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Atheist Symbol
used by Out Campaign

Atheist Symbol

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".

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The term nihilism was first popularized by the novelist Ivan Turgenev
Nihilism (from the Latin nihil, nothing) is a philosophical position which argues that the world, especially past and current human existence, is without objective meaning, purpose, comprehensible truth, or essential value. Nihilists generally assert some or all of the following: there is no reasonable proof of the existence of a higher ruler or creator, a "true morality" does not exist, and secular ethics are impossible; therefore, life has no truth, and no action can be preferable to any other. Nihilism is often more of a charge leveled against a particular idea, movement, or group, than it is an actual philosophical position to which someone overtly subscribes. Movements such as Dadaism as well as Futurism and deconstructionism, among others, have been described by commentators as "nihilist" at various times in various contexts. Often this means or is meant to imply that the beliefs of the accuser are more substantial or truthful, whereas the beliefs of the accused are nihilistic, and thereby comparatively amount to nothing (or are simply claimed to be destructively amoralistic).

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Invisible Pink Unicorn
Credit: Yamavu

The Invisible Pink Unicorn (IPU) is the goddess of a satiric parody religion aimed at theistic beliefs, which takes the form of a unicorn that is paradoxically both invisible and pink. These attributes satirize the contradictions in properties that some attribute to a theistic deity; this makes her a rhetorical illustration used by atheists and other religious skeptics.

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Linus Pauling

Selected biography

Harry Harrison 2005.jpg

Harry Harrison (born Henry Maxwell Dempsey, March 12, 1925) is an American science fiction author best known for his character the Stainless Steel Rat and the novel Make Room! Make Room! (1966), the basis for the film Soylent Green (1973).

Harrison was born in Stamford, Connecticut, but has lived in many parts of the world including Mexico, England, Ireland, Denmark and Italy. He is an advocate of Esperanto (the language often appears in his novels, particularly in his Stainless Steel Rat and Deathworld series) and was formerly the honorary president of the Esperanto Association of Ireland, as well as holding memberships in other Esperanto organizations such as the Esperanto League for North America, of which he is an honorary member, and the Universala Esperanto-Asocio (World Esperanto Association), of whose Honorary Patrons' Committee he is a member. He served in the United States Army Air Forces during WWII as a gunsight mechanic and gunnery instructor. He currently lives in the Republic of Ireland and maintains a flat in Brighton for visits to England.

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Friedrich Engels



Selected quote

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


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