Sociology Index

Sociology of Society and Atheism

Atheism is as old as religion. As religion and its place in society have evolved throughout history, so have the standing and philosophical justification for atheism. Epicurus (341-270 BC) was a materialist and probably the first 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 perishes 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.

Comments on society and atheism by intellectuals:

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 )

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 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.

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 Journals

The Journal of Religion and Popular Culture is a web-based, peer-reviewed journal committed to the academic exploration, analysis and interpretation, from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, of the interrelations and interactions between religion and religious expression and popular culture, broadly defined as the products of contemporary mass culture.

Rationalist & Humanist - Serving New Zealand's non-religious community since 1927.

History of Religions

Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

Journal of Contemporary Religion

Journal of Religious History

Studies in Comparative Religion

The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion

Visible Religion

Society and Atheism Abstracts

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
The book contains biography and ideas of eight thinkers of twentieth century India: Periyar, M. N. Roy, Ambedkar, Gora, Kovoor, A. B. Shah, Narsingh Narain and Ramswaroop Verma.

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
International Journal for Philosophy of Religion
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.

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
Department of Social Work, Nazorova 51, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia
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
Source: Journal of Contemporary Religion, Volume 23, Number 3, October 2008 , pp. 363-368(6)
Publisher: Routledge, part of the Taylor & Francis Group
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) - Journal of Contemporary Religion(1999)14,1,41-62
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.

The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins.

The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design by Richard Dawkins.

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 God Virus: How religion infects our lives and culture by Darrel W. Ray (Author) Ed. D. (Illust).

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

God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist by Victor J. Stenger.

Does God Get Diarrhea?: Flushing 4,000 Years Of Lies, Myths, And Fairy Tales Down The Toilet Odin Zeus McGaffer.

God Hates You, Hate Him Back: Making Sense of The Bible (Revised International Edition) by CJ Werleman.

Jesus Lied - He Was Only Human: Debunking The New Testament by CJ Werleman.

The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails by John W. Loftus.

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.

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.

In my 'Rise and Fall of the Gods' (1931) I traced the weird and ever-changing belief in Gods from the days of man's infancy to our own time. I showed that at every period during the 5,000 years of history when men developed a higher culture Atheism appeared. We see it so widespread in civilization 2,500 years ago that it takes a prominent place in history in the form of the Ionian philosophy of Greece and the ethic of Buddha and Confucius in Asia. We find the thinly veiled Atheism of the Stoics. Epicureans, and Skeptics accepted by the great majority of the better-educated. Atheism perishes 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.

Books and journal articles on atheism:

Philosophy & Atheism: In Defense of Atheism - by Kai Nielsen.
Against the Faith: Essays on Deists, Skeptics, and Atheists - by Jim Herrick.
Critiques of God: Making the Case against Belief in God - by Peter A. Angeles.
Naturalism without Foundations (Part Four: "Toward a Nonscientistic Atheism") - by Kai Nielsen.
The Human Enterprise: An Attempt to Relate Philosophy to Daily Life (Chap. X "The Two Atheisms") - by M. C. Otto.
American Freethought, 1860-1914 (Chap. 8 "Atheism: Left-Wing of the Freethought Movement") - by Sidney Warren.
The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur (Chap. 20 "Ricoeur on Atheism: A Critique") - by Lewis Edwin Hahn. .
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.
Religion and the Enlightenment: From Descartes to Kant (Chap. 6 "From Scepticism to Atheism") - by James M. Byrne.
God and Secularity (Chap. 7 "The Reality of God") - by John Macquarrie.

Plato, Phaedo, in The Last Days of Socrates (Penguin Classics, 1995).
David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (Penguin Classics, 1990).
Thomas H. Huxley, Agnosticism and Christianity and Other Essays (Prometheus Books, 1992).
James Thrower, Western Atheism: A Short History (Prometheus Books, 2000).
S.T. Joshi, ed., Atheism: A Reader (Prometheus Books, 2000).