absence of belief in the existence of deities; the opposite of theism

Atheism in a broad sense is a rejection of belief in the existence of deities, in a narrower sense, the specific belief that there are no deities, and most inclusively, it is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists. The word originates with the Greek ἄθεος (atheos), meaning "without god(s)", used as a pejorative term applied to those thought to reject the gods worshipped by the larger society.

God is denied either because the world is so bad or because the world is so good.
~ Nikolai Berdyaev
Not the person who denies the gods worshipped by the multitude, but he who affirms of the gods what the multitude believes about them is truly impious. For the utterances of the multitude about the gods are not true. ~ Epicurus
You see what it was that really triumphed over the Christian God: Christian morality itself, the concept of truthfulness that was understood more rigorously, the father confessor’s refinement of the Christian conscience, translated and sublimated into a scientific conscience, into intellectual cleanliness at any price. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
Most atheists, if they worship anything, worship something which really exists but is not worthy of worship. ... In order for capitalism to have a clear path, it needs to profane all that is sacred; there must be no limits to what is saleable. The totalitarian commercialism which is now the established Church throughout the West has come close to achieving this. ~ Andrew Collier
Is it intellectually responsible to define one's identity against something that one does not understand? ~ Jacques Berlinerblau
There are two atheisms of which one is a purification of the notion of God. ~ Simone Weil
In former days the free-thinker was a man who had been brought up in ideas of religion, law, and morality, and only through conflict and struggle came to free-thought; but now there has sprung up a new type of born free-thinkers who grow up without even having heard of principles of morality or of religion, of the existence of authorities, who grow up directly in ideas of negation in everything, that is to say, savages. ~ Leo Tolstoy

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  • If you describe yourself as "Atheist," some people will say, "Don't you mean 'Agnostic'?" I have to reply that I really do mean Atheist. I really do not believe that there is a god — in fact I am convinced that there is not a god (a subtle difference). I see not a shred of evidence to suggest that there is one. It's easier to say that I am a radical Atheist, just to signal that I really mean it, have thought about it a great deal, and that it's an opinion I hold seriously. It's funny how many people are genuinely surprised to hear a view expressed so strongly. In England we seem to have drifted from vague, wishy-washy Anglicanism to vague, wishy-washy Agnosticism — both of which I think betoken a desire not to have to think about things too much.
    People will then often say, "But surely it's better to remain an Agnostic just in case?" This, to me, suggests such a level of silliness and muddle that I usually edge out of the conversation rather than get sucked into it. (If it turns out that I've been wrong all along, and there is in fact a god, and if it further turned out that this kind of legalistic, cross-your-fingers-behind-your-back, Clintonian hair-splitting impressed him, then I would choose not to worship him anyway.)
  • Government has no right to hurt a hair on the head of an Atheist for his Opinions. Let him have a care of his Practices.
    • John Adams to John Quincy Adams, June 16, 1816. Adams Papers (microfilm), reel 432, Library of Congress. James H. Hutson (ed.), The Founders on Religion: A Book of Quotations. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007, p. 20.
  • After having treated of these false Zealots in Religion, I cannot forbear mentioning … the Zealots in Atheism. One would fancy that these Men, tho' they fall short, in every other Respect, of those who make a Profession of Religion, would at least outshine them in this Particular, and be exempt from that single Fault which seems to grow out of the impudent Fervours of Religion: But so it is, that Infidelity is propagated with as much Fierceness and Contention, Wrath and Indignation, as if the Safety of Mankind depended upon it.
  • I would fain ask one of these bigotted Infidels, supposing all the great Points of Atheism … were laid together and formed into a kind of Creed, according to the Opinions of the most celebrated Atheists; I say, supposing such a Creed as this were formed, and imposed upon any one People in the World, whether it would not require an infinitely greater Measure of Faith, than any Set of Articles which they so violently oppose.
    • Joseph Addison, The Spectator, No 185 (2 October 1711)
    • Often misquoted as "To be an atheist requires an infinitely greater measure of faith than to receive all the great truths which atheism would deny."
  • The inhabitants of the earth are of two sorts:
    Those with brains, but no religion,
    And those with religion, but no brains.
  • Some highly religious people are outraged that atheists would publicly declare their lack of faith. Accordingly many of the people who belong to atheist associations hide their beliefs from most others, knowing from experience it could affect their employment, membership in other clubs, and social connections. It reminds me of the reaction of many high RWAs when homosexuals began to come out: “Don’t these people know they’re supposed to be ashamed of what they are?” That in turn reminded me of the reaction of many White supremists to the civil rights movement: “Don’t these n------ know they’re inferior and should never be treated as our equals?” Fortunately, eventually, minorities can overcome these reactions.
  • A great man is the unbelieving man; he is without spiritual sight or spiritual hearing; his glory is in understanding his own understanding. It is he who subdues the forest, tames the beasts of the field to service. He goes alone in the dark, unafraid. He follows no man’s course, but, searches for himself; the priests cannot make him believe, nor the angels of heaven; none can subdue his judgment. He says: why permit others even priests, to think for you? Stand on your own feet – be a man. Through his arm are tyrants and evil kings overthrown. Through him are doctrines and religions sifted to the bottom and the falsehood and evil in them cast aside. Who but the Creator could have created so great a man as the unbeliever?
  • I am an atheist, out and out. It took me a long time to say it. I've been an atheist for years and years, but somehow I felt it was intellectually unrespectable to say one was an atheist, because it assumed knowledge that one didn't have. Somehow, it was better to say one was a humanist or an agnostic. I finally decided that I'm a creature of emotion as well as of reason. Emotionally, I am an atheist. I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time.
  • God never wrought miracle, to convince atheism, because his ordinary works convince it. It is true, that a little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion.
  • The Scripture saith, The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God; it is not said, The fool hath thought in his heart; so as he rather saith it by rote to himself, as that he would have, than that he can thoroughly believe it, or be persuaded of it; for none deny there is a God, but those for whom it maketh that there were no God. It appeareth in nothing more that atheism is rather in the lip than in the heart of man by this, that atheists will ever be talking of that their opinion, as if they fainted in it within themselves, and would be glad to be strengthened by the consent of others; nay more, you shall have atheists strive to get disciples, as it fareth with other sects; and, which is most of all, you shall have of them that will suffer for atheism, and not recant; whereas, if they did truly think that there were no such thing as God, why should they trouble themselves?
  • The causes of atheism are: divisions in religion, if they be many; for any one main division addeth zeal to both sides; but many divisions introduce atheism. Another is, scandal of priests; when it is come to what St Bernard saith, non est jam dicere, ut populus sic sacerdos; quia nec sic populus ut sacerdos [One cannot now say, the priest is as the people, for the truth is that the people are not so bad as the priest]. A third is, custom of profane scoffing in holy matters; which doth, by little and little, deface the reverence of religion.
  • They that deny a God, destroy man's nobility; for certainly man is of kin to the beasts, by his body; and if he be not kin to God, by his spirit, he is a base and ignoble creature.
  • Therefore, as atheism is in all respects hateful, so in this, that it depriveth human nature of the means to exalt itself, above human frailty.
  • Atheism leaves a man to sense, to philosophy, to natural piety, to laws, to reputation; all which may be guides to an outward moral virtue, though religion were not; but superstition dismounts all these, and erecteth an absolute monarchy, in the minds of men.
  • Elizabeth had fallen victim to the greatest cosmic prank of all time, the flu that had swept across the world in the spring and summer of 1918, as if the bloody abattoir in the trenches hadn't been evidence enough of humanity’s divine disfavor. That's what Elizabeth had called it in the last letter he'd ever had from her: God's judgment on a world gone mad. Garner had given up on God by then: he'd packed away the Bible Elizabeth had pressed upon him after a week in the field hospital, knowing that its paltry lies could bring him no comfort in the face of such horror, and it hadn't. Not then, and not later, when he’d come home to face Elizabeth's mute and barren grave.
  • Une societé d'athées inventerait aussitôt une religion.
    • Translation: A society of atheists would immediately invent a religion.
    • Honoré de Balzac, Le catéchisme social (c. 1840–1842). Paris: La Renaissance du Livre, 1933, p. 137.
  • Experience is, in fever and anguish, the putting into question (to the test) of that which a man knows of being. Should he in this fever have any apprehension whatsoever, he cannot say: “I have seen God, the absolute, or the depths of the universe”; he can only say “that which I have seen eludes understanding”—and God, the absolute, the depths of the universe are nothing if they are not categories of the understanding.
    If I said decisively, “I have seen God,” that which I see would change. Instead of the inconceivable unknown—wildly free before me, leaving me wild and free before it—there would be a dead object and the thing of the theologian, to which the unknown would be subjugated.
  • A religion may be discerned in capitalism—that is to say, capitalism serves essentially to allay the same anxieties, torments, and disturbances to which the so-called religions offered answers.
    • Walter Benjamin, "Capitalism as Religion" (1921), translated by Rodney Livingstone in Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Volume 1 (Harvard: 1996)
  • Empty-brained triflers who have never tried to think, who take their creed as they take their fashions, speak of atheism as the outcome of foul life and vicious desires.
  • Today's secularists too often have very little accurate knowledge about religion, and even less desire to learn. This is problematic insofar as their sense of self is constructed in opposition to religion. Above all, the secularist is not a Jew, is not a Christian, not a Muslim, and so on. But is it intellectually responsible to define one's identity against something that one does not understand?
  • Knowledge of Karma gives the conviction that if ... Virtue in distress, and vice in triumph Make atheists of mankind,(Dryden) it is only because mankind has ever shut its eyes to the great truth that man is himself his own saviour and his own destroyer.
  • The light of Christianity has only served to show how much more hypocrisy and vice its teachings have begotten in the world since its advent, and how immensely superior were the ancients over us in every point of honor.. .The clergy, by teaching the helplessness of man, his utter dependence on Providence, and the doctrine of atonement, have crushed in their faithful followers every atom of self-reliance and self-respect. So true is this, that it is becoming an axiom that the most honorable men are to be found among atheists and the so-called “infidels”... Their system breeds atheism, nihilism, despair, and crime...
  • There were no Atheists in those days of old; no disbelievers or materialists, in the modern sense of the word, as there were no bigoted detractors. He who judges the ancient philosophies by their external phraseology, and quotes from ancient writings sentences seemingly atheistical, is unfit to be trusted as a critic, for he is unable to penetrate into the inner sense of their metaphysics.
  • There is no proselyter half so energetic as the hard-shelled atheist.
    • Heywood Broun, "A New Preface to an Old Story", Broun's Nutmeg, August 19, 1939.
  • Nobody talks so constantly about God as those who insist that there is no God.
  • I have heard an atheist defined as a man who had no invisible means of support.
    • John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir, speaking to the Law Society of Upper Canada, (21 February 1936); published in Canadian Occasions (1940), p. 201.
    • Buchan's source remains unknown. The witticism was repeated by Harry Emerson Fosdick in his On Being a Real Person (1943), ch. 1, with acknowledgement to Buchan, and was again used by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen in Look magazine (December 14, 1955). Credit for this line is therefore often wrongly given to Fosdick or to Sheen. Credit has also been given to the conductor Walter Damrosch (1862-1950).
    • This is a play on words commonly used in vagrancy statutes to define a vagrant or bum as having "no visible means of support" financially.
  • Je suis toujours athée, gràce á Dieu.
    • Translation: I'm still an atheist, thank God.
    • Luis Buñuel, in Michèle Manceaux, "Luis Buñuel: athée gràce á Dieu", L'Express, May 12, 1960, p. 41. See "On Luis Buñuel's Aphorism 'Thank God I'm an Atheist'", Aphelis.
    • Seventeen years later, Buñuel expressed a different attitude in another interview: "I'm not a Christian, but I'm not an atheist either," he says. "I'm weary of hearing that accidental old aphorism of mine "I'm not an atheist, thank God." It's outworn. Dead leaves. In 1951, I made a small film called 'Mexican Bus Ride,' about a village too poor to support a church and a priest. The place was serene, because no one suffered from guilt. It's guilt we must escape, not God." (Penelope Gilliat, "Long Live the Living!", The New Yorker, December 5, 1977, p. 54) As Aphelis notes, "There's most likely a small confusion when Buñuel quotes his own aphorism: instead of 'I'm not an atheist, thank God' — which doesn't correspond [to] what he said in 1960 — one should read 'I'm an atheist, thank God.' That's the aphorism Buñuel didn't agree with anymore in 1977."
    • Although the aphorism is associated with Buñuel, it did not originate with him. Samuel Butler (1835–1902) mentions in his Note-Books having heard of a man exclaiming "I am an atheist, thank God!" Even earlier, there is a rather similar aphorism by Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–1799).
  • We know, and it is our pride to know, that man is by his constitution a religious animal; that atheism is against, not only our reason but our instincts; and that it cannot prevail long. But if, in the moment of riot, and in a drunken delirium from the hot spirit drawn out of the alembic of hell, which in France is now so furiously boiling, we should uncover our nakedness by throwing off that Christian religion which has hitherto been our boast and comfort, and one great source of civilization amongst us, and among many other nations, we are apprehensive (being well aware that the mind will not endure a void) that some uncouth, pernicious, and degrading superstition, might take place of it.
  • Boldness formerly was not the character of Atheists as such. ... But of late they are grown active, designing, turbulent, and seditious.
    • Edmund Burke, "Thoughts on French Affairs" (December, 1791), in Three Memorials on French Affairs (1797), p. 53
  • I think people attack me because they are fearful that I will then say that you're not equally as patriotic if you're not a religious person... I've never said that. I've never acted like that. I think that's just the way it is.
  • I have heard of a man exclaiming "I am an atheist, thank God!"
  • Theist and Atheist: The fight between them is as to whether God shall be called God or shall have some other name.
  • Atheism is a natural result of intellectual honesty.
    • Paulo Bitencourt, Wasting Time on God: Why I Am an Atheist (2022), p. 92.
  • An atheist has to know a lot more than I know. An atheist is someone who knows there is no god. By some definitions, atheism is very stupid.
  • Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever 'til the end of time!. . . But He loves you!
  • Mon chien est athée: il ne crois plus en moi.
    • Translation: My dog is an atheist: he no longer believes in me.
    • François Cavanna, L'almanach-agenda de Cavanna 1985 (1985). Paris: Belfond.
  • Religion assures us that our afflictions shall have an end; she comforts us, she dries our tears, she promises us another life. On the contrary, in the abominable worship of atheism, human woes are the incense, death is the priest, a coffin the altar, and annihilation the Deity.
  • Atheism can benefit no class of people; neither the unfortunate, whom it bereaves of hope, nor the prosperous, whose joys it renders insipid, nor the soldier, of whom it makes a coward, nor the woman whose beauty and sensibility it mars, nor the mother, who has a son to lose, nor the rulers of men, who have no surer pledge of the fidelity of their subjects than religion.
  • Atheism is, I suppose, the supreme example of a simple faith.
  • If there were not God, there would be no atheists.
    • G. K. Chesterton, Where All Roads Lead (1922).
    • Frequently misquoted, with "not", which grammatically implies monotheism, being replaced by the vaguer "no".
  • Atheists aren't angry because we're selfish, or bitter, or joyless. Atheists are angry because we have compassion. Atheists are angry because we have a sense of justice. Atheists are angry because we see millions of people being terribly harmed by religion, and our hearts go out to them, and we feel motivated to do something about it. Atheists aren't angry because there's something wrong with us. Atheists are angry because there's something right with us.
  • The habit of arguing in support of atheism, whether it be done from conviction or in pretense, is a wicked and impious practice.
    • Cicero, De Natura Deorum [On the Nature of the Gods] (45 BCE), vol. II.
  •   bold with joy,
    Forth from his dark and lonely hiding-place
    (Portentous sight!) the owlet Atheism,
    Sailing on obscene wings athwart the noon,
    Drops her blue-fringed lids, and holds them close,
    And hooting at the glorious sun in Heaven,
    Cries out, "Where is it?"
  • Most atheists, if they worship anything, worship something which really exists but is not worthy of worship.
    • Andrew Collier, in Transcendence: Critical Realism and God (2013), p. 84
  • In order for capitalism to have a clear path, it needs to profane all that is sacred; there must be no limits to what is saleable. The totalitarian commercialism which is now the established Church throughout the West has come close to achieving this.
    • Andrew Collier, in Transcendence: Critical Realism and God (2013), p. 85
  • I was an atheist, finding no reason to postulate the existence of any truths outside of mathematics, physics and chemistry. But then I went to medical school, and encountered life and death issues at the bedsides of my patients. Challenged by one of those patients, who asked "What do you believe, doctor?", I began searching for answers.
    • Francis Collins, a geneticist who led the U.S. government’s effort to decipher the human genome (DNA).
  • Very often atheists themselves admit that they have no evidence of God's absence, but they try to put a different spin on it. They'll tell you, “No one can prove a universal negative” (like “There is no God”). They think this somehow excuses them from needing evidence against God's existence. But not only is it false that you can't prove a universal negative (all you have to do is show something is self-contradictory), but more importantly, this claim is really an admission that it's impossible to prove atheism! Atheism involves a universal negative, you can't prove a universal negative, therefore, atheism is unprovable. It turns out that it is the atheist who is believing a view for which there is and can be no evidence.
    • William Lane Craig, On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision (2010), p. 149
  • Even the Atheists … readily acknowledge it for an indubitable truth, that there must be something … which was never made or produced — and which therefore is the cause of those other things that are made, something … whose existence must needs be necessary.... Wherefore all the question now is, what is this … self-existent thing, which is the cause of all other things that are made. Now there are two grand opinions opposite to one another concerning it; for, first, some contend, that the only self-existent, unmade and incorruptible thing is senseless matter.... But because this is really the lowest and most imperfect of all beings, others on the contrary judge it reasonable, that the first principle and original of all things should be that, which is the most perfect … not senseless matter, but a perfect conscious understanding nature, or mind. And these are they, who are strictly and properly called Theists, who affirm, that a perfectly conscious understanding being, or mind, existing of itself from eternity, was the cause of all other things; and they, on the contrary, who derive all things from senseless matter, as the first original, and deny that there is any conscious understanding being self-existent and unmade, are those that are properly called Atheists.
    • Ralph Cudworth, The True Intellectual System of the Universe, Vol. I, London, 1678. New York: Gould & Newman, 1837, pp. 266–267.
  • If this be not atheism, to acknowledge no other deity besides dead and senseless matter, then the word hath no signification.
    • Ralph Cudworth, The True Intellectual System of the Universe, Vol. I, London, 1678. New York: Gould & Newman, 1837, p. 425.
  • Although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.
  • It is often said, mainly by the 'no-contests', that although there is no positive evidence for the existence of God, nor is there evidence against his existence. So it is best to keep an open mind and be agnostic. At first sight that seems an unassailable position, at least in the weak sense of Pascal's wager. But on second thoughts it seems a cop-out, because the same could be said of Father Christmas and tooth fairies. There may be fairies at the bottom of the garden. There is no evidence for it, but you can't prove that there aren't any, so shouldn't we be agnostic with respect to fairies?
  • We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.
  • Diderot paid a visit to the Russian Court at the invitation of the Empress. He conversed very freely, and gave the younger members of the Court circle a great deal of lively atheism. The Empress was much amused, but some of her councillors suggested that it might be desirable to check these expressions of doctrine. The Empress did not like to put a direct muzzle on her guest's tongue, so the following plot was contrived. Diderot was informed that a learned mathematician was in possession of an algebraic demonstration of the existence of God, and would give it him before all the Court, if he desired to hear it. Diderot gladly consented.... [T]he mathematician … was Euler. He advanced towards Diderot, and said gravely, and in a tone of perfect conviction: Monsieur, (a+bn)/n=x, donc Dieu existe; répondez! Diderot, to whom algebra was Hebrew, was embarrassed and disconcerted; while peals of laughter arose on all sides. He asked permission to return to France at once, which was granted.
  • At the end of Being and Nothingness, ... Being in-itself and Being for-itself were of Being; and this totality of beings, in which they were effected, itself was linked up to itself, relating and appearing to itself, by means of the essential project of human-reality. What was named in this way, in an allegedly neutral and undetermined way, was nothing other than the metaphysical unity of man and God, the relation of man to God, the project of becoming God as the project constituting human-reality. Atheism changes nothing in this fundamental structure.
    • Jacques Derrida, "The Ends of Man," Margins of Philosophy, tr. w/ notes by Alan Bass. The University of Chicago Press. Chicago, 1982. (original French published in Paris, 1972, as Marges de la philosophie). p. 116.
  • Laissez-nous donc tout confondre, amour, religion, génie, et le soleil et les parfums, et la musique et la poésie: il n'y a d'athéisme que dans la froideur, l'égoïsme, la bassesse.
    • Translation: Let us then mingle everything, love, religion, genius, with sunshine, perfume, music, and poetry. Atheism exists only in coldness, selfishness, and baseness.
    • Anne Louise Germaine de Staël, Corinne, or Italy (Corinne, ou l'Italie, 1807), Book X, Chapter V. Translated by Sylvia Raphael. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998, p. 273.
  • It is easier for a Russian to become an Atheist, than for any other nationality in the world. And not only does a Russian 'become an Atheist,' but he actually BELIEVES IN Atheism, just as though he had found a new faith, not perceiving that he has pinned his faith in a negation. Such is our anguish of thirst!
  • Science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.
    • Albert Einstein, in "Religion and Science" in New York Times Magazine (9 November 1930).
  • It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I also cannot imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere. … Science has been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.
    • Albert Einstein, in "Religion and Science" in New York Times Magazine (9 November 1930).
  • In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support of such views.
    • Albert Einstein, quoted in Towards the Further Shore (1968) by Prince Hubertus Zu, p. 156.
  • It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.
    • Albert Einstein, quoted in Dukas, Helen (ed.) and Banesh Hoffman (ed.) (1981). Albert Einstein: The Human Side. Princeton University Press. 
  • Atheism should always be encouraged (i.e. rationalistic not emotional atheism) for the sake of the Faith.
  • Not the person who denies the gods worshipped by the multitude, but he who affirms of the gods what the multitude believes about them is truly impious. For the utterances of the multitude about the gods are not true preconceptions but false assumptions.
  • The Gods exist but they are not what the hoi polloi [the multitude] suppose them to be. He is not an infidel or atheist who denies the existence of Gods whom the multitude worship, but he is such who fastens on the Gods the opinions of the multitude.
  • If there are none [no gods], what need to toil?
    • Euripides, Iphigenia in Aulis (c. 405 BCE), l. 1035. Translated by Edward P. Coleridge, 1891.
    • Translated by Charles R. Walker, 1958, as "If there are none, all our toil is without meaning."
    • Translated by W. S. Merwin and George E. Dimock, Jr., 1978, as "If there are none, what does anything matter?"
  • God was always invented to explain mystery. God is always invented to explain those things that you do not understand. Now when you finally discover how something works, you get some laws which you're taking away from God; you don't need him anymore. But you need him for the other mysteries. So therefore you leave him to create the universe because we haven't figured that out yet; you need him for understanding those things which you don't believe the laws will explain, such as consciousness, or why you only live to a certain length of time — life and death — stuff like that. God is always associated with those things that you do not understand. Therefore I don't think that the laws can be considered to be like God because they have been figured out.
  • God did not, as the Bible says, make man in His image; on the contrary man, as I have shown in The Essence of Christianity, made God in his image.
    • Ludwig Feuerbach, Lectures on the essence of religion. Transl. Ralph Manheim. New York: Harper & Row. 1967. p. 187.  German: Vorlesungen über das Wesen der Religion. Leipzig: Wigand. 1851. p. 241. 
  • By positing God as unknowable, man excuses himself to what is still left of his religious conscience for his oblivion of God, his surrender to the world. He negates God in practice – his mind and his senses have been absorbed by the world – but he does not negate him in theory. He does not attack [God's] existence; he leaves it intact. But this existence neither affects nor incommodes him, for it is only a negative existence, an existence without existence; it is an existence that contradicts itself – a being that, in view of its effects, is indistinguishable from non-being. The negation of determinate, positive predicates of the Divine Being is nothing else than the negation of religion, but one which still has an appearance of religion, so that it is not recognized as a negation – it is nothing but a subtle, sly atheism. The alleged religious horror of limiting God by determinate predicates is only the irreligious wish to forget all about God, to banish him from the mind.
    • Ludwig Feuerbach, Introduction to The Essence of Christianity (1843), Z. Hanfi, trans., in The Fiery Brook (1972), p. 112
  • A true atheist, that is, an atheist in the ordinary sense, is therefore he alone to whom the predicates of the Divine Being – for example, love, wisdom, and justice – are nothing, not he to whom only the subject of these predicates is nothing.
    • Ludwig Feuerbach, Introduction to The Essence of Christianity (1843), Z. Hanfi, trans., in The Fiery Brook (1972), p. 119
  • Atheism. There is not a single exalting and emancipating influence that does not in turn become inhibitory.
    • André Gide, Journals, January 13, 1929. Translated by Justin O'Brien.
  • I honestly think atheism is inconsistent with the scientific method. What I mean by that is, what is atheism? It’s a statement, a categorical statement that expresses belief in nonbelief. "I don’t believe even though I have no evidence for or against, simply I don’t believe." Period. It’s a declaration. But in science we don’t really do declarations. We say, "Okay, you can have a hypothesis, you have to have some evidence against or for that." And so an agnostic would say, look, I have no evidence for God or any kind of god (What god, first of all? The Maori gods, or the Jewish or Christian or Muslim God? Which god is that?) But on the other hand, an agnostic would acknowledge no right to make a final statement about something he or she doesn’t know about. "The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence," and all that. This positions me very much against all of the "New Atheist" guys.
  • The question of the origin of the matter in the universe is no longer thought to be beyond the range of science — everything can be created from nothing…it is fair to say that the universe is the ultimate free lunch.
  • Settle it therefore in your minds, as a maxim never to be effaced or forgotten, that atheism is an inhuman, bloody, ferocious system, equally hostile to every useful restraint and to every virtuous affection; that, leaving nothing above us to excite awe, nor round us to awaken tenderness, it wages war with heaven and with earth: its first object is to dethrone God, its next to destroy man.
  • It is striking that the idea of a moral being without ordinary human limitations as the source of the moral demand survived in 20th century moral philosophy even in theories that do not posit the existence of such a being. ... In R. B. Brandt’s Ethical Theory, there is a position for an ideal observer. In R. M. Hare, there is an archangel, with full command of the facts and of logic. In John Rawls, there is the person behind the veil of ignorance, who does not know what position she occupies in the situation for which she is prescribing. In all these last three cases, there is the postulation, as the source of the moral demand, of a being who is without ordinary human limitations, and it is plausible to suggest that these are all survivals of a worldview in which it was God who played this role.
    • John E. Hare, “Ethics and Religion: Two Kantian Arguments,” Philosophical Investigations, vol. 34, no. 2 (April 2011), pp. 158-159
  • Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply an admission of the obvious. In fact, "atheism" is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a "non-astrologer" or a "non-alchemist." We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.
    • Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation (2006), p. 51.
  • Agnosticism is a perfectly respectable and tenable philosophical position; it is not dogmatic and makes no pronouncements about the ultimate truths of the universe. It remains open to evidence and persuasion; lacking faith, it nevertheless does not deride faith. Atheism, on the other hand, is as unyielding and dogmatic about religious belief as true believers are about heathens. It tries to use reason to demolish a structure that is not built upon reason; because, though rational argument may take us to the edge of belief, we require a "leap of faith" to jump the chasm.
    • Sydney J. Harris, in "Atheists, Like Fundamentalists, are Dogmatic" in Pieces of Eight (1982).
  • I'm an atheist, and that's it. I believe there's nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for other people.
    • Katharine Hepburn, in Myrna Blyth, "Kate Talks Straight", Ladies' Home Journal, 1991-10-01, p. 215.
  • Along with Islam and Christianity, Judaism does insist that some turgid and contradictory and sometimes evil and mad texts, obviously written by fairly unexceptional humans, are in fact the word of god. I think that the indispensable condition of any intellectual liberty is the realisation that there is no such thing.
  • I am not even an atheist so much as I am an antitheist; I not only maintain that all religions are versions of the same untruth, but I hold that the influence of churches, and the effect of religious belief is positively harmful. Reviewing the false claims of religion, I do not wish, as some sentimental materialists affect to wish, that they were true. I do not envy believers their faith. I am relieved to think that the whole story is a sinister fairy tale; life would be miserable if what the faithful affirmed was actually the case.
  • The universe, that is, the whole mass of things that are, is corporeal, that is to say, body; and hath the dimensions of magnitude, namely length, breadth and depth:[...] consequently every part of the universe is body, and that which is not body is no part of the universe: and because the universe is all, that which is no part of it is nothing, and consequently, nowhere. Nor does it follow from hence that spirits are nothing: for they have dimensions and are therefore really bodies; though that name in common speech be given to such bodies only as are visible or palpable; that is, that have some degree of opacity: but for spirits, they call them incorporeal, which is a name of more honour, and may therefore with more piety be attributed to God Himself; in whom we consider not what attribute expresseth best His nature, which is incomprehensible, but what best expresseth our desire to honour Him.
    • Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan Part IV, chapter iii (1651)
    • Misquoted in Jonathan Miller, Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief (2004), as "The universe, the whole mass of all things that are, is corporeal, that is to say body, and hath dimensions of magnitude, length, breadth and depth. Every part of the universe is body and that which is not body is not part of the universe. And because the universe is all, that which is no part of it is nothing. Consequently, nowhere."
  • The only religion of Albania is Albanianism.
    • Enver Hoxha, promoting atheism, as quoted in The New York Times Book Review, Vol. 2 (1977); this is actually derived from a secularly nationalistic slogan "The true religion of Albania is Albanianism", originally intended to ease the strife of sectarian divisions while being respectful of them, which was created by the Roman Catholic Pashko Vasa, in the form: "The religion of Albania is Albanianism" — as quoted in Catholicism and Politics in Communist Societies (1990) by Sabrina P. Ramet, p. 236.
  • Atheist: Any man who does not believe in himself.
    • Elbert Hubbard, The Note Book of Elbert Hubbard (1927). New York: Wm. H. Wise & Co., p. 187.
  • There are, as we know, powerful and illustrious atheists. At bottom, led back to the truth by their very force, they are not absolutely sure that they are atheists; it is with them only a question of definition, and in any case, if they do not believe in God, being great minds, they prove God.
    • Victor Hugo, Les Misérables Volume II, Book 7 "Parenthesis", Chapter vi (1862).
  • His [God's] power we allow is infinite: whatever he wills is executed: but neither man nor any other animal is happy: therefore he does not will their happiness.... Epicurus's old questions are yet unanswered. Is he willing to prevent evil but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?
  • I have never had the least sympathy with the a priori reasons against orthodoxy, and I have by nature and disposition the greatest possible antipathy to all the atheistic and infidel school. Nevertheless I know that I am, in spite of myself, exactly what the Christian would call, and, so far as I can see, is justified in calling, atheist and infidel.
  • The watch argument was Paley's greatest effort. A man finds a watch and it is so wonderful that he concludes that it must have had a maker. He finds the maker and he is so much more wonderful than the watch that he says he must have had a maker. Then he finds God, the maker of the man, and he is so much more wonderful than the man that he could not have had a maker. This is what the lawyers call a departure in pleading.
According to Paley there can be no design without a designer—but there can be a designer without a design. The wonder of the watch suggested the watchmaker, and the wonder of the watchmaker, suggested the creator, and the wonder of the creator demonstrated that he was not created—but was uncaused and eternal.
  • For my own part, I do not know what the sweat and blood of this life mean, if they mean anything short of this. If this life be not a real fight, in which something is eternally gained for the universe by success, it is no better than a game of private theatricals from which we may withdraw at will. But it feels like a real fight — as if there were something really wild in the universe which we, with all our idealities and faithfullnesses, are needed to redeem: and first of all to redeem our own hearts from atheism and fears. For such a half-wild, half-saved universe our nature is adapted.
  • The legitimate powers of government extend to only such acts as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say that there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket, nor breaks my leg.
  • You don't have to be brave or a saint, a martyr, or even very smart to be an atheist. All you have to be able to say is "I don't know".
  • Atheism is the only real hope against terrorism.
  • It has long been observed, that an atheist has no just reason for endeavouring conversions; and yet none harass those minds which they can influence, with more importunity of solicitation to adopt their opinions. In proportion as they doubt the truth of their own doctrines, they are desirous to gain the attestation of another understanding: and industriously labour to win a proselyte, and eagerly catch at the slightest pretence to dignify their sect with a distinguished name.
  • The Koran! well, come put me to the test—
    Lovely old book in hideous error drest—
     Believe me, I can quote the Koran too,
    The unbeliever knows his Koran best.

    And do you think that unto such as you,
    A maggot-minded, starved, fanatic crew,
     God gave the secret, and denied it me?—
    Well, well, what matters it! believe that too.

  • If there is one indisputable fact about the human condition it is that no community can survive if it is persuaded — or even if it suspects — that its members are leading meaningless lives in a meaningless universe.
  • Religious leaders must face the reality that here in Nigeria and elsewhere around the world, millions of people are leaving Christianity and Islam. While we are busy building walls of division with the blocks of prejudice, our members are becoming atheists but we prefer to pretend that we do not see this. We cannot pretend not to hear the footsteps of our faithful who are marching away into atheism and secularism. No threats can stop this, but dialogue can open our hearts.
  • Un dévot est celui qui, sous un roi athée, serait athée.
    • Translation: A man who parades his piety is one who, under an atheist king, would be an atheist.
    • Jean de La Bruyère, Les Caractères ou les Mœurs de ce siècle (1688), Ch. XIII "De la mode".
  • I had no need of that hypothesis.
    • Pierre-Simon Laplace, in response to Napoleon's objection that Laplace had omitted God from Celestial Mechanics (Boyer 1968, p. 538)
    • There is no contemporary source for this version of Laplace's interaction with Napoleon. It is not mentioned in the only eye-witness account of the event (see Daniel Johnson, 2007), and Hervé Faye was told by François Arago that Laplace had sought his help in a failed attempt to get the story removed from an unauthorized biography (Faye, Sur l'origine du monde, Paris, 1884, pp. 109–111). Scholars believe the hypothesis Laplace was referring to was Newton's notion that God had to intervene periodically to prevent secular perturbations from destroying the solar system. By demonstrating mathematically that the solar system was stable, Laplace eliminated any need for that hypothesis. (See, besides Faye and Johnson, Cajori's History of Mathematics, 1991 edn, p. 262, and Hawking, 1999).
  • Hesiod, the oldest author to have written on theogony, asserted that the gods and men are created by unknown natural forces. We can therefore consider paganism as a superstitious form of atheism.
    • Pierre-Simon Laplace, "On Causality" (manuscript), in Roger Hahn, Pierre-Simon Laplace,1749–1827: A Determined Scientist. Harvard University Press, 2005, p. 232.
  • Atheist ist nur der, der sich auch aus dem Atheismus keinen Gott macht.
    • Translation: The only atheist is someone who does not make a God even out of atheism itself.
    • Gabriel Lauber, Denken verdirbt den Charakter: Alle Aphorismen (1984). Munich: Carl Hauser Verlag, p. 37.
  • Für diejenigen, die schon in den Atheismus hineingeboren wurden, ist es ein Glaube wie jeder andere. Ein wirklicher Atheist ist nur ein ehemaliger Gläubiger.
    • Translation: For those who are born into atheism, it's a faith like any other. The only real atheist is an ex-believer.
    • Gabriel Lauber, Denken verdirbt den Charakter (1984), p. 39.
  • Were it possible to induce the masses to adopt atheism, this belief would exhibit all the intolerant ardor of a religious sentiment, and in its exterior forms would soon become a cult.
  • Even atheists rebel and express, like Hardy and Housman, their rage against God although (or because) He does not, on their view, exist...
  • ... und ich dank es dem lieben Gott tausendmal, daß er mich zum Atheisten hat werden lassen.
    • Translation: And I thank the Lord a thousand times that he let me become an atheist.
    • Georg Christoph Lichtenberg as quoted in Lichtenberg: A Doctrine of Scattered Occasions. Reconstructed from his Aphorisms and Reflections by J. P. Stern. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1959, p. 249. Original source: Entsprechend SB (= Sudelbücher) 3. 403.
  • Lastly, Those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the Being of a God. Promises, Covenants, and Oaths, which are the Bonds of Humane Society, can have no hold upon an Atheist. The taking away of God, though but even in thought, dissolves all. Besides also, those that by their Atheism undermine and destroy all Religion, can have no pretence of Religion whereupon to challenge the Privilege of a Toleration.
  • All I say is that I think it is damned unlikely that anything like a central cosmic will, a spirit world, or an eternal survival of personality exist. They are the most preposterous and unjustified of all the guesses which can be made about the universe, and I am not enough of a hair-splitter to pretend that I don't regard them as arrant and negligible moonshine. In theory I am an agnostic, but pending the appearance of radical evidence I must be classed, practically and provisionally, as an atheist.
    • H. P. Lovecraft letter to Robert E. Howard (August 16, 1932), in Selected Letters 1932-1934 (Sauk City, Wisconsin: Arkham House, 1976), p. 57.
  • Having insured the moderation of a fanatical rabble, by giving out among them the savage war-whoop of atheism, he (Edmund Burke) already fancies himself in full march to Paris.
    • James Mackintosh, Vindiciæ Gallicæ: Defence of the French Revolution and its English Admirers against the Accusations of the Right Hon. Edmund Burke (London, 1791), "Introduction"
  • Until someone claims to see Christopher Hitchens' face in a tree stump, idiots must stop claiming that atheism is a religion. There's one little difference: Religion is defined as the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, and atheism is — precisely not that. Got it? Atheism is a religion like abstinence is a sex position.
  • But when it comes to religion, we're not two sides of the same coin, and you don't get to put your unreason up on the same shelf with my reason. Your stuff has to go over there, on the shelf with Zeus and Thor and the Kraken, with the stuff that is not evidence-based, stuff that religious people never change their mind about, no matter what happens.
    • Bill Maher, Real Time With Bill Maher (HBO) (2012-02-03).
  • Największą wiarę mają ateiści: wierzą, że Boga nie ma.
    • Translation: The atheists have the greatest faith: they believe that God does not exist.
    • Andrzej Majewski, Aphorisms: Magnum in Parvo (2000). Warsaw: KiW.
  • The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.
  • People like Dawkins are the public face of atheism. And that public face is one that is defensively and irrationally sexist. It's not only turning women away from atheism, it's discrediting the idea that atheists are actually people who argue from a position of rationality. How can they be, when they cling to the ancient, irrational tradition of treating women like they aren't quite as human as men?
    • Amanda Marcotte quoted by journalist Kimberly Winston, The Washington Post (November 18, 2014) [3]
  • Absolute atheism starts in an act of faith in reverse gear and is a full-blown religious commitment.
  • Some people say God died during the Partition in 1947. He may have died in 1971 during the war. Or he may have died yesterday here in Pondicherry in an orphanage. That's what some people say, Pi. When I was your age, I lived in bed, racked with polio. I asked myself every day, 'Where is God? Where is God? Where is God?' God never came. It wasn't God who saved me—it was medicine. Reason is my prophet and it tells me that as a watch stops, so we die. It's the end. If the watch doesn't work properly, it must be fixed here and now by us. One day we will take hold of the means of production and there will be justice on earth.
  • I can well imagine an atheist's last words: "White, white! L-L-Love! My God!" — and the deathbed leap of faith. Whereas the agnostic, if he stays true to his reasonable self, if he stays beholden to dry, yeastless factuality, might try to explain the warm light bathing him by saying, "Possibly a f-f-failing oxygenation of the b-b-brain," and, to the very end, lack imagination and miss the better story.
  • 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.
  • Theology recognizes the contingency of human existence only to derive it from a necessary being, that is, to remove it. Theology makes use of philosophical wonder only for the purpose of motivating an affirmation which ends it. Philosophy, on the other hand, arouses us to what is problematic in our own existence and in that of the world, to such a point that we shall never be cured of searching for a solution.
  • The philosopher ... is well able to understand religion as one of the expressions of the central phenomenon of consciousness. But the example of Socrates reminds us that it is not the same thing, but almost the opposite, to understand religion and to accept it.
  • Belial came last, then whom a Spirit more lewd
    Fell not from Heaven, or more gross to love
    Vice for it self: To him no Temple stood
    Or Altar smoak’d; yet who more oft then hee
    In Temples and at Altars, when the Priest
    Turns Atheist, as did Ely’s Sons, who fill’d
    With lust and violence the house of God.
  • No hay arte ateo. Aunque no ames el Creador, lo afirmarás creando a su semejanza.
    • Translation: There is no atheist art. Even if you do not love the Creator, you will affirm him, creating in his likeness.
    • Gabriela Mistral, "Decálogo del artista" ("Decalogue of the Artist"), Desolación (1922).
  • In the unlikely event of losing Pascal's Wager, I intend to saunter in to Judgement Day with a bookshelf full of grievances, a flaming sword of my own devising, and a serious attitude problem.
    • Rick Moen, "TAN: Mormons" 1997-10-11, rec.arts.sf.written.robert-jordan
  • I remember how, at Cambridge, I walked with her (George Eliot) once in the Fellows' Garden of Trinity, on an evening of rainy May, and she, stirred somewhat beyond her wont, and taking as her text the three words which have been used so often as the inspiring trumpet-calls of men — the words God, Immortality, Duty — pronounced with terrible earnestness how inconceivable was the first, how unbelievable the second, and yet how peremptory and absolute the third. Never, perhaps, have sterner accents affirmed the sovereignty of impersonal and unrecompensing Law. I listened, and night fell; her grave, majestic countenance turned towards me like a sibyl's in the gloom; it was as though she withdrew from my grasp, one by one, the two scrolls of promise, and left me the third scroll only, awful with inevitable fate. And when we stood at length and parted amid that columnar circuit of the forest trees, beneath the last twilight of starless skies, I seemed to be gazing, like Titus at Jerusalem, on vacant seats and empty halls — on a Sanctuary with no Presence to hallow it, and heaven left lonely of a God.
  • Atheism is so senseless & odious to mankind that it never had many professors. Can it be by accident that all birds beasts & men have their right side & left side alike shaped (except in their bowells) & just two eyes & no more on either side the face & just two ears on either side the head & a nose with two holes & no more between the eyes & one mouth under the nose & either two fore leggs or two wings or two arms on the sholders & two leggs on the hipps one on either side & no more? Whence arises this uniformity in all their outward shapes but from the counsel & contrivance of an Author? Whence is it that the eyes of all sorts of living creatures are transparent to the very bottom & the only transparent members in the body, having on the outside an hard transparent skin, & within transparent juyces with a crystalline Lens in the middle & a pupil before the Lens all of them so truly shaped & fitted for vision, that no Artist can mend them? Did blind chance know that there was light & what was its refraction & fit the eys of all creatures after the most curious manner to make use of it? These & such like considerations always have & ever will prevail with man kind to believe that there is a being who made all things & has all things in his power & who is therfore to be feared.
  • You see what it was that really triumphed over the Christian God: Christian morality itself, the concept of truthfulness that was understood more rigorously, the father confessor’s refinement of the Christian conscience, translated and sublimated into a scientific conscience, into intellectual cleanliness at any price.
  • Your petitioners are Atheists and they define their beliefs as follows. An Atheist loves his fellow man instead of god. An Atheist believes that heaven is something for which we should work now—here on earth for all men together to enjoy. An Atheist believes that he can get no help through prayer but that he must find in himself the inner conviction, and strength to meet life, to grapple with it, to subdue it, and enjoy it. An Atheist believes that only in a knowledge of himself and a knowledge of his fellow man can he find the understanding that will help to a life of fulfillment. He seeks to know himself and his fellow man rather than to know a god. An Atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An Atheist believes that deed must be done instead of a prayer said. An Atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanished, war eliminated.
    • Madalyn Murray O'Hair, Petition for Relief (1959), Murray v. Curlett, quoted in "Why I am an Atheist" (1966).
  • Athéisme, force de l'esprit, mais jusq'à un certain degré seulement.
  • Objection des athées: "Mais nous n'avons nulle lumière."
    • Translation: Objection of atheists: "But we have no light."
    • Blaise Pascal, Pensées (1699; transaltion 1869), 228
    • In another pensée Pascal writes: "There is enough light for those who only desire to believe, and enough obscurity for those of a contrary disposition." (430).
  • No one is so much alone in the universe as a denier of God. With an orphaned heart, which has lost the greatest of fathers, he stands mourning by the immeasurable corpse of nature, no longer moved and sustained by the Spirit of the universe.
    • Jean Paul, Blumen- Frucht- und Dornenstücke, oder Ehestand, Tod und Hochzeit des Armenadvokaten Siebenkäs (1796), translated as E. H. Noel (tr.), Flower, fruit and thorn pieces: or, The married life, death, and wedding of the advocate of the poor Firmian Stanislaus Siebenkäs (1845), p. 276.
  • He who tries to flee from God takes refuge in himself.
    • Philo, Legum allegoriarum (Allegorical Interpretation), Book III, 29 (1st century).
  • By definition, that is, by its very stance, atheism denies or ignores the creatureliness and thus also the provisionality [Entwurfscharakter] of the world and man — with the consequence that atheists must explain man's moral failure as, at most, inappropriate behavior, or perhaps as an error of judgment, or, even more tepidly, as an inability to adapt to society.
    • Josef Pieper, The Concept of Sin (1977), translated by Edward T. Oakes, S.J. South Bend, Indiana: St Augustine's Press, 2001, p. 39.
  • If the only thing keeping a person decent is the expectation of divine reward then, brother, that person is a piece of shit. And I’d like to get as many of them out in the open as possible. You gotta get together and tell yourself stories that violate every law of the universe just to get through the goddamn day? What’s that say about your reality?
  • You are young, my son, and, as the years go by, time will change and even reverse many of your present opinions. Refrain therefore awhile from setting yourself up as a judge of the highest matters... Not one of them who took up in his youth with this opinion that there are no gods ever continued until old age faithful to his conviction.
    • Plato, The Laws (Plato's last and longest dialogue)
  • If religion has no intrinsic content and value, and is only a fraud, then its interest to scholarship should be marginal. Yet research institutes publishing houses, journals and thousands of PhDs and other scholars are engagd in nothing other than a systematic lifetime study of religion and its refutation. But if millions of roubles and man-hours of Soviet scholars are spent on the study of religion, then the subject is worthy of scholarly pursuit, and must be in itself a scholarly discipline, not simply a fraud or opiate. In other words, its study required an objective, open-ended approach. Yet Soviet scholars are oblidged to approach the suject with a predetermined conclusion: whatever they discover about religion and the believers, their conclusion must be negative, it must lead to only one single definition of religion, namely that it is a fraud and a delusion. In these circumstances all Soviet atheistic scholarship becomes nothing but support for the main thesis. This obligatory thesis, the condemnation of religion as fraud and believers as vicctims of fraud perpetuated by a clergy who are either clever swindlers or fools, has to be made in such a way as to appear as fresh and new as possible.
  • A textbook, Foundation of Scientific Atheism, defined atheism as:
    'a system of materialistic scientifically based views, rejecting any faith in go (or gods), in supernatural powers and any religion one of the essential and most important aspects of materialistic philosophy.'
    Religion in the same book is described as 'a form of social consciousness... a perverse, fantastic reflection of reality in the consciousness of men'. This, of course, is straight out of Engels. All religious philosophy is described as a class philosophy. Hence Plato, for instance, is said to 'represent the interest of the slave-owning aristocracy'. But then it has to be shown that atheism, has always been a major school of thought wherefore moralists, such as Lao-Tse, and pantheists, such as Spinoza are presented, or rather misrepresented, as atheists.
  • Atheists put on a false courage and alacrity in the midst of their darkness and apprehensions, like children who, when they fear to go in the dark, will sing for fear.
    • Alexander Pope, "Thoughts on Various Subjects" (1727), Miscellanies in Verse and Prose, Vol. II.
  • The believer in God has to account for one thing, the existence of unjust suffering; the atheist, however, has to account for the existence of everything else.
  • I am an intransigent atheist, though not a militant one. This means that I am not fighting against religion — I am fighting for reason.
    • Ayn Rand (1963), in Michael S. Berliner, ed., Letters of Ayn Rand (New York: Dutton, 1995), p. 606.
  • There is no 'law' in heaven or earth that man must needs obey! Take what you can, and all you can; and take it while you – may.
    Let not the Jew-born Christ ideal unnerve you from the fight. You have no 'rights' except the rights you win by – might.
    There is no justice, right, nor wrong; no truth, no good, no evil. There is no 'man's immortal soul,' no fiery, fearsome devil.
    There is no 'heaven of glory:' No! – no 'hell where sinners roast.' There is no 'God the Father,' No! – no Son, no 'Holy Ghost.'
    The world is no Nirvāna where joy forever flows. It is a grewsome butcher shop where dead 'lambs' hang in rows.
    Man is the most ferocious of all the beasts of prey. He rageth round the mountains, to love, and feast, and – slay.
    He sails the stormy oceans, he gallops o'er the plains, and sucks the very marrow-bones of captives held in – chains.
    Death endeth all for every man, – for every 'son of thunder;' Then be a lion (not a 'lamb') and – don't be trampled under.
  • Most intellectual people do not believe in God, but they fear him just the same.
    • Wilhelm Reich, in James Lee Christian Philosophy : An Introduction to the Art of Wondering, (2005), p. 556.
  • Atheism is aristocratic; the idea of a Great Being that watches over oppressed innocence and punishes triumphant crime is altogether popular. The people, the unfortunate, will always applaud me; I shall find detractors only among the rich and the guilty.
    • Maximilien Robespierre, "Address to the Jacobin Club" (November 21, 1793), in Œuvres Complètes (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1910–1967), vol. 10, p. 195.
    • Slavoj Žižek writes that for Robespierre atheism was "the ideology of the cynical-hedonistic aristocrats who had lost all sense of historical mission" (In Defense of Lost Causes. London: Verso, 2008, p. 499).
  • In this actual world a churchless community, a community where men have abandoned and scoff at or ignore their religious needs, is a community on the rapid down grade. It is true that occasional individuals or families may have nothing to do with church or with religious practices and observances and yet maintain the highest standard of refined ethical obligation. But this does not affect the case in the world as it now is, any more than the fact that exceptional men and women under exceptional conditions have disregarded the marriage tie without moral harm to themselves interferes with the larger fact that such disregard if at all common means the complete moral disintegration of the body politic
  • The ultimate source of our civilization's disease is the spiritual and religious crisis which has overtaken all of us and which each must master for himself. Above all, man is Homo religiosus, and yet we have, for the past century, made the desperate attempt to get along without God, and in the place of God we have set up the cult of man, his profane or even ungodly science and art, his technical achievements, and his State. We may be certain that some day the whole world will come to see, in a blinding flash, what is now clear to only a few, namely, that this desperate attempt has created a situation in which man can have no spiritual and moral life, and this means that he cannot live at all for any length of time, in spite of television and speedways and holiday trips and comfortable apartments. We seem to have proved the existence of God in yet another way: by the practical consequences of His assumed non-existence.
    • Wilhelm Röpke, A Humane Economy: The Social Framework of the Free Market (1958)
  • Atheism is an old idea, probably as old as humanity, and it has always justified its case by its superior understanding of nature. Unfortunately, as scientific knowledge has become more sophisticated over the past three centuries, all the scientific ideas which support atheism have evaporated into murky puddles of water, when they have not actually dried up entirely. It is now clear that the Universe has not always been here, it has a beginning. Everything is not made of indestructible atoms. Life is not caused by sunlight on dungheaps, and so on.
    • Bill Saunders, "Sunlight on dungheaps", Independent On Sunday, 10 June 2001.
  • I have concluded, through careful empirical analysis and much thought, that somebody is looking out for me, keeping track of what I think about things, forgiving me when I do less than I ought, giving me strength to shoot for more than I think I'm capable of. I believe they know everything that I do and think and they still love me, and I have concluded after careful consideration, that this person keeping score is me.
  • You don't have to believe in atheism, because atheism is based on REASON.
  • Nee, ich trinke keinen Tee, ich bin Atheist.
    • Translation: Nah, I don't drink tea, I'm an atheist.
    • Helge Schneider, Jazzclub — Der frühe Vogel fängt den Wurm (2004), a film he wrote, directed, acted in and composed the music for.
  • Atheists in foxholes, some say they are myths,
    Creations of the mind who just don't exist.
    Yet, they answered the call to defend, with great pride.
    With reason their watchword, they bled and they died.
    • Alice Shiver, "Atheists-in-Foxholes" monument, dedicated on 4 July 1999.
  • Nationwide, the nonreligious population is both the fastest growing, and the most despised. I ask you all, why is that? Why are we hated, when we endorse no violence, incite no racism or hatred, and demand nothing more than equal treatment? I'll tell you why: It's easy to hate what you don't know, and the theists don't know us. Well, actually, they do know us, but they don't know they know us, because most atheists in this country are closeted. Bigotry is born of ignorance, but ignorance can be cured. If the atheists weren't closeted, it would be harder to hate us, because in the end, you can't hate what you already love.
  • The centralized atheism before whose armed might the whole world trembles still hates and fears this unarmed faith as much today as it did 60 years ago. Yes! All the savage persecutions loosed upon our people by a murderous state atheism, coupled with the corroding effect of its lies, and an avalanche of stultifying propaganda — all of these together have proven weaker than the thousand-year-old faith of our nation. This faith has not been destroyed; it remains the most sublime, the most cherished gift to which our lives and consciousness can attain.
  • More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”
  • Imperceptibly, through decades of gradual erosion, the meaning of life in the West has ceased to be seen as anything more lofty than the “pursuit of happiness, “a goal that has even been solemnly guaranteed by constitutions. The concepts of good and evil have been ridiculed for several centuries; banished from common use, they have been replaced by political or class considerations of short-lived value. It has become embarrassing to state that evil makes its home in the individual human heart before it enters a political system. Yet it is not considered shameful to make daily concessions to an integral evil. Judging by the continuing landslide of concessions made before the eyes of our very own generation, the West is ineluctably slipping toward the abyss. Western societies are losing more and more of their religious essence as they thoughtlessly yield up their younger generation to atheism.
  • In the first place, it is clear that by self-existence we especially mean, an existence independent of any other — not produced by any other: the assertion of self-existence is simply an indirect denial of creation.... Self-existence, therefore, necessarily means existence without a beginning; and to form a conception of self-existence is to form a conception of existence without a beginning. Now by no mental effort can we do this.... To this let us add, that even were self-existence conceivable, it would not in any sense be an explanation of the Universe.... Thus the Atheistic theory is not only absolutely unthinkable, but, even if it were thinkable, would not be a solution. The assertion that the Universe is self-existent does not really carry us a step beyond the cognition of its present existence; and so leaves us with a mere restatement of the mystery.
    • Herbert Spencer, First Principles (1862). London: Williams and Norgate, pp. 32–33.
  • As was proved at the outset of the argument, self-existence is rigorously inconceivable; and this holds true whatever be the nature of the object of which it is predicated.... Thus these three different suppositions [atheism, pantheism, theism] respecting the origin of things, verbally intelligible though they are, and severally seeming to their respective adherents quite rational, turn out, when critically examined to be literally unthinkable. It is not a question of probability, or credibility, but of conceivability. Experiment proves that the elements of these hypotheses cannot even be put together in consciousness; and we can entertain them only as we entertain such pseud-ideas as a square fluid and a moral substance — only by abstaining from the endeavour to render them into actual thoughts. Or, reverting to our original mode of statement, we may say that they severally involve symbolic conceptions of the illegitimate and illusive kind. Differing so widely as they seem to do, the atheistic, the pantheistic, and the theistic hypotheses contain the same ultimate element. It is impossible to avoid making the assumption of self-existence somewhere; and whether that assumption be made nakedly, or under complicated disguises, it is equally vicious, equally unthinkable.
  • Passing over the consideration of credibility, and confining ourselves to that of conceivability, we see that Atheism, Pantheism, and Theism, when rigorously analyzed, severally prove to be absolutely unthinkable.
  • Leaving out the accompanying moral code, which is in all cases a supplementary growth, a religious creed is definable as a theory of original causation.... [E]ven that which is commonly regarded as the negation of all Religion — even positive Atheism, comes within the definition; for it, too, in asserting the self-existence of Space, Matter, and Motion, which it regards as adequate causes of every appearance, propounds an à priori theory from which it holds the facts to be deducible.
  • You know, they are fooling us, there is no God.
    • Joseph Stalin, to a fellow student while studying to become a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church; quoted in Landmarks in the Life of Stalin (1942) by Yemelyan Yaroslavsky, p. 9.
  • We had many interesting conversations and he introduced me to his young wife. He confided to me that he had married her because she was a fanatical atheist. Atheism was the main topic of their conversations. Such fervid atheism is usually a screen for repressed religion. The truly convinced atheist does not emphasize his atheism. He does not talk about it and is careful to avoid blasphemies.
    The man was interested in dreams and each morning he related several of his dreams. They were full of religious symbols. I was cautious not to reveal to him the meaning of his dreams; such off-hand analyses are always dangerous.... The banker did not want to be disturbed in his supposed atheism.... His atheism was a reaction formation established upon an ineradicable religious belief.
    • Wilhelm Stekel, "Autobiography" [serialized], American Journal of Psychotherapy, Vol. II (1948); The Autobiography of Wilhelm Stekel: The Life Story of a Pioneer Psychoanalyst (1950), translated and edited by E. A. Gutheil, New York: Liveright. See full extract in "Wilhelm Stekel on Atheism and Telepathy". The man. Stekel's fellow-passenger on a transatlantic liner, was a prominent New York banker on his way to Europe to attend an international banking conference.
    • Often quoted as "Fervid atheism is usually a screen for repressed religion."
  • Nothing enlarges more the gulf of atheism, than that wide passage, which lies between the faith and lives of men pretending to be Christians.
  • Atheists keep up their scoffing at the higher being, which was also honoured under the name of the 'highest' or être suprême, and trample in the dust one 'proof of his existence' after another, without noticing that they themselves, out of need for a higher being, only annihilate the old to make room for a new.
    • Max Stirner, The Ego and its Own (1845). Cambridge 1995, p. 38-39
  • Including, I suppose, death. ... It's an interesting view of atheism, as a sort of crutch for those who can't bear the reality of God.
  • The thing framed says that nothing framed it; the tongue never made itself to speak, and yet talks against him that did; saying that which is made, is, and that which made it, is not. But this folly is infinite as hell, as much without light or bound as the chaos or the primitive nothing.
    • Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667), Discourses on Various Subjects, Sermon XX, p. 376.
    • Misquoted in Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers, p. 18, as "The thing formed says that nothing formed it; and that which is made is, while that which made it is not! The folly is infinite."
  • “Is there a God?” I said. “I mean, are you in touch, telepathically, with any kind of God?”
    “No. I’m not in touch with anything like that. As far as I know, there is no God.”
    “Oh,” I said.
    “It doesn’t bother you,” the voice said. “You may think it does; but it doesn’t. You’re really on your own. You’ve been learning that.”
  • An Atheist is a man who believes himself an accident.
    • Francis Thompson, "Paganism: Old and New", A Renegade Poet and Other Essays (1910), p. 47.
  • When men live as if there were no God, it becomes expedient for them that there should be none; and then they endeavour to persuade themselves so, and will be glad to find arguments to fortify themselves in this persuasion.
    • John Tillotson, "The Folly of Scoffing at Religion" (1671), in Works, Volume I, Edinburgh, 1748, p. 58.
  • In former days the free-thinker was a man who had been brought up in ideas of religion, law, and morality, and only through conflict and struggle came to free-thought; but now there has sprung up a new type of born free-thinkers who grow up without even having heard of principles of morality or of religion, of the existence of authorities, who grow up directly in ideas of negation in everything, that is to say, savages.
  • What men deny is not God, but some preposterous idol of the imagination.
  • The parasites which live in the intestines of higher animals, feeding upon the nutritive juices which these animals supply, do not need either to see or hear, and therefore for them the visible and audible world does not exist. And if they possessed a certain degree of consciousness and took account of the fact that the animal at whose expense they live believed in a world of sight and hearing, they would perhaps deem such belief to be due merely to the extravagance of its imagination. And similarly there are social parasites, as Mr. A. J. Balfour admirably observes, who, receiving from the society in which they live the motives of their moral conduct, deny that belief in God and the other life is a necessary foundation for good conduct and for a tolerable life, society having prepared for them the spiritual nutriment by which they live. An isolated individual can endure life and live it well and even heroically without in any sort believing either in the immortality of the soul or in God, but he lives the life of a spiritual parasite.
  • Among the repulsions of atheism for me has been its drastic uninterestingness as an intellectual position. Where was the ingenuity, the ambiguity, the humanity (in the Harvard sense) of saying that the universe just happened to happen and that when we're dead we're dead?
    • John Updike, Self-Consciousness: Memoirs (1989), ch. 4.
  • For entirely savage races,... one cannot count them among either the atheists or the theists. Asking them their belief would be like asking them if they are for Aristotle or Democritus: they know nothing; they are not atheists any more than they are Peripatetics.
  • Atheism is the vice of a few intelligent persons, and superstition is the vice of fools.
    • Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary (1764), "Atheism", Section I.
  • The atheists are for the most part impudent and misguided scholars who reason badly, and who, not being able to understand the creation, the origin of evil and other difficulties, have recourse to the hypotheses of the eternity of things and of inevitability.
  • I would not wish to have to deal with an atheist prince, who would find it in his interest to have me ground to powder in a mortar: I should be quite certain of being ground to powder. If I were a sovereign, I would not wish to have to deal with atheist courtiers, whose interest it would be to poison me: I should have to be taking antidotes every day. It is therefore absolutely necessary for princes and for peoples, that the idea of a Supreme Being, creator, ruler, rewarder, revenger, shall be deeply engraved in people's minds.
    • Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary (1764), "Atheism", Section II.
  • The Caffres, the Hottentots, the Topinambous, and many other small nations, have no God: they neither deny nor affirm; they have never heard speak of Him; tell them that there is a God: they will believe it easily; tell them that everything happens through the nature of things: they will believe you equally. To claim that they are atheists is to make the same imputation as if one said they are anti-Cartesian; they are neither for nor against Descartes. They are real children; a child is neither atheist nor deist, he is nothing.
    • Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary (1764), "Atheism", Section II.
  • What conclusion shall we draw from all this? That atheism is a very pernicious monster in those who govern; that it is also pernicious in the persons around statesmen ...; that, if it is not so deadly as fanaticism, it is nearly always fatal to virtue.
    • Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary (1764), "Atheism", Section II.
  • If there are atheists, whom must one blame if not the mercenary tyrants of souls, who, making us revolt against their knaveries, force a few weak minds to deny the God whom these monsters dishonour?
    • Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary (1764), "Atheism", Section II.
  • Men fattened on our substance cry to us: "Be persuaded that a she-ass has spoken (Balaam's ass); believe that a fish has swallowed a man and has given him up at the end of three days safe and sound on the shore (Jonah); have no doubt that the God of the universe ordered one Jewish prophet to eat excrement (Ezekiel), and another prophet to buy two whores and to make with them sons of whoredom (Hosea)." These are the very words that the God of truth and purity has been made to utter.... These inconceivable absurdities revolt weak and rash minds, as well as wise and resolute minds. They say: "Our masters paint God to us as the most insensate and the most barbarous of all beings; therefore there is no God;" but they should say: "Our masters attribute to God their absurdities and their furies; therefore God is the contrary of what they proclaim, therefore God is as wise and good as they make him out mad and wicked." It is thus that wise men account for things.
    • Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary (1764), "Atheism", Section II.
  • Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is an absurd one. What is most repellent in [Holbach's] The System of Nature — after the recipe for making eels from flour — is the audacity with which it decides that there is no God, without even having tried to prove the impossibility. There is some eloquence in the book: but much more rant, and no sort of proof.
    • Voltaire, letter to Frederick William, Prince of Prussia (28 November 1770), in S. G. Tallentyre (ed.), Voltaire in His Letters. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1919, p. 232.
  • The sermon was based on what he claimed was a well-known fact, that there were no Atheists in foxholes. I asked Jack what he thought of the sermon afterwards, and he said, "There's a Chaplain who never visited the front."
  • If we don't play God, who will?
    • James D. Watson (1996), in The Lives to Come: The Genetic Revolution and Human Possibilities, [4] New York; Simon and Schuster.
  • One of the most exquisite pleasures of human love — to serve the loved one without his knowing it — is only possible, as regards the love of God, through atheism.
  • In order to obey God, one must receive his commands. How did it happen that I received them in adolescence, while I was professing atheism? To believe that the desire for good is always fulfilled — that is faith, and whoever has it is not an atheist.
  • No human being escapes the necessity of conceiving some good outside himself towards which his thought turns in a movement of desire, supplication, and hope. Consequently, the only choice is between worshipping the true God or an idol. Every atheist is an idolater — unless he is worshipping the true God in his impersonal aspect. The majority of the pious are idolaters.
  • There are two atheisms of which one is a purification of the notion of God.
    • Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace (La Pesanteur et la grâce, 1947). Routledge Classics, 2002, p. 114.
  • Religion in so far as it is a source of consolation is a hindrance to true faith: in this sense atheism is a purification. I have to be atheistic with the part of me which is not made for God. Among those in whom the supernatural part of themselves has not been awakened, the atheists are right and the believers wrong.
    • Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace (1947), Routledge Classics, 2002, p. 115; also in George A. Panichas (ed.), The Simone Weil Reader (1977). New York: David McKay, p. 417.
  • As in the West, the word God, taken in its usual meaning, signifies a Person, men whose attention, faith and love are almost exclusively concentrated on the impersonal aspect of God can actually believe themselves and declare themselves to be atheists, even though supernatural love inhabits their souls.
    • Simone Weil, Letter to a Priest (Lettre a un religieux, 1951), translated by A. F. Wills, Section 12. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1953, pp. 35–36
    • Often misquoted as "An atheist may be simply one whose faith and love are concentrated on the impersonal aspects of God."
  • Premature as the question may be, it is hardly possible not to wonder whether we will find any answer to our deepest questions, any signs of the workings of an interested God, in a final theory. I think that we will not.
  • The aim of this conference is to have a constructive dialogue between science and religion. I am all in favor of a dialogue between science and religion, but not a constructive dialogue. One of the great achievements of science has been, if not to make it impossible for intelligent people to be religious, then at least to make it possible for them not to be religious. We should not retreat from this accomplishment.
    • Steven Weinberg, Facing Up: Science and Its Cultural Adversaries (2001), p. 242.
  • As a born-again atheist, I now knew exactly what satisfactions were on offer. For the first time in my 38 years I was at one with my own generation.... If I bumped into Richard Dawkins (an old colleague from Oxford days) or had dinner in Washington with Christopher Hitchens ..., I did not have to feel out on a limb. Hitchens was excited to meet a new convert to his non-creed and put me through a catechism before uncorking some stupendous claret. "So - absolutely no God?" "Nope," I was able to say with Moonie-zeal. "No future life, nothing 'out there'?" "No," I obediently replied. At last! I could join in the creed shared by so many (most?) of my intelligent contemporaries in the Western world - that men and women are purely material beings (whatever that is supposed to mean), that "this is all there is" (ditto), that God, Jesus and religion are a load of baloney: and worse than that, the cause of much (no, come on, let yourself go), most (why stint yourself - go for it, man), all the trouble in the world, from Jerusalem to Belfast, from Washington to Islamabad.
  • Given your premises, you will have to come up with a different reason for rejecting Christ as you do. But for you to make this move would reveal the two fundamental tenets of true atheism. One: There is no God. Two: I hate Him.
  • Atheism is speculatively as unfounded as theism, and practically can only spring from bad motives.
    • Chauncey Wright, letter to Francis Allingwood Abbot (October 28, 1867). Letters of Chauncey Wright, ed. James Bradley Thayer. Cambridge, Mass.: John Wilson, 1878, p. 133
    • Wright had earlier written to Abbot that "about what we really know nothing we ought not to affirm or deny anything" (August 13, 1867). Letters of Chauncey Wright, p. 109.
  • By night an atheist half believes in God.
  • Atheism is not the denial of the existence of God, but having doubts as to whether God is conscious.
    • Slavoj Žižek in Slavoj Žižek and Boris Gunjević, God in Pain: Inversions of Apocalypse (2012), translated by Ellen Elias Bursac. New York: Seven Stories Press.


  • Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.
    • Attributed to Seneca, as quoted in What Great Men Think About Religion (1945) by Ira D. Cardiff, p. 342. No original source for this has been found in the works of Seneca, or published translations (see: Talk:Seneca the Younger).
  • 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 God both able and willing?
    Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing?
    Then why call him God?

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