Critical thinkers and rationalists have been roaming the Earth for thousands of years. Since the Enlightenment Era, we have seen a major increase in questioning of religious claims, along with the understanding of science and our human origins. Irreligion is growing rapidly, but it’s still up against many traditional religious organizations. Individuals, like the ones listed below, strongly encourage future generations to avoid being forced into religion, and to understand science rather than blindly accept what they’ve been told to believe.
10. Michael Shermer
Michael Shermer is a scientific writer and the editor-in-chief of Skeptic Magazine. Shermer makes it on this list due to his success in founding the organization “The Skeptic Society.” His magazine promotes secularism and scientific thinking, which is what the new generations need in this Information Age. Originally, Shermer claims he was a fundamentalist Christian, but he eventually abandoned the religion, subsequently becoming a rational thinker.
9. Ayaan Hirsi Ali
A former Muslim, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an atheist activist and feminist. After, growing up in an Islamic religion, Ayaan decided to leave her religion due to the mistreatment influenced by Islamic laws. She took part in the film Submission, produced by Theo Van Gogh, which revealed views regarding Islam and its oppression. Ayaan both delivered the voice-over and wrote the script. During an interview with a Dutch newspaper, Ayaan states, “Muhammad is, seen by our Western standards, a pervert.” She is a target for Muslims, but an admired atheist elsewhere.
8. P.Z. Myers
Myers is a professor at the University of Minnesota Morris, in the field of biology. He is the founder of the blog “Pharyngula,” which features content relating to science, and criticism of religion and intelligent design. Myers is doing a very good job in promoting atheism and science, using a brilliantly sarcastic writing style to get his blogs message across crystal-clear.
7. Bill Maher
Bill was raised a Catholic, and has grown to become a humorous atheist comedian. He supports the legalization of marijuana and same-sex marriages, and loves to share his (many) views regarding religion, politics, science and society on his talk show “Real-Time with Bill Maher.” He has become a very successful popular man in the United States, with a huge amount of followers on Twitter. Maher is also an advisory board member of the Sam Harris’ foundation, Project Reason and he also gained a lot of popularity creating a comical, yet educational, antitheist documentary called “Religulous.”
However of you ask Maher if he’s an atheist, he will likely say no, as he claims to be an apatheist, which clearly defines the lack of care in God and religion itself. Nowhere is this more clear than in his statement, “I don’t know what happens when you die, and I don’t care.” That being said, he’s far more likely to support atheists than theists, which earns him a spot on this list.
6. Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking is a theoretical physicist and cosmologist who, though he doesn’t intentionally promote atheism, still makes this list due to his brilliant studies relating to science. Most of his work relates to time and black holes. Hawking Radiation (obviously named after the man himself) describes a black hole being not entirely white, and how it eventually radiates away. Hawking is the author of a best-selling book called A Brief History of Time, which intends to describe exactly that. The book remained on the Sunday Times bestseller list for an astonishing 237 weeks.
5. Daniel Dennett
Daniel Dennett has gained quite the reputation among the atheist circles from taking part in the Four Horsemen of New Atheism, alongside Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. He is the author of an amazing book called Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life. Along with Dawkins, Dennett views the processes of evolution and natural selection as a step-by-step process, and he remains a strong adaptationist to this day. Also, Dennett is a member of the advisory board of the Secular Coalition of America. In addition, judging from his facial appearance, Dennett appears to promote Evolution by resembling Charles Darwin. Quite the tribute.
4. Lawrence Krauss
A brilliant atheist and an influential physicist, Krauss is a self-declared atheist and antitheist. He has been featured in many different scientific documentaries relating to the universe and the laws of physics. He is also well known for analyzing and questioning religion and science in many of his books and debates. Some of his many books include A Universe from Nothing and The Physics of Star Trek. Krauss focuses on theoretical physics, and is well-known for introducing the idea of dark energy, which explains empty space being filled with an incredible amount of mass and energy.
3. Sam Harris
Sam was born and bred in the United States, which has the highest population of Christianity and Judaism in the World. The End of Faith is one of his most recognized books, which specifically discusses the danger and irrationality of religion. The book was a major success, appearing on The New York Times Best Seller List for 33 weeks. Harris focuses on the terror that organized religion enforces, and continues to express his views on how religion can be a severe problem for the future of mankind. He clearly argues against the principles of Islam, by asserting that it is the most dangerous and non-peaceful religion of all. According to Harris, religion of all kinds is rapidly fading when put up against science, since science is responsible for coming up with more answers than religious people want to actually understand.
2. Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Hitchens took part in being one of the Four Horsemen of New Atheism, along with Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett. Hitchens was a journalist, blogger, autobiographer, and a vivid debater. He was one of the greatest ever at debating creationists and theists; with his sharp and loud projection, it won’t be hard to recognize his voice after hearing it once. Hitchens’ purpose was to promote atheism, and to notify the world of how questioning and rational thinking can create a better outcome for the future. Sadly, he passed away from cancer in 2011, but his words still live on.
1. Richard Dawkins
Being the author of many different books like The God Delusion, he has become one of the most popular and influential atheists of the new millennium. Dawkins was born in Kenya, and later grew up to be a remarkable evolutionary biologist, and an important figure in the Atheist Movement. With his great books, debates, and rationality, he has gained a lot of attention throughout the world, and will remain a brilliant educator and critical thinker for many years to come.
Dawkins is also highly recognized for his participation in the Four Horsemen of New Atheism. He has made an outstanding number of documentaries, including The Root of All Evil, The Blind Watchmaker and The Enemies of Reason. Recently, he has worked with Lawrence Krauss on an upcoming documentary called The Unbelievers, which will almost certainly be yet another outstanding product from an outstanding group of thinkers.
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