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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] Nonbelievers contend that atheism is a more parsimonious position than theism and that everyone is born without beliefs in deities;[1] therefore, they argue that the burden of proof lies not on the atheist to disprove the existence of gods but on the theist to provide a rationale for theism.[21] Although some atheists have adopted secular philosophies (e.g. secular humanism),[22][23] there is no one ideology or set of behaviors to which all atheists adhere.[24]

Since conceptions of atheism vary, accurate estimations of current numbers of atheists are difficult.[25] According to global Win-Gallup International studies, 13% of respondents were “convinced atheists” in 2012,[26] 11% were “convinced atheists” in 2015,[27] and in 2017, 9% were “convinced atheists”.[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] Implicit atheism is “the absence of theistic belief without a conscious rejection of it” and explicit atheism is the conscious rejection of belief.For the purposes of his paper on “philosophical atheism”, Ernest Nagel contested including mere absence of theistic belief as a type of atheism.[49] 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[51]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[51] and in Catholic apologetics.[52]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,[53][54]which they may consider no more justified than theism or requiring an equal conviction.[53]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.[55][56]Common atheist responses to this argument include that unproven religious propositions deserve as much disbelief as all other unproven propositions,[57]and that the unprovability of a god’s existence does not imply equal probability of either possibility.[58]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.”[59]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.[61]

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”.[62]There have however been examples to the contrary, among them examples of literal “atheists in foxholes”.[63]

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.[65]

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”.[67] The allocation of agnosticism to atheism is disputed; it can also be regarded as an independent, basic worldview.[68]

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.[69][70]

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).”[71]

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.[73]

Philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach[74]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.[75]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.”[76]

Atheism is not mutually exclusive with respect to some religious and spiritual belief systems, including Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Syntheism, Ralism,[77] and Neopagan movements[78]such as Wicca.[79]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.[80]Jainism believes the universe is eternal and has no need for a creator deity, however Tirthankaras are revered that can transcend space and time[81]and have more power than the god Indra.[82]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[83]and Eternal Buddha.

Apophatic theology is often assessed as being a version of atheism or agnosticism, since it cannot say truly that God exists.[84] “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”.[85] “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”.[86]

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.[68] 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,[87] or renders life meaningless and miserable.[88] Blaise Pascal argued this view in his Penses.[89]

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.[93][94]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.[95][96]

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.[98]In recent years, certain religious denominations have accumulated a number of openly atheistic followers, such as atheistic or humanistic Judaism[99][100]and Christian atheists.[101][102][103]

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.[104] Atheism is accepted as a valid philosophical position within some varieties of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism.[105]

Philosophers such as Slavoj iek,[106] Alain de Botton,[107] and Alexander Bard and Jan Sderqvist,[108] 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.[109][110][111]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.[112]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.”[113][114][115]

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.[116]

Philosophers Susan Neiman[117]and Julian Baggini[118](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.[119]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.[120] 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.[121]

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.[122]

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.”[123] 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…”[124]

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)[126] and authoritarianism, dogmatism, and prejudice.[127]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.[128]Believers counter-argue that some regimes that espouse atheism, such as the Soviet Union, have also been guilty of mass murder.[129][130] 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.[132]

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”,[134]predates atheism in English, being first found as early as 1566,[135]and again in 1571.[136]Atheist as a label of practical godlessness was used at least as early as 1577.[137]The term atheism was derived from the French athisme,[138] and appears in English about 1587.[139]An earlier work, from about 1534, used the term atheonism.[140][141]Related words emerged later: deist in 1621,[142]theist in 1662,[143]deism in 1675,[144]and theism in 1678.[145]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.[146]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,[138][139] 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.[147]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.[148]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.[149]

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:[150]

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.

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.[151]

Western atheism has its roots in pre-Socratic Greek philosophy,[154][155] but atheism in the modern sense was nonexistent or extremely rare in ancient Greece.[156][157][155] 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,[152] but did not explicitly deny the gods’ existence.[152] 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,[156][157][152] but he fled the city to escape punishment.[156][157][152] Later writers have cited Diagoras as the “first atheist”,[158][159] but he was probably not an atheist in the modern sense of the word.[157]

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.[160][157][161][157][155] This statement, however, originally did not mean that the gods themselves were nonexistent, but rather that their powers were a hoax.[155] 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.”[162][156]

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.[152][153] Aristophanes’ comic play The Clouds (performed 423 BCE) portrays Socrates as teaching his students that the traditional Greek deities do not exist.[152][153] Socrates was later tried and executed under the charge of not believing in the gods of the state and instead worshipping foreign gods.[152][153] Socrates himself vehemently denied the charges of atheism at his trial[152][153][163] 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.[152] 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.[164] Although not strictly an atheist, Euhemerus was later criticized for having “spread atheism over the whole inhabited earth by obliterating the gods”.[165]

The most important Greek thinker in the development of atheism was Epicurus (c. 300 BCE).[155] 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).[166] Although Epicurus still maintained that the gods existed,[167][155][166] he believed that they were uninterested in human affairs.[166] 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.[166] In the 3rd-century BCE, the Greek philosophers Theodorus Cyrenaicus[159][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.[157] Early Christians were widely reviled as “atheists” because they did not believe in the existence of the Graeco-Roman deities.[171][157][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.[59][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,[27] and in 2017, 9% were “convinced atheists”.[28] 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%.[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.[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, Saudi 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 a percentage of 51%.[244]

A study noted positive correlations between levels of education and secularism, including atheism, in America.[95] 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

Continued here:

Atheism – Wikipedia

New Atheism – Wikipedia

New Atheism is a term coined in 2006 by the agnostic journalist Gary Wolf to describe the positions promoted by some atheists of the twenty-first century.[1][2] This modern-day atheism is advanced by a group of thinkers and writers who advocate the view that superstition, religion and irrationalism should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever their influence arises in government, education, and politics.[3][4] According to Richard Ostling, Bertrand Russell, in his 1927 essay Why I Am Not a Christian, put forward similar positions as those espoused by the New Atheists, suggesting that there are no substantive differences between traditional atheism and New Atheism.[5]

New Atheism lends itself to and often overlaps with secular humanism and antitheism, particularly in its criticism of what many New Atheists regard as the indoctrination of children and the perpetuation of ideologies founded on belief in the supernatural. Some critics of the movement characterise it pejoratively as “militant atheism” or “fundamentalist atheism”.[a][6][7][8][9]

The Harvard botanist Asa Gray, a believing Christian and one of the first supporters of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, commented in 1868 that the more worldly Darwinists in England had “the English-materialistic-positivistic line of thought”.[10] Darwin’s supporter Thomas Huxley was openly skeptical, as the biographer Janet Browne describes:

Huxley was rampaging on miracles and the existence of the soul. A few months later, he was to coin the word “agnostic” to describe his own position as neither a believer nor a disbeliever, but one who considered himself free to inquire rationally into the basis of knowledge, a philosopher of pure reason […] The term fitted him well […] and it caught the attention of the other free thinking, rational doubters in Huxley’s ambit, and came to signify a particularly active form of scientific rationalism during the final decades of the 19th century. […] In his hands, agnosticism became as doctrinaire as anything else–a religion of skepticism. Huxley used it as a creed that would place him on a higher moral plane than even bishops and archbishops. All the evidence would nevertheless suggest that Huxley was sincere in his rejection of the charge of outright atheism against himself. He refused to be “a liar”. To inquire rigorously into the spiritual domain, he asserted, was a more elevated undertaking than slavishly to believe or disbelieve. “A deep sense of religion is compatible with the entire absence of theology,” he had told [Anglican clergyman] Charles Kingsley back in 1860. “Pope Huxley”, the [magazine] Spectator dubbed him. The label stuck.” Janet Browne[11]

The 2004 publication of The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris, a bestseller in the United States, was joined over the next couple years by a series of popular best-sellers by atheist authors.[12] Harris was motivated by the events of 11 September 2001, which he laid directly at the feet of Islam, while also directly criticizing Christianity and Judaism.[13] Two years later Harris followed up with Letter to a Christian Nation, which was also a severe criticism of Christianity.[14] Also in 2006, following his television documentary The Root of All Evil?, Richard Dawkins published The God Delusion, which was on the New York Times best-seller list for 51 weeks.[15]

In a 2010 column entitled “Why I Don’t Believe in the New Atheism”, Tom Flynn contends that what has been called “New Atheism” is neither a movement nor new, and that what was new was the publication of atheist material by big-name publishers, read by millions, and appearing on bestseller lists.[16]

On 6 November 2015, the New Republic published an article entitled, Is the New Atheism dead?[17] The atheist and evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson wrote, “The world appears to be tiring of the New Atheism movement..”[18] In 2017, PZ Myers who formerly considered himself a new atheist, publicly renounced the New Atheism movement.[19]

On 30 September 2007, four prominent atheists (Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett) met at Hitchens’ residence in Washington, D.C., for a private two-hour unmoderated discussion. The event was videotaped and titled “The Four Horsemen”.[21] During “The God Debate” in 2010 featuring Christopher Hitchens versus Dinesh D’Souza, the men were collectively referred to as the “Four Horsemen of the Non-Apocalypse”,[22] an allusion to the biblical Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from the Book of Revelation.[23] The four have been described disparagingly as “evangelical atheists”.[24]

Sam Harris is the author of the bestselling non-fiction books The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, The Moral Landscape, and Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion, as well as two shorter works, initially published as e-books, Free Will[25] and Lying.[26] Harris is a co-founder of the Reason Project.

Richard Dawkins is the author of The God Delusion,[27] which was preceded by a Channel 4 television documentary titled The Root of All Evil?. He is the founder of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. He wrote: “I don’t object to the horseman label, by the way. I’m less keen on ‘new atheist’: it isn’t clear to me how we differ from old atheists.”[28]

Christopher Hitchens was the author of God Is Not Great[29] and was named among the “Top 100 Public Intellectuals” by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines. In addition, Hitchens served on the advisory board of the Secular Coalition for America. In 2010 Hitchens published his memoir Hitch-22 (a nickname provided by close personal friend Salman Rushdie, whom Hitchens always supported during and following The Satanic Verses controversy).[30] Shortly after its publication, Hitchens was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, which led to his death in December 2011.[31] Before his death, Hitchens published a collection of essays and articles in his book Arguably;[32] a short edition Mortality[33] was published posthumously in 2012. These publications and numerous public appearances provided Hitchens with a platform to remain an astute atheist during his illness, even speaking specifically on the culture of deathbed conversions and condemning attempts to convert the terminally ill, which he opposed as “bad taste”.[34][35]

Daniel Dennett, author of Darwin’s Dangerous Idea,[36] Breaking the Spell[37] and many others, has also been a vocal supporter of The Clergy Project,[38] an organization that provides support for clergy in the US who no longer believe in God and cannot fully participate in their communities any longer.[39]

After the death of Hitchens, Ayaan Hirsi Ali (who attended the 2012 Global Atheist Convention, which Hitchens was scheduled to attend) was referred to as the “plus one horse-woman”, since she was originally invited to the 2007 meeting of the “Horsemen” atheists but had to cancel at the last minute.[40] Hirsi Ali was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, fleeing in 1992 to the Netherlands in order to escape an arranged marriage.[41] She became involved in Dutch politics, rejected faith, and became vocal in opposing Islamic ideology, especially concerning women, as exemplified by her books Infidel and The Caged Virgin.[42] Hirsi Ali was later involved in the production of the film Submission, for which her friend Theo Van Gogh was murdered with a death threat to Hirsi Ali pinned to his chest.[43] This event resulted in Hirsi Ali’s hiding and later immigration to the United States, where she now resides and remains a prolific critic of Islam.[44] She regularly speaks out against the treatment of women in Islamic doctrine and society[45] and is a proponent of free speech and the freedom to offend.[46][47]

Many contemporary atheists write from a scientific perspective. Unlike previous writers, many of whom thought that science was indifferent or even incapable of dealing with the “God” concept, Dawkins argues to the contrary, claiming the “God Hypothesis” is a valid scientific hypothesis,[69] having effects in the physical universe, and like any other hypothesis can be tested and falsified. The late Victor Stenger proposed that the personal Abrahamic God is a scientific hypothesis that can be tested by standard methods of science. Both Dawkins and Stenger conclude that the hypothesis fails any such tests,[70] and argue that naturalism is sufficient to explain everything we observe in the universe, from the most distant galaxies to the origin of life, the existence of different species, and the inner workings of the brain and consciousness. Nowhere, they argue, is it necessary to introduce God or the supernatural to understand reality. New Atheists reject Jesus’ divinity.[71]

Non-believers assert that many religious or supernatural claims (such as the virgin birth of Jesus and the afterlife) are scientific claims in nature. They argue, as do deists and Progressive Christians, for instance, that the issue of Jesus’ supposed parentage is not a question of “values” or “morals” but a question of scientific inquiry.[72] Rational thinkers believe science is capable of investigating at least some, if not all, supernatural claims.[73] Institutions such as the Mayo Clinic and Duke University are attempting to find empirical support for the healing power of intercessory prayer.[74] According to Stenger, these experiments have thus far found no evidence that intercessory prayer works.[75]

Stenger also argues in his book, God: The Failed Hypothesis, that a God having omniscient, omnibenevolent and omnipotent attributes, which he termed a 3O God, cannot logically exist.[76] A similar series of logical disproofs of the existence of a God with various attributes can be found in Michael Martin and Ricki Monnier’s The Impossibility of God,[77] or Theodore M. Drange’s article, “Incompatible-Properties Arguments”.[78]

Richard Dawkins has been particularly critical of the conciliatory view that science and religion are not in conflict, noting, for example, that the Abrahamic religions constantly deal in scientific matters. In a 1998 article published in Free Inquiry magazine[72] and later in his 2006 book The God Delusion, Dawkins expresses disagreement with the view advocated by Stephen Jay Gould that science and religion are two non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA), each existing in a “domain where one form of teaching holds the appropriate tools for meaningful discourse and resolution”. In Gould’s proposal, science and religion should be confined to distinct non-overlapping domains: science would be limited to the empirical realm, including theories developed to describe observations, while religion would deal with questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. Dawkins contends that NOMA does not describe empirical facts about the intersection of science and religion: “It is completely unrealistic to claim, as Gould and many others do, that religion keeps itself away from science’s turf, restricting itself to morals and values. A universe with a supernatural presence would be a fundamentally and qualitatively different kind of universe from one without. The difference is, inescapably, a scientific difference. Religions make existence claims, and this means scientific claims.”

Popularized by Sam Harris is the view that science and thereby currently unknown objective facts may instruct human morality in a globally comparable way. Harris’ book The Moral Landscape[79] and accompanying TED Talk How Science can Determine Moral Values[80] propose that human well-being and conversely suffering may be thought of as a landscape with peaks and valleys representing numerous ways to achieve extremes in human experience, and that there are objective states of well-being.

New Atheism is politically engaged in a variety of ways. These include campaigns to draw attention to the biased privileged position religion has and to reduce the influence of religion in the public sphere, attempts to promote cultural change (centering, in the United States, on the mainstream acceptance of atheism), and efforts to promote the idea of an “atheist identity”. Internal strategic divisions over these issues have also been notable, as are questions about the diversity of the movement in terms of its gender and racial balance.[81]

The theologians Jeffrey Robbins and Christopher Rodkey take issue with what they regard as “the evangelical nature of the New Atheism, which assumes that it has a Good News to share, at all cost, for the ultimate future of humanity by the conversion of as many people as possible.” They believe they have found similarities between New Atheism and evangelical Christianity and conclude that the all-consuming nature of both “encourages endless conflict without progress” between both extremities.[82]

Sociologist William Stahl said, “What is striking about the current debate is the frequency with which the New Atheists are portrayed as mirror images of religious fundamentalists.”[83]

The atheist philosopher of science Michael Ruse has made the claim that Richard Dawkins would fail “introductory” courses on the study of “philosophy or religion” (such as courses on the philosophy of religion), courses which are offered, for example, at many educational institutions such as colleges and universities around the world.[84][85] Ruse also claims that the movement of New Atheismwhich is perceived, by him, to be a “bloody disaster”makes him ashamed, as a professional philosopher of science, to be among those holding to an atheist position, particularly as New Atheism does science a “grave disservice” and does a “disservice to scholarship” at more general level.[84][85]

Paul Kurtz, editor in chief of Free Inquiry, founder of Prometheus Books, was critical of many of the new atheists.[8] He said, “I consider them atheist fundamentalists… They’re anti-religious, and they’re mean-spirited, unfortunately. Now, they’re very good atheists and very dedicated people who do not believe in God. But you have this aggressive and militant phase of atheism, and that does more damage than good”.[9]

Jonathan Sacks, author of The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning, feels the new atheists miss the target by believing the “cure for bad religion is no religion, as opposed to good religion”. He wrote:

Atheism deserves better than the new atheists whose methodology consists of criticizing religion without understanding it, quoting texts without contexts, taking exceptions as the rule, confusing folk belief with reflective theology, abusing, mocking, ridiculing, caricaturing, and demonizing religious faith and holding it responsible for the great crimes against humanity. Religion has done harm; I acknowledge that. But the cure for bad religion is good religion, not no religion, just as the cure for bad science is good science, not the abandonment of science.[86]

The philosopher Massimo Pigliucci contends that the new atheist movement overlaps with scientism, which he finds to be philosophically unsound. He writes: “What I do object to is the tendency, found among many New Atheists, to expand the definition of science to pretty much encompassing anything that deals with ‘facts’, loosely conceived…, it seems clear to me that most of the New Atheists (except for the professional philosophers among them) pontificate about philosophy very likely without having read a single professional paper in that field…. I would actually go so far as to charge many of the leaders of the New Atheism movement (and, by implication, a good number of their followers) with anti-intellectualism, one mark of which is a lack of respect for the proper significance, value, and methods of another field of intellectual endeavor.”[87]

Atheist professor Jacques Berlinerblau has criticised the New Atheists’ mocking of religion as being inimical to their goals and claims that they haven’t achieved anything politically.[88]

Excerpt from:

New 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] Nonbelievers contend that atheism is a more parsimonious position than theism and that everyone is born without beliefs in deities;[1] therefore, they argue that the burden of proof lies not on the atheist to disprove the existence of gods but on the theist to provide a rationale for theism.[21] Although some atheists have adopted secular philosophies (e.g. secular humanism),[22][23] there is no one ideology or set of behaviors to which all atheists adhere.[24]

Since conceptions of atheism vary, accurate estimations of current numbers of atheists are difficult.[25] According to global Win-Gallup International studies, 13% of respondents were “convinced atheists” in 2012,[26] 11% were “convinced atheists” in 2015,[27] and in 2017, 9% were “convinced atheists”.[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] Implicit atheism is “the absence of theistic belief without a conscious rejection of it” and explicit atheism is the conscious rejection of belief.For the purposes of his paper on “philosophical atheism”, Ernest Nagel contested including mere absence of theistic belief as a type of atheism.[49] 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[51]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[51] and in Catholic apologetics.[52]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,[53][54]which they may consider no more justified than theism or requiring an equal conviction.[53]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.[55][56]Common atheist responses to this argument include that unproven religious propositions deserve as much disbelief as all other unproven propositions,[57]and that the unprovability of a god’s existence does not imply equal probability of either possibility.[58]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.”[59]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.[61]

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”.[62]There have however been examples to the contrary, among them examples of literal “atheists in foxholes”.[63]

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.[65]

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”.[67] The allocation of agnosticism to atheism is disputed; it can also be regarded as an independent, basic worldview.[68]

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.[69][70]

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).”[71]

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.[73]

Philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach[74]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.[75]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.”[76]

Atheism is not mutually exclusive with respect to some religious and spiritual belief systems, including Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Syntheism, Ralism,[77] and Neopagan movements[78]such as Wicca.[79]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.[80]Jainism believes the universe is eternal and has no need for a creator deity, however Tirthankaras are revered that can transcend space and time[81]and have more power than the god Indra.[82]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[83]and Eternal Buddha.

Apophatic theology is often assessed as being a version of atheism or agnosticism, since it cannot say truly that God exists.[84] “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”.[85] “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”.[86]

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.[68] 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,[87] or renders life meaningless and miserable.[88] Blaise Pascal argued this view in his Penses.[89]

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.[93][94]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.[95][96]

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.[98]In recent years, certain religious denominations have accumulated a number of openly atheistic followers, such as atheistic or humanistic Judaism[99][100]and Christian atheists.[101][102][103]

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.[104] Atheism is accepted as a valid philosophical position within some varieties of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism.[105]

Philosophers such as Slavoj iek,[106] Alain de Botton,[107] and Alexander Bard and Jan Sderqvist,[108] 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.[109][110][111]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.[112]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.”[113][114][115]

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.[116]

Philosophers Susan Neiman[117]and Julian Baggini[118](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.[119]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.[120] 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.[121]

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.[122]

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.”[123] 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…”[124]

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)[126] and authoritarianism, dogmatism, and prejudice.[127]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.[128]Believers counter-argue that some regimes that espouse atheism, such as the Soviet Union, have also been guilty of mass murder.[129][130] 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.[132]

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”,[134]predates atheism in English, being first found as early as 1566,[135]and again in 1571.[136]Atheist as a label of practical godlessness was used at least as early as 1577.[137]The term atheism was derived from the French athisme,[138] and appears in English about 1587.[139]An earlier work, from about 1534, used the term atheonism.[140][141]Related words emerged later: deist in 1621,[142]theist in 1662,[143]deism in 1675,[144]and theism in 1678.[145]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.[146]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,[138][139] 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.[147]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.[148]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.[149]

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:[150]

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.

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.[151]

Western atheism has its roots in pre-Socratic Greek philosophy,[154][155] but atheism in the modern sense was nonexistent or extremely rare in ancient Greece.[156][157][155] 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,[152] but did not explicitly deny the gods’ existence.[152] 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,[156][157][152] but he fled the city to escape punishment.[156][157][152] Later writers have cited Diagoras as the “first atheist”,[158][159] but he was probably not an atheist in the modern sense of the word.[157]

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.[160][157][161][157][155] This statement, however, originally did not mean that the gods themselves were nonexistent, but rather that their powers were a hoax.[155] 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.”[162][156]

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.[152][153] Aristophanes’ comic play The Clouds (performed 423 BCE) portrays Socrates as teaching his students that the traditional Greek deities do not exist.[152][153] Socrates was later tried and executed under the charge of not believing in the gods of the state and instead worshipping foreign gods.[152][153] Socrates himself vehemently denied the charges of atheism at his trial[152][153][163] 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.[152] 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.[164] Although not strictly an atheist, Euhemerus was later criticized for having “spread atheism over the whole inhabited earth by obliterating the gods”.[165]

The most important Greek thinker in the development of atheism was Epicurus (c. 300 BCE).[155] 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).[166] Although Epicurus still maintained that the gods existed,[167][155][166] he believed that they were uninterested in human affairs.[166] 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.[166] In the 3rd-century BCE, the Greek philosophers Theodorus Cyrenaicus[159][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.[157] Early Christians were widely reviled as “atheists” because they did not believe in the existence of the Graeco-Roman deities.[171][157][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.[59][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,[27] and in 2017, 9% were “convinced atheists”.[28] 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%.[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.[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, Saudi 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 a percentage of 51%.[244]

A study noted positive correlations between levels of education and secularism, including atheism, in America.[95] 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

Originally posted here:

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 here:

Atheism – creation.com

New Atheism – Wikipedia

New Atheism is a term coined in 2006 by the agnostic journalist Gary Wolf to describe the positions promoted by some atheists of the twenty-first century.[1][2] This modern-day atheism is advanced by a group of thinkers and writers who advocate the view that superstition, religion and irrationalism should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever their influence arises in government, education, and politics.[3][4] According to Richard Ostling, Bertrand Russell, in his 1927 essay Why I Am Not a Christian, put forward similar positions as those espoused by the New Atheists, suggesting that there are no substantive differences between traditional atheism and New Atheism.[5]

New Atheism lends itself to and often overlaps with secular humanism and antitheism, particularly in its criticism of what many New Atheists regard as the indoctrination of children and the perpetuation of ideologies founded on belief in the supernatural. Some critics of the movement characterise it pejoratively as “militant atheism” or “fundamentalist atheism”.[a][6][7][8][9]

The Harvard botanist Asa Gray, a believing Christian and one of the first supporters of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, commented in 1868 that the more worldly Darwinists in England had “the English-materialistic-positivistic line of thought”.[10] Darwin’s supporter Thomas Huxley was openly skeptical, as the biographer Janet Browne describes:

Huxley was rampaging on miracles and the existence of the soul. A few months later, he was to coin the word “agnostic” to describe his own position as neither a believer nor a disbeliever, but one who considered himself free to inquire rationally into the basis of knowledge, a philosopher of pure reason […] The term fitted him well […] and it caught the attention of the other free thinking, rational doubters in Huxley’s ambit, and came to signify a particularly active form of scientific rationalism during the final decades of the 19th century. […] In his hands, agnosticism became as doctrinaire as anything else–a religion of skepticism. Huxley used it as a creed that would place him on a higher moral plane than even bishops and archbishops. All the evidence would nevertheless suggest that Huxley was sincere in his rejection of the charge of outright atheism against himself. He refused to be “a liar”. To inquire rigorously into the spiritual domain, he asserted, was a more elevated undertaking than slavishly to believe or disbelieve. “A deep sense of religion is compatible with the entire absence of theology,” he had told [Anglican clergyman] Charles Kingsley back in 1860. “Pope Huxley”, the [magazine] Spectator dubbed him. The label stuck.” Janet Browne[11]

The 2004 publication of The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris, a bestseller in the United States, was joined over the next couple years by a series of popular best-sellers by atheist authors.[12] Harris was motivated by the events of 11 September 2001, which he laid directly at the feet of Islam, while also directly criticizing Christianity and Judaism.[13] Two years later Harris followed up with Letter to a Christian Nation, which was also a severe criticism of Christianity.[14] Also in 2006, following his television documentary The Root of All Evil?, Richard Dawkins published The God Delusion, which was on the New York Times best-seller list for 51 weeks.[15]

In a 2010 column entitled “Why I Don’t Believe in the New Atheism”, Tom Flynn contends that what has been called “New Atheism” is neither a movement nor new, and that what was new was the publication of atheist material by big-name publishers, read by millions, and appearing on bestseller lists.[16]

On 6 November 2015, the New Republic published an article entitled, Is the New Atheism dead?[17] The atheist and evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson wrote, “The world appears to be tiring of the New Atheism movement..”[18] In 2017, PZ Myers who formerly considered himself a new atheist, publicly renounced the New Atheism movement.[19]

On 30 September 2007, four prominent atheists (Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett) met at Hitchens’ residence in Washington, D.C., for a private two-hour unmoderated discussion. The event was videotaped and titled “The Four Horsemen”.[21] During “The God Debate” in 2010 featuring Christopher Hitchens versus Dinesh D’Souza, the men were collectively referred to as the “Four Horsemen of the Non-Apocalypse”,[22] an allusion to the biblical Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from the Book of Revelation.[23] The four have been described disparagingly as “evangelical atheists”.[24]

Sam Harris is the author of the bestselling non-fiction books The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, The Moral Landscape, and Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion, as well as two shorter works, initially published as e-books, Free Will[25] and Lying.[26] Harris is a co-founder of the Reason Project.

Richard Dawkins is the author of The God Delusion,[27] which was preceded by a Channel 4 television documentary titled The Root of All Evil?. He is the founder of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. He wrote: “I don’t object to the horseman label, by the way. I’m less keen on ‘new atheist’: it isn’t clear to me how we differ from old atheists.”[28]

Christopher Hitchens was the author of God Is Not Great[29] and was named among the “Top 100 Public Intellectuals” by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines. In addition, Hitchens served on the advisory board of the Secular Coalition for America. In 2010 Hitchens published his memoir Hitch-22 (a nickname provided by close personal friend Salman Rushdie, whom Hitchens always supported during and following The Satanic Verses controversy).[30] Shortly after its publication, Hitchens was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, which led to his death in December 2011.[31] Before his death, Hitchens published a collection of essays and articles in his book Arguably;[32] a short edition Mortality[33] was published posthumously in 2012. These publications and numerous public appearances provided Hitchens with a platform to remain an astute atheist during his illness, even speaking specifically on the culture of deathbed conversions and condemning attempts to convert the terminally ill, which he opposed as “bad taste”.[34][35]

Daniel Dennett, author of Darwin’s Dangerous Idea,[36] Breaking the Spell[37] and many others, has also been a vocal supporter of The Clergy Project,[38] an organization that provides support for clergy in the US who no longer believe in God and cannot fully participate in their communities any longer.[39]

After the death of Hitchens, Ayaan Hirsi Ali (who attended the 2012 Global Atheist Convention, which Hitchens was scheduled to attend) was referred to as the “plus one horse-woman”, since she was originally invited to the 2007 meeting of the “Horsemen” atheists but had to cancel at the last minute.[40] Hirsi Ali was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, fleeing in 1992 to the Netherlands in order to escape an arranged marriage.[41] She became involved in Dutch politics, rejected faith, and became vocal in opposing Islamic ideology, especially concerning women, as exemplified by her books Infidel and The Caged Virgin.[42] Hirsi Ali was later involved in the production of the film Submission, for which her friend Theo Van Gogh was murdered with a death threat to Hirsi Ali pinned to his chest.[43] This event resulted in Hirsi Ali’s hiding and later immigration to the United States, where she now resides and remains a prolific critic of Islam.[44] She regularly speaks out against the treatment of women in Islamic doctrine and society[45] and is a proponent of free speech and the freedom to offend.[46][47]

Many contemporary atheists write from a scientific perspective. Unlike previous writers, many of whom thought that science was indifferent or even incapable of dealing with the “God” concept, Dawkins argues to the contrary, claiming the “God Hypothesis” is a valid scientific hypothesis,[69] having effects in the physical universe, and like any other hypothesis can be tested and falsified. The late Victor Stenger proposed that the personal Abrahamic God is a scientific hypothesis that can be tested by standard methods of science. Both Dawkins and Stenger conclude that the hypothesis fails any such tests,[70] and argue that naturalism is sufficient to explain everything we observe in the universe, from the most distant galaxies to the origin of life, the existence of different species, and the inner workings of the brain and consciousness. Nowhere, they argue, is it necessary to introduce God or the supernatural to understand reality. New Atheists reject Jesus’ divinity.[71]

Non-believers assert that many religious or supernatural claims (such as the virgin birth of Jesus and the afterlife) are scientific claims in nature. They argue, as do deists and Progressive Christians, for instance, that the issue of Jesus’ supposed parentage is not a question of “values” or “morals” but a question of scientific inquiry.[72] Rational thinkers believe science is capable of investigating at least some, if not all, supernatural claims.[73] Institutions such as the Mayo Clinic and Duke University are attempting to find empirical support for the healing power of intercessory prayer.[74] According to Stenger, these experiments have thus far found no evidence that intercessory prayer works.[75]

Stenger also argues in his book, God: The Failed Hypothesis, that a God having omniscient, omnibenevolent and omnipotent attributes, which he termed a 3O God, cannot logically exist.[76] A similar series of logical disproofs of the existence of a God with various attributes can be found in Michael Martin and Ricki Monnier’s The Impossibility of God,[77] or Theodore M. Drange’s article, “Incompatible-Properties Arguments”.[78]

Richard Dawkins has been particularly critical of the conciliatory view that science and religion are not in conflict, noting, for example, that the Abrahamic religions constantly deal in scientific matters. In a 1998 article published in Free Inquiry magazine[72] and later in his 2006 book The God Delusion, Dawkins expresses disagreement with the view advocated by Stephen Jay Gould that science and religion are two non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA), each existing in a “domain where one form of teaching holds the appropriate tools for meaningful discourse and resolution”. In Gould’s proposal, science and religion should be confined to distinct non-overlapping domains: science would be limited to the empirical realm, including theories developed to describe observations, while religion would deal with questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. Dawkins contends that NOMA does not describe empirical facts about the intersection of science and religion: “It is completely unrealistic to claim, as Gould and many others do, that religion keeps itself away from science’s turf, restricting itself to morals and values. A universe with a supernatural presence would be a fundamentally and qualitatively different kind of universe from one without. The difference is, inescapably, a scientific difference. Religions make existence claims, and this means scientific claims.”

Popularized by Sam Harris is the view that science and thereby currently unknown objective facts may instruct human morality in a globally comparable way. Harris’ book The Moral Landscape[79] and accompanying TED Talk How Science can Determine Moral Values[80] propose that human well-being and conversely suffering may be thought of as a landscape with peaks and valleys representing numerous ways to achieve extremes in human experience, and that there are objective states of well-being.

New Atheism is politically engaged in a variety of ways. These include campaigns to draw attention to the biased privileged position religion has and to reduce the influence of religion in the public sphere, attempts to promote cultural change (centering, in the United States, on the mainstream acceptance of atheism), and efforts to promote the idea of an “atheist identity”. Internal strategic divisions over these issues have also been notable, as are questions about the diversity of the movement in terms of its gender and racial balance.[81]

The theologians Jeffrey Robbins and Christopher Rodkey take issue with what they regard as “the evangelical nature of the New Atheism, which assumes that it has a Good News to share, at all cost, for the ultimate future of humanity by the conversion of as many people as possible.” They believe they have found similarities between New Atheism and evangelical Christianity and conclude that the all-consuming nature of both “encourages endless conflict without progress” between both extremities.[82]

Sociologist William Stahl said, “What is striking about the current debate is the frequency with which the New Atheists are portrayed as mirror images of religious fundamentalists.”[83]

The atheist philosopher of science Michael Ruse has made the claim that Richard Dawkins would fail “introductory” courses on the study of “philosophy or religion” (such as courses on the philosophy of religion), courses which are offered, for example, at many educational institutions such as colleges and universities around the world.[84][85] Ruse also claims that the movement of New Atheismwhich is perceived, by him, to be a “bloody disaster”makes him ashamed, as a professional philosopher of science, to be among those holding to an atheist position, particularly as New Atheism does science a “grave disservice” and does a “disservice to scholarship” at more general level.[84][85]

Paul Kurtz, editor in chief of Free Inquiry, founder of Prometheus Books, was critical of many of the new atheists.[8] He said, “I consider them atheist fundamentalists… They’re anti-religious, and they’re mean-spirited, unfortunately. Now, they’re very good atheists and very dedicated people who do not believe in God. But you have this aggressive and militant phase of atheism, and that does more damage than good”.[9]

Jonathan Sacks, author of The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning, feels the new atheists miss the target by believing the “cure for bad religion is no religion, as opposed to good religion”. He wrote:

Atheism deserves better than the new atheists whose methodology consists of criticizing religion without understanding it, quoting texts without contexts, taking exceptions as the rule, confusing folk belief with reflective theology, abusing, mocking, ridiculing, caricaturing, and demonizing religious faith and holding it responsible for the great crimes against humanity. Religion has done harm; I acknowledge that. But the cure for bad religion is good religion, not no religion, just as the cure for bad science is good science, not the abandonment of science.[86]

The philosopher Massimo Pigliucci contends that the new atheist movement overlaps with scientism, which he finds to be philosophically unsound. He writes: “What I do object to is the tendency, found among many New Atheists, to expand the definition of science to pretty much encompassing anything that deals with ‘facts’, loosely conceived…, it seems clear to me that most of the New Atheists (except for the professional philosophers among them) pontificate about philosophy very likely without having read a single professional paper in that field…. I would actually go so far as to charge many of the leaders of the New Atheism movement (and, by implication, a good number of their followers) with anti-intellectualism, one mark of which is a lack of respect for the proper significance, value, and methods of another field of intellectual endeavor.”[87]

Atheist professor Jacques Berlinerblau has criticised the New Atheists’ mocking of religion as being inimical to their goals and claims that they haven’t achieved anything politically.[88]

Read more:

New Atheism – Wikipedia

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!

Link:

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] Nonbelievers contend that atheism is a more parsimonious position than theism and that everyone is born without beliefs in deities;[1] therefore, they argue that the burden of proof lies not on the atheist to disprove the existence of gods but on the theist to provide a rationale for theism.[21] Although some atheists have adopted secular philosophies (e.g. secular humanism),[22][23] there is no one ideology or set of behaviors to which all atheists adhere.[24]

Since conceptions of atheism vary, accurate estimations of current numbers of atheists are difficult.[25] According to global Win-Gallup International studies, 13% of respondents were “convinced atheists” in 2012,[26] 11% were “convinced atheists” in 2015,[27] and in 2017, 9% were “convinced atheists”.[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] Implicit atheism is “the absence of theistic belief without a conscious rejection of it” and explicit atheism is the conscious rejection of belief.For the purposes of his paper on “philosophical atheism”, Ernest Nagel contested including mere absence of theistic belief as a type of atheism.[49] 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[51]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[51] and in Catholic apologetics.[52]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,[53][54]which they may consider no more justified than theism or requiring an equal conviction.[53]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.[55][56]Common atheist responses to this argument include that unproven religious propositions deserve as much disbelief as all other unproven propositions,[57]and that the unprovability of a god’s existence does not imply equal probability of either possibility.[58]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.”[59]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.[61]

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”.[62]There have however been examples to the contrary, among them examples of literal “atheists in foxholes”.[63]

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.[65]

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”.[67] The allocation of agnosticism to atheism is disputed; it can also be regarded as an independent, basic worldview.[68]

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.[69][70]

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).”[71]

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.[73]

Philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach[74]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.[75]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.”[76]

Atheism is not mutually exclusive with respect to some religious and spiritual belief systems, including Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Syntheism, Ralism,[77] and Neopagan movements[78]such as Wicca.[79]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.[80]Jainism believes the universe is eternal and has no need for a creator deity, however Tirthankaras are revered that can transcend space and time[81]and have more power than the god Indra.[82]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[83]and Eternal Buddha.

Apophatic theology is often assessed as being a version of atheism or agnosticism, since it cannot say truly that God exists.[84] “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”.[85] “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”.[86]

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.[68] 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,[87] or renders life meaningless and miserable.[88] Blaise Pascal argued this view in his Penses.[89]

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.[93][94]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.[95][96]

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.[98]In recent years, certain religious denominations have accumulated a number of openly atheistic followers, such as atheistic or humanistic Judaism[99][100]and Christian atheists.[101][102][103]

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.[104] Atheism is accepted as a valid philosophical position within some varieties of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism.[105]

Philosophers such as Slavoj iek,[106] Alain de Botton,[107] and Alexander Bard and Jan Sderqvist,[108] 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.[109][110][111]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.[112]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.”[113][114][115]

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.[116]

Philosophers Susan Neiman[117]and Julian Baggini[118](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.[119]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.[120] 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.[121]

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.[122]

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.”[123] 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…”[124]

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)[126] and authoritarianism, dogmatism, and prejudice.[127]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.[128]Believers counter-argue that some regimes that espouse atheism, such as the Soviet Union, have also been guilty of mass murder.[129][130] 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.[132]

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”,[134]predates atheism in English, being first found as early as 1566,[135]and again in 1571.[136]Atheist as a label of practical godlessness was used at least as early as 1577.[137]The term atheism was derived from the French athisme,[138] and appears in English about 1587.[139]An earlier work, from about 1534, used the term atheonism.[140][141]Related words emerged later: deist in 1621,[142]theist in 1662,[143]deism in 1675,[144]and theism in 1678.[145]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.[146]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,[138][139] 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.[147]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.[148]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.[149]

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:[150]

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.

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.[151]

Western atheism has its roots in pre-Socratic Greek philosophy,[154][155] but atheism in the modern sense was nonexistent or extremely rare in ancient Greece.[156][157][155] 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,[152] but did not explicitly deny the gods’ existence.[152] 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,[156][157][152] but he fled the city to escape punishment.[156][157][152] Later writers have cited Diagoras as the “first atheist”,[158][159] but he was probably not an atheist in the modern sense of the word.[157]

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.[160][157][161][157][155] This statement, however, originally did not mean that the gods themselves were nonexistent, but rather that their powers were a hoax.[155] 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.”[162][156]

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.[152][153] Aristophanes’ comic play The Clouds (performed 423 BCE) portrays Socrates as teaching his students that the traditional Greek deities do not exist.[152][153] Socrates was later tried and executed under the charge of not believing in the gods of the state and instead worshipping foreign gods.[152][153] Socrates himself vehemently denied the charges of atheism at his trial[152][153][163] 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.[152] 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.[164] Although not strictly an atheist, Euhemerus was later criticized for having “spread atheism over the whole inhabited earth by obliterating the gods”.[165]

The most important Greek thinker in the development of atheism was Epicurus (c. 300 BCE).[155] 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).[166] Although Epicurus still maintained that the gods existed,[167][155][166] he believed that they were uninterested in human affairs.[166] 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.[166] In the 3rd-century BCE, the Greek philosophers Theodorus Cyrenaicus[159][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.[157] Early Christians were widely reviled as “atheists” because they did not believe in the existence of the Graeco-Roman deities.[171][157][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.[59][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,[27] and in 2017, 9% were “convinced atheists”.[28] 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%.[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.[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, Saudi 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 a percentage of 51%.[244]

A study noted positive correlations between levels of education and secularism, including atheism, in America.[95] 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 – 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 Conversion from atheism to Christianity 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 Morale of the atheist movement and Desecularization and Atheist movement

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

At the 2018 American Atheists convention, the ex-president of the American Atheists organization David Silverman declared regarding the atheist movement being in a demoralized state:

…it has really affected us. We are suffering a level of defeatism that I have never seen before…

We feel the loss. And we feel like we have lost. We feel like we lost the election… We see this cascade of attack coming down at us over and over from all different directions and we feel like it’s over. I have heard so many times it makes me sick. It makes me sad. It feels like we lost.

The apathy that follows. It doesn’t matter. We can’t win anyways. It’s useless to fight. This apathy is infecting us. It’s hurting us.

And people are reacting to each other now. And so that is causing a division. Lots and lots of division in our movement. Hard, bad division… And that has resulted in a splintering and factioning of the movement that I have never seen before and none of us have.

In other words, we’re in a bad situation and it’s getting worse.[39]

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.[40]

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.”[41]

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.”[42]

In 1955, the Chinese Communist leader Chou En-lai declared, “We Communists are atheists”.[43]

In 2014, the Communist Party of China reaffirmed that members of their party must be atheists.[44]

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.”[46]

Vitalij Lazarevi Ginzburg, a Soviet physicist, wrote that the “Bolshevik communists were not merely atheists but, according to Lenin’s terminology, militant atheists.”[47] However, prior to this, the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution established a state which was anti-Roman Catholicism/Christian in nature [48] (anti-clerical deism and anti-religious atheism and played a significant role in the French Revolution[49]), with the official ideology being the Cult of Reason; during this time thousands of believers were suppressed and executed by the guillotine.[50]

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.[51] 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.[52] 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.”[53]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.[53] 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![54]

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.[55]

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.[56] According to Orthodox Church sources, as many as fifty million Orthodox believers may have died in the twentieth century, mainly from persecution by Communists.[57]

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.[59] Despite intense effort by the atheistic leaders of the Soviet Union, their efforts were not effective in converting the masses to atheism.[60]

See also: China and atheism

China has the world’s largest atheist population (see: China and atheism).[61][62] 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.[63] China continues to practice religious oppression today.[64]

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.[65]

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.[66]

North Korea is a repressive Communist state and is officially atheistic.[69] The North Korean government practices brutal repression and atrocities against North Korean Christians.[70] 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.[71]

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).[72]

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).”[74]

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Atheism – Conservapedia

Atheism – Britannica.com

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 – Britannica.com

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] Nonbelievers contend that atheism is a more parsimonious position than theism and that everyone is born without beliefs in deities;[1] therefore, they argue that the burden of proof lies not on the atheist to disprove the existence of gods but on the theist to provide a rationale for theism.[21] Although some atheists have adopted secular philosophies (e.g. secular humanism),[22][23] there is no one ideology or set of behaviors to which all atheists adhere.[24]

Since conceptions of atheism vary, accurate estimations of current numbers of atheists are difficult.[25] According to global Win-Gallup International studies, 13% of respondents were “convinced atheists” in 2012,[26] 11% were “convinced atheists” in 2015,[27] and in 2017, 9% were “convinced atheists”.[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] Implicit atheism is “the absence of theistic belief without a conscious rejection of it” and explicit atheism is the conscious rejection of belief.For the purposes of his paper on “philosophical atheism”, Ernest Nagel contested including mere absence of theistic belief as a type of atheism.[49] 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[51]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[51] and in Catholic apologetics.[52]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,[53][54]which they may consider no more justified than theism or requiring an equal conviction.[53]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.[55][56]Common atheist responses to this argument include that unproven religious propositions deserve as much disbelief as all other unproven propositions,[57]and that the unprovability of a god’s existence does not imply equal probability of either possibility.[58]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.”[59]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.[61]

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”.[62]There have however been examples to the contrary, among them examples of literal “atheists in foxholes”.[63]

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.[65]

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”.[67] The allocation of agnosticism to atheism is disputed; it can also be regarded as an independent, basic worldview.[68]

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.[69][70]

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).”[71]

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.[73]

Philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach[74]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.[75]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.”[76]

Atheism is not mutually exclusive with respect to some religious and spiritual belief systems, including Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Syntheism, Ralism,[77] and Neopagan movements[78]such as Wicca.[79]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.[80]Jainism believes the universe is eternal and has no need for a creator deity, however Tirthankaras are revered that can transcend space and time[81]and have more power than the god Indra.[82]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[83]and Eternal Buddha.

Apophatic theology is often assessed as being a version of atheism or agnosticism, since it cannot say truly that God exists.[84] “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”.[85] “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”.[86]

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.[68] 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,[87] or renders life meaningless and miserable.[88] Blaise Pascal argued this view in his Penses.[89]

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.[93][94]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.[95][96]

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.[98]In recent years, certain religious denominations have accumulated a number of openly atheistic followers, such as atheistic or humanistic Judaism[99][100]and Christian atheists.[101][102][103]

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.[104] Atheism is accepted as a valid philosophical position within some varieties of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism.[105]

Philosophers such as Slavoj iek,[106] Alain de Botton,[107] and Alexander Bard and Jan Sderqvist,[108] 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.[109][110][111]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.[112]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.”[113][114][115]

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.[116]

Philosophers Susan Neiman[117]and Julian Baggini[118](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.[119]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.[120] 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.[121]

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.[122]

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.”[123] 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…”[124]

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)[126] and authoritarianism, dogmatism, and prejudice.[127]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.[128]Believers counter-argue that some regimes that espouse atheism, such as the Soviet Union, have also been guilty of mass murder.[129][130] 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.[132]

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”,[134]predates atheism in English, being first found as early as 1566,[135]and again in 1571.[136]Atheist as a label of practical godlessness was used at least as early as 1577.[137]The term atheism was derived from the French athisme,[138] and appears in English about 1587.[139]An earlier work, from about 1534, used the term atheonism.[140][141]Related words emerged later: deist in 1621,[142]theist in 1662,[143]deism in 1675,[144]and theism in 1678.[145]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.[146]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,[138][139] 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.[147]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.[148]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.[149]

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:[150]

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.

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.[151]

Western atheism has its roots in pre-Socratic Greek philosophy,[154][155] but atheism in the modern sense was nonexistent or extremely rare in ancient Greece.[156][157][155] 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,[152] but did not explicitly deny the gods’ existence.[152] 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,[156][157][152] but he fled the city to escape punishment.[156][157][152] Later writers have cited Diagoras as the “first atheist”,[158][159] but he was probably not an atheist in the modern sense of the word.[157]

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.[160][157][161][157][155] This statement, however, originally did not mean that the gods themselves were nonexistent, but rather that their powers were a hoax.[155] 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.”[162][156]

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.[152][153] Aristophanes’ comic play The Clouds (performed 423 BCE) portrays Socrates as teaching his students that the traditional Greek deities do not exist.[152][153] Socrates was later tried and executed under the charge of not believing in the gods of the state and instead worshipping foreign gods.[152][153] Socrates himself vehemently denied the charges of atheism at his trial[152][153][163] 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.[152] 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.[164] Although not strictly an atheist, Euhemerus was later criticized for having “spread atheism over the whole inhabited earth by obliterating the gods”.[165]

The most important Greek thinker in the development of atheism was Epicurus (c. 300 BCE).[155] 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).[166] Although Epicurus still maintained that the gods existed,[167][155][166] he believed that they were uninterested in human affairs.[166] 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.[166] In the 3rd-century BCE, the Greek philosophers Theodorus Cyrenaicus[159][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.[157] Early Christians were widely reviled as “atheists” because they did not believe in the existence of the Graeco-Roman deities.[171][157][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.[59][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,[27] and in 2017, 9% were “convinced atheists”.[28] 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%.[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.[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, Saudi 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 a percentage of 51%.[244]

A study noted positive correlations between levels of education and secularism, including atheism, in America.[95] 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

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Atheism – Wikipedia

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 byits 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? Findout 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

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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What is Atheism? | American Atheists

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 | Definition, Philosophy, & Comparison to …

BBC – Religion: Atheism

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BBC – Religion: Atheism

atheism r/atheism – reddit

My girlfriend of 6 years is a preschool teacher. Yesterday she told me about the mascot. They have a classroom mascot named Abi The Squirrel. For Abi to come in and play with them, they need to sing a song. After the song, one of the kids said: Why are we singing? Abi is not a real squirrel, he’s just a plush. We know you are the one that brings it to us, it’s pointless.

Then, she went on about how smart that kid is in general while the others were not at his level of understanding yet.

She knows I’m an atheist. At that moment I wanted to tell her that, in my day to day life, I represent the kid, god is the plush, all the religious people are the other kids and the singing is the prayers or what have you. I wanted to tell her, but I didn’t want to sound like a dick. Maybe I should have.

EDIT: The girlfriend is Christian

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atheism r/atheism – reddit

Demographics of atheism – Wikipedia

Accurate demographics of atheism are difficult to obtain since conceptions of atheism vary across different cultures and languages from being an active concept to being unimportant or not developed.[1][2] In global studies, the number of people without a religion is usually higher than the number of people without a belief in a deity[3][4] and the number of people who agree with statements on lacking a belief in a deity is usually higher than the number of people who self-identify as “atheists”.[3][1] According to sociologist Phil Zuckerman, broad estimates of those who have an absence of belief in a deity range from 500 to 750 million people worldwide.[1] Other estimates state that there are 200 million to 240 million self-identified atheists worldwide, with China and Russia being major contributors to those figures.[3] According to sociologists Ariela Keysar and Juhem Navarro-Rivera’s review of numerous global studies on atheism, there are 450 to 500 million positive atheists and agnostics worldwide (7% of the world’s population), with China having the most atheists in the world (200 million convinced atheists).[5]

Of the global atheist and non-religious population, 76% reside in Asia and the Pacific, while the remainder reside in Europe (12%), North America (5%), Latin America and the Caribbean (4%), sub-Saharan Africa (2%) and the Middle East and North Africa (less than 1%).[6] The prevalence of atheism in Africa and South America typically falls below 10%.[7] According to the Pew Research Center’s 2012 global study of 230 countries and territories, 16% of the world’s population is not affiliated with a religion, while 84% are affiliated.[8] Furthermore, the global study noted that many of the unaffiliated, which include atheists and agnostics, still have various religious beliefs and practices.[6]

Historical records of atheist philosophy span several millennia. Atheistic schools are found in early Indian thought and have existed from the times of the historical Vedic religion.[9] Western atheism has its roots in pre-Socratic Greek philosophy, but did not emerge as a distinct world-view until the late Enlightenment.[10]

Discrepancies exist among sources as to how atheist and religious demographics are changing. Questions to assess non-belief may ask about negation of the prevailing belief, rather than an assertion of positive atheism.[11] Also, self-identification is not congruous to people’s lack of beliefs automatically. For instance, merely not having a belief in a god, for whatever reason, does not automatically mean that people self-identify as an “atheist”.[12] According to the 2012 WIN/Gallup International Survey, the number of atheists is on the rise across the world, with religiosity generally declining.[13] However, other global studies have indicated that global atheism may be in decline due to irreligious countries having the lowest birth rates in the world and religious countries having higher birth rates in general.[1]

The demographics of atheism are substantially difficult to quantify. Words like, “God” or “atheism” seldom translate well across cultures or languages, and if they are there, they have variant meanings which make cross cultural comparisons tenuous.[1][2] As such, it can be hard to draw boundaries between atheism, non-religious beliefs, and non-theistic religious and spiritual beliefs. Furthermore, atheists may not report themselves as such, to prevent suffering from social stigma, discrimination, and persecution in some countries.[14]

Because some governments have strongly promoted atheism and others have strongly condemned it, atheism may be either over-reported or under-reported for different countries. There is a great deal of room for debate as to the accuracy of any method of estimation, as the opportunity for misreporting (intentionally or not) a category of people without an organizational structure is high. Also, many surveys on religious identification ask people to identify themselves as “agnostics” or “atheists”, which is potentially confusing, since these terms are interpreted differently, with some identifying themselves as being agnostic atheists. Additionally, many of these surveys only gauge the number of irreligious people, not the number of actual atheists, or group the two together. For example, research indicates that the fastest growing religious status may be “no religion” in the United States, but this includes all kinds of atheists, agnostics, and theists.[15][16] According to the World Factbook, Non-religious people make up 9.66%, while one fifth of them are atheists.[17]

Statistics on atheism are often difficult to represent accurately for a variety of reasons. Atheism is a position compatible with other forms of identity including religions.[18] Anthropologist Jack David Eller, states that “atheism is quite a common position, even within religion” and that “surprisingly, atheism is not the opposite or lack, let alone the enemy, of religion but is the most common form of religion.”[18] Furthermore, he observes that “some atheists call themselves “spiritual”, and as we have shown above, atheism in its broadest sense does not preclude other religious concepts like nature spirits, dead ancestors, and supernatural forces.”[18] In many cultures, little conceptual or practical distinction is made between natural and supernatural phenomena and the very notions of “religious” and “nonreligious” dissolve into unimportance, especially since people have beliefs in other supernatural or spiritual things irrespective of belief in gods.[2] For instance, in Netherlands people who lack of beliefs in gods do have a variety of beliefs in other supernatural entities or things.[19]

Globally, some atheists also consider themselves Agnostic, Buddhist, Hindu, Jains, Taoist, or hold other related philosophical beliefs. Some, like Secular Jews and Shintoists, may indulge in some religious activities as a way of connecting with their culture, all the while being atheist. Therefore, given limited poll options, some may use other terms to describe their identity. Some politically motivated organizations that report or gather population statistics may, intentionally or unintentionally, misrepresent atheists. Survey designs may bias results due to the nature of elements such as the wording of questions and the available response options. Statistics are generally collected on the assumption that religion is a categorical variable. Instruments have been designed to measure attitudes toward religion, including one that was used by L. L. Thurstone. This may be a particularly important consideration among people who have neutral attitudes, as it is more likely that prevailing social norms will influence the responses of such people on survey questions that effectively force respondents to categorize themselves either as belonging to a particular religion or belonging to no religion. A negative perception of atheists and pressure from family and peers may also cause some atheists to disassociate themselves from atheism. Misunderstanding of the term may also be a reason some label themselves differently.

For example, a Canadian poll released September 12, 2011 sampled 1,129 Canadian adults and collected data on the numbers of declared atheists.[20] These numbers conflicted with the latest Canadian census data that pre-supposed that a religious affiliation predisposed a belief in a deity and was based on a poorly worded question. A quote from the study:

The data also revealed some interesting facts about Canadians’ beliefs:

Even when people directly claim to not believe in a deity, they still do not self-identify as atheist. For instance, 41% of Norwegians, 48% of the French, and 54% of Czechs claimed to not believe in a deity, but only 10%, 19%, and 20% of those respondents self-identified as atheist, respectively.[1] In the United States, only 5% of the population did not have a belief in a god and out of that small group only 24% self-identified as “atheist”, while 15% self-identified as “agnostic” and 35% self-identified as “nothing in particular”.[12]

Though China is state atheism, 85% of the population practice various kinds of religious behaviors with some regularity.[22]

In the Netherlands, beliefs of “convinced atheists” are quite diverse: 41.1% of them believe in telepathy, 21.1% believe in reincarnation, 13.3% believe in life after death, and 1.6% believe in heaven. The percentages on telepathy and reincarnation were similar to the percentages of “religious people” in the Netherlands. Furthermore, the author of the study notes, “Thus, despite the fact that they claim to be convinced atheists and the majority deny the existence of a personal god, a rather large minority of the Dutch convinced atheists believe in a supernatural power!”[19]

A 2004 survey by the BBC in 10 countries showed the proportion of the population “who don’t believe in God” to be close to 17% in the countries surveyed, however, 8% of the respondents specifically stated that they consider themselves to be “atheists”. Diversity was observed in that “across the entire sample, almost 30% of all atheists surveyed said they sometimes prayed.”[23]

A study on global religiosity, secularity, and well-being notes that it is unlikely that most atheists and agnostics base their decision to not believe in the gods on a careful, rational analysis of philosophical and scientific arguments since science testing scores in societies where atheism or theism is widespread, are just as poor and such societies have widespread supernatural beliefs besides gods.[24] Reviewing psychological studies on atheists, Miguel Farias, noted that studies concluding that analytical thinking leads to lower religious belief “do not imply that that atheists are more conscious or reflective of their own beliefs, or that atheism is the outcome of a conscious refutation of previously held religious beliefs” since they too have variant beliefs such as in conspiracy theories of the naturalistic variety.[25] In terms of apostasy, a greater proportion of people who leave religion, do so for motivational rather than rational reasons and the majority of deconversions occur in adolescence and young adulthood when one is emotionally volatile.[25] Furthermore, Farias notes that atheists are indistinguishable from New Age individuals or Gnostics since there are commonalities such as being individualistic, non-conformist, liberal, and valuing hedonism and sensation.[25] According to Phil Zuckerman, the majority of atheists and other secular people who were raised with a religion, leave their religion and beliefs in their late teens or early twenties while a smaller proportion do so at a mature age.[26]

A study on personality and religiosity found that members of secular organizations (like the international Center for Inquiry) have similar personality profiles to members of religious groups. This study found that members of secular organizations are very likely to label themselves primarily as “atheists”, but also very likely to consider themselves humanists.[27] It was also found that secular group members show no significant differences in their negative or positive affect. The surveyed individuals also had similar profiles for conscientiousness (discipline or impulse control, and acting on values like “pursuit of truth”). Secular group members tended to be less agreeable (e.g. more likely to hold unpopular, socially challenging views), as well as more open minded (e.g. more likely to consider new ideas) than members of religious groups. Luke Galen, a personality researcher, writes “Many previously reported characteristics associated with religiosity are a function not of belief itself, but of strong convictions and group identification.”[27][28] Catherine Caldwell-Harris notes that “non-believers” are interested in social justice concerns and posits that this is due to their lack of belief in an afterlife, leading to a focus on what can be fixed here and now.[29] Another study by Caldwell-Harris describes atheists as being capable of experiencing awe, which she states debunks stereotypes of atheists as “cynical and joyless”.[30] A 2014 study created six different personality profiles of ‘types’ of nonbelievers and compared them to Big Five personality traits.[31] In countries which have high levels of atheism such as Scandinavian nations, atheist organizations there generally have very low membership and only those that have links to a political party or offer legalized rituals have some noticeable membership.[32]

According to William Bainbridge’s international study, atheism is common among people whose interpersonal social obligations are weak and is also connected to lower fertility rates in advanced industrial nations.[33]

In a global study on atheism, sociologist Phil Zuckerman noted that countries with higher levels of atheism also had the highest suicide rates compared to countries with lower levels of atheism. He concludes that correlations does not necessarily indicate causation in either case.[34] A study on depression and suicide suggested that those without a religious affiliation have a higher suicide attempt rates than those with a religious affiliation.[35] A study into mental well-being in religious and non-religious people found that mental well-being for both religious people and non-religious people hinged on the certainty of their belief, and that previous studies had not controlled for the effect of belonging to a group when studying churchgoers.[36] Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi regarded atheists in Western society to be “much more likely to be a man, married, with higher education”, and regarded the personality of atheists to be “less authoritarian and suggestible, lessdogmatic, less prejudiced, more tolerant of others, law-abiding, compassionate, conscientious, and well educated. They are of high intelligence, and many are committed to the intellectual and scholarly life”.[37] A review of the literature found that being non-religious did not necessarily entail poorer mental health.[38]

Though atheists are in the minority in most countries, they are relatively common in Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, East Asia and present communist states. It is difficult to determine actual atheist numbers. Furthermore, the conflation of terms such as atheist, agnostic, non-religious and non-theist add to confusion among poll data.[citation needed]

According to the Encyclopdia Britannica, 2% of the world’s population self-identify as atheists and the average annual global change for atheism from 2000 to 2010 was 0.17%.[39]

A 2002 survey by Adherents.com estimates the proportion of the world’s people who are “secular, non-religious, agnostics and atheists” at about 14%.[40]

A 2004 survey by the BBC in 10 countries showed the proportion of the population “who don’t believe in God” varying between 0% (Nigeria) and 39% (UK), with an average close to 17% in the countries surveyed, however, 8% of the respondents specifically stated that they consider themselves to be “atheists”. Diversity was observed in the views of atheists including that “across the entire sample, almost 30% of all atheists surveyed said they sometimes prayed.”[23]65% of those polled in a 2011 survey by the British Humanist Association answered no to the question “Are you religious?”[41]

A 2004 survey by the CIA in the World Factbook estimates about 12.5% of the world’s population are non-religious, and about 2.4% are atheists.[42]

A 2005 poll by AP/Ipsos surveyed ten countries. Of the developed nations, people in the United States were “most sure” of the existence of God or a higher power (2% atheist, 4% agnostic), while France had the most skeptics (19% atheist, 16% agnostic). On the religion question, South Korea had the greatest percentage without a religion (41%) while Italy had the smallest (5%).[43]

A 2010 Pew Research global study found that 16 percent of the global population to be unaffiliated with a religion, however, Pew notes that “more than three-quarters of the religiously unaffiliated live in Asia, the majority in China. Many of the people in this group do hold some religious or spiritual beliefs and may even believe in a deity, but they do not identify with a particular faith.”[6] Of the global atheist and nonreligious population, 76% reside in Asia and the Pacific, while the remainder reside in Europe (12%), North America (5%), Latin America and the Caribbean (4%), sub-Saharan Africa (2%) and the Middle East and North Africa (less than 1%).[6]

Sociologist Phil Zuckerman’s global studies on atheism have indicated that global atheism may be in decline due to irreligious countries having the lowest birth rates in the world and religious countries having higher birth rates in general.[1]

According to WIN/Gallup International, in their 2012 poll of 57 countries, 23% of respondents were “not religious” and 13% were “convinced atheists” and in their 2014 poll of 65 countries 22% were “not religious” and 11% were “convinced atheists”.[7][44] However, other researchers have advised caution with the WIN/Gallup International figures since other surveys which use the same wording, have conducted many waves for decades, and have a bigger sample size, such as World Values Survey; have consistently reached lower figures for the number of atheists worldwide.[5]

A Pew 2015 global projection study for religion and nonreligion projects that between 2010 and 2050 there will some initial increases of the unaffiliated followed by a decline by 2050 due to lower global fertility rates among this demographic.[45]

In terms of the United States, a 2012 Pew report showed that 32% of people under 30, 21% of people between the ages of 30-49, 15% of people between the ages of 50-64 and 9% of people over the age of 65 could be characterized as religiously unaffiliated. However, 68% of all the unaffiliated expressed belief in God and out of the whole US population, only 2.4% self identified as “atheist”.[46]

A 2013 poll by UPI/Harris showed that three-quarters of U.S. adults say they believe in God, down from 82 percent in 2005, 2007 and 2009. Just under 2-in-10 U.S. adults described themselves as very religious, with an additional 4-in-10 describing themselves as somewhat religious down from 49 percent in 2007. Twenty-three percent of Americans identified themselves as not at all religious, nearly double the 12 percent reported in 2007.[47]

The 2015 Pew Religious Landscape survey reported that as of 2014[update], 22.8% of the American population is religiously unaffiliated, atheists made up 3.1% and agnostics made up 4% of the US population.[48]

A survey based on a self-selected sample of biological and physical scientists of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States found that 7% believed in the existence of God, 72.2% did not, and 20.8% were agnostic or had doubts.[49] Eugenie Scott argued that there are methodological issues in the study, including ambiguity in the questions. A study on leading scientists in the US, with clearer wording and allowing for a broader concept of “god”, concluded that 40% of prominent scientists believe in god.[50]

In 1916, 1,000 leading American scientists were randomly chosen from American Men of Science and 41.8% believed God existed, 41.5% disbelieved, and 16.7% had doubts/did not know; however when the study was replicated 80 years later using American Men and Women of Science in 1996, results were very much the same with 39.3% believing God exists, 45.3% disbelieved, and 14.5% had doubts/did not know.[51]

A 2014 survey by David Chalmers and David Bourget on nearly 1,000 professional philosophers from 99 leading departments of philosophy shows that 72.8% considered themselves as atheists, 14.6% considered themselves as theist, and 12.6% as something else.[52]

A TNSRMS Cameroun survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 29 October 2012, to 5 November, 2012, found that 3% of Cameroon were “convinced atheists.”[53]

In November 2013, al-Sabah estimated that up to 3 million (3.57%) Egyptians were atheists.[54][55]

A TNS RMS Ghana survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 7 November 2012, to 33 November, 2012, found that 0% of Ghana were “convinced atheists.”[53]

A Infinite Insight survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted on November, 2014, found that 2% of Kenya were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

A BJ Group survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted on 8 November, 2014, to 19 November, 2014 found that 1% of Morocco were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

A Market Trends International survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 13 October, 2014 to 9 November, 2014, found that 2% of Nigeria were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

A Topline Research Solutions (TRS) survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 24 December 2012, to 2 December, 2012, found that 4% of South Africa were “convinced atheists.”[53]

A Infinite Insight survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 5 November 2012, to 6 December, 2012, found that 6% of South Sudan were “convinced atheists.”[53]

A Emrhod International survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 24 November 2012, to 2 December, 2012, found that 0% of Tunisia were “convinced atheists.”[53]

A ACSOR-Surveys survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 1 November, 2014 to 10 November, 2014, found that 0.33% of Afghanistan were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

A MPG LLC (Marketing Professional Group) survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted on November, 2014, found that 2% of Armenia were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

A SIAR Research and Consulting Group survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 16 October, 2014, to 12 November, 2014, found that 0.1% of Azerbaijan were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

A SRGB (SRG Bangladesh Limited) survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 5 November, 2014, to 25 November, 2014, found that 0.4% of Bangladesh were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

A GORBI (Georgian Opinion Research Business International) survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 15 October, 2014, to 15 November, 2014, found that 1% of the Georgia were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

A DataPrompt International survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 20 October, 2014 to 14 November, 2014, found that less than 3% of India were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

A Deka survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 15 October, 2014 to 5 November, 2014, found that 0.19% of Indonesia were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

According to Moaddel and Azadarmaki (2003), less than 5% of Iranians do not believe in God.[58]

A IIACSS survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 20 November 2012, to 2 December, 2012, found that 0% of Iraq were “convinced atheists.”[53]

A Maagar Mochot ltd. survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted on November, 2014, found that 8% of Israel were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

A NRC (Nippon Research Center) survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 31 October, 2014 to 12 November, 2014, found that 32% of Japan were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

According to Inglehart et al (2004), less than 1% of those in Jordan do not believe in God.[58]

A Romir survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 23 October, 2014 to 30 October, 2014, found that 8% of Kazakhstan were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

According to Froese (2004), 7% of those in Kyrgyzstan are atheist.[58]

A REACH (Research and Consulting House) survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 17 October, 2014 to 5 November, 2014, found that 2% of Lebanon were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

A TNS Malaysia survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 27 October, 2014 to 15 November, 2014, found that 3% of Malaysia were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

According to Barret et al (2001), 9% of those in Mongolia are atheist.[58]

Barret et al (2001) report that 15% of North Koreans are atheist.[58]

A Gallup Pakistan survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 2 October, 2014 to 12 October, 2014, found that 1% of Pakistan were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

A Palestinian Center for Public Opinion (PCPO) survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 2 November, 2014 to 12 November, 2014, found that 1% of Palestine were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

A WisdomAsia survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 1 November, 2014, to 15 November, 2014, found that 61% of the People’s Republic of China were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

A CSG survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 27 October, 2014, to 16 November, 2014, found that 34% of the Hong Kong were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

A PSRC (Philippines Survey & Research Center Inc.) survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted on 9 October, 2014, to 12 November, 2014 found that 20% of Philippines were “convinced atheists.”[56][57] [59]

According to Inglehart et al (2004), 14% of those in the Republic of China do not believe in God.[58]

A PARC (Pan Arab Research Center) survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted on November 2011, found that 5% of Saudi Arabia were “convinced atheists.”[53]

Inglehart et al (2004) found that 13% of those in Singapore do not believe in God.[58]

A Be Research (Index Kosova) survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 1 November, 2014 to 7 November, 2014, found that 6% of South Korea were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

According to Froese (2004), 2% of those in Tajikistan are atheist.[58]

A Infosearch survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 12 October, 2014 to 13 November, 2014, found that 1% of Thailand were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

According to Froese (2004), 2% of those in Turkmenistan are atheist.[58]

A Romir survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 16 November 2012, to 6 December, 2012, found that 2% of Uzbekistan were “convinced atheists.”[53]

A Indochina Research survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted on 17 October, 2014, to 31 October, 2014 found that 13% of Vietnam were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

According to a 2010 Eurostat Eurobarometer Poll, 51% of European Union citizens responded that “they believe there is a God”, whereas 26% answered that “they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force” and 20% said that “they don’t believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life force” and results were widely varied between different countries.[61]

According to another Poll about religiosity in the European Union in 2012 by Eurobarometer 16% are Non-believers/Agnostics and 7% are Atheists.[62] 72% of EU citizens are Christians and 2% are Muslims.[63]

(*) 13% of respondents in Hungary identify as Presbyterian. In Estonia and Latvia, 20%and 19%, respectively, identify as Lutherans. And in Lithuania, 14% say they are just aChristian and do not specify a particular denomination. They are included in the othercategory.(**) Identified as “don’t know/refused” from the “other/idk/ref” column are excluded from this statistic.(***) Figures may not add to subtotals due to rounding.

According to the 2011 Albanian census found 2.5% of Albania were atheists.[66]

A sterreichisches Gallup Institute survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted on November, 2014, found that 13% of Austria were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

A Pew Research Center poll, conducted from June 2015 to July 2016, found that 2% of Belarus were atheists, while 9% stated that they “Do not believe in God”.[65]

A iVOX bvba survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 28 October, 2014 to 18 November, 2014, found that 18% of Belgium were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

A Pew Research Center poll, conducted from June 2015 to July 2016, found that 2% of Bosnia and Herzegovina were atheists, while 4% stated that they “Do not believe in God”.[65]

A Pew Research Center poll, conducted from June 2015 to July 2016, found that 2% of Bulgaria were atheists, while 17% stated that they “Do not believe in God”.[65]

A Pew Research Center poll, conducted from June 2015 to July 2016, found that 4% of Croatia were atheists, while 10% stated that they “Do not believe in God”.[65]

A 2010 Eurobarometer poll found that 3% of the Cyprus stated that “I don’t believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force”.[61]

A Pew Research Center poll, conducted from June 2015 to July 2016, found that 25% of the Czech Republic were atheists, while 66% stated that they “Do not believe in God”.[65]

A DMA/Research survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted on November, 2014, found that 12% of Denmark were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

A Pew Research Center poll, conducted from June 2015 to July 2016, found that 9% of Estonian population were atheists, while 45% stated that they “Do not believe in God”.[65]

A Taloustutkimus Oy survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 19 October, 2014 to 7 November, 2014, found that 10% of Finland were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

A BVA survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 20 October, 2014 to 23 October, 2014, found that 10% of France were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

A Produkt + Markt survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted on November, 2014, found that 17% of Germany were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

A Pew Research Center poll, conducted from June 2015 to July 2016, found that 3% of Greece were atheists, while 6% stated that they “Do not believe in God”.[65]

A Pew Research Center poll, conducted from June 2015 to July 2016, found that 5% of Hungary were atheists, while 30% stated that they “Do not believe in God”.[65]

A Capacent Gallup survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 29 October, 2014 to 12 November, 2014, found that 14% of Iceland were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

A Red C Research and Marketing survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 20 October, 2014 to 27 October, 2014, found that 10% of Ireland were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

A DOXA survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 16 October, 2014 to 30 October, 2014, found that 6% of Italy were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

A Be Research (Index Kosova) survey, commissioned by WIN-Gallup International, conducted from 1 November, 2014, to 7 November, 2014 found that 1% of Kosovo were “convinced atheists.”[56][57]

A Pew Research Center poll, conducted from June 2015 to July 2016, found that 3% of Latvia were atheists, while 15% stated that they “Do not believe in God”.[65]

A Pew Research Center poll, conducted from June 2015 to July 2016, found that 2% of Lithuania were atheists, while 11% stated that they “Do not believe in God”.[65]

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Demographics of atheism – Wikipedia

Atheism – Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Atheism is rejecting the belief in a god or gods.[1][2]It is the opposite of theism, which is the belief that at least one god exists. A person who rejects belief in gods is called an atheist. Theism is the belief in one or more gods. Adding an a, meaning “without”, before the word theism results in atheism, or literally, “without theism”.

Atheism is not the same as agnosticism: agnostics say that there is no way to know whether gods exist or not.[3] Being an agnostic does not have to mean a person rejects or believes in god. Some agnostics are theists, believing in god. The theologian Kierkegaard is an example. Other agnostics are atheists. Gnosticism refers to a claim of knowledge. A gnostic has sufficient knowledge to make a claim. Adding an a, meaning “without”, before the word gnostic results in agnostic, or literally, “without knowledge”.

While theism refers to belief in one or more gods, gnosticism refers to knowledge. In theory, one can identify as a gnostic theist, agnostic theist, gnostic atheist, or agnostic atheist. As an example, an agnostic theist lacks knowledge, but believes in a god or gods nonetheless. In practice, most people simply identify as a theist, atheist, or agnostic.

Atheists often give reasons why they do not believe in a god or gods. Three of the reasons that they often give are the problem of evil, the argument from inconsistent revelations, and the argument from nonbelief. Not all atheists think these reasons provide complete proof that gods cannot exist, but these are the reasons given to support rejecting belief that gods exist.

Some atheists do not believe in any god because they feel that there is no evidence for any god nor gods and goddesses, so believing any type of theism means believing unproved assumptions. These atheists think a simpler explanation for everything is methodological naturalism which means that only natural things exist. Occam’s razor shows simple explanations without many unproved guesses are more likely to be true.[4]

The word “atheism” comes from the Greek language. It can be divided into a- (), a Greek prefix meaning “without”, and theos (), meaning “god”, and recombined to form “without gods”[6] or “godless”. In Ancient Greece it also meant “impious”.

Starting in about the 5th century BC, the word came to describe people who were “severing relations with the gods” or “denying the gods”. Before then, the meaning had been closer to “impious”. There is also the abstract noun, (atheots), “atheism”.

Cicero transliterated the Greek word into the Latin atheos. This word was often used in the debate between early Christians and Hellenists. Each side used it to label the other, in a bad way.[7]

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.”[8]Atheism was first used to describe an openly positive belief in late 18th-century Europe, meaning disbelief in the monotheistic Abrahamic god.[9]The 20th century saw the term expand to refer to disbelief in all deities. However, it is still common in Western society to describe atheism as simply “disbelief in God”.[10]

In many places, it is (or was) a crime to make public the idea of atheism. Examples would be to claim the Bible or Qur’an could not be true, or to speak or write that there is no god.[11]

Muslim apostasy, that is becoming an atheist or believing in a god other than Allah, may be a dangerous act in places with many conservative Muslim people. Many religious courts have punished and some still punish this act with the death penalty. Many countries still have laws against atheism.[12][13][14]

Atheism is becoming more common,[15] mainly in South America, North America, Oceania and Europe (by percentage of people that had a religion before and started to be atheist).

In many countries, mainly in the Western world, there are laws that protect atheists’ right to express their atheistic belief (freedom of speech). This means that atheists have the same rights under the law as everyone else. Freedom of religion in international law and treaties includes the freedom to not have a religion.

Today, about 2.3% of the world’s population describes itself as atheist. About 11.9% is described as nontheist.[16]Between 64% and 65% of Japanese describe themselves as atheists, agnostics, or non-believers,[17][18]and up to 48% in Russia.[17] The percentage of such people in European Union member states ranges between 6% (Italy) and 85% (Sweden).[17] In the United States, according to Pew and Gallup two of the most reputable polling firms in America both conclude that about 10% of Americans say they do not believe in God, and this figure has been slowly creeping up over the decades. The real number is likely higher than this, due to the stigma around atheism.[19]

People disagree about what atheism means. They disagree on when to call certain people atheists or not.

Atheism is generally described as not believing in God.

George H. Smith created the expressions “implicit atheism” and “explicit atheism” to describe the difference between different types of Atheism. Implicit atheism is when you do not believe in God because you do not know about the concept of God. Explicit atheism is when you do not believe in God after learning about the idea.

In 1772, Baron d’Holbach said that “All children are born atheists; they have no idea of God”.[20]

In 1979 George H. Smith said 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 [who is able 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”.[21]

Those two quotes describe implicit atheism.

Ernest Nagel disagrees with Smith’s definition of atheism as an “absence of theism”, saying only explicit atheism is true atheism.[22] This means that Nagel believes that to be an atheist, a person needs to know about God and then reject the idea of God.

Philosophers like Antony Flew,[23][24]have looked at strong (sometimes called positive) atheism against weak (sometimes called negative) atheism. According to this idea, anyone who does not believe in a god or gods is either a weak or a strong atheist.[25]

Strong atheism is the certain belief that no god exists. An older way of saying strong atheism is to say “positive atheism”. Weak atheism is all other forms of not believing in a god or gods. An older way of saying weak atheism is to say “negative atheism” These terms have been used more in philosophical writing[23] and in Catholic beliefs.[26]since at least 1813.[27][28]Under this definition of atheism, most agnostics are weak atheists.

Michael Martin says that agnosticism includes weak atheism.[24] Some agnostics, including Anthony Kenny, disagree. They think being an agnostic is different from being an atheist. They think atheism is no different from believing in a god, because both require belief. This overlooks the reality that agnostics also have their own belief or “claim to knowledge” [29]

Agnostics say that it cannot be known if a god or gods exist. In their view, strong atheism requires a leap of faith.

Atheists usually respond by saying that there is no difference between an idea about religion with no proof, and an idea about other things[30]The lack of proof that god does not exist does not mean that there is no god, but it also does not mean that there is a god.[31]Scottish philosopher J.J.C. Smart says that “sometimes a person who is really an atheist may describe herself, even passionately, as an agnostic because of unreasonable generalised philosophical skepticism which would preclude us from saying that we know anything whatever, except perhaps the truths of mathematics and formal logic”.[32]So, some popular atheist authors such as Richard Dawkins like to show the difference between theist, agnostic and atheist positions by the probability assigned to the statement “God exists”.[33]

In everyday life, many people define natural phenomena without the need of a god or gods. They do not deny the existence of one or more gods, they simply say that this existence is not necessary. Gods do not provide a purpose to life, nor influence it, according to this view.[34]Many scientists practice what they call methodological naturalism. They silently adopt philosophical naturalism and use the scientific method. Their belief in a god does not affect their results.[35]

Practical atheism can take different forms:

Theoretic atheism tries to find arguments against the existence of god, and to disprove the arguments of theism, such as the argument from design or Pascal’s Wager. These theoretical reasons have many forms, most of them are ontological or epistemological. Some rely on psychology or sociology.

According to Immanuel Kant, there can be no proof of a supreme being that is made using reason. In his work, “Critique of pure reason”, he tries to show that all attempts of either proving the existence of God, or disproving it, end in logical contradictions. Kant says that it is impossible to know whether there are any higher beings. This makes him an agnostic.

Ludwig Feuerbach published The Essence of Christianity in 1841.[37] In his work he postulates the following:

The following phrases sum up Feuerbach’s writing:

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Atheism – Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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] Nonbelievers contend that atheism is a more parsimonious position than theism and that everyone is born without beliefs in deities;[1] therefore, they argue that the burden of proof lies not on the atheist to disprove the existence of gods but on the theist to provide a rationale for theism.[21] Although some atheists have adopted secular philosophies (e.g. secular humanism),[22][23] there is no one ideology or set of behaviors to which all atheists adhere.[24]

Since conceptions of atheism vary, accurate estimations of current numbers of atheists are difficult.[25] According to global Win-Gallup International studies, 13% of respondents were “convinced atheists” in 2012,[26] 11% were “convinced atheists” in 2015,[27] and in 2017, 9% were “convinced atheists”.[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] Implicit atheism is “the absence of theistic belief without a conscious rejection of it” and explicit atheism is the conscious rejection of belief.For the purposes of his paper on “philosophical atheism”, Ernest Nagel contested including mere absence of theistic belief as a type of atheism.[49] 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[51]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[51] and in Catholic apologetics.[52]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,[53][54]which they may consider no more justified than theism or requiring an equal conviction.[53]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.[55][56]Common atheist responses to this argument include that unproven religious propositions deserve as much disbelief as all other unproven propositions,[57]and that the unprovability of a god’s existence does not imply equal probability of either possibility.[58]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.”[59]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.[61]

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”.[62]There have however been examples to the contrary, among them examples of literal “atheists in foxholes”.[63]

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.[65]

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”.[67] The allocation of agnosticism to atheism is disputed; it can also be regarded as an independent, basic worldview.[68]

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.[69][70]

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).”[71]

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.[73]

Philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach[74]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.[75]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.”[76]

Atheism is not mutually exclusive with respect to some religious and spiritual belief systems, including Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Syntheism, Ralism,[77] and Neopagan movements[78]such as Wicca.[79]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.[80]Jainism believes the universe is eternal and has no need for a creator deity, however Tirthankaras are revered that can transcend space and time[81]and have more power than the god Indra.[82]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[83]and Eternal Buddha.

Apophatic theology is often assessed as being a version of atheism or agnosticism, since it cannot say truly that God exists.[84] “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”.[85] “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”.[86]

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.[68] 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,[87] or renders life meaningless and miserable.[88] Blaise Pascal argued this view in his Penses.[89]

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.[93][94]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.[95][96]

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.[98]In recent years, certain religious denominations have accumulated a number of openly atheistic followers, such as atheistic or humanistic Judaism[99][100]and Christian atheists.[101][102][103]

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.[104] Atheism is accepted as a valid philosophical position within some varieties of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism.[105]

Philosophers such as Slavoj iek,[106] Alain de Botton,[107] and Alexander Bard and Jan Sderqvist,[108] 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.[109][110][111]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.[112]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.”[113][114][115]

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.[116]

Philosophers Susan Neiman[117]and Julian Baggini[118](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.[119]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.[120] 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.[121]

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.[122]

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.”[123] 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…”[124]

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)[126] and authoritarianism, dogmatism, and prejudice.[127]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.[128]Believers counter-argue that some regimes that espouse atheism, such as the Soviet Union, have also been guilty of mass murder.[129][130] 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.[132]

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”,[134]predates atheism in English, being first found as early as 1566,[135]and again in 1571.[136]Atheist as a label of practical godlessness was used at least as early as 1577.[137]The term atheism was derived from the French athisme,[138] and appears in English about 1587.[139]An earlier work, from about 1534, used the term atheonism.[140][141]Related words emerged later: deist in 1621,[142]theist in 1662,[143]deism in 1675,[144]and theism in 1678.[145]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.[146]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,[138][139] 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.[147]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.[148]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.[149]

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:[150]

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.

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.[151]

Western atheism has its roots in pre-Socratic Greek philosophy,[154][155] but atheism in the modern sense was nonexistent or extremely rare in ancient Greece.[156][157][155] 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,[152] but did not explicitly deny the gods’ existence.[152] 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,[156][157][152] but he fled the city to escape punishment.[156][157][152] Later writers have cited Diagoras as the “first atheist”,[158][159] but he was probably not an atheist in the modern sense of the word.[157]

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.[160][157][161][157][155] This statement, however, originally did not mean that the gods themselves were nonexistent, but rather that their powers were a hoax.[155] 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.”[162][156]

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.[152][153] Aristophanes’ comic play The Clouds (performed 423 BCE) portrays Socrates as teaching his students that the traditional Greek deities do not exist.[152][153] Socrates was later tried and executed under the charge of not believing in the gods of the state and instead worshipping foreign gods.[152][153] Socrates himself vehemently denied the charges of atheism at his trial[152][153][163] 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.[152] 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.[164] Although not strictly an atheist, Euhemerus was later criticized for having “spread atheism over the whole inhabited earth by obliterating the gods”.[165]

The most important Greek thinker in the development of atheism was Epicurus (c. 300 BCE).[155] 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).[166] Although Epicurus still maintained that the gods existed,[167][155][166] he believed that they were uninterested in human affairs.[166] 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.[166] In the 3rd-century BCE, the Greek philosophers Theodorus Cyrenaicus[159][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.[157] Early Christians were widely reviled as “atheists” because they did not believe in the existence of the Graeco-Roman deities.[171][157][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.[59][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,[27] and in 2017, 9% were “convinced atheists”.[28] 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%.[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.[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, Saudi 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 a percentage of 51%.[244]

A study noted positive correlations between levels of education and secularism, including atheism, in America.[95] 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 | 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 byits 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? Findout 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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