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Religion Library: Atheism
Adherents200,000,000 - 240,000,000
Sacred TextNone

Editor's Note:  This section of the Patheos library is currently under construction. We expect it to be complete by the end of 2011. We are looking for qualified contributors in the fields of atheism, humanism, and non-theistic thought. Payment offered. Please send your resume and cover letter to Thank you.

Atheism generally refers to a critical ideology that rejects metaphysical beliefs in any deity. Atheism is the antithesis of theism, which both believes in and attempts to affirm the existence of a god or gods. Atheism assumes and often attempts to prove the impossibility of the existence of gods. Atheism has often been associated with agnosticism, but these two ideologies are not interchangeable. Atheism is distinguished from agnosticism in that the latter allows for the possibility of the existence of the divine whereas the former claims an absolute rejection of the concept. In the 19th century, Karl Marx championed another form of atheism labeled "materialism," which stands in opposition to the metaphysical claim of "spiritualism." Marx claimed that "religion" and concepts of God were political and social constructs. Materialism claims that knowledge and truth are only available through nature and the material world. Materialism rejects the existence of a spiritual world and any knowledge that claims to come from it. Sigmund Freud championed atheism in claiming that concepts of God are just psychological deformities. Another strand of atheism is the existentialism signified by Friedrich Nietzsche and others who have claimed that belief in God restricts humanity's freedom and agency.