Matthew Wade Dillahunty is an American atheist activist. He was the president of the Atheist Community of Austin from 2006 to 2013, he has hosted the Austin-based webcast and cable-access television show The Atheist Experience since 2005, hosted the live Internet radio show Non-Prophets Radio. He is the founder of and a contributor to the counter-apologetics encyclopedia Iron Chariots and its subsidiary sites, he is engaged in formal debates and travels the United States speaking to local secular organizations and university groups as part of the Secular Student Alliance's Speakers Bureau. Alongside fellow activists Seth Andrews and Aron Ra, he traveled to Australia in March 2015 as a member of the Unholy Trinity Tour. In April 2015 he was an invited speaker at the Merseyside Skeptics Society QEDCon in Manchester, United Kingdom. Beginning in the summer of 2017, Dillahunty joined a speaking tour sponsored by the Pangburn Philosophy foundation where he shared the stage with fellow atheists Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss.
Raised Southern Baptist, Dillahunty considered becoming a minister. His religious studies, instead of bolstering his faith as he intended, led him to no longer believe in Christianity and all religions. Dillahunty spent eight years in the U. S. Navy, before leaving to work in the field of computer software design. In October 2011, he married The Atheist Experience colleague and co-host of the Godless Bitches podcast Beth Presswood. Dillahunty describes himself as a feminist. Dillahunty is one of the subjects of the 2014 documentary film My Week in Atheism by director John Christy. Dillahunty is a proponent of debates, both formal and informal, as a effective way of conveying information. "I am convinced from my experience and the evidence that I've gathered over the years of doing this that they are valuable." He has spoken at atheist and freethought conferences around the country and debated numerous Christian apologists, including Ray Comfort, David Robertson on Premier Christian Radio's Unbelievable.
At the 2014 American Atheists convention in Salt Lake City, he gave a workshop that outlined some key ideas in effective debating: "Take the opponent seriously:'The audience has to sense that I can understand their views, have rejected them.' Use logic: ` I tell them. Simple: I copy it word for word, except the parts about slavery.' And don't forget emotion:'It is theater. That is my advantage with a Baptist background over someone like Richard Dawkins, although he knows more about science.'" He has stated that he is willing to say "I don't know" in a debate, a "scary concept" to some of his audience. One of Dillahunty's recurring themes has been the superiority of secular morality over religious morality, his key contentions on the issue are that secular moral systems are inclusive, encourage change, serve the interests of the participants, whereas religious moral systems serve only the interests of an external authority. He touched on the subject again at a lecture at the 2013 American Atheists Convention in Austin: "They say we're immoral, when we're the only ones who understand that morality is derived from empathy, fairness and the physical facts about interacting in this universe.
They've sacrificed their humanity on the altar of religion. They say we're lost and broken and in need of salvation, when we're the ones who are free." Dillahunty holds the view that advocating infinite reward or punishment for finite deeds is "morally inferior". Dillahunty has advocated for reproductive rights. After hearing that Secular Pro-Life set up a table at the 2012 American Atheists convention, Dillahunty challenged a representative of the organization to a public debate on the issue; the debate took place at the 2012 Texas Freethought Convention, with Dillahunty debating Kristine Kruszelnicki. Dillahunty used bodily autonomy as his primary argument for abortion rights, based on Judith Jarvis Thompson's essay on the subject, "A Defense of Abortion." In March 2014, Dillahunty debated Clinton Wilcox, not a member of Secular Pro-Life, though the debate was advertised on their blog. The aftermath led to a falling out with the organization, Dillahunty announced in a Facebook post that he would not debate them in public again.
He and Beth Presswood appeared on Amanda Marcotte's podcast RH Reality Check to explain the events of the preceding years, said that "the optics of a cis male without a womb" debating women's rights is not what he wanted to advocate, would let others take the lead in public on the issue. Advocacy of the primacy of skepticism is another of Dillahunty's recurring themes, he said at the American Atheists convention in Austin in 2013 that the closest thing he has to a motto is "to believe as many true things and as few false things as possible," taking his inspiration from David Hume. In the same lecture, he said. In addition, Dillahunty said that skepticism has something to say about untested religious claims, that philosophical skepticism will lead to atheism, he sees atheism as a subset of skepticism, he does not see why skepticism should not address religious claims, something that has become a point of controversy in the skeptic community. Dillahunty rhetorically asked, "how popular would psychics be, how popular would ghosts be, if there wasn't this monolithic idea that 70-80% of the population believe, that within each of us is an eternal soul that leaves the body when we're dead and either goes on to some afterlife or lingers around here on the earth?...
If you teach
Avijit Roy was a Bangladeshi-American online activist and blogger known for creating and administrating the Mukto-Mona, an Internet community for freethinkers, skeptics and humanists of Bengali and other South Asian descent. Roy was an advocate of free expression in Bangladesh, coordinating international protests against government censorship and imprisonment of atheist bloggers, he was hacked to death by machete-wielding assailants in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on 26 February 2015. His father, Ajoy Roy, was a professor of physics at University of Dhaka who received the Ekushey Padak award. Avijit earned a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from BUET, he earned a master's and doctoral degree in Biomedical Engineering from National University of Singapore. In 2006, he moved to Atlanta and worked as a software engineer. Roy published eight books in Bengali. Roy was the founder of the Bangladeshi Mukto-Mona website, one of the nominees of The Bobs Award in the Best of Online Activism category; the site published death threats.
Mukto-Mona began as a Yahoo group in May 2001, but became a website in 2002. Roy described his writing as "taboo" in Bangladesh, he had received death threats from fundamentalist bloggers for his books. Rokomari.com, a Bangladeshi e-commerce site, stopped selling Roy's books after its owner received death threats from Islamists. Our aim is to build a society which will not be bound by the dictates of arbitrary authority, comfortable superstition, stifling tradition, or suffocating orthodoxy but would rather be based on reason, humanity and science. A Bangladeshi group and Online Activist Network, initiated the 2013 Shahbag protests that sought capital punishment for the Islamist leader and war criminal Abdul Quader Molla as well as the removal of Jamaat-e-Islami from politics. Islamist groups responded by organising protests calling for the execution of "atheist bloggers" accused of insulting Islam, the introduction of a blasphemy law. Many atheist bloggers who supported the Shahbag protests came under attack, Ahmed Rajib Haider was killed by Islamist groups on 15 February 2013.
A month before the protest, blogger Asif Mohiuddin was attacked outside his house by four youths influenced by Anwar Al-Awlaki, Sunnyur Rahman, known as Nastik Nobi, was stabbed on 7 March 2013. Asif Mohiuddin, a winner of the BOBs award for online activism, was on an Islamist hit list that included the murdered sociology professor Shafiul Islam. Mohiuddin's blog was shut down by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, he was jailed for posting "offensive comments about Islam and Mohammed." The secular government arrested several other bloggers and blocked about a dozen websites and blogs, as well as giving police protection to some bloggers. International organisations, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Reporters without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the imprisonment of bloggers and the climate of fear for journalists. Avijit Roy wrote that he was disgusted that the Bangladeshi media portrayed young bloggers as "crooks in the public eye" and wrote to Western media outlets and the Center for Inquiry and the International Humanist and Ethical Union for support.
Roy went on to coordinate international protests in Dhaka, New York City, Washington, D. C. London and other cities in support of the jailed bloggers, he was joined by writers and prominent secularists and intellectuals around the world including Salman Rushdie, Taslima Nasrin, Hemant Mehta, Maryam Namazie, PZ Myers, Anu Muhammad, Ajoy Roy, Qayyum Chowdhury, Ramendu Majumdar and Muhammad Zafar Iqbal in publicly expressing their solidarity with the arrested bloggers. In 2015, Roy went to Dhaka with his wife Bonya during the Ekushey Book Fair. On the evening of 26 February, he and Bonya were returning home from the fair by bicycle rickshaw. At around 8:30 pm, they were attacked near the Teacher Student Center intersection of Dhaka University by unidentified assailants. Two assailants stopped and dragged them from the rickshaw to the pavement before striking them with machetes, according to witnesses. Roy was stabbed with sharp weapons in the head, his wife was slashed on her shoulders and the fingers of her left hand were severed.
Both of them were rushed to Dhaka Medical College Hospital, where Roy was pronounced dead around 10:30 pm. Bonya survived. In an interview with BBC's Newshour, she said that police stood nearby when they were attacked on the spot but did not act. In a Twitter post on the day after his death, an Islamist group, calling itself Ansar Bangla-7, claimed responsibility for the killing. Ansar Bangla-7 is said to be the same organization as Ansarullah Bangla Team. A case of murder was filed by Roy's father without naming any suspects at Shahbagh thana on 27 February 2015. According to police sources, they are investigating a local Islamist group. Avijit's body was placed at Aparajeyo Bangla in front of the Faculty of Arts building at Dhaka University on 1 March 2015 where people from all walks of life, including his friends, well-wishers and students, gathered with flowers to pay their respect to the writer; as per Roy's wish, his body was handed over to Dhaka Medical College for medical research. On 6 March 2015, a four-member team of Federal Bureau of Investigation along with detective branch of Bangladesh Police inspected the spot where Roy was killed.
The FBI members collec
Jason Torpy is president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, an advocacy group focused on non-religious service members and veterans. He is a veteran of the U. S. Army and a Humanist Celebrant who works to increase the visibility of "atheists in foxholes". Torpy enlisted in the U. S. Army in 1994 and left the service in 2005 at the rank of Captain, he earned his commission through the United States Military Academy at West Point, he served with the Army's 1st Armored Division in Germany and Iraq. Critics consider Torpy and his advocacy group to be outsiders describing Torpy as a "perpetually offended" atheist, framing his advocacy for under-represented non-religious groups as an attack on the free exercise of religion. Torpy cites his experiences in the Army and at West Point, when superiors "responded with indifference or hostility" to individuals or groups who did not profess religious beliefs. Torpy argues that while the numbers of Christian evangelical service members and of non-religious members are about the same there is a clear preference for funding and providing services for the former while attempts to provide the same services for the latter are refused.
Through his own organization and partnered with others, Torpy has seen some progress toward his stated goals of gaining acceptance and support for non-religious service members and veterans. The Army invited him to address its 12th-annual Diversity Leadership Conference at West Point in 2012, the U. S. Army approved a major's request to list humanism as his religious preference for the first time in April 2014. Meanwhile, the Navy denied the application of humanist chaplain candidate Jason Heap, sponsored by the Humanist Society and by MAAF
Daniel Clement Dennett III is an American philosopher and cognitive scientist whose research centers on the philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, philosophy of biology as those fields relate to evolutionary biology and cognitive science. As of 2017, he is the co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies and the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University. Dennett is an atheist and secularist, a member of the Secular Coalition for America advisory board, a member of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, as well as an outspoken supporter of the Brights movement. Dennett is referred to as one of the "Four Horsemen of New Atheism", along with Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, the late Christopher Hitchens. Dennett is a member of the editorial board for The Rutherford Journal. Dennett was born on March 28, 1942 in Boston, the son of Ruth Marjorie and Daniel Clement Dennett, Jr. Dennett spent part of his childhood in Lebanon, during World War II, his father was a covert counter-intelligence agent with the Office of Strategic Services posing as a cultural attaché to the American Embassy in Beirut.
When he was five, his mother took him back to Massachusetts after his father died in an unexplained plane crash. Dennett's sister is the investigative journalist Charlotte Dennett. Dennett says that he was first introduced to the notion of philosophy while attending summer camp at age 11, when a camp counselor said to him, "You know what you are, Daniel? You're a philosopher."Dennett graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1959, spent one year at Wesleyan University before receiving his Bachelor of Arts in philosophy at Harvard University in 1963. At Harvard University he was a student of W. V. Quine. In 1965, he received his Doctor of Philosophy in philosophy at the University of Oxford, where he studied under Gilbert Ryle and was a member of Hertford College, his dissertation was entitled "The Mind and the Brain: Introspective Description in the Light of Neurological Findings. Dennett describes himself as "an autodidact—or, more properly, the beneficiary of hundreds of hours of informal tutorials on all the fields that interest me, from some of the world's leading scientists".
He is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. He is a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and a Humanist Laureate of the International Academy of Humanism, he was named 2004 Humanist of the Year by the American Humanist Association. In February 2010, he was named to the Freedom From Religion Foundation's Honorary Board of distinguished achievers. In 2012, he was awarded the Erasmus Prize, an annual award for a person who has made an exceptional contribution to European culture, society or social science, "for his ability to translate the cultural significance of science and technology to a broad audience."In 2018, he was awarded an honorary degree by Radboud University, located in Nijmegen, Netherlands for his contributions to and influence on cross-disciplinary science. While he is a confirmed compatibilist on free will, in "On Giving Libertarians What They Say They Want"—Chapter 15 of his 1978 book Brainstorms, Dennett articulated the case for a two-stage model of decision making in contrast to libertarian views.
The model of decision making I am proposing has the following feature: when we are faced with an important decision, a consideration-generator whose output is to some degree undetermined, produces a series of considerations, some of which may of course be rejected as irrelevant by the agent. Those considerations that are selected by the agent as having a more than negligible bearing on the decision figure in a reasoning process, if the agent is in the main reasonable, those considerations serve as predictors and explicators of the agent's final decision. While other philosophers have developed two-stage models, including William James, Henri Poincaré, Arthur Holly Compton, Henry Margenau, Dennett defends this model for the following reasons: First... The intelligent selection and weighing of the considerations that do occur to the subject is a matter of intelligence making the difference. Second, I think it installs indeterminism in the right place for the libertarian, if there is a right place at all.
Third... from the point of view of biological engineering, it is just more efficient and in the end more rational that decision making should occur in this way. A fourth observation in favor of the model is that it permits moral education to make a difference, without making all of the difference. Fifth—and I think this is the most important thing to be said in favor of this model—it provides some account of our important intuition that we are the authors of our moral decisions; the model I propose points to the multiplicity of decisions that encircle our moral decisions and suggests that in many cases our ultimate decision as to which way to act is less important phenomenologically as a contributor to our sense of free will than the prior decisions affecting our deliberation process itself: the decision, for instance, not to consider any further, to terminate deliberation. These prior and subsidiary decisions contribute, I think, to our sense of ourselves as responsible free agents in the following way: I am faced with an important decision to make, after a certain amount of deliberation, I say to myself: "That's enough.
I've considered this matter enough and now I'm going to act," in the full knowledge that I could have considered further, in the full knowledge that the eventualities may prove that I decided in er
State atheism is the incorporation of positive atheism or non-theism into political regimes associated with Soviet systems. In contrast, a secular state purports to be neutral in matters of religion, supporting neither religion nor irreligion. State atheism may refer to a government's anti-clericalism, which opposes religious institutional power and influence in all aspects of public and political life, including the involvement of religion in the everyday life of the citizen; the majority of Marxist–Leninist states followed similar policies from 1917. The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, the Soviet Union more broadly, had a long history of state atheism, whereby those seeking social success had to profess atheism and to stay away from houses of worship; the Soviet Union attempted to suppress public religious expression over wide areas of its influence, including places such as central Asia. Only China, North Korea and Vietnam are atheist. A communist state, in popular usage, is a state with a form of government characterized by one-party rule or dominant-party rule of a communist party and a professed allegiance to a Leninist or Marxist–Leninist communist ideology as the guiding principle of the state.
The founder and primary theorist of Marxism, the nineteenth-century German thinker Karl Marx, had an ambivalent attitude toward religion, viewing it as "the opium of the people", used by the ruling classes to give the working classes false hope for millennia, whilst at the same time recognizing it as a form of protest by the working classes against their poor economic conditions. In the Marxist–Leninist interpretation of Marxist theory, developed by Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, religion is seen as negative to human development, communist states that follow a Marxist–Leninist variant are atheistic and explicitly antireligious. Lenin states: Religion is the opiate of the people: this saying of Marx is the cornerstone of the entire ideology of Marxism about religion. All modern religions and churches, all and of every kind of religious organizations are always considered by Marxism as the organs of bourgeois reaction, used for the protection of the exploitation and the stupefaction of the working class.
Although Marx and Lenin were both atheists, several religious communist groups exist, including Christian communists. Julian Baggini devotes a chapter of his book Atheism: A Very Short Introduction to discussion of 20th century political systems, including communism and political repression in the Soviet Union. Baggini argues that "Soviet communism, with its active oppression of religion, is a distortion of original Marxist communism, which did not advocate oppression of the religious." Baggini goes on to argue that "Fundamentalism is a danger in any belief system" and that "Atheism's most authentic political expression... takes the form of state secularism, not state atheism." State atheism, was a major goal of the official Soviet ideology. To that end, the regime expropriated church property, publication of information against religious beliefs and the official promotion of anti-religious materials in the education system. After the Russian Civil War, the state used its resources to stop the implanting of religious beliefs in nonbelievers and remove "prerevolutionary remnants" that still existed.
The Bolsheviks were hostile toward the Russian Orthodox Church and saw it as a supporter of Tsarist autocracy. During a process of collectivization of land, Orthodox priests distributed pamphlets declaring that the Soviet regime was the Antichrist coming to place "the Devil's mark" on the peasants, encouraged them to resist the government. Political repression was widespread in the Soviet Union, while religious persecution was applied to most religions, the regime's anti-religious campaigns were directed against specific religions based on state interests, that varied over time; the attitude in the Soviet Union toward religion varied from a total ban on some religions to official support of others. From the late 1920s to the late 1930s, such organizations as the League of Militant Atheists ridiculed all religions and harassed believers. Anti-religious and atheistic propaganda was implemented into every portion of soviet life: in schools, communist organizations such as the Young Pioneer Organization, the media.
Though Lenin introduced the Gregorian calendar to the Soviets, subsequent efforts to reorganise the week to improve worker productivity saw the introduction of the Soviet calendar, which had the side-effect that a "holiday will fall on Sunday". Within about a year of the revolution, the state expropriated all church property, including the churches themselves, in the period from 1922 to 1926, 28 Russian Orthodox bishops and more than 1,200 priests were killed. Most seminaries were closed, publication of religious writing was banned; the Russian Orthodox Church, which had 54,000 parishes before World War I, was reduced to 500 by 1940. A meeting of the Antireligious Commission of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party that occurred on 23 May 1929 estimated the portion of believers in the USSR at 80 percent, though this percentage may be understated to prove the successfulness of the struggle with religion. Despite the Soviet Union's attempts to eliminate religion, other former USSR and anti-religious nations, such as Armenia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyz
Jennifer Michael Hecht
Jennifer Michael Hecht is a teacher, poet and philosopher. She was an associate professor of history at Nassau Community College and now teaches at The New School in New York City. Hecht has seven published books, her scholarly articles have been published in many journals and magazines, her poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Ms. Magazine, Poetry Magazine, among others, she has written essays and book reviews for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The American Scholar, The Boston Globe and other publications. She has written several columns for The New York Times online "Times Select." In 2010 Hecht was one of the five nonfiction judges for the National Book Award. Hecht is a longtime blogger for The Best American Poetry series web site and maintains a personal blog on her website, she resides in New York. Born in Glen Cove, New York on Long Island, Hecht attended Adelphi University where she earned a BA in history, for a time studying at the Université de Caen, the Université d'Angers.
She earned her PhD in the History of Science from Columbia University in 1995 and taught at Nassau Community College from 1994 to 2007 as a tenured associate professor of history. Hecht has taught in the MFA programs at The New School and Columbia University, is a fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities. Hecht has two children, she has appeared on television on the Discovery Channel, The Morning Show with Marcus Smith, Road to Reason and MSNBC's Hardball, on radio on The Brian Lehrer Show, The Leonard Lopate Show, On Being, All Things Considered, The Joy Cardin Show, others. Of her three major intellectual interests, she ranks them, "Poetry came first historical scholarship public atheism, they remain in that order in my dedication to them."Originally intending to be a poet, she was drawn to the history of science. Her first book, The End of the Soul: Scientific Modernity and Anthropology in France, 1876-1936, grew out of her dissertation on some late 19th-century anthropologists who formed the Society of Mutual Autopsy.
The members would dissect each other's brains after death, Hecht, having noticed their atheism, came to understand that this was being done not only for the sake of scientific finds, but to prove to the Catholic Church that the soul does not exist. While researching her first book, she came to realize that there was no sufficient history of atheism, that led to her second book, Doubt: A History. While writing Doubt, she found that many atheists went beyond stating that there are no gods and made profound suggestions about how people should think of life and how we should live; that led to her third book, The Happiness Myth, which starts there and goes on to look at present-day attitudes about how to be happy. She calls it "a work of Skepticism in the modern sense of debunking." Hecht believes that, "the basic modern assumptions about how to be happy are nonsense." In a review of her book, The Happiness Myth for The New York Times, Alison McCulloch summed it up, "What you think you should do to be happy, like getting fitter and thinner, is part of a'cultural code' —'an unscientific web of symbolic cultural fantasies' — and once you realize this, you will feel a little more free to be a lot more happy."
In an interview on the Point of Inquiry podcast in 2007, she said "I'm not trying to get somebody out of depression, but I sure am trying to get people to not be so worried, so anxious over things that don't matter." She has written against agnosticism, calling "philosophically silly" the argument that because you can't prove a negative we have to allow for the possibility of God. "Either you doubt everything to the point where you can't speak, or you make reasoned decisions."Hecht is an anti-suicide advocate, writing an entire book arguing against it. She believes not only that "Suicide is delayed homicide", but "that you owe it to your future self to live", she does not believe in life-after-death, urging that we should remember death and remember that it's the end. "I think this world is extraordinary and I think it's a pain in the ass. And I'm happy to be here and I'm ok with not being here forever."She believes that morality is not magical, it is the attempt to do right. And rather than either being handed to us by God or just made up by each person, is inherent in human groups.
"There are deep rules of morality that we as human beings, in human groups,'invented' on biological and social and intellectual lines." Her poetry and philosophy intersect, she has taught a course called "Poets and Philosophy" at the New School for many years. Her own taste is for poets who are concerned with religious questions. "Leopardi's misery makes me as happy as Schopenhauer's does, though I am aware of the equal cacophony of birth and pleasure that shadow their admittedly much more deafening symphony of death and suffering. Dickinson I treasure beyond measure and think she's on my side of the nonbeliever line. Hopkins has a few rhyming hunks of pure passion, frustrated but wild, which I love with a love, more than a love, but which only go so far. Donne is deep and great company, but he leans too much into comforting delusions for me when he is at his best in poetic chops and pyrotechnics. Rilke is a lifesaving self-help writer and a bit of a brilliant con artist." Hecht was raised Jewish and believed in God until she was twelve when she had what she describes as a "Talking Heads headshift", standing in her parent's house saying
Atheism is, in the broadest sense, the absence of belief in the existence of deities. Less broadly, atheism is the rejection of belief. In an narrower sense, atheism is the position that there are no deities. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which, in its most general form, is the belief that at least one deity exists; the etymological root for the word atheism originated before the 5th century BCE from the ancient Greek ἄθεος, meaning "without god". In antiquity it had multiple uses as a pejorative term applied to those thought to reject the gods worshiped by the larger society, those who were forsaken by the gods, or those who had no commitment to belief in the gods; the term denoted a social category created by orthodox religionists into which those who did not share their religious beliefs were placed. The actual term atheism emerged first in the 16th century. With the spread of freethought, skeptical inquiry, 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 during the Age of Enlightenment. The French Revolution, noted for its "unprecedented atheism," witnessed the first major political movement in history to advocate for the supremacy of human reason; the French Revolution can be described as the first period where atheism became implemented politically. Arguments for atheism range from the philosophical to historical approaches. Rationales for not believing in deities include arguments that there is a lack of empirical evidence, the problem of evil, the argument from inconsistent revelations, the rejection of concepts that cannot be falsified, the argument from nonbelief. Nonbelievers contend that atheism is a more parsimonious position than theism and that everyone is born without beliefs in deities. Although some atheists have adopted secular philosophies, there is no one ideology or set of behaviors to which all atheists adhere. Since conceptions of atheism vary, accurate estimations of current numbers of atheists are difficult.
According to global Win-Gallup International studies, 13% of respondents were "convinced atheists" in 2012, 11% were "convinced atheists" in 2015, in 2017, 9% were "convinced atheists". However, other researchers have advised caution with WIN/Gallup figures since other surveys which have used the same wording for decades and have a bigger sample size have reached lower figures. An older survey by the British Broadcasting Corporation in 2004 recorded atheists as comprising 8% of the world's population. Other older estimates have indicated that atheists comprise 2% of the world's population, while the irreligious add a further 12%. According to these polls and East Asia are the regions with the highest rates of atheism. In 2015, 61 % of people in China reported; the figures for a 2010 Eurobarometer survey in the European Union reported that 20% of the EU population claimed not to believe in "any sort of spirit, God or life force". Writers disagree on how best to define and classify atheism, contesting what supernatural entities are considered gods, whether it is a philosophic position in its own right or the absence of one, whether it requires a conscious, explicit rejection.
Atheism has been regarded as compatible with agnosticism, has been contrasted with it. A variety of categories have been used 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 and god. 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. This view fell into disfavor as theism came to be understood as encompassing belief in any divinity. With respect to the range of phenomena being rejected, atheism may counter anything from the existence of a deity, to the existence of any spiritual, supernatural, or transcendental concepts, such as those of Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism. Definitions of atheism 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. 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. George H. Smith suggested that: "The man, unacquainted with theism is an atheist because he does not believe in a god; this category would include the child with the conceptual capacity to grasp the issues involved, but, still unaware of those issues. The fact that this child does not believe in god qualifies him as an atheist." Implicit atheism is "the absence of theistic belief without a conscious rejection of it" and explicit atheism is the conscious rejection of belief. For the purposes of his paper on "philosophical atheism", Ernest Nagel contested including mere absence of theistic belief as a type of atheism. Graham Oppy classifies as innocents those who never considered the question because they lack any understanding of what a god is. According to Oppy, these could be one-month-old babies, humans with severe traumatic brain injuries, or patients with advanced dementia.
Philosophers such as Antony Flew and Michael Martin have contrasted positive (st