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English citations of atheist

one who believes no gods exist[edit]

1571 1604
ME « 15th c. 16th c. 17th c. 18th c. 19th c. 20th c. 21st c.
  • 1571 October 20, Golding, Arthur, “The Epistle Dedicatory”, in Psalmes of Dauid and others, with M. John Caluin's Commentaries[1]:
    Ageine, the Atheistes, which say in their hartes there is no God; []
  • 1604, Rowlands, Samuel, “God-leſſe Athiſts”, in Looke to it: FOR, Ile stabbe ye.[2], London: E. Allde, page 23:
    Thou damned Athiſt, thou incarnate Deuill,
    That doeſt deny his power which did create thee:
    a Villaine apt for euery kinde of euill,
    And all the eyes in heauen and earth do hate thee.
  • 1656, Stanley, Thomas, quoting Zeno, chapter 15, in The History of Philosophy[3], part 8, page 93:
    A wiſe man is divine: for he hath God with himſelf; but a wicked man is an Atheiſt. An Atheiſt is taken two waies, for him who is an Enemy to the Gods, and for him who believeth there are no Gods : which all wicked men do not.
  • 1692 May 2, Boyle, Robert, “A Confutation of Atheism from the Origin of Humane Bodies, Part I”, in Bentley, Richard, editors, The Folly and Unreaſonableneſs of Atheism [] [4], 4th edition, London: H. Mortlock, LCC BT1209.B477 1699, page 97:
    If the Stars be no Deities, Aſtrology is groundleſs: and if the Stars be Deities, why is the Aſtrologer an Atheiſt?
  • 1876 June, Gladstone, W. E., “The Courses of Religious Thought”, in Contemporary Review[5], volume 28, page 22:
    By the Atheist I understand the man who not only holds off, like the sceptic, from the affirmative, but who drives himself, or is driven, to the negative assertion in regard to the whole Unseen, or to the existence of God.
  • 1940, Lewis, C. S., The Problem of Pain[6], OL 71167W, Chapter VI:
    Even atheists rebel and express, like Hardy and Housman, their rage against God although (or because) He does not, on their view, exist...
  • 1953 November 3, Russell, Bertrand, “What is an Agnostic?”, in Look[7]:
    An atheist, like a Christian, holds that we can know whether or not there is a God. The Christian holds that we can know there is a God; the atheist, that we can know there is not.
  • 1997 July 6, McGrath, Alister E., Studies in Doctrine: Understanding Doctrine, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, ISBN 0310213266, LCCN 96053076, LCC BT75.2.M394 1997, 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, Martin, Michael, “Should atheists be agnostics?”, in Baggini, Julian, editor, The Philosophers' Magazine, number 19, ISSN 1354-814X, archived from [ the original] on 20 December 2002, 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, Armand M. Nicholi Jr., "Introduction: Definition and Significance of a Worldview", chapter 1 of Allan M. Josephson and John R. Peteet (editors), Handbook of Spirituality and Worldview in Clinical Practice, American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc., ISBN 978-1-58562-104-0, page 5:
    Many have wondered why Freud called himself an atheist and not an agnostic. Because a negative is impossible to prove, the position of atheism, which holds that God does not exist, is untenable on strictly logical grounds.
  • 2006, John R. Mabry quoting "Pam" and "Leslie", in Faith Styles: Ways People Believe, Church Publishing, Inc., ISBN 9780819222220, page 117:
    "But you've been thinking about it more, now? If you're not an atheist, what are you?"
    "I'm an agnostic. That's like Atheism Lite, I think. I don't know if there is a god, but I don't know if there isn't a god, either. [] "
  • 2008 February 25, Sweeney, Jon M., Almost Catholic: An Appreciation of the History, Practice, and Mystery of Ancient Faith[8], San Francisco: John Wiley and Sons, ISBN 978-0787994709, LCCN 2007044097, LCC BX1751.3.S94 2008, page 23:
    I would rather have the pews full of angry atheists and questioning agnostics than of certain or sleepy believers on any given Sunday or Saturday night.

...and no other religious beliefs[edit]

  • 1899 November 18, in The Outlook, volume 63, page 670:
    He may be atheist, agnostic, Mohammedan, Buddhist, Parsee, Mormon — what he will : the State officially knows nothing of the difference.
  • 1907, My Double Life: Memoirs of Sarah Bernhardt, page 367:
    I moved towards the door, and a female reporter in a tailor-made skirt, with her hair cut short, asked me in a clear, sweet voice, "Are you a Jewess-Catholic-Protestant-Mohammedan-Buddhist-Atheist-Zoroaster-Theist-or-Deist?" I stood still, rotted to the spot in bewilderment. She had said all that in a breath, accenting the syllables haphazard, [...]
  • 2008, Lama Surya Das, Buddha Is as Buddha Does: The Ten Original Practices, page xvii:
    It doesn't matter whether you now consider yourself a Buddhist, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Jain, pantheist, atheist, agnostic, or devotee of any other spirituality, religion, or philosophy. It doesn't matter if you're antireligious.
  • 2010 March 1, Asma, Stephen T., Why I Am a Buddhist: No-Nonsense Buddhism with Red Meat and Whiskey, Charlottesville: Hampton Roads, ISBN 978-1571746177, page 74:
    Hindus, Muslims, atheists, Buddhists, agnostics, and Christians all love their children (and feel ethically bound to their families). Thankfully, ethics seems to be above and beyond religion.
  • 2010 May 18, Johnson, Albert W., Rules of Chivalry for Nuclear War: How We Fight and Persuade Each Other, Bloomington: AuthorHouse, ISBN 978-1449098193, LCCN 2010903274, page 233:
    We must insure that there is freedom in this country to be a Muslim, Buddhist, Jew, Christian, agnostic, or atheist even while we reserve the right to believe and say that another person's belief is deficient.

one who rejects belief in gods[edit]

1577 1732 1834
ME « 15th c. 16th c. 17th c. 18th c. 19th c. 20th c. 21st c.
  • 1577, Hanmer, Meredith, quoting Eusebius, The auncient ecclesiasticall histories of the first six hundred years after Christ, written by Eusebius, Socrates, and Evagrius, London, OCLC 55193813, page 63:
    The opinion which they conceaue of you, to be Atheists, or godlesse men.
  • 1834, Edmund Burke, editors, The Annual Register, or a view of the History, Politics, and Literature of the year 1833[9], volume 75, London, page 161:
    Mr. Phillips.—Witness, are you an atheist like the last witness?
    Witness.—Yes, I am.
    Mr. Phillips.—Do you mean to say, that you do not believe in a Supreme Being?
    Witness.—Yes, sir. (Renewed hisses.)

...without believing no gods exist[edit]

  • 1732, Cudworth, Ralph, An Abridgment Of Dr. Cudworth's True Intellectual System of the Universe[10], London: John Oswald, page 3:
    And theſe in reference at once to Speculation and Prac‍tice may be term'd mixt Atheiſts, as being not able to convince themſelves fully that there is no God, yet venturing to live as if there were none, and that the rather, becauſe they can urge ſome little Difficultys about it.
  • 1842, Holyoake, George Jacob, “Mr. Mackintosh's New God”, in The Oracle of Reason, Or, Philosophy Vindicated[11], volume 1, number 23, page 186:
    On the contrary, I, as an Atheist, simply profess that I do not see sufficient reason to believe that there is a god. I do not pretend to know that there is no god. The whole question of god's existence, belief or disbelief, a question of probability or of improbability, not knowledge.
  • 1843, Holyoake, G. J., “A Reciprocal Dialogue”, in Paterson, Thomas, editors, The Oracle of Reason, Or, Philosophy Vindicated[12], volume 2, number 64, page 89:
    Minister—Are you really an Atheist?
    M.—Do you deny that there is a god?
    A.—No. I deny that there is sufficient reason to believe there is one. There may be a god, but I think it rather unlikely.
  • 1851, “Rev. W. James, Unitarian Minister of Bristol”, in The Reasoner and Theological Examiner[13], volume 10, number 24, Holyoake and Co., page 381:
    Now, sir, the atheist does not deny the existence of a supreme being — he disbelieves it.
  • 1875 July 20, Underwood, Benjamin Franklin, Hawke, John T., editors, The Underwood-Marples Debate, New York: D. M. Bennett, published 1877, page 16:
    Now, I have had intercourse with Atheists from my boyhood, and ought to know what their positions are. Although they do not believe in the existence of a personal God, I know of none who deny the being of God.
  • 1884, Besant, Annie, “Why Should Atheists Be Persecuted?”, in The Atheistic Platform[14], London: Freethought Publishing, pages 185-186:
    The Atheist waits for proof of God. Till that proof comes he remains, as his name implies, without God. His mind is open to every new truth, after it has passed the warder Reason at the gate.
  • 1903, Flint, Robert, Agnosticism[15], New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, LCCN 03002131, page 53:
    If a man have[sic] failed to find any good reason for believing that there is a God, it is perfectly natural and rational that he should not believe that there is a God; and if so, he is an atheist, although he assume no superhuman knowledge, but merely the ordinary human power of judging of evidence.
  • 1911, Kittredge, Herman Eugene, Ingersoll: A Biographical Appreciation[16], New York: Dresden Publishing, LCCN 11002064, LCC BL2790.I6 K5, page 225:
    Ingersoll did not believe in the existence of God. Ingersoll was therefore an atheist. “But,” you will object, “Ingersoll did not deny.” True; but an atheist is not an atheist because he denies: he is an atheist because he does not believe.
  • 1967, Edwards, Paul, Borchert, Donald M., editor, Encyclopedia of Philosophy, volume 1, 2nd edition, MacMillan Reference USA (Gale), published 2005, ISBN 9780028657806, keyword “atheism”, page 359:
    On our definition, an ‘atheist’ is a person who rejects belief in God, regardless of whether or not his reason for the rejection is the claim that ‘God exists’ expresses a false proposition. People frequently adopt an attitude of rejection toward a position for reasons other than that it is a false proposition.
  • 1982 Spring, Kurtz, Paul, quoting Isaac Asimov, “Isaac Asimov on Science and the Bible”, in Free Inquiry[17], volume 2, ISSN 0272-0701, page 9:
    Emotionally, I am an atheist. I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time.
  • 1992 July 23, McCarthy, John, “Re: Agnostics and Athiests”, in rec.arts.books, Usenet[18], message-ID <JMC.92Jul23164012@SAIL.Stanford.EDU>:
    An atheist doesn't have to be someone who thinks he has a proof that there can't be a god. He only has to be someone who believes that the evidence on the God question is at a similar level to the evidence on the werewolf question.
  • 1999, Dennett, Preston E., quoting Stephen Maples, UFOs over Topanga Canyon: Eyewitness accounts of the California sightings[19], St. Paul: Llewellyn Worldwide, ISBN 978-1567182217, LCCN 99017974, LCC TL789.5.C2 D46 1999, page 19:
    As a non-practicing atheist and a devoted agnostic, should I die and discover there really is a God, I'm prepared to say “oops”.
  • 2006 September 18, Dawkins, Richard, “The God Hypothesis”, in The God Delusion[20], 1st Am. edition, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 978-0618680009, LCCN 2006015506, OL 7606171M, LCC BL2775.3.D39 2006, page 51:
    Very low probability, but short of zero. De facto atheist. ‘I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.’

one who has no belief that any gods exist[edit]

1772 1874
ME « 15th c. 16th c. 17th c. 18th c. 19th c. 20th c. 21st c.
  • 1893, Besant, Annie Wood, Annie Besant: An Autobiography, Philadelphia: Henry Altemus, LCCN 01021880, OCLC 2015985, OL 23380677M, ark:/13960/t3nv9ht5x LCC PR585.B3 A3 1893a, page 145:
    The position of the Atheist is a clear and reasonable one. I know nothing about 'God' and therefore I do not believe in Him or in it; what you tell me about your God is self-contradictory, and therefore incredible. I do not deny 'God,' which is an unknown tongue to me; I do deny your God, who is an impossibility. I am without God.
  • 1896, Foote, George William, “Second Night”, in Theism or Atheism: Which is the more reasonable?[21], London: R. Forder, OCLC 84024220, OL 23347483M, page 48:
    An Atheist, then, is one who is not a Theist. The prefix “A” does not mean denial, it means “without” []
  • 1910, The Vermont Digest 1789-1905[22], volume 2, Burlington: Free Press Printing Co:
    Atheists. One who does not believe in the existence of a Supreme Being, an atheist, is incompetent as a witness, being incapable of being sworn.
  • 1980, Stein, Gordon, editor, An Anthology of Atheism and Rationalism, Buffalo: Prometheus, ISBN 978-0879751364, LCCN 80081326, OCLC 6686464, LCC BL2747.3.A68, page 3:
    The prefix "a-" can mean "not" (or "no") or "without." If it means "not," then we have as an atheist someone who is not a theist (i.e., someone who does not have a belief in a God or gods). If it means "without," then an atheist is someone without theism, or without a belief in God.
  • 1990, Martin, Michael, Atheism: A Philosophical Justification, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, ISBN 978-0877226420, LCCN 89033121, OCLC 19669621, OL 8110936M, LCC BL2747.3.M3313 1990, page 463:
    From this standpoint an atheist would simply be someone without a belief in God, not necessarily someone who believes that God does not exist.
  • 2004 March 30, Narciso, Dianna, 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.
  • 2011 August 16, Jillette, Penn, God, No! : Signs you may already be an atheist and other magical tales, New York: Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-1451610369, LCCN 2010043439, OL 25074653M, LCC PN6231.R4 J55 2011, page xiii:
    You don’t have to be brave or a saint, a martyr, or even very smart to be an atheist. All you have to be able to say is “I don’t know”.

...including those with no concept of gods[edit]

  • 1772, Good Sense without God: Or Freethoughts Opposed to Supernatural Ideas[23], London: W. Stewart, translation of Le Bon-Sens, ou, Idées Naturelles Opposées aux Idées Surnaturelles by Paul-Henri Thiry baron d'Holbach, published c. 1900, §30:
    All children are born Atheists; they have no idea of God. Are they then criminal on account of their ignorance?
  • 1874, Bradlaugh, Charles, “A Plea for Atheism”, in A few words about the devil: and other biographical sketches and essays, New York: A. K. Butts, page 28:
    Every child is born into the world an Atheist; and if he grows into a Theist, his Deity differs with the country in which the believer may happen to be born, or the people amongst whom he may happen to be educated.
  • 1979, Smith, George H., Atheism: The Case Against God, Buffalo, New York: Prometheus, ISBN 978-0879751241, LCCN 96203520, LCC BL2747.3.S6 1979:
    The man who is unacquainted with theism is an atheist because he does not believe in a god. This category would also include the child with the conceptual capacity to grasp the issues involved, but who is still unaware of those issues. The fact that this child does not believe in god qualifies him as an atheist.
  • 2004 April, Eller, David, Natural Atheism, Parsippany: American Atheist Press, ISBN 978-1578849208, LCCN 2004005574, LCC BL2747.3.E55 2004:
    I was born an Atheist. All humans are born Atheists. No baby born into the world arrives with specific religious beliefs or knowledge. Such beliefs and knowledge must be acquired, []
  • 2008 June 21, Spencer, Dan, “A life philosophy”, in The Truth of Rational Thought[24], retrieved 2011-11-24:
    From this argument, we can see that from birth until some unknown age, which differs for each child born, we are atheists. It is the natural state of birth. We aren't born into sin, we are born into atheism.

one who has no belief in a particular god/pantheon/doctrine[edit]

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

...while believing in another god[edit]

  • 1858, Bomberger, John Henry Augustus (tr.), The Protestant Theological and Ecclesiastical Encyclopedia: being a condensed translation of Herzog's Real Encyclopedia[25], volume 1, Lindsay & Blakiston, translation of Real-Encyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche by Herzog, Johann Jakob:
    The Pagans would term the Christians atheists, because they denied the existence of the pagan gods, the orthodox would call heretical tendencies atheistic, and philosophical schools would attribute the same epithet to each other.
  • 1865, Downtown, Henry (tr.), Modern Atheism; or, the Heavenly Father, 2nd edition, London: Church of England Book Society, translation of original by Neville, Ernest, lecture 3, page 88:
    When Socrates opposed the idea of the holy God to the impure idols of paganism; when he dethroned Jupiter and his train in order to celebrate "the supreme God, who made and who guides the world, who maintains the works of creation in the flower of youth, and in a vigour always new," they accused Socrates of being an atheist.
  • 1883 March, Stephen, Leslie, “The Suppression of Poisonous Opinions”, in The Nineteenth Century[26], volume 13, number 73, page 505-506:
    Spinoza and Hobbes both professed to believe in a God who, to their opponents, is no God at all. The quaint identification of ‘deist’ with ‘atheist,’ by orthodox writers, is an illustration of the possible divergence of meaning under unity of phrase.
  • 1921, Cohen, Chapman, 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.
  • 2002 February, “Richard Dawkins on militant atheism”, in TED[27]:
    An atheist is just somebody who feels about Yahweh the way any decent Christian feels about Thor or Baal or the golden calf. As has been said before, we are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.
  • 2006, Sagan, Carl, Druyan, Ann, editors, The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God[28], Penguin, ISBN 978-1594201073, LCCN 2006044827, LCC BL183.S24 2006, page 148:
    The Romans called the Christians atheists. [] They had a peculiar, different kind of god. So it was very easy to call people who believed in a different kind of god atheists. And that general sense that an atheist is anybody who doesn’t believe exactly as I do prevails in our own time. wickedness[edit]

  • 1840, Gibbon, Edward, chapter 16, in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, volume 1, new edition, page 183:
    Malice and pejudice concurred in representing the christians[sic] as a society of atheists, who, by the most daring attack on the religious constitution of the empire, had merited the severest animadversion of the civil magistrate.
  • 1984, Frend, W. H. C., The Rise of Christianity, Fortress Press, ISBN 978-0800607135, page 458:
    Christians [] remained dangerous atheists, worshiping a man who had died a violent death as a rebel.
  • 2004 March 10, Carleton, Paul Dehn, Concepts: A ProtoTheist Quest for Science-Minded Skeptics of Catholic, and other Christian, Jewish & Muslim backgrounds, Pontiac: Carleton House, ISBN 978-0974558301, LCCN 2003097135, page 22:
    In the eyes of the pagan Romans the Christians were atheists! They didn't believe in and honor the gods and so had to be sacrificed to appease the gods.

one who disregards morality, wicked person[edit]

ME « 15th c. 16th c. 17th c. 18th c. 19th c. 20th c. 21st c.
  • 1660, Hall, Thomas, Samaria's Downfall: or, a Commentary (By way of Supplement) on the Five laſt Verſes of the Thirteenth Chapter of Hosea[29], page 107:
    Many that conſeſs God in their words, yet deny him in their works, and by conſequence deny his All-ſeeing eye and Being, as if God took no notice of things below; theſe are practical Atheiſts, Titus 1.16.
  • 1674, Milton, John, Paradiſe Loſt: A poem in twelve books, 2nd edition, London: S. Simmons, Book I. Lines 491-496.:
    ...To him no Temple ſtood
    Or Altar ſmok'd; yet who more oft than hee
    In Temples and at Altars, when the Prieſt
    Turns Atheiſt, as did Ely's ſons, who fill'd
    With luſt and violence the houſe of God.
  • 1866, Merivale, Charles, “Relapse of Christian Belief and Practice”, in The Conversion of the Northern Nations: The Boyle lectures for the year 1865[30], page 69:
    The sons of Eli were sons of Belial; full of all manner of lewdness and corruption; turning the service of God into a lie; turning themselves into heathens, infidels, atheists, even in the inner temple and sanctuary of the Most High.


  • 1930, Bhagat Singh, Why I am an atheist?,
    That very day certain police officials began to persuade me to offer my prayers to God regularly both the times. Now I was an atheist. I wanted to settle for myself whether it was in the days of peace and enjoyment alone that I could boast of being an atheist or whether during such hard times as well I could stick to those principles of mine. After great consideration I decided that I could not lead myself to believe in and pray to God. No, I never did. That was the real test and I came, out successful.

mention, not 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.