Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Vice Pioneers" : Atheism

Atheos: "without gods" in Greek

Socrates: unconfirmed nonbeliever

Buddhism: the deityless religion

I'm a strong believer that one should always learn as much about every subject that the brain can allow and sometimes indulge in topics that makes one uncomfortable. For some reason, religion talk makes people more uncomfortable than any other subject. Most people would rather witness a drug overdose than listen to a person with opposing religious views. After the subject of priests and molestation, atheism is the most taboo subject in religion talk. Here's a look into the non-belief of a higher power.

From Wikipedia: Atheism, in a broad sense, is the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Most inclusively, atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists.

The term atheism originated from the Greek ἄθεος (atheos), meaning "without gods", which was applied with a negative connotation to those thought to reject the gods worshipped by the larger society. With the spread of freethought, skeptical inquiry, and subsequent increase in criticism of religion, application of the term narrowed in scope. The first individuals to identify themselves as "atheist" appeared in the 18th century.

Today, about 2.3% of the world's population describes itself as atheist, while a further 11.9% is described as nonreligious. Between 64% and 65% of Japanese describe themselves as atheists, agnostics, or nonbelievers. In Europe, the estimated percentage of atheists, agnostics and other nonbelievers in a personal god ranges as low as single digits in Poland, Romania, Cyprus, and some other countries, and up to 85% in Sweden (where 17% identify themselves as atheists), 80% in Denmark, 72% in Norway, and 60% in Finland.

Atheists tend to lean toward skepticism regarding supernatural claims, citing a lack of empirical evidence. Atheists have offered several rationales for not believing in any deity. These include the problem of evil, the argument from inconsistent revelations, and the argument from nonbelief. Other arguments for atheism range from the philosophical to the social to the historical. Although some atheists have adopted secular philosophies, there is no one ideology or set of behaviors to which all atheists adhere.

In Western culture, atheists are frequently assumed to be exclusively irreligious or unspiritual. However, atheism also figures in certain religious and spiritual belief systems, such as Jainism, some forms of Buddhism that do not advocate belief in gods, and Hinduism that holds atheism to be valid but difficult to follow spiritually.

Classical antiquity

In Plato's Apology, Socrates (pictured) was accused by Meletus of not believing in the gods.
Western atheism has its roots in pre-Socratic Greek philosophy, but did not emerge as a distinct world-view until the late Enlightenment. The 5th-century BCE Greek philosopher Diagoras is known as the "first atheist", and is cited as such by Cicero in his De Natura Deorum. Critias viewed religion as a human invention used to frighten people into following moral order. Atomists such as Democritus attempted to explain the world in a purely materialistic way, without reference to the spiritual or mystical. Other pre-Socratic philosophers who probably had atheistic views included Prodicus and Protagoras. In the 3rd-century BCE the Greek philosophers Theodorus Cirenaicus and Strato of Lampsacus also did not believe gods exist.

Socrates (c. 471–399 BCE), was accused of impiety (see Euthyphro dilemma) on the basis that he inspired questioning of the state gods. Although he disputed the accusation that he was a "complete atheist", saying that he could not be an atheist as he believed in spirits, he was ultimately sentenced to death. Socrates also prays to various gods in Plato's dialogue Phaedrus and says "By Zeus" in the dialogue The Republic.

Euhemerus (c. 330–260 BCE) published his view that the gods were only the deified rulers, conquerors and founders of the past, and that their cults and religions were in essence the continuation of vanished kingdoms and earlier political structures. Although not strictly an atheist, Euhemerus was later criticized for having "spread atheism over the whole inhabited earth by obliterating the gods".

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