Atheist philosophy holds that there are no Gods. The word comes from the Greek meaning simply, Godless.
- from a- “without” (see a- (3)) + theos “a god” according to the Online Etymology Dectionary
- From French athéiste (athée + -iste), from Latin atheos, from Ancient Greek ἄθεος (átheos, “godless, without god”), from ἀ- (a-, “without”) + θεός (theós, “god”). according to Wiktionary
In ancient Greece the charge of Atheism often referred to a rejection of the God(s) recognized by the state. The “first atheist” was Diagoras of Methos who revealed and reviled the Eleusinian Mysteries in the 5th century BCE. Theodorus of Cyrene is said to have written a book expounding his atheist views in 6th BCE, but we don’t have any copies to verify that. Euhemerus was called atheist when he wrote that Gods were deified heroes of old, not eternal beings in the 200s BCE, though he never actually denied the existence of Gods. The Epicurians in the 300s BCE were materialists and considered atheist though they did not deny the existence of Gods either, but believed that their worship was pointless because they didn’t care about humans as the Epicurian Lucretius explained in his 1st century work On the Nature of Things.1
The term has been in use in the English language for about 500 years and has referred to the belief that God does not exist, or more specifically, the rejection of a belief in God, particularly in the Christian context.
In modern language, the term atheism continues to mean the rejection of the notion that God(s) exist, but there are great variations in individual atheistic beliefs.
Some atheists believe very strongly, strictly and vehemently that not only are there no Gods, nothing that can’t be quantitatively measured exists at all. Some of these are activists and some even missionary; spreading the word through pamphlets and verbal assaults on “superstition” and even the occasional billboard. Most Pagans are very turned off by anything remotely evangelical and these can affect our opinion of the group as a whole. However, as with every group, the offensive minority is just that, the minority and most Atheists are perfectly friendly and intelligent people who are not interested in spreading their religion or lack thereof in the least and might even be up for an amiable and perhaps even enlightening philosophical debate.
There are atheist Pagans. These may hold a Pantheist belief that there is a unifying energy that infuses all things and is perhaps even holy and sacred, but as this energy has no independent consciousness it cannot properly be called a God in the traditional sense. In this belief, there may or may not be an acceptance of the existence of spirit creatures some more or less benevolent or more or less powerful than others, but these would not be considered Gods.
Humanist Pagans take a human-centered view, recognizing the human need for ritual and community that is met through spirituality and understanding the Gods as symbols of aspects of the human mind while focusing their ethical system on the human experience and humanity’s place in the larger community of the Earth, rather than on service to or the will of any God or Gods.
There are many atheist witches and other magic users who do not lay claim to any type of Paganism as well. Magick is the use of natural energies that exist independent of any religious dogma, including the belief in Gods. Some Atheist magick users have a more “quantum” outlook; recognizing that there are many things we do not understand and accepting that science hasn’t sorted everything out while still embracing magic as a way to engage with things that cannot be understood.
Links to More Information
- Pagan Atheists, Yes We Exist at HumanisticPaganism.com
- Atheist Pagan Group at AtheistNexus
- Pagan Atheism; A Personal View
- Talking to the Gods as an Atheist Pagan