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Anonymous asked in Society & CultureReligion & Spirituality · 1 decade ago

Are there any great, historical figures that were Atheists?

26 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Activists and educators: * Pietro Acciarito (1871–1943): Italian anarchist activist known for attempting to assassinate King Umberto I. * Ayaan Hirsi Ali (1969—): Dutch feminist and politician. * Natalie Angier (1958—): Non-fiction writer and science journalist for the New York Times. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Beat Reporting in 1991. * Dan Barker (1949—): a prominent American atheist activist. * Richard Carrier (1969—): a historian, philosopher and atheist activist. * Emma Goldman (1869–1940): Lithuanian-born radical, known for her writings and speeches defending anarchist communism, feminism, and atheism. * George Holyoake (1817–1906): English secularist, the last person in England to be imprisoned for being an atheist * Ellen Johnson: current president of American Atheists. * Taslima Nasrin (1962—): Bangladeshi physician, writer, feminist human rights activist and secular humanist. * Michael Newdow (1953—): American physician and attorney, who sued a school district on the grounds that its requirement that children recite the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance, containing the words "under God," breached the separation-of-church-and-state provision in the establishment clause of the United States Constitution. * Madalyn Murray O'Hair (1919–1995): founder of American Atheists, campaigner for the separation of church and state; filed the lawsuit that led the US Supreme Court to ban teacher-led prayer and Bible reading in public schools. * James Randi, (1928—) magician, debunker and founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation. * Margaret Sanger (1879–1966): American birth-control activist, founder of the American Birth Control League, a forerunner to Planned Parenthood. The masthead motto of her newsletter, The Woman Rebel, read: "No Gods, No Masters." * Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (1883–1966): Indian revolutionary freedom fighter, and Hindu nationalist leader. * Bhagat Singh (1907–1931): Indian revolutionary freedom fighter. * Barbara Smoker (1923—): British humanist activist and freethought advocate. Wrote the book Freethoughts: Atheism, Secularism, Humanism – Selected Egotistically from The Freethinker. * Polly Toynbee (1946—): columnist for The Guardian. Authors: * Douglas Adams (1952–2001): British radio and television writer, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. * Isaac Asimov (1920–1992): Russian-born American author of science fiction and popular science books. * Ambrose Bierce (1842–1914?): American writer, author of The Devil's Dictionary. * Marshall Brain (1961–) Author of and * Sir Arthur C. Clarke (1917—): British scientist and Science Fiction author. * Vardis Fisher (1895–1968): American writer, scholar. Author of atheistic Testament of Man series. * Jan Guillou (1944—): Swedish author and Journalist. * Sam Harris (1967—): American author, researcher in neuroscience, author of The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation. * Harry Harrison (1925—): American science fiction author, anthologist and artist whose short story "The Streets of Ashkelon" took as its hero an atheist who tries to prevent a Christian missionary from indoctrinating a tribe of irreligious but ingenuous alien beings. * Christopher Hitchens (1949—): Author, journalist and essayist. * Michel Houellebecq (1958—): French novelist. * S. T. Joshi (1958—): American editor and literary critic. * Ludovic Kennedy (1919—): British journalist, author, and campaigner for voluntary euthanasia. * Rutka Laskier (1929–1943): Polish Jew who was killed at Auschwitz concentration camp at the age of 14. Because of her diary, on display at Israel's Holocaust museum, she has been dubbed the "Polish Anne Frank." * Stanislaw Lem (1921–2006): Polish science fiction novelist and essayist. * Primo Levi (1919–1987): Italian novelist and chemist, survivor of Auschwitz concentration camp. * Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742 - 1799): German scientist, satirist, philosopher and anglophile. Known as one of Europe's best authors of aphorisms. Satirized religion using aphorisms like "I thank the Lord a thousand times for having made me become an atheist." * Pierre Loti (1850–1923): French novelist and travel writer. * Joseph McCabe (1867–1955): English writer, anti-religion campaigner. * China Miéville (1972—): British Science Fiction author. * Camille Paglia (1947—): American post-feminist literary and cultural critic. * Harold Pinter (1930—): British playwright, screenwriter, poet, actor, director, author, and political activist, best known for his plays The Birthday Party (1957), The Caretaker (1959), The Homecoming (1964), and Betrayal (1978). Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2005. * Terry Pratchett (1948—): English Fantasy author known for his satirical Discworld series. * Philip Pullman (1946—): CBE, British author of His Dark Materials fantasy trilogy for young adults, which have atheism as a major theme. * Ayn Rand (1905–1982): Russian-born American author and founder of Objectivism. * Ron Reagan (1958—): American magazine journalist, board member of the politically activist Creative Coalition, son of former U. S. President Ronald Reagan. * Salman Rushdie (1947—): Indian-born British essayist and author of fiction. * José Saramago (1922—): Portuguese writer, playwright and journalist. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1998. * George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950): Irish playwright, only person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize (Nobel Prize in Literature in 1925) and an Oscar (Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1939 for Pygmalion). * Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822): British Romantic poet, contemporary and associate of John Keats and Lord Byron, and author of The Necessity of Atheism. * Warren Allen Smith (1921—): Author of Who's Who in Hell. * Kurt Vonnegut (1922–2007): American author, writer of Cat's Cradle, among other books. Vonnegut said "I am an atheist (or at best a Unitarian who winds up in churches quite a lot)." * Ibn Warraq (1946—): Best-selling author and secularist scholar of Islam currently living in the United States. He is a Muslim apostate and an outspoken critic of Islam who has written extensively on what he views as the oppressive nature of Islam. * Gao Xingjian (1940—): Chinese émigré novelist, dramatist, critic, translator, stage director and painter. Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2000. Business: * Christer Sturmark (1964—): Swedish IT entrepreneur and chairman of The Swedish Humanist Organisation. Comedians: * Woody Allen (1935—): American film director, actor and comedian. Allen said that "To you I'm an atheist; to God, I'm the Loyal Opposition." * George Carlin (1937—): American comedian, actor and author. Outspoken atheist, described religion as having "the greatest bullshit story ever told", that "there's an invisible man living in the sky." * David Cross (1964—): American actor and comedian. * Janeane Garofalo (1964—): American actor and comedian. * Kathy Griffin (1963—): American comedian. * Patton Oswalt (1969—): American actor and comedian. * Julia Sweeney (1961—): American actor and comedian. Alumna of Saturday Night Live, author/performer of a one-woman autobiographical stage show about finding atheism: Letting Go of God. Film, radio and television: * Phillip Adams (1939—): Australian broadcaster, writer, film-maker, left-wing radical thinker, iconoclast, Australian Humanist of the Year 1987. * Brannon Braga (1965–): American TV producer and writer, creator of Star Trek: Enterprise. * Luis Buñuel (1900–1983): Spanish-born Mexican film-maker, activist of the surrealist movement. Known for his one-liner, "Thank God I'm still an atheist." * Adam Carolla (1964—): American comedic radio personality and television personality, best known for co-hosting the radio program Loveline and the television series The Man Show. * Stanley Donen (1924—): American film director, best known for his musicals including Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Singin' in the Rain; awarded honorary Academy Award for lifetime achievement. * Ricky Gervais (1961—): British actor, co-creator of the original version of The Office; appears as the Curator in the 2006 film, Night at the Museum. * Paul Giamatti (1967—): American film and television actor * Katharine Hepburn (1907–2003): American actress, who appeared in 53 films from 1932 to 1994; winner of four Academy Awards for Best Actress.[ * John Humphrys (1943—): British radio and television presenter who hosted a series of programmes interviewing religious leaders, Humphrys in Search of God. * Penn Jillette (1955—): American magician, co-host of Bullshit!. * Michael Kinsley (1951—): American political journalist, commentator, and television host. * Skandar Keynes (1991—): English actor (Chronicles of Narnia films). * Tom Leykis (1956—): radio talk-show host. * Paul Mazursky (1930—): American director, producer and actor * George Meyer (1956—): Producer and writer for The Simpsons. * Cillian Murphy (1976—): Irish stage and screen actor. * Gene Roddenberry (1921—1991): American scriptwriter and producer, creator of Star Trek. * Steven Soderbergh (1963—): American filmmaker, Academy Award-winning director of such films as Traffic, Erin Brockovich, Ocean's Eleven, and sex lies and videotape. * Robert Smith (1972—): former Minnesota Vikings running back and NFL Network football analyst. * J. Michael Straczynski (1954—): American writer and producer, creator of Babylon 5. * Teller (magician) (1948—): American magician, co-host of Bullshit!. * Joss Whedon (1964—): American screenwriter and director, most famous for creating Buffy the Vampire Slayer. * Gene Wilder (1933—): American actor best known for his role as Willy Wonka. Music: * David Gilmour (1946—) English guitarist and vocalist with Pink Floyd. * Lemmy (1945—): English rock singer and bass guitarist, most famous for founding the heavy metal band Motörhead. * Till Lindemann (1963—): Lead singer of the German heavy metal band, Rammstein * Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844–1908): Russian Nationalist composer, member of "The Five", best-known for the tone poem Scheherazade * Ned Rorem (1923—): American composer * Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872—1958): British composer. Despite the number and variety of his works with religious inspiration or connections, Vaughan Williams was decidedly not a believer.[92] Williams once said that "there is no reason why an atheist could not write a good mass," and then proved it by writing a superb one. He later became an agnostic. Philosophy: * Mikhail Bakunin (1814–1876): Russian philosopher, writer and anarchist * Albert Camus (1913–1960): French philosopher and novelist, a luminary of existentialism. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1957. * Benedetto Croce (1886–1952): Italian philosopher and public figure. * Daniel Dennett (1942—): American philosopher, author of Breaking the Spell * Diagoras (5th century BCE): Ancient Greek poet and sophist known as the Atheist of Milos, who declared that there were no Gods. * Denis Diderot (1713–84): editor-in-chief of the Encyclopédie, who succeeded in bringing about "a revolution in men's minds." * Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach (1804–1872): German philosopher whose major work, The Essence of Christianity, maintains that religion and divinity are projections of human nature. * Claude Adrien Helvétius (1715–71): French philosopher whose ethical and social views helped shape the school of utilitarianism later made famous by Jeremy Bentham. * Baron d'Holbach (1723–89): French philosopher and encyclopedist, most famous as being one of the first outspoken atheists in Europe. * Paul Kurtz (1925–): Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University at Buffalo (SUNY). * John Leslie Mackie (1917-1981): Australian philosopher who specialized on meta-ethics as a proponent of moral skepticism. Wrote the book The Miracle of Theism wherein he discusses several arguments for and against theism and comes the conclusion that theism is rationally untenable. * Karl Marx (1818–83): German-Jewish author of Das Kapital, known for his assertion that "Religion is... the opium of the people." * Jean Meslier (1678–1733): French village Catholic priest who was found, on his death, to have written a book-length philosophical essay, entitled Common Sense but commonly referred to as Meslier's Testament, promoting atheism. * Julien Offray de La Mettrie (1709–51): French physician and philosopher, earliest materialist writer of the Enlightenment, claimed as a founder of cognitive science. * Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900): German Existentialist philosopher and known as the founder of Nihilism whose Beyond Good and Evil sought to refute traditional notions of morality. Nietzsche penned a memorable secular statement of the Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence in Thus Spake Zarathustra and is forever associated with the phrase, "God is dead" (first seen in his book, The Gay Science). * Piergiorgio Odifreddi (1950—): Italian mathematician, philosopher and science writer. * Bertrand Russell, (1872–1970): British philosopher and mathematician. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1950. Though he considered himself an agnostic in a purely philosophical context, he said that the label atheist conveyed a more accurate understanding of his views in a popular context. * Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–1980): French existentialist philosopher, dramatist and novelist who declared that he had been an atheist from age twelve. Although he regarded God as a self-contradictory concept, he still thought of it as an ideal toward which people strive. He rejected the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1964. According to Sartre, his most-repeated summary of his existentialist philosophy, "Existence precedes essence," implies that humans must abandon traditional notions of having been designed by a divine creator. * Peter Singer (1946—): Australian utilitarian philosopher, proponent of animal rights, and Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. Politics and law: * Shulamit Aloni (1928—): Israeli politician and left-wing activist.She served as Israel's minister of education from 1992 to 1993. * Charles Bradlaugh (1833–1891): Political activist and one of the most famous English atheists of the 19th century. * Robin Cook (1946–2005): Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs of the UK (1997–2001), whose funeral service was held in the High Kirk of Scotland, where he was described as a "Presbyterian atheist." * Mikhail Gorbachev (1931—): Former Soviet president and 1991 Nobel Laureate in Peace. * Enver Hoxha: (1908–1985): Communist ruler of Albania noted for implementing state atheism. * Hu Jintao (1942—): President of the People's Republic of China. * Aleksander Kwas'niewski (1954—): Former President of Poland (1995-2005). * Alexander Lukashenko (1954—): President of Belarus, self-described "Russian Orthodox atheist." * Mo Mowlam (1949–2005): Former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.[124] * Culbert Olson (1876–1962): American politician and Governor of California (1939–1943). * Joseph Stalin (1879–1953): Soviet head of state. * Pete Stark, D.-Calif. (1931—): U.S. Representative. Science and technology: * David Baltimore (1938—): Professor of Biology at the California Institute of Technology. He won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1975 for his work on the genetic mechanisms of viruses. * Paul D. Boyer (1918—): American biochemist and Nobel Laureate in Chemistry in 1997. * Sean M. Carroll (1956—): Theoretical cosmologist specializing in dark energy and general relativity. * Francis Crick (1916–2004): 1962-Nobel-laureate co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, who described himself as a skeptic and an agnostic with "a strong inclination towards atheism." * Marie Curie (1867–1934): Nobel Laureate in Physics (1903) and Chemistry (1911). First woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize, only person to win Nobel Prizes in two different scientific disciplines. * Richard Dawkins (1941—): British zoologist, biologist, creator of the concepts of the selfish gene and the meme; outspoken atheist and popularizer of science, author of The God Delusion and founder of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. * G. H. Hardy (1877–1947): a prominent English mathematician, known for his achievements in number theory and mathematical analysis. * Richard Feynman (1918–1988): American theoretical physicist, best known for his work in renormalizing Quantum electrodynamics and his path integral formulation of Quantum Mechanics . He won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965. * Paul Dirac (1902–1984): British theoretical physicist, founder of the field of quantum mechanics, predicted of the existence of antimatter. Dirac won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1933. * Sigmund Freud (1856–1939): Father of psychoanalysis. * Christer Fuglesang (1957—), Swedish astronaut and physicist. * Vitaly Ginzburg (1916—): 2003 Nobel Laureate in Physics. * Alfred Kinsey (1894–1956): American biologist, sexologist and professor of entomology and zoology. * Frédéric Joliot-Curie (1900–1958): French physicist and Nobel Laureate in Chemistry in 1935. * Irène Joliot-Curie (1897–1956): French scientist, the daughter of Marie and Pierre Curie and the wife of Frédéric Joliot-Curie, and Nobel laureate in Chemistry in 1935. * Harold Kroto (1939—): 1996 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry. * PZ Myers (1957—) American biology professor at the University of Minnesota and a science blogger via his blog, Pharyngula. * Richard Leakey (1944—): Kenyan paleontologist, archaeologist and conservationist. * Ernst Mayr (1904–2005): a renowned taxonomist, tropical explorer, ornithologist, historian of science, and naturalist. He was one of the 20th century's leading evolutionary biologists. * Jonathan Miller (1934—): British physician, actor, theatre and opera director, and (latterly) television presenter. Wrote and presented the 2004 television series, Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief, exploring the roots of his own atheism and investigating the history of atheism in the world. * Peter D. Mitchell (1920–1992): 1978-Nobel-laureate British biochemist. Atheist mother, and himself atheist from age 15. * Paul Nurse (1949—): 2001 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine. * Linus Pauling (1901–1994): Nobel Laureate in Chemistry (1954) and Peace (1962). He is also considered by many to be the greatest chemist of the 20th century. * Steven Pinker (1954—): American psychologist. * Amartya Kumar Sen (1933—): 1998 Nobel Laureate in Economics. * Claude Shannon (1916–2001): American electrical engineer and mathematician, has been called "the father of information theory", and was the founder of practical digital circuit design theory. * Michael Smith (1932–2000): British-born Canadian biochemist and Nobel Laureate in Chemistry in 1993. * Richard Stallman (1953—): American software freedom activist, hacker, and software developer. * Leonard Susskind (1940—): American theoretical physicist. He was one of the founding fathers of Superstring theory and he is a professor of theoretical physics at Stanford University. * Linus Torvalds (1969—): Finnish software engineer, creator of the Linux kernel. * Alan Turing (1912–1954): English mathematician, logician, and cryptographer. Turing is often considered to be the father of modern computer science. The Turing Award, often recognized as the "Nobel Prize of computing", is named after him. * James D. Watson (1928—): 1962-Nobel-laureate co-discover of the structure of DNA, identified as an atheist in a Newsweek commentary by his acquaintance, Rabbi Marc Gellman. * David Sloan Wilson (1949—): American evolutionary biologist, son of Sloan Wilson, proponent of multilevel selection theory and author of several popular books on evolution. Visual Arts: * Mitch Clem (1982—): American cartoonist and webcomic author. * Alexander McQueen (1969—): English fashion designer. * "Normal" Bob Smith (1969—): American graphic artist, who prompted controversy with his creation of Jesus Dress Up.

  • ?
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago

    I do believe that some of the people that founded America were in fact Atheists. And I am sure there are many more great historical figures that were Atheists as well. looks as though one person even posted a link where you could get a list =)

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Marie Curie

    Helen Keller


    Carl Sagan

    Napoleon Bonaparte

    Frank Lloyd Wright

  • 1 decade ago

    Margaret Sanger.. Activist

    Douglas Adams... Author

    Jacques Monod... Scientist Nobel Prize winner..

    Michael Smith... Biochemist Nobel Laureate

    Try using a search engine and looking up lists of famous Atheists..

    Source(s): Atheist
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  • 1 decade ago

    Thomas Jefferson

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Not easy to answer as there are likely many millions of people in history who are listed as belonging to a religion when in fact they were atheist -- because atheism was considered heathenistic.

    Edit: The list, I think, would be longer (naturally) if one also includes all non-adherents which may include agnostics, seculars, irreligious, nontheists, etc. Not sure if what you're asking includes these but I thought I'd throw it out there.

  • 1 decade ago

    Most would have to be ascertained through analytical conjecture, since few "historical" figures were free enough to declare their atheistic stance, for fear of death or disempowerment.

  • 1 decade ago

    Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln

  • didi
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago

    As atheism was punished, by death or taking away your rights, not many atheists dared come out in the light. You had to be powerful or well protected to do it (Voltaire, for example) So you can't know.

  • 1 decade ago

    Here's a starter:

    Bear in mind, too, that back in the 'good ol' days', people were routinely tortured to death for infidelity, so there's probably a lot more atheists out there who were forced to hide their disbelief under a veil of hypocrisy...

  • 1 decade ago


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