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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 term atheism originated from the Greek (atheos), meaning "without god(s)", used as a pejorative term applied 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 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 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. Although some atheists have adopted secular philosophies (eg. humanism and skepticism), there is no one ideology or set of behaviors to which all atheists adhere. Many atheists hold that atheism is a more parsimonious worldview than theism and therefore that the burden of proof lies not on the atheist to disprove the existence of God but on the theist to provide a rationale for theism.

Since conceptions of atheism vary, accurate estimations of current numbers of atheists are difficult. Several comprehensive global polls on the subject have been conducted by Gallup International: their 2015 poll featured over 64,000 respondents and indicated that 11% were "convinced atheists" whereas an earlier 2012 poll found that 13% of respondents were "convinced atheists." An older survey by the 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".

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English


▪ But they went one stage further: Soviet socialism adopted a stance of militant atheism.
▪ He concludes, not by committing himself to atheism but showing empathy with it.
▪ It is impossible to conceive of dialectical materialism without atheism, and it is this which underlies Marxism as an ideology.
▪ It is impossible to select any important part of it without soon realising that its root is firmly grounded in atheism.
▪ Must the movement be seen as heading straight towards atheism and irreligion?
▪ The law denied to the state the right to propagate atheism or otherwise to interfere in religious affairs.
▪ The many forms of atheism can usefully be divided into two categories.
▪ When it finds expression in atheism then we have religion there also, for Truth is the atheism of the atheist.
The Collaborative International Dictionary


Atheism \A"the*ism\, n. [Cf. F. ath['e]isme. See Atheist.]

  1. The disbelief or denial of the existence of a God, or supreme intelligent Being.

    Atheism is a ferocious system, that leaves nothing above us to excite awe, nor around us to awaken tenderness.
    --R. Hall.

    Atheism and pantheism are often wrongly confounded.

  2. Godlessness.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary


1580s, from French athéisme (16c.), from Greek atheos "without god" (see atheist). A slightly earlier form is represented by atheonism (1530s) which is perhaps from Italian atheo "atheist." Ancient Greek atheotes meant "ungodliness."



  1. n. the doctrine or belief that there is no God [syn: godlessness] [ant: theism]

  2. a lack of belief in the existence of God or gods



n. (context narrowly English) Belief that no deities exist (sometimes including rejection of other religious beliefs).

Usage examples of "atheism".

Atheism, materialism and agnosticism are an old, old trinity, but they had up to our own time been at the mercy of more positive attitudes through their inability to really answer those insurgent questions: Whence?

Christian theism was more sharply challenged by materialism and agnosticism than by a frankly confessed atheism.

The atheistical works of Robert Ingersoll were not purchased by the rank and file of the Republican Party for purposes of party propaganda, but the rank and file of the Revolutionary Party spend large sums of money on publications in which their avowed leaders teach atheism as part of the Socialist program.

They have brought in materialism, atheism, class war, weak happiness ideals, race suicide, social atomism, racial promiscuity, decadence in the arts, erotomania, disintegration of the family, private and public dishonor, slatternly feminism, economic fluctuation and catastrophe, civil war in the family of Europe, planned degeneration of the youth through vile films and literature, and through neurotic doctrines in education.

People wonder at the devout scoundrels who call upon their saint when they think themselves in need of heavenly assistance, or who thank him when they imagine that they have obtained some favour from him, but people are wrong, for it is a good and right feeling, which preaches against Atheism.

I hardly know whether I was more startled at first hearing, in little dainty namby pamby tones, a profession of Atheism over a teacup, or at having my attention called from a Johnny cake, to a rhapsody on election and the second birth.

In this role Shatov is ideologically counterbalanced by his neighbor Kirillov, a Westernizer who has lost the ability to speak his native Russian fluently, whose atheism leads to the apotheosis of individual will, and whose sterile conception of freedom brings him inescapably to suicide.

Misson sailed from Rochelle to the West Indies, and Caraccioli lost no opportunity of preaching to young Misson the gospel of atheism and communism, and with such success that the willing convert soon held views as extreme as those of his teacher.

Anything like atheism or papism would deny the authority of the Protestant Church and the Queen as the head.

Nature were once glimpsed in a determinedly polytheistic society, in which some scholars toyed with a form of atheism.

And, then, in all that universe of things that fills that bottomless pit and shoreless sea the human heart, there is nothing deeper down in it than just its deep and unsearchable atheism.

William Provine, an evolutionary biologist at Cornell University, calls Darwinism the greatest engine of atheism devised by man.

English Utilitarianism, French Utopian Socialism, Feuerbachian atheism, and crude mechanical materialism and determinism, this odd amalgam ran smack against the worldview that Dostoevsky had so painfully acquired in his prison-camp years.

And in that case, incidentally, what makes flagellantism worse than nihilism, Jesuitism, atheism?

People wonder at the devout scoundrels who call upon their saint when they think themselves in need of heavenly assistance, or who thank him when they imagine that they have obtained some favour from him, but people are wrong, for it is a good and right feeling, which preaches against Atheism.