Top 10 Influential Atheists Of Recent History


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

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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

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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

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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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  1. Charles Campbell on

    Oh and another thing….Alexander the Great read Daniels prophecies over 300 years before the birth of Christ. Those prophecies foretold of his conquest over the Persians. This is noted in Josephuses “Antiquities of the Jews” !

  2. Charles Campbell on

    Hitchens was a mean and dispirited man who disagreed and belittled anyone who had a belief in God and Jesus! I am sure he felt that way about Muslims and Buddists as well. He held anyone who believed in salvation in contempt yet he never proved that the creator doesn’t exist either!

  3. Religion should be a major concern in our society as it has caused many wars, conflicts, disagreements, inhumane history and I can go on. Evolution always have provided a significant diverse amount of evidence and religion has just sat on the wall like humpty dumpty waiting to fall.

  4. Anyone who preaches not to believe in something is just as bad as the people who preach religion.

    • Do not believe it when a Nigerian prince offers you money via e-mail. Am I as bad as the scammers now?

      • By “something” I meant things that are important to people, like religion. Im atheist btw, I just think people who preach not to believe in a religion are just as bad as the people who push their religions on people.

        • Do not believe it when a homeopathic practitioner assures you your cancer can be cured with mystical sugar pills instead of scientifically proven treatments. Now, is that important enough something for you? Am I now as bad as the homeopath? Should everyone just shut up and let people believe what they believe, unchallenged? (Banning debate on important issues would make democratic governments impossible, by the way.)

        • Debate all you want, I didn’t say there was anything wrong with a simple debate and asking questions. CRAMMING it down people’s throat is what NOBODY IN THE WORLD appreciates. As for your mystical sugar pill logic , and belief systems that people literally devote their lives too, sorry, can’t see your correlation there. Probably because it’s far to outlandish and ridiculous to even make a comparison????? So no your not as bad as the homeopath because that’s entirely different and you know it? What does comparing apples to oranges do for anybody? You knew when you typed that that it was a stupid comaparison to make so why even bother?

        • I see now it was silly to bother talking to you, since you obviously know what I mean and think better than I do.

    • dannyexplosion on

      If people choose to go to church to hear someone “preach” How is that bad?
      If someone buys a book or goes to a lecture about atheism, kind of seems the same to me… but not “bad”.
      Although participating in activities of not believing in something sounds like an incredible waste of time and energy…. but not bad.
      Those people who have signs that say “God hates F&gs” outside of funerals…. that’s bad.

      • ya I knew an atheist who murdered someone once. I guess that means all atheists are psycho murderers according to your logic about some signs a bunch of random religious people made? Hell, my cousin is a LESBIAN CHRISTIAN so stick that logic about religious people straight where it belongs. I didn’t say going to church or preaching what you believe is bad, PUSHING it on others is what many people dislike. Noone likes Jesus or religion being crammed down their throat, just the way religious people don’t like being told their existence for living is completely and utterly wrong and to stop being idiots for believing in something that’s helps deal with the idea of death, among many other things. I didn’t say any group in general was “bad”. Just the notion of forcing beliefs on others is disliked by anybody. So yes, that in particular is “bad”.

        • dannyexplosion on

          Just commenting on your statement
          “Anyone who preaches not to believe in something is just as bad as the people who preach religion.”
          I’ll agree with you that nobody likes having anything “crammed down their throat” as you said. Which is a bit different from “preaching religion” which is what you originally said.
          Sorry it made you so upset.
          If you in fact do know an atheist murderer and are related to a lesbian christian (whatever your rant including those two folks has to do with anything I said is a complete mystery) You must be a diverse and interesting person Jrodickens.
          Again I apologize for upsetting you with my comment.

  5. And by looking at their images one would have thought that they are smarter than that…

  6. dannyexplosion on

    #4 Brilliant atheist? How can you brilliantly not believe in something? Just seems strange to me. But hey I enjoyed the list.


    Sorry. Had to get the conversation going somehow. 🙂

  8. OK, I might be off topic now since the writer clearly says “recent history” but if that includes people from the early-mid days of the 20th century, then Nikos Kazantzakis should definitely be in this list. I mean the man won a Nobel Prize, but they denied to give it to him after the Pope himself and the Archbishop threatened to boycott the Nobel Prizes if they gave it to him. All this, simply because the man was an atheist. If some of you don’t know him by name, then I will mention his two most famous works : ” Zorba the Greek” and “The Last Temptation of Christ” that Martin Scorsese adapted in a film.

    His Epitaph on his grave is probably one of the most popular quotes coming from an atheist:
    ” I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.”