Question of the Day: Atomism = Atheism?

Question of the Day: Atomism = Atheism? April 26, 2013

Victor J. Stenger’s God an the Atom is a very nice history and description of atomism (and thanks to Prometheus Books for the review copy.) Stenger’s background as a particle physicist makes him probably the most qualified of the popular new atheists to write the book. What I’m less sure about is Stenger’s argument that atomism automatically leads to atheism. He throws this out in the early part of his history:

Most authors who write on the subject insist that the ancient atomists were not atheists because they still believed in Gods. Yes, they said they believed, but that was probably to avoid having to drink hemlock. The atomist gods play no role in the universe or in human lives, unlike theism as we understand it today. Atomism is atheism. [p 13]

I’m not sure about the history, and I have a hunch we’d end up quibbling about the definition of theism. That aside, does the belief that the universe can be reduced down in its totality to atoms and vacuum automatically lead to atheism?

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