Photo grid of famous atheists

From top left: Mark Twain, Adam Savage, Jamie Hyneman, Keira Knightley, Stephen Hawking, Bill Maher, John Lennon, Ricky Gervais, Julianne Moore, Keanu Reeves, Bill Shatner, Johnny Depp, Janeane Garofalo, James Cameron, Billy Joel, Jack Nicholson, John Malkovich, Dame Helen Mirren, Sir Richard Branson, Sir Ian McKellan, Albert Einstein, Brad Pitt, Daniel Radcliffe, Jodie Foster, Hugh Laurie, Lance Armstrong, George Carlin, Morgan Freeman, Fred Armisen, Angelina Jolie, Gene Wilder, Penn Jillette, Teller, Dylan Moran, Patton Oswalt, Seth Green, Norm MacDonald, Eddie Izzard, Cillian Murphy, Jeremy Clarkson, and George Clooney.

(Via Nag on the Lake)


    1. Excellent point. How dare all those well-known people publicize the fact that they share a viewpoint different from yours. Everyone should go along with you in mocking them for being such a simple-minded herd.

        1. Maybe I misunderstood, and your point wasn’t “oh, look, all these people are just jumping on a bandwagon, aren’t they ridiculous”. If that wasn’t the point you were trying to make could you explain what it was?

          1.  I thought his point was that believing something or thinking it’s good to believe something because celebrities believe it is illogical.

      1. He neither told you what his own belief was, nor did he mock anyone or suggest they were simple minded.  He simply pointed out that this is a common form of fallacy in an argument.

        1. “He simply pointed out that this is a common form of fallacy in an argument.”

          And missed the point by doing so.   He seems to think the photo is claiming atheism to be true because lots of famous people are atheists.  What it is actually stating is that if hell really exists it will be filled with lots of awesome people.

    2. That would be relevant if the point was to convince you to be an atheist. The point is to convince you that it’s OK to be open about your atheism.

    3. I think the point is that if  atheists go to hell, they’ll be in good company. Not that popularity makes it true.

      Sheesh, it’s kinda hard to miss that particular point. It’s written right across the graphic.

      1. I was focused so much on trying to recognize the faces I didn’t even notice there WAS text written on the graphic. It’s kind of like that attention demo where you’re trying to count basketball passes but miss the guy in the gorilla suit.

    4. It’s not an argument for atheism. Personally, as an atheist, I’m always happy when I find that other people are atheists, and doubly so when that person is famous in some way. Why? Because Atheists are often bullied, ostracized, and otherwise called out for being “different.”

      These are famous people who have remained atheists even during their rise to fame. They are not concerned with religion, and that is a positive message for other skeptics, doubters, and atheists, and it’s also a positive message for people who have found religion. It says “Do not assume that everyone believes the same as you, and look within to justify your beliefs. Do not assume that your role models, crushes, or anyone else in your life is the same as you. We are all different.”

      That is a positive message.

      Some of the snide comments below about a lack of diversity or how “this changes nothing” misses the point. If this was a grid of gay people, what then?

          1. I believe in something like that too.  I call it “the universe.”

            Basically, if you don’t believe God is a person then you don’t believe in God.  For me it’s just a way of cutting through the waffly bullshit.  You believe in something, sure, but it’s not God.

          2. I believe in something like that too.  I call it “the universe.”Basically, if you don’t believe God is a person then you don’t believe in God.  For me it’s just a way of cutting through the waffly bullshit.  You believe in something, sure, but it’s not God.

            Spinoza’s God was supposed to possess some type of consciousness even if it wasn’t a very humanlike consciousness (see here for a discussion), so it was “personal” in that sense, though it wasn’t “personal” in the sense of being an entity that makes choices about courses of action (including ethical choices). And his version of God also had some other important features that wouldn’t be believed to be a property of “the universe” by a typical atheist, like the idea of every property of God being absolutely “necessary” in the same sense we believe truths about mathematics are necessary truths that could not be otherwise. Most atheists couldn’t imagine a possible world where 1+1=3, but they could imagine a possible world with different laws of physics, or with the same laws of physics but somewhat different conditions at the time of the Big Bang so that the subsequent history of the universe was different (perhaps a modern advocate of Spinoza would favor a multiverse where the real existence of all possible histories, even all possible laws of nature, was a necessary truth, so that the seemingly contingent facts of particular universes were balanced out by other universes with different facts, which seems a bit more believable to me than the idea that every fact about this particular universe’s history, including what I had for breakfast this morning, is as much a necessary truth as 1+1=2).

            I don’t think Einstein would have believed dogmatically that either of these aspects of Spinoza’s God were definitely true, but I think he was probably at least open to the possibility. For example, his comment “What I am really interested in is knowing whether God could have created the world in a different way; in other words, whether the requirement of logical simplicity admits a margin of freedom” was probably at least partially inspired by his interest in Spinoza.

          3. I realize my “non-personal God is not actually God” thing is non-standard but I think it’s a better way of approaching the problem.

            As far as the philosophy babble goes, just because I can’t imagine a world where 1+1=3 doesn’t mean it’s impossible; it just means I can’t imagine it. Just because I can imagine a world with different laws of physics doesn’t mean it’s possible; it just means I can imagine it. In the real world, we simply don’t understand the actual relationship between logical possibility, imagination, and metaphysical reality. We don’t know that metaphysical reality is constrained by logic (even if we suspect our imaginations are). We don’t know if all possibilities that can be imagined are logically or metaphysically possible. You can’t use your imagination as evidence of anything about the world (except maybe your brain). I will say, however, that I personally can’t imagine a person-like God existing “outside the universe” — that would imply outside of time and I think orientation in time is necessary to being a person. I would say that a person-God outside of time is a logical impossibility and that I can’t imagine it; that doesn’t mean it isn’t so, but it seems rather unlikely to me.

            Also, Einstein had a bit of a penchant for using the word “God” metaphorically, so it’s a little problematic using direct quotes to make a positive case for religious belief there.

          4.  When people say they believe in “God”, they imply belief in a god who burns bushes, assigns tablets to people, has walled gardens, had a talking reptile nemesis, had a son (who was also him) whom he killed or let die so he could forgive himself.  So, since Einstein doesn’t believe in that, I called him an awdlwa.  It’s just easier to pronounce than pwisnpg (Person with Intuition of Spinoza-esque Non-Personal God) .

          5. I realize my “non-personal God is not actually God” thing is non-standard but I think it’s a better way of approaching the problem.

            Why? Just a matter of matching the common understanding of the word? The Hindu concept of Brahman as the highest reality is also not very personal, nor is the Neoplatonist idea of The One from which all other reality emanates, but believers in these ideas are typically said to believe in a type of “God”, and certainly they aren’t typically called atheists.As far as the philosophy babble goes, just because I can’t imagine a world where 1+1=3 doesn’t mean it’s impossible; it just means I can’t imagine it.

            Since we are not omniscient we can’t be sure of anything, but I think our confidence in the universality of the laws of logic has to be about as strong as our confidence in any other possible belief, since all our other beliefs are predicated on it. Anyway, my point was about what atheists typically believe, so even if you are an exception, I think the typical educated atheist would at least tentatively agree with some distinction between “necessary truths” like 1+1=2 and “contingent truths” like what they had for breakfast that morning.

            Also, Einstein had a bit of a penchant for using the word “God” metaphorically, so it’s a little problematic using direct quotes to make a positive case for religious belief there.

            What examples are you thinking of? I don’t think it’s clear that any of his statements about God were completely metaphorical, even if he sometimes anthropomorphized God a bit in a metaphorical way. If you’re thinking about statements like “God doesn’t play dice”, statements like that seem compatible with the idea that he thought of “God” as the mysterious source or cause of the elegance/order/harmony of the laws of nature, and therefore also as a kind of justification for his faith that our sense of mathematical elegance and beauty is a good guide to finding the correct laws of nature (simply using God as a kind of synonym or metaphor for “the universe” wouldn’t justify such a faith). Statements like the ones below all seem to fit pretty well with that interpretation:

            “I believe in Spinoza’s God, Who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God Who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.”

            “In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognise, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support of such views.”

            “I’m not an atheist and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws, but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations.”

            “What a deep faith in the rationality of the structure of the world and what a longing to understand even a small glimpse of the reason revealed in the world there must have been in Kepler and Newton to enable them to unravel the mechanism of the heavens in long years of lonely work!”

            “If we look at this tree outside whose roots search beneath the pavement for water, or a flower which sends its sweet smell to the pollinating bees, or even our own selves and the inner forces that drive us to act, we can see that we all dance to a mysterious tune, and the piper who plays this melody from an inscrutable distance—whatever name we give him—Creative Force, or God—escapes all book knowledge.”

            “As I’ve said before, science without religion is lame and religion without science is blind. They are interdependent and have a common goal—the search for truth. Hence it is absurd for religion to proscribe Galileo or Darwin or other scientists. And it is equally absurd when scientists say that there is no God. The real scientist has faith, which does not mean that he must subscribe to a creed. Without religion there is no charity. The soul given to each of us is moved by the same living spirit that moves the universe.”

            “This religion has no dogma other than teaching man that the universe is rational and that his highest destiny is to ponder it and co-create with its laws. There are only two limiting factors: first, that what seems impenetrable to us is as important as what is cut and dried; and, second, that our faculties are dull and can only comprehend wisdom and serene beauty in crude forms, but the heart of man through intuition leads us to greater understanding of ourselves and the universe. My religion is based on Moses: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. And for me God is the First Cause. David and the prophets knew that there could be no love without justice or justice without love. I don’t need any other religious trappings.”

            “I do not believe in the God of theology who rewards good and punishes evil. My God created laws that take care of that. His universe is not ruled by wishful thinking, but by immutable laws.”

            “My views are near to those of Spinoza: admiration for the beauty of and belief in the logical simplicity of the order and harmony which we can grasp humbly and only imperfectly.”

          6. When people say they believe in “God”, they imply belief in a god who burns bushes, assigns tablets to people, has walled gardens, had a talking reptile nemesis, had a son (who was also him) whom he killed or let die so he could forgive himself.  So, since Einstein doesn’t believe in that, I called him an awdlwa.  It’s just easier to pronounce than pwisnpg (Person with Intuition of Spinoza-esque Non-Personal God) .

            Like I said to wysinwyg, it seems to me you’re saying that quite large swathes of people who claim to believe in “God” don’t count, like Hindus who believe in Brahman as the most fundamental reality, or Neoplatonists and various beliefs heavily influenced by them such as Kabbalism, not to mention more liberal Christians (and Reform Jews, and a small minority of Muslims) who are agnostic or skeptical about all the specific stories of miracles in their holy texts. To count all these people as atheists seems to be an attempt to redefine the typical understanding of the word and vastly expand the ranks of atheists beyond those who would identify themselves with that word–such a move seems a bit propagandistic to me.

          7. Doesn’t say anywhere that everyone on that chart is an atheist.    It says everyone on that chart would be a candidate for eternal damnation if the “personal God who punishes you for not believing in Him” myth is true.  Einstein certainly did not believe in a personal God and said so.

          8.  @hypnosifl:disqus

            Since we are not omniscient we can’t be sure of anything, but I think our confidence in the universality of the laws of logic has to be about as strong as our confidence in any other possible belief, since all our other beliefs are predicated on it.

            I personally disagree.  The laws of logic are human constructions.  They seem to be based on some more absolute sort of constraint, but it’s not clear whether it’s a metaphysical constraint or a biological constraint.  I lean towards the latter; there’s no reason to suspect that our brains are special “rationality machines” that automatically infer all the possible ways the universe might work.  I’m skeptical of rationalism, in other words.

            As far as your Einstein quotes, I’m not particularly interested in searching down the ones I’m thinking of.  Sorry.  But I do agree with you on everything, except that I don’t think Einstein thought that God was a person (and I think some of your quotes back me up on this).

      1. Einstein was indeed an atheist.

        I received your letter of June 10th. I have never talked to a Jesuit priest in my life and I am astonished by the audacity to tell such lies about me. From the viewpoint of a Jesuit priest I am, of course, and have always been an atheist.- Albert Einstein, letter to Guy H. Raner Jr, July 2, 1945, responding to a rumor that a Jesuit priest had caused Einstein to convert from atheism; quoted by Michael R. Gilmore in Skeptic, Vol. 5, No. 2

        1. Please pay attention to context.  This is always the problem in the “Einstein was religious” debate because he somewhat playful with language.  Sometimes he uses the word “God” metaphorically, but does it in such a way that it really sounds like he believes in God.  In your letter above, he says:
          From the viewpoint of a Jesuit priest I am, of course, and have always been an atheist.”
          My emphasis — the “from the viewpoint” part is important.  It implies that there are other viewpoints from which Einstein was not an atheist.

          I tend to think Einstein did believe in a nebulous, vaguely Spinozan God; some of his comments on God make me think he did not believe in a person-like God (despite hypnofisl’s valid points on this score).  Taking into account everything he wrote about religion he basically thought the universe had a rational structure and he called that structure “God”.  That’s close enough to “atheist” for me to count him on my list; YMMV.

        2. Yes, many Jesuit priests would have considered him an atheist, for his non-belief in a personal god (they would have considered Spinoza an atheist too).

          Einstein did not consider himself an atheist. See the linked article, above.

          Now, on the matter of Einstein’s religious belief, who do you think would have had a more accurate view: a Jesuit priest, or the man himself?

          I’d go with AE, but I’m not particularly emotionally invested in the topic. Don’t need him to justify my own beliefs on the topic…

      2. Who said anything about atheism?  The chart says that if hell exists, you’ll be in good company and cites several people who would be condemned to hell if that myth was true.  You don’t have to be an atheist to be condemned to hell.

    5. I’m pretty comfortable jumping on the titanium-coated-rocket-powered bandwagon of science, escorted by robots riding dinosaurs.

      Not so much because all these awesome famous people are on it, but more because the alternative is stagnating in a sea of delusional, screaming, hypocritical zombies.

    1. He’s just the most easly recognized.

      Also I’d guess that statistically there are fewer black athiests as a percentage of the population due to how highly religion is considered in black culture. Or because of that, there may be a lot more black athiests but they keep private due to social pressures and fears. This applies even more to hispanics. 

        1.  Not everyone in the graphic is an actor. Though it would be awesome to see an Einstein cameo in a film noir movie…

    2. Yeah, that jumps out a bit. This article helps somewhat: Seems like the creator (heh) could have at least thrown Langston Hughes and Charlie Parker in there, right?

    3. Well Fred Armisen in on there (5th row, 1st column), he’s at least not white (ore more than 50% white?).

    1. From my perspective, it’s pretty obvious things like are really meant to let people show it’s ok to be atheist. Because if you’re not one you might not notice, but all the time we get the message that just thinking what we do makes us irredeemably bad people. You’re not the only one who thinks mentioning there are atheists means an attack on faith.

  1. I’d love it if we could stop deifying (get it) celebs…I am fascinated that Einstein was an atheist…do I care a whit what Brad Pitt thinks of anything? No, I do not and nor should you…he’s a great actor, period…whether he believes in God, no God or the Flying Spaghetti monster should matter to nobody but him and maybe his family.

    1. Albert Einstein’s religious views have been studied due to his sometimes apparently ambiguous statements and writings on the subject. He believed in the god of Baruch Spinoza, but not in a personal god, a belief he criticized. He also called himself an agnostic, and criticized atheism, preferring he said “an attitude of humility.”

      1. You can find a lot of quotes by Einstein on God and religion on his wikiquote page, too (do control-F or command-F on a Mac, and search the page for the word “God”)

        1. “Jewish” in the ethnic/cultural sense, he never claimed to believe in the Jewish religion. For example, in the 1920s section of Einstein’s wikiquote page you can find the comment I am neither a German citizen, nor do I believe in anything that can be described as a “Jewish faith.” But I am a Jew and glad to belong to the Jewish people, though I do not regard it in any way as chosen.  And in the 1950s section is the comment The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. … For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.

          1. I doubt they publish those quotes too often at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Einstein archives)

    2. On the other hand, Brad Pitt is a pretty good and normal person in general despite being ultra famous, rich and good looking.

      I’ll try to be his friend if we both end up in hell.

      1. I do like the idea of a wizened old nun screaming, “If you don’t go to confession, missy, you’ll spend eternity fucking Brad Pitt in Hell!”

    3. Look, Brad Pitt is one thing. He’s at least famous. Patton Oswalt? I follow the guy on twitter and still barely know who he is. He was the “other fat guy” on King of Queens, right?

      1. Patton is pretty darned famous.  He’s a top tier comedian first and foremost obvs.,  and then there’s an acting career that goes well beyond King of Queens.

        1. So much Patton Oswalt love on here. Wow. I think I’ll tweet him and let him know. I had no idea.

          1. @agreenster:disqus , except that, as stated, I follow him on Twitter. So, yeah, no. He is not close to Brad Pitt, and some of the others in fame. Not in the same universe. I made a joke. Oswalt’s fans, surprisingly, didn’t identify it as a joke. And so it goes.

      2. Let me get this straight:  You don’t know who Patton Oswalt is … yet you know he is a comedian, and a celebrity … and you also follow him on Twitter, because he is a comedian and a celebrity.  Yet he’s not really a celebrity?  Or not enough of one for this list?  And you don’t know him?  But you totally do because you follow him on Twitter?

        Okay, THAT makes sense, totally.  Except no, no it does not.For the record, he’s hilarious. And clearly you find him interesting since you follow him on Twitter.

    4. The criteria for occupying a useful spot on this grid is having an instantly recognizable face.

      It’s not about wisdom, it’s about alienation. More coming out of the closet than recruiting.

      1. “Coming out of the closet.” I have to tell you, I think that demeans two things at once. I cannot possibly equate one’s belief that there is no god (or God) with being gay. For one, an atheist may become religious and a religious person may become an atheist. I don’t think that gay people really become straight or straight people become gay.

        1. While I agree that the only people who think one’s sexual orientation may be consciously controlled are, by definition, bisexuals, I’m not convinced that using “closet” merits much hand-wringing.

          What’s a better shorthand for rejecting a societal shaming of a key aspect of one’s persona and boldly announcing both the status and the discarding of any shame associated with it?

          As I’m sure you know, the “closet” refers to the phrase “skeletons in the closet” and far predates any association with sexual orientation, though of course that usage is by far the primary one today.

        2. one of your statements has always confused me… how does one ‘become’ an atheist?  you don’t become nothing, you simply stop being something. atheism is default. (i have no issue with your point as i agree with it)

          1. Well, if someone is religious and for one reason or another ceases to believe in god, I would describe that as becoming an atheist. They were not one before, now they are. That’s the sense in which I meant it.

        3. No, there’s constant social pressure for atheists not to talk about their beliefs, and to politely assent when theists want to talk about their beliefs.  Even in Boston I feel like I have to dance around the fact that I’m an atheist.  And yet religious folks don’t seem to have the slightest hesitation in saying stuff like “I think all morality comes from God” right out in public, even though I actually find that pretty insulting from my point of view.

          So reinforcing the notion that it’s OK to be an atheist and it’s OK not to keep it a secret is a positive thing and a change from my perspective.

          1. OK. Different argument though. My objection was to equating making one’s faith or lack thereof with one’s sexuality. They strike me as fundamentally different in some very important ways.

            Of course, I am a mere “hand wringer” so what do I know?

          2. I agree thoroughly. 

            For ChicagoD, please note that I made the point that it is like coming out of the closet rather than recruitment. That was quite intentional in reference to the “scandals” that accompanied celebrities coming out as gay… there, too, the immediate accusation was that by refusing to stay silent about their sexual orientation they were aggressively recruiting the defenseless children of republicans.

            By making the association, I don’t mean to demean the courage that took, but rather to point to it in admiration and respect as a model for atheists, like me, to follow.

        4. It’s not the same, but do remember that while being religious or atheist can change, it’s a matter of what you find persuasive. Unless you’re willing to lie to yourself, it’s not really a deliberate choice.

  2. First of all, these guys are the athiest! [sic]

    Second of all, it’s not “these guys are atheists –> god doesn’t exist;” it’s “these guys are atheists –> if god exists, hell would be awesome.”

    1.  If god exists, heaven is hell. 
         Who wants to hang out with the guy who could end pain and suffering yet chose to do nothing?  Not me, coach.

  3. Atheists and other religious people.    One group has the unproven religious belief that God does not exist…  The other has the religious belief that God does exists.

    Both groups are religious and endeavor to believe things that are unproven one way or the other, often striving to lead others to believe as they believe without scientific proof that what they believe is the truth.

    Science and the truth are bed-buddies, and science shall prove whether atheists, or whether those who believe in Love, are correct.

    If you are a (real) scientist, you are in good company, and are pleasing to the risk management department, as well, which does not approve of decisions made based upon unproven religious belief, aka gambling with the lives of others.

    I do hope that my fellow “enlightened” humans continue evolving with the rest of us to rise above relying on or pushing unproven beliefs for “guidance” in the affairs of reality.  The lives of all loved one’s depends upon it.

          1. I would say that the diversity of commentary on this thread makes clear that “atheists” can actually believe a lot of different things and can express it in highly nuanced ways. It looks a lot like a worldview for some people. In fact, some say it is.

          2. But couldn’t that be turned around to say that religion is a rejection of an atheistic world view, so now religion isn’t a world view and atheism is? 

        1.  Are you asking if some people consider them worldviews?  That’s probably true, but those people could be mistaken.  Or are you asking if they actually are worldviews?  I don’t think “religious belief” OR “atheism” are worldviews.  “Religious belief” can encompass the beliefs of my (deceased) Catholic grandmother, the Mullahs of Iran, and the Dalai Lama all at the same time — I don’t consider those people to share a worldview.  “Religious belief” and “atheism” are both too broad to be worldviews. 

          On the other hand, almost all atheists seem to break into a fairly small number of worldviews.  I’d call the combination of naturalism and humanism a worldview, and that seems to be typical of a lot of atheists.  But objectivism as a worldview is pretty much the opposite of humanism and most objectivists are probably atheists too.

          1. wy – those are some interesting things to think about.  Going back to what I commented on originally, I don’t really think atheism is a religion.  I sort of think it is a woldview, but like you point out, I can see some sub-groups within it more closely align with the definition.  

            So if atheism isn’t a religion or a worldview, what is it?

          2.  James B, what is a “hole”?  I mean we have a word for it, so it must be a thing, right?  Except the actual semantics of the word are unusual for a “thing.”  In some ways, a “hole” is almost the opposite of a “thing.”  But we use the word “hole” intelligibly as though it were actually a thing.  There’s even the riddle about what you can put into a barrel that makes it lighter that revolves around this semantic weirdness.

            “Atheist” is to “belief” as “hole” is to “thing”.  Does that make any sense?

        2. One is a world view, the other is a fantasy view; unless you’ve come up with some hard evidence…?

      1. That’s a lazy, false comparison. Atheism is not a religious belief no matter how much you want it to be one.

        What a thoroughly well-reasoned argument. You’ve settled that question for eternity.

        1. How is it any worse than glibly stating “atheism is a religious belief” without backing that argument up?  Because that’s how we got here.

          I think Amphigorey’s right.  You want to demonstrate that atheism is a religious belief, go ahead — but don’t be lazy about it.  Actually make an argument.  Never seen any of these “atheism is a religion graarrggghh!” people actually make a case for it.

    1. Science employs skepticism. Scientists do not approach the world with a view of “maybe pink elephants exist”, but  rather “until evidence shows otherwise, pink elephants do not exist.”

      There is no evidence for any god. 

      Also, all babies are born atheist.

      1. You cannot prove a negative.  You can’t say that “pink elephants do not exist” unless you have looked at the entire population of elephants and found no pink ones.  It should read “Until evidence shows otherwise, I cannot say that pink elephants do not exist.” An important distinction in scientific research. 

        1.  But you can look at a lot of elephants (grey, unless they’ve been out in the sun too much) and say my hypothesis (H0) that pink elephants do not exist is true with a probability of p<0.001, depending on what proportion of elephants you look at. That is, there is only a 0.1% chance of falsely accepting the null hypothesis.

        2.  So you’re saying that the steament “Santa Claus does not exist” hasn’t been proven?

        3. Nor can I say that there does not exist a person who has jelly beans for blood.  However, it’s more reasonable for me to suggest such, and not have to cut every person in existence to prove it,  that it is for you to suggest, without any evidence, that such a person exists.

        4. It doesn’t have to be proven, it just has to be unlikely given the evidence we have.  Nobody (but the crazies) are saying “100% there is no such thing as god”, but many say “I do not believe God exists, due to a current lack of evidence”.  Nobody is trying to prove a negative, but atheism is about having at least a little proof before believing.

        5.  The fact that I cannot prove a negative is exactly why I demand evidence before I believe in something.  I can’t prove unicorns don’t exist; should I believe in them?  I can continue for all sorts of imaginary creatures and fictional characters; I can also start making some up.  Imagine a walking, talking mountain — literal mountain made of rocks — named Billy (OK, I wasn’t the one who made this up).  I can’t prove Billy doesn’t exist.  What should be my attitude towards Billy’s existence?

          While I’m at it, “A mountain’s the kind of thing/you don’t want to fuck with!”

        6.  But you can safely dismiss the question of their existence until some evidence is presented.

          Hitchens’ Razor: That which can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof .

    2. “Atheists… (have) the unproven religious belief that God does not exist”.

      FALSE – Atheists have no belief, not a different kind of belief.  Saying that atheism is a belief is like saying an empty glass is full – of nothing, or like saying bald is a haircolour, or like saying abstinence is a sexual position.

      1. I thought atheists “believe” there is no deity, while agnostics are the one who have no belief…ie open to any possibility?

          1. hmm. When I type in “atheism definition” into Google it tells me “The theory or belief that God does not exist.”

            Fucking Google. Eh?

        1.  Only if you oversimplify a lot.  I’m an agnostic and an atheist.  As an agnostic I believe truth should be discovered by rational application of tools-for-detecting-truth – the scientific method, say.  I’m an atheist because god is an unfalsifiable hypothesis, which is to say, a meaningless one.

          It is easy to imagine data or observations which would cause me to cease to be an atheist.  (Say, an angel appearing in my bedroom and performing some convincing miracles.)  I cannot imagine a set of observations which would make me cease to be an agnostic.

          1. This is true. It’s also true that agnosticism isn’t mutually exclusive with deism or theism.

            It’s amazing how many people just don’t get that.

        2. A lot of atheist are open to the possibility of a god, if proof could be provided. IMO agnosticism means more than just passively being open to any possibility, it means actively examining your position, struggling with belief and non-belief, and remaining undecided. 

        3.  Yep, in theory, an atheist should be as faith ridden as a deist:  “i’m taking it on faith there is no god”; whereas a agnostic is saying “i’m waiting for any evidence, either way”.  but the distinction is quite lost in practice.  Now for those that tend toward Occham, assuming no god is the more likely approach.

          ‘In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.’ –Einstein

        4. Atheism refers to the lack of belief in a deity or deities of any kind . Zen Buddhists are technically atheists. Taoists are atheists. All children are atheists until taught about god.

          Agnosticism states that it cannot be known whether god exists or not. Its a philosophical position more related to theory of knowledge than belief or disbelief in god. The “don’t know, don’t care” position most people take it for is better referred to as soft atheism. Lack of belief without espoused disbelief.

        5. The definitions vary wildly. According to me, Carl Sagan was an atheist, as am I. According to Carl Sagan, we’d both be agnostics.

          I personally favor “atheist” meaning “no belief in gods” rather than “belief in no gods”, since it seems to fit the word better- the a prefix just means “not”, such as in words like asexual. So atheist is just “not theist”.

          1. What is the convention? I agree with your argument, but I normally use (and expect) atheism to mean an active, volitional belief that there are no gods. (‘Anti-theism’). Especially in the US, where the ‘default’ position is to be religious, many atheists (or at least the ones who are publicly outspoken) are defined much more by what they are not (i.e., not theists) than they are defined by what they are (people who simply don’t believe there are gods). 

            As there are many more atheists now in the US than there used to be this may change. I think there is a cultural and intellectual difference between people who grew up atheist and have never considered being any other way, and people who grew up in a religious tradition and consciously decided to leave. I think the former is analogous to the way many people are about their religion — it’s the default position to stick with your upbringing, and it isn’t emotionally loaded one way or another, you’re just atheist as in ‘no belief in gods’, a simple description of fact. But if you had to consciously break with your upbringing, and maybe your family, that’s a much more emotional experience, likely motivated by careful thought, and likely as not by bad experiences with theists. Which makes atheist as ‘belief in no Gods’ — that is, atheism as a reactionary position — more descriptive. 

          2. @boingboing-e16a4ca71de93b9d1e35186e568d9fdf:disqus I don’t have statistics on which is used more often or anything. Almost all the atheists I know, though, favor the milder definition of atheist, the one that doesn’t mean “anti-theist”- even if, like myself, they have a generally negative view of organized religion. I think it’s exactly because religion is the “default” here that the “anti-theist” definition is popular- it’s easier to demonize and break down. Now that atheism is on the rise, though, fewer people are afraid to reveal their lack of belief, and as they become more outspoken, the definition that doesn’t serve as an easy target for the religious right is becoming more widely-used. That’s why, in addition to the linguistic reasons, I use “atheist” to mean just “not theist”.

            As for upbringing, I couldn’t tell you- I was raised Christian, and gradually realized that it was all contradictory, unsupported, and often hateful nonsense. I was Wiccan for a while until I realized I didn’t believe in those deities either (even if the general spirit of it was and is more appealing than Christianity to me), and since then I’ve been atheist. But my family wasn’t ultra-religious and there was no emotional turmoil from the decision, so it wasn’t a very traumatic break.

        6.  Someone who professes an absolute belief in no deity would be an atheist, yes, but that is not the definition of atheism.

          Atheism is a-theism.  It is the rejection of theism.  Theism is the belief that a God exists, interferes in the world, provides an afterlife and that we all owe it to him to worship him and follow his commandments.

          A atheist is someone who says there is no evidence in support of this notion and it can be completely ignored until some is provided.  An agnostic is uncertain as to whether theism is a reasonable philosophy.

          An atheist need have no belief at all one way or another about the existence of God.  An atheist simply dismisses the entire subject until evidence emerges.

        1.  No, atheists think the list is representative of the actual metaphysics of belief vs. non-belief.  Whether or not it’s persuasive is a function of how clearly the audience thinks.

          I’m an atheist because I don’t believe in God.  I think I have some good reasons not to believe in God, but I do not disbelieve in God dogmatically.  I’m happy to be proven wrong.  So does this sound like a religious belief in not-God to you?  Because it’s not really different from my attitude towards Santa Claus or unicorns.  Disbelief in those things is not usually likened to a religious belief.

      2. Saying that atheism is a belief is like saying an empty glass is full – of nothing…

        What exactly is this nothing of which you speak? Are we in a vacuum? Is nothing a scientific term?

        … or like saying bald is a haircolour…

        Unless you wanted to try to make a legitimate analogy, in which case, you might call it a hairstyle.

        …or like saying abstinence is a sexual position.

        Although someone with an adequate command of the language wouldn’t hesitate to call it a sexual choice.

        If atheists are going to pretend to be all sciency-like, it might be better not to fabricate arguments entirely from bad semantics and logical fallacies.

        1. Ya, imagine atheists pretending to be “all sciency-like”.  That is obviously the exclusive domain of those who believe without any evidence.  Science is all about un-data!   Hooray for un-logic!

          1. So, it really escapes you that not believing in a supreme being based on old stories is not the same as utilizing sound logic and reasoned arguments? I mean, you can be logical and scientific about one issue (i.e. the lack of proof in god), and utterly fail in others. You know that, right?

          2. I think you just proved my point. Science is about reliable data from repeatable experiments, and logic. God doesn’t make any of those cuts.

    3. Ok, so here’s the thing.  If you are a Christian, that probably means that you actively disbelieve in Hinduism – or would if you sat down and learned about Hinduism.  Now, is your disbelief in Hinduism a religious belief?  Perhaps it is, if your reason for disbelieving is “there is no god but Johovah, the bible says so” or some such.  But for many Christians, they look at the purple lady with 6 arms and they think, that is just plain stupid, even if I wasn’t Christian I wouldn’t believe in that.  So for most Christians, disbelieving in Hinduism is not a religious thing, it is a simple matter of common sense.

      If I do not believe in Hinduism, that means I am an atheist with regards to Hindu, yes?  Many people walk through all the major religions – Christianity, Islam, etc – and decide that they don’t believe in any of them.  A subset of those people perform a “for all n” induction and decide that this means they are atheists with regards to all religion.  Another subset decides that induction is inappropriate and consider themselves agnostic.  
      So, is that induction from “I don’t believe in these 10 religions” to “I don’t believe in any religion” itself an unproven religious belief?  Only to a troll.

    4. Atheism is a lack of belief, nothing more. Of course, the lines between atheism and agnosticism are pretty blurred. Atheist CAN mean someone who actively says “there is no god, for certain”, but that’s not the generally-used definition. Usually it means someone who doesn’t believe in a deity due to lack of evidence (or evidence against it), but who would change their stance if enough hard evidence pointed to the existence of a deity. In other words, the people you’re describing as atheists are sort of a straw man- they exist, but most people would at least describe them as “militant atheists”.

      Agnosticism can mean the exact same thing as atheism depending on the definition. If you were to use a similarly unpopular definition for it as you did for atheism, though, it would mean someone who believes that knowledge of whether a god does or doesn’t exist is inherently unknowable. Personally, I think an atheist that doesn’t believe in deities but is open to evidence is a hell of a lot less “religious” than an agnostic who believes, on faith, that it’s forever impossible to prove or disprove deities.

      1. Atheism is a religion in the same sense as not collecting stamps is a hobby.

        Atheism is a religion in the same sense as not collecting stamps and wandering around never shutting up about how you don’t collect stamps because collecting stamps is stupid is a hobby. FTFY.

        1.  As opposed to those quiet, reserved, humble folks who think the entire universe was devised as a test of their worthiness.  They’re much less annoying than atheists, amirite?

    5. Atheists are as religious as people who dont believe in the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot.

      ie: not religious.

    6.  Nope. 

      Atheist means does not believe in god.  We don’t have to prove anything, because we aren’t claiming anything.  The burden of proof rests on the theists, just as it rests on the unicorn jockeys.

  4. I’m not big on celebrity worship either, but let’s face it: A crapload of people are, and they are probably the same crapload of people who think that admitting to atheism is admitting to being a baby-eating rapist.

  5. What a fine group of people who have soaked up billions of dollars from society, and done so much good in the world.

      1. Ok, but what about the other 46?  You really think the world is so much better with a bunch of aging brain damaged Beatle fan acid burnouts running around trying to make themselves feel better by advocating global peace.  And maybe someday, some of Hawking’s theories might actually be good for something, but at this point I’m struggling to quantify any tangible benefit to society other than the freak show entertainment factor.

        The combined social improvement of every person on that list couldn’t come close doing anywhere close to as much good, as say Rev Martin Luther King.

        1. You really think the world is so much better with a bunch of aging brain damaged Beatle fan acid burnouts running around trying to make themselves feel better by advocating global peace. 

          Yes, if everyone was a beer-swilling conformo like you I’d probably have to kill myself. 

          And maybe someday, some of Hawking’s theories might actually be good for something, but at this point I’m struggling to quantify any tangible benefit to society other than the freak show entertainment factor.

          Are you actually familiar with any of the work Hawking has done?  No, of course not. But I’m sure you’re adding a whole lot of value to society your damn self, aren’t you?

          1. Well, were you sincere in your hippie bashing or just kidding around?  Because if you were sincere, it seems to me like you are the one making personal attacks because your arguments are weak.

            Or you were just kidding; in which case, why not assume I was also kidding?

            As far as weak assed arguments, “I don’t know what Stephen Hawking has actually done but I’m going to assume it’s less than what I’ve accomplished” is pretty weak.

    1. Firstly, I’m not sure that actors get paid as much as you think they get paid.  Secondly, I’d be a lot less happy if the world was devoid of art and entertainment.  Thirdly, some of those pictured have leveraged their fame to do some worthwhile work – go take a look at Pitt’s work helping rebuild houses in New Orleans.  And finally,

      1. I see about ten people on there, who fetch in the tens of millions per picture, so you do the math.  And there is a place for art and culture, but I would argue the money spent making, for instance,  The Matrix could have put to better use.  Maybe your aren’t old enough to have grown up under the graphic depictions of threat of nuclear weapons, but we can thank Al for the theories that help make all that possible.

        1. Any scientific advancement can be the basis for weapon making. As far as the actors, they are paid for their work. Its the people who see the movies who determine how much they are paid. My general impression of the people on the list that I know of are that they seem to be brighter than average and more concerned with the world around them. Would you have been happier if the list was comprised of only atheist heads of Fortune 500 companies?

          1. Happier if the list were atheist heads of Fortunie 500 companies?  Not happier, but not surprised either. 

            What I am trying to argue, is that these 48 people  (combined) take a disproportionately huge piece our economic output, and that the world would be a better place with, say,  a billion dollars worth of health clinics versus a billion dollars worth of actors .

          2.  @diluded000:disqus
            Careful, you’re starting to sound like one of those Beatles-loving acid burnout commies you were complaining about just a few posts earlier.  The market has decided these actors are worth more than health care for poor people.  Who are you to argue with THE MARKET?!

        2.  Ever notice how much money the Catholic Church rakes in every year? I’ll bet it’s more than everyone on this list combined. All so the Pope can sit on a gold toilet.

    2. By soaked up, do you mean earned? You might think actors and actresses are overpaid, but there are certainly lots of people who buy movie tickets and DVDs who think that the entertainment they get is worth the cost.

      1. I don’t disagree — but if our argument is ‘people are worth whatever they can convince people to pay them’, how is that readers here  criticize managers, bankers, and other white-collar workers for making the same arguments about their salaries?

        1. This is getting off topic, so I’ll limit my responses. The problem with bankers and financial engineers is not that they make too much money, the problem is that they lie to their customers and play both sides of a trade to make money. Or they use insider information to profit from investments. The movie transaction is more transparent. You pay for the movie, you get to watch the movie.* Part of those revenues (a very small part) goes to the actors, and I think they are entitled to it.

          * It’s not completely transparent but I don’t want to get into DRM and all of that stuff…

      1. Well, no.  But if you are implying that Catholic bishops soak up billions of dollars, and don’t do much good with it, I totally agree.  I’m more trying to contrast actors with something like the work projects of lifelong religious missionaries, or Ghandi, Mother Theresa, Rev King, and so on.  There are plenty of examples of people acting badly in the name of religion, but there are plenty of examples of people doing good.  I’m not claiming it as fact, just my opinion, that these atheist actors just don’t do that much good.

    3.  As opposed to people like Jimmy Swaggart, Oral and Richard Roberts, Pat Robertson, and good ol’ Jim and Tammy Bakker.  My, my, the good they’ve done!

  6. I hate to think that this might be the beginning of organized atheism.  If it is an organization than I am not sure I want to be a member.

      1. Well, you don’t know if it’s the truth or not. None of us do. We just “believe” what we believe. Which is fine.

        I will say though that were I am atheist I would not understand joining an organization regarding atheism. I mean, there are a lot of things I don’t believe (in fact, I don’t believe MOST things insofar as they clash with what I do believe), but I am not a member of any organization dedicated to not believing something. The whole thing is just odd.

        1. Atheists join orgranizations to hang out with other people who share their views. Similar to why people go to church–they don’t just dicuss why they belive in God(s), they also just socialize and keep up with friends.

          Atheist groups in America for instance have a lot to talk about, such as discrimination against secular minorities by the religious majority and the role of Christianity in the public school system. Another reason to join an organization is to pool resources to become more effective politcally.

          So I don’t think it’s odd at all.

          EDIT for ChicagoD, since I can’t reply to him:
          I am not a member of any Atheist organization at the moment. I just understand why someone would be.

          1. I can empathize with this. As a former church goer, I REALLY miss the regular social connection with people who have common experiences and are trying to be supportive of one another. (Being with people who are on good behavior and are trying to motivate each other to think about people other than themselves was probably healthy too.) I don’t miss the whining and persecution complex stuff, though. Just the friendship, social support, and civic mindedness.

        2. It’s not odd for people who are subjected to discrimination to seek a sense of solidarity and safety in numbers.

          In America,  many surveys show that a near-majority of people view atheists as inherently less moral and less trustworthy than religious people (of ANY religion). Saying that you are an atheist, especially if you are not already a privileged,  well-established person, can be downright risky. You can easily lose job opportunities as well as family and social support.

          I’m in Canada and religiosity is not as ubiquitous here (in political and public spheres) as in the US. Being an atheist here isn’t nearly as controversial. It’s viewed as fairly mainstream. I also see a bit less of a vocal effort in atheists to join into groups and organizations, possibly because they don’t feel as isolated and embattled.

          EDIT to reply to ChicagoD again: Networking plays a huge part in finding work opportunities. People who belong to churches and tight-knit social circles have lots of chances to network.

          If atheists, as surveys show, are viewed as less trustworthy and law-abiding as religious people, it’s probably safe to say that they can lose job/contract opportunities if the word gets out. Not everyone lives in huge, anonymous cities buzzing with diversity and many depend on their family, neighbours, community, etc for opportunities.

          1. I guess anyone can feel like an embattled minority, since fundamentalist Christians also say they are discriminated against. Personally, I can say I have no idea what the religious beliefs were of anyone I have ever hired. I may have found out later, as I got to know them, but (a) it’s not relevant to the job, and (b) I’m pretty sure I could get sued for asking.

            Anyway, as I said, I am not a member of a single group based on my lack of belief in something. I also do not spend a lot of time parsing the possibility that I am a minority, so those two might be related.

            EDIT FOR WYSINWYG: The part where you say it’s “fucking obvious” makes me think that you attribute to your atheism what could also be attributed to your personality. Cheers!

            SECOND EDIT FOR WYSINWYG: Just to clarify, perusing your posts here, you seem to be a dick. Maybe people are repelled not by your atheism, but by the fact that you are a dick to them. I hope that was not too subtle.

          2. ChicagoD — just because you have not personally experienced something does not mean it’s not a valid concern for other people elsewhere.  I mean, we should be past having to explain this sort of thing since it’s so fucking obvious, but really.  Stop telling people that they’re not experiencing things just because you’re not experiencing them.

            Edit for ChicagoD:
            “It’s fucking obvious” referred to the fact that different people have different life experiences, and that no person has access to another person’s life experiences. This does have something to do with why I’m an atheist but you have the causality inverted. And you want to talk about personality? You’re the one who has made 3 dozen comments on this thread trying to convince atheists they should be as lonely and miserable as you.

            Another edit for Mr. Manners:
            1. People aren’t usually repelled by me at all. And nothing I’ve written implies they are. (Too subtle for you, clearly.)
            2. If you honestly compared your posts in this thread to mine I think you’d have to conclude you’re at least as much of a dick.

        3. D,
          I would simply say that Christians are simply wrong in this regard

          Polls have been kind of famous that have shown that Americans would vote for any race, any religion, any gay person, over an atheist for President, and by huge margins.

          Proudly revealing your atheism has obvious consequences among work and family.

          Having said that, I’m not a meeting person ;)

          1. Oh, fear not. I am not under the illusion that fundamentalists are an embattled minority. I only said that they feel that they are. That is a very different proposition. In any case, petertrepan’s comment below helps me understand this phenomenon in a way that these others have not, so I am done with this point now.

            Onward Christian sold . . . no, wait . . .

        4. I understand how it seems odd to belong to a group dedicated to not believing something, but this particular belief has tendrils in all aspects of life, and makes most philosophical conversations between believers and nonbelievers hit a brick wall pretty quickly. I go to atheist meetups for the conversation, which is very rarely about atheism. This just about sums it up: 

    1. I hate to think that this might be the beginning of organized atheism.

      As someone who has tried hard to organize atheists, I’m telling you not to worry.

  7. Some people just see the act of something they dont like being portraid in a positive light as an attack on them.

    Also, love the irony of falaciously referencing falacy.

  8. Sheesh.  What a list. I might try to make heaven just to avoid spending eternity with Bill Maher, John Lennon, Julianne Moore, Keanu Reeves, James Cameron, John Malkovich, Sir Richard Branson, Brad Pitt, Daniel Radcliffe, Hugh Laurie, Lance Armstrong, Fred Armisen, Angelina Jolie, Penn Jillette, Teller, Norm MacDonald, and Jeremy Clarkson.

    Heaven will surely have some pains in the ass, but I assume that since it is heaven they will just  . . . not bug me.

    1. Exactly what I was thinking. Maybe there is another ring in hell, Celebrities.

      I do love me some Fred Armisen however.

    2. You must have not ever watched TV or talked to a zealous christian. Bugging you is how they think they will get into heaven.

      1. Right, but it wouldn’t be heaven if I had to put up with that for eternity. There’s got to be a system for that, or the whole promise of heaven turns to poop. Either they lobotomize me as I enter, or I get to hang with the normals. Something.

  9.  1 person of colour.
    5 women.
    And 4 ‘academic’ (rather than entertainment) figures.

    Not a great showing there…

    1. I count 6 women.

      …and obviously there are more than 41 famous atheists who have ever lived. I don’t see Neil deGrasse Tyson or Richard Feynman for instance. I think the point of the picture is that “lots of recognizable people are atheists” and it gets the point across pretty well with this cast.

  10. Just another label I still don`t get it. I have found atheist extremist as harmful as religious extremist! I digress. Dalai Lama should be there since Buddhism is an atheist philosophy.

    1. By atheist extremist, do you mean Stalin and his like, or do you know of other atheists who kill people and blow up buildings to promote their viewpoint? Because that’s what religious extremist means.

        1. Stalin did believe that religion was evil and needed to be wiped out of society.  He leveled churches and killed their clergy.  Of course, there were political reasons that he didn’t create an all-out war on religion but he would have if he could.

    2. I’m not a Theist nor a declared Atheist.  I have no relation to religion and no desire to become entangled in the politics of non-religion.  Same deal with meat.  I don’t eat it, but that’s no reason to carry the baggage of avowed Vegetarianism.

    3.  “I have found atheist extremist as harmful as religious extremist!”
      Yeah those sectarian clashes among atheists are something shocking.

        1. wtf are you even talking about?

          You seem to be pulling non-existant meanings out of no where and responding to them.

          Guessing you’re religious then?

          1. Ha! Yeah, there’s no way you could get to a war from “sectarian clashes.” It’s totally unpossible. Thanks for pointing out that I don’t seem to be able to do English. What a relief.

          2. Right, I think the war problem is more nationalism than religion. Nationalism, which I’ll generalize to mean, “belief that you deserve control over the government and/or a particular piece of land solely because of your membership in a group you were born into.” Religion often re-enforces nationalism, but it’s not the same thing.

            But I think it is even more inflammatory to criticize nationalism than religion.

          1.  Power is the motive, money is catalyst, religion is the tool. Time is money. The difference between opportunity and preparation is luck. Greed is good. Wait, what was the question?

        2. I think you’re missing the point. While people go to war for religious and non-religious reasons, there hasn’t been a war fought by atheist extremists for atheist reasons. The same cannot be said for religious extremists.

          “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

          Edit: I stand corrected. Davegroff pointed out that the Chinese invasion of Tibet was arguably a war by atheists to advance atheism.

          1. Well, if that was the point, I did miss it, but it also seems to be irrelevant. Atheists fight wars for better reasons? Ah, good to know. But the dead are just as dead and the destroyed is just as destroyed, right?

            Oh, and money makes “good” people do evil things all the time.

          2. I’m assuming because you put in the quotation marks that “good” people…aren’t really good people?

            Puppybeard was pointing out Emmanuel Lambert’s false equivalence. I think Emmanuel Lambert’s pont was actually irrelevant though….

          3. Davegroff pointed out that the Chinese invasion of Tibet was arguably a war by atheists to advance atheism.

            How so?  Is China’s desire to reclaim Taiwan also about “advancing atheism”?  I don’t think that narrative holds water at all.  It denies that there was any kind of realpolitik involved between the two powers, or that other powers weren’t involved too, which they were.

            I’ll also remind that Tibet invaded China and tried to reclaim old territory  just 20 years before.

          4. This is a response to Navin_Johnson’s statement: “I don’t think that narrative holds water at all.  It denies that there was any kind of realpolitik involved between the two powers, or that other powers weren’t involved to, which they were.”

            There is a persistent canard, which I don’t want to attribute to you or dejadee, that while religious people fight wars and do considerable evil for religious reasons, atheists never fight wars or otherwise do evil for atheist reasons. I don’t deny realpolitick in my example; its not a case of one or the other. Surely there was realpolitick in the crusades, but I don’t deny those wars were also religious. 

            I do assert that China’s invasion of Tibet was: 
            – a war
            – that the China is/was officially atheist
            – that their goals included spreading their ideology, including atheism
            – that non-atheists died as a result of being non-atheists.
            The narrative holds water well enough, and there are many more from the Soviet Union, Khmer Rouge, etc. I’m trying to think of an officially atheist state that has never killed in the name of atheism. I’m tempted to say Cuba, but I don’t want to stick my neck out.

          5. I do assert that China’s invasion of Tibet was: 
            – a war
            – that the China is/was officially atheist
            – that their goals included spreading their ideology, including atheism
            – that non-atheists died as a result of being non-atheists.

            No, sorry.  I just don’t think that explains it.  As I said, show me that the similar desire to take back lost territory (Taiwan) is also about “Spreading atheist ideology” rather than retaining empire, saving face, realpolitik etc..

            Much like their modern counterparts, I see them first as maniacs, and second as very cynical, and calculating about their “ideals”. Demagogues and much like the religious versions, they conveniently pick and chose which “ideals” they’d stick with or abandon when it suited them.

            I’m hoping to hear arguments other than “Communist China wasn’t religious” as a motivation for their military actions. I’d also even argue that much of this Western “Diabolical atheists vs. magical, Shangri La, mountain wizards” narrative comes down to simple cultural fetishism, and fantasy.

            As for Stalin, Pol Pot, etc.  I would not deny that they persecuted their religious citizens.   How much of this was because of deep personal beliefs, or what they considered to be practical in order to keep their regimes in power?  Religious power, much like the power of the aristocracy/wealthy would be perceived as a threat.

            Similarly,  The Romans tried to put down Christianity when they felt it was threatening their authority, and then of course embraced it later when it was politically handy.  As we know,  like Judaism, it was basically tolerated until they stopped paying taxes, were considered an annoyance, or an easy scapegoat for political dilemmas.

      1. Sorry, I apologize what i meant is I have found that some very vocal atheist to the likes of Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens to be outright Evangelical on their criticism that anything and everything religious is outright inferior and stupid. Change the words and a Hitchens / Dawkins sound exactely the same as a Baptist preacher. I was born into Catholicsm (never bought it) became a scientist but yet I found the never ending differentiation and basically turning man into a few bio chemical proceseese where not answering the questions of human existence honestly. I believe there is “something” I don`t know what it is, I don`t give it a name or put a face on it. That’s just me.

        1. As an atheist, I can tell you that at least some of us are deeply embarrassed/annoyed by the bombastic nature of Dawkins and Hitchens’s nearly-evangelical tirades.  There’s really no need for that kind of attack.  I get that it’s “in response” to actual Evangelicals, but I don’t think it helps the conversation for either side.

    4. The Dalai Lama is the head of Tibetan Buddhism, which is polytheistic. Even traditional Buddhism is loosely theistic. I think Zen is the only Buddhist sect that’s strictly atheist in the technical sense. 

      1. “Traditional’ Buddhism would only suggest that should deities exist they are subject to the same truths any one is, which ultimately boils down to Anatman — the lack of a self.  Which is to say that even if we have to agree gods exist, they lack inherent suchness– there is no essence of god-ness that exists independently of anything else, and they ‘exist’ only within the realm of causality that all of us are caught in (karma). Consequently there is no / are no gods (just as there is no self).

    5.  Yes,  I’m so sick of those atheist extremists banging on my door with their pamphlets, trying to convert me to their way of thinking. 

  11. But most of these folks are not dead. What if Pascal’s Wager  becomes popular with our  friends here? I’ll end up in hell with Penn screaming at me on one side, and Teller (Edward, not the other guy) on the other side crying that he doesn’t know anything about magic.

  12. Doesn’t matter to me either way if all those famous people swore they had met God personally or if they all swore he didn’t exist.  I was raised religious and it never made a whit of sense to me.  I’m not a Theist and never will be.  Other people’s beliefs have no impact on mine in this case.

    1.  The point is that there are a lot of people who are open about their atheism. You’d clearly be surprised how many people aren’t for fear of retribution.

  13. I like it. I would make a different grid if I felt the need, but let’s think about it.
    This is for people who are worried about being atheists, most likely young people,
    and it could be nice for them to realise the people on telly every day are athiests too.

  14. Is there no diversity in atheism ? Why is this atheism poster on par with any christian book for kids about bible stories with regards to diversity ?

    Dear Atheist Poster Maker: A+ for effort, C- for research, D for comprehension.

    1. This is a poster made from pop culture. Don’t blame the poster maker, blame pop culture’s propensity for making white men famous.

  15. What do you call that thing when you take what someone says, then add your own sentence, present it as the view of the person who made the previous statement, then use it to show them to be ridiculous?

  16. Is there a meme where atheists deliberately mis-spell? I see “athiest” so often that I think I must be missing something. It is almost like atheists are celebrating ignorance – “I do not know anything about theos, theology, etc., and I’m proud of it”

    1. Atheists often know much more about religion than the religious.  Learning the long history of human mythology/religion often has the consequence of making it impossible to see it as anything other than just mythology.  Fascinating myths, but still myths. Some religious people might notice some uncomfortable coincidences if they only paid attention to the history of their own religion, and even bothered to read up on the history of other religions as well.

      Also, trying to discredit people’s lack of belief by your anecdotal evidence of *typos* is pretty darned weak stuff..

    2.  Oh but I am an atheist and I do know about theology. I have read the bible and the koran. They are on my bookshelf along side russian fairy tales, the hitchhikersguide tot the galxy and Richard Dawkins’ the God Delusion.

    3. Is there a meme where atheists deliberately mis-spell?

      That’s a question best left to Ghandi or the Bhudda.

  17. Morgan Freeman is an Atheist? The man most likely to be portraying god or one of his angels?

    I’m shocked! not as shocked about Hugh Laurie…

  18. I believe that there is a spiritual connection between all life. I’ve experienced it too many times to ignore it. But for someone to try to put a name or a face on it is likened to a caveman describing a symphony. And organized religions are mostly filled with people who ignore the core ideal for their own personal self satisfaction or personal gain.

    So I go to church on the dance floor.

  19. When I burn my hand, no relief comes from reminding myself that the person beside me also burned their hand.  So it goes with eternal torment.

  20. Well, they could’ve put 42 Nobelists up, but nobody would recognize them and theists can just criticize the list for being out-of-touch eggheads.

  21. I don’t believe in the tooth fairy. Please provide me with an all-celebrity image of other persons who also do not believe in the tooth fairy so that I may feel included in a kick ass group of superior persons!

    1. “I don’t like it when peoplewho identify with a group point out famous people who also identify with the same group. Do they think they’re better than me or something?”

  22. Time to make a poster of all atheist scientists, then another one of artists, then another of musicians, then another of writers…

    The church of celebrity has some shallow waters. Let’s go deeper.

  23. I’m a fairly religious person who happens to be a Pagan polytheist. Two of my close friends are atheists, and we get along fine because we’re not interested in policing each other’s consciences. And no atheist has ever shown up at my door waving a copy of a Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens book and pushing me to adopt their beliefs (or lack thereof), whereas the same cannot be said of Christians and their literature of questionable historical accuracy.

    Anyway, when it comes down to supporting “believers” (or those claiming to be) in their drive to make everyone else behave the way they say their God wants people to behave, or supporting atheists who mostly just want others to stop harassing and targeting them for their lack of belief, I know with whom I’m more sympathetic. (But if I wake up one day and find a burning teapot on my front lawn, I’m totally taking it back!)

  24. Well, where I’m from this headline would read “Photo grid of famous people”; religion is such a non-issue that nobody knows which religion presidents and other public figures adhere to, if any. Why the hell should anyone care?

    This is a pretty sad commentary on current affairs. Seriously.

  25. Keanu Reeves is a Buddhist, and Einstein is more accurately described as a neo-Deist (i.e. “God does not play dice with the universe”), as is Hawking (“The laws may have been decreed by God, but God does not intervene to break the laws.”) And that’s just off the top of my head. I bet the actual religious/non-religious beliefs of the rest of these folks are generally more nuanced than this poster suggests.

    1.  Hawking’s an atheist I’m almost certain; he’s using “God” metaphorically just as Einstein often did.  But I think you’re right about Einstein.

    2. I really don’t know what these people believe, but if they have not come out and said “I am an atheist” the whole poster is misappropriating their respective likenesses. As for Hawking, the Catholic Church (now) essentially agrees with that quote. Granted, it took them a few twists and turns to get there, but that is the current position.

      1. Sorry, I know you’re probably sick of me, but where on the poster does it say “these people are atheists”?

  26. As a member of an obscure Catholic rite & from strains of rebel Irish & angry French folk, may I say that I’m truly tolerant of the beliefs or non-beliefs of others. I’m still learning, though, at age 83.

    I like the science of Einstein, the plain but inspired writing of Mark Twain, the acting of Brad Pitt. 

    An interesting “read” today, surely.

    — Dan O’Connell, Albuquerque (or Alburquerque), NM.

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