What kind of world would we have if a majority of the human race was atheist?
To dispel the myth that nonbelievers have never contributed anything of worth or value to human civilization, I want to highlight some who’ve left their mark in the arts, the sciences and the humanities. Demonstrating that the godless count distinguished members of the human race among our numbers is a way to fight back against this prejudice and to demonstrate that we, too, have a historical legacy we can be proud of.
Not all of the people profiled here were strict atheists, but all of them were freethinkers, a broader umbrella term that embraces a rainbow of unorthodoxy, religious dissent, skepticism, and unconventional thinking. It’s no surprise that so many influential thinkers and creative types have come from the ranks of these intellectual revolutionaries. Organized religion tends to reward people not for thinking creatively or critically, but for reciting and defending the dogmas of the previous generation. Throughout human history, it has consistently been true that hidebound theocracies have been mired in poverty, backwardness and intellectual stagnation, whereas the most dramatic advances have come about in times and places where people had the freedom to think for themselves, to freely question and debate. The lives of the men and women recounted here bear testimony to this.