Famous Atheists: Activists and Educators

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Famous Atheists: Activists and Educators


Clark Adams (1969–2007): Prominent American freethought leader and activist.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali (1969–): Dutch feminist and politician.

Natalie Angier (1958–): Nonfiction writer and science journalist for The New York Times; 1991 winner of Pulitzer Prize for Beat Reporting.

Dan Barker (1949–): American atheist activist, current co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, alongside his wife, Annie Laurie Gaylor.

Walter Block (1941–): Austrian School economist and anarcho-capitalist

Peter Brearey (1939–1998): British secularist, socialist and journalist, Editor of The Freethinker from 1993 until his death.

Maryam Namazie: A human rights activist, commentator and broadcaster. Namazie has served as the executive director of the International Federation of Iranian Refugees. She is spokesperson for the One Law for All Campaign against Sharia Law in Britain.

William Montgomery Brown (1855–1937): Episcopal bishop and Communist author.

Richard Carrier (1969–): historian, philosopher, and atheist activist.

Chapman Cohen (1868–1954): English freethought writer and lecturer, and an editor of The Freethinker and president of the National Secular Society.

Richard Dawkins (1941–): British biologist, author of The God Delusion, The Greatest Show on Earth, Climbing Mount Improbable, Unweaving the Rainbow, A Devil’s Chaplain, The Ancestor’s Tale, The Blind Watchmaker, The Extended Phenotype, River Out of Eden, and The Selfish Gene. Founder of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, a non–profit charitable organization that promotes critical thinking, science-based education, and evidence–based understanding of the world. Richard Dawkins has produced several documentaries, including Root of all Evil? and Enemies of Reason.

Margaret Downey (1950–): an atheist activist who is the current President of Atheist Alliance International.

Joseph Edamaruku (1934–2006): Indian journalist, author, leader in the rationalist movement, and winner of the International Atheist Award in 1979.

Sanal Edamaruku (1955–): Indian rationalist, president of the Indian Rationalist Association.

Reginald Vaughn Finley, Sr. (1974–): (“The Infidel Guy”): Internet radio host and Podcaster in Atlanta, Georgia, co-founder of the Atheist Network and founder of FreethoughtMedia.com.

Christopher Fisher (1967–): American psychiatrist, philosopher and former Buddhist Monk. Professor of Philosophy and Buddhist Studies at Chiang Mai University and Adjunct Professor at Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University in Chiang Mai Thailand. Dr. Fisher has been the poster boy for removing mysticism and teaching “the pure teaching” of truth and reality in Buddhism as a philosophy and a way of life. Dr. Fishers teachings ask everyone to examine their own beliefs with doubt until they reach the truth building on the teachings of Siddhārtha Gautama (The Buddha) “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books…” He goes on to say in his book “The Buddha was a Non-Believer” (published by Chiang Mai University 2006) “The Buddha did not believe in a God, gods, deities, heaven or hell so, why should any Buddhist?”.

David D. Friedman (1945–): Anarcho-capitalist writer.

Annie Laurie Gaylor (1955–): co-founder of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and, with her husband Dan Barker, is the current co-president.

Emma Goldman (1869–1940): Lithuanian-born radical, known for her writings and speeches defending anarchist communism, feminism, and atheism.

Gora (1902–1975): Indian atheist leader, co-founder with his wife of the Atheist Centre in Andhra Pradesh.

Saraswathi Gora (1912–2006): Indian social activist, wife of Gora and leader of the Atheist Centre for many years, campaigning against untouchability and the caste system.

John William Gott (1866–1922): English trouser salesman and leader of the Freethought Socialist League, the last person in Britain to be sent to prison for blasphemy.

Che Guevara (1928–1967): Argentine Marxist revolutionary, politician and author.

E. Haldeman-Julius (1889–1951): American author, editor and publisher of the Little Blue Books series

Erkki Hartikainen (1942–): is a Finnish atheist activist. He is the chairman of the Atheist Association of Finland (Suomen Ateistiyhdistys) and former chairman of the Union of Freethinkers of Finland (Vapaa-ajattelijoiden liitto), the biggest atheistic association in Finland.

George Holyoake (1817–1906): English secularist. Holyoake was the last person in England to be imprisoned (in 1842) for being an atheist. He coined the term “secularism” in 1846.

Ellen Johnson: President of American Atheists, 1995-2008.

Edwin Kagin (1940–): lawyer, activist, founder of the Camp Quest secular summer camp, and American Atheists’ Kentucky State Director.

Paul Kurtz (1925–): Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo, best known for his prominent role in the United States humanist and skeptical communities.

Viktor Emanuel Lennstrand (1861–1895): leader of the Swedish Freethought movement in the 1880s and early 1890s.

Joseph Lewis (1889–1968): American freethinker and atheist, president of Freethinkers of America 1920–1968.

Hemant Mehta (c.1983–): Author of I Sold My Soul on eBay, chair of the Secular Student Alliance and author of the blog FriendlyAtheist.com.

William L. Moore (1927–1963): Postal worker and Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) member who staged lone protests against racial segregation. He was murdered on his final protest.

Michael Newdow (1953–): American physician and attorney, who sued a school district on the grounds that its requirement that children recite the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance, containing the words “under God”, breached the separation-of-church-and-state provision in the establishment clause of the United States Constitution.

Michael Nugent (1961-): Irish writer and activist, chairperson of Atheist Ireland.

Madalyn Murray O’Hair (1919–1995): 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.

Robert L. Park (born 1931): scientist, University of Maryland professor of physics, and author of Voodoo Science and Superstition.

Keith Porteous Wood (1948–): Executive Director, formerly General Secretary, of the National Secular Society in the United Kingdom.

Philip K. Paulson (1947–2006): American plaintiff in a series of law suits to remove a Christian cross from a prominent summit in the city of San Diego.

James Randi, (1928–): magician, paranormal investigator, and founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation.

A. Philip Randolph, (1889–1979): African-American civil rights leader.

J. M. Robertson (1856–1933): Scottish journalist, advocate of rationalism and secularism, social reformer and Liberal Member of Parliament.

Terry Sanderson (1946–): British secularist and gay rights activist, author and journalist, President of the National Secular Society since 2006.

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (1883–1966): Indian revolutionary freedom fighter, and Hindu nationalist leader.

Ellery Schempp (1940–): American physicist and church-state separation activist.

Charles Lee Smith (1887–1964): an atheist activist in the United States and an editor of the Truth Seeker until his death. He also founded the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism. Smith was arrested twice in 1928 for selling atheist literature and for blasphemy. Since he refused to swear an oath to God on the Bible, he was not allowed to testify in his own defense.

Barbara Smoker (1923–): British humanist activist and freethought advocate. Wrote the book Freethoughts: Atheism, Secularism, Humanism – Selected Egotistically from The Freethinker.

Al Stefanelli (1963–): American atheist activist

Polly Toynbee (1946–): British journalist, columnist for The Guardian.

Jimmy Wales: co-founder of Wikipedia.

Nicolas Walter (1934–2000): British anarchist and atheist writer, speaker and activist.”Mr Walter is a third-generation atheist, very proud that his grandparents, on both sides, shrugged off various forms of Protestantism. His father was W Grey Walter, the eminent neurologist, who often appeared on The Brains Trust. “He was a left-wing humanist and believed that science could solve everything.” ” Hunter Davies interviewing Walter, ‘O come all ye faithless: Nicolas Walter, a militant atheist, sees no reason to celebrate Christmas. But he’ll still be singing a carol or two’, The Independent


Other activists and educators


People who are/were activists or educators in other areas (social reform, feminism etc), but who were also atheists.

Pietro Acciarito (1871–1943): Italian anarchist activist who attempted to assassinate King Umberto I.

Zackie Achmat (1962–): South African anti-HIV/AIDS activist; founder of the Treatment Action Campaign.

Baba Amte (1914–2008): Respected Indian social activist, known for his work with lepers.

Deng Pufang (1944–): Chinese handicap people’s rights activist, first son of China’s former Paramount leader Deng Xiaoping.

David D. Friedman (1945–): Economist, law professor, novelist, and libertarian activist.

E. Haldeman-Julius (1889–1951): American social reformer and publisher, most noted as the editor of Appeal to Reason newspaper.

Franklin E. Kameny (1925–): American gay rights activist and former astronomer.

Peter Kropotkin (1842–1921): Russian anarchist communist activist and geographer, best known for his book, Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution, which refutes social Darwinism.

Taslima Nasrin (1962–): Bangladeshi physician, writer, feminist human rights activist and secular humanist.

Ingrid Newkirk (1949–): British-born animal rights activist, author, and president and co-founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the world’s largest animal rights organization.

Ron Reagan (1958–): American magazine journalist, board member of the politically activistic Creative Coalition, son of former U. S. President Ronald Reagan.

Henry Stephens Salt (1851–1939): English writer and campaigner for social reform in the fields of prisons, schools, economic institutions and the treatment of animals, a noted anti-vivisectionist and pacifist, and a literary critic, biographer, classical scholar and naturalist, and the man who introduced Mahatma Gandhi to the influential works of Henry David Thoreau.

Margaret Sanger (1879–1966): American birth-control activist, founder of the American Birth Control League, a forerunner to Planned Parenthood. The masthead motto of her newsletter, The Woman Rebel, read: “No Gods, No Masters”.

Rosika Schwimmer (1877–1948): Hungarian-born pacifist, feminist and female suffragist.

Bhagat Singh (1907–1931): Indian revolutionary freedom fighter.

Marie Souvestre (1830–1905): French headmistress, a feminist educator who sought to develop independent minds in young women.

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