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Human Hearts Hunger for the Bread of Life, Not Half-Baked Atheism – National Catholic Register

Commentary | Aug. 31, 2017

COMMENTARY: We must stand on our own feet, look the world square in the face, and recognize that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, without whom our lives our meaningless and our hopes vain.

Bertrand Russell, the 20th-century British philosopher, was not a Christian. He explained this clearly in his descriptively titled essay, Why I Am Not a Christian. I cannot especially recommend this work, though curious Christian readers should not in the least be afraid of it. Like many other highly intelligent men, Russell was at his stupidest when he got on the subject of religious faith.

Originally delivered as a lecture in March 1927, Why I Am Not a Christian is a veritable cornucopia of half-baked arguments and stream-of-consciousness rants.

In the early part of the essay, this giant of analytic philosophy nitpicks several of the classical proofs of Gods existence. He praises Darwinism, gripes that traditional morality inflicts upon all sorts of people undeserved and unnecessary suffering (how wonderful that enlightenment secularists came to liberate us from undeserved suffering!), and tosses off his personal theory that fear is at the heart of religious faith. He is offended because Jesus believed in hell, which no humane person should do. Nevertheless, he closes his anti-apologia by urging his readers or listeners to stand upon our own feet and look fair and square at the world its good facts, its bad facts, its beauties and its ugliness.

Curiously, Russell sees a tension between looking square at the world and declaring ourselves to be sinners. He must have lived his life among extremely nice people.

In his scholarly work, Russell was a formidable thinker, both systematic and thorough. In the theological realm, he was a scattershot, ignorant babbler, whose discourse shows virtually no understanding either of the internal logic of faith, or of the external structure of Christian theology, or of the psychological reasons why so many have chosen to reorder their entire lives around a man who lived and died in Palestine two millennia ago. Russells arguments are sophomoric, and even childish.

Todays New Atheists (men like Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett) are not of Russells caliber intellectually, but they have picked up this tradition, in some cases making whole careers out of contemptuous, ignorant invective against the followers of Christ.

Shouldnt it be obvious that a faith with the breadth, depth and geographical reach of Christianity cant be eviscerated just over the course of an evening lecture? If a university professor used a public lecture to give a slapdash dismissal of, say, another university discipline (Why Psychology Is Total Hogwash), he would discredit himself, incur the wrath of his colleagues, and likely provoke a firestorm in the broader community and perhaps media. But even a nonbeliever should easily see that Christianitys influence on the course of human civilization has been massive; the (relatively new) science of psychology can hardly begin to compare. Why is it uniquely respectable to give Christianity this kind of hatchet job?

Here we come to one of the great ironies of modern life. It is, in a sense, harder to believe in God today. To many it simply seems obvious that religious faith is foolish, self-indulgent and anachronistic. At the same time, modern life supplies us with abundant justification for religious belief. On so many levels, the world today confirms the truth of the hard words that Jesus Christ spoke, in a foreign land and a foreign tongue, 2,000 years ago.

Why is it harder to believe? It isnt just because the social costs are high, though for some they undoubtedly are. Christians, we should recall, have endured rejection and persecution for their faith from the time of Christ onwards.

At present, Western Christians mostly dont live in daily fear simply because they are continuing to practice the faith. Many Christians outside the West do know that kind of fear, and the past half-century has seen vicious outbreaks of anti-clericalism in both Europe and Latin America. In the United States, Catholics have never had to pay such a heavy price for practicing our faith. Even in an era when persecution is on the rise, we cannot reasonably claim that political persecution or social censure have made our faith uniquely burdensome.

Western Christians fight another kind of battle. We must hang onto our faith in a world where material and social circumstances can make it seem at once burdensome and superfluous. Things were rather different for many or most Catholics historically, since life options (concerning profession, places of residence, etc.) were for most people fairly circumscribed. Retaining good standing in the community of ones birth was (in most periods) pretty obviously necessary; hardly anyone could hope to survive and thrive without a supportive network of people. Even the slothful and rapacious had good reason to make at least a nominal show of piety, and for those who actually sought greater understanding or spiritual nourishment, the Church was the obvious resource.

Things are very different today. Opportunities abound. Entertainments abound. Self-help books and therapists and yoga groups abound. Communities of people form and dissolve again in an endless churn of frenzied activity. Sex is increasingly divorced from love and commitment; thanks to the internet, human interaction is increasingly divorced from the body itself. Our friendships and soul-searching conversations take place in a bloodless netherworld where no one can ever break bread.

In this world, its easy to walk away from the faith of ones fathers. For many, to all appearances, there are plenty of places to go, communities to join, and more interesting things to do on a Sunday morning. Who needs faith? Who wants it? many ask. Looking over all the messy history and extensive rules and complicated theological details of Catholicism, its tempting just to join Russell and other atheist apologists in declaring that we can do without all that: Modern society ticks along just fine on its secular axis. We have no need of the God hypothesis, this thinking says.

Here, though, we notice a strange thing. As the buffet of life grows ever larger, and ever-more-laden with colorful offerings, the nutritional value of those offerings keeps dropping. Adult life today is replete with customizable options, but something always seems to be missing. We keep going back to the table for extra helpings, but somehow we never feel full.

On a level of society, that emptiness manifests itself in rampant addiction, empty sex, pathologies of every variety, and large and growing numbers of single-parent households. Modernity made it easy for people to walk away from God. The further that experiment goes, the more plausible the God hypothesis starts to look.

The material world does not explain itself. Human beings, endowed with reason, have the capacity to recognize this fact and to see that nature herself points beyond herself, toward something (or Someone) much greater. This realization may be comforting, but then again it may not. There can be a certain comfort in believing that everything that exists is knowable and to some extent predictable. Once we make room for God in that picture, who can say what might happen, or where we might end up? Religious faith involves a kind of relinquishment of rational control, along with an acknowledgement of our deficiencies and weaknesses. We are not fully in charge of our own destiny, as much as we often would like to be.

As a highly intelligent man once said, however, it would be ignoble to let fear dominate our commitments and determine our beliefs. We must stand on our own feet, look fair and square at the world, and recognize that Jesus Christ is Our Lord and Savior, without whom our lives our meaningless and our hopes vain. Even as the path away from God becomes smoother and more downward-sloping, the world yearns for the meaning and fulfillment that only God can truly supply.

Rachel Lu, Ph.D.,

teaches philosophy at the

University of St. Thomasin

St. Paul, Minnesota.

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Human Hearts Hunger for the Bread of Life, Not Half-Baked Atheism - National Catholic Register

Agarkar’s donkeys: a meditation on God – Hindu Business Line

It should be our default position that God does not exist, all believers are delusional and all godmen are frauds

Dear readers, let me begin this column with a question for you: If donkeys were to paint their own God, what do you think the picture would be like?

This question was asked in the late-1880s in a classroom in Fergusson College in Poona, where Gopal Ganesh Agarkar, the second principal of that institution, was giving a lecture on logic. What would the Donkey God look like? Agarkar answered his question silently, raising both his hands above his ears and shaking them.

Agarkar was an atheist and a rationalist, and the institution he built carried that reputation as well. The anecdote above is from BR Nandas biography of Gopal Krishna Gokhale, and also mentions the time a gentleman named VR Shinde introduced himself as a Fergussonian to the Christian reformer, Pandita Ramabai. Her response: Oh! You come from that Atmosphere of Atheism!

I graduated from Fergusson College more than two decades ago, and though I am an atheist now, I didnt have an opinion on the subject of God at the time. There was certainly no Atmosphere of Atheism then, and I suspect that while there has been much progress since Agarkars time, his views would be equally unpopular today. We have made wonderful progress thanks to technology, but the human brain is one gadget that cannot be upgraded. It fell into its current design in prehistoric times, and there have been no updates since. Many modules that were features then are bugs now, including a propensity to construct (or be drawn towards) simple narratives that help you navigate a complex world. Religion is the perfect app for that ecosystem.

I wrote about atheism in the very first instalment of Lighthouse, this column for BLink. I wont repeat myself here, but in these days of resurgent religion and gimmicky godmen, here are five things I have to say that I think the good Mr Agarkar would agree with.

One: There is no God. By this, I am taking a default scientific position on everything: unless something can be proven to exist, the default position is that it does not. The existence of God, in many shapes and sizes, has been asserted for millennia without evidence. The burden of proof is on those who say that God exists, not on those who claim otherwise. (You cannot prove a negative.) Thus, atheism is the common-sense default position, and not something radical.

I should point out here that when I say There is no God, I do not mean There is definitely no God. Instead, I mean There is no God, unless proven otherwise. Please think for a moment about this subtle difference: Atheism is not a belief that there is no God, but an absence of belief in God.

This is an important distinction because it answers those who classify atheism as a belief system just like religion. As a letter writer to The Economist put it many years ago, atheism is no more a religion than not collecting stamps is a hobby.

Two: If there was a God, hed be a terrible, immoral God, worthy of our contempt. Everything that happens in the universe would be caused by Him. Every rape, every murder, all the suffering of starving infants, all the pain. It doesnt matter how you justify it, if God exists, hes a ruthless sadist.

Richard Dawkins once described the God of the Old Testament in terms that would, more or less, fit all Gods: The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirst ethnic cleanser; a misogynist, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

Three: All religious people are delusional by definition. This follows from point one. It is problematic that you believe in something that cannot be proven. It is pathetic that you reside this belief in someone elses imaginary friend. At least have an original delusion.

It astonishes me that religious belief is actually looked upon as a prerequisite for high office. It should be a disqualifier. Even in the US, for all the hoopla about the first black president, I wait for the day they have an openly atheist president. There was recent praise for a Supreme Court judgment in India by a five-member bench where each judge belonged to a separate religion. If they were all believers, then this only means that they were delusional in different ways. Big deal.

Four: All godmen are frauds. Dont fall for the false dichotomy of good godmen and bad godmen, where the bad ones are rapists and paedophiles, while the good ones are sophisticated and gentle. They are all frauds. They are delusional to begin with unless their piousness is also faked and masters at mass manipulation. They all use other human beings as a means to an end, and are therefore on the same moral plane. They all deserve our contempt.

Five: We dont need God to be moral. The morality that comes from religion is morality for the wrong reasons. We do certain things because we want to belong in a group. We behave in a particular way because we want to go to heaven or earn good karma, in which case our behaviour is an instrument towards a selfish purpose. The best kind of morality arises from reason. It can come from empathy for others. It can come from self-interest, for we are all in this together.

To end this column, heres a thought experiment inspired by Agarkars donkeys: If we make God in our own image, what would your God look like and what would that say about you? I can easily imagine mine. He would be an atheist God, lacking self-belief, horrified at His own actions. He would also wonder who created Him.

(This article was published on September 1, 2017)

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Agarkar's donkeys: a meditation on God - Hindu Business Line

Pakistani School Pulls Imagine from Concert; Critics Said It Promotes Atheism – Patheos (blog)

Students at the Karachi Grammar School in Pakistan were scheduled to sing John Lennons brilliant and beautiful song Imagine during a concert tonight, but the song was pulled from the event after two conservatives argued that it was an anthem to atheism and a violation of the nations blasphemy laws.

Columnist Ansar Abbasi spurred the controversy a couple of days ago when he noted that the lyrics included the line And no religion too:

Another commentator, Orya Maqbool Jan, claimed the school was imposing the song on the kids and urged the government to respond.

The song questions our belief in God and encourages an atheist mindset, Jan said on the nationally televised programme. He called for the government to take strict action against the school and its management.

Also fueling the fire was the claim that the schools principal wanted to indoctrinate the children against hard-line fundamentalism.

Mr Abbasi reportedly said that the schools new Principal, Dr C. E. Wall, a British citizen educated at Appleby Grammar School, was introducing corrupting secular values to KGS, whose alma matter includes the assassinated former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto.

The school caved, but its not hard to sympathize. This is a nation where blasphemy is punishable by death, and perceived blasphemy can often lead to the same damn thing.

Pakistan announced last week that they were finally revising the blasphemy laws but only to include the death penalty for those guilty of making false accusations. So the law itself isnt going away.

Because of all that, a classic song about a desire for world peace that literally imagines a world where we didnt fight over God and borders and superficial things was struck from a concert for children.

This is why we cant have nice things.

(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to everyone for the link)

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Pakistani School Pulls Imagine from Concert; Critics Said It Promotes Atheism - Patheos (blog)

Coming Out as an Atheist – HuffPost

A few weeks ago, on a breezy Saturday evening, my husband and I were spending time with our friend Israel in his apartment in San Francisco. We all work at Google and our conversations usually revolve around start-ups or cool projects, but this was not one of those times.

Were you raised a Hindu? Israel asked me. His assumption was understandable since I am from India. I knew where it was headed and its not my favorite topic, but the affable environment made me open up.

My upbringing in an Indian upper-middle class family was a unique experience. Although my family was Muslim, I went to a private Catholic school and most of my friends were Hindus. Thus, at a very young age, I started wrestling with religious inconsistencies I was constantly exposed to. Critical thinking eventually led me to reject religion and the idea of an all-powerful god. However, I was alone in my outlook - neither my family nor my friends shared it.

Atheism may represent just a sliver of the population but its numbers appear to be growing. According to a 2014 study by Pew Research, 3.1% of American adults said they were atheists when asked about their religious identity - a near doubling since 2007 when the figure was a mere 1.6%. These statistics unfortunately dont exist for a country like India.

I told Israel about the misogynistic culture and illogical ideology that permeated my childhood. My not-so-faded memories stood out like jagged splinters of glass, and as I flitted through them, Israel suddenly exclaimed, You broke the matrix too!

I was momentarily surprised. Not because of the way he summed up my past, but because of the word too. I know Israel, unlike me, had a conventional upbringing. He sensed my curiosity and had an idea: , Oh man! he said. You should talk to Jesse. He was raised in a conservative evangelical family and he was actually home-schooled, but he broke the matrix too. The matrix was of course a reference to the 90s sci-fi movie, where the protagonist breaks free from the perceived reality to which he is assigned.

I knew Jesse as a brilliant and thoughtful engineer, not as someone who also had a suffocating childhood. Our conversations thus far had been restricted to fixing software bugs and launching features. But now I almost had an instant personal connection that I couldnt wait to explore.

Sure enough, two weeks later, we all ended up in Los Angeles for a conference. As the program drew to a close, I pulled Jesse aside and mentioned my conversation with Israel. He had the familiar expression of a surprise dart through his eyes. He smiled and slowly delved into his past.

Like other evangelical Christians, Jesse was taught to denounce science and despise non-believers. He was trained to care more about abstinence and rapture than honesty and compassion. He was homeschooled and his exposure outside was strictly limited to his church community. His only avenue to the world at large was through the internet.

I used the internet to convert other people, he recounted. However, the strangers he challenged on the web were patient and understanding. They told him that the studies from pseudo-science books he read had been debunked, and instead pointed him to peer-reviewed research articles. They sowed the seeds of doubt that slowly started to take root. Unbeknownst to his family, he discovered philosophies and values that resonated deeply with him. Soon he taught himself to write computer code instead of decoding the mysteries of the bible.

When he grappled with the realization that he could no longer believe the dogmatic truths to which his family subscribed, he couldnt tell them. He feared it would shatter everything they had wished and hoped for.

When I told my mom I joined Google, which was a major milestone in my life, she said she was disappointed that I was not regularly attending church he said. That hurt. Jesse smiled and I could instantly connect with his agony. Conversations with his family often included the phrase, I will pray for you, a reminder that no matter how happy or successful he might be, it wouldnt measure up to an arbitrary ritual that they held high.

He told me he was going to have an open discussion with his parents the next time they visited him. While they might already have guessed he was an atheist, he suppressed that conversion in their presence. The passive shaming and condemnation takes a toll, and to be able to finally come out as a non-believer can be deeply cathartic.

In some ways this process bears resemblance to someone coming out as gay or lesbian. As a society, we now have more awareness - and tolerance - of the damage caused when a persons LGBTQ identity is repressed. Having celebrated pride month, should we also shine light on those of us who dont fit the cultural or religious mold? To escape the clutches of belief systems reinforced through many generations, is indeed, breaking the matrix.

Childhood comes prepackaged with trials and tribulations, with your changing body and obscure emotions. The need to fit in, tinged with the irony of figuring out your individuality. But when you top that with a heap of religious and cultural expectations, and force obedience through fear and guilt, growing up becomes infinitely challenging. When people like Jesse and I look back on our childhood, its not with a wave of nostalgia but with bottled-up agony. We couldnt wait to grow up, to be able to express ideas and make our own decisions without strident voices telling us how we failed somebody or something.

As the social hour at the summit came to a close, Jesse smiled and said, Its so special to meet someone who has shared a similar struggle. I nodded in agreement and wished him luck.

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Coming Out as an Atheist - HuffPost

Atheism: the latest whipping boy for Malaysia’s pre-election politics … – South China Morning Post

Arrawdah comes from a middle-class Muslim-Malay family. Well-travelled and fluent in both English and Bahasa Malaysia, he seems the epitome of the moderate Islam supposedly practised in Malaysia.

But as a closeted atheist, Arrwadah faces family conflict on a regular basis when his parents ask why he does not attend Friday prayers, when he hides his alcohol consumption from his siblings, and when he eats in secret during the holy month of Ramadan.

But recently, he and a group of atheist friends from various religious backgrounds were outed by a photo going viral on social media, and have since become the target of hate from fundamentalist quarters as well as the subject of a government crackdown.

The non-profit group Atheist Republics Malaysian chapter, or Consulate, met in early August for dinner and drinks, and posted a photo with the caption: Atheists from all walks of life came to meet one another, some for the very first time each sharing their stories and forming new friendships that hopefully last a lifetime! We rock!

The photo, which depicted a group of young, casually dressed Malaysians from different ethnic backgrounds, quickly made the rounds online. Shortly thereafter, the government announced a crackdown to determine if any Muslims were involved in the gathering.

In multiracial and largely Muslim Malaysia, apostasy from Islam is a criminal offence in several states and under a proposal to introduce the strict Islamic penal code known as hudud, the penalty would be death.

Although this punishment is not yet enforceable due to restrictions by federal law, apostates can still be slapped with a hefty fine, sent for detention in Islamic rehabilitation centres, jailed and even whipped.

The Islamic Affairs Department is reported to have said that state religious departments can take action against any Muslims suspected of apostasy depending on where the crime takes place. A federal minister in the Prime Ministers Department, Shahidan Kassim, said during a press conference in parliament that atheists should be hunted down vehemently as the constitution of Malaysia did not allow for atheism. He claimed that the cause of atheism was a lack of religious education, and the youths were misled into a new school of thought.

Dr Maszlee Malik, a senior lecturer at the International Islamic University Malaysia, believes the crackdown is a political red herring meant to draw public attention away from real bread-and-butter issues.

These kinds of activities were well-planned to be sensationalised before the election. [The ruling coalition] Barisan Nasional [BN] will stir religious and racial sentiments, and its unfortunate these youths couldnt read the situation. BN just needs more controversial issues so they can prove to majority rural and conservative Malays that they are the real defenders of Islam.

Maszlee predicts the next big issues in the playbook will be LGBT rights, Christianity and then liberalism as long as these fringe groups are vocal or provocative all to sway people from the real issues such as the 1Malaysia Development Berhad [1MDB] corruption scandal, GST [goods and services tax], kleptocracy, the Chinasisation of the economy, corruption and so on.

This was echoed by Dr Ahmad Farouk Mousa, director of the think tank Islamic Renaissance Front, who said that this move, along with other fundamentalist gestures such as allowing unilateral child conversion, was merely to appease hardliners.

This group is a lifeline to the current ruling coalition in the face of massive corruption. As for the government the state really doesnt have any legitimacy to interfere because what these kids are doing is not curtailing any other citizens temporal rights.

Lutheran pastor Rev Dr Sivin Kit, who is also director of the Centre for Religion and Society, raises the same concerns.

The minister really overreacted calling for hunting down people is disproportionate to the event in question. We received more measured, thoughtful reactions from some state muftis, but the political leaders seemed far more invested than the religious ones. We should be more critical of their reaction as opposed to young people posting up pictures Im actually very cautious and guarded about why the political leaders are so excited about this.

For the youths in the photo, the threatened crackdown poses very real risks. Some have been outed to their families and others have gone digitally underground to avoid threatening messages.

For Arrawdah (not his real name), 26, being an atheist in Malaysia and coming from a conservative Muslim family is an exhausting ordeal.

Theocratic laws have done nothing good for us: arresting good people for doing nothing wrong, subjecting them to punishment that wouldnt be carried out to people of different faiths, separating children from their mothers because of a difference of religion, punishing people for their sexual identity or preferences, punishing people for sex. But I think hardest of all is having to live behind a mask every single day, having to lie to your peers, family, and friends day in, day out. Constantly pretending to be someone youre not in front of your loved ones and not letting them know who you really are. Its draining, he said.

The gathering, he said, was just a casual meeting of like-minded friends and the governments reaction was not commensurate with the crime.

Some choose to discuss topics pertaining to religion, and at times human rights issues dominate the conversations. But to be honest, most of us just want to talk about the latest Game of Thrones episode. The government is overreacting, but Im not surprised. Ideas that bring about social progress, that challenge antiquated religious dogma have always been seen as a threat. Ideas like womens suffrage, gender equality and LGBT rights.

Dr Azmi Sharom, an associate professor at University Malayas Law Faculty, said that the authorities mistrust of otherness wasnt restricted to atheism.

The authorities tend to demonise Muslims who do not follow their school of thought. This includes Ahmadiyas and Shias. The insistence of there being only one school of Islamic thought in Malaysia has become part of the public landscape for many years now. So, no, apostates are not being unfairly demonised the Islamic authorities demonise all who disagree with them. They are equal opportunity demonisers.

Atheist Republic founder Armin Navabi said that the Malaysian government had to think long and hard before taking action against people for merely attending a meeting.

Does the Malaysian government really want their image to be put right next to countries like Saudi Arabia? To treat these people like criminals, people who havent harmed anybody? They must surely see how ridiculous that will look to the rest of the civilised world, he said.

Progress comes in small victories, said Arrawdah. The more exposed the public are to our existence, the more attainable that progress becomes.

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Atheism: the latest whipping boy for Malaysia's pre-election politics ... - South China Morning Post

Joe O’Toole: Where did it all go wrong for Irish atheists? – Irish Times

It was a strange epiphany in the unlikely setting of the local refuse recycling centre in a small French town.

I was intending to drop off some stuff but was surprised to find the facility locked up even though it was mid-afternoon of a working day. The notice on the gate was unexpected and unapologetic. Ferm pour la fte de lAscension. Closed for the Feast of the Ascension! By order of the mayor. And thats not the end of it. August 15th is a mighty summer festival day when official France will celebrate what, not to put too fine a point on it, is the Feast of the Assumption of Our Blessed Lady into Heaven.

There it is!

France, the proud leader of western European secularism self-confident enough and tolerant enough to take time out to celebrate a Christian feast day without threat to the principles of libert, galit and fraternit.

Contrast that with the precious intolerance of Irish atheists towards the centenary commemoration of the Easter Rising because of the religious connotations of Easter or the devious theists using the ethos lever to discriminate in schools and hospitals. Throw in hospital nativity cribs and the Angelus bells on television and prayers in Leinster House, etc, and it raises the question: where did it all go wrong for us?

In the matter of church and State relationships could we learn something from France?

That little notice at the recycling centre evoked reminiscences from simpler times. Back to those Thursdays in May when our town closed down for Ascension commemorations and Corpus Christi processions. When we were all press-ganged to march in step with the gloved Knights of St Columbanus as they reverently hoisted the canopy over the blessed sacrament while we sang out O Sacrament Most Holy and incense wafted through the air.

So were we infused with zealotry and piety?

Not at all! The religious processions were a cog in the cultural wheel of the year and took their places along with bonfire night, Dingle races and wrens day.

If the intention was to indoctrinate us, then it failed miserably. Most of us spent the following decades fencing against croziers in local matters and battling the church nationally through referendum campaigns.

In the course of a few decades in which our nation has swopped conservatism for liberalism we have segued from oppressive, authoritarian Catholicism to the totalitarianism of proselytising atheism. But whereas we have won important independence of actions and attitudes we are, nonetheless, more polarised than ever and deeply intolerant in matters of belief and religion.

Change was resisted and we are still scarred from the battles we joined to make gains in relation to abortion, religious schools, gay rights, divorce and more, but each those battles further splintered our nation.

Maybe Wolfe Tone got us off on the wrong foot. It is ironic that though separation of church and State is a defining characteristic of a modern republic nonetheless Tone, in declaring that his republic should comprise Catholic, Protestant and dissenter, relied heavily on religious denomination.

In fact, well-intentioned Tones simplistic formula, instead of delivering a tolerance-based solution, left us skewered on a trilemma. Instead of merging the three parts into a harmonious community we managed to splinter the nation politically, socially and culturally. Tones tolerant republicanism was scalpelled by narrow nationalism and self-interest.

The public intellectuals of the day rejected Tones trinity. The Catholic Church was having none of it and screamed One, holy Catholic and apostolic, The Protestants spawned even more dissenters and our report card eventually referenced, inter alia, a polarised community, a partitioned country and an apartheid education service.

In recent times we struggled to inculcate the principles of parity of esteem, mutual understanding and tolerance among and between groups in Northern Ireland and in the Republic, but were further challenged by the reality that Tones formula was rooted in theism.

Theists considered all the available evidence and found God. Atheists looking at the same book of evidence came to the opposite conclusion. The rest of us, the agnostics, sat on the fence around the borders of logic. All would be tolerable were it not for the attempts by various groups to have their beliefs permeate the practices, laws and constitution of our democracy.

Lets turn the page, terminate the current Republic and establish a new Second Irish Republic rebranding Tones narrow Catholic, Protestant and dissenter vision to comprise instead theist, atheist and agnostic citizens who respect and celebrate each others differences.

Lets try the French way of celebrating the festivals with our believing citizens without allowing their religious beliefs to permeate and determine the rules of our society.

Joe OToole is a former senator and president of Ictu

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Joe O'Toole: Where did it all go wrong for Irish atheists? - Irish Times

Atheism: Proving The Negative

Many believe that the moral guidance provided by religious belief makes us better people. Many also believe that Islamic religious beliefs are not to blame for the immoral actions such as suicide bombings, mass shootings, or the mass murders of cartoonists who lampooned Muhammad. Those actions dont represent the real or essential Islam.

I argue that religious beliefs can also make us morally worse. And in fact, certain, central Islamic beliefs are making enough people morally worse, and in dangerous ways, that certain other vital, positive moral and political values we should all hold are threatened.

I argue for three claims:1) A wide range of dangerous, morally misguided beliefs are held by large percentages, sometimes large majorities, of Muslims.2) The holding of these beliefs by such large percentages of these populations contributes directly and significantly to peoples being willing to commit suicide bombings, mass shootings, honor killing of rape victims, assaults and murders of homosexuals, and other morally abhorrent acts.3) And perhaps most controversially, while there may be other social, political, and cultural factors that contribute to these behaviors, certain beliefs central to the ideology of the Muslim religion itself are making a significant contribution to people having these morally repugnant beliefs and acting on them.

Some of the evidence for 1): We have ample evidence that large percentages, sometimes significant majorities, of Muslims in Egypt, Tunisia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Niger, Pakistan, Thailand, and many others hold these views:

Only one faith, Islam, can lead to heaven.Sharia law ought to be the law of the land, even for non-Muslims.Crimes such as theft should have corporal punishment such as whippings or cutting off of the hands.Adulterers should be stoned.Apostates should be executed.Suicide bombings are sometimes or often justified.Homosexuality is immoral and ought to be punished.Violating the edicts of Islam, such as drawing a cartoon of Mohammed, should be punished.Women should not have equal treatment politically, socially, morally, and religiously.Women, out of religious morality, should not be exposed to the view of men other than their family members or their husbands.Honor killings are justified for women who have had premarital or extramarital sex.

http://www.pewforum.org/2013/04/30/the-worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society-overview/http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/01/08/what-is-appropriate-attire-for-women-in-muslim-countries/http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/11/europe/britain-muslims-survey/

There will be this objection: there are many Muslims who hold more liberal, inclusive, and tolerant views; these are isolated, extreme views. There are always fringe views and extreme views in every movement, not because the central ideology itself is corrupt but because of a few bad actors. The problem with this objection is that such high percentages of Muslims hold these views; they are mainstream. The polls show that liberal, tolerant, and inclusive Muslim ideologies are actually fringe views, and intolerance, fundamentalism, and theocratic views are held by 50%, 70% or over 90% of these populations.

Some of the evidence for 2): When morally extreme views like the ones in Islam are held by majorities or even large minorities of the population, those popular beliefs contribute directly and significantly to peoples being willing to commit suicide bombings, mass shootings, honor killing of rape victims, assaults and murders of homosexuals, and other morally abhorrent acts. In any population, there are those outliers at the political, psychological, social, and moral extremes. But as the percentages of people in the mainstream who hold similar or facilitating views goes up, there will be a greater percentage of people holding comparatively extreme views, and being willing to act on them. In the deep south in the United States, when mildly intolerant, racist. anti-segregationist, and anti-civil rights views were more mainstream, more people held profoundly racist, hateful, and violent views, contributing to the KKKs lynching blacks, for example. The mainstream beliefs serve as a sort of incubator for the more extreme versions of the views. Whereas a man who would be reluctant to beat his wife if it was widely condemned, having Imans endorse wife beating and describing the sorts of transgressions that make it appropriate, and having wide percentages of the population accept it clearly make it easier, safer, and more appealing for him to beat her.

Some of the evidence for 3): The ideology of the Muslim religion itself is spreading these morally repugnant beliefs. Clearly, Islamic religious doctrine, practices, and socialization fostering the beliefs in question. Furthermore, the people who hold the beliefs, the people in the surveys above as well as ISIS, Al Queda, and the Taliban themselves adamantly and consistently claim that they have these beliefs and pursue their actions because they are religious commandments. The people holding these views and acting on them maintain that their justifications, and their guidance is Islam. Do they not know their true motivations? Are they all lying? Who would be in a better position than them to judge?The critic may argue that while there are extreme elements of Islam that are fostering these beliefs, they do not belong to Islam more generally. The true Islam, the real Islam, that these extremists have distorted and perverted is a religion of peace and is blameless. The problem with these sorts of objections, however, is that they run the risk of committing the No True Scotsman fallacy. The polling data above shows that the views in question are held by large majorities of people in a number of Muslim majority countries. The critic then has to concede that 78% of self-described Muslims in Maylasia, or 65% of self-described Mulsims in Indonesia, or Tunisia, or Nigeria are not, in fact, real Muslims. The critic will be forced to conclude that hundreds of millions of people who consider themselves to be Muslim, who pray to Mecca five times a day, who have organized their lives and their cultures around what they take to be the literal, perfect word of Allah from the Koran, are not, in fact, Muslims at all. The other problem is that the moving the goalposts on what counts a real Islam simply misses the most important point; even if they dont represent real Islam, we still have the problem of what to do about hundreds of millions of pseudo-Muslims who hold these views. The preponderance of the beliefs doesnt cease when we confine Muslim to only those people who dont hold them, nor does the violence, the violations of civil rights, and the abuse of women and girls. There are hundreds of millions of people out there who hold them and who are acting on them, whatever label you wish to apply to their religious faith.

Critics may also insist that there are other non-Islamic factors making a contribution, it will be difficult to plausibly argue religion isnt playing a direct role here. The critic who wishes to argue that the real reasons do not spring from Islamic religious ideology will have to argue that the actors themselves are wrong. They dont actually understand how they came to have these beliefs, or why they are committing these actions. The critic will have to argue that some third person analysis that points to non-Islamic factors should be favored over the actors own account. While I would not deny that some other factors could contribute, it would be perverse, given the facts, to deny that Islamic ideology itself played a major role. Consider a case on the other side: suppose that a person such as Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King commits acts of great positive moral value and they report that they did it because they felt that God wanted them to, or that they were moved by the love of God, or they felt a responsibility to follow Gods commandments. Are we inclined in those cases to disavow their account of their reasons and motivations in favor of some non-religious account of their behavior that denies the religious belief component? No, we accept that they did it for religious reasons, and we do so largely and simply because they said so. Hundreds of millions of Muslims hold the beliefs in question, and they claim that they have those beliefs and that they act on them for explicitly religious reasons. This critic would have us ignore our clearest indicator of why someone holds a belief--they hold it for the reasons that they themselves cite for justification--and replace the explanation with some external causes, robbing that person of moral responsibility, moral knowledge, and agency for their actions.

Claiming that being religious helps people to be moral is a bit like a fraternitys taking credit for one of its brothers getting good grades. There are certainly some cases where some of the direct efforts by the fraternity--study hall, tutoring, minimum GPA requirements--have a positive impact on a students grades. But there are certainly cases where the fraternity had a direct negative effect on a students grades with excessive drinking, too many parties, an anti-intellectual culture, encouragements to cheat, and so on. Religious ideologies can go either way, too. They can contribute to and bring out some of the better qualities and behaviors in us, but they can also foster profound evil. And this is what is happening with Islam.

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Atheism: Proving The Negative

Atheism in Russia Cut 50% in Three Years – Church Militant

MOSCOW (ChurchMilitant.com) - A recentpoll is showing the number of atheists in Russia has dropped by half in the last three years.

According to the Levada Center, a Russian-based, independent, non-governmental research organization, those who consider themselves "absolutely irreligious" fell from 26 percent in 2014 to just 13 percent in 2017. As many as 44 percent described themselves as "quite religious," 33 percent as "not too religious" and 9 percent as "very religious."

The survey was conducted in urban and rural populations within the respondent's home by a personal interview method. In June, a total of 1,600 people aged 18 and over were interviewed in 137communitiesin 48 regions.

Entrance to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conceptionof the Holy Virgin Mary,opened in 1911,closed byCommunist authorities in 1937 and reopened in 1999.

Between 2014 and 2017, the feelings toward Catholics have not changed significantly, but 34 percent of the Russians polled view the Holy Catholic Church with "respect" and 40 percent view the Church with "benevolence." Ten percent have "conflicted feelings" toward Catholics and another 5 percent look on them with "dislike" and "fear" combined. Thirteen percent found it "difficult to answer."

The poll is also indicatingthat Jews are now seen in a more favorable light. The number of those who say they either "dislike" or "fear" Jews has dropped from 15 percent in 2014 to 11 percent in 2017.

As to Muslims, 17 percent have "conflicted feelings," and 13 percent look on Muslims with "dislike" or "fear."

After the Soviet Union dissolved in December 1991, 500,000 Catholics were estimated to be in the country. Several have since died or emigrated to their ethnic homelands in Europe, such asGermany,Belarus orUkraine. The communist Soviet Union, which persecuted all religions, saw Catholicism as a non-Russian allegiance. Owing to the dominance of the Russian Orthodox Church in present-day Russia, Catholicism is still not officially recognized by the State. As a result, Catholics have commonly been seen as outsiders.

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Atheism in Russia Cut 50% in Three Years - Church Militant

The bravery of the ex-Muslim – Spiked

The UK is a country that celebrates fundamental freedoms including freedom of belief. We are free to put our faith in gods, tooth fairies, men in turquoise shellsuits who proclaim divinity, or the mystical powers of the occult, if we so choose. But recent evidence given to the Home Affairs Committee on hate crime paints a frightening picture for those who choose no longer to believe in Islam. The written evidence, provided by the British Pakistani Christian Association, includes testimonials from ex-Muslims, many of them anonymous. Typically those who leave Islam face a stark choice keep quiet about their decision, or face discrimination, hatred and violence, the evidence reads. While Islamophobia and anti-Semitism feature prominently on the political agenda, the persecution of Britains apostates has gone largely unnoticed.

The testimonials make for depressing reading a snapshot of the dark underbelly of liberal Britains multi-religious society. Shaheen (pseudonym), a Christian convert, describes being beaten and left for dead by family members. A local imam told him he was Satan, and made an unequivocal threat: If we were in Egypt or Syria, I would cut off your head. Seyyed (pseudonym) describes receiving death threats, verbal abuse and refusal of service in taxis and shops. Ostracism is a theme running through each narrative. Facebook is the medium through which another was intimidated. Meanwhile, a church leader and friends were referred to as kafir/infidel dogs. This, we must remember, isnt hatred on the streets of Tehran, Riyadh or Islamabad, but modern-day Britain.

While many ex-Muslims dont come out, some have made a brave stand in defiance of Islamist threats. Established a decade ago, the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) receives approximately 350-400 inquiries for assistance each year. It has supported tens of thousands of people, including Christian converts, atheists, agnostics and humanists. Some who seek assistance end up volunteering for the organisation like CEMB spokesperson Sadia Hameed. British ex-Muslims are likely to face physical punishments, forced marriage or disownment, she tells me. Hameed says there is no support from the government and ex-Muslims arent taken seriously enough. For criticising beliefs and ideas we are seen as the troublemakers.

Many ex-Muslims have been shunned and shamed for their decision to leave Islam. Some, Hameed says, have committed suicide. Her story is featured in Deeyah Khans 2016 documentary Islams Non-Believers, where she recounts her painful journey to atheism. Its a raw account of the trauma this brave woman has endured. In one poignant scene, she says: I remember saying to my mum, I dont think I believe in God any more, and her saying, You cant tell anybody else because theyll kill you, we are obliged to kill ex-Muslims, and that it would put me at extreme risk if anybody else was to find out. So that conversation ended there.

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The bravery of the ex-Muslim - Spiked

Atheism – FreeThoughtPedia

From FreeThoughtPedia

Atheism is the lack of belief in a deity.

Theists often assume atheism to be a "belief". And therefore they claim that atheism is a belief system that also requires "faith" (to believe there is no god). This is an erroneous characterization. A "lack of belief" is not a "world view"; it presupposes no rules, doctrine or dogma. It's merely a lack of belief in a god. Do you believe in the non-existence of Santa Claus? Would you call yourself an anti-tooth-fairyian? Is ones' identity or world-view tied to what they don't believe in?

Here is the origin of the word atheist/atheism:

"Atheism", from the Greek:

Therefore, "atheism" is "the state, quality, or condition of being without a god or deity". "Atheos" would literally mean "godless", and "atheismos" ("atheism") would literally mean "godlessness".

Notice that the prefix "a-" does not mean "not" or "against". It's a common mistake to think so. That would require the use of the Greek prefix "anti-", such as in the term antikhristos ("antichrist").

Now, let's change that suffix. "Atheist", from the Greek:

An "atheist", then, would be "a person who supports or subscribes to a godless state, quality, or condition".

This does not necessarily mean that atheists positively believe that there is no god. It simply means that they advocate a lifestyle that is devoid of one. They live their lives as if there were no god.

Atheism can be further broken down into the following sub-categories:

99% of most atheists are the "weak" variety, even though most theists' idea of atheism is something different:

A typical atheist may be strong towards a specific deity such as Jesus, claiming that they are confident the Christian god does not exist. Likewise a Christian may be a strong atheist towards the Hindu gods.

The term agnosticism itself does not specifically relate to religion or supernatural creators. It is a statement on whether 'knowledge is known, unknown, or can never be known'. Therefore, someone can be agnostic about any subject, philosophy, material or immaterial claim.

However, in the popular vernacular, the term agnostic is most often associated with theism. Technically-speaking, the lone term "agnostic" has no meaning without a subject to qualify, but when used by itself is often assumed to be making a statement on the subject of theism (or lack of the believe in knowledge thereof).

In the popular vernacular context of agnosticism by default being associated with god-claims, it can be considered a subset of atheism. Mainstream media and many people will rarely make note of this because many choose to use the term agnostic to describe their lack of belief due to the negative connotations the media associates with the term atheist, but technically agnostics are atheists: You don't typically believe in something you are not sure exists! For the sake of argument, some people will note it is possible to believe in something who's existence can or will never be known, but such a position could be clinically diagnosed as a symptom of mental retardation when the scenario doesn't involve something as politically-correct as mainstream religion.

Agnosticism can also be broken down into:

The common definitions for "atheism" involve strong and weak versions. Strong = belief there are no god(s); Weak = disbelief/lack of belief in god(s). Some dictionaries stress the strong version over the weak version as a standard accepted meaning. Is this accurate? Not necessarily and this shows the bias of early publishers.

Weak atheism is a subset of strong atheism, but not vice versa. Therefore the most accurate definition of atheism, without further qualification is the weak variety.

Many popular dictionaries imply the strong definition of atheism as the default, even though strong atheists (people who claim there are no god(s)) are a minority among those calling themselves atheist.

One reason why a misleading definition of atheism exists in popular traditional publications can be traced back to the religious roots of those in the dictionary publishing business. For example, Noah Webster:

His 1828 American Dictionary contained the greatest number of Biblical definitions given in any reference volume. Webster considered education "useless without the Bible". Webster claimed to have learned 20 different languages in finding definitions for which a particular word is used. From the preface to the 1828 edition of Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language:

Webster released his own edition of the Bible in 1833, called the Common Version. He used the King James Version (KJV) as a base and consulted the Hebrew and Greek along with various other versions and commentaries. Webster molded the KJV to correct grammar, replaced words that were no longer used, and did away with words and phrases that could be seen as offensive.

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Atheism - FreeThoughtPedia

About | American Atheists

Since 1963,American Atheists has been the premier organization fighting for the civil liberties of atheists and the total, absolute separation of government and religion. American Atheists was born out of a court case begun in 1959 by the Murray family which challenged prayer recitation in the public schools.

That case, Murray v. Curlett, was a landmark in American jurisprudence on behalf of our FirstAmendmentrights. It began:

"Your petitioners are atheists, and they define their lifestyle as follows. An atheist loves himself and his fellow man instead of a god. An atheist accepts that heaven is something for which we should work now here on earth for all men together to enjoy. An atheist accepts that he can get no help through prayer, but that he must find in himself the inner conviction and strength to meet life, to grapple with it, to subdue it and to enjoy it. An atheist accepts that only in a knowledge of himself and a knowledge of his fellow man can he find the understanding that will help lead to a life of fulfillment."

Now in its 51st year,American Atheistsis dedicated to working for the civil rights of atheists, promoting separation of state and church, and providing information about atheism. Over the last fifty years, American Atheists has:

Originally posted here:
About | American Atheists

History of atheism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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

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

Atheistic notions slowly gained traction in certain intellectual circles in Europe following the Renaissance and Reformation. Atheism was championed by some French Revolutionaries who sought to purge France of religion. Atheism made great inroads following the First and Second World Wars, when Communist regimes promoting state atheism were established around the world. MarxistLeninist atheism and similar variations of Marxian thought on religion were influential in Communist governments of the twentieth century and survive to varying degrees among Marxists and in the ideology of states that continue to be governed by forms of communism, such as China, North Korea and Cuba. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, religiosity has re-established itself to varying extents across the former Soviet bloc, while in Western societies, religiosity has broadly been in decline and adherence to an atheist outlook has been growing, with some high profile advocates.

In the East, a contemplative life not centered on the idea of deities began in the sixth century BCE with the rise of Jainism, Buddhism, and certain sects of Hinduism in India, and of Taoism in China. These religions claim to offer a philosophic and salvific path not involving on deity worship. Deities are not seen as necessary to the salvific goal of the early Buddhist tradition, their reality is explicitly questioned and refuted there is a fundamental incompatibility between the notion of gods and basic Buddhist principles.[2]

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

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

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

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

The thoroughly materialistic and anti-religious philosophical Crvka school that originated in India with the Brhaspatya-stras (final centuries BCE) is probably the most explicitly atheist school of philosophy in the region. The school grew out of the generic skepticism in the Mauryan period. Already in the sixth century BCE, Ajita Kesakambalin, was quoted in Pali scriptures by the Buddhists with whom he was debating, teaching that "with the break-up of the body, the wise and the foolish alike are annihilated, destroyed. They do not exist after death."[3] Crvkan philosophy is now known principally from its Astika and Buddhist opponents. The proper aim of a Crvkan, according to these sources, was to live a prosperous, happy, productive life in this world. The Tattvopaplavasimha of Jayarashi Bhatta (c. eighth century) is sometimes cited as a surviving Carvaka text. The school appears to have died out sometime around the fifteenth century.

The non-adherence[4] to the notion of a supreme deity or a prime mover is seen by many as a key distinction between Buddhism and other religions. While Buddhist traditions do not deny the existence of supernatural beings (many are discussed in Buddhist scripture), it does not ascribe powers, in the typical Western sense, for creation, salvation or judgement, to the "gods", however, praying to enlightened deities is sometimes seen as leading to some degree of spiritual merit.

Buddhists accept the existence of beings in higher realms (see Buddhist cosmology), known as devas, but they, like humans, are said to be suffering in samsara,[5] and not particularly wiser than we are. In fact the Buddha is often portrayed as a teacher of the deities,[6] and superior to them.[7] Despite this they do have some enlightened Devas in the path of buddhahood.

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

In western Classical Antiquity, theism was the fundamental belief that supported the divine right of the state (Polis, later the Roman Empire). Historically, any person who did not believe in any deity supported by the state was fair game to accusations of atheism, a capital crime. For political reasons, Socrates in Athens (399 BCE) was accused of being 'atheos' ("refusing to acknowledge the gods recognized by the state"). Christians in Rome were also considered subversive to the state religion and persecuted as atheists.[8] Thus, charges of atheism, meaning the subversion of religion, were often used similarly to charges of heresy and impiety as a political tool to eliminate enemies.

The roots of Western philosophy began in the Greek world in the sixth century BCE. The first Hellenic philosophers were not atheists, but they attempted to explain the world in terms of the processes of nature instead of by mythological accounts. Thus lightning was the result of "wind breaking out and parting the clouds",[9] and earthquakes occurred when "the earth is considerably altered by heating and cooling".[10] The early philosophers often criticised traditional religious notions. Xenophanes (sixth century BCE) famously said that if cows and horses had hands, "then horses would draw the forms of gods like horses, and cows like cows".[11] Another philosopher, Anaxagoras (fifth century BCE), claimed that the Sun was "a fiery mass, larger than the Peloponnese"; a charge of impiety was brought against him, and he was forced to flee Athens.[12]

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

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

Doth some one say that there be gods above? There are not; no, there are not. Let no fool, Led by the old false fable, thus deceive you.[13]

Aristophanes (ca. 448380 BCE), known for his satirical style, wrote in his play The Knights: "Shrines! Shrines! Surely you don't believe in the gods. What's your argument? Where's your proof?"[14]

In the fifth century BCE the Sophists began to question many of the traditional assumptions of Greek culture. Prodicus of Ceos was said to have believed that "it was the things which were serviceable to human life that had been regarded as gods,"[15] and Protagoras stated at the beginning of a book that "With regard to the gods I am unable to say either that they exist or do not exist."[16]

Diagoras of Melos (fifth century BCE) is known as the "first atheist". He blasphemed by making public the Eleusinian Mysteries and discouraging people from being initiated.[17] Somewhat later (c. 300 BCE), the Cyrenaic philosopher Theodorus of Cyrene is supposed to have denied that gods exist, and wrote a book On the Gods expounding his views.

Euhemerus (c. 330260 BCE) published his view that the gods were only the deified rulers, conquerors, and founders of the past, and that their cults and religions were in essence the continuation of vanished kingdoms and earlier political structures.[18] Although Euhemerus was later criticized for having "spread atheism over the whole inhabited earth by obliterating the gods",[19] his worldview was not atheist in a strict and theoretical sense, because he differentiated that the primordial deities were "eternal and imperishable".[20] Some historians have argued that he merely aimed at reinventing the old religions in the light of the beginning of deification of political rulers such as Alexander the Great.[21] Euhemerus' work was translated into Latin by Ennius, possibly to mythographically pave the way for the planned divinization of Scipio Africanus in Rome.[22]

Also important in the history of atheism was Epicurus (c. 300 BCE). Drawing on the ideas of Democritus and the Atomists, he espoused a materialistic philosophy where the universe was governed by the laws of chance without the need for divine intervention. Although he stated that deities existed, he believed that they were uninterested in human existence. The aim of the Epicureans was to attain peace of mind by exposing fear of divine wrath as irrational.

One of the most eloquent expressions of Epicurean thought is Lucretius' On the Nature of Things (first century BCE) in which he held that gods exist but argued that religious fear was one of the chief causes of human unhappiness and that the gods did not involve themselves in the world.[23][24]

The Epicureans also denied the existence of an afterlife.[25]

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

In medieval Islam, Muslim scholars recognized the idea of atheism, and frequently attacked unbelievers, although they were unable to name any atheists.[26] When individuals were accused of atheism, they were usually viewed as heretics rather than proponents of atheism.[27] However, outspoken rationalists and atheists existed, one notable figure being the ninth-century scholar Ibn al-Rawandi, who criticized the notion of religious prophecy, including that of Muhammad, and maintained that religious dogmas were not acceptable to reason and must be rejected.[28] Other critics of religion in the Islamic world include the physician and philosopher Abu Bakr al-Razi (865925), the poet Al-Maarri (9731057), and the scholar Abu Isa al-Warraq (fl. 7th century). Al-Maarri, for example, wrote and taught that religion itself was a "fable invented by the ancients"[29] and that humans were "of two sorts: those with brains, but no religion, and those with religion, but no brains."[30]

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

It is remarkable that Old Norse legend occasionally mentions certain men who, turning away in utter disgust and doubt from the heathen faith, placed their reliance on their own strength and virtue. Thus in the Slar lio 17 we read of Vbogi and Rdey sik au tru, "in themselves they trusted",[31]

citing several other examples, including two kings.

In Christian Europe, people were persecuted for heresy, especially in countries where the Inquisition was active. Thomas Aquinas' five proofs of God's existence and Anselm's ontological argument implicitly acknowledged the validity of the question about God's existence.[original research?]Frederick Copleston, however, explains that Thomas laid out his proofs not to counter atheism, but to address certain early Christian writers such as John of Damascus, who asserted that knowledge of God's existence was naturally innate in man, based on his natural desire for happiness.[32] Thomas stated that although there is desire for happiness which forms the basis for a proof of God's existence in man, further reflection is required to understand that this desire is only fulfilled in God, not for example in wealth or sensual pleasure.[32]

The charge of atheism was used to attack political or religious opponents. Pope Boniface VIII, because he insisted on the political supremacy of the church, was accused by his enemies after his death of holding (unlikely) atheistic positions such as "neither believing in the immortality nor incorruptibility of the soul, nor in a life to come."[33]

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

The term athisme was coined in France in the sixteenth century. The word "atheist" appears in English books at least as early as 1566.[34] The concept of atheism re-emerged initially as a reaction to the intellectual and religious turmoil of the Age of Enlightenment and the Reformation as a charge used by those who saw the denial of god and godlessness in the controversial positions being put forward by others. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the word 'atheist' was used exclusively as an insult; nobody wanted to be regarded as an atheist.[35] Although one overtly atheistic compendium known as the Theophrastus redivivus was published by an anonymous author in the seventeenth century, atheism was an epithet implying a lack of moral restraint.[36]

According to Geoffrey Blainey, the Reformation in Europe had paved the way for atheists by attacking the authority of the Catholic Church, which in turn "quietly inspired other thinkers to attack the authority of the new Protestant churches". Deism gained influence in France, Prussia and England, and proffered belief in a non-interventionist deity, but "while some deists were atheists in disguise, most were religious, and by today's standards would be called true believers". The scientific and mathematical discoveries of such as Copernicus, Newton and Descartes sketched a pattern of natural laws that lent weight to this new outlook[37] Blainey wrote that the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza was "probably the first well known 'semi-atheist' to announce himself in a Christian land in the modern era". Spinoza had been expelled from his synagogue for his protests against the teachings of its rabbis and for failing to attend Saturday services. He believed that God did not interfere in the running of the world, but rather that natural laws explained the workings of the universe. In 1661 he published his Short Treatise on God, but he was not a popular figure for the first century following his death: "An unbeliever was expected to be a rebel in almost everything and wicked in all his ways", wrote Blainey, "but here was a virtuous one. He lived the good life and made his living in a useful way... It took courage to be a Spinoza or even one of his supporters. If a handful of scholars agreed with his writings, they did not so say in public."[38]

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

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

In early modern times, the first explicit atheist known by name was the German-languaged Danish critic of religion Matthias Knutzen (1646after 1674), who published three atheist writings in 1674.[39]

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

II - the Man is a creator of God, and God is a concept and creation of a Man. Hence the people are architects and engineers of God and God is not a true being, but a being existing only within mind, being chimaeric by its nature, because a God and a chimaera are the same.[40]

IV - simple folk are cheated by the more cunning with the fabrication of God for their own oppression; whereas the same oppression is shielded by the folk in a way, that if the wise attempted to free them by the truth, they would be quelled by the very people.[41][42]

While not gaining converts from large portions of the population, versions of deism became influential in certain intellectual circles. Jean Jacques Rousseau challenged the Christian notion that human beings had been tainted by sin since the Garden of Eden, and instead proposed that humans were originally good, only later to be corrupted by civilisation. The influential figure of Voltaire, spread deistic notions of to a wide audience. "After the French Revolution and its outbursts of atheism, Voltaire was widely condemned as one of the causes", wrote Blainey, "Nonetheless, his writings did concede that fear of God was an essential policeman in a disorderly world: 'If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him', wrote Voltaire".[43]

Arguably the first book in modern times solely dedicated to promoting atheism was written by French Catholic priest Jean Meslier (16641729), whose posthumously published lengthy philosophical essay (part of the original title: Thoughts and Feelings of Jean Meslier ... Clear and Evident Demonstrations of the Vanity and Falsity of All the Religions of the World[44]) rejects the concept of god (both in the Christian and also in the Deistic sense), the soul, miracles and the discipline of theology.[45] Philosopher Michel Onfray states that Meslier's work marks the beginning of "the history of true atheism".[45]

By the 1770s, atheism in some predominantly Christian countries was ceasing to be a dangerous accusation that required denial, and was evolving into a position openly avowed by some. The first open denial of the existence of God and avowal of atheism since classical times may be that of Baron d'Holbach (17231789) in his 1770 work, The System of Nature. D'Holbach was a Parisian social figure who conducted a famous salon widely attended by many intellectual notables of the day, including Denis Diderot, Rousseau, David Hume, Adam Smith, and Benjamin Franklin. Nevertheless, his book was published under a pseudonym, and was banned and publicly burned by the Executioner.[citation needed] Diderot, one of the Enlightenment's most prominent philosophes, and editor-in-chief of the Encyclopdie, which sought to challenge religious, particularly Catholic, dogma said, "Reason is to the estimation of the philosophe what grace is to the Christian", he wrote. "Grace determines the Christian's action; reason the philosophe's".[46] Diderot was briefly imprisoned for his writing, some of which was banned and burned.[citation needed]

In Scotland, David Hume produced a six volume history of England in 1754, which gave little attention to God. He implied that if God existed he was impotent in the face of European upheaval. Hume ridiculed miracles, but walked a careful line so as to avoid being too dismissive of Christianity. With Hume's presence, Edinburgh gained a reputation as a "haven of atheism", alarming many ordinary Britons.[47]

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

Blainey wrote that "atheism seized the pedestal in revolutionary France in the 1790s. The secular symbols replaced the cross. In the cathedral of Notre Dame the altar, the holy place, was converted into a monument to Reason..." During the Terror of 1792-93, France's Christian calendar was abolished, monasteries, convents and church properties were seized and monks and nuns expelled. Historic churches were dismantled.[48] The Cult of Reason was a creed based on atheism devised during the French Revolution by Jacques Hbert, Pierre Gaspard Chaumette, and their supporters. It was stopped by Maximilien Robespierre, a Deist, who instituted the Cult of the Supreme Being.[49] Both cults were the outcome of the "de-Christianization" of French society during the Revolution and part of the Reign of Terror.

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

The pamphlet Answer to Dr. Priestley's Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever (1782) is considered to be the first published declaration of atheism in Britain plausibly the first in English (as distinct from covert or cryptically atheist works). The otherwise unknown 'William Hammon' (possibly a pseudonym) signed the preface and postscript as editor of the work, and the anonymous main text is attributed to Matthew Turner (d. 1788?), a Liverpool physician who may have known Priestley. Historian of atheism David Berman has argued strongly for Turner's authorship, but also suggested that there may have been two authors.[50]

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

The freethinker Charles Bradlaugh (18331891) was repeatedly elected to the British Parliament, but was not allowed to take his seat after his request to affirm rather than take the religious oath was turned down (he then offered to take the oath, but this too was denied him). After Bradlaugh was re-elected for the fourth time, a new Speaker allowed Bradlaugh to take the oath and permitted no objections.[51] He became the first outspoken atheist to sit in Parliament, where he participated in amending the Oaths Act.[52]

In 1844, Karl Marx (18181883), an atheistic political economist, wrote in his Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right: "Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people." Marx believed that people turn to religion in order to dull the pain caused by the reality of social situations; that is, Marx suggests religion is an attempt at transcending the material state of affairs in a society the pain of class oppression by effectively creating a dream world, rendering the religious believer amenable to social control and exploitation in this world while they hope for relief and justice in life after death. In the same essay, Marx states, "...[m]an creates religion, religion does not create man..."[53]

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

Atheist feminism also began in the nineteenth century. Atheist feminism is a movement that advocates feminism within atheism.[54] Atheist feminists also oppose religion as a main source of female oppression and inequality, believing that the majority of the religions are sexist and oppressive to women.[55]

Atheism in the twentieth century found recognition in a wide variety of other, broader philosophies in the Western tradition, such as existentialism, Objectivism,[56]secular humanism, nihilism, logical positivism, Marxism, anarchism, feminism,[57] and the general scientific and rationalist movement. Neopositivism and analytical philosophy discarded classical rationalism and metaphysics in favor of strict empiricism and epistemological nominalism. Proponents such as Bertrand Russell emphatically rejected belief in God. In his early work, Ludwig Wittgenstein attempted to separate metaphysical and supernatural language from rational discourse. H. L. Mencken sought to debunk both the idea that science and religion are compatible, and the idea that science is a dogmatic belief system just like any religion.[58]

A. J. Ayer asserted the unverifiability and meaninglessness of religious statements, citing his adherence to the empirical sciences. The structuralism of Lvi-Strauss sourced religious language to the human subconscious, denying its transcendental meaning. J. N. Findlay and J. J. C. Smart argued that the existence of God is not logically necessary. Naturalists and materialists such as John Dewey considered the natural world to be the basis of everything, denying the existence of God or immortality.[59][60]

The historian Geoffrey Blainey wrote that during the twentieth century, atheists in Western societies became more active and even militant, though they often "relied essentially on arguments used by numerous radical Christians since at least the eighteenth century". They rejected the idea of an interventionist God, and said that Christianity promoted war and violence, though "the most ruthless leaders in the Second World War were atheists and secularists who were intensely hostile to both Judaism and Christianity" and "Later massive atrocities were committed in the East by those ardent atheists, Pol Pot and Mao Zedong". Some scientists were meanwhile articulating a view that as the world becomes more educated, religion will be superseded.[61]

Often, the state's opposition to religion took more violent forms; Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn documents widespread persecution, imprisonments and torture of believers, in his seminal work The Gulag Archipelago. Consequently, religious organizations, such as the Catholic Church, were among the most stringent opponents of communist regimes. In some cases, the initial strict measures of control and opposition to religious activity were gradually relaxed in communist states. Pope Pius XI followed his encyclicals challenging the new right-wing creeds of Italian Fascism, (Non abbiamo bisogno 1931); and Nazism (Mit brennender Sorge, 1937); with a denunciation of atheist Communism in Divini redemptoris (1937).[62]

The Russian Orthodox Church, for centuries the strongest of all Orthodox Churches, was suppressed by Russia's atheists.[63] In 1922, the Soviet regime arrested the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church.[64] The Soviet leaders Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin energetically pursued the persecution of the Church through the 1920s and 1930s. Lenin wrote that every religious idea and every idea of God "is unutterable vileness... of the most dangerous kind, 'contagion of the most abominable kind".[65] Many priests were killed and imprisoned. Thousands of churches were closed, some turned into hospitals. In 1925 the government founded the League of Militant Atheists to intensify the persecution. The regime only relented in its persecution following the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.[63] Bullock wrote that "A Marxist regime was 'godless' by definition, and Stalin had mocked religious belief since his days in the Tiflis seminary". His assault on the Russian peasantry, wrote Bullock, "had been as much an attack on their traditional religion as on their individual holdings, and the defence of it had played a major part in arousing peasant resistance... ".[66] In Divini Redemptoris, Pius XI said that atheistic Communism being led by Moscow was aimed at "upsetting the social order and at undermining the very foundations of Christian civilization":[67]

The central figure in Italian Fascism was the atheist Benito Mussolini.[68] In his early career, Mussolini was a strident opponent of the Church, and the first Fascist programme, written in 1919, had called for the secularization of Church property in Italy.[69] More pragmatic than his German ally Adolf Hitler, Mussolini later moderated his stance, and in office, permitted the teaching of religion in schools and came to terms with the Papacy in the Lateran Treaty.[68] Nevertheless, Non abbiamo bisogno condemned his Fascist movement's "pagan worship of the State" and "revolution which snatches the young from the Church and from Jesus Christ, and which inculcates in its own young people hatred, violence and irreverence."[70]

Richard J. Evans wrote that "Hitler emphasised again and again his belief that Nazism was a secular ideology founded on modern science. Science, he declared, would easily destroy the last remaining vestiges of superstition [-] 'In the long run', [Hitler] concluded, 'National Socialism and religion will no longer be able to exist together'".[71] In contrast to that, he publicly declared:[when?] "We tolerate no one in our ranks who attacks the ideas of Christianity ... in fact our movement is Christian."[72]

The majority of Nazis did not leave their churches. Evans wrote that, by 1939, 95% of Germans still called themselves Protestant or Catholic, while 3.5% were gottglubig and 1.5% atheist. Most in these latter categories were "convinced Nazis who had left their Church at the behest of the Party, which had been trying since the mid 1930s to reduce the influence of Christianity in society".[73] The majority of the three million Nazi Party members continued to pay their church taxes and register as either Roman Catholic or Evangelical Protestant Christians.[74] "Gottglubig" (lit. "believers in god") were a non-denominational nazified outlook on god beliefs, often described as predominately based on creationist and deistic views[75]Heinrich Himmler, who himself was fascinated with Germanic paganism[citation needed], was a strong promoter of the gottglubig movement and didn't allow atheists into the SS, arguing that their "refusal to acknowledge higher powers" would be a "potential source of indiscipline".[76]

Across Eastern Europe following World War Two, the parts of the Nazi Empire conquered by the Soviet Red Army, and Yugsolavia became one party Communist states, which, like the Soviet Union, were antipathetic to religion. Persecutions of religious leaders followed.[77][78] The Soviet Union ended its truce against the Russian Orthodox Church, and extended its persecutions to the newly Communist Eastern block: "In Poland, Hungary, Lithuania and other Eastern European countries, Catholic leaders who were unwilling to be silent were denounced, publicly humiliated or imprisoned by the Communists. Leaders of the national Orthodox Churches in Romania and Bulgaria had to be cautious and submissive", wrote Blainey.[63] While the churches were generally not as severely treated at they had been in the USSR, nearly all their schools and many of their churches were closed, and they lost their formally prominent roles in public life. Children were taught atheism, and clergy were imprisoned by the thousands.[79]

Albania under Enver Hoxha became, in 1967, the first (and to date only) formally declared atheist state,[80] going far beyond what most other countries had attempted completely prohibiting religious observance, and systematically repressing and persecuting adherents. The right to religious practice was restored in the fall of communism in 1991.

Further post-war communist victories in the East saw religion purged by atheist regimes across China, North Korea and much of Indo-China.[79] In 1949, China became a Communist state under the leadership of Mao Zedong's Communist Party of China. China itself had been a cradle of religious thought since ancient times, being the birthplace of Confucianism and Daoism, and Buddhists having arrived in the first century AD. Under Mao, China became officially atheist, and though some religious practices were permitted to continue under State supervision, religious groups deemed a threat to order have been suppressed - as with Tibetan Buddhism from 1959 and Falun Gong in recent years. Today around two-fifths of the population claim to be nonreligious or atheist.[81] Religious schools and social institutions were closed, foreign missionaries expelled, and local religious practices discouraged.[79] During the Cultural Revolution, Mao instigated "struggles" against the Four Olds: "old ideas, customs, culture, and habits of mind".[82] In 1999, the Communist Party launched a three-year drive to promote atheism in Tibet, saying intensifying propaganda on atheism is "especially important for Tibet because atheism plays an extremely important role in promoting economic construction, social advancement and socialist spiritual civilization in the region".[83]

In India, E. V. Ramasami Naicker (Periyar), a prominent atheist leader, fought against Hinduism and the Brahmins for discriminating and dividing people in the name of caste and religion.[84] This was highlighted in 1956 when he made the Hindu god Rama wear a garland made of slippers and made antitheistic statements.[85]

During this period, Christianity in the United States retained its popular appeal, and, wrote Blainey, the country "was the guardian, militarily of the "free world" and the defender of its religion in the face of militant communism".[86] During the Cold War, wrote Thomas Aiello the United States often characterized its opponents as "godless communists", which tended to reinforce the view that atheists were unreliable and unpatriotic.[87] Against this background, the words "under God" were inserted into the pledge of allegiance in 1954,[88] and the national motto was changed from E Pluribus Unum to In God We Trust in 1956. However, there were some prominent atheist activists active at this time. Atheist Vashti McCollum was the plaintiff in a landmark 1948 Supreme Court case (McCollum v. Board of Education) that struck down religious education in U.S. public schools.[89][90]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.[91] Also in 1963 she founded American Atheists, an organization dedicated to defending the civil liberties of atheists and advocating for the complete separation of church and state.[92][93]

The early twenty-first century has continued to see secularism and atheism promoted in the Western world, with the general consensus being that the number of people not affiliated with any particular religion has increased.[94][95] This has been assisted by non-profit organizations such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation in the United States (co-founded by Anne Nicol Gaylor and her daughter, Annie Laurie Gaylor, in 1976 and incorporated nationally in 1978, it promotes the separation of church and state[96][97]), and the Brights movement, which aims to promote public understanding and acknowledgment of the naturalistic worldview.[98] In addition, a large number of accessible antitheist and secularist books, many of which have become bestsellers, have been published by authors such as Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, and Victor J. Stenger.[99][100] This period has seen the rise of the New Atheism movement, a label that has been applied, sometimes pejoratively, to outspoken critics of theism.[101] Richard Dawkins also propounds a more visible form of atheist activism which he light-heartedly describes as 'militant atheism'.[102]

Atheist feminism has also become more prominent in the 2010s. In 2012 the first "Women in Secularism" conference was held.[103] Also, Secular Woman was founded on June 28, 2012 as the first national American organization focused on nonreligious women. The mission of Secular Woman is to amplify the voice, presence, and influence of non-religious women. The atheist feminist movement has also become increasingly focused on fighting sexism and sexual harassment within the atheist movement itself.

In 2013 the first atheist monument on American government property was unveiled at the Bradford County Courthouse in Florida; it is a 1,500-pound granite bench and plinth inscribed with quotes by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Madalyn Murray O'Hair.[104][105]

In 2015, Madison, Wisconsin's common council amended their city's equal opportunity ordinance, adding atheism as a protected class in the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodations.[106] This makes Madison the first city in America to pass an ordinance protecting atheists.[106]

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History of atheism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Quotes About Atheism (1184 quotes) – Goodreads

Stood in firelight, sweltering. Bloodstain on chest like map of violent new continent. Felt cleansed. Felt dark planet turn under my feet and knew what cats know that makes them scream like babies in night.

Looked at sky through smoke heavy with human fat and God was not there. The cold, suffocating dark goes on forever and we are alone. Live our lives, lacking anything better to do. Devise reason later. Born from oblivion; bear children, hell-bound as ourselves, go into oblivion. There is nothing else.

Existence is random. Has no pattern save what we imagine after staring at it for too long. No meaning save what we choose to impose. This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces. It is not God who kills the children. Not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to the dogs. Its us. Only us. Streets stank of fire. The void breathed hard on my heart, turning its illusions to ice, shattering them. Was reborn then, free to scrawl own design on this morally blank world.

Was Rorschach.

Does that answer your Questions, Doctor? Alan Moore, Watchmen

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Quotes About Atheism (1184 quotes) - Goodreads

atheism – The Skeptic’s Dictionary – Skepdic.com

I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God [sic]. -- George Herbert Walker Bush (After he was elected president, Bush's White House counsel C. Boyden Gray wrote in response to an inquiry about this quote: "...you may rest assured that this Administration will proceed at all times with due regard for the legal rights of atheists, as will as others with whom the President disagrees."*)

Article IX, Sec. 2, of the Tennessee constitution ("No Atheist shall hold a civil office") states: "No person who denies the being of God [sic], or a future state of rewards and punishments shall hold any office in the civil department of this state." Arkansas, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas have similar laws.*

An Atheist is a man who has no invisible means of support. --John Buchan

I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.--Stephen F. Roberts

Atheism is traditionally defined as disbelief in the existence of a god. As such, atheism involves active rejection of belief in the existence of at least one god. This definition does not capture the atheism of many atheists, which is based on an indifference to the issue of the existence of gods. This attitude of indifference is sometimes called apatheism.

There is a difference between disbelief in all gods and no belief in a particular god. I'm not sure there is even any meaning to the former. Before one can disbelieve in something, that something must be intelligible and it must be understood. Since belief in new gods may appear in the future and it is impossible to know what will be meant by reference to those gods, it makes no sense to say one disbelieves in all gods. Likewise, some conceptions of a god are so confusing as to be little more than gibberish. How can one disbelieve in the "ineffable ground of all being"? The expression has no meaning for me and I suspect that those who claim it is meaningful to them don't know what they're talking about.

However, since there are many concepts of gods and these concepts are usually rooted in some culture or tradition, atheism might be defined as the belief that a particular word used to refer to a particular god is a word that has no reference. Thus, there are as many different kinds of atheism as there are names of gods or groups of gods.

Some atheists may know of many gods and reject belief in the existence of all of them. Such a person might be called a polyatheist. All theists are atheists in the sense that they deny the existence of all other gods except theirs, but they don't consider themselves atheists. Most people today who consider themselves atheists probably mean that they do not believe in the existence of the local god. For example, most people who call themselves atheists in a culture where the dominant god is the Jewish, Christian, or Islamic god (i.e., Abraham's god or AG) would mean, at the very least, that they do not believe that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, providential creator of the universe.

Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677), on the other hand, defined the Abrahamic god as being identical to nature and as a substance with infinite attributes. Many Jews and Christians considered him an atheist because he rejected both the traditional theological view of AG and the belief in personal immortality. Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) was also considered an atheist because he believed that all substances are material and that AG must therefore be material. Yet, neither Spinoza nor Hobbes called himself an atheist.

Epicurus did not call himself an atheist, either, but he rejected the concept of the gods popular in ancient Greece. The gods are perfect, he said. Therefore, they cannot be the imperfect beings depicted by Hesiod, Homer, and others. Their gods have human flaws, including jealousy. Perfect beings would not be troubled by anything, including the behavior of humans. Hence, the notion that the gods will reward or punish us is absurd. To be perfect is to be unperturbed. The concept of perfection, therefore, requires that the gods be indifferent to human behavior. Some have rejected belief in AG for similar reasons. The idea of a perfect being creating the universe is self-contradictory. How can perfection be improved upon? At its best, to create is to bring into existence something that makes things better. At its worst, to create is to make things worse, which would be a blemish on perfection. If those objections can be answered, another arises: if a god is all-good and all-powerful, evil should not exist. Therefore, either this god is all-good but can't stop evil because this god is not all-powerful, or this god is all-powerful but allows evil because this god is not all-good. Such an argument clearly does not deny the existence of all gods and is relevant only in disputes over the likely consequences of a god having a certain nature.

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atheism - The Skeptic's Dictionary - Skepdic.com

‘Atheism is not a religion’ says US mayor after city fined $100k for barring atheist exhibition

Screenshot/WJBK-TV

The group Freedom from Religion should be allowed to erect an atheist stand in Warren city hall, like this prayer station.

A US city and its mayor have been fined $100,000 for refusing to allow an atheist "reason station" to be erected next to a Christian "prayer station" in its city hall.

The action against Warren, the largest city in Macomb County in the state of Michigan, and its mayor, James R Fouts, was brought after a resident Douglas Marshall sought permission to erect the reason station to reflect his own belief in reason and free thought "as an alternative" to God".

Fouts personally turned down his request, arguing that the annual Nativity scene, the prayer station in the atrium and the annual day of prayer in front of city hall were allowed because of the constitutional right to freedom of religion.

He said the atrium was open to all religions but Marshall's group, Freedom from Religion, which had objected to all the religious events at city hall, was not a religion. "It has no tenets, no place of worship and no congregation."

The mayor wrote: "To my way of thinking, your group is strictly an anti-religion group intending to deprive all organized religions of their constitutional freedoms or at least discourage the practice of religion. The City of Warren cannot allow this."

The prayer station is run by the Pentecostal Tabernacle Church of Warren. Those manning it hand out pamphlets and offer to pray and debate with people.

Marshall wanted the opportunity likewise to hand out literature about atheism and have philosophical debates with passers-by.

The suit was brought by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

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'Atheism is not a religion' says US mayor after city fined $100k for barring atheist exhibition

“Atheism is sometimes a reaction to an incorrect view of God.” Tim Harlow (Parkview Church) – Video


"Atheism is sometimes a reaction to an incorrect view of God." Tim Harlow (Parkview Church)
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"Atheism is sometimes a reaction to an incorrect view of God." Tim Harlow (Parkview Church) - Video


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