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People who do not believe in a higher power are called Atheists, from the Greek word “atheos” which means “without god.” Atheists can be broken into two types:

  1. Those who strongly state there is no God.
  2. Those who haven’t found a god they would believe in.

Many Atheists believe humans can’t prove that God exists, that prayer works, or that Scripture is from God. They may also believe that religious people waste their money on churches instead of hospitals or are responsible for starting wars. Some Atheists do acknowledge the good works of many religious people.

Anti-theists: Atheism doesn’t inherently involve hatred of God or religion. However, some Atheists do hate God because they believe if there were a God, he wouldn’t allow evil in the world. Some Atheists also hate religion. We could call this group anti-theists (or “against theism,” which often implies “against established religion” or “against God”). Perhaps today’s most popular, anti-theist is Richard Dawkins, a British scientist who focuses on Darwin’s theories and actively attacks religious ideas. In his best-selling book The God Delusion, Dawkins wrote that God is bloodthirsty, unforgiving, jealous, a racist, and a bully. Another of today’s popular Atheists, Sam Harris, says religions don’t allow for science and life in other places of the universe. Dawkins and Harris have received the attention of the media, but they do not represent the whole of Atheism.

Agnostics: An Agnostic is someone who isn’t sure whether there is a God and who doesn’t think we can really figure that out. In other words, Agnostics aren’t sure that Atheists or religious people have it right.

U.S. statistics

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life polled Americans about their beliefs in 2008. Here’s what they found:

  • ~71% are certain God exists
  • ~21% are fairly or not too certain
  • ~4% actively say they don’t believe in God
  • ~3% didn’t know or refused to answer

When claiming religious belief or lack of religious beliefs, only 1.6% of Americans said they were Atheists. If these numbers are correct, there are around 15 million Atheists in America. But American Atheists, an organization for Atheist rights, claims on their website that the number is probably closer to 50 million Americans – many just don’t want to admit to they don’t believe in God.


Among the arguments and ideas most important to Atheists are the following:

  • Science: Most Atheists reject anything that can’t be proven by science or with evidence. They might say, “Think there’s a God? Prove it!” Many Atheists believe that if we can prove God and Heaven don’t exist, then we can make the best of life here on Earth. (This group is sometimes called “Freethinkers” as they often think beliefs should be based on reason and science.)
  • Morals: Many Atheists say it’s still possible to do the right thing without religion. Atheists can still be moral and responsible and treat humans with respect.
  • Equality: Some Atheists want equality between religious people and those who don’t follow a religion. In other words, they oppose “special privileges” for religious people (i.e., Atheists might oppose placement of the Ten Commandments in a courtroom).

Where does Darwin fit in?

Some Atheists point to the ideas of Charles Darwin as proof that there is no God. Darwin was a scientist known for his theories of evolution and natural selection; this year marks Darwin’s 200th birthday. Born in 1809 in England, Darwin initially believed God created the world. But after sailing around the world collecting fossils and studying plants and animals, Darwin came up with a new idea: Each creature was not created separately but evolved from one type of creature. His findings were published in a book called On the Origin of Species (for short).

Darwin himself didn’t use his theories to prove there is no God. However, after his death in 1882, Atheists and others sometimes use his ideas to prove there is no God. As of early 2009, the Catholic Church now believes Darwin’s theories are probably correct. Still, most people who believe in God also believe that God played some (if not the whole) part in creating the world.

Find news related to Atheism on

Read my interview with the president of American Atheists.

Created by Religion Transcends, 2009. Portions of this overview are taken from an article written by Religion Transcends writer Jackie Walker for Relate magazine. Most information is general knowledge. You must seek permission to reuse this wording.

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