At its core, atheism is simply the reverse of theism, a concept affirming the existence of God and divinity. Atheism renounced the idea of a universal Creator and can be distinguished and distanced from agnosticism, which leaves open the question of the whether there is a indeed a God.

For the atheist, the existence of God is a fallacy. Atheism has emerged time and time again, at regular intervals, in Western thought. In his book, The Law, written in 360BCE, Plato argued against it, while the Grecian 'laughing philosopher', Democritus, voted overwhelmingly in its favor through his atomics discourse in the 4th century before Christ. Epicurus, another notable ancient intellectual giant, through his 'Principal Doctrine', argued for it in the framework of the world's materialism.

Niccolò Machiavelli in the 16th century bulldozed atheism into the political sphere by affirming the autonomy of politics from morality and religion. The 18th century witnessed the emergence of atheism amongst the French literatis, who attempted to associate British empiricism (a philosophical movement led by John Locke and David Hume, among others) with René Descartes's (of the "Cogito ergo sum" fame) mechanistic and orderly conception of the universe. David Hume, in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779), argued against the customary proofs for the existence of God, as did Immanuel Kant. Neither Hume nor Kant were atheists, but their rejection of human emotion as a basis of theism left the existence of God a business of pure faith.

In the 19th century, atheism was cradled in the materialistic model of Karl Marx's societical model and pitted themselves against the metaphysical standpoint of spiritualism. Contemporary atheism took on diverse alternative forms other than that of materialism. In short, atheism has been ingrained in a vast array of philosophical concepts over the centuries. One of the foremost 19th-century atheists was Ludwig Feuerbach, who asserted that God is a projection of humanity's ideals. Feuerbach associated his denial of God with the recognition of man's freedom - that since the revelation that God is a mere projection, it liberates man for traditional religious constraints.

Marx drew on Feuerbach's thesis, although he also held that religion reflects socioeconomic mandate and alienates man from his labor product and, hence, from his tangible self. Charles Darwin developed a scientific thesis of natural history that challenged the Judeo- Christian conception of God. Eventually, Sigmund Freud, drew on Darwinian evolutionary concepts when he discussed the historical development of the religious mindset. According to Freud, belief in God represents a juvenile psychological state in which the personage of a father-figure is projected upon the forces of nature, thus offering an opportunity for redemption.

A third sort in modern atheism is the existentialist. Friedrich Nietzsche proclaimed the death of God and the resulting declivity of all traditional ideology. The solitary conceivable human response, he argued, is that of nihilism-without God, there is no answer to the question of purpose and significance in life. In Nietzsche's view, the death of God freed humanity to fulfill its unlimited potential and discover its own essence. In the 20th century, Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and a number of others continued on this theme. Sarte espouses that human freedom entails the refutation of God, for God's existence would jeopardize our freedom to create our own values through free, unbiased, ethical choice.


Agnosticism is a doctrine that asserts that humans are not capable of knowing the existence of anything beyond the phenomena of their own, or communal sets of experience.

The term agnosticism, in direct reference to Gnostic (of Gnostic Christian texts), has come to be equated in the mainstream world with skepticism in the matter of religious questions. Agnosticism, both as a term and as a philosophical position, gained credence through its advocacy by Thomas Huxley, who is thought to have coined the word agnostic in 1869, to categorize someone who repudiates traditional Judeo-Christian theism and yet disclaimed the limitations of atheism, in order to abstain from such questions as the existence of God.


 Religions of the World

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