foxholes”.[61]

Some atheists have doubted the very need for the term “atheism”. In his book Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris wrote:

In fact, “atheism” is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a “non-astrologer” or a “non-alchemist”. We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.

Pragmatic atheism is the view one should reject a belief in a god or gods because it is unnecessary for a pragmatic life. This view is related to apatheism and practical atheism.[63]

Atheists have also argued that people cannot know a God or prove the existence of a God. The latter is called agnosticism, which takes a variety of forms. In the philosophy of immanence, divinity is inseparable from the world itself, including a person’s mind, and each person’s consciousness is locked in the subject. According to this form of agnosticism, this limitation in perspective prevents any objective inference from belief in a god to assertions of its existence. The rationalistic agnosticism of Kant and the Enlightenment only accepts knowledge deduced with human rationality; this form of atheism holds that gods are not discernible as a matter of principle, and therefore cannot be known to exist. Skepticism, based on the ideas of Hume, asserts that certainty about anything is impossible, so one can never know for sure whether or not a god exists. Hume, however, held that such unobservable metaphysical concepts should be rejected as “sophistry and illusion”.[65] The allocation of agnosticism to atheism is disputed; it can also be regarded as an independent, basic worldview.[66]

Other arguments for atheism that can be classified as epistemological or ontological, including ignosticism, assert the meaninglessness or unintelligibility of basic terms such as “God” and statements such as “God is all-powerful.” Theological noncognitivism holds that the statement “God exists” does not express a proposition, but is nonsensical or cognitively meaningless. It has been argued both ways as to whether such individuals can be classified into some form of atheism or agnosticism. Philosophers A. J. Ayer and Theodore M. Drange reject both categories, stating that both camps accept “God exists” as a proposition; they instead place noncognitivism in its own category.[67][68]

Philosopher, Zofia Zdybicka writes:

“Metaphysical atheism… includes all doctrines that hold to metaphysical monism (the homogeneity of reality). Metaphysical atheism may be either: a) absolute an explicit denial of God’s existence associated with materialistic monism (all materialistic trends, both in ancient and modern times); b) relative the implicit denial of God in all philosophies that, while they accept the existence of an absolute, conceive of the absolute as not possessing any of the attributes proper to God: transcendence, a personal character or unity. Relative atheism is associated with idealistic monism (pantheism, panentheism, deism).”[69]

Some atheists hold the view that the various conceptions of gods, such as the personal god of Christianity, are ascribed logically inconsistent qualities. Such atheists present deductive arguments against the existence of God, which assert the incompatibility between certain traits, such as perfection, creator-status, immutability, omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, omnibenevolence, transcendence, personhood (a personal being), nonphysicality, justice, and mercy.[18]

Theodicean atheists believe that the world as they experience it cannot be reconciled with the qualities commonly ascribed to God and gods by theologians. They argue that an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent God is not compatible with a world where there is evil and suffering, and where divine love is hidden from many people.[20] A similar argument is attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism.[71]

Philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach[72] and psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud have argued that God and other religious beliefs are human inventions, created to fulfill various psychological and emotional wants or needs. This is also a view of many Buddhists.[73] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, influenced by the work of Feuerbach, argued that belief in God and religion are social functions, used by those in power to oppress the working class. According to Mikhail Bakunin, “the idea of God implies the abdication of human reason and justice; it is the most decisive negation of human liberty, and necessarily ends in the enslavement of mankind, in theory and practice.” He reversed Voltaire’s famous aphorism that if God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him, writing instead that “if God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him.”[74]

Atheism is not mutually exclusive with respect to some religious and spiritual belief systems, including Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Syntheism, Ralism,[75] and Neopagan movements[76] such as Wicca.[77] stika schools in Hinduism hold atheism to be a valid path to moksha, but extremely difficult, for the atheist can not expect any help from the divine on their journey.[78] Jainism believes the universe is eternal and has no need for a creator deity, however Tirthankaras are revered that can transcend space and time [79] and have more power than the god Indra.[80] Secular Buddhism does not advocate belief in gods. Early Buddhism was atheistic as Gautama Buddha’s path involved no mention of gods. Later conceptions of Buddhism consider Buddha himself a god, suggest adherents can attain godhood, and revere Bodhisattvas[81] and Eternal Buddha.

Apophatic theology is often assessed as being a version of atheism or agnosticism, since it cannot say truly that God exists.[82] “The comparison is crude, however, for conventional atheism treats the existence of God as a predicate that can be denied (God is nonexistent), whereas negative theology denies that God has predicates”.[83] “God or the Divine is” without being able to attribute qualities about “what He is” would be the prerequisite of positive theology in negative theology that distinguishes theism from atheism. “Negative theology is a complement to, not the enemy of, positive theology”.[84]

Axiological, or constructive, atheism rejects the existence of gods in favor of a “higher absolute”, such as humanity. This form of atheism favors humanity as the absolute source of ethics and values, and permits individuals to resolve moral problems without resorting to God. Marx and Freud used this argument to convey messages of liberation, full-development, and unfettered happiness.[66] One of the most common criticisms of atheism has been to the contrary: that denying the existence of a god either leads to moral relativism and leaves one with no moral or ethical foundation,[85] or renders life meaningless and miserable.[86] Blaise Pascal argued this view in his Penses.[87]

French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre identified himself as a representative of an “atheist existentialism” concerned less with denying the existence of God than with establishing that “man needs… to find himself again and to understand that nothing can save him from himself, not even a valid proof of the existence of God.” Sartre said a corollary of his atheism was that “if God does not exist, there is at least one being in whom existence precedes essence, a being who exists before he can be defined by any concept, and… this being is man.” The practical consequence of this atheism was described by Sartre as meaning that there are no a priori rules or absolute values that can be invoked to govern human conduct, and that humans are “condemned” to invent these for themselves, making “man” absolutely “responsible for everything he does”.

Sociologist Phil Zuckerman analyzed previous social science research on secularity and non-belief, and concluded that societal well-being is positively correlated with irreligion. He found that there are much lower concentrations of atheism and secularity in poorer, less developed nations (particularly in Africa and South America) than in the richer industrialized democracies.[91][92] His findings relating specifically to atheism in the US were that compared to religious people in the US, “atheists and secular people” are less nationalistic, prejudiced, antisemitic, racist, dogmatic, ethnocentric, closed-minded, and authoritarian, and in US states with the highest percentages of atheists, the murder rate is lower than average. In the most religious states, the murder rate is higher than average.[93][94]

People who self-identify as atheists are often assumed to be irreligious, but some sects within major religions reject the existence of a personal, creator deity.[96] In recent years, certain religious denominations have accumulated a number of openly atheistic followers, such as atheistic or humanistic Judaism[97][98] and Christian atheists.[99][100][101]

The strictest sense of positive atheism does not entail any specific beliefs outside of disbelief in any deity; as such, atheists can hold any number of spiritual beliefs. For the same reason, atheists can hold a wide variety of ethical beliefs, ranging from the moral universalism of humanism, which holds that a moral code should be applied consistently to all humans, to moral nihilism, which holds that morality is meaningless.[102] Atheism is accepted as a valid philosophical position within some varieties of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism.[103]

Philosophers such as Slavoj iek,[104] Alain de Botton,[105] and Alexander Bard and Jan Sderqvist,[106] have all argued that atheists should reclaim religion as an act of defiance against theism, precisely not to leave religion as an unwarranted monopoly to theists.

According to Plato’s Euthyphro dilemma, the role of the gods in determining right from wrong is either unnecessary or arbitrary. The argument that morality must be derived from God, and cannot exist without a wise creator, has been a persistent feature of political if not so much philosophical debate.[107][108][109] Moral precepts such as “murder is wrong” are seen as divine laws, requiring a divine lawmaker and judge. However, many atheists argue that treating morality legalistically involves a false analogy, and that morality does not depend on a lawmaker in the same way that laws do.[110] Friedrich Nietzsche believed in a morality independent of theistic belief, and stated that morality based upon God “has truth only if God is truthit stands or falls with faith in God.”[111][112][113]

There exist normative ethical systems that do not require principles and rules to be given by a deity. Some include virtue ethics, social contract, Kantian ethics, utilitarianism, and Objectivism. Sam Harris has proposed that moral prescription (ethical rule making) is not just an issue to be explored by philosophy, but that we can meaningfully practice a science of morality. Any such scientific system must, nevertheless, respond to the criticism embodied in the naturalistic fallacy.[114]

Philosophers Susan Neiman[115] and Julian Baggini[116] (among others) assert that behaving ethically only because of divine mandate is not true ethical behavior but merely blind obedience. Baggini argues that atheism is a superior basis for ethics, claiming that a moral basis external to religious imperatives is necessary to evaluate the morality of the imperatives themselvesto be able to discern, for example, that “thou shalt steal” is immoral even if one’s religion instructs itand that atheists, therefore, have the advantage of being more inclined to make such evaluations.[117] The contemporary British political philosopher Martin Cohen has offered the more historically telling example of Biblical injunctions in favor of torture and slavery as evidence of how religious injunctions follow political and social customs, rather than vice versa, but also noted that the same tendency seems to be true of supposedly dispassionate and objective philosophers.[118] Cohen extends this argument in more detail in Political Philosophy from Plato to Mao, where he argues that the Qur’an played a role in perpetuating social codes from the early 7th century despite changes in secular society.[119]

Some prominent atheistsmost recently Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins, and following such thinkers as Bertrand Russell, Robert G. Ingersoll, Voltaire, and novelist Jos Saramagohave criticized religions, citing harmful aspects of religious practices and doctrines.[120]

The 19th-century German political theorist and sociologist Karl Marx called religion “the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people”. He goes on to say, “The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.”[121] Lenin said that “every religious idea and every idea of God is unutterable vileness… of the most dangerous kind, ‘contagion’ of the most abominable kind. Millions of sins, filthy deeds, acts of violence and physical contagions… are far less dangerous than the subtle, spiritual idea of God decked out in the smartest ideological constumes…”[122]

Sam Harris criticizes Western religion’s reliance on divine authority as lending itself to authoritarianism and dogmatism. There is a correlation between religious fundamentalism and extrinsic religion (when religion is held because it serves ulterior interests)[124] and authoritarianism, dogmatism, and prejudice.[125] These argumentscombined with historical events that are argued to demonstrate the dangers of religion, such as the Crusades, inquisitions, witch trials, and terrorist attackshave been used in response to claims of beneficial effects of belief in religion.[126] Believers counter-argue that some regimes that espouse atheism, such as the Soviet Union, have also been guilty of mass murder.[127][128] In response to those claims, atheists such as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins have stated that Stalin’s atrocities were influenced not by atheism but by dogmatic Marxism, and that while Stalin and Mao happened to be atheists, they did not do their deeds in the name of atheism.[130]

In early ancient Greek, the adjective theos (, from the privative – + “god”) meant “godless”. It was first used as a term of censure roughly meaning “ungodly” or “impious”. In the 5th century BCE, the word began to indicate more deliberate and active godlessness in the sense of “severing relations with the gods” or “denying the gods”. The term (asebs) then came to be applied against those who impiously denied or disrespected the local gods, even if they believed in other gods. Modern translations of classical texts sometimes render theos as “atheistic”. As an abstract noun, there was also (atheots), “atheism”. Cicero transliterated the Greek word into the Latin theos. The term found frequent use in the debate between early Christians and Hellenists, with each side attributing it, in the pejorative sense, to the other.[13]

The term atheist (from Fr. athe), in the sense of “one who… denies the existence of God or gods”,[132] predates atheism in English, being first found as early as 1566,[133] and again in 1571.[134] Atheist as a label of practical godlessness was used at least as early as 1577.[135] The term atheism was derived from the French athisme,[136] and appears in English about 1587.[137] An earlier work, from about 1534, used the term atheonism.[138][139] Related words emerged later: deist in 1621,[140] theist in 1662,[141] deism in 1675,[142] and theism in 1678.[143] At that time “deist” and “deism” already carried their modern meaning. The term theism came to be contrasted with deism.

Karen Armstrong writes that “During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the word ‘atheist’ was still reserved exclusively for polemic… The term ‘atheist’ was an insult. Nobody would have dreamed of calling himself an atheist.”

Atheism was first used to describe a self-avowed belief in late 18th-century Europe, specifically denoting disbelief in the monotheistic Abrahamic god.[144] In the 20th century, globalization contributed to the expansion of the term to refer to disbelief in all deities, though it remains common in Western society to describe atheism as simply “disbelief in God”.

While the earliest-found usage of the term atheism is in 16th-century France,[136][137] ideas that would be recognized today as atheistic are documented from the Vedic period and the classical antiquity.

Atheistic schools are found in early Indian thought and have existed from the times of the historical Vedic religion.[145] Among the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy, Samkhya, the oldest philosophical school of thought, does not accept God, and the early Mimamsa also rejected the notion of God.[146] The thoroughly materialistic and anti-theistic philosophical Crvka (or Lokyata) school that originated in India around the 6th century BCE is probably the most explicitly atheistic school of philosophy in India, similar to the Greek Cyrenaic school. This branch of Indian philosophy is classified as heterodox due to its rejection of the authority of Vedas and hence is not considered part of the six orthodox schools of Hinduism, but it is noteworthy as evidence of a materialistic movement within Hinduism.[147] Chatterjee and Datta explain that our understanding of Crvka philosophy is fragmentary, based largely on criticism of the ideas by other schools, and that it is not a living tradition:

“Though materialism in some form or other has always been present in India, and occasional references are found in the Vedas, the Buddhistic literature, the Epics, as well as in the later philosophical works we do not find any systematic work on materialism, nor any organized school of followers as the other philosophical schools possess. But almost every work of the other schools states, for refutation, the materialistic views. Our knowledge of Indian materialism is chiefly based on these.”[148]

Other Indian philosophies generally regarded as atheistic include Classical Samkhya and Purva Mimamsa. The rejection of a personal creator God is also seen in Jainism and Buddhism in India.[149]

Western atheism has its roots in pre-Socratic Greek philosophy,[152][153] but atheism in the modern sense was nonexistent or extremely rare in ancient Greece.[154][155][153] Pre-Socratic Atomists such as Democritus attempted to explain the world in a purely materialistic way and interpreted religion as a human reaction to natural phenomena,[150] but did not explicitly deny the gods’ existence.[150] In the late fifth century BCE, the Greek lyric poet Diagoras of Melos was sentenced to death in Athens under the charge of being a “godless person” () after he made fun of the Eleusinian Mysteries,[154][155][150] but he fled the city to escape punishment.[154][155][150] Later writers have cited Diagoras as the “first atheist”,[156][157] but he was probably not an atheist in the modern sense of the word.[155]

A fragment from the lost satyr play Sisyphus, which has been attributed to both Critias and Euripides, claims that a clever man invented “the fear of the gods” in order to frighten people into behaving morally.[158][155][159][155][153] This statement, however, originally did not mean that the gods themselves were nonexistent, but rather that their powers were a hoax.[153] Atheistic statements have also been attributed to the philosopher Prodicus. Philodemus reports that Prodicus believed that “the gods of popular belief do not exist nor do they know, but primitive man, [out of admiration, deified] the fruits of the earth and virtually everything that contributed to his existence”. Protagoras has sometimes been taken to be an atheist, but rather espoused agnostic views, commenting that “Concerning the gods I am unable to discover whether they exist or not, or what they are like in form; for there are many hindrances to knowledge, the obscurity of the subject and the brevity of human life.”[160][154]

The Athenian public associated Socrates (c. 470399 BCE) with the trends in pre-Socratic philosophy towards naturalistic inquiry and the rejection of divine explanations for phenomena.[150][151] Aristophanes’ comic play The Clouds (performed 423 BCE) portrays Socrates as teaching his students that the traditional Greek deities do not exist.[150][151] Socrates was later tried and executed under the charge of not believing in the gods of the state and instead worshipping foreign gods.[150][151] Socrates himself vehemently denied the charges of atheism at his trial[150][151][161] and all the surviving sources about him indicate that he was a very devout man, who prayed to the rising sun and believed that the oracle at Delphi spoke the word of Apollo.[150] Euhemerus (c. 300 BCE) published his view that the gods were only the deified rulers, conquerors and founders of the past, and that their cults and religions were in essence the continuation of vanished kingdoms and earlier political structures.[162] Although not strictly an atheist, Euhemerus was later criticized for having “spread atheism over the whole inhabited earth by obliterating the gods”.[163]

The most important Greek thinker in the development of atheism was Epicurus (c. 300 BCE).[153] Drawing on the ideas of Democritus and the Atomists, he espoused a materialistic philosophy according to which the universe was governed by the laws of chance without the need for divine intervention (see scientific determinism).[164] Although Epicurus still maintained that the gods existed,[153][164] he believed that they were uninterested in human affairs.[164] The aim of the Epicureans was to attain ataraxia (“peace of mind”) and one important way of doing this was by exposing fear of divine wrath as irrational. The Epicureans also denied the existence of an afterlife and the need to fear divine punishment after death.[164] In the 3rd-century BCE, the Greek philosophers Theodorus Cyrenaicus[157][165] and Strato of Lampsacus[166] did not believe in the existence of gods. The Roman philosopher Sextus Empiricus held that one should suspend judgment about virtually all beliefsa form of skepticism known as Pyrrhonismthat nothing was inherently evil, and that ataraxia is attainable by withholding one’s judgment. His relatively large volume of surviving works had a lasting influence on later philosophers.[167]

The meaning of “atheist” changed over the course of classical antiquity.[155] Early Christians were widely reviled as “atheists” because they did not believe in the existence of the Graeco-Roman deities.[168][pageneeded][155][169][170] During the Roman Empire, Christians were executed for their rejection of the Roman gods in general and Emperor-worship in particular.[170][171] When Christianity became the state religion of Rome under Theodosius I in 381, heresy became a punishable offense.[171]

During the Early Middle Ages, the Islamic world experienced a Golden Age. Along with advances in science and philosophy, Arab and Persian lands produced outspoken rationalists and atheists, including Muhammad al Warraq (fl. 9th century), Ibn al-Rawandi (827911), Al-Razi (854925), and Al-Maarri (9731058). Al-Ma’arri wrote and taught that religion itself was a “fable invented by the ancients”[172] and that humans were “of two sorts: those with brains, but no religion, and those with religion, but no brains.”[173] Despite their being relatively prolific writers, little of their work survives, mainly being preserved through quotations and excerpts in later works by Muslim apologists attempting to refute them.[174] Other prominent Golden Age scholars have been associated with rationalist thought and atheism as well, although the current intellectual atmosphere in the Islamic world, and the scant evidence that survives from the era, make this point a contentious one today.

In Europe, the espousal of atheistic views was rare during the Early Middle Ages and Middle Ages (see Medieval Inquisition); metaphysics and theology were the dominant interests pertaining to religion.[175] There were, however, movements within this period that furthered heterodox conceptions of the Christian god, including differing views of the nature, transcendence, and knowability of God. Individuals and groups such as Johannes Scotus Eriugena, David of Dinant, Amalric of Bena, and the Brethren of the Free Spirit maintained Christian viewpoints with pantheistic tendencies. Nicholas of Cusa held to a form of fideism he called docta ignorantia (“learned ignorance”), asserting that God is beyond human categorization, and thus our knowledge of him is limited to conjecture. William of Ockham inspired anti-metaphysical tendencies with his nominalistic limitation of human knowledge to singular objects, and asserted that the divine essence could not be intuitively or rationally apprehended by human intellect. Followers of Ockham, such as John of Mirecourt and Nicholas of Autrecourt furthered this view. The resulting division between faith and reason influenced later radical and reformist theologians such as John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, and Martin Luther.[175]

The Renaissance did much to expand the scope of free thought and skeptical inquiry. Individuals such as Leonardo da Vinci sought experimentation as a means of explanation, and opposed arguments from religious authority. Other critics of religion and the Church during this time included Niccol Machiavelli, Bonaventure des Priers, Michel de Montaigne, and Franois Rabelais.[167]

Historian Geoffrey Blainey wrote that the Reformation had paved the way for atheists by attacking the authority of the Catholic Church, which in turn “quietly inspired other thinkers to attack the authority of the new Protestant churches”.[176] Deism gained influence in France, Prussia, and England. The philosopher Baruch Spinoza was “probably the first well known ‘semi-atheist’ to announce himself in a Christian land in the modern era”, according to Blainey. Spinoza believed that natural laws explained the workings of the universe. In 1661 he published his Short Treatise on God.[177]

Criticism of Christianity became increasingly frequent in the 17th and 18th centuries, especially in France and England, where there appears to have been a religious malaise, according to contemporary sources. Some Protestant thinkers, such as Thomas Hobbes, espoused a materialist philosophy and skepticism toward supernatural occurrences, while Spinoza rejected divine providence in favor of a panentheistic naturalism. By the late 17th century, deism came to be openly espoused by intellectuals such as John Toland who coined the term “pantheist”.[178]

The first known explicit atheist was the German critic of religion Matthias Knutzen in his three writings of 1674.[179] He was followed by two other explicit atheist writers, the Polish ex-Jesuit philosopher Kazimierz yszczyski and in the 1720s by the French priest Jean Meslier.[180] In the course of the 18th century, other openly atheistic thinkers followed, such as Baron d’Holbach, Jacques-Andr Naigeon, and other French materialists.[181] John Locke in contrast, though an advocate of tolerance, urged authorities not to tolerate atheism, believing that the denial of God’s existence would undermine the social order and lead to chaos.[182]

The philosopher David Hume developed a skeptical epistemology grounded in empiricism, and Immanuel Kant’s philosophy has strongly questioned the very possibility of a metaphysical knowledge. Both philosophers undermined the metaphysical basis of natural theology and criticized classical arguments for the existence of God.

Blainey notes that, although Voltaire is widely considered to have strongly contributed to atheistic thinking during the Revolution, he also considered fear of God to have discouraged further disorder, having said “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”[183] In Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), the philosopher Edmund Burke denounced atheism, writing of a “literary cabal” who had “some years ago formed something like a regular plan for the destruction of the Christian religion. This object they pursued with a degree of zeal which hitherto had been discovered only in the propagators of some system of piety… These atheistical fathers have a bigotry of their own…”. But, Burke asserted, “man is by his constitution a religious animal” and “atheism is against, not only our reason, but our instincts; and… it cannot prevail long”.[184]

Baron d’Holbach was a prominent figure in the French Enlightenment who is best known for his atheism and for his voluminous writings against religion, the most famous of them being The System of Nature (1770) but also Christianity Unveiled. One goal of the French Revolution was a restructuring and subordination of the clergy with respect to the state through the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Attempts to enforce it led to anti-clerical violence and the expulsion of many clergy from France, lasting until the Thermidorian Reaction. The radical Jacobins seized power in 1793, ushering in the Reign of Terror. The Jacobins were deists and introduced the Cult of the Supreme Being as a new French state religion. Some atheists surrounding Jacques Hbert instead sought to establish a Cult of Reason, a form of atheistic pseudo-religion with a goddess personifying reason. The Napoleonic era further institutionalized the secularization of French society.

In the latter half of the 19th century, atheism rose to prominence under the influence of rationalistic and freethinking philosophers. Many prominent German philosophers of this era denied the existence of deities and were critical of religion, including Ludwig Feuerbach, Arthur Schopenhauer, Max Stirner, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Nietzsche.[185]

George Holyoake was the last person (1842) imprisoned in Great Britain due to atheist beliefs. Law notes that he may have also been the first imprisoned on such a charge. Stephen Law states that Holyoake “first coined the term ‘secularism'”.[186][187]

Atheism, particularly in the form of practical atheism, advanced in many societies in the 20th century. Atheistic thought found recognition in a wide variety of other, broader philosophies, such as existentialism, objectivism, secular humanism, nihilism, anarchism, logical positivism, Marxism, feminism,[188] and the general scientific and rationalist movement.

In addition, state atheism emerged in Eastern Europe and Asia during that period, particularly in the Soviet Union under Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin, and in Communist China under Mao Zedong. Atheist and anti-religious policies in the Soviet Union included numerous legislative acts, the outlawing of religious instruction in the schools, and the emergence of the League of Militant Atheists.[189][190] After Mao, the Chinese Communist Party remains an atheist organization, and regulates, but does not forbid, the practice of religion in mainland China.[191][192][193]

While Geoffrey Blainey has written that “the most ruthless leaders in the Second World War were atheists and secularists who were intensely hostile to both Judaism and Christianity”,[194] Richard Madsen has pointed out that Hitler and Stalin each opened and closed churches as a matter of political expedience, and Stalin softened his opposition to Christianity in order to improve public acceptance of his regime during the war.[195] Blackford and Schklenk have written that “the Soviet Union was undeniably an atheist state, and the same applies to Maoist China and Pol Pot’s fanatical Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia in the 1970s. That does not, however, show that the atrocities committed by these totalitarian dictatorships were the result of atheist beliefs, carried out in the name of atheism, or caused primarily by the atheistic aspects of the relevant forms of communism.”[196]

Logical positivism and scientism paved the way for neopositivism, analytical philosophy, structuralism, and naturalism. Neopositivism and analytical philosophy discarded classical rationalism and metaphysics in favor of strict empiricism and epistemological nominalism. Proponents such as Bertrand Russell emphatically rejected belief in God. In his early work, Ludwig Wittgenstein attempted to separate metaphysical and supernatural language from rational discourse. A. J. Ayer asserted the unverifiability and meaninglessness of religious statements, citing his adherence to the empirical sciences. Relatedly the applied structuralism of Lvi-Strauss sourced religious language to the human subconscious in denying its transcendental meaning. J. N. Findlay and J. J. C. Smart argued that the existence of God is not logically necessary. Naturalists and materialistic monists such as John Dewey considered the natural world to be the basis of everything, denying the existence of God or immortality.[57][197]

Other leaders like Periyar E. V. Ramasamy, a prominent atheist leader of India, fought against Hinduism and Brahmins for discriminating and dividing people in the name of caste and religion.[198] This was highlighted in 1956 when he arranged for the erection of a statue depicting a Hindu god in a humble representation and made antitheistic statements.[199]

Atheist Vashti McCollum was the plaintiff in a landmark 1948 Supreme Court case that struck down religious education in US public schools.[200] Madalyn Murray O’Hair was perhaps one of the most influential American atheists; she brought forth the 1963 Supreme Court case Murray v. Curlett which banned compulsory prayer in public schools.[201] In 1966, Time magazine asked “Is God Dead?”[202] in response to the Death of God theological movement, citing the estimation that nearly half of all people in the world lived under an anti-religious power, and millions more in Africa, Asia, and South America seemed to lack knowledge of the Christian view of theology.[203] The Freedom From Religion Foundation was co-founded by Anne Nicol Gaylor and her daughter, Annie Laurie Gaylor, in 1976 in the United States, and incorporated nationally in 1978. It promotes the separation of church and state.[204][205]

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the number of actively anti-religious regimes has reduced considerably. In 2006, Timothy Shah of the Pew Forum noted “a worldwide trend across all major religious groups, in which God-based and faith-based movements in general are experiencing increasing confidence and influence vis–vis secular movements and ideologies.”[206] However, Gregory S. Paul and Phil Zuckerman consider this a myth and suggest that the actual situation is much more complex and nuanced.[207]

A 2010 survey found that those identifying themselves as atheists or agnostics are on average more knowledgeable about religion than followers of major faiths. Nonbelievers scored better on questions about tenets central to Protestant and Catholic faiths. Only Mormon and Jewish faithful scored as well as atheists and agnostics.[208]

In 2012, the first “Women in Secularism” conference was held in Arlington, Virginia.[209] Secular Woman was organized in 2012 as a national organization focused on nonreligious women.[210] The atheist feminist movement has also become increasingly focused on fighting sexism and sexual harassment within the atheist movement itself.[211] In August 2012, Jennifer McCreight (the organizer of Boobquake) founded a movement within atheism known as Atheism Plus, or A+, that “applies skepticism to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, politics, poverty, and crime”.[212][213][214]

In 2013 the first atheist monument on American government property was unveiled at the Bradford County Courthouse in Florida: a 1,500-pound granite bench and plinth inscribed with quotes by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Madalyn Murray O’Hair.[215][216]

“New Atheism” is the name that has been given to a movement among some early-21st-century atheist writers who have advocated the view that “religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises.”[217] The movement is commonly associated with Sam Harris, Daniel C. Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Victor J. Stenger, Christopher Hitchens, and to some extent Ayaan Hirsi Ali.[218] Several best-selling books by these authors, published between 2004 and 2007, form the basis for much of the discussion of “New” Atheism.

In best selling books, the religiously motivated terrorist events of 9/11 and the partially successful attempts of the Discovery Institute to change the American science curriculum to include creationist ideas, together with support for those ideas from George W. Bush in 2005, have been cited by authors such as Harris, Dennett, Dawkins, Stenger, and Hitchens as evidence of a need to move toward a more secular society.[220]

It is difficult to quantify the number of atheists in the world. Respondents to religious-belief polls may define “atheism” differently or draw different distinctions between atheism, non-religious beliefs, and non-theistic religious and spiritual beliefs.[221] A Hindu atheist would declare oneself as a Hindu, although also being an atheist at the same time.[222] A 2010 survey published in Encyclopdia Britannica found that the non-religious made up about 9.6% of the world’s population, and atheists about 2.0%, with a very large majority based in Asia. This figure did not include those who follow atheistic religions, such as some Buddhists.[223] The average annual change for atheism from 2000 to 2010 was 0.17%.[223] Broad estimates of those who have an absence of belief in a god range from 500 million to 1.1 billion people worldwide.[224][225]

According to a study of 57 countries by Gallup International, 13% of respondents were “convinced atheists” in 2012 and 11% were “convinced atheists” in 2015.[28][226] As of 2012[update], the top 10 surveyed countries with people who viewed themselves as “convinced atheists” were China (47%), Japan (31%), the Czech Republic (30%), France (29%), South Korea (15%), Germany (15%), Netherlands (14%), Austria (10%), Iceland (10%), Australia (10%), and the Republic of Ireland (10%).[227]

According to the 2010 Eurobarometer Poll, the percentage of those polled who agreed with the statement “you don’t believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force” varied from a high percentage in France (40%), Czech Republic (37%), Sweden (34%), Netherlands (30%), and Estonia (29%); medium-high percentage in Germany (27%), Belgium (27%), UK (25%); to very low in Poland (5%), Greece (4%), Cyprus (3%), Malta (2%), and Romania (1%), with the European Union as a whole at 20%.[33] In a 2012 Eurobarometer poll on discrimination in the European Union, 16% of those polled considered themselves non believers/agnostics and 7% considered themselves atheists.[229]

According to a Pew Research Center survey in 2012 religiously unaffiliated (including agnostics and atheists) make up about 18% of Europeans.[230] According to the same survey, the religiously unaffiliated are the majority of the population only in two European countries: Czech Republic (75%) and Estonia (60%).[230]

There are another four countries where the unaffiliated make up a majority of the population: North Korea (71%), Japan (57%), Hong Kong (56%), and China (52%).[230]

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 30% of Australians have “no religion”, a category that includes atheists.[231]

In a 2013 census, 41.9% of New Zealanders reported having no religion, up from 29.6% in 1991.[232] Men were more likely than women to report no religion.

According to the World Values Survey, 4.4% of Americans self-identified as atheists in 2014.[233] However, the same survey showed that 11.1% of all respondents stated “no” when asked if they believed in God.[233] In 1984, these same figures were 1.1% and 2.2%, respectively. According to a 2014 report by the Pew Research Center, 3.1% of the US adult population identify as atheist, up from 1.6% in 2007; and within the religiously unaffiliated (or “no religion”) demographic, atheists made up 13.6%.[234] According to the 2015 General Sociological Survey the number of atheists and agnostics in the US has remained relatively flat in the past 23 years since in 1991 only 2% identified as atheist and 4% identified as agnostic and in 2014 only 3% identified as atheists and 5% identified as agnostics.[235]

In an annual survey, 34% 0.9% SE was found to be religiously unaffiliated in 2017, up by 2% 1.3% SE from 2016.[236][237] This is significantly higher than the findings in the 2014 Pew survey of 22.8% 0.2% SE, and in a 2016 PRRI survey of 24%, which both indicate that the unaffiliated have been increasing by about 1.0% per year.[238] Additionally, a 2017 Pew survey finds that 45% does not consider themselves religious, even though they may often consider themselves associated with a major religion and/or “spiritual”. This was an increase by 10% with respect to five years earlier.[239] Similar findings of 40% were reported in 2012 in a Win-Gallup poll, an increase of 13% with respect to 7 years earlier.[240]

In recent years, the profile of atheism has risen substantially in the Arab world.[241] In major cities across the region, such as Cairo, atheists have been organizing in cafs and social media, despite regular crackdowns from authoritarian governments.[241] A 2012 poll by Gallup International revealed that 5% of Saudis considered themselves to be “convinced atheists.”[241] However, very few young people in the Arab world have atheists in their circle of friends or acquaintances. According to one study, less than 1% did in Morocco, Egypt, Saudia Arabia, or Jordan; only 3% to 7% in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Palestine.[242] When asked whether they have “seen or heard traces of atheism in [their] locality, community, and society” only about 3% to 8% responded yes in all the countries surveyed. The only exception was the UAE, with 51%.[242]

A study noted positive correlations between levels of education and secularism, including atheism, in America.[93] According to evolutionary psychologist Nigel Barber, atheism blossoms in places where most people feel economically secure, particularly in the social democracies of Europe, as there is less uncertainty about the future with extensive social safety nets and better health care resulting in a greater quality of life and higher life expectancy. By contrast, in underdeveloped countries, there are virtually no atheists.[243]

In a 2008 study, researchers found intelligence to be negatively related to religious belief in Europe and the United States. In a sample of 137 countries, the correlation between national IQ and disbelief in God was found to be 0.60.[244] Evolutionary psychologist Nigel Barber states that the reason atheists are more intelligent than religious people is better explained by social, environmental, and wealth factors which happen to correlate with loss of religious belief as well. He doubts that religion causes stupidity, noting that some highly intelligent people have also been religious, but he says it is plausible that higher intelligence correlates to rejection of improbable religious beliefs and that the situation between intelligence and rejection of religious beliefs is quite complex.[245]

In a 2017 study, it was shown that compared to religious individuals, atheists have higher reasoning capacities and this difference seemed to be unrelated to sociodemographic factors such as age, education and country of origin.[246]

Statistically, atheists are held in poor regard across the globe. Non-atheists, and possibly even fellow atheists, seem to implicitly view atheists as prone to exhibit immoral behaviors ranging from mass murder to not paying at a restaurant.[247][248][249] In addition, according to a 2016 Pew Research Center publication, 15% of French people, 45% of Americans, and 99% of Indonesians explicitly believe that a person must believe in God to be moral. Pew furthermore noted that, in a U.S. poll, atheists and Muslims tied for the lowest rating among the major religious demographics on a “feeling thermometer”.[250]

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