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The Atheism Portal

Global representation
of Atheists and Agnostics in 2007

Phil Zuckerman: Atheism: Contemporary Rates and Patterns (2007)

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 deities. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which, in its most general form, is the belief that at least one deity exists.

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.

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

Since conceptions of atheism vary, accurate estimations of current numbers of atheists are difficult. According to global Win-Gallup International studies, 13% of respondents were "convinced atheists" in 2012, 11% were "convinced atheists" in 2015, and in 2017, 9% 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 (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".

More about Atheism...

Selected article

Jihad Watch is a blog directed by American author Robert Spencer.[1][2][3][4]

Jihad Watch was launched in October 2003. Jihad Watch also contributes to The Intelligence Summit, which tracks current jihadist activity worldwide.[5] The project is affiliated with the David Horowitz Freedom Center, but is run independently by Spencer.[6]

Opponents, who say that Spencer deliberately portrays Islam and Muslims in a negative light, have called it Islamophobic. Spencer has rejected the criticism.

Selected picture

"The Descent of the Modernists", by E. J. Pace
Credit: E. J. Pace

"The Descent of the Modernists", by E. J. Pace, first appearing in his book Christian Cartoons, published in 1922. The cartoon refers to a schism that originated in the 1920s and '30s within the Presbyterian Church but soon spread, affecting every denomination of Christianity in the United States. Two broad factions within Protestantism emerged; Fundamentalists who held to traditional Christian Orthodoxy, and Modernists who to varying degrees argued that "antiquated" beliefs should be modified for the times. This Fundamentalist cartoon portrays Modernism as a gradual descent from Christianity to atheism.

In this month

Julia Sweeney

Selected biography

Arthur C. Clarke
Sri Lankabhimanya Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, CBE (16 December 1917–19 March 2008) was a British science fiction author, inventor, and futurist, most famous for the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, written in collaboration with director Stanley Kubrick, a collaboration which also produced the film of the same name; and as a host and commentator in the British television series Mysterious World. Clarke served in the Royal Air Force as a radar instructor and technician from 1941-1946, proposed satellite communication systems in 1945 which won him the Franklin Institute Stuart Ballantine Gold Medal in 1963. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1994. He was the chairman of the British Interplanetary Society from 1947-1950 and again in 1953. Later, he helped fight for the preservation of lowland gorillas. He won the UNESCO-Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science in 1961. Clarke emigrated to Sri Lanka in 1956 largely to pursue his interest in scuba diving, and lived there until his death. He was knighted by the United Kingdom in 1998, and was awarded Sri Lanka's highest civil honour, Sri Lankabhimanya, in 2005.

Did you know...

Margaret Downey by Luigi Novi



Selected quote

Stephen Colbert
Atheism: the religion devoted to the worship of one's own smug sense of superiority.


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