There have been atheists throughout history. Here are a few who became famous.
Given the times in which they lived, some on this list might not have called themselves atheists, but all expressed at least significant doubt about the efficacy of religion and/or the existence of all-controlling deities and wrote something clever or revealing about their position. This is but a sample of what could be a much longer list.
Edward Abbey American writer.
“Whatever we cannot easily understand we call God; this saves much wear and tear on the brain tissues …. Belief in the supernatural reflects a failure of the imagination.”
Woody Allen American humorist/film director.
“Not only is there no god, but try getting a plumber on weekends.”
Anaxagoras Greek philosopher.
“Everything has a natural explanation. The moon is not a god but a great rock and the sun a hot rock.”
Natalie Angier Pulitzer-winning science writer.
“I don’t believe in God, Gods, Godlets or any sort of higher power beyond the universe itself. Which seems quite high and powerful enough to me.”
Aristophanes Greek dramatist.
“Shrines! Shrines! Surely you don’t believe in the gods. What’s your argument? Where’s your proof?
Aristotle Greek philosopher.
“Men create gods after their own image.”
Isaac Asimov American biochemist and science-fiction writer.
“Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.”
Peter William Atkins British chemist.
“It is not possible to be intellectually honest and believe in gods. And it is not possible to believe in gods and be a true scientist.”
Sir Isaiah Berlin British philosopher and intellectual historian.
“Those who seek for some cosmic all-embracing libretto or God are, believe me, pathetically mistaken.”
Robert Burns Scottish poet.
“All religions are auld wives’ fables.”
Joseph Campbell American scholar of mythology.
“Mythology is what we call someone else’s religion.”
George Carlin American comedian.
“Atheism is a non-prophet organization.”
Andrew Carnegie Scottish-American steel magnate.
“I don’t believe in God. My god is patriotism. Teach a man to be a good citizen and you have solved the problem of life.”
Noam Chomsky American linguist.
“How do I define God? I don’t. I see no need.”
Chapman Cohen British activist.
“Gods are fragile things; they may be killed by a whiff of science or a dose of common sense.”
Clarence Darrow American lawyer.
“I don’t believe in God because I don’t believe in Mother Goose.”
Democritus Greek philosopher.
“Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is opinion.”
Emily Dickinson American poet.
“‘Faith’ is a fine invention, when gentlemen can see / But microscopes are prudent in an emergency.”
Denis Diderot French philosopher.
“Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.”
Benjamin Disraeli English politician and novelist.
“Where knowledge ends, religion begins.”
Thomas Edison American inventor.
“Religion is all bunk.”
Richard Feynman American physicist.
“God was invented to create mystery.”
Benjamin Franklin American statesman and inventor.
“The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.”
Sigmund Freud Austrian physician and psychoanalyst.
“The whole thing is so patently infantile, [religion] so foreign to reality, that to anyone with a friendly attitude to humanity it is painful to think that the great majority of mortals will never be able to rise above this view of life.”
Stephen Fry English comedian, actor, and writer.
“The god who created this universe, if he created this universe, is quite clearly a maniac, an utter maniac, totally selfish. We have to spend our lives on our knees thanking him. What kind of god would do that?”
Yuri Gagarin Soviet cosmonaut.
“I don’t see any god up here.”
Ernest Hemingway American writer.
“All thinking men are atheists.”
Heraclitus of Ephesus Greek philosopher.
“The universe has been made neither by gods nor men, but it has been, and is, and will be eternally.”
Christopher Hitchens British-born American journalist.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him will believeth in anything – Hitchens 3:16.”
Victor Hugo French novelist.
“Religion is nothing but the shadow cast by the universe on human intelligence.”
Robert Ingersoll American politician
“Every fact is an enemy of the church. Everything that ever really happened testifies against the supernatural.”
Thomas Jefferson American president.
“Question with boldness even the existence of a god.”
James Joyce Irish novelist.
“There is no heresy or no philosophy which is so abhorrent to the church as a human being.”
Immanuel Kant German philosopher.
“The death of dogma is the birth of morality.”
Johannes Kepler German astronomer.
“When miracles are admitted, every scientific explanation is out of the question.”
Stephen King American novelist.
“The beauty of religious mania is that … logic can be happily tossed out the window.”
Stanley Kubrick American movie director.
“The whole idea of god is absurd.”
Richard Lederer American linguist.
“There once was a time when all people believed in God and the church ruled. The time was called the Dark Ages.”
Ferdinand Magellan Portuguese explorer.
“The church says the earth is flat, but I know that it is round, for I have seen the shadow on the moon, and I have more faith in a shadow than in the church.”
Karl Marx German philosopher.
“Everything must be doubted.”
L. Menken American journalist.
“Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration—courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and, above all, love of the truth.”
Michel de Montaigne French essayist.
“Man is certainly stark mad; he cannot make a worm, yet he will make gods by the dozen.”
Vladimir Nabokov Russian novelist.
“No free man needs a God.”
Friedrich Nietzsche German philosopher.
“Faith means not wanting to know what is true.”
Thomas Otway English Restoration dramatist/poet.
“Well, all I say is. Honest atheism for my money.”
William Pitt the Elder British prime minister.
“The only true divinity is humanity.”
Gene Roddenberry American television writer/creator of Star Trek.
“We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing, all-powerful God who creates faulty Humans and then blames them for his own mistakes.”
Bertrand Russell British mathematician and philosopher.
“Where there is evidence, no one speaks of ‘faith.’ We do not speak of faith that two and two are four or that the earth is round.”
Margaret Sanger American birth control activist.
“No gods, no masters.”
George Santayana Spanish born American philosopher.
“Faith in the supernatural is a desperate wager made by man at the lowest ebb of his fortunes.”
Jean-Paul Sartre French philosopher.
“If God exists, man does not exist; if man exists, God does not exist.”
Friedrich von Schiller German poet and dramatist.
“A healthy nature needs no God or immortality.”
Arthur Schopenhauer German philosopher.
“Faith and knowledge are related as the scales of a balance; when the one goes up, the other goes down.”
Seneca Roman philosopher.
“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.”
George Bernard Shaw Irish-born English playwright.
“The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley English poet.
“There is no God.”
Gloria Steinem American journalist.
“It’s an incredible con job when you think about it, to believe something now in exchange for something after death. Even corporations with their reward systems don’t try to make it posthumous.”
Leo Tolstoy Russian novelist.
“The teaching of the church is in theory a crafty and evil lie, and in practice a concoction of gross superstition and witchcraft.”
Mark Twain American writer.
“Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”
“On religion, many are destined to reason wrongly; others not to reason at all; and others to persecute those who do.”
Kurt Vonnegut American writer.
“Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile.”
James Watson American geneticist/biophysicist.
“The biggest advantage to believing in God is you don’t have to believe anything, no physics, no biology … I wanted to understand.”
Oscar Wilde Anglo-Irish poet/novelist.
“To believe is very dull. To doubt is intensely engrossing.”
Edward O. Wilson American biologist.
“To understand human nature in depth is to drain the fever swamps of religious and blank-slate dogma.”
Frank Lloyd Wright American architect.
“I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.”
Xenophanes Greek philosopher.
“If oxen, lions, and horses had hands and could make fashion of art, they would fashion gods in their own image.”
Emile Zola French novelist.
“Civilization will not attain its perfection until the last stone from the last church falls on the last priest.”