The 35 Most Exceptional Atheists of All Time

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There is a possibility that you met someone in your life who is an atheist, or you have someone close who is an atheist, or you are one. This term is used a lot, especially in the past few years. But what is atheism?

Atheism is the rejection of belief that any deities exist. It is contrasted with theism, which is the belief that at least one deity exists. Atheism has been very popular in recent years and many people talk about it. Many famous people talk about atheism and there are many ongoing debates about it all around the world.

An interesting fact is that more than 2.3 percent of the world’s population identifies themselves as an atheist. Many scientists were atheists, and some of them are the most exceptional scientists of all time. But besides scientists, many other brilliant people were also atheists, and they left their mark in our world.

Today we are bringing you a list of the 35 most exceptional atheists of all time.

  1. Diagoras of Melos

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One of the most famous and also most ancient atheists is a poet and sophist from 5th century B.C. Diagoras of Melos was also known as Diagoras the Atheist. He criticized the fact that people believe in Greek gods. The famous philosopher, Democritus paid a ransom to free Diagoras from captivity, and after that Diagoras became his disciple. But that wasn’t the end of Diagoras troubles, he was prosecuted by the Athenian democratic party for impiety, and he had to flee the city and he went to Corinth, where he died. Unfortunately, none of his writings survived, but there are stories that Diagoras was always talking about the fact that gods don’t exist.

  1. Theodorus the Atheist

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Theodorus was from Cyrene and he lived around 300 B.C. He was another one that was banished from his town and he moved to Athens, he was also called The Atheist. But he didn’t have a quiet and peaceful life in Athens, he also got banished from there. He moved to Alexandria, and he got into the service of Ptolemy. He talked about life and how life is about obtaining joy and avoiding grief. He also believed that justice represented good, and their opposites evil. Many were offended by his speeches and his lack of faith in the gods.

  1. Ivan Pavlov

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A Russian physiologist, physician and psychologist, Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, won the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1904 for the research he did on the digestive system. He came up with the term “psychic secretion” when he observed gods and he noticed that dogs salivate more when they expect the food. He studied behaviors, and his approach was later known as behaviorism. Ivan Pavlov died in Leningrad, and all of his work and his laboratory was very well preserved by the Soviet government, and it was turned into a museum. An interesting thing is that while he was dying he had one of his students with him to record every detail like it was some sort of psychological experiment.

  1. Sigmund Freud

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One of the worlds most famous psychiatrist, Sigmund Freud, founded the psychoanalytic school of psychology. He made many theories about the unconscious mind and the defense mechanisms of repression. His system for interpreting dreams is still very famous. He explained that dreams were indicators of unconscious desires. Later in his life, he was very sick, and he had oral cancer, so he convinced his physician and friend Max Schur to assist him to commit suicide in 1939. He also became famous for his atheistic point of view, and many people started thinking like him.

  1. Richard Strauss

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Richard Georg Strauss was one of the worlds exceptional composers, from Germany. He was a prodigy, he started writing music when he was only six years old. He was a true believer that God doesn’t exist, and once he said that he shall never be converted.

  1. Jawaharlal Nehru

A follower of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru rose to leadership of the Indian National Congress at a very young age. He was very intelligent and charismatic and he was the first and longest-serving Prime Minister of an Independent India. His family was very religious, but he was an atheist. He wanted India to be independent, and he wanted that everyone has a right to education, regardless of their religion and caste.

  1. Bertrand Russell

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A British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, social activist, and pacifist, Bertrand Arthur William Russel, lived between 1872 and 1970. He led the revolt against idealism and he is considered to be one of the founders of analytic philosophy. And analytic philosophy considered formal logic and science as the principal tools. The was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1950. He one admitted that he can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, but he also said that he can’t prove that he does exist.

  1. Paul Dirac

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Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac was a British theoretical physicist and we contributed to the early development of quantum mechanics. He was very humble and he even refused to call his contributions by his name. He shared the Nobel Prize in physics with Erwin Schrodinger, and that formulation became known as the Dirac equation. He was known as an atheist and a non-believer. Once Wolfgang Pauli said that “God doesn’t exist and Paul Dirac is his prophet”.

  1. Alan Turing

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A mathematician, logician, computer scientist and cryptanalyst, Alan Mathison Turing, was one of the greatest people that ever lived. Everyone noticed that he was a genius from an early age. When he was 16 he encountered Einstein’s work and he extrapolated it to question Newton’s law of motion. He was an atheist and he had a strong opinion that everything in nature must be materialistic.

  1. Linus Pauling

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One of the most influential and famous chemists in the history of the world was Linus Carl Pauling. He was one of the only 4 individuals ever to have won a solo Nobel Prize in separate and unrelated fields, for chemistry, and he also won the Nobel Prize for his campaign against nuclear weapons and atmospheric nuclear bomb testing. He was raised as a believer and he later joined the Unitarian Universalist Church, but two years before his death he declared that he is an atheist.

  1. Katherine Hepburn

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A very famous actress, Katherine Houghton Hepburn, received 12 Academy Award nominations for Best Actress in a movie, and she had four wins. She was ranked as cinema history’s greatest female star. She had a degree in history and philosophy. She said that she thinks highly of Jesus Christ, but that she has no personal religious beliefs and that she doesn’t believe in an afterlife.

  1. Francis Crick

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Known as the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, Francis Harry Compton Crick will be remembered forever. He researched how the human brain creates a conscious mind, and how non-living molecules become living organisms. He said that Christianity may be okay between consenting adults in private, but he thought that it should not be taught to young children.

  1. Richard Feynman

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Richard Phillips Feynman is known for the theory of quantum electrodynamics, the Feynman diagrams, the physics supercooled liquid helium’s superfluidity, and the patron model of particle physics. He won the Nobel Prize for quantum electrodynamics. He was known as a joker and a clown among his colleagues, but he was one of the best-known scientists in the world.

  1. James D. Watson

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James Dewey Watson was one of the scientists responsible for the molecular structure of DNA, alongside Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins, and he received the Nobel Prize for that. He earned a Ph.D. in zoology when he was only 22. He was also a political activist and he was against the war in Vietnam. He once said that he doesn’t believe in God.

  1. Warren Buffet

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Warren Edward Buffett was rated by Forbes as the richest person in the world, before the Wall Street meltdown in 2008. He is an American businessman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, and he is known for his philosophy of value investing, and also for accepting an annual salary for himself that was less than $200,000. He described himself as a religious agnostic.

  1. Steven Weinberg

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An American physicist, Steven Weinberg is best known for his work on the unification of electromagnetism and the weak force. He shared the Nobel Prize in physics for that. He said that good people can behave well with or without religion, and that bad person can do evil. But he also said that for good people to do evil things it takes religion.

  1. Carl Sagan

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A very famous American astronomer, astrochemist, Carl Sagan was working as an advisor to NASA. He had a great contribution to many robotic missions that explored the solar system, and he arranged many experiments to be conducted during moon missions. An interesting thing is that he designed the gold plaque that was attached to the Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft, a message that could be understood by extraterrestrial intelligence. He said that he is an agnostic, and then he can’t be atheist because if he wanted to be an atheist he needed to know more that he knew.

  1. Bruce Lee

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Everyone knows who Bruce Lee was, he was a Chinese martial artist, philosopher, actor and many more. He promoted physical fitness, training, and a healthy diet. He was influenced by Taoism and Buddism, but he was an atheist and he expressed his disbelief in God.

  1. Richard Dawkins

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One of the best known scientific atheists in the world is Clinton Richard Dawkins. He is best known for his books, The Selfish Gene and The Extended Phenotype. He is a strong supporter of evolution by natural selection, and for that, he was called “Darwin’s Rottweiler” in the press. He always promoted atheism, and he even supported the Atheist Bus Campaign in 2008.

  1. Mick Jagger

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Maybe it is logical for you that Mick Jagger is an atheist. One of the most famous musicians in the world left school at 19 and he formed a band with Keith Richards and Brian Jones, known now to everyone as the Rolling Stones. He is known for his music and rich career, but also for being an atheist.

  1. David Gilmour

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Another musician, David Gilmour from the famous rock group Pink Floyd. He is known for his music and great talent, but also for not believing in God. His band was one of the top-grossing rock bands in the world history, but he also had three solo albums.

  1. Steve Wozniak

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Steve Gary Wozniak is known for founding the Apple computer company alongside with Steve Jobs. Now that company is one of the most famous computer companies in the world. Wozniak left Apple, he founded other businesses that produce things like first universal remote and wireless GPS. He is an atheist, and he doesn’t believe in God.

  1. Douglas Adams

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Douglas Adams is an English writer, a dramatist, and musician. He wrote three episodes for the series Doctor Who. He also wrote for the famous Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and he even appeared in the series. One of his closest friends was David Gilmour. Richard Dawkins dedicated his book to him, The God Delusion.  One of his most famous books was Thanks for All the Fish.

  1. PZ Myers

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A development biologist and professor of biology, an energetic promoter of science generally and evolution, PZ Myers. He is a founder of pro-evolution website The Panda’s Thumb and has his blog, Pharyngula. His blog is one of the top-ranking blog written by a scientist. He also became popular for promoting atheism.

  1. David Chalmers

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David John Chalmers is an Australian philosopher, and he is famous for his book The Conscious Mind. He is on the editorial board of the Journal of Consciousness Studies, and he was also a director of the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona in the U.S.

  1. Mark Zuckerberg

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If there weren’t for Mark Zuckerberg we wouldn’t have Facebook and all of that stuff. He was named as one of the World’s Most Influential People in 2008. And, interestingly, he launched Facebook from his Harvard dorm room. He was born and raised in the Jewish tradition, but he says that he is an atheist.

  1. Sean Carroll

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A theoretical cosmologist that specialized in general relativity and dark energy, Sean Caroll is currently working as a Senior Research Associate in Physics at Caltech. He is known for his scientific work, but he is better known for his very strong advocacy of atheism. He even turned down an invitation to speak at one conference because it was sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation.

  1. Russell T Davies

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Stephen Russel Davis is a popular writer and producer and he is responsible for the modern version of very famous science fiction TV series Doctor Who. He was named as the most influential gay person in Britain in 2006, and of course, he is an atheist.

  1. Jodie Foster

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The real name of Jodie Foster is Alicia Christian Foster, and she is a famous movie star, director and producer. She won many awards, like Bafta Awards, two Golden Globes, a People’s Choice Award, and many more. She began her career very early in her life and she became very popular. She was just 14 years old when she was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in Taxi Driver. She is an atheist but she celebrates both Christmas and Hannukah because she has respect for all religions.

  1. Steven Pinker

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Steven Arthur Pinker is a controversial person, and he is an experimental psychologist and cognitive scientist. He is known for his strong advocacy of evolutionary psychology and also euthanasia. He was born into a Jewish family, but he became an atheist at the age of 13.

  1. David Sloan Wilson

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A SUNY Distinguished Professor of Biology and Anthropology at Binghamton University in New York, David Sloan Wilson. He is also a prolific popular science writer and a promoter of evolution. He describes himself as a “nice atheist”.

  1. Brian Eno

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Brian Eno is an English musician, composer, record producer, and music theorist. He is known as the father of ambient music. He started his music career with the art-rock band Roxy Music. One of the most interesting things that he did was composing and performing the “Prophesy Theme” for David Lynch’s Dune. He is also very politically active, and he has very strong anti-war views, and of course, he is an atheist.

  1. Richard Leakey

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Richard Leakey was born in Nairobi in Kenya. He started his career as a private pilot, but he found something interesting once, a potential fossil bed. His parents were archaeologists and he went back to the place with his fathers associate and he was given the funding for a month’s dig. He managed to discover Australopithecus boisei. Besides that, he was always promoting civil rights and supporting Kenyan Safina Party.

  1. Daniel Dennett

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An American philosopher specialized in the philosophies of mind, science, and biology, Daniel Dennett had a very interesting life. His father was a spy for the OSS, in Beirut during WW 2. In one of his books Breaking the Spell, he explains and examines religious beliefs from an evolutionary point of view.

  1. Democritus

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We are going to end this list with another ancient Greek Philosopher, Democritus. He was one of the most prolific and influential philosophers from the pre-Socratis time. He had an atomic theory, he was well known to Aristotle, and Plato didn’t like him at all. Many think of him as a “father of modern science”. He said that the world was spheroid and that there are many other worlds and suns. And yes, he was an atheist like every other person on this list.

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