Sociology Index

SOCIETY AND ATHEISM

Society and Atheism are products of rational thinking. Atheists use arguments such as 'I don’t believe in God, I believe in science' to explain that empirical evidence and logic is the basis of their thinking. Atheist parents pass on their beliefs to their children in a similar way to the way to the theists. Max Boot argues that Winston Churchill was a nominal Anglican but he was an atheist. If atheism was good enough for Britain's greatest prime minister, it should be good enough for a U.S. president. In "it's time for us to have an unapologetic atheist in the Oval Office" - The Washington Post Opinion, May 8, 2019. Atheism in philosophy has a long history.

Atheism In Society

Society and atheism have evolved throughout history and so have the standing and philosophical justification for atheism, and Epicurus (341-270 BC) was a materialist and probably the first atheist philosopher to develop the argument from evil.

"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 he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? (where does evil come from?)
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"

During the 5,000 years of history when men developed a higher culture Atheism appeared. We see Atheism so widespread in civilization 2,500 years ago. Atheism takes a prominent place in history in the form of the Ionian philosophy of Greece and the ethic of Buddha and Confucius. From 300 B.C. to 300 A.D. we find the thinly veiled Atheism of the Stoics, Epicureans, and Skeptics accepted by the great majority of the better-educated.

Atheism perished again with the crass ignorance and clerical tyranny of the Iron Age, but it spreads widely in the light of the Arab-Persian civilization, wherever the fanatics are checked, and at the Renaissance it reappears in Christendom. A paper by Will Gervais and Maxine Najle of the University of Kentucky argues that about one quarter of Americans are atheists. Most of China's 1.4 billion people have no religious affiliation, and fewer than 7 percent are monotheists.

Durkheim attributes the development of religion to the emotional security attained through communal living. Durkheim asks, "So if [the totem animal] is at once the symbol of the god and of the society, is that not because the god and the society are only one?" Early humans associated such feelings not only with one another, but as well with objects in their environment.

Atheism vs. Agnosticism

Atheism is the doctrine or belief that there is no god. An atheist doesn’t believe in a god or any divine being responsible for everything happening around us. The word originates with the Greek atheos.

An agnostic neither believes nor disbelieves in a god or any religious doctrine. Agnostics assert that it’s impossible for human beings to know anything about how the universe was created and also whether or not divine beings exist.

Agnosticism was coined by biologist T.H. Huxley and comes from the Greek ágnōstos, which means “unknown or unknowable.” If you’re not certain that god exists, you could describe yourself as agnostic.

Theist vs. Deist

Atheists and Agnostics are often confused with Theists and Deists. Theists believe in the existence of a god or gods. A theist is the opposite of an atheist. Deist believes in God. A deist believes that while God created the universe, natural laws determine how the universe plays out around us.

Deists are often connected to Isaac Newton’s clockwork universe theory, in which the universe is compared to a clock that has been wound up and set in motion by God but is governed by the laws of science. Scholars have described Thomas Jefferson as a deist because he rejected certain aspects of Christianity, such as miracles and resurrection, but he most certainly believed in God.

Atheism, Theism, And Existentialism

Atheism is the opposite of theism. Atheism is the absence of belief in any supernatural being considered divine, a male god or female goddess. Theism is a strong belief in a supernatural being. Atheism is also the rejection of belief that any supernatural being considered divine exists. Covington Scott Littleton who was an American anthropologist and academic defines supernatural being as "a being with powers greater than those of ordinary humans.

Sociology of religion covers the phenomenon of atheism, secularization, theism and existentialism. According to Jean Paul Sartre "To be there, without rhyme or reason, necessity or justification; it is to exist without the right to exist." Sartrean existentialism argues man exists without purpose, finds himself in the world and defines the meaning of his existence. Nietzsche, an anti-Christian, Sartre, an atheist, and Camus an atheist, are credited for their works and writings about existentialism.

Our world's cultural circles are permeated by the philosophical influences of existentialism and phenomenological sociology. Two contemporary quests to elucidate rationality were inspired by Kierkegaard's existentialism plumbing the subterranean source of subjective experience and Husserl's phenomenology focusing on the constitutive aspect of rationality.

"New Atheism" is a movement among some early 21st-century writers who have advocated the view that "religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises." - "The rise of the New Atheists," Hooper, Simon. The "New Atheism" movement is mainly associated with Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett, Victor J. Stenger, and Christopher Hitchens.

Atheist Intellectuals And Atheism:

Warren Buffett "did not subscribe to his family's religion. Even at a young age he was too mathematical, too logical, to make the leap of faith. He adopted his father's ethical underpinnings, but not his belief in an unseen divinity." -- from "Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist" by Roger Lowenstein.

Linus Torvalds, Computer Programmer, the creator of Linux. "completely a-religious -- atheist." "I find that people seem to think religion brings morals and appreciation of nature. I actually think it detracts from both."

Bill Gates, Microsoft Chairman. "In terms of doing things I take a fairly scientific approach to why things happen and how they happen. I don't know if there's a god or not, but I think religious principles are quite valid." "Just in terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient. There's a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning."

Stephen Hawking, Theoretical Physicist - Although he speaks of "God" in the metaphorical sense of some creative force, he has stated that he is an atheist. "I do not believe in a personal God." "contrary to Einstein's thought that "God does not play dice," he said that "God must be quite a gambler..." (Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking). Stephen Hawking was catapulted to world fame following the publication of his bestselling A Brief History of Time in 1988. With respect to God, he has said: “When you look at the vast size of the universe, and how accidental and insignificant human life is in it, that seems most implausible.”

John Lennon said, “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue with that; I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first – rock and roll or Christianity.”

James Cameron, the director of Titanic and Avatar, is quoted as saying, “I’ve sworn off agnosticism, which I now call cowardly atheism. I’ve come to the position that in the complete absence of any supporting data whatsoever for the persistence of the individual in some spiritual form, it is necessary to operate under the provisional conclusion that there is no afterlife and then be ready to amend that if I find out otherwise.”

Jack Nicholson said in an 1992 interview in Vanity Fair, Jack Nicholson, “I don’t believe in God now,” but he added that “I can still work up an envy for someone who has a faith. I can see how that could be a deeply soothing experience.”

Daniel Radcliffe is definitely atheist. In the UK’s gay magazine, Attitude, Radcliffe said, “I’m not religious, I’m an atheist, and a militant atheist when religion starts impacting on legislation. We need sex education in schools. Schools have to talk to kids from a young age about relationships, gay and straight. In Britain it’s better – more of a conversation is being had.”

Hendrik Johannes Cruijff, a Dutch football player who achieved enormous success over the course of his career. He won the prestigious Ballon d’Or three times in the 1970s, an award colloquially referred to as the European Footballer of the Year award. He stated: “I'm not religious. In Spain all 22 players make the sign of the cross before they enter the pitch. If it works all matches must therefore end in a draw.”

John Conway, Mathematician. "I don't believe in God, but I believe that nature is unbelievably subtle and clever. In physics, for instance, the real answer to a problem is usually so subtle and surprising that it wasn't even considered in the first place. That the speed of light is a constant - impossible! Nobody even thought about it. And quantum mechanics is even worse, but it's so beautiful, and it works!'"

John McCarthy, AI Researcher. John McCarthy is an outspoken atheist: "An atheist doesn't have to be someone who thinks he has a proof that there can't be a god. He only has to be someone who believes that the evidence on the God question is at a similar level to the evidence on the werewolf question.

Steve Wozniak, Cofounder of Apple Computer. Response of Woz to a letter published on his website: - "I am also atheist or agnostic (I don't even know the difference). I've never been to church and prefer to think for myself." "Steve Jobs may be an informal fan of Eastern religions but it's never obvious in him and I never heard of him regularly attending a church. That's only a guess."

Ed Fredkin, Computer Scientist. "I guess what I'm saying is: I don't have any religious belief. I don't believe there is a God. I don't believe in Christianity or Judaism or anything like that, okay? I'm not an atheist...I'm not an agnostic...I'm just in a simple state. I don't know what there is or might be..."

John Carmack, id Software Owner. "Having a reasonable grounding in statistics and probability and no belief in luck, fate, karma, or god(s), the only casino game that interests me is blackjack.

Richard Stallman, Software Guru. Stallman is a very popular figure in the 'free software' movement and founded the Free Software Foundation fsf.org. In a footnote of the O'Reilly Book Open Sources, Stallman says "As an atheist, I don't follow any religious leaders, but I sometimes find I admire something one of them has said."

Richard Dawkins, Evolutionary Biologist - Books - The Blind Watchmaker, The Selfish Gene, River out of Eden and Climbing Mount Improbable. In all of his work he successfully explains how complex forms of life evolved from simple forms of life. In a number of lectures and debates, notably the Voltaire Lecture "Viruses of the Mind", he demands that scientists and other rational people stop waffling and accept the lack of evidence for religious claims and draw the obvious conclusions: there is no god, and religion is a pack of lies. Richard Dawkin claims that human beings are “gigantic lumbering robots” controlled by our “selfish genes.”

David Deutsch, Physicist. Deutsch is a scientist at the Oxford Univ. Centre for Quantum Computation. Author of The Fabric Of Reality. "First of all, I do not believe in the supernatural, so I take it for granted that consciousness has a material explanation. I also do not believe in insoluble problems, therefore I believe that this explanation is accessible in principle to reason, and that one day we will understand consciousness just as we today understand what life is, whereas once this was a deep mystery."

Steven Weinberg, Theoretical Physicist/Author. Weinberg is a a winner of 1979 Nobel Prize. "The more we refine our understanding of God to make the concept plausible, the more it seems pointless."

Ian Wilmut, Embryologist. Dr. Wilmut pioneered the first successful cloning of a large mammal. This clone is now known to all as a healthy and otherwise normal sheep named Dolly. From a published story profiling Wilmut: "...but Ian Wilmut said he 'does not have a belief in God."'

Lewis Wolpert. Wolpert is a Professor of Biology as Applied to Medicine at University College London.  In The Biology of Belief, Professor Wolpert argues that religion is a biological trait that emerged as part of evolution. The difference between human beings and animals was that human beings had developed an understanding of cause and effect. 'Once there was a concept of cause, we needed to understand the causes of all the terrible things that happened to us. The most obvious thing to do was to invent God.'

Bhagat Singh, from 'Why I Am An Atheist?': Judgment is already too well known. What is the consolation with the exception of the idea that I am going to sacrifice my life for a cause? A God-believing Hindu might be expecting to be reborn as a king, a Muslim or a Christian might dream of the luxuries to be enjoyed in paradise. But what am I to expect? I know the moment the rope is fitted round my neck and rafters removed, from under my feet - that will be the final moment - that will be the last moment. My soul, as interpreted in the metaphysical terminology, shall all be finished there. Nothing further. With no selfish motive, or desire to be awarded here or hereafter, quite disinterestedly have I devoted my life to the cause of independence, because I could not do otherwise. The day we find a great number of men and women with this psychology who cannot devote themselves to anything else than the service of mankind and emancipation of the suffering humanity; that day shall inaugurate the era of liberty.

Society and Atheism Abstracts

Nonreligious childhood: Growing up unbelieving in contemporary Britain
Dr Anna Strhan, Sociology, University of York. Quantitative research has drawn attention to the significance of the family, education, and geographical variation in contributing to declining religious belief, affiliation, and practice, and to increasing numbers of children identified as nonreligious. Previous research on religion and socialization has been dominated by North American studies, based on largely white, Christian samples or surveys of teenagers, which have charted the decline of religious identification and belief but have not explored unbelief as an area of inquiry in its own right.

The Psychology of Atheism - Paul C Vitz
Abstract: There seems to be a widespread assumption throughout much of the Western intellectual community that belief in God is based on all kinds of irrational immature needs and wishes, but atheism or skepticism is derived from a rational, no-nonsense appraisal of the way things really are.

Atheism and the Courts - David Burnett - University of Virginia - School of Law - May 2006.
Abstract: The Supreme Court now holds that atheists deserve the same constitutional protection as theists, although only two Court opinions have specifically dealt with atheistic plaintiffs. As I explain, most lawsuits in the lower courts involving atheists have failed.

Rationalism, Humanism and Atheism in Twentieth Century Indian Thought by Dr. Ramendra in collaboration with Dr. Kawaljeet. Published by Buddhiwadi Foundation as a free ebook. 2008

Marx's Atheism and the Ideal of Self-Realization - William O'Meara, Feuerbach.
This essay begins with a brief review of Marx's evaluation of Hegel and Feuerbach's understanding of God, focusing upon the human as a self-creator, not as created by God.

'Mystic Atheism': Julia Kristeva's Negative Theology - Arthur Bradley.
This article examines Julia Kristeva's paradoxical concept of a 'mystic atheism'.

Militant atheism, pragmatism, and the God-shaped hole - by Andrew Fiala.
Abstract This paper discusses militant atheism. It considers the theistic reply that describes atheism as deriving from a “God-shaped hole” in the human soul. The paper argues that American pragmatism offers a middle path that avoids militant atheism overcoming this problem.

ATHEISM IN FREDRICK HENRY’S LIFE AS REFLECTED IN ERNEST HEMINGWAY’S A FAREWELL TO ARMS - By Hendry Aan F.
This thesis analyzes about atheism which appear in Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms; a novel which tells about atheist life style. This thesis will describe about atheism which appears in the main character in Hemingway’s novel.

Generations and Atheism: Patterns of Response to Communist Rule among Different Generations and Countries - Sinisa Zrinak.
The communist systems in Central and Eastern European countries had some common features, with atheism as the cornerstone of the political order, but they varied in many different aspects.

Research Note: Sociology and the Study of Atheism - Bullivant, Stephen.
Abstract: Historically, atheism has been neglected by the social sciences. This fact, in the light of the recent upsurge of popular and media interest in the subject, is particularly unfortunate. Rectifying this is, however, not a straightforward task: studies devised for exploring religion cannot, for example, reliably be used to investigate its lack.

Atheism, Free Will, And Material Determinism - Wayland Dong - an interesting debate through letters.

Atheism, faith, and the social scientific study of religion - R. Stark (S. W. University of Washington, USA).
The social scientific study of religion originated in atheism, and the basic theses pursued today, especially by psychologists and anthropologists, are little changed since they were first proposed by militant opponents of religion in the seventeenth and early eighteenth century.

Society and Atheism Bibliography

The hero of not only English Atheism, but world Atheism, Joseph McCabe left a legacy of aggressive Atheist and antireligious literature that remains fresh and insightful today. His works could constitute a library of Atheism by themselves. Joseph McCabehe wrote nearly 250 books.

Is The Position Of Atheism Growing Stronger - Joseph McCabe - Haldeman-Julius Publications.
Born in 1867, Joseph McCabe became a Franciscan monk at the age of nineteen. But disgusted with his fellow monks and the Christian doctrine, he left the priesthood for good. He began to write, first against the priesthood itself and then for the position of Atheism. Joseph McCabe died on January 10, 1955, at the age of eighty-seven. The epitaph he requested was "He was a rebel to his last day."

After Atheism: Religion and Ethnicity in Russia and Central Asia (Caucasus World) - by David C. Lewis - This book brings together insights into the religious worldview of those who claim to be Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, pagan or even atheist.

David Noebel on Atheism and Biological Evolution (2000) - Jeffery Jay Lowder.
Noebel points out, secular humanism is not only atheistic, but naturalistic since secular humanism denies the existence of the supernatural. Moreover, Noebel accurately summarizes some of the standard atheistic critiques of the ontological, cosmological, and teleological arguments. However, Noebel's treatment of atheism is weakened substantially by some very significant flaws.

Philosophy & Atheism: In Defense of Atheism - by Kai Nielsen.

Against the Faith: Essays on Deists, Skeptics, and Atheists - by Jim Herrick.

Naturalism without Foundations (Part Four: "Toward a Nonscientistic Atheism") - by Kai Nielsen.

Secular Utilitarianism: Social Science and the Critique of Religion in the Thought of Jeremy Bentham (includes "Conclusion: Atheism and the Secular Utilitarian Society") - by James E. Crimmins.

James Thrower, Western Atheism: A Short History (Prometheus Books, 2000).

S.T. Joshi, ed., Atheism: A Reader (Prometheus Books, 2000).

Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists by Dan Barker.

The Quotable Atheist: Ammunition for Non-Believers, Political Junkies, Gadflies, and Those Generally Hell-Bound by Jack Huberman.

The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever by Christopher Hitchens.

The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason by Victor J. Stenger.

Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity by John W. Loftus.

The Atheist's Introduction to the New Testament: How the Bible Undermines the Basic Teachings of Christianity by Mike Davis.

Great Atheists In History

Confucius, Chinese philosopher (551-479 BCE). Anaxagoras, Greek philosopher (500-428 BCE). Democritus, Greek philosopher (460-357 BCE). Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman statesman, orator, and philosopher (106-43 BCE). Lucretius, Roman philosopher and poet (96-55 BCE). John of Lackland, English King (1199-1216) (1167-1216). Thomas Woolston, English writer (1669-1731) or? (1670-1733). Francois Marie Arouet "Voltaire", French author and playwright (1694-1778). Benjamin Franklin, American statesman, scientist, writer, printer (1706-1790). Frederick the Great, Prussian king (1712-1786). Denis Diderot, French philosopher, author, and encyclopedist (1713-1784). Editor of the first encyclopedia Pierre Simon de Laplace, French mathematician, and astronomer (1749-1827) James Madison, American president and political theorist (1751-1836). Napoleon Bonaparte, French emperor (1769-1821). Lord George Gordon Byron, British poet (1788-1824). Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher (1788-1860). Percy Bysshe Shelley, English poet (1792-1822). Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach, German philosopher (1804-1872). John Stuart Mill, English philosopher, and economist (1806-1873). Freethinker, if not strictly atheist. Giuseppe Garibaldi, Italian general and nationalist leader (1807-1882). Charles Robert Darwin, English naturalist (1809-1882). Abraham Lincoln, American president (1809-1865). Edgar Allan Poe, American writer (1809-1849). Karl Marx, German political philosopher, and economist (1818-1883) Samuel Clemens "Mark Twain" American author and humorist (1835-1910) Thomas Hardy, English author (1840-1928) Friedrich Nietzsche, German philologist and philosopher (1844-1900) Thomas Alva Edison, American inventor. (1847-1931) Sigmund Freud, Austrian physician and pioneer psychoanalyst (1856-1939) George Bernard Shaw, English playwright (1856-1950) Pierre Curie, French chemist, and physicist (1859-1906) Herbert George "H.G" Wells, English author (1866-1946) Marie Curie, Polish-born French physicist, and chemist. (1867-1934) Joseph McCabe, English anti-religion campaigner (1867-1955) Frank Lloyd Wright, American architect (1869-1959) Vladimir Ilich Lenin, Russian revolutionary (1870-1924) Robert Frost, American poet (1874-1963) Albert Einstein, German-born American theoretical physicist (1879-1955) Periyar, Indian social reformer (1879-1973) Joseph Stalin, Russian politician (1879-1953) M.N. Roy, Indian political thinker (1887-1954) Jawaharlal Nehru, Indian statesman (1889-1964) Sir Alfred Hitchcock, British film director, (1899-1980) Sir Charles Spencer "Charlie Chaplin", British-born actor, director and producer. (1889-1977) Josip Broz "Tito'', Yugoslavian statesman (1892-1980) Mao Tse Tung, Chinese communist leader and theorist (1893-1976) Ernest Hemingway, American author (1899-1961) Linus Carl Pauling, American chemist (1901-1994) George Orwell (1903-1950) Howard Hughes, American manufacturer, film producer, and recluse (1905-1976) Katherine Hepburn, American actress (1907-2003) James Cameron, journalist Gene Kelly, American dancer, singer-actor, and director (1912-1996) Isaac Asimov, Russian born American author (1920-1992) Gene Roddenberry, creator of star trek (1921-1991).