Atheism is defined as the absence of a belief that any deities exist, contrasting theism, which is the belief that at least one deity exists. Instead of adhering to a specific religious belief system, atheism does not follow a common ideology or set of behaviors and beliefs, but is rather up to the believer. Although the concept of atheism has been traced back in Europe and Asia since sixth or fifth BCE, the term “atheism,” based on the Ancient Greek “atheos,” or “without gods,” originated in the sixteenth century and slowly gained traction in specific intellectual groups in Europe during the Renaissance, especially by French Revolutionaries.
Atheism continued to grow in influence throughout the Age of Enlightenment and into modern history, adapted by certain political and philosophical societies. Today, according to a 2012 global poll by WIN/GIA, 13% of participants reported as atheists, with the highest percentages in Western nations.
Currently, the rise of “atheist churches,” gatherings of hundreds of atheists in an hour of music, reflection, and an inspiring sermon, has been spreading across the West. The first atheist service began in Great Britain in 2013, led by two prominent British comedians. Recently, atheist services have grown in popularity in several United States cities, such as San Diego, Nashville, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. This Sunday assembly, whose motto is “live better, help often, wonder more,” serves to provide atheists a community to inspire, engage, and encourage others, while still being able to genuinely express their beliefs. Atheist service attendee Elijah Senn notes, “I think the image that we have put forward in a lot of ways has been a scary, mean, we want to tear down the walls, we want to do destructive things kind of image is what a lot of people have of us… I’m really excited to be able to come together and show that it’s not about destruction. It’s about making things and making things better.”
• “Religious Views and Beliefs Vary Greatly by Country, According to the Latest Financial Times/Harris Poll.” Financial Times/Harris Interactive. 20 December 2006. 5 March 2014
• Flaccus, Gillian. Atheist ‘Megachurches’ Crop Up Around the World. Huffington Post 10 November 2013. Print.
• Armstrong, Karen. A History of God. London: Vintage. 1999. Print.