Last modified on 16 March 2015, at 13:41


English citations of atheism

belief that no gods existEdit

1720 1843
ME « 15th c. 16th c. 17th c. 18th c. 19th c. 20th c. 21st c.
  • 1625, Francis Bacon, “Of Atheiſme”, in The Essays: or Covnſels, Civill and Morall [] [1], London: Iohn Haviland:
    And, which is moſt of all, you ſhall haue of them, that will ſuffer for Atheiſme, and not recant; Wheras, if they did truly thinke, that there were no ſuch Thing as God, why ſhould they trouble themſelues?
  • 1677, Theophilus Gale, chapter 2, The Court of the Gentiles [], volume 2, London: Maxwell and Roberts, page 216:
    To multiplie the Divinitie is to deſtroy it: he that has power to believe many Gods, is very capable of falling into Atheiſme, to believe there is no God.
  • 1843, M. Q. R., “Anatomy of Heterodoxies, since the establishment of the "Oracle"”, The Oracle of Reason, Or, Philosophy Vindicated, volume 2, number 68, page 125: 
    Deism and atheism, instead of being proximate views, are complete antipodes in opinion. One asserts the god-belief, the other the non-god-belief.
  • 1997, Alister E. McGrath, Studies in Doctrine: Understanding Doctrine, Understanding the Trinity, Understanding Jesus, Justification by Faith[2], Zondervan, ISBN 978-0310213260, page 131:
    Atheism is, in fact, no more scientific than Christian faith, despite the attempts of atheists to convince us otherwise. Both atheism and Christianity are, then, matters of faith — whereas agnosticism is just a matter of indifference.
  • 2002, Michael Martin, “Should atheists be agnostics?”, The Philosophers' Magazine, number 19, ISSN 1354-814X, page 18: 
    The present argument assumes that atheism would be justified only if could be believed with certainty. Although some atheists may claim to be certain that God does not exist, certainty is not an essential element of their position. For atheism to be rationally justified it is only necessary that it be more probable than not or at least more probable than theism. Certainty is no more required in the case of atheism than it is in the case of scientific theories.
  • 2004, Barry L. Callen, Discerning the Divine: God in Christian Theology[3], Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, LCC BT103.C35 2004, ISBN 978-0664227524, LCCN 2004050879, glossary, page 195:
    The stance that humans do not or cannot have adequate grounds for affirming or denying the existence of God is agnosticism (does not know, a-gnosis). [] The stance of atheism goes further by actively denying that the God of biblical revelation exists at all (knows that God is not, a-theism).
  • 2007 February 19, Jean A. Archambault-White, Simple Faith[4], ISBN 1598867725, page 72:
    In order to join the faith (yes, the faith) of atheism, one must be truly sure of one's belief in the existence of nothing. [...] Agnosticism takes less faith than atheism and thus less work, for there is far less to meditate on, to study, to research, to question. One simply puts the whole subject out of one's mind.

...and having no other religious beliefEdit

  • 1720 November 2, “Of High-Church Atheism”, The Independent Whig: or, a Defence of Primitive Chriſtianity [], volume 2, number 42, page 352: 
    The noiſy Outcry therefore of the Danger of Religion from Atheiſm or Irreligion, is a meer Chimæra of the High Prieſts; which, in all likelihood, they ſtart, to put Men on a falſe Scent, and to diſguiſe and carry on their own Deſigns of Power and Wealth []
  • 1880 May, “Report on Public Questions, presented to Synod at Glasgow”, The Original Secession Magazine, volume 14, page 691: 
    But whilst religious equality teaches that the individual is to make a choice, it teaches that the nation is to make no choice; that in regard to religion it is to be entirely neutral. In its corporate capacity it is to know nothing of Atheism, Mohammedanism, Buddhism, or Christianity, and in no way is it to prefer one God to many Gods, Christ to Belial, a Christian church to a Pagan temple, a Bible to a Koran, a Protestant meeting-house to a Mohammedan mosque or a Jewish synagogue.
  • 1910, Borden Parker Bowne, The Essence of Religion[5], LCC BX8333.B57 E8, LCCN 10030039, OL 25083440M, page 9:
    We can go back to atheism or to agnosticism, but we cannot go back to Mohammedanism, Buddhism, or Hinduism or Confucianism, or to any of the myriad forms of polytheism and superstition.
  • 1914, Stephen Leacock, Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich[6], New York: John Lane Co., LCC PR6023.E15 A8 1914, LCCN 14019307, OL 6570884M, page 82:
    Now they had lectures also on Confucianism, Mohammedanism, Buddhism, with an optional course on atheism for students in the final year.
  • 1915 August 25, in The Pacific, volume 65, number 34, page 10:
    The first day was given to Christianity, Judaism and Atheism; the second to Hinduism and the third to Confucianism, Taoism, Shintoism, Mohammedanism, Buddhism [...]
  • 2008, Rethinking leadership in a complex, multicultural, and global environment, edited by Adrianna J. Kezar, page 143:
    If you were ever asked, how long do you think you would be able to talk intelligently about the particulars of their faiths with students, staff, and others who might represent such backgrounds as Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, atheism, Judaism, or Taoism?
  • 2010, Transforming Palliative Care in the Nursing Home: The Social Work Role, edited by Mercedes E. Bern-Klug, page 260:
    But it is important to remember that a nursing home staff will likely encounter other belief systems, including atheism, Hinduism, Buddhism, agnosticism, Wicca, and Native American religious practices, to name a few. The importance of this variation cannot be taken lightly.
  • 2011, Judith Simmer-Brown; Fran Grace editors, Meditation and the Classroom: Contemplative Pedagogy for Religious Studies[7], Albany: SUNY Press, ISBN 978-1438437873, page 238:
    Although we have chosen not to identify their philosophical or religious orientations, the reader may be interested to know that the students quoted here represent the following worldviews: agnosticism, atheism, Zen Buddhism, Russian Orthodoxy, Islam, [] and Reform Judaism.
...(probably, ambiguous usage)Edit
  • 2000, Wade Clark Roof, Contemporary American Religion, volume 1, page 40:
    Atheism is less frequent than agnosticism, which says of ultimate reality, "I don't know," usually also meaning, "You don't know either."

rejection of belief that any gods existEdit

1732 1843
ME « 15th c. 16th c. 17th c. 18th c. 19th c. 20th c. 21st c.
  • 1871 April 15, “The Intuitional and Scientific Schools of Free Religion”, The Index, Toledo, volume 2, number 15:
    Atheism (by which I mean non-belief of infinite Intelligence and Goodness in the universe) is so far from being impossible, that it is one of the very commonest phases of modern thought []
  • 2011, Kai Neilsen, Encyclopædia Britannica Online[8], Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., keyword "atheism":
    atheism, in general, the critique and denial of metaphysical beliefs in God or spiritual beings. As such, it is usually distinguished from theism, which affirms the reality of the divine and often seeks to demonstrate its existence. Atheism is also distinguished from agnosticism, which leaves open the question whether there is a god or not, professing to find the questions unanswered or unanswerable.

...without belief that no deities existEdit

  • 1732, Ralph Cudworth, An Abridgment Of Dr. Cudworth's True Intellectual System of the Universe[9], London: John Oswald, page 4:
    I ſay, would fain have it, for neither do theſe Men, as was before hinted, bring over themſelves or others to an abſolute and ſatisfactory Belief, that there is no God: but the moſt they can pretend to, is not wholly to overturn the Faith of Theiſts, and much leſs directly to prove the Reaſonableneſs of Atheiſm; but only to raiſe particular Doubts, bearing no proportion to the Grounds that are againſt 'em, to oppoſe ſome little Scruples touching God's Attributes and the Diſpenſations of his Providence, ſome cavilling Remarks upon the Formation and Courſe of the World.
  • 1843, Thomas Paterson, “The Spirit of the Age”, The Oracle of Reason, Or, Philosophy Vindicated, volume 2, number 55, page 24: 
    Doubts precede truth, and doubting is an element of atheism.
  • 1857, James Buchanan, Modern Atheism: under its forms of Pantheism, Materialism, Secularism, Development, and Natural Laws[10], Boston: Gould and Lincoln, page 365:
    The theory of Secularism is a form, not of dogmatic, but of skeptical, Atheism; it is dogmatic only in denying the sufficiency of the evidence for the being and perfections of God. It does not deny, it only does not believe, His existence.
  • 1881, Arthur Lillie, Buddha and Early Buddhism[11], Edinburgh, London: Ballantyne, Hanson and Co., page 24:
    The position of Mr. Bhys Davids is that at the revival of Brahmin power Buddhism was rent in twain; that its creed was at the time agnostic atheism; and that the refugees of the South have always been, and are still, disbelievers in the prolongation of individuality after the Bodhi or emancipation.
  • 1882, Noah Porter, “The Collapse of Faith”, The Princeton Review, volume 58, page 170: 
    The theory of agnosticism or agnostic atheism is expounded at length in Mr. Herbert Spencer's "First Principles."
  • 1884, Annie Besant, “Why Should Atheists Be Persecuted?”, in The Atheistic Platform[12], London: Freethought Publishing, page 185:
    This same questioning spirit, applied to the God-idea, has given Atheism its distinctive name. It finds the God-idea prevalant and it challenges it. It does not deny, but it "wants to know" before it accepts, it demands proof before it believes.
  • 1884 July, M. E. Dwight, “The Contest as it is To-day”, New Englander and Yale Review, volume 43, number 181, W. L. Kingsley, page 583: 
    The truth of the Divine Existence is attacked to-day by a bald atheism which loudly declares that modern science by its discovery of the principle of the conservation of energy, finds no occasion whatever to believe in God, and by an agnostic atheism which agrees with the former that there is no scientific occasion for God, although it allows there may be some occasion to believe in an Absolute, which however can never be known. Such atheism as this, boldly advocated by many and popular in scientific circles, has never been tolerated before.
  • 1894, Alexander James Harrison, The Ascent of Faith: or, the Grounds of Certainty in Science and Religion[13], London: Hodder and Stroughton, OCLC 7234849, OL 21834002M, page 21:
    Let Agnostic Theism stand for that kind of Agnosticism which admits a Divine existence; Agnostic Atheism for that kind of Agnosticism which thinks it does not.
  • 1896, George William Foote, “First Night”, in Theism or Atheism: Which is the more reasonable?[14], London: R. Forder, page 17:
    ...but Atheism per se simply means, not denial, but rejection, in the sense of not accepting the Theistic theory of the universe which Mr. Lee has put forward tonight.
  • 1903, Robert Flint, Agnosticism[15], New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, LCCN 03002131, page 49:
    The atheist may however be, and not unfrequently is, an agnostic. There is an agnostic atheism or atheistic agnosticism, and the combination of atheism with agnosticism which may be so named is not an uncommon one.
  • 1910, Lockhart Brooks Farrar, The Eternity of Matter[16], Paxton, Illinois: N. E. Stevens & Son, LCC BD553.F3, LCCN 10013913:
    The burden of proof is upon the theist. Atheism shows its position to be that of a possessor of as against an adverse claimant.
  • 1933, Francesco Varvello, Metaphysics[17], San Francisco: University of San Francisco Press, LCCN 37000420, OCLC 599180, OL 6347769M:
    Positive theoretical atheism is the atheism of those who, although they have a knowledge of God, nevertheless either doubt his existence (skeptical atheism) or maintain that he cannot be known (agnostic atheism) []
  • 1950, Bryson, Lyman; Finkelstein, Louis; MacIver, R. M. editors, Goals for American Education: Ninth Symposium[18], New York: Harper, LCCN 72196758, OL 5342704M, page 157:
    Finally, the form of militant, "scientific" atheism that looms today as the successor, far more dangerous than they, of yesterday's critical or agnostic atheism, does not owe its basic inspiration to science.
  • 1962, Donald A. Wells, God, Man, and the Thinker: Philosophies of Religion[19], New York: Random House, LCCN 62010778, OCLC 374689, OL 5850766M, page 110:
    There is "agnostic atheism," which is the position of a man who feels that the evidence for a God is too weak to warrant an affirmative answer, and, at the same time, that there is no adequate argument to warrant belief in the nonexistence of a deity. He simply says, "I do not know."
  • 1968, Quint, Howard H.; Albertson, Dean; Cantor, Milton editors, Main Problems in American History[20], volume 2, Dorsey Press:
    The big cities embodied the opulent and immoral life of the very rich, and the secularism and agnostic atheism of the city churches and universities.
  • 1974 December, Adam John Bisanz, “Samuel Butler: A Literary Venture into Atheism and Beyond”, Orbis Litterarum, volume 29, number 4, DOI:10.1111/j.1600-0730.1974.tb01039.x, page 320: 
    Of the three commonly distinguished classes — radical, agnostic, and postulatory atheism — none seems to fit entirely his description, although qualifications must be made. Agnostic atheism with its noble pre-Socratic lineage and its vague notion of a deus absconditus would have failed to appease him, although he might have consented to the sophistic view of Protagoras that each individual is the measure of the universe.
  • 1979, Bernardino M. Bonansea, God and Atheism: A Philosophical Approach to the Problem of God[21], Catholic University of America Press, LCC BT102 .B55, ISBN 9780813205496, LCCN 78012064, OL OL4724447M, page 5:
    In his approach to the problem, Girardi makes the traditional distinction between practical and theoretical atheism and defines the latter as a doctrine according to which the existence of God cannot be affirmed with certitude, either because it is denied (assertive or dogmatic atheism), or because the problem is declared insoluble (agnostic atheism) or meaningless (semantic atheism).
  • 1991, Viladesau, Richard; Massa, Mark Stephen editors, Foundations of Theological Study: A Sourcebook[22], Mahwah: Paulist Press, ISBN 9780809132812, LCCN 91030807, OCLC 24246700, OL 7975115M, page 95:
    He can, perhaps utterly honestly and truthfully, declare his inability to know (agnostic atheism) or even assert that reality — uncertain anyway — is completely void, without reason or goal, without meaning or value (nihilistic atheism).
  • 2001, Paul Kurtz, Skepticism and Humanism: The New Paradigm[23], Piscataway: Transaction Publishers, ISBN 9780765800510, LCCN 00061552, page 149:
    Humanism in its most parsimonious definition, first, provides a set of humanist values and virtues; and, second, espouses some form of agnostic atheism.
  • 2011, Kai Neilsen, Encyclopædia Britannica Online[24], Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., keyword "atheism":
    Instead of saying that an atheist is someone who believes that it is false or probably false that there is a God, a more adequate characterization of atheism consists in the more complex claim that to be an atheist is to be someone who rejects belief in God for the following reasons (which reason is stressed depends on how God is being conceived): for an anthropomorphic God, the atheist rejects belief in God because it is false or probably false that there is a God; for a nonanthropomorphic God (the God of Luther and Calvin, Aquinas, and Maimonides), he rejects belief in God because the concept of such a God is either meaningless, unintelligible, contradictory, incomprehensible, or incoherent; for the God portrayed by some modern or contemporary theologians or philosophers, he rejects belief in God because the concept of God in question is such that it merely masks an atheistic substance—e.g., “God” is just another name for love, or “God” is simply a symbolic term for moral ideals.

absence of belief that any god existsEdit

1643 1829
ME « 15th c. 16th c. 17th c. 18th c. 19th c. 20th c. 21st c.
  • 1643, Francis Cheynell, chapter 5, The Riſe, Growth, and Danger of Socinianisme Together with a plaine diſcovery of a deſperate deſigne of corrupting the Proteſtant Religion [], London: Samuel Gellibrand, OL 16771094M, page 47-48:
    The Socinians doe deny Chriſt to be God to the glory of God the Father, as they uſe to ſay, and I beleeve God the Father hath taken it ſo unkindly at their hands, that he hath given them over to that curſed Atheiſme which reignes in the heart of every man by nature, and is much ſtrengthened by the profane wits of this latter age.
  • 1858, George Jacob Holyoake, chapter 21, The Trial of Theism[25], OL 23418675M, page 114:
    Atheism expresses, not the denial, but the absence of God—i.e., the absence of him from our knowledge—or the absence of belief in God.
  • 1875 June 22, Rev. Brewin Grant, “First Evening”, in Discussion on Atheism, London: Anti-Liberation Society, LCC BL2778.G77, OL 18111088M, published 1890, page 11:
    If, without multiplying these instances, we ask what Atheism is, we answer that Atheism has not even the merit of being a negation. It is a state of don't-know-ism.
  • 1975, George H. Smith, Atheism: The Case Against God, Buffalo, New York: Prometheus, LCC BL2747.3.S6 1979, ISBN 978-0840211156, LCCN 79002726, OL 8224855M, page 7:
    Atheism, in its basic form, is not a belief; it is the absence of belief. An atheist is not primarily a person who believes that a god does not exist; rather, he does not believe in the existence of a god.
  • 1980, Stein, Gordon editor, An Anthology of Atheism and Rationalism, Buffalo: Prometheus, LCC BL2747.3.A68, ISBN 978-0879751364, LCCN 80081326, OCLC 6686464, page 3:
    Atheism is not a belief as such. It is the lack of belief.
  • 1990, Michael Martin, Atheism: A Philosophical Justification, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, LCC BL2747.3.M3313 1990, ISBN 978-0877226420, LCCN 89033121, OCLC 19669621, OL 8110936M, published 1992, page 463:
    According to its Greek roots, then, atheism is a negative view, characterized by the absence of belief in God.
  • 2004 March 30, Dianna Narciso, Like Rolling Uphill: Realizing the Honesty of Atheism, Coral Springs: Llumina, ISBN 978-1932560749, OCLC 57371479, OL 8809832M, page 4:
    Atheism, in its basic sense, is lack of belief in deity. When someone says he is atheist, that's the only thing you can be sure of: he does not believe in deity—he has no such belief.
  • 2007 August 8, Amit Varmit, “Atheism as the absence of belief”, India Uncut:
    Atheism is not a belief that there is no God—it is the absence of belief in God. I am an atheist not because I am 100% sure that there is no God—how does one prove the negative anyway?—but because I see as little evidence around me for God as for flying fairies or invisible pink unicorns.
  • 2008 September 1, Dan Barker, Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists, Berkeley: Ulysses Press, ISBN 978-1569756775, LCCN 2008904135, OCLC 247078757, OL 24313839M, page 90:
    Atheism is the lack of theism, the lack of belief in god(s). I am an atheist because there is no reason to believe.
  • 2009 July, James Allan Cheyne, “Atheism Rising”, Skeptic, volume 15, number 2, ISSN 1063-9330, page 33: 
    The growth of religious skepticism may be even greater because it turns out that although by definition atheism and unbelief are the same, people seem much more reluctant to self-describe as atheist.

...including those with no concept of godsEdit

  • 1829, John Wesley, Sermons, on Several Occasions, volume 2, edition 10th, page 373:
    What can parents do, and mothers more especially, [] with regard to the atheism that is natural to all the children of men?
  • 2008 March 5, “All Children are Born Atheists”, Atheist Revolution:
    The newborn child cannot even entertain such possibilities and thus lacks theistic belief. Atheism is the default position, and this is where we all begin.
  • 2011 August 16, Penn Jillette, God, No! : Signs you may already be an atheist and other magical tales, New York: Simon & Schuster, LCC PN6231.R4 J55 2011, ISBN 978-1451610369, LCCN 2010043439, OL 25074653M, page 129:
    You don't have to worry too much about your children. You don't ever have to teach atheism. You don't have to teach an absence of guilt for things they didn't do.

nonbelief in a particular god/pantheon/religious doctrineEdit

ME « 15th c. 16th c. 17th c. 18th c. 19th c. 20th c. 21st c.

...notwithstanding belief in another godEdit

  • 1921, Chapman Cohen, Theism or Atheism: The Great Alternative, London: Pioneer:
    So far as Atheism involves the denial of deity the follower of one religion is an Atheist in relation to the followers of every other religion.
  • 1995, McBrien, Richard P. editor, The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism[26], HarperCollins, ISBN 9780060653385, keyword Domitilla, Flavia, page 431:
    Domitilla, Flavia, niece of the emperor Domitian (81-96). She and her husband, Flavius Clemens (consul in 95 and cousin of Domitian), were probably Christians; charged with atheism and adoption of Jewish ways, they were punished (95) with death (Clemens) and exile (Domitilla).
  • 2007 July 12, Karen Armstrong, The Bible: A Biography, New York: Atlantic Monthly, ISBN 9781843543961, page 102:
    Christians were also accused of atheism because they refused to honour the patronal gods of Rome and thus endangered the empire.
  • 2010, Ross Thompson, Buddhist Christianity: A Passionate Openness[27], O-Books, ISBN 978-1846943362, page 260:
    Sacrificial religion becomes redundant – which is why Christianity did indeed have a reputation in the ancient world for atheism: it rejected the key duty humans are thought to owe to the gods, namely sacrifice.

immorality, wickednessEdit

...(probably a mention, not a use)Edit

  • 2009, Diarmaid MacCulloch, A History of Christianity, Penguin 2010, p. 779:
    At the time, doubt was generally given the blanket label atheism, just as a whole variety of sexual practices of which society pretended to disapprove were given the blanket label sodomy.


  • 1587, Arthur Golding and Philip Sidney (tr.), A Woorke Concerning the Trewnesse of the Christian Religion: Against Atheists, Epicures, Paynims, Iewes, Mahumetists, and other infidels, translation of Traité de la vérité de la religion chrétienne contre les athées, épicuriens, payens, juifs, mahométans et autres infidèles by de Mornay, Philippe, page xx. 310:
    Athisme, that is to say, vtter Godlesnes.
  • 1965, Ernest Nagel, “Philosophical Concepts of Atheism”, in Angeles, Peter Adam editor, Critiques of God: Making the case against belief in God[28], Prometheus, ISBN 9781573921237, page 4:
    I shall understand by 'atheism' a critique and a denial of the major claims of all varieties of theism.
  • 1989, Taitetsu Unno, The religious philosophy of Nishitani Keiji: encounter with emptiness, page 219:
    Dewey disliked the word atheism because it often suggests a certain despairing attitude or a view of humanity as separated and alone in a hostile universe. However, he, like Feuerbach, actually tried to develop a kind of religious atheism. Zen Buddhism is also a kind of religious atheism, which is founded on the experience of emptiness, and the very combination of the terms religious and [...]
  • 2006, Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, page 262:
    I am not necessarily claiming that atheism increases morality, although humanism – the ethical system that often goes with atheism – probably does.
  • 2015 March 3, John Gray, “What scares the new atheists”, The Guardian:
    There have been many modern atheisms, some of them more cogent and more intellectually liberating than the type that makes so much noise today.