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Sunday, 25 September 2011

Atheism

Western atheism has its roots in pre-Socratic Greek philosophy, but did not emerge as a distinct world-view until the late Enlightenment. Criticism of Christianity became increasingly frequent in the 17th and 18th centuries, especially in France and England.

The first known atheist who threw off the mantle of deism, bluntly denying the existence of gods, was Jean Meslier, a French priest who lived in the early 18th century.

The first ever openly atheistic book published in Britain was Liverpool physician Matthew Turner's 1785 Answer to Dr Priestley's Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever.

The French Revolution took atheism outside the salons and into the public sphere.

In 1810 two students at Oxford University, Percy Shelley and Thomas Jefferson Hogg sent a radical anti religion pamphlet, The Necessity of Atheism, to the heads of the colleges. Both students refused to answer questions about the pamphlet and were expelled on March 25, 1811.

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In 1841 the German philosopher, Ludwig Feuerbach, published The Essence of Christianity, which promoted humanistic atheism. The book argued that mankind had invented God as a spiritual answer to their needs, hopes and fears. His work proved to be a great influence on Karl Marx who at the time was a student at the University of Berlin.

The 20th century saw the political advancement of atheism, spurred on by interpretation of the works of Marx and Engels. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Soviet Union and other communist states promoted state atheism and opposed religion, often by violent means.

In 2014 there were seven countries in which you could be executed for being an atheist (Afghanistan, Iran, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan).  

The highest rates of atheism occur in nations where citizens have high economic and political stability.

While projections show Islam and Christianity having population booms into 2050, atheism is expected to dwindle as time goes on. The main reason is atheists have extremely low fertility rates in comparison to Christians and Muslims.

Atheophobia is the fear or hatred of atheists or atheism.

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