The rise and fall of Atheism

The turning point in religious and modern history: July 14, 1789. The attack on the infamous Bastille. This was one of the first major acts of defiance against not only the church but a major power. The church being the unquestionable power it was, was challenged differently than it was in the past with Galileo or Hans Lippershey.

Atheism has existed in many variations. During the 300’s B.C.E, a famous philosopher by the name of Socrates was labeled an atheist for the first time. Many historians title him the first known atheist. The word derives from ancient greek itself; atheos, meaning without gods; godless; secular. Those who were labeled atheists are labeled by the surrounding community and were defined by them as well during his time. In his case, he doubted the greek gods and was hence labeled an atheist. (Later executed for “corrupting the youth”, as we all know.)

A large number of these people exist throughout history. Now atheism isn’t as rare as it was in the past. As atheism progressed, the word’s definition progressed just as much. When an individual defied an entity of power, that entity was deemed as an insurgent or atheist. Significant figures throughout the history of the church were deemed atheists even though they accepted the beliefs of the religion. The church as a political monopoly was corrupt and these significant figures spoke out against the corruptants of the church.

Jan Hus

A critical figure in the history of diversity and atheism is Jan Hus, also a  key predecessor to Protestantism. Jan Hus spoke out against the purchase of indulgences and the Papal Crusades. This caused conflict and Hus tried to attempted to create a compromise to the situation. This did not succeed. At this time, Hus’s beliefs had been widely spread throughout the bohemian region and there a broad resentment for the Church hierarchy grew. Eventually, the government in that region came to the support of Jan Hus. This led to interdict pronounced against Prague.  To protect the city, Jan left to the countryside.

Council of Constance

Jan continued to preach and write in the countryside until eventually the Council of Constance was called. Wenceslaus’ brother Sigismund of Hungary, wanting to put an end to religious dissension within the Church, called the Council of Constance. Hus wanting the best for all agreed to go to Constance, under Sigismund’s promise of safe conduct. The result was that Jan was deemed an atheist or heretic, hence, burned at a stake.

Hussite Wars

The Hussite wars were the aftermath of Hus’s execution. When the bohemian people found out that Jan Hus was executed, they were terrified and moved away from the church with fear. This prompted a Papal Crusade towards the region of Bohemia at the time. The pope at the time, Pope Martin V, issued a Papal Bull authorizing the killing of all supporters of reformers like Hus. The kingdom of Bohemia became a major military power and defeated the crusade. The Hussites defeated the three crusades that followed as well.

Jan Hus the indirect founder of Atheism and modernism

The aftermath of these events was the protestant reformation, 30 years war, the constant war between protestants and the holy roman empire. So on and so forth. When people saw that authority could be defied for the first time, they were inspired. So inspired that free thought was promoted in this sense, setting the foundation for Atheism and modernism. People like Jan Hus became more frequent. Free thought was more frequent than ever before. We see this through the progression of diversity. The product of free thought in the 15th century was Lutheranism, Calvinism, Protestantism, D I V E R S I T Y. This led to more ideas, more creativity, more possibilities, more ideologies. Eventually, the possibility that we live in a world without deities and are all here just by chance.

The possibility that this led to the first doubt of a godless world is impossible. Socrates doubted his mythological gods, as many unnamed individuals probably have in the history of the human species. This most certainly set the foundation for the pillars of free thinking, separation, diversity, modernism, atheism, and much more. We have a similar situation 370 years later, the french revolution. This marked the beginning of the ideologies and concepts we set forth earlier.

The French

The French were a major contributor to the fall of the Church as a power. Another major defiance of authority, later again due to corruption and the disregard for the lower population. This led to the attack on bastille and much more as we learn in our secondary and tertiary schools. Many famous atheists emerged during the french revolution as well. As another log was added to the fire that was by now burning fiercely.

20th Century

With the Soviet Union having emerged and two devastating World Wars, religion was at a high and low. The church was on the brink of devastation or rather a destruction. At this time, John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council: Reformation and enforcement of religious dogma and teachings. A key aspect that later emerged was connecting with the youth. John Paul II later learned this and strived towards this goal.

21st Century

Today more than 8 in 10 people identify with a religion. Although atheism is rising and will continue to rise in the United States, the United States isn’t the world. Today Atheism isn’t as strong as it used to be. Today atheist and religious look to cooperate with each other for if we are to work as a civilization, cooperation is vital. Working as a civilization equals a rise in human complexity where humans can achieve almost anything.

If there were no God, there would be no Atheists.

-G.K. Chesterton


Sites for 8 in 10 people statistic:


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