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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. The French Revolution can be described as the first period where atheism became implemented politically.

Arguments for atheism range from the philosophical to social and historical approaches. Rationales for not believing in deities include arguments that there is a lack of empirical evidence, the problem of evil, the argument from inconsistent revelations, the rejection of concepts that cannot be falsified, and the argument from nonbelief. 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 set of behaviors 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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Apostasy in Islam
Apostasy in Islam is commonly defined as the rejection of Islam in word or deed by a person who has been a Muslim. All five major schools of Islamic jurisprudence agree that a sane male apostate must be executed.This is despite the fact that the Holy Qu-ran states, Allah's literal words, that "there is no compulsion in religion." A female apostate may be put to death, according to some schools, or imprisoned, according to others. The Islamic laws governing apostasy are derived from the traditions (ahadith)and are interpreted by various Imams, none of whom are as trustworthy to follow as Muhammad himself. In Muhammad's deliverance of the Holy Qu'ran, he guaranteed that Allah's word that men and women are equal was recorded, for all men to read, and never to change or "reinterpret." However, Imams feel free to ignore Allah's words, and cite their own interpretations, though the Holy Qu'ran can never be superseded by a man's interpretation, or by any other Islamic scholar's writings. Al-Shafi'i interpreted the verse as adducing the main evidence for the death penalty in Qur'an.

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"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. Modernism in the Roman Catholic Church is a theological viewpoint that usually includes a specific type of rationalist approach to the Bible, secularism and modern philosophical systems; it is regarded as heretical by the Catholic Church[citation needed]. Some Catholics see Modernism as the descent from Christianity to atheism.

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Ronald Plasterk

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Emma Goldman seated.jpg

Emma Goldman (June 27 (NS), 1869 – May 14, 1940) was an anarchist known for her political activism, writing and speeches. She played a pivotal role in the development of anarchist political philosophy in North America and Europe in the first half of the twentieth century.

During her life, Goldman was lionized as a free-thinking "rebel woman" by admirers, and derided by critics as an advocate of politically motivated murder and violent revolution. Her writing and lectures spanned a wide variety of issues, including prisons, atheism, freedom of speech, militarism, capitalism, marriage, free love, and homosexuality. Although she distanced herself from first-wave feminism and its efforts toward women's suffrage, she developed new ways of incorporating gender politics into anarchism. After decades of obscurity, Goldman's iconic status was revived in the 1970s, when feminist and anarchist scholars rekindled popular interest in her life.

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Ferrante Pallavicino

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Richard Dawkins
We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.

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