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Atheism is, in the broadest sense, the absence of belief in the existence of deities. Less broadly, atheism is the rejection of belief that any deities exist. In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which, in its most general form, is the belief that at least one deity exists.

The etymological root for the word atheism originated before the 5th century BCE from the ancient Greek ἄθεος (atheos), meaning "without god(s)". In antiquity it had multiple uses as a pejorative term applied to those thought to reject the gods worshiped by the larger society, those who were forsaken by the gods or those who had no commitment to belief in the gods. The term denoted a social category created by orthodox religionists into which those who did not share their religious beliefs were placed. The actual term atheism emerged first in the 16th century. With the spread of freethought, skeptical inquiry, and subsequent increase in criticism of religion, application of the term narrowed in scope. The first individuals to identify themselves using the word atheist lived in the 18th century during the Age of Enlightenment. The French Revolution, noted for its "unprecedented atheism," witnessed the first major political movement in history to advocate for the supremacy of human reason. The French Revolution can be described as the first period where atheism became implemented politically.

Arguments for atheism range from the philosophical to social and historical approaches. Rationales for not believing in deities include arguments that there is a lack of empirical evidence, the problem of evil, the argument from inconsistent revelations, the rejection of concepts that cannot be falsified, and the argument from nonbelief. Proponents contend that atheism is a more parsimonious position than theism and that it is the position in which everyone is born; therefore, they argue that the burden of proof lies not on the atheist to disprove the existence of God but on the theist to provide a rationale for theism. However, others have disagreed with the view of being born into such a position. Although some atheists have adopted secular philosophies (e.g. secular humanism), there is no one ideology or set of behaviors to which all atheists adhere.

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World map based on results of 2002 Pew Research Center study on percentage of people who regard religion as "important"
Irreligion, irreligiousness, or nonreligion is an umbrella term which, depending on context, may be understood as referring to atheism, agnosticism, deism, skepticism, freethought, secular humanism, general secularism, or heresy. Irreligion has at least three related yet distinct meanings: absence of religion (either due to not having information about religion or to not believing in it), hostility to religion, and behaving in such a way that fails to live up to one's religious tenets. Although people classified as irreligious might not follow any religion, not all are necessarily without belief in the supernatural or in deities; such a person may be a non-religious or non-practicing theist. In particular, those who associate organized religion with negative qualities, but still hold spiritual beliefs, might describe themselves as irreligious.

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"The Descent of the Modernists", by E. J. Pace
Credit: E. J. Pace

"The Descent of the Modernists", by E. J. Pace, first appearing in his book Christian Cartoons, published in 1922. Modernism in the Roman Catholic Church is a theological viewpoint that usually includes a specific type of rationalist approach to the Bible, secularism and modern philosophical systems; it is regarded as heretical by the Catholic Church[citation needed]. Some Catholics see Modernism as the descent from Christianity to atheism.

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Richard Phillips Feynman (May 11, 1918 – February 15, 1988; IPA: /ˈfɑɪnmən/) was an American physicist known for expanding the theory of quantum electrodynamics, the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, and particle theory. He was also famous as an unscrupulous prankster. He was a proud amateur painter and bongo player. For his work on quantum electrodynamics, Feynman was a joint recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965, together with Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga; he developed a way to understand the behavior of subatomic particles, by using pictorial tools that later became known as Feynman diagrams.

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Friedrich Engels



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Emma Goldman
The triumph of the philosophy of Atheism is to free man from the nightmare of gods; it means the dissolution of the phantoms of the beyond.


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