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Antireligion is opposition to religion. The term may be used to describe opposition to organized religion, or to describe a broader opposition to any form of belief in the supernatural or the divine. Antireligion is distinct from atheism (the absence of a belief in deities) and antitheism (an opposition to belief in deities), although antireligionists may also be atheists or antitheists.
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According to historian Michael Burleigh, antireligion found its first mass expression in revolutionary France in response to organised resistance to "organised ... irreligion...an 'anti-clerical' and self-styled 'non-religious' state."
The Soviet Union directed antireligious campaigns at all faiths, including Christian, Islamic, Buddhist and Shamanist religions. In the 1930s, during the Stalinist period, the government destroyed church buildings or put them into secular use (as museums of religion and atheism, clubs or storage facilities), executed clergy, prohibited the publication of most religious material and persecuted some members of religious groups. Less violent attempts to reduce or eliminate the influence of religion in society were also carried out at other times in Soviet history. For instance, it was usually necessary to be an atheist in order to acquire any important political position or any prestigious scientific job; thus many people became atheists in order to advance their careers. Different sources disagree on the results of all this, with some claiming the death of 21 million Russian Orthodox Christians by the Soviet government, not including other religious groups or persecutions without killings, and other sources stating that only up to 500,000 Russian Orthodox Christians were persecuted by the Soviet government, not including other religious groups.
The atheist state of the People's Republic of Albania had an objective for the eventual destruction of all religion in Albania, including a constitutional ban on religious activity and propaganda. The government nationalised most property of religious institutions and used it for non-religious purposes. Religious literature was banned. Many clergy and theists were tried, tortured, and executed. All foreign Roman Catholic clergy were expelled in 1946. Albania was the only country that ever officially banned religion.
The Khmer Rouge attempted to eliminate Cambodia's cultural heritage, including its religions, particularly Theravada Buddhism. In the process, its acolytes killed about 1.7 million people. A mere three thousand Buddhist monks survived the Khmer Rouge horror. There had been sixty thousand monks previously.
Notable anti-religious people
- David Hume (1711-1776), Scottish agnostic philosopher, known for his skepticism, who wrote that human reason is wholly inadequate to make any assumptions about the divine, whether through a priori reasoning or observation of nature.
- Thomas Paine (1737–1809), English-American author and deist who wrote a scathing critique on religion in the The Age of Reason (1793-4). "All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish [i.e. Muslim], appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit".
- Karl Marx (1818–1883), German philosopher, social scientist, socialist. He is well known for his anti-religious views. He called religion "the opium of the people".
- Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844–1900), German philosopher, cultural critic, poet, composer, and Latin and Greek scholar. He wrote several critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy, and science, displaying a fondness for metaphor and irony.
- John Dewey (1859–1952), an American pragmatist philosopher, who believed neither religion nor metaphysics could provide legitimate moral or social values, though scientific empiricism could (see science of morality).
- Bertrand Russell (1872–1970), English logician and philosopher who believed that authentic philosophy could only be pursued given an atheistic foundation of "unyielding despair". In 1948, he famously debated the Jesuit priest and philosophical historian Father Frederick Copleston on the existence of God.
- Ayn Rand (1905-1982), Russian-American novelist and philosopher, founder of Objectivism
- Richard Dawkins (born 1941), English biologist, one of the "four horsemen" of New Atheism. He wrote The God Delusion, criticizing belief in the divine, in 2006.
- Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011), English-American author and journalist, one of the "four horsemen" of New Atheism. He wrote God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything in 2007
- Madalyn Murray O'Hair (1919-1995), American atheist activist, founder of American Atheists organization.
- Steven Pinker (born 1954), Canadian-American cognitive scientist who believes religion incites violence.
- Sam Harris (born 1967), American author and neuroscientist, one of the "four horsemen" of New Atheism. He argues that religious moderation provides cover for dangerous fundamentalism.
- Daniel Dennett (born 1942), American philosopher, one of the "four horsemen" of New Atheism. He wrote Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon
- PZ Myers (born 1957), American biologist.
- Phil Zuckerman (born 1969), American sociologist.
- Vladimir Lenin, Soviet leader from 1917 until 1924, who, like most Marxists, believed all religions to be "the organs of bourgeois reaction, used for the protection of the exploitation and the stupefaction of the working class".
- Periyar E. V. Ramasamy, Tamil politician, between 1938-73, who propagated the principles of rationalism, self-respect, women’s rights and eradication of caste in South India.
- Enver Hoxha, Albanian communist leader between 1944 and 1985 who banned religion in Albania.
- Mao Zedong, Chinese communist leader
- Nikita Khrushchev, Soviet leader in 1953-64, who initiated, among other measures, the 1958-1964 Soviet anti-religious campaign.
- Bill Maher, who wrote and starred in Religulous, a 2008 documentary criticizing and mocking religion.
- Jim Jefferies, Australian comedian
- Marcus Brigstocke, British comedian
- George Carlin, American comedian
- James Randi, former magician, professional "debunker" of psychics, outspoken atheist and founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation.
- Philip Roth, contemporary Jewish-American novelist.
- Jay Kay (born 1969), born Jason Luís Cheetham; is an English musician, best known as the lead singer of the British acid jazz band Jamiroquai, and anti-religious follower.
- Anti-Christian sentiment
- Anti-Islamism, as distinct from Islamophobia
- Conflict thesis
- Criticism of Islam
- Discrimination against atheists
- Faith and rationality
- New Atheism
- Objectivism (Ayn Rand)
- Persecution of Christians
- Relationship between religion and science
- Religious discrimination against Neopagans
- Religious intolerance
- Religious persecution
- Religious segregation
- State atheism
- Michael Burleigh Earthly Powers p 96-97 ISBN 0-00-719572-9
- Timasheff, N. S. (1941). "The Church in the Soviet Union 1917 - 1941". Russian Review 1 (1): 20–30. doi:10.2307/125428. JSTOR 125428.
- World Christian trends, AD 30-AD 2200, p.230-246 Tables 4-5 & 4-10 By David B. Barrett, Todd M. Johnson, Christopher R. Guidry, Peter F. Crossing NOTE: They define 'martyr' on p235 as only including christians killed for faith and excluding other christians killed
- Емельянов Н.Е. Сколько репрессированных в России пострадали за Христа?
- World Christian trends, AD 30-AD 2200, p.230-246 Tables 4-10 By David B. Barrett, Todd M. Johnson, Christopher R. Guidry, Peter F. Crossing
- Khmer Rouge: Christian baptism after massacres
- CRIMES OF WAR
- D. Hume, Dialogues concerning Natural Religion, 1779.
- q:Thomas Paine
- Marx, K. 1976. Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. Collected Works, v. 3. New York.
- "Dewey felt that science alone contributed to 'human good,' which he defined exclusively in naturalistic terms. He rejected religion and metaphysics as valid supports for moral and social values, and felt that success of the scientific method presupposed the destruction of old knowledge before the new could be created. ... (Dewey, 1929, pp. 95, 145) "William Adrian, TRUTH, FREEDOM AND (DIS)ORDER IN THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY, Christian Higher Education', 4:2, 145-154
- "I think all the great religions of the world – Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and Communism – both untrue and harmful. It is evident as a matter of logic that, since they disagree, not more than one of them can be true. ... I am as firmly convinced that religions do harm as I am that they are untrue." Bertrand Russell in "My Religious Reminiscences" (1957), reprinted in The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell 
- Many of us saw religion as harmless nonsense. Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where's the harm? September 11th changed all that. Revealed faith is not harmless nonsense, it can be lethally dangerous nonsense. Dangerous because it gives people unshakeable confidence in their own righteousness. Dangerous because it gives them false courage to kill themselves, which automatically removes normal barriers to killing others. Dangerous because it teaches enmity to others labelled only by a difference of inherited tradition. And dangerous because we have all bought into a weird respect, which uniquely protects religion from normal criticism. Let's now stop being so damned respectful! The Guardian, 2001-10-11 "Has the world changed?." The Guardian. Accessed 2006-01-29.
- Grimes, William (16 December 2011). "Christopher Hitchens, Polemicist Who Slashed All, Freely, Dies at 62". New York Times. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
- "[T]he Bible, contrary to what a majority of Americans apparently believe, is far from a source of higher moral values. Religions have given us stonings, witch-burnings, crusades, inquisitions, jihads, fatwas, suicide bombers, gay-bashers, abortion-clinic gunmen, and mothers who drown their sons so they can happily be united in heaven." The Evolutionary Psychology of Religion, presentation by Steven Pinker to the annual meeting of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Madison, Wisconsin, October 29, 2004, on receipt of “The Emperor’s New Clothes Award.”
- "We desperately need a public discourse that encourages critical thinking and intellectual honesty. Nothing stands in the way of this project more than the respect we accord religious faith.", S. Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation, 2006.
- "Religion is the opium of the people: this saying of Marx is the cornerstone of the entire ideology of Marxism about the religion. All modern religions and churches, all and of every kind of religious organizations are always considered by Marxism as the organs of bourgeois reaction, used for the protection of the exploitation and the stupefaction of the working class."Lenin, V. I. "About the attitude of the working party toward the religion". Collected works, v. 17, p.41. Retrieved 2006-09-09.
- Grossman, J. D. (1973). "Khrushchev's Anti-Religious Policy and the Campaign of 1954". Soviet Studies 24 (3): 374–386. doi:10.1080/09668137308410870. JSTOR 150643.
- "I'm anti-religious ... It's all a big lie ... I have such a huge dislike [of] the miserable record of religion." The Guardian, 2005-12-14 " The Guardian. 'It no longer feels a great injustice that I have to die'
- Jay Kay