Atheism is, in the broadest sense, the absence of belief in the
existence of deities. Less broadly, atheism is the
rejection of belief that any deities exist. In an even narrower
sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no
Atheism is contrasted with theism, which,
in its most general form, is the belief that at least one deity
The etymological root for the word atheism originated before the 5th
century BCE from the ancient Greek ἄθεος (atheos), meaning
"without god(s)". In antiquity it had multiple uses as a pejorative
term applied to those thought to reject the gods worshiped by the
larger society, those who were forsaken by the gods or those who
had no commitment to belief in the gods. The term denoted a social
category created by orthodox religionists into which those who did not
share their religious beliefs were placed. The actual term atheism
emerged first in the 16th century. With the spread of freethought,
skeptical inquiry, and subsequent increase in criticism of religion,
application of the term narrowed in scope. The first individuals to
identify themselves using the word atheist lived in the 18th century
during the Age of Enlightenment. The French Revolution, noted
for its "unprecedented atheism," witnessed the first major political
movement in history to advocate for the supremacy of human reason.
French Revolution can be described as the first period where
atheism became implemented politically.
Arguments for atheism range from the philosophical to social and
historical approaches. Rationales for not believing in deities include
arguments that there is a lack of empirical evidence, the
problem of evil, the argument from inconsistent revelations, the
rejection of concepts that cannot be falsified, and the argument from
nonbelief. Proponents contend that atheism is a more
parsimonious position than theism and that it is the position in which
everyone is born; therefore, they argue that the burden of proof lies
not on the atheist to disprove the existence of
God but on the theist
to provide a rationale for theism. However, others have
disagreed with the view of being born into such a position.
Although some atheists have adopted secular philosophies (e.g. secular
humanism), there is no one ideology or set of behaviors to
which all atheists adhere.
Since conceptions of atheism vary, accurate estimations of current
numbers of atheists are difficult. Two global polls on the subject
have been conducted by WIN/Gallup International: their 2015 poll
featured over 64,000 respondents and indicated that 11% were
"convinced atheists" whereas an earlier 2012 poll found that 13% of
respondents were "convinced atheists." However, other
researchers have advised caution with WIN/Gallup figures since other
surveys which have used the same wording for decades and have a bigger
sample size have consistently reached lower figures. An older
survey by the
British Broadcasting Corporation
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 2004 recorded
atheists as comprising 8% of the world's population. Other older
estimates have indicated that atheists comprise 2% of the world's
population, while the irreligious add a further 12%. According to
these polls, Europe and East Asia are the regions with the highest
rates of atheism. In 2015, 61% of people in
China reported that they
were atheists. The figures for a 2010
Eurobarometer survey in the
European Union (EU) reported that 20% of the EU population claimed not
to believe in "any sort of spirit,
God or life force".
1 Definitions and types
1.2 Implicit vs. explicit
1.3 Positive vs. negative
1.4 Definition as impossible or impermanent
1.5 Pragmatic atheism
2.1 Epistemological arguments
2.2 Metaphysical arguments
2.3 Logical arguments
2.4 Reductionary accounts of religion
2.5 Atheism, religions and spirituality
Atheism and negative theology
3 Atheistic philosophies
Religion and morality
4.1 Association with world views and social behaviors
4.3 Divine command
4.4 Criticism of religion
6.1 Early Indic religion
6.2 Classical antiquity
Early Middle Ages
Early Middle Ages to the Renaissance
6.4 Early modern period
6.5 Since 1900
6.6 Other developments
6.7 New Atheism
7.4 United States
7.5 Arab world
7.6 Wealth and education
7.7 Attitudes toward atheism
8 See also
11 Further reading
12 External links
Definitions and types
A diagram showing the relationship between the definitions of
weak/strong and implicit/explicit atheism.
Explicit strong/positive/hard atheists (in purple on the right) assert
that "at least one deity exists" is a false statement.
Explicit weak/negative/soft atheists (in blue on the right) reject or
eschew belief that any deities exist without actually asserting that
"at least one deity exists" is a false statement.
Implicit weak/negative atheists (in blue on the left), according to
authors such as George H. Smith, would include people (such as young
children and some agnostics) who do not believe in a deity but have
not explicitly rejected such belief.
(Sizes in the diagram are not meant to indicate relative sizes within
Writers disagree on how best to define and classify atheism,
contesting what supernatural entities are considered gods, whether it
is a philosophic position in its own right or merely the absence of
one, and whether it requires a conscious, explicit rejection. Atheism
has been regarded as compatible with
agnosticism, and has also been contrasted
with it. A variety of categories have been used to
distinguish the different forms of atheism.
Some of the ambiguity and controversy involved in defining atheism
arises from difficulty in reaching a consensus for the definitions of
words like deity and god. The plurality of wildly different
God and deities leads to differing ideas regarding
atheism's applicability. The ancient Romans accused Christians of
being atheists for not worshiping the pagan deities. Gradually, this
view fell into disfavor as theism came to be understood as
encompassing belief in any divinity.
With respect to the range of phenomena being rejected, atheism may
counter anything from the existence of a deity, to the existence of
any spiritual, supernatural, or transcendental concepts, such as those
of Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Taoism.
Implicit vs. explicit
Main article: Implicit and explicit atheism
Definitions of atheism also vary in the degree of consideration a
person must put to the idea of gods to be considered an atheist.
Atheism has sometimes been defined to include the simple absence of
belief that any deities exist. This broad definition would include
newborns and other people who have not been exposed to theistic ideas.
As far back as 1772,
Baron d'Holbach said that "All children are born
Atheists; they have no idea of God." Similarly, George H. Smith
(1979) suggested that: "The man who is unacquainted with theism is an
atheist because he does not believe in a god. This category would also
include the child with the conceptual capacity to grasp the issues
involved, but who is still unaware of those issues. The fact that this
child does not believe in god qualifies him as an atheist." Smith
coined the term implicit atheism to refer to "the absence of theistic
belief without a conscious rejection of it" and explicit atheism to
refer to the more common definition of conscious disbelief. Ernest
Nagel contradicts Smith's definition of atheism as merely "absence of
theism", acknowledging only explicit atheism as true "atheism".
Positive vs. negative
Main article: Negative and positive atheism
Philosophers such as Antony Flew and Michael Martin have
contrasted positive (strong/hard) atheism with negative (weak/soft)
atheism. Positive atheism is the explicit affirmation that gods do not
exist. Negative atheism includes all other forms of non-theism.
According to this categorization, anyone who is not a theist is either
a negative or a positive atheist. The terms weak and strong are
relatively recent, while the terms negative and positive atheism are
of older origin, having been used (in slightly different ways) in the
philosophical literature and in Catholic apologetics. Under
this demarcation of atheism, most agnostics qualify as negative
While Martin, for example, asserts that agnosticism entails negative
atheism, many agnostics see their view as distinct from
atheism, which they may consider no more justified than theism
or requiring an equal conviction. The assertion of unattainability
of knowledge for or against the existence of gods is sometimes seen as
an indication that atheism requires a leap of faith. Common
atheist responses to this argument include that unproven religious
propositions deserve as much disbelief as all other unproven
propositions, and that the unprovability of a god's existence does
not imply equal probability of either possibility. Australian
J. J. C. Smart
J. J. C. Smart even argues that "sometimes a person who is
really an atheist may describe herself, even passionately, as an
agnostic because of unreasonable generalized philosophical skepticism
which would preclude us from saying that we know anything whatever,
except perhaps the truths of mathematics and formal logic."
Consequently, some atheist authors such as
Richard Dawkins prefer
distinguishing theist, agnostic and atheist positions along a spectrum
of theistic probability—the likelihood that each assigns to the
Definition as impossible or impermanent
Before the 18th century, the existence of
God was so accepted in the
western world that even the possibility of true atheism was
questioned. This is called theistic innatism—the notion that all
people believe in
God from birth; within this view was the connotation
that atheists are simply in denial.
There is also a position claiming that atheists are quick to believe
God in times of crisis, that atheists make deathbed conversions, or
that "there are no atheists in foxholes". There have however been
examples to the contrary, among them examples of literal "atheists in
Some atheists have doubted the very need for the term "atheism". In
his book Letter to a Christian Nation,
Sam Harris wrote:
In fact, "atheism" is a term that should not even exist. No one ever
needs to identify himself as a "non-astrologer" or a "non-alchemist".
We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or
that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and
Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable
people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.
Pragmatic atheism is the view one should reject a belief in a god or
gods because it is unnecessary for a pragmatic life. This view is
related to apatheism and practical atheism.
Paul Henri Thiry, Baron d'Holbach, an 18th-century advocate of
"The source of man's unhappiness is his ignorance of Nature. The
pertinacity with which he clings to blind opinions imbibed in his
infancy, which interweave themselves with his existence, the
consequent prejudice that warps his mind, that prevents its expansion,
that renders him the slave of fiction, appears to doom him to
Agnostic atheism and Theological noncognitivism
Atheists have also argued that people cannot know a
God or prove the
existence of a God. The latter is called agnosticism, which takes a
variety of forms. In the philosophy of immanence, divinity is
inseparable from the world itself, including a person's mind, and each
person's consciousness is locked in the subject. According to this
form of agnosticism, this limitation in perspective prevents any
objective inference from belief in a god to assertions of its
existence. The rationalistic agnosticism of Kant and the Enlightenment
only accepts knowledge deduced with human rationality; this form of
atheism holds that gods are not discernible as a matter of principle,
and therefore cannot be known to exist. Skepticism, based on the ideas
of Hume, asserts that certainty about anything is impossible, so one
can never know for sure whether or not a god exists. Hume, however,
held that such unobservable metaphysical concepts should be rejected
as "sophistry and illusion". The allocation of agnosticism to
atheism is disputed; it can also be regarded as an independent, basic
Other arguments for atheism that can be classified as epistemological
or ontological, including ignosticism, assert the meaninglessness or
unintelligibility of basic terms such as "God" and statements such as
God is all-powerful."
Theological noncognitivism holds that the
God exists" does not express a proposition, but is
nonsensical or cognitively meaningless. It has been argued both ways
as to whether such individuals can be classified into some form of
atheism or agnosticism. Philosophers
A. J. Ayer
A. J. Ayer and Theodore M. Drange
reject both categories, stating that both camps accept "
God exists" as
a proposition; they instead place noncognitivism in its own
Monism and Physicalism
Zofia Zdybicka writes:
"Metaphysical atheism ... includes all doctrines that hold to
metaphysical monism (the homogeneity of reality). Metaphysical atheism
may be either: a) absolute — an explicit denial of God's existence
associated with materialistic monism (all materialistic trends, both
in ancient and modern times); b) relative — the implicit denial of
God in all philosophies that, while they accept the existence of an
absolute, conceive of the absolute as not possessing any of the
attributes proper to God: transcendence, a personal character or
unity. Relative atheism is associated with idealistic monism
(pantheism, panentheism, deism)."
Epicurus is credited with first expounding the problem of evil. David
Hume in his Dialogues concerning Natural
Religion (1779) cited
Epicurus in stating the argument as a series of questions: "Is God
willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he
able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and
willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then
why call him God?"
Further information: Arguments against the existence of God, Problem
of evil, and Divine hiddenness
Some atheists hold the view that the various conceptions of gods, such
as the personal god of Christianity, are ascribed logically
inconsistent qualities. Such atheists present deductive arguments
against the existence of God, which assert the incompatibility between
certain traits, such as perfection, creator-status, immutability,
omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, omnibenevolence,
transcendence, personhood (a personal being), nonphysicality, justice,
Theodicean atheists believe that the world as they experience it
cannot be reconciled with the qualities commonly ascribed to
gods by theologians. They argue that an omniscient, omnipotent, and
God is not compatible with a world where there is evil
and suffering, and where divine love is hidden from many people. A
similar argument is attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of
Reductionary accounts of religion
Further information: Evolutionary origin of religions, Evolutionary
psychology of religion, and Psychology of religion
Philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach and psychoanalyst
Sigmund Freud have
God and other religious beliefs are human inventions,
created to fulfill various psychological and emotional wants or needs.
This is also a view of many Buddhists.
Karl Marx and Friedrich
Engels, influenced by the work of Feuerbach, argued that belief in God
and religion are social functions, used by those in power to oppress
the working class. According to Mikhail Bakunin, "the idea of God
implies the abdication of human reason and justice; it is the most
decisive negation of human liberty, and necessarily ends in the
enslavement of mankind, in theory and practice." He reversed
Voltaire's famous aphorism that if
God did not exist, it would be
necessary to invent him, writing instead that "if
God really existed,
it would be necessary to abolish him."
Atheism, religions and spirituality
Further information: Nontheistic religions
Atheism is not mutually exclusive with respect to some religious and
spiritual belief systems, including Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism,
Syntheism, Raëlism, and Neopagan movements such as Wicca.
Āstika schools in
Hinduism hold atheism to be a valid path to moksha,
but extremely difficult, for the atheist can not expect any help from
the divine on their journey.
Jainism believes the universe is
eternal and has no need for a creator deity, however
revered that can transcend space and time  and have more power
than the god Indra.
Secular Buddhism does not advocate belief in
Buddhism was atheistic as Gautama Buddha's path involved
no mention of gods. Later conceptions of
Buddhism consider Buddha
himself a god, suggest adherents can attain godhood, and revere
Bodhisattvas and Eternal Buddha.
Atheism and negative theology
Atheism and negative theology
Apophatic theology is often assessed as being a version of atheism or
agnosticism, since it cannot say truly that
God exists. "The
comparison is crude, however, for conventional atheism treats the
God as a predicate that can be denied (“
nonexistent”), whereas negative theology denies that
God or the Divine is" without being able to
attribute qualities about "what He is" would be the prerequisite of
positive theology in negative theology that distinguishes theism from
atheism. "Negative theology is a complement to, not the enemy of,
Atheist existentialism and Secular humanism
Axiological, or constructive, atheism rejects the existence of gods in
favor of a "higher absolute", such as humanity. This form of atheism
favors humanity as the absolute source of ethics and values, and
permits individuals to resolve moral problems without resorting to
God. Marx and Freud used this argument to convey messages of
liberation, full-development, and unfettered happiness. One of the
most common criticisms of atheism has been to the contrary: that
denying the existence of a god either leads to moral relativism and
leaves one with no moral or ethical foundation, or renders life
meaningless and miserable.
Blaise Pascal argued this view in his
Jean-Paul Sartre identified himself as a
representative of an "atheist existentialism" concerned less with
denying the existence of
God than with establishing that "man
needs ... to find himself again and to understand that nothing
can save him from himself, not even a valid proof of the existence of
God." Sartre said a corollary of his atheism was that "if
not exist, there is at least one being in whom existence precedes
essence, a being who exists before he can be defined by any concept,
and ... this being is man." The practical consequence of this
atheism was described by Sartre as meaning that there are no a priori
rules or absolute values that can be invoked to govern human conduct,
and that humans are "condemned" to invent these for themselves, making
"man" absolutely "responsible for everything he does".
Religion and morality
Atheism and religion, Criticism of atheism, Secular ethics,
and Secular morality
Association with world views and social behaviors
Phil Zuckerman analyzed previous social science research
on secularity and non-belief, and concluded that societal well-being
is positively correlated with irreligion. He found that there are much
lower concentrations of atheism and secularity in poorer, less
developed nations (particularly in Africa and South America) than in
the richer industrialized democracies. His findings relating
specifically to atheism in the US were that compared to religious
people in the US, "atheists and secular people" are less
nationalistic, prejudiced, antisemitic, racist, dogmatic,
ethnocentric, closed-minded, and authoritarian, and in US states with
the highest percentages of atheists, the murder rate is lower than
average. In the most religious states, the murder rate is higher than
Buddhism is sometimes described as nontheistic because of the absence
of a creator god, but that can be too simplistic a view.
People who self-identify as atheists are often assumed to be
irreligious, but some sects within major religions reject the
existence of a personal, creator deity. In recent years, certain
religious denominations have accumulated a number of openly atheistic
followers, such as atheistic or humanistic Judaism and
The strictest sense of positive atheism does not entail any specific
beliefs outside of disbelief in any deity; as such, atheists can hold
any number of spiritual beliefs. For the same reason, atheists can
hold a wide variety of ethical beliefs, ranging from the moral
universalism of humanism, which holds that a moral code should be
applied consistently to all humans, to moral nihilism, which holds
that morality is meaningless.
Atheism is accepted as a valid
philosophical position within some varieties of Hinduism, Jainism, and
Philosophers such as Slavoj Žižek, Alain de Botton, and
Alexander Bard and Jan Söderqvist, have all argued that atheists
should reclaim religion as an act of defiance against theism,
precisely not to leave religion as an unwarranted monopoly to theists.
According to Plato's Euthyphro dilemma, the role of the gods in
determining right from wrong is either unnecessary or arbitrary. The
argument that morality must be derived from God, and cannot exist
without a wise creator, has been a persistent feature of political if
not so much philosophical debate. Moral precepts such
as "murder is wrong" are seen as divine laws, requiring a divine
lawmaker and judge. However, many atheists argue that treating
morality legalistically involves a false analogy, and that morality
does not depend on a lawmaker in the same way that laws do.
Friedrich Nietzsche believed in a morality independent of theistic
belief, and stated that morality based upon
God "has truth only if God
is truth—it stands or falls with faith in God."
There exist normative ethical systems that do not require principles
and rules to be given by a deity. Some include virtue ethics, social
contract, Kantian ethics, utilitarianism, and Objectivism. Sam Harris
has proposed that moral prescription (ethical rule making) is not just
an issue to be explored by philosophy, but that we can meaningfully
practice a science of morality. Any such scientific system must,
nevertheless, respond to the criticism embodied in the naturalistic
Philosophers Susan Neiman and Julian Baggini (among others)
assert that behaving ethically only because of divine mandate is not
true ethical behavior but merely blind obedience. Baggini argues that
atheism is a superior basis for ethics, claiming that a moral basis
external to religious imperatives is necessary to evaluate the
morality of the imperatives themselves—to be able to discern, for
example, that "thou shalt steal" is immoral even if one's religion
instructs it—and that atheists, therefore, have the advantage of
being more inclined to make such evaluations. The contemporary
British political philosopher Martin Cohen has offered the more
historically telling example of Biblical injunctions in favor of
torture and slavery as evidence of how religious injunctions follow
political and social customs, rather than vice versa, but also noted
that the same tendency seems to be true of supposedly dispassionate
and objective philosophers. Cohen extends this argument in more
detail in Political
Plato to Mao, where he argues that
Qur'an played a role in perpetuating social codes from the early
7th century despite changes in secular society.
Criticism of religion
See also: Criticism of religion
Some prominent atheists—most recently Christopher Hitchens, Daniel
Dennett, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins, and following such thinkers
as Bertrand Russell, Robert G. Ingersoll, Voltaire, and novelist José
Saramago—have criticized religions, citing harmful aspects of
religious practices and doctrines.
The 19th-century German political theorist and sociologist Karl Marx
called religion "the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a
heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium
of the people". He goes on to say, "The abolition of religion as the
illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real
happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their
condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires
illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the
criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo."
Lenin said that "every religious idea and every idea of
unutterable vileness ... of the most dangerous kind, 'contagion'
of the most abominable kind. Millions of sins, filthy deeds, acts of
violence and physical contagions ... are far less dangerous than
the subtle, spiritual idea of
God decked out in the smartest
ideological constumes ..."
Sam Harris criticizes Western religion's reliance on divine authority
as lending itself to authoritarianism and dogmatism. There is a
correlation between religious fundamentalism and extrinsic religion
(when religion is held because it serves ulterior interests) and
authoritarianism, dogmatism, and prejudice. These
arguments—combined with historical events that are argued to
demonstrate the dangers of religion, such as the Crusades,
inquisitions, witch trials, and terrorist attacks—have been used in
response to claims of beneficial effects of belief in religion.
Believers counter-argue that some regimes that espouse atheism, such
as the Soviet Union, have also been guilty of mass murder.
In response to those claims, atheists such as
Sam Harris and Richard
Dawkins have stated that Stalin's atrocities were influenced not by
atheism but by dogmatic Marxism, and that while Stalin and Mao
happened to be atheists, they did not do their deeds in the name of
The Greek word αθεοι (atheoi), as it appears in the Epistle to
the Ephesians (2:12) on the early 3rd-century Papyrus 46. It is
usually translated into English as "[those who are] without God".
In early ancient Greek, the adjective átheos (ἄθεος, from the
privative ἀ- + θεός "god") meant "godless". It was first used as
a term of censure roughly meaning "ungodly" or "impious". In the 5th
century BCE, the word began to indicate more deliberate and active
godlessness in the sense of "severing relations with the gods" or
"denying the gods". The term ἀσεβής (asebēs) then came to be
applied against those who impiously denied or disrespected the local
gods, even if they believed in other gods. Modern translations of
classical texts sometimes render átheos as "atheistic". As an
abstract noun, there was also ἀθεότης (atheotēs), "atheism".
Cicero transliterated the Greek word into the
Latin átheos. The term
found frequent use in the debate between early Christians and
Hellenists, with each side attributing it, in the pejorative sense, to
The term atheist (from Fr. athée), in the sense of "one who ...
denies the existence of
God or gods", predates atheism in
English, being first found as early as 1566, and again in
1571. Atheist as a label of practical godlessness was used at
least as early as 1577. The term atheism was derived from the
French athéisme, and appears in English about 1587. An
earlier work, from about 1534, used the term atheonism.
Related words emerged later: deist in 1621, theist in 1662,
deism in 1675, and theism in 1678. At that time "deist" and
"deism" already carried their modern meaning. The term theism came to
be contrasted with deism.
Karen Armstrong writes that "During the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries, the word 'atheist' was still reserved exclusively for
polemic ... The term 'atheist' was an insult. Nobody would have
dreamed of calling himself an atheist."
Atheism was first used to describe a self-avowed belief in late
18th-century Europe, specifically denoting disbelief in the
monotheistic Abrahamic god. In the 20th century, globalization
contributed to the expansion of the term to refer to disbelief in all
deities, though it remains common in Western society to describe
atheism as simply "disbelief in God".
Main article: History of atheism
While the earliest-found usage of the term atheism is in 16th-century
France, ideas that would be recognized today as atheistic
are documented from the
Vedic period and the classical antiquity.
Early Indic religion
Atheism in Hinduism
Atheistic schools are found in early Indian thought and have existed
from the times of the historical Vedic religion. Among the six
orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy, Samkhya, the oldest
philosophical school of thought, does not accept God, and the early
Mimamsa also rejected the notion of God. The thoroughly
materialistic and anti-theistic philosophical
Cārvāka (or Lokāyata)
school that originated in
India around the 6th century BCE is probably
the most explicitly atheistic school of philosophy in India, similar
to the Greek Cyrenaic school. This branch of
Indian philosophy is
classified as heterodox due to its rejection of the authority of Vedas
and hence is not considered part of the six orthodox schools of
Hinduism, but it is noteworthy as evidence of a materialistic movement
within Hinduism. Chatterjee and Datta explain that our
Cārvāka philosophy is fragmentary, based largely on
criticism of the ideas by other schools, and that it is not a living
"Though materialism in some form or other has always been present in
India, and occasional references are found in the Vedas, the
Buddhistic literature, the Epics, as well as in the later
philosophical works we do not find any systematic work on materialism,
nor any organized school of followers as the other philosophical
schools possess. But almost every work of the other schools states,
for refutation, the materialistic views. Our knowledge of Indian
materialism is chiefly based on these."
Other Indian philosophies generally regarded as atheistic include
Samkhya and Purva Mimamsa. The rejection of a personal
God is also seen in
Buddhism in India.
In Plato's Apology,
Socrates (pictured) was accused by
Meletus of not
believing in the gods.
Western atheism has its roots in pre-Socratic Greek
philosophy, but atheism in the modern sense was nonexistent
or extremely rare in ancient Greece. Pre-Socratic
Atomists such as
Democritus attempted to explain the world in a purely
materialistic way and interpreted religion as a human reaction to
natural phenomena, but did not explicitly deny the gods'
existence. In the late fifth century BCE, the Greek lyric poet
Diagoras of Melos was sentenced to death in
Athens under the charge of
being a "godless person" (ἄθεος) after he made fun of the
Eleusinian Mysteries, but he fled the city to escape
punishment. Later writers have cited Diagoras as the
"first atheist", but he was probably not an atheist in the
modern sense of the word.
A fragment from the lost satyr play Sisyphus, which has been
attributed to both
Critias and Euripides, claims that a clever man
invented "the fear of the gods" in order to frighten people into
behaving morally. This statement, however,
originally did not mean that the gods themselves were nonexistent, but
rather that their powers were a hoax. Atheistic statements have
also been attributed to the philosopher Prodicus.
Prodicus believed that "the gods of popular belief do not exist
nor do they know, but primitive man, [out of admiration, deified] the
fruits of the earth and virtually everything that contributed to his
Protagoras has sometimes been taken to be an atheist, but
rather espoused agnostic views, commenting that "Concerning the gods I
am unable to discover whether they exist or not, or what they are like
in form; for there are many hindrances to knowledge, the obscurity of
the subject and the brevity of human life."
The Athenian public associated
Socrates (c. 470–399 BCE) with the
trends in pre-Socratic philosophy towards naturalistic inquiry and the
rejection of divine explanations for phenomena.
Aristophanes' comic play
The Clouds (performed 423 BCE) portrays
Socrates as teaching his students that the traditional Greek deities
do not exist.
Socrates was later tried and executed under
the charge of not believing in the gods of the state and instead
worshipping foreign gods.
Socrates himself vehemently denied
the charges of atheism at his trial and all the
surviving sources about him indicate that he was a very devout man,
who prayed to the rising sun and believed that the oracle at Delphi
spoke the word of Apollo.
Euhemerus (c. 300 BCE) published his
view that the gods were only the deified rulers, conquerors and
founders of the past, and that their cults and religions were in
essence the continuation of vanished kingdoms and earlier political
structures. Although not strictly an atheist,
Euhemerus was later
criticized for having "spread atheism over the whole inhabited earth
by obliterating the gods".
Prayer of the Christian Martyrs (1883) by Jean-Léon
Gérôme. One of the main reasons why early Christians were sometimes
persecuted was because they were deemed "atheists" (atheoi), since
many of them denied the existence of the Graeco-Roman
The most important Greek thinker in the development of atheism was
Epicurus (c. 300 BCE). Drawing on the ideas of
Democritus and the
Atomists, he espoused a materialistic philosophy according to which
the universe was governed by the laws of chance without the need for
divine intervention (see scientific determinism). Although
Epicurus still maintained that the gods existed, he believed
that they were uninterested in human affairs. The aim of the
Epicureans was to attain ataraxia ("peace of mind") and one important
way of doing this was by exposing fear of divine wrath as irrational.
The Epicureans also denied the existence of an afterlife and the need
to fear divine punishment after death. In the 3rd-century BCE,
the Greek philosophers Theodorus Cyrenaicus and Strato of
Lampsacus did not believe in the existence of gods. The Roman
Sextus Empiricus held that one should suspend judgment
about virtually all beliefs—a form of skepticism known as
Pyrrhonism—that nothing was inherently evil, and that ataraxia is
attainable by withholding one's judgment. His relatively large volume
of surviving works had a lasting influence on later philosophers.
The meaning of "atheist" changed over the course of classical
antiquity. Early Christians were widely reviled as "atheists"
because they did not believe in the existence of the Graeco-Roman
deities. During the Roman Empire, Christians were
executed for their rejection of the Roman gods in general and
Emperor-worship in particular. When
Christianity became the
state religion of Rome under
Theodosius I in 381, heresy became a
Early Middle Ages
Early Middle Ages to the Renaissance
During the Early Middle Ages, the
Islamic world underwent a Golden
Age. With the associated advances in science and philosophy, Arab and
Persian lands produced outspoken rationalists and atheists, including
Muhammad al Warraq (fl. 9th century),
Ibn al-Rawandi (827–911),
Al-Razi (854–925), and
Al-Maʿarri (973–1058). Al-Ma'arri wrote
and taught that religion itself was a "fable invented by the
ancients" and that humans were "of two sorts: those with brains,
but no religion, and those with religion, but no brains." Despite
being relatively prolific writers, nearly none of their writing
survives to the modern day, most of what little remains being
preserved through quotations and excerpts in later works by Muslim
apologists attempting to refute them. Other prominent Golden Age
scholars have been associated with rationalist thought and atheism as
well, although the current intellectual atmosphere in the Islamic
world, and the scant evidence that survives from the era, make this
point a contentious one today.
In Europe, the espousal of atheistic views was rare during the Early
Middle Ages and
Middle Ages (see Medieval Inquisition); metaphysics
and theology were the dominant interests pertaining to religion.
There were, however, movements within this period that furthered
heterodox conceptions of the Christian god, including differing views
of the nature, transcendence, and knowability of God. Individuals and
groups such as Johannes Scotus Eriugena, David of Dinant, Amalric of
Bena, and the
Brethren of the Free Spirit
Brethren of the Free Spirit maintained Christian
viewpoints with pantheistic tendencies.
Nicholas of Cusa
Nicholas of Cusa held to a
form of fideism he called docta ignorantia ("learned ignorance"),
God is beyond human categorization, and thus our
knowledge of him is limited to conjecture.
William of Ockham
William of Ockham inspired
anti-metaphysical tendencies with his nominalistic limitation of human
knowledge to singular objects, and asserted that the divine essence
could not be intuitively or rationally apprehended by human intellect.
Followers of Ockham, such as
John of Mirecourt and Nicholas of
Autrecourt furthered this view. The resulting division between faith
and reason influenced later radical and reformist theologians such as
John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, and Martin Luther.
Renaissance did much to expand the scope of free thought and
skeptical inquiry. Individuals such as
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci sought
experimentation as a means of explanation, and opposed arguments from
religious authority. Other critics of religion and the Church during
this time included Niccolò Machiavelli, Bonaventure des Périers,
Michel de Montaigne, and François Rabelais.
Early modern period
Geoffrey Blainey wrote that the Reformation had paved the
way for atheists by attacking the authority of the Catholic Church,
which in turn "quietly inspired other thinkers to attack the authority
of the new Protestant churches".
Deism gained influence in
France, Prussia, and England. The philosopher
Baruch Spinoza was
"probably the first well known 'semi-atheist' to announce himself in a
Christian land in the modern era", according to Blainey. Spinoza
believed that natural laws explained the workings of the universe. In
1661 he published his Short Treatise on God.
Criticism of Christianity
Criticism of Christianity became increasingly frequent in the 17th and
18th centuries, especially in
France and England, where there appears
to have been a religious malaise, according to contemporary sources.
Some Protestant thinkers, such as Thomas Hobbes, espoused a
materialist philosophy and skepticism toward supernatural occurrences,
while Spinoza rejected divine providence in favor of a panentheistic
naturalism. By the late 17th century, deism came to be openly espoused
by intellectuals such as John Toland who coined the term
The first known explicit atheist was the German critic of religion
Matthias Knutzen in his three writings of 1674. He was followed
by two other explicit atheist writers, the Polish ex-Jesuit
Kazimierz Łyszczyński and in the 1720s by the French
priest Jean Meslier. In the course of the 18th century, other
openly atheistic thinkers followed, such as Baron d'Holbach,
Jacques-André Naigeon, and other French materialists. John Locke
in contrast, though an advocate of tolerance, urged authorities not to
tolerate atheism, believing that the denial of God's existence would
undermine the social order and lead to chaos.
David Hume developed a skeptical epistemology grounded
in empiricism, and Immanuel Kant's philosophy has strongly questioned
the very possibility of a metaphysical knowledge. Both philosophers
undermined the metaphysical basis of natural theology and criticized
classical arguments for the existence of God.
Ludwig Feuerbach's The
Christianity (1841) would greatly
influence philosophers such as Engels, Marx, David Strauss, Nietzsche,
and Max Stirner. He considered
God to be a human invention and
religious activities to be wish-fulfillment. For this he is considered
the founding father of modern anthropology of religion.
Blainey notes that, although
Voltaire is widely considered to have
strongly contributed to atheistic thinking during the Revolution, he
also considered fear of
God to have discouraged further disorder,
having said "If
God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent
him." In Reflections on the Revolution in
France (1790), the
Edmund Burke denounced atheism, writing of a "literary
cabal" who had "some years ago formed something like a regular plan
for the destruction of the Christian religion. This object they
pursued with a degree of zeal which hitherto had been discovered only
in the propagators of some system of piety ... These atheistical
fathers have a bigotry of their own ...". But, Burke asserted,
"man is by his constitution a religious animal" and "atheism is
against, not only our reason, but our instincts; and ... it
cannot prevail long".
Baron d'Holbach was a prominent figure in the
French Enlightenment who
is best known for his atheism and for his voluminous writings against
religion, the most famous of them being
The System of Nature
The System of Nature (1770)
Christianity Unveiled. One goal of the
French Revolution was
a restructuring and subordination of the clergy with respect to the
state through the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Attempts to
enforce it led to anti-clerical violence and the expulsion of many
clergy from France, lasting until the Thermidorian Reaction. The
radical Jacobins seized power in 1793, ushering in the Reign of
Terror. The Jacobins were deists and introduced the Cult of the
Supreme Being as a new French state religion. Some atheists
Jacques Hébert instead sought to establish a Cult of
Reason, a form of atheistic pseudo-religion with a goddess
personifying reason. The
Napoleonic era further institutionalized the
secularization of French society.
In the latter half of the 19th century, atheism rose to prominence
under the influence of rationalistic and freethinking philosophers.
Many prominent German philosophers of this era denied the existence of
deities and were critical of religion, including Ludwig Feuerbach,
Arthur Schopenhauer, Max Stirner, Karl Marx, and Friedrich
George Holyoake was the last person (1842) imprisoned in Great Britain
due to atheist beliefs. Law notes that he may have also been the first
imprisoned on such a charge.
Stephen Law states that Holyoake "first
coined the term 'secularism'".
Marxism and religion
Atheism, particularly in the form of practical atheism, advanced in
many societies in the 20th century. Atheistic thought found
recognition in a wide variety of other, broader philosophies, such as
existentialism, objectivism, secular humanism, nihilism, anarchism,
logical positivism, Marxism, feminism, and the general scientific
and rationalist movement.
1929 cover of the USSR
League of Militant Atheists
League of Militant Atheists magazine, showing
the gods of the
Abrahamic religions being crushed by the Communist
In addition, state atheism emerged in Eastern Europe and Asia during
that period, particularly in the
Soviet Union under
Vladimir Lenin and
Joseph Stalin, and in Communist
China under Mao Zedong. Atheist and
anti-religious policies in the
Soviet Union included numerous
legislative acts, the outlawing of religious instruction in the
schools, and the emergence of the League of Militant
Atheists. After Mao, the Chinese Communist Party remains an
atheist organization, and regulates, but does not completely forbid,
the practice of religion in mainland China.
Geoffrey Blainey has written that "the most ruthless leaders in
the Second World War were atheists and secularists who were intensely
hostile to both
Judaism and Christianity", Richard Madsen has
pointed out that Hitler and Stalin each opened and closed churches as
a matter of political expedience, and Stalin softened his opposition
Christianity in order to improve public acceptance of his regime
during the war. Blackford and Schüklenk have written that "the
Soviet Union was undeniably an atheist state, and the same applies to
China and Pol Pot's fanatical Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia in
the 1970s. That does not, however, show that the atrocities committed
by these totalitarian dictatorships were the result of atheist
beliefs, carried out in the name of atheism, or caused primarily by
the atheistic aspects of the relevant forms of communism."
The British philosopher Bertrand Russell
Logical positivism and scientism paved the way for neopositivism,
analytical philosophy, structuralism, and naturalism. Neopositivism
and analytical philosophy discarded classical rationalism and
metaphysics in favor of strict empiricism and epistemological
nominalism. Proponents such as
Bertrand Russell emphatically rejected
belief in God. In his early work,
Ludwig Wittgenstein attempted to
separate metaphysical and supernatural language from rational
A. J. Ayer
A. J. Ayer asserted the unverifiability and meaninglessness
of religious statements, citing his adherence to the empirical
sciences. Relatedly the applied structuralism of Lévi-Strauss sourced
religious language to the human subconscious in denying its
transcendental meaning. J. N. Findlay and
J. J. C. Smart
J. J. C. Smart argued that
the existence of
God is not logically necessary. Naturalists and
materialistic monists such as
John Dewey considered the natural world
to be the basis of everything, denying the existence of
Other leaders like Periyar E. V. Ramasamy, a prominent atheist leader
of India, fought against
Brahmins for discriminating and
dividing people in the name of caste and religion. This was
highlighted in 1956 when he arranged for the erection of a statue
depicting a Hindu god in a humble representation and made antitheistic
Vashti McCollum was the plaintiff in a landmark 1948 Supreme
Court case that struck down religious education in US public
Madalyn Murray O'Hair
Madalyn Murray O'Hair was perhaps one of the most
influential American atheists; she brought forth the 1963 Supreme
Murray v. Curlett
Murray v. Curlett which banned compulsory prayer in public
schools. In 1966, Time magazine asked "Is
God Dead?" in
response to the Death of
God theological movement, citing the
estimation that nearly half of all people in the world lived under an
anti-religious power, and millions more in Africa, Asia, and South
America seemed to lack knowledge of the Christian view of
Freedom From Religion Foundation
Freedom From Religion Foundation was co-founded by
Anne Nicol Gaylor
Anne Nicol Gaylor and her daughter, Annie Laurie Gaylor, in 1976 in
the United States, and incorporated nationally in 1978. It promotes
the separation of church and state.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the number of actively
anti-religious regimes has reduced considerably. In 2006, Timothy Shah
of the Pew Forum noted "a worldwide trend across all major religious
groups, in which God-based and faith-based movements in general are
experiencing increasing confidence and influence vis-à-vis secular
movements and ideologies." However,
Gregory S. Paul
Gregory S. Paul and Phil
Zuckerman consider this a myth and suggest that the actual situation
is much more complex and nuanced.
A 2010 survey found that those identifying themselves as atheists or
agnostics are on average more knowledgeable about religion than
followers of major faiths. Nonbelievers scored better on questions
about tenets central to Protestant and Catholic faiths. Only Mormon
and Jewish faithful scored as well as atheists and agnostics.
In 2012, the first "Women in Secularism" conference was held in
Arlington, Virginia. Secular Woman was organized in 2012 as a
national organization focused on nonreligious women. The atheist
feminist movement has also become increasingly focused on fighting
sexism and sexual harassment within the atheist movement itself.
In August 2012, Jennifer McCreight (the organizer of Boobquake)
founded a movement within atheism known as
Atheism Plus, or A+, that
"applies skepticism to everything, including social issues like
sexism, racism, politics, poverty, and crime".
In 2013 the first atheist monument on American government property was
unveiled at the Bradford County Courthouse in Florida: a 1,500-pound
granite bench and plinth inscribed with quotes by Thomas Jefferson,
Benjamin Franklin, and Madalyn Murray O'Hair.
The "Four Horsemen of the Non-Apocalypse" (clockwise from top left):
Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris
Main article: New Atheism
"New Atheism" is the name that has been given to a movement among some
early-21st-century atheist writers who have advocated the view that
"religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered,
criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence
arises." The movement is commonly associated with Sam Harris,
Daniel C. Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Victor J. Stenger, Christopher
Hitchens, and to some extent Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Several
best-selling books by these authors, published between 2004 and 2007,
form the basis for much of the discussion of "New" Atheism.
In best selling books, the religiously motivated terrorist events of
9/11 and the partially successful attempts of the Discovery Institute
to change the American science curriculum to include creationist
ideas, together with support for those ideas from
George W. Bush
George W. Bush in
2005, have been cited by authors such as Harris, Dennett, Dawkins,
Stenger, and Hitchens as evidence of a need to move toward a more
Main article: Demographics of atheism
Further information: Religiosity and education
Proportion of atheists and agnostics around the world. (2007)
It is difficult to quantify the number of atheists in the world.
Respondents to religious-belief polls may define "atheism" differently
or draw different distinctions between atheism, non-religious beliefs,
and non-theistic religious and spiritual beliefs. A Hindu atheist
would declare oneself as a Hindu, although also being an atheist at
the same time. A 2010 survey published in Encyclopædia
Britannica found that the non-religious made up about 9.6% of the
world's population, and atheists about 2.0%, with a very large
majority based in Asia. This figure did not include those who follow
atheistic religions, such as some Buddhists. The average annual
change for atheism from 2000 to 2010 was −0.17%. Broad
estimates of those who have an absence of belief in a god range from
500 million to 1.1 billion people worldwide.
According to a study of 57 countries by Gallup International, 13% of
respondents were "convinced atheists" in 2012 and 11% were "convinced
atheists" in 2015. As of 2012, the top 10 surveyed countries
with people who viewed themselves as "convinced atheists" were China
Japan (31%), the
Czech Republic (30%),
France (29%), South
Austria (10%), Iceland
Australia (10%), and the
Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland (10%).
Percentage of people in various European countries who said: "I don't
believe there is any sort of spirit,
God or life force." (2010)
According to the 2010
Eurobarometer Poll, the percentage of those
polled who agreed with the statement "you don't believe there is any
sort of spirit,
God or life force" varied from a high percentage in
Czech Republic (37%), Sweden (34%),
and Estonia (29%); medium-high percentage in
Germany (27%), Belgium
(27%), UK (25%); to very low in Poland (5%), Greece (4%), Cyprus (3%),
Malta (2%), and Romania (1%), with the
European Union as a whole at
20%. In a 2012
Eurobarometer poll on discrimination in the
European Union, 16% of those polled considered themselves non
believers/agnostics and 7% considered themselves atheists.
According to a
Pew Research Center
Pew Research Center survey in 2012 religiously
unaffiliated (including agnostics and atheists) make up about 18% of
Europeans. According to the same survey, the religiously
unaffiliated are the majority of the population only in two European
Czech Republic (75%) and Estonia (60%).
There are another four countries where the unaffiliated make up a
majority of the population: North Korea (71%),
Japan (57%), Hong Kong
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 30% of Australians
have "no religion", a category that includes atheists.
In a 2013 census, 41.9% of
New Zealanders reported having no religion,
up from 29.6% in 1991. Men were more likely than women to report
According to the World Values Survey, 4.4% of Americans
self-identified as atheists in 2014. However, the same survey
showed that 11.1% of all respondents stated "no" when asked if they
believed in God. In 1984, these same figures were 1.1% and 2.2%,
respectively. According to a 2014 report by the Pew Research Center,
3.1% of the US adult population identify as atheist, up from 1.6% in
2007; and within the religiously unaffiliated (or "no religion")
demographic, atheists made up 13.6%. According to the 2015
General Sociological Survey the number of atheists and agnostics in
the US has remained relatively flat in the past 23 years since in 1991
only 2% identified as atheist and 4% identified as agnostic and in
2014 only 3% identified as atheists and 5% identified as
In an annual survey, 34% ± 0.9% SE was found to be religiously
unaffiliated in 2017, up by 2% ± 1.3% SE from 2016. This is
significantly higher than the findings in the 2014 Pew survey of 22.8%
± 0.2% SE, and in a 2016 PRRI survey of 24%, which both indicate that
the unaffiliated have been increasing by about 1.0% per year.
Additionally, a 2017 Pew survey finds that 45% does not consider
themselves religious, even though they may often consider themselves
associated with a major religion and/or "spiritual". This was an
increase by 10% with respect to five years earlier. Similar
findings of 40% were reported in 2012 in a Win-Gallup poll, an
increase of 13% with respect to 7 years earlier.
In recent years, the profile of atheism has risen substantially in the
Arab world. In major cities across the region, such as Cairo,
atheists have been organizing in cafés and social media, despite
regular crackdowns from authoritarian governments. A 2012 poll by
Gallup International revealed that 5% of Saudis considered themselves
to be "convinced atheists." However, very few young people in the
Arab world have atheists in their circle of friends or acquaintances.
According to one study, less than 1% did in Morocco, Egypt, Saudia
Arabia, or Jordan; only 3% to 7% in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain,
Kuwait, and Palestine. When asked whether they have "seen or
heard traces of atheism in [their] locality, community, and society"
only about 3% to 8% responded yes in all the countries surveyed. The
only exception was the UAE, with 51%.
Wealth and education
A study noted positive correlations between levels of education and
secularism, including atheism, in America. According to
evolutionary psychologist Nigel Barber, atheism blossoms in places
where most people feel economically secure, particularly in the social
democracies of Europe, as there is less uncertainty about the future
with extensive social safety nets and better health care resulting in
a greater quality of life and higher life expectancy. By contrast, in
underdeveloped countries, there are virtually no atheists.
In a 2008 study, researchers found intelligence to be negatively
related to religious belief in Europe and the United States. In a
sample of 137 countries, the correlation between national IQ and
God was found to be 0.60. Evolutionary psychologist
Nigel Barber states that the reason atheists are more intelligent than
religious people is better explained by social, environmental, and
wealth factors which happen to correlate with loss of religious belief
as well. He doubts that religion causes stupidity, noting that some
highly intelligent people have also been religious, but he says it is
plausible that higher intelligence correlates to rejection of
improbable religious beliefs and that the situation between
intelligence and rejection of religious beliefs is quite complex.
In a 2017 study, it was shown that compared to religious individuals,
atheists have higher reasoning capacities and this difference seemed
to be unrelated to sociodemographic factors such as age, education and
country of origin.
Attitudes toward atheism
See also: Discrimination against atheists
Statistically, atheists are held in poor regard across the globe.
Non-atheists, and possibly even fellow atheists, seem to implicitly
view atheists as prone to exhibit immoral behaviors ranging from mass
murder to not paying at a restaurant. In addition,
according to a 2016
Pew Research Center
Pew Research Center publication, 15% of French
people, 45% of Americans, and 99% of Indonesians explicitly believe
that a person must believe in
God to be moral. Pew furthermore noted
that, in a U.S. poll, atheists and Muslims tied for the lowest rating
among the major religious demographics on a "feeling
^ a b c Harvey, Van A.
Agnosticism and Atheism, in Flynn 2007,
p. 35: "The terms ATHEISM and AGNOSTICISM lend themselves to two
different definitions. The first takes the privative a both before the
Greek theos (divinity) and gnosis (to know) to mean that atheism is
simply the absence of belief in the gods and agnosticism is simply
lack of knowledge of some specified subject matter. The second
definition takes atheism to mean the explicit denial of the existence
of gods and agnosticism as the position of someone who, because the
existence of gods is unknowable, suspends judgment regarding
them ... The first is the more inclusive and recognizes only two
alternatives: Either one believes in the gods or one does not.
Consequently, there is no third alternative, as those who call
themselves agnostics sometimes claim. Insofar as they lack belief,
they are really atheists. Moreover, since absence of belief is the
cognitive position in which everyone is born, the burden of proof
falls on those who advocate religious belief. The proponents of the
second definition, by contrast, regard the first definition as too
broad because it includes uninformed children along with aggressive
and explicit atheists. Consequently, it is unlikely that the public
will adopt it."
^ a b Simon Blackburn, ed. (2008). "atheism". The Oxford Dictionary of
Philosophy (2008 ed.). Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2013-11-21.
Either the lack of belief that there exists a god, or the belief that
there exists none. Sometimes thought itself to be more dogmatic than
mere agnosticism, although atheists retort that everyone is an atheist
about most gods, so they merely advance one step further.
^ Most dictionaries (see the OneLook query for "atheism") first list
one of the more narrow definitions.
Runes, Dagobert D.(editor) (1942). Dictionary of Philosophy. New
Jersey: Littlefield, Adams & Co. Philosophical Library.
ISBN 0-06463461-2. Archived from the original on 13 May 2011.
Retrieved 2011-04-09. (a) the belief that there is no God; (b) Some
philosophers have been called "atheistic" because they have not held
to a belief in a personal God.
Atheism in this sense means "not
theistic". The former meaning of the term is a literal rendering. The
latter meaning is a less rigorous use of the term though widely
current in the history of thought CS1 maint: Extra text: authors
list (link) – entry by Vergilius Ferm
^ "Atheism". OxfordDictionaries.com. Oxford University Press.
Retrieved 23 April 2017.
^ Nielsen 2013: "Instead of saying that an atheist is someone who
believes that it is false or probably false that there is a God, a
more adequate characterization of atheism consists in the more complex
claim that to be an atheist is to be someone who rejects belief in God
for the following reasons ... : for an anthropomorphic God,
the atheist rejects belief in
God because it is false or probably
false that there is a God; for a nonanthropomorphic God ...
because the concept of such a
God is either meaningless,
unintelligible, contradictory, incomprehensible, or incoherent; for
God portrayed by some modern or contemporary theologians or
philosophers ... because the concept of
God in question is such
that it merely masks an atheistic substance—e.g., "God" is just
another name for love, or ... a symbolic term for moral ideals."
^ Edwards 2005: "On our definition, an 'atheist' is a person who
rejects belief in God, regardless of whether or not his reason for the
rejection is the claim that '
God exists' expresses a false
proposition. People frequently adopt an attitude of rejection toward a
position for reasons other than that it is a false proposition. It is
common among contemporary philosophers, and indeed it was not uncommon
in earlier centuries, to reject positions on the ground that they are
meaningless. Sometimes, too, a theory is rejected on such grounds as
that it is sterile or redundant or capricious, and there are many
other considerations which in certain contexts are generally agreed to
constitute good grounds for rejecting an assertion."
^ Rowe 1998: "As commonly understood, atheism is the position that
affirms the nonexistence of God. So an atheist is someone who
disbelieves in God, whereas a theist is someone who believes in God.
Another meaning of 'atheism' is simply nonbelief in the existence of
God, rather than positive belief in the nonexistence of God. ...
an atheist, in the broader sense of the term, is someone who
disbelieves in every form of deity, not just the
God of traditional
^ J.J.C. Smart. "
Atheism and Agnosticism". Stanford Encyclopedia of
^ "Definitions: Atheism". Department of Religious Studies, University
of Alabama. Retrieved 2012-12-01.
^ a b
Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.). 1989.
Belief in a deity, or
deities, as opposed to atheism
^ "Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary". Archived from the original on
14 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-09. ...belief in the existence of a god
^ Smart, J. J. C. Zalta, Edward N., ed. "
Atheism and Agnosticism". The
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2013 Edition).
^ a b Drachmann, A. B. (1977) .
Atheism in Pagan Antiquity.
Chicago: Ares Publishers. ISBN 0-89005201-8.
Atheism and atheist
are words formed from Greek roots and with Greek derivative endings.
Nevertheless they are not Greek; their formation is not consonant with
Greek usage. In Greek they said átheos and atheotēs; to these the
English words ungodly and ungodliness correspond rather closely. In
exactly the same way as ungodly, átheos was used as an expression of
severe censure and moral condemnation; this use is an old one, and the
oldest that can be traced. Not till later do we find it employed to
denote a certain philosophical creed.
^ a b Whitmarsh, Tim. "8.
Atheism on Trial". Battling the Gods:
Atheism in the Ancient World. Knopf Doubleday.
^ a b Wootton, David (1992). "1. New Histories of Atheism". In Hunter,
Michael; Wootton, David.
Atheism from the Reformation to the
Enlightenment. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19822736-1.
^ a b Armstrong 1999.
^ Hancock, Ralph (1996). The Legacy of the French Revolution. Lanham,
United States: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers. p. 22.
ISBN 978-0-847-67842-6. Retrieved 2015-05-30. Extract of
^ a b c Various authors. "Logical Arguments for Atheism". The Secular
Web Library. Internet Infidels. Retrieved 2012-10-02.
^ Shook, John R. "
Skepticism about the Supernatural" (PDF). Retrieved
^ a b Drange, Theodore M. (1996). "The Arguments From Evil and
Nonbelief". Secular Web Library. Internet Infidels. Retrieved
^ Stenger 2007, pp. 17–18, citing Parsons, Keith M. (1989). God
and the Burden of Proof: Plantinga, Swinburne, and the Analytical
Defense of Theism. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books.
^ a b Nagel, Ernest (1959). "Philosophical Concepts of Atheism". Basic
Beliefs: The Religious Philosophies of Mankind. Sheridan House. I
shall understand by "atheism" a critique and a denial of the major
claims of all varieties of theism ... atheism is not to be
identified with sheer unbelief ... Thus, a child who has received
no religious instruction and has never heard about God, is not an
atheist – for he is not denying any theistic claims. Similarly in
the case of an adult who, if he has withdrawn from the faith of his
father without reflection or because of frank indifference to any
theological issue, is also not an atheist – for such an adult is not
challenging theism and not professing any views on the subject.
reprinted in Critiques of God, edited by Peter A. Angeles, Prometheus
^ Honderich, Ted (Ed.) (1995). "Humanism". The Oxford Companion to
Philosophy. Oxford University Press. p 376. ISBN 0-19-866132-0.
^ Fales, Evan. Naturalism and Physicalism, in Martin 2006,
^ Baggini 2003, pp. 3–4.
^ Zuckerman, Phil (2007). Martin, Michael T, ed. The Cambridge
Companion to Atheism. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
p. 56. ISBN 978-0-521-60367-6. OL 22379448M. Retrieved
^ "Religiosity and
Atheism Index" (PDF). Zurich: WIN/GIA. 27 July
2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 October 2013. Retrieved 1
^ a b "New Survey Shows the World's Most and Least Religious Places".
NPR. 13 April 2015. Retrieved 2015-04-29.
^ Keysar, Ariela; Navarro-Rivera, Juhem (2017). "36. A World of
Atheism: Global Demographics". In Bullivant, Stephen; Ruse, Michael.
The Oxford Handbook of Atheism. Oxford University Press.
^ "UK among most secular nations". BBC News. 26 February 2004.
^ "Worldwide Adherents of All Religions by Six Continental Areas,
Mid-2007". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Retrieved 2013-11-21.
2.3% Atheists: Persons professing atheism, skepticism, disbelief, or
irreligion, including the militantly antireligious (opposed to all
11.9% Nonreligious: Persons professing no religion, nonbelievers,
agnostics, freethinkers, uninterested, or dereligionized secularists
indifferent to all religion but not militantly so.
^ "Gallup International Religiosity Index" (PDF). Washington Post.
WIN-Gallup International. April 2015.
^ a b Social values, Science and Technology (PDF). Directorate General
Research, European Union. 2010. p. 207. Archived from the
original (PDF) on 30 April 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-09.
^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Atheism". Encyclopædia
Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. The term as
generally used, however, is highly ambiguous. Its meaning varies (a)
according to the various definitions of deity, and especially (b)
according as it is (i.) deliberately adopted by a thinker as a
description of his own theological standpoint, or (ii.) applied by one
set of thinkers to their opponents. As to (a), it is obvious that
atheism from the standpoint of the Christian is a very different
conception as compared with atheism as understood by a Deist, a
Positivist, a follower of
Euhemerus or Herbert Spencer, or a
^ Martin 1990, pp. 467–468: "In the popular sense an agnostic
neither believes nor disbelieves that
God exists, while an atheist
God exists. However, this common contrast of
agnosticism with atheism will hold only if one assumes that atheism
means positive atheism. In the popular sense, agnosticism is
compatible with negative atheism. Since negative atheism by definition
simply means not holding any concept of God, it is compatible with
neither believing nor disbelieving in God."
^ Flint 1903, pp. 49–51: "The atheist may however be, and not
unfrequently is, an agnostic. There is an agnostic atheism or
atheistic agnosticism, and the combination of atheism with agnosticism
which may be so named is not an uncommon one."
^ Holland, Aaron. Agnosticism, in Flynn 2007, p. 34: "It is
important to note that this interpretation of agnosticism is
compatible with theism or atheism, since it is only asserted that
knowledge of God's existence is unattainable."
^ a b Martin 2006, p. 2: "But agnosticism is compatible with
negative atheism in that agnosticism entails negative atheism. Since
agnostics do not believe in God, they are by definition negative
atheists. This is not to say that negative atheism entails
agnosticism. A negative atheist might disbelieve in
God but need not."
^ Barker 2008, p. 96: "People are invariably surprised to hear me
say I am both an atheist and an agnostic, as if this somehow weakens
my certainty. I usually reply with a question like, "Well, are you a
Republican or an American?" The two words serve different concepts and
are not mutually exclusive.
Agnosticism addresses knowledge; atheism
addresses belief. The agnostic says, "I don't have a knowledge that
God exists." The atheist says, "I don't have a belief that God
exists." You can say both things at the same time. Some agnostics are
atheistic and some are theistic."
^ Besant, Annie. Why Should Atheists Be Persecuted?. in
Bradlaugh et al. 1884, pp. 185–186: "The Atheist waits for
proof of God. Till that proof comes he remains, as his name implies,
without God. His mind is open to every new truth, after it has passed
Reason at the gate."
^ Holyoake, George Jacob (1842). "Mr. Mackintosh's New God". The
Oracle of Reason, Or,
Philosophy Vindicated. 1 (23): 186. On the
contrary, I, as an Atheist, simply profess that I do not see
sufficient reason to believe that there is a god. I do not pretend to
know that there is no god. The whole question of god's existence,
belief or disbelief, a question of probability or of improbability,
^ Nielsen 2013: "atheism, in general, the critique and denial of
metaphysical beliefs in
God or spiritual beings. As such, it is
usually distinguished from theism, which affirms the reality of the
divine and often seeks to demonstrate its existence.
Atheism is also
distinguished from agnosticism, which leaves open the question whether
there is a god or not, professing to find the questions unanswered or
Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. Merriam Webster.
Retrieved 2011-12-15. Critique and denial of metaphysical beliefs in
God or divine beings. Unlike agnosticism, which leaves open the
question of whether there is a God, atheism is a positive denial. It
is rooted in an array of philosophical systems.
^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Atheism". Encyclopædia
Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. But dogmatic
atheism is rare compared with the sceptical type, which is identical
with agnosticism in so far as it denies the capacity of the mind of
man to form any conception of God, but is different from it in so far
as the agnostic merely holds his judgment in suspense, though, in
practice, agnosticism is apt to result in an attitude towards religion
which is hardly distinguishable from a passive and unaggressive
^ a b c Martin 2006.
Atheism as rejection of religious beliefs". Encyclopædia
Britannica. 1 (15th ed.). 2011. p. 666. 0852294735. Archived from
the original on 12 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-09.
^ d'Holbach, P. H. T. (1772). Good Sense. Retrieved 2011-04-07.
^ Smith 1979, p. 14.
^ a b Flew 1976, pp. 14ff: "In this interpretation an atheist
becomes: not someone who positively asserts the non-existence of God;
but someone who is simply not a theist. Let us, for future ready
reference, introduce the labels 'positive atheist' for the former and
'negative atheist' for the latter."
^ Maritain, Jacques (July 1949). "On the Meaning of Contemporary
Atheism". The Review of Politics. 11 (3): 267–280.
doi:10.1017/S0034670500044168. Archived from the original on 13
^ a b Kenny, Anthony (2006). "Why I Am Not an Atheist". What I
believe. Continuum. ISBN 0-82648971-0. The true default position
is neither theism nor atheism, but agnosticism ... a claim to
knowledge needs to be substantiated; ignorance need only be
^ "Why I'm Not an Atheist: The Case for Agnosticism". Huffington Post.
28 May 2013. Retrieved 2013-11-26.
^ O'Brien, Breda (7 July 2009). "Many atheists I know would be certain
of a high place in heaven". Irish Times. Archived from the original on
20 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-09.
^ Warner, Matthew (8 June 2012). "More faith to be an atheist than a
Christian". Retrieved 2013-11-26.
^ Baggini 2003, pp. 30–34. "Who seriously claims we should say
'I neither believe nor disbelieve that the Pope is a robot', or 'As to
whether or not eating this piece of chocolate will turn me into an
elephant I am completely agnostic'. In the absence of any good reasons
to believe these outlandish claims, we rightly disbelieve them, we
don't just suspend judgement."
^ Baggini 2003, p. 22. "A lack of proof is no grounds for the
suspension of belief. This is because when we have a lack of absolute
proof we can still have overwhelming evidence or one explanation which
is far superior to the alternatives."
^ a b Smart, J.C.C. (9 March 2004). "
Atheism and Agnosticism".
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 2011-04-09.
^ Dawkins 2006, p. 50.
^ Cudworth, Ralph (1678). The True Intellectual System of the
Universe: the first part, wherein all the reason and philosophy of
atheism is confuted and its impossibility demonstrated.
^ See, for example: Pressley, Sue Anne (8 September 1996). "Atheist
Group Moves Ahead Without O'Hair". The Washington Post. Retrieved
^ Lowder, Jeffery Jay (1997). "
Atheism and Society". Archived from the
original on 22 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-09.
^ Harris 2006, p. 51.
^ Paul Henri Thiry, Baron d'Holbach, System of Nature; or, the Laws of
the Moral and Physical World (London, 1797), Vol. 1, p. 25
^ Hume 1748, Part III: "If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity
or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any
abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain
any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence?
No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but
sophistry and illusion."
^ a b Zdybicka 2005, p. 20.
^ Drange, Theodore M. (1998). "Atheism, Agnosticism, Noncognitivism".
Internet Infidels, Secular Web Library. Retrieved 2007-APR-07.
^ Ayer, A. J. (1946). Language, Truth and Logic. Dover. pp. 115–116.
In a footnote, Ayer attributes this view to "Professor H. H. Price".
^ Zdybicka 2005, p. 19.
^ Hume 1779.
^ V.A. Gunasekara, "The Buddhist Attitude to God". Archived from the
original on 2 January 2008. In the Bhuridatta Jataka, "The
Buddha argues that the three most commonly given attributes of God,
viz. omnipotence, omniscience and benevolence towards humanity cannot
all be mutually compatible with the existential fact of dukkha."
^ Feuerbach, Ludwig (1841) The
Essence of Christianity
^ Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught. Grove Press, 1974. Pages
^ Bakunin, Michael (1916). "
God and the State". New York: Mother Earth
Publishing Association. Archived from the original on 21 May 2011.
^ The Raelian Foundation (2005). Intelligent Design.
^ Johnson, Philip; et al. (2005). Claydon, David; et al., eds.
Religious and Non-Religious
Spirituality in the Western World ("New
Age"). A New Vision, A New Heart, A Renewed Call. 2. William Carey
Library. p. 194. ISBN 978-0-878-08364-0. Although Neo-Pagans
share common commitments to nature and spirit there is a diversity of
beliefs and practices ... Some are atheists, others are
polytheists (several gods exist), some are pantheists (all is God) and
others are panentheists (all is in God).
^ Matthews, Carol S. (2009). New Religions. Chelsea House Publishers.
ISBN 978-0-791-08096-2. There is no universal worldview that all
Neo-Pagans/Wiccans hold. One online information source indicates that
depending on how the term
God is defined, Neo-Pagans might be
classified as monotheists, duotheists (two gods), polytheists,
pantheists, or atheists.
^ Chakravarti, Sitansu (1991). Hinduism, a way of life. Motilal
Banarsidass Publ. p. 65. ISBN 978-8-120-80899-7. For the
thoroughgoing atheist, the path is extremely difficult, if not lonely,
for he can not develop any relationship of love with God, nor can he
expect any divine help on the long and arduous journey.
^ Pattanaik, Devdutt (18 August 2009). "63 worthy beings". Mid-day.
Archived from the original on 27 September 2012. Retrieved
^ Muni Nagraj. Āgama and Tripiṭaka: A Comparative Study : a
Critical Study of the Jaina and the Buddhist Canonical Literature,
Volume 1. Today & Tomorrow's Printers and Publishers. p. 203.
^ Kedar, Nath Tiwari (1997). Comparative Religion. Motilal
Banarsidass. p. 50. ISBN 8-12080293-4.
^ Jacobs, Jonathan D. (2015). "7. The Ineffable, Inconceivable, and
Incomprehensible God. Fundamentality and Apophatic
Theology (pp. 158
— 176)". In Kvanvig, Jonathan. Oxford Studies in
Religion. Volume 6. Oxford University Press. p. 168.
ISBN 978-0-198-72233-5. ISBN 0-19872233-8.
^ Fagenblat, Michael, ed. (2017). Negative
Theology as Jewish
Modernity. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. p. 3.
ISBN 978-0-253-02504-3. ISBN 0-25302504-4.
^ Bryson, Michael E. (2016). The Atheist Milton. Abingdon-on-Thames:
Routledge. p. 114. ISBN 978-1-317-04095-8.
^ Gleeson, David (10 August 2006). "Common Misconceptions About
Atheists and Atheism". Retrieved 2013-11-21.
^ Smith 1979, p. 275. "Perhaps the most common criticism of
atheism is the claim that it leads inevitably to moral bankruptcy."
^ Pascal, Blaise (1669). Pensées, II: "The Misery of Man Without
^ a b Sartre 2004, p. 127.
^ Sartre 2001, p. 45.
^ Sartre 2001, p. 32.
^ Norris, Pippa; Inglehart, Ronald (2004). Sacred and Secular:
Religion and Politics Worldwide. Cambridge University Press.
^ Bruce, Steve (2003).
Religion and Politics. Cambridge, UK.
^ a b Zuckerman, Phil (2009). "Atheism, Secularity, and Well-Being:
How the Findings of Social Science Counter Negative Stereotypes and
Assumptions" (PDF). Sociology Compass. 3 (6): 949–971.
^ "Societies without
God are more benevolent". The Guardian. 2
September 2010. Retrieved 2013-11-21.
^ Wallace, B. Alan Ph.D. (November 1999). "Is
Non-Theistic?" (PDF). National Conference of the American Academy of
Religion lectures. Boston, MA. p. 8. Archived from the original
(PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 2014-07-22. "Thus, in light of
the theoretical progression from the bhavaºga to the
tath›gatagarbha to the primordial wisdom of the absolute space of
Buddhism is not so simply non-theistic as it may appear at
^ Winston, Robert (Ed.) (2004). Human. New York: DK Publishing, Inc.
p. 299. ISBN 0-75661901-7. Nonbelief has existed for
centuries. For example,
Jainism have been called
atheistic religions because they do not advocate belief in
gods. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
^ "Humanistic Judaism". BBC. 20 July 2006. Archived from the original
on 16 April 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-09.
^ Levin, S. (May 1995). "Jewish Atheism". New Humanist. 110 (2):
^ "Christian Atheism". BBC. 17 May 2006. Retrieved 2011-04-09.
^ Altizer, Thomas J. J. (1967). The Gospel of Christian Atheism.
London: Collins. pp. 102–103. Archived from the original on 29
September 2006. Retrieved 2011-04-09.
^ Lyas, Colin (January 1970). "On the Coherence of Christian Atheism".
Philosophy: the Journal of the Royal Institute of Philosophy. 45
(171): 1–19. doi:10.1017/S0031819100009578.
^ Smith 1979, pp. 21–22
^ Chakravarti, Sitansu (1991). Hinduism, a way of life. Motilal
Banarsidass Publ. p. 71. ISBN 978-81-208-0899-7. Retrieved
2011-04-09. According to Hinduism, the path of the atheist is very
difficult to follow in matters of spirituality, though it is a valid
^ Slavoj Žižek: Less Than Nothing (2012)
^ Alain de Botton:
Religion for Atheists (2012)
Alexander Bard and Jan Söderqvist: The Global Empire (2012)
^ Smith 1979, p. 275. "Among the many myths associated with
religion, none is more widespread - [sic]or more disastrous in its
effects—than the myth that moral values cannot be divorced from the
belief in a god."
^ In Dostoevsky's
The Brothers Karamazov
The Brothers Karamazov (
Book Eleven: Brother Ivan
Fyodorovich, Chapter 4) there is the famous argument that If there is
no God, all things are permitted.: "'But what will become of men
then?' I asked him, 'without
God and immortal life? All things are
lawful then, they can do what they like?'"
^ For Kant, the presupposition of God, soul, and freedom was a
practical concern, for "Morality, by itself, constitutes a system, but
happiness does not, unless it is distributed in exact proportion to
morality. This, however, is possible in an intelligible world only
under a wise author and ruler.
Reason compels us to admit such a
ruler, together with life in such a world, which we must consider as
future life, or else all moral laws are to be considered as idle
dreams ..." (Critique of Pure Reason, A811).
^ Baggini 2003, p. 38
^ Human Rights, Virtue, and the Common Good. Rowman & Littlefield.
1996. ISBN 978-0-8476-8279-9. Retrieved 2011-04-09. That problem
was brought home to us with dazzling clarity by Nietzsche, who had
reflected more deeply than any of his contemporaries on the
implications of godlessness and come to the conclusion that a fatal
contradiction lay at the heart of modern theological enterprise: it
thought that Christian morality, which it wished to preserve, was
independent of Christian dogma, which it rejected. This, in
Nietzsche's mind, was an absurdity. It amounted to nothing less than
dismissing the architect while trying to keep the building or getting
rid of the lawgiver while claiming the protection of the law.
^ The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. Wiley-Blackwell. 11 May
2009. ISBN 978-1-4051-7657-6. Retrieved 2011-04-09. Morality "has
truth only if
God is truth–it stands or falls with faith in God"
(Nietzsche 1968, p. 70). The moral argument for the existence of God
essentially takes Nietzsche's assertion as one of its premises: if
there is no God, then "there are altogether no moral facts".
^ Victorian Subjects. Duke University Press. 1991.
ISBN 978-0-8223-1110-2. Retrieved 2011-04-09. Like other
mid-nineteenth-century writers, George Eliot was not fully aware of
the implications of her humanism, and, as Nietzsche saw, attempted the
difficult task of upholding the Christian morality of altruism without
faith in the Christian God.
^ Moore, G. E. (1903). Principia Ethica. Archived from the original on
14 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-09.
Susan Neiman (6 November 2006). Beyond
Belief Session 6
(Conference). Salk Institute, La Jolla, CA: The Science Network.
^ Baggini 2003, p. 40
^ Baggini 2003, p. 43
^ 101 Ethical Dilemmas, 2nd edition, by Cohen, M.,
pp 184–5. (Cohen notes particularly that
Plato and Aristotle
produced arguments in favour of slavery.)
Plato to Mao, by Cohen, M, Second edition
^ Harris 2005, Harris 2006, Dawkins 2006, Hitchens 2007, Russell 1957
^ Marx, K. 1976. Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of
Philosophy of Right. Collected Works, v. 3. New York.
^ Martin Amis; Koba the Dread; Vintage Books; London; 2003;
ISBN 978-0-099-43802-1; pp. 30–31.
^ Harris 2006a.
^ Moreira-almeida, A.; Neto, F.; Koenig, H. G. (2006). "Religiousness
and mental health: a review". Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria. 28
(3): 242–250. doi:10.1590/S1516-44462006005000006.
^ See for example: Kahoe, R.D. (June 1977). "Intrinsic
Authoritarianism: A Differentiated Relationship". Journal for the
Scientific Study of Religion. 16 (2): 179–182. doi:10.2307/1385749.
JSTOR 1385749. Also see: Altemeyer, Bob; Hunsberger, Bruce
(1992). "Authoritarianism, Religious Fundamentalism, Quest, and
Prejudice". International Journal for the Psychology of Religion. 2
(2): 113–133. doi:10.1207/s15327582ijpr0202_5.
^ Harris, Sam (2005). "An Atheist Manifesto". Truthdig. Archived from
the original on 16 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-09. In a world riven by
ignorance, only the atheist refuses to deny the obvious: Religious
faith promotes human violence to an astonishing degree.
^ Feinberg, John S.; Feinberg, Paul D. (4 November 2010).
Ethics for a
Brave New World. Stand To Reason. ISBN 978-1-581-34712-8.
Retrieved 2007-10-18. Over a half century ago, while I was still a
child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following
explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: 'Men
have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened.' Since then I
have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our
revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected
hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight
volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left
by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely
as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up
some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than
to repeat: 'Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has
^ D'Souza, Dinesh. "Answering Atheist's Arguments". Catholic Education
Resource Center. Retrieved 2011-04-09.
^ Dawkins 2006, p. 291.
^ 10 myths and 10 truths about
Atheism Sam Harris
^ The word αθεοι—in any of its forms—appears nowhere else in
Septuagint or the New Testament. Robertson, A.T. (1960) .
"Ephesians: Chapter 2". Word Pictures in the New Testament. Broadman
Press. Retrieved 2011-04-09. Old Greek word, not in LXX, only here in
N.T. Atheists in the original sense of being without
God and also in
the sense of hostility to
God from failure to worship him. See Paul's
words in Ro 1:18–32.
^ "atheist". American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.
2009. Retrieved 2013-11-21.
^ Martiall, John (1566). A Replie to Mr Calfhills Blasphemous Answer
Made Against the Treatise of the Cross. English recusant literature,
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^ Rendered as Atheistes: Golding, Arthur (1571). The Psalmes of David
and others, with J. Calvin's commentaries. pp. Ep. Ded. 3. The
Atheistes which say..there is no God. Translated from Latin.
^ Hanmer, Meredith (1577). The auncient ecclesiasticall histories of
the first six hundred years after Christ, written by Eusebius,
Socrates, and Evagrius. London. p. 63. OCLC 55193813. The
opinion which they conceaue of you, to be Atheists, or godlesse
^ a b Merriam-Webster Online:Atheism, retrieved 2013-11-21, First
Known Use: 1546
^ a b Rendered as Athisme: de Mornay, Philippe (1581). A Woorke
Concerning the Trewnesse of the Christian Religion: Against Atheists,
Epicures, Paynims, Iewes, Mahumetists, and other infidels [De la
vérite de la religion chréstienne (1581, Paris)]. Translated from
French to English by
Arthur Golding &
Philip Sidney and published
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^ Vergil, Polydore (c. 1534). English history. Retrieved 2011-04-09.
Godd would not longe suffer this impietie, or rather atheonisme.
Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary also records an earlier, irregular
formation, atheonism, dated from about 1534. The later and now
obsolete words athean and atheal are dated to 1611 and 1612
respectively. prep. by J. A. Simpson ... (1989). The Oxford
English Dictionary (Second ed.). Oxford University Press.
^ Burton, Robert (1621). deist. The Anatomy of Melancholy. Part III,
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are many of our great Philosophers and Deists
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atheistic objectors, viz. that nothing, which once was not, could by
any power whatsoever be brought into being, is absolutely false; and
that, if it were true, it would make no more against theism than it
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^ In part because of its wide use in monotheistic Western society,
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generally as "disbelief in deities". A clear distinction is rarely
drawn in modern writings between these two definitions, but some
archaic uses of atheism encompassed only disbelief in the singular
God, not in polytheistic deities. It is on this basis that the
obsolete term adevism was coined in the late 19th century to describe
an absence of belief in plural deities.
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^ Baggini 2003, pp. 73–74. "
Atheism had its origins in Ancient
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^ a b c d e f Grafton, Anthony; Most, Glenn W.; Settis, Salvatore
(2010). The Classical Tradition. Cambridge, Massachusetts and London,
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^ a b c d Garland, Robert (2008). Ancient Greece: Everyday Life in the
Birthplace of Western Civilization. New York City, New York: Sterling.
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^ Solmsen, Friedrich (1942). Plato's Theology. Cornell University
Press. p 25.
^ a b ... nullos esse omnino Diagoras et Theodorus
Cyrenaicus ... Cicero, Marcus Tullius: De natura deorum. Comments
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^ Woodruff, P.; Smith, N.D. (2000).
Religion in Socratic
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