Atheism, in a broad sense, is the rejection of belief in the
existence of deities. In a narrower
sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Most
inclusively, atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist.
Atheism is contrasted with theism, which in its most general form is the belief
that at least one deity exists.
The term atheism originated from the Greek ἄθεος (atheos),
meaning "without gods", which was applied with a negative connotation
to those thought to reject the gods worshipped by the larger society. With the spread
of freethought, skeptical inquiry, and subsequent increase in criticism of
religion, application of the term narrowed in scope. The first individuals to
identify themselves as "atheist" appeared in the 18th century. Today,
about 2.3% of the world's population describes itself as atheist, while a
further 11.9% is described as nonreligious. Between 64% and 65% of Japanese
describe themselves as atheists, agnostics, or non-believers, and 48% in Russia. The
percentage of such persons in European Union member states ranges as low as
single digits in Italy and
some other countries, and up to 85% in Sweden.
Atheists tend to lean towards skepticism regarding
supernatural claims, citing a lack of empirical evidence. Common rationales for
not believing in any deity include the problem of evil, the argument from
inconsistent revelations, and the argument from nonbelief. Other arguments for
atheism range from the philosophical to the social to the historical. Although
some atheists tend toward secular philosophies such as humanism, rationalism,
and naturalism, there is no one ideology or set of behaviors to which all
In Western culture, atheists are frequently assumed to be
exclusively irreligious or unspiritual. However, atheism also figures in
certain religious and spiritual belief systems, such as some forms of Buddhism,
that do not advocate belief in gods.
Religion (from Latin religio, "reverence for the
gods", "piety", possibly related to religare, "to
bind") is the belief in and worship of a god or gods, or more in general a
set of beliefs explaining the existence of and giving meaning to the universe,
usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a
moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
Aspects of religion include narrative, symbolism, beliefs,
and practices that are supposed to give meaning to the practitioner's
experiences of life. Whether the meaning centers on a deity or deities, or an
ultimate truth, religion is commonly identified by the practitioner's prayer,
ritual, meditation, music and art, among other things, and is often interwoven
with society and politics. It may focus on specific supernatural, metaphysical,
and moral claims about reality (the cosmos and human nature) which may yield a
set of religious laws and ethics and a particular lifestyle. Religion also
encompasses ancestral or cultural traditions, writings, history, and mythology,
as well as personal faith and religious experience. The development of religion
has taken many forms in various cultures, with continental differences.
The term "religion" refers both to the personal
practices related to communal faith and to group rituals and communication
stemming from shared conviction. "Religion" is sometimes used
interchangeably with "faith" or "belief system", but it is
more socially defined than personal convictions, and it entails specific
Religion is often described as a communal system for the
coherence of belief focusing on a system of thought, unseen being, person, or
object, that is considered to be supernatural, sacred, divine, or of the
highest truth. Moral codes, practices, values, institutions, tradition,
rituals, and scriptures are often traditionally associated with the core
belief, and these may have some overlap with concepts in secular philosophy.
Religion is also often described as a "way of life" or a life stance.