The people in this list have been included because they are/were atheists, that is, they do not or did not believe in God or gods, and this disbelief can be asserted because they themselves have expressed it openly (on the record), or in their works, personal correspondence, diaries, etc. Presumed atheists are not included here.
Given the different possible qualifications of the word atheist and its varied uses through time, some people listed here would be called agnostics or anti-religionists rather than simply atheists, but the list attempts to be inclusive on this matter. The reader should consult the relevant biographical articles for details.
The list has two sections. The first one is for atheists who are or were notable defenders of the cause of atheism, or who advocated views of the human condition, society, economy, etc., that were compatible with atheism. In short, these people are or were important for other atheists, since they contribute(d) to the popularization, understanding, and acceptance of atheism in society, either through their works or through their deeds.
The other section is for famous people who just happen/happened to be atheists, and whose unbelief is/was relevant in their life, but who do not/did not actively fight for its cause.
1 Influential or outspoken atheists
Phillip Adams (1939-) - Australian broadcaster, writer, film-maker, left-wing radical thinker, iconoclast, Australian Humanist of the
Woody Allen (1935-) - American filmmaker, actor and writer.
Ingmar Bergman (1918-) - Swedish film director and playwright.
George Carlin (1937-) - American comedian, actor and author, wrote a number of monologues about the non-existence of God.
André Comte-Sponville (1952-) - French materialist philosopher.
Richard Dawkins (1941-) - British zoologist, biologist, creator of the concept of the selfish gene and the meme; outspoken atheist and popularizer of science.
Daniel Dennett (1942-) - American philosopher, leading figure in evolutionary biology and cognitive science, well-known for his book Darwin's Dangerous Idea.
Sam Harris (1967-) - American author, researcher in neuroscience, author of the international bestseller, The End of Faith.
Bob Hawke (1929-) - Australian Prime Minister from 1983 to 1991.
Ellen Johnson - current president of American Atheists.
S. T. Joshi (1958-) - American editor and literary critic.
Wim Kok - Dutch Prime Minister from 1994 to 2002.
Paul Kurtz (1926-) - American philosopher, skeptic, founder of Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) and the Council for Secular Humanism.
Bill Maher (1956-) American comedian and host of "Real Time with Bill Maher". Religion is a constant theme in his comedy routines and on his show.
Jonathan Miller (1934-) - British doctor, theatre director, journalist and broadcaster. Recently made a programme, Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief, discussing the history of atheism.
Michael Newdow - American citizen, Dr., and attorney, who sued his daughter's school claiming the words "under God" in the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance constitute a breach in church-state separation.
Camille Paglia (1947-) - American post-feminist literary and cultural critic.
Penn and Teller - American magicians and hosts of Bullshit!, Teller (born 1948 as Raymond Joseph Teller) and Penn Fraser Jillette (1955-).
Matt Ridley (1958-) - British zoologist, science writer and journalist, open supporter of libertarianism in politics and reductionism in biology.
Richard Rorty (1931-) - American philosopher, whose ideas combine pragmatism with a Wittgensteinian ontology that declares that meaning is a social-linguistic product of dialogue. He actually rejects the theist/atheist dichotomy and prefers to call himself "anti-clerical."
Alfred Sant (1948-) - Maltese politician who was Prime Minister of Malta from 1996 to 1998.
Ali Sina - Founder of FaithFreedom International, a movement that denounces Islam.
Peter Singer (1946-) - Australian philosopher and teacher, working on practical ethics from a utilitarian perspective, controversial for his opinions on abortion and euthanasia.
Warren Allen Smith - Author of Who's Who in Hell
Barbara Smoker (1923-) - British humanist activist and freethought advocate. Wrote the book Freethoughts: Atheism, Secularism, Humanism - Selected Egotistically from "The Freethinker".
James D. Watson (1929-) - Nobel Prize laureate, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA
Douglas Adams (1951-2001) - British radio playwright and author.
Alfred Adler (1870-1937) - Austrian psychiatrist, believed that God was a psychological projection, though helpful.
Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876) - Russian philosopher, writer and anarchist leader.
Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) - British jurist, eccentric, philosopher and social reformer, founder of utilitarianism. He had John Stuart Mill as his disciple.
Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) - American writer, author The Devil's Dictionary.
Menno ter Braak (1902-1940) - Dutch author and polemicist.
Charles Bradlaugh (1833-1891) - British Member of Parliament, political activist, secularist, freethinker, advocate of trade unionism, republicanism, and women's suffrage.
Albert Camus (1913-1960) - French philosopher and novelist, a luminary of existentialism.
Auguste Comte (1798-1857) - French philosopher, considered the father of sociology.
Marquis de Condorcet (1743 - 1794) - French philosopher and mathematician of the Enlightenment.
Iain Crichton Smith - Scottish writer
Clarence Darrow (1857-1938) - American lawyer and civil libertarian, defense attorney at the Scopes Monkey Trial, where he defended a school teacher who taught the theory of evolution.
Denis Diderot (1713-1784) - French philosopher, author, editor of the first encyclopedia.
Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach (1804-1872) - German philosopher, postulated that God is merely a projection by humans of their own best qualities.
Joseph Fletcher (1905-1991) - founder of the theory of situational ethics, pioneer in the field of bioethics, transhumanist.
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) - Austrian neurologist, father of psychoanalysis, considered the belief in God to stem from an unconscious fear of one's own biological father.
Theo van Gogh (1957-2004) - Dutch filmmaker, critic of "Christianity" and Islam, victim of Islamic fundamentalism.
Emma Goldman (1869-1940) - Lithuanian-born radical, known for her writings and speeches defending anarcho-communism, feminism, and atheism.
Paul Henry Thiry, Baron d'Holbach (1723-1789) - French homme de lettres, philosopher and encyclopedist, member of the philosophical movement of French materialism, attacked "Christianity" and religion as counter to the moral advancement of humanity.
David Hume (1711-1776) - Scottish philosopher and historian, a figure in the Scottish Enlightenment and the most radical of the British Empiricists, whose philosophy includes scepticism and naturalism.
Primo Levi (1919-1987) - Italian novelist and chemist, survivor of Auschwitz concentration camp.
Karl Marx (1818-1883) - German philosopher, sociologist, political economist, journalist and revolutionary, founder of Marxism. His famous formulation was: "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."
Joseph McCabe (1867-1955) - English writer, anti-religion campaigner.
Henry Louis Mencken (usually "H. L. Mencken") (1880-1956) - American editor, journalist, and social critic.
Jean Meslier (1678-1733) - French erstwhile priest.
James Mill (1773-1836) - British historian and philosopher, father of John Stuart Mill; he supported the utilitarian principles of Jeremy Bentham.
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) - German Existentialist philosopher who wrote Beyond Good and Evil which refuted the traditional notions of morality. Nietzsche is forever associated with the phrase "God is dead" (from his book Also sprach Zarathustra).
Madalyn Murray O'Hair (1919-1995) - American militant atheist, founder of American Atheists, campaigner for the separation of church and state; filed the lawsuit that led the US Supreme Court to ban teacher-led prayer and Bible reading in public schools.
Julien Offray de La Mettrie (1709-1751) - French physician and philosopher, earliest of the materialist writers of the Enlightenment.
E.V. Ramasami Naicker (1879-1973) - Commonly known as Periyar was an Indian rationalist, freedom fighter and activist against the caste system.
Sir Karl Popper (1902-1994) - Austrian-born British philosopher of science, who claimed that empirical falsifiability should be the criterion for distinguishing scientific theory from non-science.
Ayn Rand (1905-1982) - American novelist and philosopher, founder of Objectivism. Her philosophy and her fiction emphasize her notions of individualism, egoism, "rational self-interest" and capitalism.
M. N. Roy (1887-1954) - Indian political thinker, founder his Radical Humanism school of philosophy.
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (1883-1966) - Indian revolutionary freedom fighter, and Hindu nationalist leader.
Bertrand Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM (1872-1970) - British mathematician, philosopher, logician, political liberal, activist, populariser of philosophy, and 1950 Nobel Laureate in Literature. On the issue of atheism/agnosticism, he wrote the essay "Why I Am Not a "Christian".
Marquis de Sade (Donatien Alphonse François de Sade) (1740-1814) - French aristocrat, writer of philosophy-laden pornography and pure philosophy, who denied the existence of morality based on a mandate from divine authority.
Carl Sagan (1934-1996) - American astronomer, author, science popularizer, and proponent of the search for extraterrestrial life.
Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) - French existentialist philosopher, dramatist, novelist and critic.
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) - British Romantic poet, contemporary and associate of John Keats and Lord Byron, author of The Necessity of Atheism.
Henry Sidgwick (1838-1900) - British philosopher, follower of utilitarianism.
Burrhus Frederic Skinner (1904-1990) - American psychologist and author, a pioneer on experimental psychology, advocate of behaviorism, and writer of two books on social engineering.
Max Stirner (1806-1856) - German philosopher, Young Hegelian, one of the literary grandfathers of nihilism, existentialism and anarchism.
LivingTariq Ali (1943-) - British author, filmmaker, historian, one of the founders of the New Left, and spokesman for anti-imperialism.
Peter Atkins (1940-) - chemist, former husband of Baroness Susan Greenfield, professor at Oxford University.
Sir David Attenborough (1926-) - British natural history presenter and anthropologist.
Robert Bruce Avakian - American political activist, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party.
Iain Banks (1954-) - Scottish writer and left-wing activist.
Dave Barry (1947-) - best-selling american author
Jello Biafra (1958-) - Punk rock musician and political activist.
Nathaniel Branden (1930-) - Canadian psychologist and philosopher, associated with Objectivism.
Mario Bunge (1919-) - Argentine philosopher and physicist, left-wing liberal, author of a monumental Treatise on Basic Philosophy.
Asia Carrera (1973-) - former pornographic actress
Fidel Castro (1926-) - Cuban revolutionary leader since 1959.
Noam Chomsky (1928-) - American philosopher, linguist, radical left-wing political activist, describes himself as "libertarian socialist" and "anarcho-syndicalist".
Sir Arthur C.Clarke (1917-) - British scientist and Science Fiction author.
David Cross (1964-) - actor and stand-up comedian.
Ricky Gervais (1961-) actor and co-writer of the original version of The Office.
Kamal Haasan (1954-) - Indian actor, self-professed rationalist, atheist, activist, and a follower of Periyar.
Harry Harrison (1925-) - American Science Fiction author, anthologist and artist whose short story "The Streets Of Ashkelon" took as its hero an atheist who tries to prevent a "Christian" missionary from contaminating a tribe of irreligious but ingenuous alien beings.
Gary Numan (1958-) - British New Wave and industrial musician whose albums Sacrifice (1994), Exile (1997) and Pure (2000) stridently debunked religious beliefs.
James Randi (1928-) - American professional magician and debunker of psychics and other kinds of pseudoscience; has also denounced blasphemy laws.
Ron Reagan (1958-) - American magazine journalist, board member of the politically activistic Creative Coalition, son of former U. S. President Ronald Reagan.
Richard M. Stallman (1953-) - American computer programmer and founder of the Free Software Foundation.
David Suzuki (1936-) Canadian geneticist and environmentalist.
Julia Sweeney (1961-) American actor and comedian. Alumna of Saturday Night Live.
Ibn Warraq (1946-) is a bestselling author and secularist scholar of Islam currently living in the United States. He is a Muslim apostate and an outspoken critic of Islam who has written extensively on what he views as the oppressive nature of Islam.
Sanal Edamaruku (1955-) Indian activist, rationalist, founder-president of the Rationalist International.
Basava Premanand (1930-) is an amateur magician, eminent skeptic and rationalist from Tamil Nadu, India.
Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) - American civil-rights activist, who led the effort to grant women the right to vote in the United States.
Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) - Russian-born American writer of fiction and nonfiction works, scientist and science popularizer.
Luis Buñuel (1900-1983) - Spanish-born Mexican filmmaker and important activist of the surrealist movement. Famous for his one-liner "Thank God I'm still an atheist".
George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron (1788-1824) - British Romantic poet.
Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin (1889-1977) - British actor, director, and producer.
Horloogiyn Choybalsan (1895-1952) - Mongolian Communist
Voltairine de Cleyre (1866-1912) - American feminist and activist.
Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) - Polish-born English author.
Robin Cook (1946-2005) - Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs of the UK 1997-2001.
Francis Crick (1916-2004) - Nobel Prize laureate biophysicist, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, a figure of molecular biology and also neuroscience.
Richard Feynman (1918-1988) - American physicist and expert lecturer, Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on quantum electrodynamics.
Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882) - Italian general and nationalist leader.
Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) - American novelist who wrote in A Farewell to Arms "All thinking men are atheists". The non-existence of God was a regular theme in many of his novels.
Katharine Hepburn (1907-2003)-Actress, possibly agnostic
Enver Hoxha (1908-1985) - Albanian Communist WWII resistance partisan leader leader declared Albania "the first atheist state in history".
James Joyce (1882-1941) - Irish writer.
Alfred Kinsey (1894-1956) - Researcher in the field of human sexuality and entomology.
Jacques Lacan - French psychoanalyst.
Pierre Simon de Laplace (1749-1827) - French mathematician and astronomer.
Vladimir Ilich Lenin (1870-1924) - Russian revolutionary leader.
H.P. Lovecraft (1890–1937) - American author of fantasy and horror fiction.
"Christ" opher Marlowe (1564-1593) - English dramatist and poet.
Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) - Italian fascist dictator who also had close diplomatic relations with the Vatican granting them special privileges
Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964) - Indian statesman.
Ture Nerman (1886 - 1969) - One of the founders of Swedish Communism.
Culbert Olson (1876-1962) - American politician, former governor of California, then president of the United Secularists of America.
John Sholto Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry (1844-1900) - Scottish aristocrat, president of the British Secular Union.
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) - Russian Nationalist composer, member of "The Five", best-known for the tone poem Scheherazade.
Diego Rivera (1886-1982) - Mexican communist muralist painter.
Gene Roddenberry (1921-1991) - American television producer and creator of Star Trek.
Margaret Sanger (1883-1966) - American birth control activist, founder of Planned Parenthood.
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) - Irish playwright.
Josef Stalin (1879-1953) - Ex-priest, and Georgian and Soviet Communist leader of the USSR.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) - American suffragist.
Leon Trotsky (1879-1940) - Russian revolutionary and Soviet statesman.
Mao Zedong (1893-1976) - Chinese revolutionary and statesman, former chairman of the Communist Party of China and leader of the People's Republic of China, creator of the variant of Marxist-Leninist theory called Maoism.
Abraham Kovoor (1898-1978) - Sri-Lankan professor and Rationalist, campaigned against various Indian 'godmen' and paranormal claims.