(Warning; Adult language via humor.) In this article and video we will explore interfaith communications and differences between religions via atheism as a starting point.
Atheism can talk about all religions, because in most cases, people who believe this way do not believe in a Deity or a Trinity, or Holy People, or even Holy Books. This discussion is worth having, just because it is so rarely aired and given attention. Even if one does have a faith and a belief system, as well as dogma, is it not a healthy thing to listen to other points of view, including atheism?
To get into this further, you can see the movie Religulous, by Bill Haher. You can also discuss atheism and/or interfaith subjects with others who have this same interfaith interest, by clicking on this link;
According to Wikipedia; “Atheism
is, in a broad sense, 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
), meaning “without god”, used as a pejorative term applied 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 using the word “atheist” lived in the 18th century.
Since conceptions of atheism vary, determining how many atheists exist in the world today is difficult.
According to one estimate, about 2.3% of the world’s population are atheists, while a further 11.9% are nonreligious
According to another, rates of self-reported atheism are among the highest in Western nations, again to varying degrees: United States (4%), Italy (7%), Spain (11%), Great Britain (17%), Germany (20%), and France (32%).
Writers disagree how best to define and classify atheism
contesting what supernatural entities it applies to, whether it is an assertion in its own right or merely the absence of one, and whether it requires a conscious, explicit rejection. However, it is generally contrasted withagnosticism
A variety of categories have been proposed to try to distinguish the different forms of atheism.
Some of the ambiguity and controversy involved in defining atheism
arises from difficulty in reaching a consensus for the definitions of words like deity
. The plurality of wildly different conceptions of god
and deities leads to differing ideas regarding atheism’s applicability. The ancient Romans accused Christians of being atheists for not worshiping the pagan
deities. Gradually, this view fell into disfavor as theism
came to be understood as encompassing belief in any divinity.
Definitions of atheism also vary in the degree of consideration a person must put to the idea of gods to be considered an atheist. Atheism has sometimes been defined to include the simple absence of belief that any deities exist. This broad definition would include newborns and other people who have not been exposed to theistic ideas. As far back as 1772, Baron d’Holbach
said that “All children are born Atheists; they have no idea of God.”
Similarly,George H. Smith
(1979) suggested that: “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.”
Smith coined the term implicit atheism
to refer to “the absence of theistic belief without a conscious rejection of it” and explicit atheism
to refer to the more common definition of conscious disbelief. Ernest Nagel
contradicts Smith’s definition of atheism as merely “absence of theism”, acknowledging only explicit atheism as true “atheism”.
Philosophers such as Antony Flew
and Michael Martin
have contrasted positive (strong/hard) atheism with negative (weak/soft) atheism. Positive atheism is the explicit affirmation that gods do not exist. Negative atheism includes all other forms of non-theism. According to this categorization, anyone who is not a theist is either a negative or a positive atheist. The terms weak
are relatively recent, while the termsnegative
atheism are of older origin, having been used (in slightly different ways) in the philosophical literature
and in Catholic apologetics.
Under this demarcation of atheism, most agnostics qualify as negative atheists.
, for example, asserts that agnosticism entails negative atheism,
most agnostics see their view as distinct from atheism, which they may consider no more justified than theism or requiring an equal conviction.
The assertion of unattainability of knowledge for or against the existence of gods is sometimes seen as indication that atheism requires a leap of faith
Common atheist responses to this argument include that unproven religious
propositions deserve as much disbelief as all other
and that the unprovability of a god’s existence does not imply equal probability of either possibility.
Scottish philosopher J. J. C. Smart
even argues that “sometimes a person who is really an atheist may describe herself, even passionately, as an agnostic because of unreasonable generalisedphilosophical skepticism
which would preclude us from saying that we know anything whatever, except perhaps the truths of mathematics and formal logic.”
Consequently, some atheist authors such asRichard Dawkins
prefer distinguishing theist, agnostic and atheist positions along a spectrum of theistic probability
—the likelihood that each assigns to the statement “God exists”.
Before the 18th century, the existence of God was so universally accepted in the western world that even the possibility of true atheism was questioned. This is called theistic innatism
—the notion that all people believe in God from birth; within this view was the connotation that atheists are simply in denial.
There is also a position claiming that atheists are quick to believe in God in times of crisis, that atheists makedeathbed conversions
, or that “there are no atheists in foxholes
There have however been examples to the contrary, among them examples of literal “atheists in foxholes.”
In fact, “atheism” is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a “non-astrologer” or a “non-alchemist.” We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.
The broadest demarcation of atheistic rationale is between practical and theoretical atheism.
atheism, also known as apatheism
, individuals live as if there are no gods and explain natural phenomena without resorting to the divine. The existence of gods is not rejected, but may be designated unnecessary or useless; gods neither provide purpose to life, nor influence everyday life, according to this view.
A form of practical atheism with implications for the scientific community
is methodological naturalism
—the “tacit adoption or assumption of philosophical naturalism within scientific method
with or without fully accepting or believing it.”
Practical atheism can take various forms:
- Absence of religious motivation—belief in gods does not motivate moral action, religious action, or any other form of action;
- Active exclusion of the problem of gods and religion from intellectual pursuit and practical action;
- Indifference—the absence of any interest in the problems of gods and religion; or
- Unawareness of the concept of a deity.
atheism argues that people cannot know a God or determine the existence of a God. The foundation of epistemological atheism is agnosticism, which takes a variety of forms. In the philosophy ofimmanence
, divinity is inseparable from the world itself, including a person’s mind, and each person’sconsciousness
is locked in the subject
. According to this form of agnosticism, this limitation in perspective prevents any objective inference from belief in a god to assertions of its existence. The rationalistic
agnosticism of Kant
and the Enlightenment
only accepts knowledge deduced with human rationality; this form of atheism holds that gods are not discernible as a matter of principle, and therefore cannot be known to exist. Skepticism
, based on the ideas of Hume
, asserts that certainty about anything is impossible, so one can never know for sure whether or not a god exists. The allocation of agnosticism to atheism is disputed; it can also be regarded as an independent, basic worldview.
Other arguments for atheism that can be classified as epistemological or ontological
, including logical positivism
, assert the meaninglessness or unintelligibility of basic terms such as “God” and statements such as “God is all-powerful.” Theological noncognitivism
holds that the statement “God exists” does not express a proposition, but is nonsensical or cognitively meaningless. It has been argued both ways as to whether such individuals can be classified into some form of atheism or agnosticism. Philosophers A. J. Ayer
and Theodore M. Drange
reject both categories, stating that both camps accept “God exists” as a proposition; they instead place noncognitivism in its own category.
One author writes:
“Metaphysical atheism… includes all doctrines that hold to metaphysical monism (the homogeneity of reality). Metaphysical atheism may be either: a) absolute — an explicit denial of God’s existence associated with materialistic monism (all materialistic trends, both in ancient and modern times); b) relative — the implicit denial of God in all philosophies that, while they accept the existence of an absolute, conceive of the absolute as not possessing any of the attributes proper to God: transcendence, a personal character or unity. Relative atheism is associated with idealistic monism (pantheism, panentheism, deism).”
Logical atheism holds that the various conceptions of gods
, such as thepersonal god
of Christianity, are ascribed logically inconsistent qualities. Such atheists present deductive arguments
against the existence of God, which assert the incompatibility between certain traits, such as perfection, creator-status, immutability
, personhood (a personal being), nonphysicality, justice
, and mercy
Philosophers such as Ludwig Feuerbach
and Sigmund Freud
argued that God and other religious beliefs are human inventions, created to fulfill various psychological and emotional wants or needs. This is also a view of many Buddhists
. Karl Marx
and Friedrich Engels
, influenced by the work of Feuerbach, argued that belief in God and religion are social functions, used by those in power to oppress the working class. According to Mikhail Bakunin
, “the idea of God implies the abdication of human reason and justice; it is the most decisive negation of human liberty, and necessarily ends in the enslavement of mankind, in theory and practice.” He reversed Voltaire
‘s famous aphorism that if God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him, writing instead that “if God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him.”
, or constructive, atheism rejects the existence of gods in favor of a “higher absolute”, such ashumanity
. This form of atheism favors humanity as the absolute source of ethics and values, and permits individuals to resolve moral problems without resorting to God. Marx and Freud used this argument to convey messages of liberation, full-development, and unfettered happiness.
One of the most commoncriticisms of atheism
has been to the contrary—that denying the existence of a god leads to moral relativism
, leaving one with no moral or ethical foundation,
or renders life meaningless
and miserable. Blaise Pascal
argued this view in his Pensées
French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre
identified himself as a representative of an “atheist existentialism
concerned less with denying the existence of God than with establishing that “man needs … to find himself again and to understand that nothing can save him from himself, not even a valid proof of the existence of God.”
Sartre said a corollary of his atheism was that “if God does not exist, there is at least one being in whom existence precedes essence, a being who exists before he can be defined by any concept, and … this being is man.”
The practical consequence of this atheism was described by Sartre as meaning that there are no a priori rules
or absolute values that can be invoked to govern human conduct, and that humans are “condemned” to invent these for themselves, making “man” absolutely “responsible for everything he does”.
Sociologist Phil Zuckerman analyzed previous social science research on secularity and non-belief, and concluded that societal well-being is positively correlated with irreligion. His findings relating specifically to atheism include:
- Compared to religious people, “atheists and secular people” are less nationalistic, prejudiced,antisemitic, racist, dogmatic, ethnocentric, close-minded, and authoritarian.
- In the US, in states with the highest percentages of atheists, the murder rate is lower than average. In the most religious US states, the murder rate is higher than average.
The strictest sense of positive atheism does not entail any specific beliefs outside of disbelief in any deity; as such, atheists can hold any number of spiritual beliefs. For the same reason, atheists can hold a wide variety of ethical beliefs, ranging from the moral universalism
, which holds that a moral code should be applied consistently to all humans, to moral nihilism
, which holds that morality is meaningless.
Although it is a philosophical truism, encapsulated in Plato’s Euthyphro dilemma
, that the role of the gods in determining right from wrong is either unnecessary or arbitrary, the argument that morality must be derived from God
and cannot exist without a wise creator has been a persistent feature of political if not so much philosophical debate.
Moral precepts such as “murder is wrong” are seen as divine laws
, requiring a divine lawmaker and judge. However, many atheists argue that treating morality legalistically involves afalse analogy
, and that morality does not depend on a lawmaker in the same way that laws do.
Other atheists, such as Friedrich Nietzsche
, have disagreed with this view and have stated that morality “has truth only if God is truth—it stands or falls with faith in God.”
Philosophers Susan Neiman
and Julian Baggini
(among others) assert that behaving ethically only because of divine mandate is not true ethical behavior but merely blind obedience. Baggini argues that atheism is a superior basis for ethics, claiming that a moral basis external to religious imperatives is necessary to evaluate the morality of the imperatives themselves—to be able to discern, for example, that “thou shalt steal” is immoral even if one’s religion instructs it—and that atheists, therefore, have the advantage of being more inclined to make such evaluations.
The contemporary British political philosopher Martin Cohen has offered the more historically telling example of Biblical injunctions in favour of torture and slavery as evidence of how religious injunctions follow political and social customs, rather than vice versa, but also noted that the same tendency seems to be true of supposedly dispassionate and objective philosophers.
Cohen extends this argument in more detail in Political Philosophy from Plato to Mao
, where he argues that the Qur’an
played a role in perpetuating social codes from the early 7th century despite changes in secular society.
One argument that religions can be harmful, made by atheists such as Sam Harris, is that Western religions’ reliance on divine authority lends itself to authoritarianism
Atheists have also cited data showing that there is a correlation between religious fundamentalism
and extrinsic religion
(when religion is held because it serves ulterior interests)
and authoritarianism, dogmatism, and prejudice.
These arguments—combined with historical events that are argued to demonstrate the dangers of religion, such as the Crusades
, witch trials
, and terrorist attacks—have been used in response to claims of beneficial effects of belief in religion.
Believers counter-argue that some regimes that espouse atheism
, such as in Soviet Russia, have also been guilty of mass murder.
In early ancient Greek
, the adjective atheos
, from the privative ἀ-
“god”) meant “godless”. It was first used as a term of censure roughly meaning “ungodly” or “impious”. In the 5th century BCE, the word began to indicate more deliberate and active godlessness in the sense of “severing relations with the gods” or “denying the gods”. The term ἀσεβής
) then came to be applied against those who impiously denied or disrespected the local gods, even if they believed in other gods. Modern translations of classical texts sometimes renderatheos
as “atheistic”. As an abstract noun, there was also ἀθεότης
), “atheism”. Cicero
transliterated the Greek word into the Latinatheos
. The term found frequent use in the debate between early Christians
, with each side attributing it, in the pejorative sense, to the other.
The term atheist
(from Fr. athée
), in the sense of “one who denies or disbelieves the existence of God”,
in English, being first found as early as 1566,
and again in 1571. Atheist
as a label of practical godlessness was used at least as early as 1577.
The term atheism
was derived from theFrench athéisme
, and appears in English about 1587.
An earlier work, from about 1534, used the termatheonism
Related words emerged later: deist
in 1621, theist
in 1662, deism
At that time “deist” and “deism” already carried their modern meaning. The termtheism
came to be contrasted with deism.
writes that “During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the word ‘atheist’ was still reserved exclusively for polemic
… The term ‘atheist’ was an insult. Nobody would have dreamed of callinghimself
In the middle of the seventeenth century it was still assumed that it was impossible not to believe in God;
atheist meant not accepting the current conception of the divine.
was first used to describe a self-avowed belief in late 18th-century Europe, specifically denoting disbelief in the monotheistic Abrahamic god
In the 20th century, globalization
contributed to the expansion of the term to refer to disbelief in all deities, though it remains common in Western society to describe atheism as simply “disbelief in God”.
Atheistic schools are found in early Indian thought and have existed from the times of the historical Vedic religion
Among the six orthodox
schools of Hindu philosophy, Samkhya
, the oldest philosophical school of thought, does not accept God, and the early Mimamsa
also rejected the notion of God.
The early Mimamsa not only did not accept God but asserted that human action itself was enough to create the necessary circumstances for the enjoyment of its fruits.
The thoroughly materialistic and anti-theistic philosophical Cārvāka
(also called Nastika
) school that originated in India
around the 6th century BCE is probably the most explicitly atheistic school of philosophy in India, similar to the Greek Cyrenaic school
. This branch of Indian philosophy is classified as heterodox
due to its rejection of the authority ofVedas
and hence is not considered part of the six orthodox schools of Hinduism, but it is noteworthy as evidence of a materialistic movement within Hinduism.
Chatterjee and Datta explain that our understanding of Cārvāka philosophy is fragmentary, based largely on criticism of the ideas by other schools, and that it is not a living tradition:
in some form or other has always been present in India, and occasional references are found in the Vedas, the Buddhistic literature, the Epics, as well as in the later philosophical works we do not find any systematic work on materialism, nor any organized school of followers as the other philosophical schools possess. But almost every work of the other schools states, for refutation, the materialistic views. Our knowledge of Indian materialism is chiefly based on these.”
(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”.
Atomic materialist Epicurus
(c. 341–270 BCE) disputed many religious doctrines, including the existence of an afterlife
or a personal deity
; he considered the soul
purely material and mortal. While Epicureanism
did not rule out the existence of gods, he believed that if they did exist, they were unconcerned with humanity.
The Roman poet Lucretius
(c. 99–55 BCE) agreed that, if there were gods, they were unconcerned with humanity and unable to affect the natural world. For this reason, he believed humanity should have no fear of the supernatural. He expounds his Epicurean views of the cosmos, atoms, the soul, mortality, and religion in De rerum natura
(“On the nature of things”),
which popularized Epicurus’ philosophy in Rome
The Roman philosopher Sextus Empiricus
held that one should suspend judgment about virtually all beliefs—a form of skepticism known as Pyrrhonism
—that nothing was inherently evil, and that ataraxia
(“peace of mind”) is attainable by withholding one’s judgment. His relatively large volume of surviving works had a lasting influence on later philosophers.
The meaning of “atheist” changed over the course of classical antiquity. The early Christians were labeled atheists by non-Christians because of their disbelief in pagan gods.
During the Roman Empire
, Christians were executed for their rejection of the Roman gods
in general and Emperor-worship in particular. When Christianity became the state religion of Rome under Theodosius I
in 381, heresy
became a punishable offense.
eras witnessed a resurgence in religious fervor, as evidenced by the proliferation of new religious orders, confraternities, and popular devotions in the Catholic world, and the appearance of increasingly austere Protestant sects such as the Calvinists
. This era of interconfessional rivalry permitted an even wider scope of theological and philosophical speculation, much of which would later be used to advance a religiously skeptical world-view.
Criticism of Christianity
became increasingly frequent in the 17th and 18th centuries, especially in France and England, where there appears to have been a religious malaise
, according to contemporary sources. Some Protestant thinkers, such as Thomas Hobbes
, espoused a materialist philosophy and skepticism toward supernatural occurrences, while the Jewish-Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza
rejected divine providence
in favour of a panentheistic
By the late 17th century, deism
came to be openly espoused by intellectuals such as John Toland
who coined the term “pantheist”. Despite their ridicule of Christianity, many deists held atheism in scorn.
The first known explicit atheist was the German critic of religion Matthias Knutzen
in his three writings of 1674.
He was followed a half century later by another explicit atheist writer, the French priest Jean Meslier
Knutzen and Meslier were in turn followed by other openly atheistic thinkers, such as Baron d’Holbach
The philosopher David Hume
developed a skeptical epistemology grounded in empiricism, undermining the metaphysical basis of natural theology.
The French Revolution
took atheism and anti-clerical
deism outside the salons and into the public sphere. A major goal of the French revolution was a restructuring and subordination of the clergy with respect to the state through the Civil Constitution of the Clergy
. Attempts to enforce it led to anti-clerical violence and the expulsion of many clergy from France. The chaotic political events in revolutionary Paris eventually enabled the more radical Jacobins
to seize power in 1793, ushering in the Reign of Terror
. The Jacobins were deists and introduced the Cult of the Supreme Being
as a new French state religion. Some atheists surrounding Jacques Hébert
instead sought to establish a Cult of Reason
, a form of atheistic pseudo-religion with a goddess personifying reason. Both movements in part contributed to attempts to forcibly de-Christianize France. The Cult of Reason
ended after three years when its leadership, including Jacques Hébert
was guillotined by the Jacobins. The anti-clerical persecutions ended with the Thermidorian Reaction
The Napoleonic era
institutionalized the secularization of French society, and exported the revolution to northern Italy, in the hopes of creating pliable republics. In the 19th century, atheists contributed to political and social revolution, facilitating the upheavals of 1848
, the Risorgimento
in Italy, and the growth of an international socialist
Atheism in the 20th century, particularly in the form of practical atheism, advanced in many societies. Atheistic thought found recognition in a wide variety of other, broader philosophies, such as existentialism
, secular humanism
, logical positivism
and the general scientific and rationalist movement
Logical positivism and scientism
paved the way for neopositivism
, analytical philosophy
. Neopositivism and analytical philosophy discarded classical rationalism and metaphysics in favor of strict empiricism and epistemological nominalism
. Proponents such as Bertrand Russell
emphatically rejected belief in God. In his early work, Ludwig Wittgenstein
attempted to separate metaphysical and supernatural language from rational discourse. A. J. Ayer
asserted the unverifiability and meaninglessness of religious statements, citing his adherence to the empirical sciences. Relatedly the applied structuralism
sourced religious language to the human subconscious in denying its transcendental meaning.J. N. Findlay
and J. J. C. Smart
argued that the existence of God is not logically necessary. Naturalists and materialistic monists such as John Dewey
considered the natural world to be the basis of everything, denying the existence of God or immortality.
The 20th century also saw the political advancement of atheism, spurred on by interpretation of the works ofMarx
. After the Russian Revolution
of 1917, religious instruction was banned by the State. While the Soviet Constitution of 1936 guaranteed freedom to hold religious services, the Soviet state
under Stalin’s policy of state atheism
did not consider education a private matter; it outlawed religious instruction
and waged campaigns to persuade people, at times violently, to abandon religion.
Several other communist states
also opposed religion and mandated state atheism
including the former governments of Albania
and currently, China
, North Korea
Other leaders like E. V. Ramasami Naicker
(Periyar), a prominent atheist leader of India
, fought againstHinduism
for discriminating and dividing people in the name of caste
This was highlighted in 1956 when he arranged for the erection of a statue depicting a Hindu god in a humble representation and made antitheistic
In 1966, Time
magazine asked “Is God Dead?”
in response to the Death of God theological movement
, citing the estimation that nearly half of all people in the world lived under an anti-religious power, and millions more in Africa, Asia, and South America seemed to lack knowledge of the one God.
In 1967, the Albanian
government under Enver Hoxha
announced the closure of all religious institutions in the country, declaring Albania the world’s first officially atheist state,
although religious practice in Albania
was restored in 1991. These regimes enhanced the negative associations of atheism, especially where anti-communist sentiment was strong in the United States, despite the fact that prominent atheists were anti-communist.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall
, the number of actively anti-religious regimes has reduced considerably. In 2006, Timothy Shah of the Pew Forum
noted “a worldwide trend across all major religious groups, in which God-based and faith-based movements in general are experiencing increasing confidence and influence vis-à-vis secular movements and ideologies.”
However, Gregory S. Paul
and Phil Zuckerman consider this a myth and suggest that the actual situation is much more complex and nuanced.
A 2010 survey found that those identifying themselves as atheists or agnostics are on average more knowledgeable about religion than followers of major faiths. Nonbelievers scored better on questions about tenets central to Protestant and Catholic faiths. Only Mormon and Jewish faithful scored as well as atheists and agnostics.
Main article: New Atheism
New Atheism is the name given to a movement among some early-21st-century atheist writers who have advocated the view that “religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises.”
New atheists argue that recent scientific advancements demand a less accommodating attitude toward religion, superstition
, and religious fanaticism
than had traditionally been extended by many secularists
The movement is commonly associated with Richard Dawkins
, Daniel C. Dennett
, Sam Harris
, Christopher Hitchens
, and Victor J. Stenger
Several best-selling books by these authors, published between 2004 and 2007, form the basis for much of the discussion of New Atheism.
It is difficult to quantify the number of atheists in the world. Respondents to religious-belief polls may define “atheism” differently or draw different distinctions between atheism
, non-religious beliefs, and non-theistic religious and spiritual beliefs.
A Hindu atheist would declare oneself as a Hindu, although also being an atheist at the same time.
A 2005 survey published in Encyclopædia Britannica
found that the non-religious made up about 11.9% of the world’s population, and atheists about 2.3%. This figure did not include those who follow atheistic religions, such as some Buddhists.
A broad figure estimates the number of atheists and agnostics on Earth at 1.1 billion.
A November–December 2006 poll published in the Financial Times
gives rates for the United States and five European countries. The lowest rates of atheism were in the United States at only 4%, while the rates of atheism in the European countries surveyed were considerably higher: Italy (7%), Spain (11%), Great Britain (17%), Germany (20%), and France (32%).
The European figures are similar to those of an official European Union
survey, which reported that 18% of the EU population do not believe in a god.
Other studies have placed the estimated percentage of atheists, agnostics, and other nonbelievers in a personal god as low as single digits in Poland, Romania, Cyprus, and some other European countries,
and up to 85% in Sweden, 80% in Denmark, 72% in Norway, and 60% in Finland.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics
, 19% of Australians have “no religion”, a category that includes atheists.
Between 64% and 65% of Japanese are atheists, agnostics, or do not believe in a god.
An international study has reported positive correlations between levels of education and not believing in a deity,
and the EU survey finds a positive correlation between leaving school early and believing in a God.
A letter published in Nature
in 1998 reported a survey suggesting that belief in a personal god orafterlife
was at an all-time low among the members of the U.S. National Academy of Science
, 7.0% of whom believed in a personal god as compared with more than 85% of the general U.S. population,
although this study has been criticized by Rodney Stark
and Roger Finke
for its definition of belief in God. The definition was “I believe in a God to whom one may pray in the expectation of receiving an answer”. 
An inverse correlation
between religiosity and intelligence
has been found by 39 out of 43 studies carried out between 1927 and 2002, according to an article in Mensa Magazine
These findings broadly agree with a 1958 statistical meta-analysis
by Professor Michael Argyle
of the University of Oxford
. He analyzed seven research studies that had investigated correlation between attitude to religion and measured intelligence
among school and college students from the U.S. Although a clear negative correlation was found, the analysis did not identify causality but noted that factors such as authoritarian family background and social class may also have played a part.
Sociologist Philip Schwadel found that higher levels of education correlate with greater tolerance for atheists’ public opposition to religion, greater skepticism of religious leaders, and a reconsideration of “the role of religion in secular society”.“”
Bill Maher, George Carlin; Mass Delusion and Need For More Interfaith Communications; via A Green Road Blog http://agreenroad.blogspot.com/2012/05/bill-maher-mass-delusion-and-need-for.html
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