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Atheism

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Religion · Nontheism · Antitheism
Metaphysical naturalism
Weak and strong atheism
Implicit and explicit atheism

History

History of atheism

Arguments

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Demographics

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Atheism is commonly defined as the position that there are no deities.[1] It can also mean the rejection of belief in the existence of deities.[2] A broader definition is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist.[3]

The term atheism originated from the Greek ἄθεος (atheos), meaning "without gods", which was applied with a negative connotation to those thought to reject the gods worshiped by the larger society. 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 as "atheist" appeared in the 18th century. Today, about 2.3% of the world's population describes itself as atheist, while a further 11.9% is described as nontheist.[4] Between 64% and 65% of Japanese describe themselves as atheists, agnostics, or non-believers,[5][6] and to 48% in Russia.[5] The percentage of such persons in European Union member states ranges as low as single digits in Italy and some other countries, and up to 85% in Sweden.[5]

Atheists tend to lean towards skepticism regarding supernatural claims, citing a lack of empirical evidence. Common rationales for not believing in any deity include the problem of evil, the argument from inconsistent revelations, and the argument from nonbelief. Other arguments for atheism range from the philosophical to the social to the historical. Although some atheists tend toward secular philosophies such as humanism,[7] rationalism, and naturalism,[8] there is no one ideology or set of behaviors to which all atheists adhere.[9]

In Western culture, atheists are frequently assumed to be exclusively irreligious or unspiritual.[10] However, religious and spiritual belief systems such as forms of Buddhism that do not advocate belief in gods, have also been described as atheistic.[11]

Etymology

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".[12]

In early Ancient Greek, the adjective atheos (ἄθεος, from the privative ἀ- + θεός "god") meant "godless". The word began to indicate more-intentional, active godlessness in the 5th century BCE, acquiring definitions of "severing relations with the gods" or "denying the gods" instead of the earlier meaning of ἀσεβής (asebēs) or "impious". Modern translations of classical texts sometimes render atheos as "atheistic". As an abstract noun, there was also ἀθεότης (atheotēs), "atheism". Cicero transliterated the Greek word into the Latin atheos. The term found frequent use in the debate between early Christians and Hellenists, with each side attributing it, in the pejorative sense, to the other.[13]

In English, the term atheism was derived from the French athéisme in about 1587.[14] The term atheist (from Fr. athée), in the sense of "one who denies or disbelieves the existence of God",[15] predates atheism in English, being first attested in about 1571.[16] Atheist as a label of practical godlessness was used at least as early as 1577.[17] Related words emerged later: deist in 1621,[18] theist in 1662;[19] theism in 1678;[20] and deism in 1682.[21] Deism and theism changed meanings slightly around 1700, due to the influence of atheism; deism was originally used as a synonym for today's theism, but came to denote a separate philosophical doctrine.[22]

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."[23] Atheism was first used to describe a self-avowed belief in late 18th-century Europe, specifically denoting disbelief in the monotheistic Abrahamic god.[24] 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".[25]

Definitions and distinctions

A chart showing the relationship between the definitions of weak/strong and implicit/explicit atheism. An implicit atheist has not thought about belief in gods, and would be described as being implicitly without a belief in gods. An explicit atheist has made an assertion regarding belief in gods. An explicit atheist may eschew belief in gods (weak atheism), or further conclude that gods do not exist (strong atheism). (Relative sizes on diagram are not meant to indicate actual sizes in populations.)

Writers disagree how best to define and classify atheism,[26] contesting what supernatural entities it applies to, whether it is an assertion in its own right or merely the absence of one, and whether it requires a conscious, explicit rejection. A variety of categories have been proposed to try to distinguish the different forms of atheism.

Range

Some of the ambiguity and controversy involved in defining atheism arises from difficulty in reaching a consensus for the definitions of words like deity and god. The plurality of wildly different conceptions of god and deities leads to differing ideas regarding atheism's applicability. The ancient Romans accused Christians of being atheists for not worshiping the pagan deities. In the 20th century, this view has fallen into disfavor as theism has come to be understood as encompassing belief in any divinity.[25]

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 Hinduism and Buddhism.[27]

Implicit vs. explicit

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."[28] 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."[29] 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.

In Western civilization, the view that children are born atheist is relatively recent. Before the 18th century, the existence of God was so universally 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.[30] There is a position claiming that atheists are quick to believe in God in times of crisis, that atheists make deathbed conversions, or that "there are no atheists in foxholes."[31] Some proponents of this view claim that the anthropological benefit of religion is that religious faith enables humans to endure hardships better (cf.opium of the people Karl Marx, Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher February, 1844). Some atheists emphasize the fact that there have been examples to the contrary, among them examples of literal "atheists in foxholes."[32]

Strong vs. weak

Philosophers such as Antony Flew,[33] Michael Martin,[25] and William L. Rowe[34] have contrasted strong (positive) atheism with weak (negative) atheism. Strong atheism is the explicit affirmation that gods do not exist. Weak atheism includes all other forms of non-theism. According to this categorization, anyone who is not a theist is either a weak or a strong atheist.[35] The terms weak and strong are relatively recent, while the equivalent terms negative and positive atheism are of older origin, having been used (in slightly different ways) in the philosophical literature[33] and in Catholic apologetics[36] since at least 1813.[37][38] Under this demarcation of atheism, most agnostics qualify as weak atheists.

While Martin, for example, asserts that agnosticism entails weak atheism,[25] most agnostics see their view as distinct from atheism, which they may consider no more justified than theism or requiring an equal conviction.[39] The supposed unattainability of knowledge for or against the existence of gods is sometimes seen as indication that atheism requires a leap of faith.[40] Common atheist responses to this argument include that unproven religious propositions deserve as much disbelief as all other unproven propositions,[41] and that the unprovability of a god's existence does not imply equal probability of either possibility.[42] Scottish philosopher J. J. C. Smart even argues that "sometimes a person who is really an atheist may describe herself, even passionately, as an agnostic because of unreasonable generalised philosophical skepticism which would preclude us from saying that we know anything whatever, except perhaps the truths of mathematics and formal logic."[43] Consequently, some popular atheist authors such as Richard Dawkins prefer distinguishing theist, agnostic and atheist positions by the probability assigned to the statement "God exists".[44]

Other usage of the term "Positive Atheism"

As mentioned above, the terms negative and positive have been used in philosophical literature in a similar manner to the terms weak and strong. However, the book Positive Atheism by Gora, first published in 1972, introduced an alternative use for the phrase.[45] Having grown up in a hierarchical system with a religious basis, Gora called for a secular India and suggested guidelines for a positive atheist philosophy, meaning one that promotes positive values.[46] Positive atheism entails such things as a being morally upright, showing an understanding that religious people have reasons to believe, not proselytising or lecturing others about atheism, and defending oneself with truthfulness instead of aiming to 'win' any confrontations with outspoken critics.

Rationale

"A child of the mob once asked an astronomer who the father was who brought him into this world. The scholar pointed to the sky, and to an old man sitting, and said:
'That one there is your body's father, and that your soul's.'
To which the boy replied:
'What is above of us is of no concern to us, and I'm ashamed to be the child of such an aged man!'
'O what supreme impiety, not to want to recognize your father, and not to think God is your maker!' [47] Emblem illustrating practical atheism and its historical association with immorality, titled "Supreme Impiety: Atheist and Charlatan", from Picta poesis, by Barthélemy Aneau, 1552.

The broadest demarcation of atheistic rationale is between practical and theoretical atheism. The different forms of theoretical atheism each derive from a particular rationale or philosophical argument. In contrast, practical atheism requires no specific argument, and can include indifference to and ignorance of the idea of gods.

Practical atheism

In practical, or pragmatic, atheism, also known as apatheism, individuals live as if there are no gods and explain natural phenomena without resorting to the divine. The existence of gods is not denied, but may be designated unnecessary or useless; gods neither provide purpose to life, nor influence everyday life, according to this view.[48] A form of practical atheism with implications for the scientific community is methodological naturalism—the "tacit adoption or assumption of philosophical naturalism within scientific method with or without fully accepting or believing it."[49]

Practical atheism can take various forms:

  • Absence of religious motivation—belief in gods does not motivate moral action, religious action, or any other form of action;
  • Active exclusion of the problem of gods and religion from intellectual pursuit and practical action;
  • Indifference—the absence of any interest in the problems of gods and religion; or
  • Unawareness of the concept of a deity.[50]

Theoretical atheism

Theoretical (or theoric) atheism explicitly posits arguments against the existence of gods, responding to common theistic arguments such as the argument from design or Pascal's Wager. The theoretical reasons for rejecting gods assume various forms, above all ontological, gnoseological, and epistemological, but also sometimes psychological and sociological forms.

Epistemological and ontological arguments

Epistemological atheism argues that people cannot know God or determine the existence of God. The foundation of epistemological atheism is 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 the existence of God. The allocation of agnosticism to atheism is disputed; it can also be regarded as an independent, basic worldview.[48]

Other arguments for atheism that can be classified as epistemological or ontological, including logical positivism and ignosticism, assert the meaninglessness or unintelligibility of basic terms such as "God" and statements such as "God is all-powerful." Theological noncognitivism holds that the statement "God exists" does not express a proposition, but is nonsensical or cognitively meaningless. It has been argued both ways as to whether such individuals can be classified into some form of atheism or agnosticism. Philosophers A. J. Ayer and Theodore M. Drange reject both categories, stating that both camps accept "God exists" as a proposition; they instead place noncognitivism in its own category.[51][52]

Metaphysical arguments

Metaphysical atheism is based on metaphysical monism—the view that reality is homogeneous and indivisible. Absolute metaphysical atheists subscribe to some form of physicalism, hence they explicitly deny the existence of non-physical beings. Relative metaphysical atheists maintain an implicit denial of a particular concept of God based on the incongruity between their individual philosophies and attributes commonly applied to God, such as transcendence, a personal aspect, or unity. Examples of relative metaphysical atheism include pantheism, panentheism, and deism.[53]

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:[54] "Is [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?"

Psychological, sociological, and economical arguments

Philosophers such as Ludwig Feuerbach[55] and Sigmund Freud argued that God and other religious beliefs are human inventions, created to fulfill various psychological and emotional wants or needs. This is also a view of many Buddhists.[56] 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."[57]

Recently, Michel Onfray, who regards himself as part of the tradition of individualist anarchism, has sought to revive this tradition as an argument for atheism, amidst modern schools of philosophy that he feels are cynical and epicurean.[citation needed]

Logical and evidential arguments

Logical atheism holds that the various conceptions of gods, such as the personal god of Christianity, are ascribed logically inconsistent qualities. Such atheists present deductive arguments against the existence of God, which assert the incompatibility between certain traits, such as perfection, creator-status, immutability, omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, omnibenevolence, transcendence, personhood (a personal being), nonphysicality, justice and mercy.[58]

Theodicean atheists believe that the world as they experience it cannot be reconciled with the qualities commonly ascribed to God and gods by theologians. They argue that an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent God is not compatible with a world where there is evil and suffering, and where divine love is hidden from many people.[59] A similar argument is attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism.[60]

Anthropocentric arguments

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, Freud, and Sartre all used this argument to convey messages of liberation, full-development, and unfettered happiness.[48]

One of the most common criticisms of atheism has been to the contrary—that denying the existence of a god leads to moral relativism, leaving one with no moral or ethical foundation,[61] or renders life meaningless and miserable.[62] Blaise Pascal argued this view in 1669.[63]

History

Although the term atheism originated in 16th-century France,[14] ideas that would be recognized today as atheistic are documented from classical antiquity and the Vedic period.

Early Indic religion

Atheistic schools are found in Hinduism, which is otherwise a very theistic religion. The thoroughly materialistic and anti-theistic philosophical Cārvāka School that originated in India around 6th century BCE is probably the most explicitly atheistic school of philosophy in India. This branch of Indian philosophy is classified as a heterodox system and is not considered part of the six orthodox schools of Hinduism, but it is noteworthy as evidence of a materialistic movement within Hinduism.[64] Chatterjee and Datta explain that our understanding of Cārvāka philosophy is fragmentary, based largely on criticism of the ideas by other schools, and that it is not a living tradition:

"Though materialism in some form or other has always been present in India, and occasional references are found in the Vedas, the Buddhistic literature, the Epics, as well as in the later philosophical works we do not find any systematic work on materialism, nor any organized school of followers as the other philosophical schools possess. But almost every work of the other schools states, for refutation, the materialistic views. Our knowledge of Indian materialism is chiefly based on these."[65]

Other Indian philosophies generally regarded as atheistic include Classical Samkhya and Purva Mimamsa. The rejection of a personal creator God is also seen in Jainism and Buddhism in India.[66]

Classical antiquity

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 did not emerge as a distinct world-view until the late Enlightenment.[67] The 5th-century BCE Greek philosopher Diagoras is known as the "first atheist",[68] and is cited as such by Cicero in his De Natura Deorum.[69] Critias viewed religion as a human invention used to frighten people into following moral order.[70] Atomists such as Democritus attempted to explain the world in a purely materialistic way, without reference to the spiritual or mystical. Other pre-Socratic philosophers who probably had atheistic views included Prodicus and Protagoras. In the 3rd-century BCE the Greek philosophers Theodorus Cirenaicus[69][71] and Strato of Lampsacus[72] also did not believe gods exist.

Socrates (c. 471–399 BCE), was accused of impiety (see Euthyphro dilemma) on the basis that he inspired questioning of the state gods.[73] Although he disputed the accusation that he was a "complete atheist",[74] saying that he could not be an atheist as he believed in spirits,[75] he was ultimately sentenced to death. Socrates also prays to various gods in Plato's dialogue Phaedrus[76] and says "By Zeus" in the dialogue The Republic.[77]

Euhemerus (c. 330–260 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.[78] Although not strictly an atheist, Euhemerus was later criticized for having "spread atheism over the whole inhabited earth by obliterating the gods".[79]

Atomic materialist Epicurus (c. 341–270 BCE) disputed many religious doctrines, including the existence of an afterlife or a personal deity; he considered the soul purely material and mortal. While Epicureanism did not rule out the existence of gods, he believed that if they did exist, they were unconcerned with humanity.[80]

The Roman poet Lucretius (c. 99–55 BCE) agreed that, if there were gods, they were unconcerned with humanity and unable to affect the natural world. For this reason, he believed humanity should have no fear of the supernatural. He expounds his Epicurean views of the cosmos, atoms, the soul, mortality, and religion in De rerum natura ("On the nature of things"),[81] which popularized Epicurus' philosophy in Rome.[82]

The Roman philosopher 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 ("peace of mind") is attainable by withholding one's judgment. His relatively large volume of surviving works had a lasting influence on later philosophers.[83]

The meaning of "atheist" changed over the course of classical antiquity. The early Christians were labeled atheists by non-Christians because of their disbelief in pagan gods.[84] 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 punishable offense.[85]

Early Middle Ages to the Renaissance

The espousal of atheistic views was rare in Europe during the Early Middle Ages and Middle Ages (see Medieval Inquisition); metaphysics, religion and theology were the dominant interests.[86] There were, however, movements within this period that forwarded heterodox conceptions of the Christian God, including differing views of the nature, transcendence, and knowability of God. Individuals and groups such as Johannes Scotus Eriugena, David of Dinant, Amalric of Bena, and the Brethren of the Free Spirit maintained Christian viewpoints with pantheistic tendencies. Nicholas of Cusa held to a form of fideism he called docta ignorantia ("learned ignorance"), asserting that God is beyond human categorization, and our knowledge of God is limited to conjecture. William of Ockham inspired anti-metaphysical tendencies with his nominalistic limitation of human knowledge to singular objects, and asserted that the divine essence could not be intuitively or rationally apprehended by human intellect. Followers of Ockham, such as John of Mirecourt and Nicholas of Autrecourt furthered this view. The resulting division between faith and reason influenced later theologians such as John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, and Martin Luther.[86]

The Renaissance did much to expand the scope of freethought and skeptical inquiry. Individuals such as Leonardo da Vinci sought experimentation as a means of explanation, and opposed arguments from religious authority. Other critics of religion and the Church during this time included Niccolò Machiavelli, Bonaventure des Périers, and François Rabelais.[83]

Early modern period

The Renaissance and Reformation eras witnessed a resurgence in religious fervor, as evidenced by the proliferation of new religious orders, confraternities, and popular devotions in the Catholic world, and the appearance of increasingly austere Protestant sects such as the Calvinists. This era of interconfessional rivalry permitted an even wider scope of theological and philosophical speculation, much of which would later be used to advance a religiously skeptical world-view.

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 the Jewish-Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza rejected divine providence in favour of a pantheistic naturalism. By the late 17th century, Deism came to be openly espoused by intellectuals such as John Toland. Despite their ridicule of Christianity, many Deists held atheism in scorn. The first known atheist who threw off the mantle of deism, bluntly denying the existence of gods, was Jean Meslier, a French priest who lived in the early 18th century.[87] He was followed by other openly atheistic thinkers, such as Baron d'Holbach and Jacques-André Naigeon.[88] The philosopher David Hume developed a skeptical epistemology grounded in empiricism, undermining the metaphysical basis of natural theology.

Ludwig Feuerbach's The Essence of Christianity (1841) would greatly influence philosophers such as Engels, Marx, David Strauss, and Nietzsche. He considered God to be a human invention and religious activities to be wish-fulfillment.

The French Revolution took atheism outside the salons and into the public sphere. Attempts to enforce the Civil Constitution of the Clergy led to anti-clerical violence and the expulsion of many clergy from France. The chaotic political events in revolutionary Paris eventually enabled the more radical Jacobins to seize power in 1793, ushering in the Reign of Terror. At its climax, the more militant atheists attempted to forcibly de-Christianize France, replacing religion with a Cult of Reason. These persecutions ended with the Thermidorian Reaction, but some of the secularizing measures of this period remained a permanent legacy of French politics.

The Napoleonic era institutionalized the secularization of French society, and exported the revolution to northern Italy, in the hopes of creating pliable republics. In the 19th century, many atheists and other anti-religious thinkers devoted their efforts to political and social revolution, facilitating the upheavals of 1848, the Risorgimento in Italy, and the growth of an international socialist movement.

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, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Nietzsche.[89]

Late modern period

Atheism in the 20th century, particularly in the form of practical atheism, advanced in many societies. Atheistic thought found recognition in a wide variety of other, broader philosophies, such as existentialism, objectivism, secular humanism, nihilism, logical positivism, Marxism, feminism,[90] and the general scientific and rationalist movement.

Logical positivism and scientism paved the way for neopositivism, analytical philosophy, structuralism, and naturalism. Neopositivism and analytical philosophy discarded classical rationalism and metaphysics in favor of strict empiricism and epistemological nominalism. Proponents such as Bertrand Russell emphatically rejected belief in God. In his early work, Ludwig Wittgenstein attempted to separate metaphysical and supernatural language from rational discourse. A. J. Ayer asserted the unverifiability and meaninglessness of religious statements, citing his adherence to the empirical sciences. Relatedly the applied structuralism of Lévi-Strauss sourced religious language to the human subconscious in denying its transcendental meaning. J. N. Findlay and J. J. C. Smart argued that the existence of God is not logically necessary. Naturalists and materialistic monists such as John Dewey considered the natural world to be the basis of everything, denying the existence of God or immortality.[43][91]

The 20th century also saw the political advancement of atheism, spurred on by interpretation of the works of Marx and Engels. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, increased religious freedom for minority religions lasted for a few years, before the policies of Stalinism turned towards repression of religion. The Soviet Union and other communist states promoted state atheism and opposed religion, often by violent means.[92]

Other leaders like E. V. Ramasami Naicker (Periyar), a prominent atheist leader of India, fought against Hinduism and Brahmins for discriminating and dividing people in the name of caste and religion.[93] This was highlighted in 1956 when he made the Hindu god Rama wear a garland made of slippers and made antitheistic statements.[94]

In 1966, Time magazine asked "Is God Dead?"[95] 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 God.[96] The following year, the Albanian government under Enver Hoxha announced the closure of all religious institutions in the country, declaring Albania the world's first officially atheist state.[97] These regimes enhanced the negative associations of atheism, especially where anti-communist sentiment was strong in the United States, despite the fact that prominent atheists were anti-communist.[98]

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."[99] But Gregory S. Paul and Phil Zuckerman consider this a myth and suggest that the actual situation is much more complex and nuanced.[100]

Demographics

Percentage of people in various European countries who said: "I don't believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force." (2005)[101]

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.[102] A 2005 survey published in Encyclopædia Britannica found that the non-religious made up about 11.9% of the world's population, and atheists about 2.3%. This figure did not include those who follow atheistic religions, such as some Buddhists.[4] A November–December 2006 poll published in the Financial Times gives rates for the United States and five European countries. It found that Americans are more likely than Europeans to report belief in any form of god or supreme being (73%). Of the European adults surveyed, Italians are the most likely to express this belief (62%) and the French the least likely (27%). In France, 32% declared themselves atheists, and an additional 32% declared themselves agnostic.[103] An official European Union survey provides corresponding figures: 18% of the EU population do not believe in a god; 27% affirm the existence of some "spirit or life force", while 52% affirm belief in a specific god. The proportion of believers rises to 65% among those who had left school by age 15; survey respondents who considered themselves to be from a strict family background were more likely to believe in god than those who felt their upbringing lacked firm rules.[104]

A letter published in Nature in 1998 reported a survey suggesting that belief in a personal god or afterlife was at an all-time low among the members of the U.S. National Academy of Science, only 7.0% of whom believed in a personal god as compared with more than 85% of the general U.S. population.[105] In the same year, Frank Sulloway of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Michael Shermer of California State University conducted a study which found in their polling sample of "credentialed" U.S. adults (12% had Ph.Ds and 62% were college graduates) 64% believed in God, and there was a correlation indicating that religious conviction diminished with education level.[106] An inverse correlation between religiosity and intelligence has been found by 39 studies carried out between 1927 and 2002, according to an article in Mensa Magazine.[107] These findings broadly agree with a 1958 statistical meta-analysis by Professor Michael Argyle of the University of Oxford. He analyzed seven research studies that had investigated correlation between attitude to religion and measured intelligence among school and college students from the U.S. Although a clear negative correlation was found, the analysis did not identify causality but noted that factors such as authoritarian family background and social class may also have played a part.[108]

In the Australian 2006 Census of Population and Housing, in the question which asked What is your religion? Of the total survey population, 18.7% ticked the box marked no religion or wrote in a response which was classified as non religious (e.g. humanism, agnostic, atheist). This question was optional and 11.2% did not answer the question.[109] In 2006, the New Zealand census asked, What is your religion?. Of those answering, 34.7% indicated no religion. 12.2% did not respond or objected to answering the question.[110]

Atheism, religion, and morality

Because of its absence of a creator god, Buddhism is commonly described as nontheistic.

People who self-identify as atheists are often assumed to be irreligious, however, some sects within major religions reject the existence of a personal, creator deity.[111] In recent years, certain religious denominations have accumulated a number of openly atheistic followers, such as atheistic or humanistic Judaism[112][113] and Christian atheists.[114][115][116]

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.[117]

Although it is a philosophical truism, encapsulated in Plato's Euthyphro dilemma that 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.[118][119][120] 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.[121]

Philosophers Susan Neiman[122] and Julian Baggini[123] (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.[124] The contemporary British political philosopher Martin Cohen has offered the more historically telling example of Biblical injunctions in favour 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.[125] Cohen extends this argument in more detail in Political Philosophy from Plato to Mao in the case of the Koran which he sees as having had a generally unfortunate role in preserving medieval social codes through changes in secular society.[126]

Nonetheless, atheists such as Sam Harris have argued that Western religions' reliance on divine authority lends itself to authoritarianism and dogmatism.[127] Indeed, religious fundamentalism and extrinsic religion (when religion is held because it serves other, more ultimate interests[128]) have been correlated with authoritarianism, dogmatism, and prejudice.[129] This argument, combined with historical events that are argued to demonstrate the dangers of religion, such as the Crusades, inquisitions, and witch trials, are used by some antireligious atheists to justify their views.[130]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Rowe, William L. (1998). "Atheism". in Edward Craig. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://books.google.ca/books?id=lnuwFH_M5o0C&pg=PA530&lpg=PA530&dq=atheism+routledge&source=bl&ots=D7oHkocuKE&sig=IOLNADKE-9gpnREO-S8QJfJft3g&hl=en&ei=3kpQS8_sBYyQtgOKltGKCA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=7&ved=0CB8Q6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=atheism%20routledge&f=false. Retrieved 2010-02-01. 
  2. ^
    • Nielsen, Kai (2010). "Atheism". Encyclopædia Britannica. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/40634/atheism. Retrieved 2010-02-01. "Atheism, in general, the critique and denial of metaphysical beliefs in God or spiritual beings.... 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 (which reason is stressed depends on how God is being conceived)...". 
    • Edwards, Paul (2005) [1967]. "Atheism". in Donald M. Borchert. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Vol. 1 (2nd ed.). MacMillan Reference USA (Gale). p. 359. ISBN 0028657802. "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.". (page 175 in 1967 edition)
  3. ^ religioustolerance.org's short article on Definitions of the term "Atheism" suggests that there is no consensus on the definition of the term. Simon Blackburn summarizes the situation in The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy: "Atheism. Either the lack of belief in a god, or the belief that there is none." Most dictionaries (see the OneLook query for "atheism") first list one of the more narrow definitions.
    • Runes, Dagobert D.(editor) (1942 edition). Dictionary of Philosophy. New Jersey: Littlefield, Adams & Co. Philosophical Library. ISBN 0064634612. http://www.ditext.com/runes/a.html. Retrieved 2010-02-01. "(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"  - entry by Vergilius Ferm
  4. ^ a b "Worldwide Adherents of All Religions by Six Continental Areas, Mid-2005". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2005. http://search.eb.com/eb/article-9432620. Retrieved 2007-04-15. 
    • 2.3% Atheists: Persons professing atheism, skepticism, disbelief, or irreligion, including the militantly antireligious (opposed to all religion).
    • 11.9% Nonreligious: Persons professing no religion, nonbelievers, agnostics, freethinkers, uninterested, or dereligionized secularists indifferent to all religion but not militantly so.
  5. ^ a b c Zuckerman, Phil. "Atheism: Contemporary Rates and Patterns", The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, ed. by Michael Martin, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2005.
  6. ^ However, data from the U.S. State Dept. may contradict this figure, since 44% are reported as adherents of Shinto, a polytheistic religion, and information was not provided on the number of respondents identifying with multiple categories. (64% atheists/agnostics/non-believers, plus 44% Shintoists, adds up to more than 100%.)
  7. ^ Honderich, Ted (Ed.) (1995). "Humanism". The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford University Press. p 376. ISBN 0198661320.
  8. ^ Fales, Evan. "Naturalism and Physicalism", in Martin 2007, pp. 122–131.
  9. ^ Baggini 2003, pp. 3–4.
  10. ^ Cline, Austin (2005). "Buddhism and Atheism". about.com. http://atheism.about.com/b/a/220595.htm. Retrieved 2006-10-21. 
  11. ^ Kedar, Nath Tiwari (1997). Comparative Religion. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 50. ISBN 8120802934. 
  12. ^ The word αθεοι—in any of its forms—appears nowhere else in the Septuagint or the New Testament. Robertson, A.T. (1960) [1932]. "Ephesians: Chapter 2". Word Pictures in the New Testament. Broadman Press. http://www.ccel.org/r/robertson_at/wordpictures/htm/EPH2.RWP.html. Retrieved 2007-04-12. "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." 
  13. ^ Drachmann, A. B. (1977 ("an unchanged reprint of the 1922 edition")). Atheism in Pagan Antiquity. Chicago: Ares Publishers. ISBN 0-89005-201-8. http://books.google.ca/books?id=cguq-yNii_QC&dq=Atheism+in+Pagan+Antiquity&printsec=frontcover&source=bl&ots=-W-j5EXqRg&sig=C5tsxMSlg6uiteabxdMo17SaF6c&hl=en&ei=-ggCS4OxE4nctgPS1em7Dg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CAgQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=&f=false. "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 atheos and atheotēs; to these the English words ungodly and ungodliness correspond rather closely. In exactly the same way as ungodly, atheos 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." 
  14. ^ a b Rendered as Athisme: Golding, Arthur; Philip Sidney (1587). Mornay's Woorke concerning the Trewnesse of the Christian Religion, written in French; Against Atheists, Epicures, Paynims, Iewes, Mahumetists, and other infidels. London. pp. xx. 310. "Athisme, that is to say, vtter godlesnes."  Translation of De la verite de la religion chrestienne (1581).
  15. ^ "http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/50014052 atheist". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2nd ed. 1989.
  16. ^ 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 French.
  17. ^ Hanmer, Meredith (1577). The auncient ecclesiasticall histories of the first six hundred years after Christ, written by Eusebius, Socrates, and Evagrius. London. pp. 63. OCLC 55193813. "The opinion which they conceaue of you, to be Atheists, or godlesse men." 
  18. ^ Burton, Robert (1621). The Anatomy of Melancholy. pp. III. iv. II. i. "Cosen-germans to these men are many of our great Philosophers and Deists." 
  19. ^ Martin, Edward (1662). "Five Letters". His opinion concerning the difference between the Church of England and Geneva [etc.]. London. pp. 45. "To have said my office..twice a day..among Rebels, Theists, Atheists, Philologers, Wits, Masters of Reason, Puritanes [etc.]." 
  20. ^ "Secondly, that nothing out of nothing, in the sense of the 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 does against atheism.." Cudworth, Ralph. The true intellectual system of the universe. 1678. Chapter V Section II p.73
  21. ^ Dryden, John (1682). Religio laici, or A laymans faith, a poem. London. pp. Preface. OCLC 11081103. "…namely, that Deism, or the principles of natural worship, are only the faint remnants or dying flames of revealed religion in the posterity of Noah…" 
  22. ^ The 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, USA. ISBN 0-19-861186-2. 
  23. ^ Armstrong, Karen (1999). A History of God. London: Vintage. ISBN 0-09-927367-5. 
  24. ^ In part because of its wide use in monotheistic Western society, atheism is usually described as "disbelief in God", rather than more 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. Britannica (1911). "Atheonism". Encyclopædia Britannica. 
  25. ^ a b c d Martin, Michael. The Cambridge Companion to Atheism. Cambridge University Press. 2006. ISBN 0521842700.
  26. ^ ""Atheism"". Encyclopedia Britannica. 1911. http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Atheism. Retrieved 2007-06-07. 
  27. ^ Britannica (1992). "Atheism as rejection of religious beliefs". Encyclopædia Britannica 1: 666. 0852294735. http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-38265/atheism. Retrieved 2006-10-27. 
  28. ^ d'Holbach, P. H. T. (1772). Good Sense. http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/7319. Retrieved 2006-10-27. 
  29. ^ Smith 1979, p. 14.
  30. ^ 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. 
  31. ^ See, for instance, "Atheists call for church head to retract slur". 1996-09-03. http://www.lds-mormon.com/atheist.shtml. Retrieved 2008-07-02. 
  32. ^ Lowder, Jeffery Jay (1997). "Atheism and Society". http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jeff_lowder/society.html. Retrieved 2007-01-10. 
  33. ^ a b Flew, Antony. "The Presumption of Atheism". The Presumption of Atheism and other Philosophical Essays on God, Freedom, and Immortality. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1976. pp 14ff.
  34. ^ Rowe, William L. "Atheism". Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edward Craig (editor). Routledge: June 1998. ISBN 0415187060. 530-534.
  35. ^ Cline, Austin (2006). "Strong Atheism vs. Weak Atheism: What's the Difference?". about.com. http://atheism.about.com/od/atheismquestions/a/strong_weak.htm. Retrieved 2006-10-21. 
  36. ^ Maritain, Jacques (July 1949). "On the Meaning of Contemporary Atheism". The Review of Politics 11 (3): 267–280. doi:10.1017/S0034670500044168. http://www.nd.edu/Departments/Maritain/jm3303.htm. 
  37. ^ Stevens, Robert (1813). Sermons on our duty towards God, our neighbour, and ourselves (4th ed.). London: Self published. pp. 10–11. OCLC 26059549. http://books.google.com/books?id=8kIHAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA10. Retrieved September 1, 2009. 
  38. ^ Bishop Burnet (1813). "Discourse of the Pastoral Care". The young minister's companion: or, A collection of valuable and scarce treatises on the pastoral office.... Boston: Samuel T. Armstrong. pp. 166. OCLC 7381237. http://books.google.com/books?id=hCAVAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA166. Retrieved September 1, 2009. 
  39. ^ Kenny, Anthony (2006). "Why I Am Not an Atheist". What I believe. Continuum. ISBN 0-8264-8971-0. "The true default position is neither theism nor atheism, but agnosticism … a claim to knowledge needs to be substantiated; ignorance need only be confessed." 
  40. ^ "Many atheists I know would be certain of a high place in heaven". Irish Times. http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2009/0725/1224251303564.html. Retrieved 2009-08-19. 
  41. ^ 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."
  42. ^ 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."
  43. ^ a b Smart, J.C.C. (2004-03-09). "Atheism and Agnosticism". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/atheism-agnosticism/. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  44. ^ Cudworth, Ralph. The true intellectual system of the universe. 1678. Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. Bantam Books: 2006, p. 50. (ISBN 0-618-68000-4)
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  118. ^ Smith 1979, p. 275. "Among the many myths associated with religion, none is more widespread -or more disastrous in its effects -than the myth that moral values cannot be divorced from the belief in a god."
  119. ^ In Dostoevsky's 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?'"
  120. ^ 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).
  121. ^ Baggini 2003, p. 38
  122. ^ Susan Neiman. (November 6, 2006). Beyond Belief Session 6. [Conference]. Salk Institute, La Jolla, CA: The Science Network. 
  123. ^ Baggini 2003, p. 40
  124. ^ Baggini 2003, p. 43
  125. ^ 101 Ethical Dilemmas, 2nd edition, by Cohen, M., Routledge 2007, pp184-5. (Cohen notes particularly that Plato and Aristotle produced arguments in favour of slavery.)
  126. ^ Political Philosophy from Plato to Mao, by Cohen, M, Second edition 2008
  127. ^ Harris, Sam (2006a). "The Myth of Secular Moral Chaos". Free Inquiry. http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=library&page=sharris_26_3. Retrieved 2006-10-29. 
  128. ^ Moreira-almeida, A.; Lotufo Neto, F.; Koenig, H.G. (2006). "Religiousness and mental health: a review". Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria 28 (3): 242–250. PMID 16924349. http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S1516-44462006000300018&script=sci_arttext. Retrieved 2007-07-12. 
  129. ^ See for example: Kahoe, R.D. (June 1977). "Intrinsic Religion and Authoritarianism: A Differentiated Relationship". Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. 16(2). pp. 179-182. Also see: Altemeyer, Bob and Bruce Hunsberger (1992). "Authoritarianism, Religious Fundamentalism, Quest, and Prejudice". International Journal for the Psychology of Religion. 2(2). pp. 113-133.
  130. ^ Harris, Sam (2005). "An Atheist Manifesto". Truthdig. http://www.truthdig.com/dig/print/200512_an_atheist_manifesto. Retrieved 2006-10-29. "In a world riven by ignorance, only the atheist refuses to deny the obvious: Religious faith promotes human violence to an astonishing degree." 

References

Further reading

  • Berman, David (1990). A History of Atheism in Britain: From Hobbes to Russell. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-04727-7. 
  • Buckley, M. J. (1990). At the Origins of Modern Atheism. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. ISBN 0300048971. 
  • Dawkins, Richard (2006). The God Delusion. Bantam Press. ISBN 0593055489. 
  • Flew, Antony (2005). God and Philosophy. Prometheus Books. ISBN 1591023300. 
  • Flynn, Tom, ed. (2007). The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief. Prometheus Books. ISBN 1591023912.
  • Gaskin, J.C.A., ed (1989). Varieties of Unbelief: From Epicurus to Sartre. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 0-02-340681-X. 
  • Germani, Alan (2008-09-15). "The Mystical Ethics of the New Atheists". The Objective Standard (Glen Allen Press) 3 (3). http://www.theobjectivestandard.com/issues/2008-fall/mystical-ethics-new-atheists.asp. Retrieved 2008-09-15. 
  • Harbour, Daniel (2003). An Intelligent Person's Guide to Atheism. London: Duckworth. ISBN 0-7156-3229-9. 
  • Harris, Sam (2006). Letter to a Christian Nation. Knopf. ISBN 978-0307265777. 
  • Hitchens, Christopher (2007). God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Twelve. ISBN 978-0446579803. 
  • Jacoby, Susan (2004). Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. Metropolitan Books. ISBN 978-0805074420. 
  • Krueger, D. E. (1998). What is Atheism?: A Short Introduction. New York: Prometheus. ISBN 1-57392-214-5. 
  • Le Poidevin, R. (1996). Arguing for Atheism: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-09338-4. 
  • Mackie, J. L. (1982). The Miracle of Theism: Arguments For and Against the Existence of God. Oxford: Oxford UP. ISBN 019824682X
  • Maritain, Jacques (1953). The Range of Reason. London: Geoffrey Bles. ISBN B0007DKP00. http://www.nd.edu/Departments/Maritain/etext/range.htm. Retrieved 2006-10-27. 
  • Martin, Michael (1990). Atheism: A Philosophical Justification. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. ISBN 0-87722-943-0. 
  • Martin, Michael, ed. (2007). The Cambridge Companion to Atheism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521603676
  • Martin, Michael & Monnier, R., eds. (2003). The Impossibility of God. Amherst, NY: Prometheus. ISBN 1591021200
  • Martin, Michael & Monnier, R., eds. (2006). The Improbability of God. Amherst, NY: Prometheus. ISBN 1591023815
  • McTaggart, John & McTaggart, Ellis (1930). Some Dogmas of Religion. London: Edward Arnold & Co., new edition. [First published 1906] ISBN 0548149550
  • Nielsen, Kai (1985). Philosophy and Atheism. New York: Prometheus. ISBN 0-87975-289-0. 
  • Nielsen, Kai (2001). Naturalism and Religion. New York: Prometheus. ISBN 1573928534. 
  • Oppy, Graham (2006). Arguing about Gods. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521863864. 
  • Robinson, Richard (1964). An Atheist's Values. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0198241917. http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/athval0.htm. 
  • Russell, Paul, (2005). Hume on Religion (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).
  • Sharpe, R.A. (1997). The Moral Case Against Religious Belief. London: SCM Press. ISBN 0-334-02680-6. 
  • Smith, George Atheism: The Case Against God, (1974). ISBN 087975124X
  • Stenger, Victor J. (2007). God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist. Amherst, NY: Prometheus. ISBN 1591024811
  • Thrower, James (1971). A Short History of Western Atheism. London: Pemberton. ISBN 0-301-71101-1. 

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Atheism article)

From Wikiquote

Atheism is the state of being without theistic beliefs.

Contents

Sourced

  • People will then often say, 'But surely it's better to remain an Agnostic just in case?' This, to me, suggests such a level of silliness and muddle that I usually edge out of the conversation rather than get sucked into it. (If it turns out that I've been wrong all along, and there is in fact a god, and if it further turned out that this kind of legalistic, cross-your-fingers-behind-your-back, Clintonian hair-splitting impressed him, then I think I would choose not to worship him anyway.)
    • Douglas Adams, interview with The American Atheist (in The Salmon of Doubt)
  • The inhabitants of the earth are of two sorts:
    Those with brains, but no religion,
    And those with religion, but no brains.
    • Abu'l-`Ala' al-Ma`arri (Arabic: أبو العلاء المعري), poet of Ma`arra, quoted in Maalouf, Amin (1989). Crusades Through Arab Eyes.  
  • I have no religion, and at times I wish all religions at the bottom of the sea. He is a weak ruler who needs religion to uphold his government; it is as if he would catch his people in a trap. My people are going to learn the principles of democracy, the dictates of truth and the teachings of science. Superstition must go. Let them worship as they will; every man can follow his own conscience, provided it does not interfere with sane reason or bid him against the liberty of his fellow-men.
    • Atatürk, quoted in Mango, Andrew. Ataturk: The Biography of the founder of Modern Turkey. ISBN 158567334X.  
  • I am an atheist, out and out. It took me a long time to say it. I've been an atheist for years and years, but somehow I felt it was intellectually unrespectable to say one was an atheist, because it assumed knowledge that one didn't have. Somehow, it was better to say one was a humanist or an agnostic. I finally decided that I'm a creature of emotion as well as of reason. Emotionally, I am an atheist. I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time.
  • A little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism; but depth in philsophy bringeth men's minds about to religion.
  • The Scripture saith, The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God; it is not said, The fool hath thought in his heart; so as he rather saith it by rote to himself, as that he would have, than that he can thoroughly believe it, or be persuaded of it; for none deny there is a God, but those for whom it maketh that there were no God. It appeareth in nothing more that atheism is rather in the lip than in the heart of man by this, that atheists will ever be talking of that their opinion, as if they fainted in it within themselves, and would be glad to be strengthened by the consent of others; nay more, you shall have atheists strive to get disciples, as it fareth with other sects; and, which is most of all, you shall have of them that will suffer for atheism, and not recant; whereas, if they did truly think that there were no such thing as God, why should they trouble themselves?
  • Atheism leaves a man to sense, to philosophy, to natural piety, to laws, to reputation; all which may be guides to an outward moral virtue, though religion were not; but superstition dismounts all these, and erecteth an absolute monarchy, in the minds of men.
  • ATHEISM: A godless religion that retains all the dogmatic posturing of the faiths it so confidently denies, with few of the consolations.
    • Rick Bayan, The Cynic's Dictionary, unidentified ISBN/edition, unidentified chapter/page
  • I have heard an atheist defined as a man who had no invisible means of support.
  • I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.
    • former U.S. President George H. W. Bush, August 27 1987; quoted in Free Inquiry magazine, Fall 1988, Volume 8, Number 4, page 16
  • I think people attack me because they are fearful that I will then say that you're not equally as patriotic if you're not a religious person. . . . I've never said that. I've never acted like that. I think that's just the way it is.
— President George W. Bush, Washington Times, 12 January 2005
  • I will have nothing to do with your immortality; we are miserable enough in this life, without the absurdity of speculating upon another.
    • Lord Byron letter to Francis Hodgson, 3 September 1811
  • And so to those of you who may be vitalists I would make this prophecy: what everyone believed yesterday, and you believe today, only cranks will believe tomorrow.
    • Francis Crick (1967). Quoted in Of Molecules and Men, Great Minds Series (Prometheus Books, 2004)[1].
  • Although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.
  • It is often said, mainly by the 'no-contests', that although there is no positive evidence for the existence of God, nor is there evidence against his existence. So it is best to keep an open mind and be agnostic. At first sight that seems an unassailable position, at least in the weak sense of Pascal's wager. But on second thoughts it seems a cop-out, because the same could be said of Father Christmas and tooth fairies. There may be fairies at the bottom of the garden. There is no evidence for it, but you can't prove that there aren't any, so shouldn't we be agnostic with respect to fairies?
  • The trouble is that God in this sophisticated, physicist's sense bears no resemblance to the God of the Bible or any other religion. If a physicist says God is another name for Planck's constant, or God is a superstring, we should take it as a picturesque metaphorical way of saying that the nature of superstrings or the value of Planck's constant is a profound mystery. It has obviously not the smallest connection with a being capable of forgiving sins, a being who might listen to prayers, who cares about whether or not the Sabbath begins at 5pm or 6pm, whether you wear a veil or have a bit of arm showing; and no connection whatever with a being capable of imposing a death penalty on His son to expiate the sins of the world before and after he was born.
  • I would, like any other scientist, willingly change my mind if the evidence led me to do so. So I care about what's true, I care about evidence, I care about evidence as the reason for knowing what is true. It is true that I come across rather passionate sometimes—and that's because I am passionate about the truth. … I do get very impatient with humbug, with cant, with fakery, with charlatans.
  • We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.
  • If we go back to the beginning, we shall find that ignorance and fear created the gods; that fancy, enthusiasm, or deceit adorned them; that weakness worships them; that credulity preserves them and that custom, respect and tyranny support them in order to make the blindness of men serve their own interests. If the ignorance of nature gave birth to gods, the knowledge of nature is calculated to destroy them.
  • It is only by dispelling the clouds and phantoms of Religion, that we shall discover Truth, Reason and Morality.
  • Science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.
    • Einstein, Albert. "Religion and Science", New York Times Magazine, 9 November 1930, pp. 1–4.
  • It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I also cannot imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere. ... Science has been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.
    • Einstein, Albert. "Religion and Science", New York Times Magazine, 9 November 1930, pp. 1–4.
  • In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support of such views.
    • Albert Einstein, quoted in Prince Hubertus Zu (1968). Towards the Further Shore. pp. 156.  
  • It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.
    • Albert Einstein, quoted in Dukas, Helen (ed.) and Banesh Hoffman (ed.) (1981). Albert Einstein: The Human Side. Princeton University Press.  
  • God was always invented to explain mystery. God is always invented to explain those things that you do not understand. Now when you finally discover how something works, you get some laws which you're taking away from God; you don't need him anymore. But you need him for the other mysteries. So therefore you leave him to create the universe because we haven't figured that out yet; you need him for understanding those things which you don't believe the laws will explain, such as consciousness, or why you only live to a certain length of time — life and death — stuff like that. God is always associated with those things that you do not understand. Therefore I don't think that the laws can be considered to be like God because they have been figured out.
    • Richard Feynman, quoted in Davies, P. C. W.; J. Brown (1988). Superstrings: A Theory of Everything?. pp. pp. 208-209. ISBN 0-521-35741-1.  
  • Whatever an atheist, who denies the God and the prophet is, one who murders a human is equivalent to that.
  • I think it better to keep a profound silence with regard to the Christian fables, which are canonized by their antiquity and the credulity of absurd and insipid people.
  • [N]either antiquity nor any other nation has imagined a more atrocious and blasphemous absurdity than that of eating God. This is how Christians treat the autocrat of the universe.
  • The question of the origin of the matter in the universe is no longer thought to be beyond the range of science -- everything can be created from nothing…it is fair to say that the universe is the ultimate free lunch.
    • Guth, Alan (March 1998). The Inflationary Universe: The Quest for a New Theory of Cosmic Origins. Perseus Books Group. ISBN 0201328402.  
  • Now let it be written in history and on Mr. Lincoln's tombstone: `He died an unbeliever.'
    • William H. Herndon, Abraham Lincoln's law partner in Springfield since 1844, Abraham Lincoln: The True Story of a Great Life, 1896. Quoted in Freethinkers by Susan Jacoby, 2004.
  • The capacity of the human mind for swallowing nonsense and spewing it forth in violent and repressive action has never yet been plumbed.
  • Only a humorless tyrant could want a perpetual chanting of praises that, one has no choice but to assume, would be the innate virtues and splendors furnished him by his creator, infinite regression, drowned in praise!
  • Time spent arguing with the faithful is, oddly enough, almost never wasted.
  • Along with Islam and Christianity, Judaism does insist that some turgid and contradictory and sometimes evil and mad texts, obviously written by fairly unexceptional humans, are in fact the word of god. I think that the indispensable condition of any intellectual liberty is the realisation that there is no such thing.
  • "I am not even an atheist so much as I am an antitheist; I not only maintain that all religions are versions of the same untruth, but I hold that the influence of churches, and the effect of religious belief is positively harmful. Reviewing the false claims of religion, I do not wish, as some sentimental materialists affect to wish, that they were true. I do not envy believers their faith. I am relieved to think that the whole story is a sinister fairy tale; life would be miserable if what the faithful affirmed was actually the case."
  • Don't you see that the appalling history of sectarianism, persecution, heresy hunting, shows you that this way of thinking about the world is intrinsically unsound?
  • The universe, the whole mass of all things that are, is corporeal, that is to say body, and hath dimensions of magnitude, length breadth and depth. Every part of the universe is body and that which is not body is no part of the universe. And because the universe is all, that which is no part of it is nothing. Consequently, nowhere.
  • God's power is infinite, Whatever he wills is executed; But neither man nor any other animal is happy; therefore he does not will their happiness. Epicurus' old questions are yet unanswered. Is he both able and willing to prevent evil? Then whence cometh evil?
  • For my own part, I do not know what the sweat and blood of this life mean, if they mean anything short of this. If this life be not a real fight, in which something is eternally gained for the universe by success, it is no better than a game of private theatricals from which we may withdraw at will. But it feels like a real fight - as if there were something really wild in the universe which we, with all our idealities and faithfullnesses, are needed to redeem: and first of all to redeem our own hearts from atheism and fears. For such a half-wild, half-saved universe our nature is adapted.
  • The legitimate powers of government extend to only such acts as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say that there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket, nor breaks my leg.
  • The Koran! well, come put me to the test—
    Lovely old book in hideous error drest—
     Believe me, I can quote the Koran too,
    The unbeliever knows his Koran best.

    And do you think that unto such as you,
    A maggot-minded, starved, fanatic crew,
     God gave the secret, and denied it me?—
    Well, well, what matters it! believe that too.
  • There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people. There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn't work.
  • There is no need for that hypothesis.
    • Laplace, in response to Napoleon's objection that Laplace had omitted God from Celestial Mechanics (Boyer 1968, p. 538)
  • It will not do to investigate the subject of religion too closely, as it is apt to lead to Infidelity.
    • Abraham Lincoln, in an unidentified, undated interview in Manfred's Magazine
    • Quoted in Morgan, Robin (2006). Fighting Words: A Toolkit for Combating The Religious Right. Nation Books. pp. p. 34. ISBN 1560259485.  
    • Quoted in Steiner, Franklin. The Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents (unidentified edition ed.). unidentified ISBN.  
  • Where is my faith? Even deep down … there is nothing but emptiness and darkness … If there be God—please forgive me. When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul … How painful is this unknown pain—I have no Faith. Repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal, … What do I labor for? If there be no God, there can be no soul. If there be no soul then, Jesus, You also are not true.
  • Atheism is so senseless & odious to mankind that it never had many professors. Can it be by accident that all birds beasts & men have their right side & left side alike shaped (except in their bowells) & just two eyes & no more on either side the face & just two ears on either side the head & a nose with two holes & no more between the eyes & one mouth under the nose & either two fore leggs or two wings or two arms on the sholders & two leggs on the hipps one on either side & no more? Whence arises this uniformity in all their outward shapes but from the counsel & contrivance of an Author? Whence is it that the eyes of all sorts of living creatures are transparent to the very bottom & the only transparent members in the body, having on the outside an hard transparent skin, & within transparent juyces with a crystalline Lens in the middle & a pupil before the Lens all of them so truly shaped & fitted for vision, that no Artist can mend them? Did blind chance know that there was light & what was its refraction & fit the eys of all creatures after the most curious manner to make use of it? These & such like considerations always have & ever will prevail with man kind to believe that there is a being who made all things & has all things in his power & who is therfore to be feared.
  • 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.
  • Atheism is an old idea, probably as old as humanity, and it has always justified its case by its superior understanding of nature. Unfortunately, as scientific knowledge has become more sophisticated over the past three centuries, all the scientific ideas which support atheism have evaporated into murky puddles of water, when they have not actually dried up entirely. It is now clear that the Universe has not always been here, it has a beginning. Everything is not made of indestructible atoms. Life is not caused by sunlight on dungheaps, and so on.
  • Atheists in foxholes, some say they are myths,
    Creations of the mind who just don't exist.
    Yet, they answered the call to defend, with great pride.
    With reason their watchword, they bled and they died.
    • Alice Shiver, "Atheists-in-Foxholes" monument, dedicated on July 4, 1999
  • Among the repulsions of atheism for me has been its drastic uninterestingness as an intellectual position. Where was the ingenuity, the ambiguity, the humanity (in the Harvard sense) of saying that the universe just happened to happen and that when we're dead we're dead?
    • John Updike, Self-Consciousness: Memoirs (1989), ch. 4
  • [Christianity] is assuredly the most ridiculous, the most absurd and the most bloody religion which has ever infected this world. Your Majesty will do the human race an eternal service by extirpating this infamous superstition, I do not say among the rabble, who are not worthy of being enlightened and who are apt for every yoke; I say among honest people, among men who think, among those who wish to think. … My one regret in dying is that I cannot aid you in this noble enterprise, the finest and most respectable which the human mind can point out.
  • Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile!
  • The sermon was based on what he claimed was a well-known fact, that there were no Atheists in foxholes. I asked Jack what he thought of the sermon afterwards, and he said, "There's a Chaplain who never visited the front."
  • If we don't play God, who will?
    • James D. Watson (1996), in The Lives to Come: The Genetic Revolution and Human Possibilities, [3] New York;Simon and Schuster
  • Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.
    • Steven Weinberg, unidentified article/page, Freethought Today, April 2000
  • [T]he aim of this conference is to have a constructive dialogue between science and religion. I am all in favor of a dialogue between science and religion, but not a constructive dialogue. One of the great achievements of science has been, if not to make it impossible for intelligent people to be religious, then at least to make it possible for them not to be religious. We should not retreat from this accomplishment.
    • Steven Weinberg, Facing Up: Science and Its Cultural Adversaries (2001), p. 242.
  • All your Western theologies, the whole mythologies of them, are based on the concept of God as a senile delinquent…
  • By night an atheist half believes in God.
  • Civilization will not attain perfection until the last stone, from the last church, falls on the last priest.

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)

Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).

  • The thing formed says that nothing formed it; and that which is made is, while that which made it is not! The folly is infinite.
  • That the universe was formed by a fortuitous concourse of atoms, I will no more believe than that the accidental jumbling of the alphabet would fall into a most ingenious treatise of philosophy.
  • Atheism is rather in the life than in the heart of man.
  • Atheism can benefit no class of people; neither the unfortunate, whom it bereaves of hope, nor the prosperous, whose joys it renders insipid, nor the soldier, of whom it makes a coward, nor the woman whose beauty and sensibility it mars, nor the mother, who has a son to lose, nor the rulers of men, who have no surer pledge of the fidelity of their subjects than religion.
  • Ingersoll's atheism can never become an institution; it can never be more than a destitution.
    • Robert Collyer, p. 19.
  • They that deny a God destroy man's nobility, for certainly man is of kin to the beasts by his body; and if he be not of kin to God by his spirit, he is a base and ignoble creature.
  • No one is so much alone in the universe as a denier of God. With an orphaned heart, which has lost the greatest of fathers, he stands mourning by the immeasurable corpse of nature, no longer moved and sustained by the Spirit of the universe.
    • Jean Paul Richter, p. 19.
  • Religion assures us that our afflictions shall have an end; she comforts us, she dries our tears, she promises us another life. On the contrary, in the abominable worship of atheism, human woes are the incense, death is the priest, a coffin the altar, and annihilation the Deity.
  • Nothing enlarges the gulf of atheism more than the wide passage that lies between the faith and lives of men pretending to teach Christianity.
    • Edward Stillingfleet, p. 19.
  • I want you to have courage to declare yourself to be an atheist, or to serve your god with all your might and power in perfect consecration, whatever or whoever that god may be — whether it be the crocodile of the Nile or our Jehovah, "God over all blessed for evermore."
    • Charles F. Deems, p. 20.

Inadequately sourced

  • Certainly you don't believe in the gods? What's your argument? Where's your proof?
    • Aristophanes
    • Quoted in BBC Four, Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief, unidentified episode, unidentified 2005 date
  • A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side.
    • Aristotle
    • Quoted in BBC Four, Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief, unidentified episode, unidentified 2005 date
  • I do not believe in God, but as I sat there in the damaged [balloon] capsule, hopelessly vulnerable to the slightest shift in weather or mechanical fault, I could not believe my eyes.
  • I have seldom met an intelligent person whose views were not narrowed and distorted by religion.
    • James Buchanan
    • Quoted in BBC Four, Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief, unidentified episode, unidentified 2005 date
  • By simple common sense I don't believe in God.
    • Charlie Chaplin
    • Quoted in BBC Four, Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief, unidentified episode, unidentified 2005 date
  • In this subject of the nature of the gods, the first question is, do the gods exist or do they not? It is difficult, you will say, to deny that they exist. I would agree if we were arguing the matter in a public assembly. But in a private discussion of this kind, it is perfectly easy to do so.
    • Cicero
    • Quoted in BBC Four, Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief, unidentified episode, unidentified 2005 date
  • The whole religious complexion of the modern world is due to the absence, from Jerusalem, of a lunatic asylum.
    • Havelock Ellis
    • Quoted in BBC Four, Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief, unidentified episode, unidentified 2005 date
  • Morals — all correct moral laws — derive from the instinct to survive. Moral behavior is survival behavior above the individual level.
  • God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent — it says so right here on the label. If you have a mind capable of believing all three of these divine attributes simultaneously, I have a wonderful bargain for you. No checks, please. Cash and in small bills.
  • History does not record anywhere at any time a religion that has any rational basis. Religion is a crutch for people not strong enough to stand up to the unknown without help. But, like dandruff, most people do have a religion and spend time and money on it and seem to derive considerable pleasure from fiddling with it.
  • History has the relation to truth that theology has to religion — i.e., none to speak of.
  • It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics.
  • Men rarely (if ever) manage to dream up a god superior to themselves. Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child.
  • The most preposterous notion that H. sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all history.
    The second most preposterous notion is that copulation is inherently sinful.
  • The profession of shaman has many advantages. It offers high status with a safe livelihood free of work in the dreary, sweaty sense. In most societies it offers legal privileges and immunities not granted to other men. But it is hard to see how a man who has been given a mandate from on High to spread tidings of joy to all mankind can be seriously interested in taking up a collection to pay his salary; it causes one to suspect that the shaman is on the moral level of any other con man.
    But it's lovely work if you can stomach it.
  • The very basis of the Judeo-Christian code is injustice, the scapegoat system. The scapegoat sacrifice runs all through the Old Testament, then it reaches its height in the New Testament with the notion of the Martyred Redeemer. How can justice possibly be served by loading your sins on another? Whether it be a lamb having its throat cut ritually, or a Messiah nailed to a cross and "dying for your sins". Somebody should tell all of Yahweh's followers, Jews and Christians, that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
  • Religion is a solace to many and it is even conceivable that some religion, somewhere, is Ultimate Truth. But being religious is often a form of conceit. The faith in which I was brought up assured me that I was better than other people; I was 'saved,' they were 'damned' — we were in a state of grace and the rest were 'heathens.' By 'heathen' they meant such as our brother Mahmoud. Ignorant louts who seldom bathed and planted corn by the Moon claimed to know the final answers of the Universe. That entitled them to look down on outsiders. Our hymns was loaded with arrogance — self-congratulation on how cozy we were with the Almighty and what a high opinion he had of us, and what hell everybody else would catch come Judgment Day. (FE)
  • All thinking men are atheists.
    • Ernest Hemingway
    • Quoted in BBC Four, Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief, unidentified episode, unidentified 2005 date
  • I'm an atheist, and that's it. I believe there's nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for other people.
  • I know that I am, in spite of myself, exactly what the Christian would call, and, so far as I can see, is justified in calling, atheist and infidel.
    • Thomas Henry Huxley, Essays on Controversial Questions, unidentified essay, unidentified edition
  • The clergy believe that any power confided in me will be exerted in opposition to their schemes, and they believe rightly.
    • Thomas Jefferson
    • Quoted in BBC Four, Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief, unidentified episode, unidentified 2005 date
  • My earlier views on the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of salvation have become clearer and stronger with advancing years.
    • Abraham Lincoln
    • Quoted in BBC Four, Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief, unidentified episode, unidentified 2005 date
  • I can well imagine an atheist’s last words: “White, white! L-L-Love! My God!” — and the deathbed leap of faith. Whereas the agnostic, if he stays true to his reasonable self, if he stays beholden to dry, yeastless factuality, might try to explain the warm light bathing him by saying, “Possibly a f-f-failing oxygenation of the b-b-brain,” and, to the very end, lack imagination and miss the better story.
  • Some people say God died during the Partition in 1947. He may have died in 1971 during the war. Or he may have died yesterday here in Pondicherry in an orphanage. That’s what some people say, Pi. When I was your age, I lived in bed, racked with polio. I asked myself every day, ‘Where is God? Where is God? Where is God?’ God never came. It wasn’t God who saved me—it was medicine. Reason is my prophet and it tells me that as a watch stops, so we die. It’s the end. If the watch doesn’t work properly, it must be fixed here and now by us. One day we will take hold of the means of production and there will be justice on earth.
  • In the unlikely event of losing Pascal's Wager, I intend to saunter in to Judgement Day with a bookshelf full of grievances, a flaming sword of my own devising, and a serious attitude problem.
    • Rick Moen, unidentified Usenet post to rec.arts.sf.written.robert-jordan, unidentified 1997 date
  • The moths & atheists are doubly divine.
    • Jim Morrison, An American Prayer, unidentified ISBN/edition, unidentified chapter/page
  • We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers.
  • The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.
  • I never believed. I thought all the services at school were ludicrous. Loved the hymns, but the content of the hymns were so absurd. Dense theology, weird stuff.
    • Polly Toynbee
    • Quoted in BBC Four, Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief, unidentified episode, unidentified 2005 date
  • "If you don't worship me you will burn forever." I always thought that was ugly.
    • Gore Vidal
    • Quoted in BBC Four, Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief, unidentified episode, unidentified 2005 date
  • Crush the infamy! (Écrasez l'infâme!)
    • Common signature of Voltaire in his letters and pamphlets
  • Atheism is the vice of a few intelligent people.
    • Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary, unidentified edition, unidentified page
  • They felt that science would be corrosive to religious belief and they were worried about it. Damn it, I think they were right. It is corrosive to religious belief and it's a good thing.
    • Steven Weinberg
    • Quoted in BBC Four, Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief, unidentified episode, unidentified 2005 date
  • This is one of the great social functions of science—to free people from superstition.
    • Steven Weinberg, unidentified article/page, Freethought Today, April 2000
  • Science should be taught not in order to support religion and not in order to destroy religion. Science should be taught simply ignoring religion.
    • Steven Weinberg, unidentified article/page, Freethought Today, April 2000

Disputed

  • Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.
    • Attributed to Seneca, as quoted in What Great Men Think About Religion (1945) by Ira D. Cardiff, p. 342; No original source for this has been found in the works of Seneca, or published translations (see: Talk:Seneca the Younger).
  • Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
    Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing?
    Then he is malevolent.
    Is God both able and willing?
    Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing?
    Then why call him God?
    • Attributed to Epicurus, as quoted in BBC Four, Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief. No original source for this has been found for this quote (see: Talk:Epicurus).

See also

External links

Wikipedia
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Look up atheism in Wiktionary, the free dictionary

Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also atheist

German

Noun

Atheist m. (plural: Atheisten)

  1. atheist

See also








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