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A Brief History of Atheism III

Updated on March 26, 2010

A Brief History of Atheism III

A Brief History of Atheism Part III

Ancient and Continuing

Charles J Hunsinger

In the main philosophies of China, Tao and Confucious, as mentioned in Part II, which date to 1500 BCE and possibly earlier, there is no mention of a supernatural creator or other such deities. There are no gods of war, as seen in the writings of the Jews, which, in all probability, emerged into Egypt in the 13th century BCE, as the Apiru and/or Hapiru, later becoming the Hebrew. There is much indication that these tribes were no more than marauding bands of escaped criminals


From India we find a great diversity of thought and a tremendous insight into the human character. Of the three Atheistic philosophies that arose; Jain, Buddhism and Carvaka (Lokayata), Jain has the oldest claim of origin; Buddhism and Carvaka were in response to the perceived savagery of the Hindu theistic religions and to the caste system.


The Jain claim of origin dates to eight million years, but the best claimed proof of origin possibly dates to around 3000 BCE in the Indus Valley where the Jain swastika and Jain statues were said to be found. Historical documentation dates to around the 8th century BCE

Jain continues to survive with a following of around twelve (12) million people. The Jain are among the wealthiest people in India and are the administrators of hospitals, colleges and schools. They are international venture capitalists with world wide offices.

Jain Principles

Everything has a soul

All souls have the potential to be a god

Have benevolence for all

Every soul is its own life architect


Control your senses

Limit possessions

Every being responsible for his own life

The Jain Code of Ethics




Brahmachary---Celibacy This is a Jain option and not required


Buddhism is a world wide belief system of over 300 million adherents. With Buddhism there is no guessing with reference to origin: it began in 525 B.C. by Siddhartha Gautama who was called the Buddha. Although Buddhism promotes the idea of reincarnation, that life is a cycle of trials and errors it is essentially Atheistic, as the three essential god deities are missing.

“The basic doctrines of early Buddhism, which remain common to all Buddhism, include the four noble truths: existence is suffering (dukhka); suffering has a cause, namely craving and attachment (trishna); there is a cessation of suffering, which is nirvana; and there is a path to the cessation of suffering, the eightfold path of right views, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. Buddhism characteristically describes reality in terms of process and relation rather than entity or substance”


Carvaka was an Atheistic movement and possibly died out in the 1500 CE, and does not exist today. That we know this belief system existed from around 600 BCE can be traced to the criticisms contained in Hindu (Vedic) texts. Carvaka was the founder of this system, which was materialistic, naturalistic and it is said pleasure prone, but, perhaps, more importantly is the overall thinking of the Carvaka movement, which is embodied in the second quote. Quotes from Wikipedeia.

The earliest positive statement of skepticism is preserved from the epic period, in the Ramayana

“--regard only that which is an object of perception, and cast behind your back whatever is beyond the reach of your senses.”

"It may be said from the available material that Cārvākas hold truth, integrity, consistency, and freedom of thought in the highest esteem."


It is said that Greece is the foundation of Western thought and this, I believe to be true. The greatness of human thought and achievement however, cannot be summed up in one culture, but rather it is an accumulation of knowledge from the mixture of cultures. That Greece played a positive and pivotal role in human thinking is unquestionable, but it did so with exposure to the ideas of India, Egypt and Assyrian cultures.

The gods of Greece were many and, as all things evolve, evolved from more ancient beliefs into deities that best suited the needs of the Greeks. So too, the gods of today are the off spring of these ancient and archaic gods.

It was from Greece however, that Western thinking and philosophy emerged; critical thinking and deductive reasoning opened the door to the modern world. Democracy is, without question, a Greek invention, the invention, you might say, of Pagans or even Atheists. Greek democracy was much different then American democracy, as each male, adult land owner had one vote.

The first of the great Greek, Atheistic thinkers to redefine existence was a fellow by the name of Thales, 636-646 BCE. Although his work (written) does not exist; credit is given to him by succeeding Greek philosophers. Thales was the first recorded to refute and to refuse explanations of existence through mythological (god) beliefs. All things, he asserted, have a natural cause. Thales is also credited with the introduction of geometry into Greek thought, but that geometry came by virtue of India. Thales is also credited with the idea that all of nature is composed of one basic element (stuff); a theory later expounded upon by Anaximenes, another Greek philosopher. He is also credited with the prediction of a solar eclipse in 585 BCE. It is doubtful that Thales was the first Greek Atheist, but it is safe to say that he is the first notable. Many more would come however and with them their clarity and objectivity.

Part IV to follow

Rome through Ayn Rand



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    • cjhunsinger profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago


      Socrates is one of my favorite thinkers. One quote comes to mind, "There is but one evil in the world and that is ignorance and but one good knowledge" There is really no first hand knowledge of Socrates, but I believe that he espoused a polythistic belief. He was opposed to and very critical of the then current Athenian life style, which is, probably why he was forced to drink the poison. He did however have the opportunity to escape.

      Zoroastrianism is not an Atheistic belief system, but it does date to the 5th or 4th century BCE. Zoroastrianism has characteristics that were embodied in Chriatianity. These same characteristics however can be found in earlier religions of India.

      Thanks for the comments and for reading the blog--hope Sutter is treating you well--say Hi to every one.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Chuck do you not find it curious and not the very least coincendental that Socrates, one of the earliest philosophers to tout monotheism was proclaimed insane and executed by one of the world's first democracies???

      You left out one of my favorite religions from India, Zaraostrian.


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