atheism ā´thē-ĭz˝əm [key], denial of the existence of God or gods and of any supernatural existence, to be distinguished from agnosticism, which holds that the existence cannot be proved. The term atheism has been used as an accusation against all who attack established orthodoxy, as in the trial of Socrates. There were few avowed atheists from classical times (although a number of distinguished thinkers in classical Greece were atheists) until the 19th cent., when popular belief in a conflict between religion and science brought forth preachers of the gospel of atheism. Subsequently, there have been many individuals and groups professing atheism, including Bertrand Russell, Madalyn Murry O'Hair, Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins.
See T. Whitmarsh, Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World (2015).
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