Learn about atheism and secular humanism. Primary beliefs, symbol, key works, and adherents.


Name:  Atheism & Secular Humanism

Worldview category:  Atheism

Symbol:  Atheism has no official symbol.  However, it is frequently represented by the letter “A” surrounded by several revolving atoms (as shown above) and on bumper stickers by the word “Darwin” inside the outline of a fish with legs and feet (which represent evolution).  The symbol parodies the fish symbol, which is used in Christianity.



Atheism – The belief that neither God nor gods exist.  Atheism holds to the belief that the physical world is all that exists.  Atheism denies the existence of the supernatural world.  Since God does not exist, man is in control of his own destiny and creates his own meaning in life.  Observation, experience, logic, and reason are the foundations of knowledge and understanding.

Secular humanism - "The belief that humanity is the highest of all beings and truth and knowledge rest in science and human reason." [1]

"Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity." [2]

Founder:  Atheism has no founder.

Date founded:  Not applicable.

Place founded:  Not applicable.

Number of adherents:  According to the CIA World Factbook, atheists comprised 2.01% of the world’s population in 2010.[3]  According to a 2012 study by the Pew Research Center, there are an estimated 13 million atheists and agnostics in the United States.[4] 

Countries with largest number of adherents:  China, Russia, North Korea, and Vietnam have large numbers of atheists.  Figures are difficult to obtain.

Sacred text:  Atheism has no sacred texts.  However, the following works have played significant roles in modern atheism and secular humanism:

Darwin, Charles.  On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life1859.

Sellars, Roy Wood.  Humanist Manifesto I (1933). 

Humanist Manifesto II (1973).

Kurtz, Paul.  Secular Humanist Declaration (1980). 

Kurtz, Paul.  Humanist Manifesto 2000: A Call for a New Planetary Humanism (2000). 

Humanist Manifesto III (2003).

Branches:  Atheism may be referred to by other names, and its beliefs may be included in similar worldviews, such as humanism, secular humanism, naturalism, materialism, rationalism, Darwinism, Neo-Darwinism, and free thought.

Primary Beliefs:

Supreme being:  A God or gods do not exist.

Reality:  Only the physical world exists.  The physical world consists of time, space and matter.  Neither the spiritual world nor spiritual beings exist.

Nature of man:  Man is at the top of the evolutionary scale.  Man is in control of his own destiny, outside of cataclysmic events.

Man’s primary problem:  Man’s problems are primarily rooted in the lack of education and lack of resources.

Solution to man’s primary problem:  Science, technology and human ingenuity will solve man’s problems.

Afterlife:  Annihilation (oblivion).  Following death there is no afterlife, consciousness or recollection of existence. 

Place of worship:  Not applicable.

Major holidays:  There are no major holidays specifically associated with atheism.

Rituals:  Not applicable.

1David Noebel, Understanding the Times, 2d ed. (Manitou Springs: Summit Press, 2006), 60.
2"Humanist Manifesto III," American Humanist Association, 2003, accessed June 23, 2014,
3"The World Factbook," Central Intelligence Agency, 2010, accessed June 23, 2014,
4"'Nones' on the Rise," Pew Research Religion & Public Life Project, 2012, accessed June 23, 2014,