List of converts to nontheism

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This list of converts to nontheism lists individuals who formerly identified with a religious affiliation but have since then openly rejected their belief in a god (or gods) or professed to agnosticism. The list is organised by former religious affiliation.


Name Country Notes
Dan Barker United States American atheist activist who served as a Christian preacher and musician for 19 years but left Christianity in 1984.
Ingmar Bergman[1] Sweden Film director whose father was a parson, but who stated he lost faith at age 8, but that he did not fully come to terms with that until making Winter Light.
Napoleon Bonaparte[2] France Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815. He was raised as Catholic.[3]
Bob Brown[4] Australia Australian senator and former Parliamentary Leader of the Australian Greens.
Fidel Castro Cuba Cuban communist revolutionary and politician who was Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, and President from 1976 to 2008. Baptized into the Roman Catholic Church at the age of eight, later became an atheist.[5]
Nikolay Chernyshevsky[6] Russia Revolutionary democrat, materialist philosopher, critic, and socialist.
Pat Condell United Kingdom Writer, political commentator, comedian and atheist internet personality.[7]
Richard Dawkins United Kingdom British ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author. Richard was brought up as an Anglican until ceasing to believe in a deity half way through his teenage years while concluding that the theory of evolution was a better explanation for life's complexity.
Jerry DeWitt United States Former pastor of two evangelical churches, who publicly converted to atheism in 2011 after twenty-five years of Christian ministry.[8]
Matt Dillahunty United States Host of The Atheist Experience.
Jonathan Edwards[9] United Kingdom Former British triple jumper who had been Olympic, Commonwealth, European and World champion. Formerly a devout Christian, he even presented episodes of the BBC Christian worship programme Songs of Praise.
Bart D. Ehrman United States American New Testament scholar.
Bob Hawke[10] Australia Former Australian politician who served as the 23rd Prime Minister of Australia from 1983 to 1991.
Abraham Kovoor[11] India Indian professor and rationalist, noted for Abraham Kovoor's challenge.
Vladimir Lenin[12] Russia Russian revolutionary, then ruler of the USSR, got baptized into Orthodox Christianity but later renounced his belief in god.
Karl Marx Germany Philosopher. He was baptised into the Lutheran Church.
Joseph McCabe[13] United Kingdom He was ordained as "Father Antony", but left the Catholic priesthood and abandoned theism. After this he wrote works like The Totalitarian Church of Rome and stated that "Atheism will in this century be the common attitude of civilized people."
Benito Mussolini[14] Italy Italian politician, journalist and leader of the National Fascist Party, ruling the country as Prime Minister from 1922 to his ousting in 1943.
Friedrich Nietzsche[15] Germany A German philosopher, poet, cultural critic and classical philologist.
Millosh Gjergj Nikolla Albania Albanian poet and writer. Trained to be an Orthodox priest, but became an atheist.[16]
Nathan Phelps[17] Canada An American Canadian author and LGBT rights activist, son of Fred Phelps.
Brad Pitt[18] United States Actor, he was raised as Southern Baptist.
Joseph Stalin Russia Russian revolutionary, then ruler of the USSR, studied to be an Orthodox priest but became an atheist after reading Karl Marx's books [19]
Victor J. Stenger United States American retired particle physicist, author, and skeptic of religion.
Kim Il-sung North Korea Leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, commonly referred to as North Korea, from its establishment in 1948 until his death in 1994. Formerly Presbyterian.
Julia Sweeney United States American actress, comedian and author.[20][21]
Charles Templeton Canada A co-founder of Youth for Christ. He rejected Christianity for agnosticism after a struggle with doubts.[22]
Josip Broz Tito Croatia Leader of the Yugoslav Partisans, Europe's most effective anti-Nazi resistance movement and a Yugoslav revolutionary and statesman, serving in various roles from 1945 until his death in 1980. Formerly Roman Catholic,[23] later became an atheist.[24][25]


  • Kamal Haasan, despite being born into a Hindu Brahmin family, has declared himself as an atheist.[26]
  • Goparaju Ramachandra Rao, Indian activist for atheism. He wrote in We Become Atheists that "I was conventionally orthodox and superstitious in the days of my boyhood. I believed in the claims of divine revelations by my parental aunt."[27]
  • Ram Gopal Varma,born into a Hindu family claimed himself atheist[28]
  • Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the president of Hindu Mahasabha and the founder of the Hindutva movement, was also an atheist.[29] He did not define "Hindutva" by religion, and used to publicly advertise lectures on atheism and non-existence of God.[30]
  • Shreela Flather, Baroness Flather of Windsor and Maidenhead, the first Hindu woman in British politics, described herself as a "Hindu atheist".[31]


Former Muslim and Dutch politician Ehsan Jami was one of the two founders of the Central Committee for Ex-Muslims[33]


See also: Jewish atheism
Name Country Notes
Jack Cohen United Kingdom A reproductive biologist who has worked with science fiction writers and co-wrote books like Evolving the Alien. His grandfather was a rabbi, and he attends synagogue for cultural reasons, but is an atheist.[79]
Émile Durkheim France A sociologist descended from a long line of rabbis. He had an interest in religion as a social phenomenon and wrote The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, but was an agnostic by adulthood.[80] Besides an interest he saw some value in religion, but stated "We must discover the rational substitutes for these religious notions that for a long time have served as the vehicle for the most essential moral ideas."[81]
Albert Einstein Germany Theoretical physicist. Though he was "the child of entirely irreligious (Jewish) parents" he developed "a deep religiousness, which, however, reached an abrupt end at the age of twelve."[82]
Rebecca Goldstein United States A novelist and professor of philosophy. She was born into an Orthodox Jewish family and has one older brother who is an Orthodox Rabbi. In 2011 she was named AHA's Humanist of the Year[83] and is an atheist.[84]
Carlo Strenger Switzerland A Swiss-Israeli psychologist who describes his transition from Orthodox Judaism to secular atheism as the defining experience of his life.[85]
Mark Zuckerberg United States Computer programmer and internet entrepreneur. One of five co-founders of the social networking website Facebook. He was raised Jewish, had his bar mitzvah when he turned 13,[86][87] and has since described himself as an atheist.[87][88][89][90]


Name Country Notes
Mao Zedong[91] China Communist revolutionary, politician and socio-political theorist and founding father of the People's Republic of China.


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  2. ^ "Revue des Deux Mondes – 1867 – tome 71, p.386" (in French). Retrieved 15 June 2011. 
  3. ^ E. Hales, "Napoleon and the Pope", (London:1962) pg 114
  4. ^ "Q: What do these MPs have in common? A: They are out and proud atheists". Retrieved 13 August 2013. 
  5. ^ Bourne 1986, pp. 29–30; Coltman 2003, pp. 5–6; Castro and Ramonet 2009, pp. 59–60.
  6. ^ [Ana Siljak, Angel of Vengeance, page 58]
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  9. ^ The Times
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  11. ^ [1]
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  13. ^ The Quotable Atheist by Jack Huberman
  14. ^ D.M. Smith 1982, pp. 2–3
  15. ^ Nietzsche, Letter to His Sister (1865). 
  16. ^ Columbia dictionary of modern European literature by Jean Albert Bédé, William Benbow Edgerton, pg 535
  17. ^ The Topeka Capital-Journal.
  18. ^ Gina Salamone. Brad Pitt: 'I'm probably 20 percent atheist and 80 percent agnostic'. Daily News (New York). July 23, 2009 [Retrieved January 19, 2010].
  19. ^ Vladislav Zubok; Constantine Pleshakov. Inside the Kremlin's Cold War: From Stalin to Khrushchev. pp. 4. ISBN 0674455312. Zubok and Pleshakov further state, "Many would later note, however, that his works were influenced by a distinctly Biblical style" and "his atheism remained rooted in some vague idea of a God of nature."
  20. ^ San Francisco Chronicle
  21. ^ The Seattle Times
  22. ^ Christian Post
  23. ^ Richard West, Tito and the Rise and Fall of Yugoslavia, p.211, Carroll & Graff, 1996 ISBN 0-7867-0332-6
    "In one of his talks with Church officials, Tito went so far as to speak of himself 'as a Croat and a Catholic', but this comment was cut out of the press reports on the orders of Kardelj."
  24. ^ Nikolaos A. Stavrou (ed.), Mediterranean Security at the Crossroads: a Reader, p.193, Duke University Press, 1999 ISBN 0-8223-2459-8
  25. ^ Vjekoslav Perica, Balkan Idols: Religion and Nationalism in Yugoslav States, p.103, Oxford University Press US, 2004 ISBN 0-19-517429-1
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  27. ^ Introduction to "We Become Atheists" at Positive Atheism
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  30. ^ Kumar, Pramod (1992). Towards Understanding Communalism. Chandigarh: Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development. p. 348. ISBN 978-81-85835-17-4. OCLC 27810012. VD Savarkar was publicly an atheist. Even when he was the Hindu Mahasabha leader he used to publicly announce and advertise lectures on atheism, on why god is not there and why all religions are false. That is why when defining Hindutva, he said, Hindutva is not defined by religion and tried to define it in a non-religious term: Punyabhoomi. 
  31. ^ BBC News
  32. ^ a b Interview with Rushdie by Gigi Marzullo; Sottovoce, RAIUNO, March 31, 2006.
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  34. ^ The Angry Arab News Service comments from her blog
  35. ^ Between disparate worlds: On California State University professor As'ad AbuKhalil (1: "...who is also an atheist..." 2: "My Sunni family of my mother taught me how to pray")
  36. ^ John Carlin (August 5, 2005). "Zackie's story: The man who took on Mbeki – and won". The Independent (London). Retrieved August 27, 2007. A homosexual, an atheist, and a militant anti-apartheid campaigner whose political ideas were forged on an intense reading of Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky... 
  37. ^ Re-drawing the line – Al Ahram Weekly, August 9, 2000
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  39. ^ "Ахундов Мирза-Фатали". Retrieved February 16, 2012. 
  40. ^ "Dutch article link: 'Ik geloof niet meer'". Retrieved February 16, 2012. 
  41. ^ Europe since 1945: An encyclopedia, Bernard A Cook, Taylor & Francis, 2001, ISBN 0-8153-4057-5, p. 31
  42. ^ Kareem Amer. (2006). “تنويه هام جدا بخصوص موقع الأقباط متحدون ومقالى الأخير” (A Very Important Notice Regarding the Copts United Web Site and My Last Article) كريم عامر (Kareeem Amer’s Arabic blog). Retrieved January 28, 2007.
  43. ^ Abdelkareem Nabil Soliman (Kareem Amer), Political prisoner Submitted on Mon, 2007-01-29
  44. ^ "Dr. Humayun Azad laid to rest". Retrieved February 16, 2012. 
  45. ^ Bangladesh: Protecting the Human Rights of Thought, Conscience, and Religion: U.A.B. Razia Akter Banu Prepared Testimony – ("Dr. Azad is a Muslim by birth and by name ... He is an atheist.")
  46. ^ Kranenberg, Annieke (August 11, 2007). "'Als dit niet werkt, beledig ik Wilders wel'" (in Dutch). De Volkskrant. Retrieved May 9, 2008.  Quote: (Translation) "In interviews he calls himself an atheist, but until now 'I have been left alone by the beardmonkeys (referring to Muslim fundamentalists). Perhaps I have to make myself heard just a little bit better, I should be more explicit in my aversion to Islam and religion in general." (Dutch) "In interviews noemt hij zichzelf atheïst, maar tot nog toe 'ben ik ongemoeid gelaten door de baardapen. Misschien moet ik een hardere toon aanslaan en wat explicieter zijn in mijn afkeer van de islam en religies in het algemeen.'"
  47. ^ "Pelin Batu "Kısa Devre" yaptı!". Haber Türk (in Turkish). November 2, 2008. Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
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  49. ^ Charter, David (11-09-07). "Young Muslims begin dangerous fight for the right to abandon faith". London: The Times. Retrieved 27-05-09.  Check date values in: |date=, |accessdate= (help)
  50. ^ Humanistische Omroep, Link to video interview with Hafid Bouazza Quote: (Translation) "Believers live behind a fence, and non-believers live in a pasture and they know there are believers out there behind the fence." "It [religion] is a matter of conditioning, of brainwashing." "I know that when I die, it's over with me." (Dutch) "Gelovigen leven achter een hek, en ongelovigen in een weiland, waarin ze weten dat er gelovigen zijn die achter hekken wonen." "Het [religie] is een kwestie van conditionering, van hersenspoeling" "Ik weet dat het moment dat ik ter aarde word besteld, dat het afgelopen is met mij."
  51. ^ Verdonschot, Leon (May 8, 2008). ""Ik kan niet leven zonder roes." Interview met Hafid Baouzza, gepubliceerd in Dif nr.1" (in Dutch). Retrieved May 9, 2008. [dead link] Quote: (Translation) "Look, I'm an atheist. I believe God does not exist, I do not believe in an afterlife. How terrible it may be: Hitler isn't in hell getting pinched in his ass with a trident. I'm fine with the fact there are people who do believe that and get comfort from it, like my mother. I just hope the influence of religion on policy makers will diminish, because my freedom is precious to me." (Dutch) "Kijk, ik ben atheïst. Ik geloof niet dat God bestaat, ik geloof niet dat er een hiernamaals is. Hoe gruwelijk ook: Hitler wordt op dit moment niet in de hel met een drietand in zijn reet geprikt. Dat er mensen zijn dat dat wél geloven en daar troost uit putten, mensen als mijn moeder: prima. Als de invloed van religies op beleidsmakers maar steeds kleiner wordt, want mijn vrijheid is me dierbaar."
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  72. ^ Younus Shaikh- short biography
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  81. ^ Émile Durkheim page at Rogers State University
  82. ^ Einstein, Albert (1979). Autobiographical Notes. Chicago: Open Court Publishing Company, pp. 3-5.
  83. ^ AHA site
  84. ^ Proud Atheists from Salon
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