Atheism in the West has been around at least since the age of Epicurus, in the 4th-3rd century BC, who founded the Garden, a school of philosophy that focused on how to live a good life and had no place for the divine in its rationale. In the East, some claim that the “Universal Love” philosophy of Mozi (also from the Axial Age, 470-391 BC) in China was similar to that of Epicurus, in that the divine was an amorphous concept of “heaven.” But I don’t find the limited support for this position compelling, and it doesn’t square with the traditional Chinese concept of “heaven” (“Tian” 天) which was a critical component of this doctrine. A better case can be made for Han Fei (280-233 BC), who was one of the founders of the philosophy of Legalism in China 1. But the Eastern atheistic philosophies never developed the same longevity and status as the teachings of Epicurus did in the West (which had a good 600-700 year run).
But atheism as a stand-alone concept has never been popular, at least I can’t find any sizable place or time when it was the mainstream perspective until the advent of Communist Russia (which was frankly a brutal “top-down” introduction of the doctrine). Buddhism is, at its core, an atheistic philosophy (inasmuch as, like Epicureanism, there is no need for gods, although it doesn’t set out to disprove them 2) which has become for many people a “religion” with all the superstitious trappings, mostly being borrowed from pre-existing religious beliefs of the local community or importing supernatural beliefs from its foundational Hindu religion. But let’s hold this qualification in abeyance for the purpose of this blog. Likewise, a case can be made for atheist credentials for some rather esoteric readings of Hinduism.
Our current rise of atheism has its roots in the European Enlightenment
With the curtailment of the power of the Catholic Church and religious persecutions for heresy in many European countries, figures speaking out against religion proliferated in the European Age of Enlightenment (17th and 18th Centuries AD). It was influences from these thinkers that inspired the American Founding Fathers, many of whom appear to have been what we today might call rather soft deists. But they largely still abstained from calling for an acknowledgment of an absence of the godhead, and even claims against the rights of god appointed monarchies were limited. The American Thomas Paine, who wrote supporting tracts for both the American and French Revolutions, was a notable exception to this in his calls for both an end to the power of an organized Christian Church and Royalty 3. His “Common Sense” (which was political in nature, and not against religion) sold 500,000 copies its first year, to a population of about 3 million people (including indentured servants and African slaves) 4.
But followers of the Enlightenment in most countries were limited to members of the upper classes and those who had access to an education that would cover such subjects and authors. Most education was highly limited, with literacy rates probably well below 50% (with the US perhaps being exceptional in this regard, with substantially higher rates, as was probably also true in many Protestant countries). Most people probably never heard of the great icons from this age that we revere today (again with Thomas Paine as an exception, as he explicitly wrote pamphlets to arouse the masses, and Voltaire who also was a populist writer).
In the latter part of the 19th century AD, there was a broader move in the West towards atheism (although it was not usually proclaimed as such), principally within Western Europe. This has been credited to the popularization of new scientific findings, in particular but not exclusively geology which speculated about the age of the earth in millions of years and the new science of evolutionary biology. Advances in biology and medicine and later in psychiatry questioned the source of disease and of madness in people, avoiding religious and supernatural explanations. The emerging science of archeology and translations of ancient scripts (in particular Jean Champollion’s decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs after the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, in 1822) was also showing that the Bible was not historically accurate. There were also the advancement of new philosophies that directly challenged the traditional social role of kings and priests alike, the temporal agents of the divine, with the writing of Nietzsche, Marx and Engels in the forefront of this reconsideration of the traditional relationship between master and servant 5.
But this promising start, which often showed its face in the form of what came to be known (and slandered as) “anarchism,” was dashed on the rocks of the disaster of the First World War. In this calamity, it was unpatriotic to deny the existence of the god which was on the side of each protagonist. In the search for meaning from the unmitigated senseless tragedy, many fled the cold comfort of rationality back into the welcoming arms of conciliatory religion. In the crucible of human and cultural disaster, religious fundamentalism has its roots and derives its nurture from the blood of innocents and the tears of the unconsoled survivors seeking meaning from a world seemingly gone insane. Atheism retreated into the dark closet of the unpatriotic and compassionless.
Fundamentalism thrives on tragedy
Most people today don’t realize it, but the Christian fundamentalist movement traces its roots to this time of scientific advances in the mid and late 19th Century AD, as belief in the inerrancy of the Bible and its historical accuracy emerged as an organized riposte to the advances of science. Before then, much of the Bible was interpreted symbolically, as numerous almost unreadable treatises on religious doctrine for about 600-800 years running testify to. Even such giants of religious doctrine as Saint Augustine (354 -430 AD) and Saint Aquinas (1225-1274 AD) warned against literal interpretations. The whole theory of the triune god, of transubstantiation, original sin, and many other fundamental tenants of the mainstream Christian religion could not be drawn from the Bible on a literal reading. Major interpretations, extrapolations and symbolic representations are required to get anywhere close to these basic doctrines of Christian belief. A fundamentalist approach would have been anathema to the early Church as it struggled against competing interpretations of the message of Jesus. A charge levied against the Cathars 6 , which was the last great heretical 7 Christian movement before the rise of Protestantism, was that of being too literal on certain teachings (among other things) 8.
So, in the 19th Century AD, believers challenged by the new science of the day set out to the Holy Lands to “discover” the historical truth of Biblical accounts 9. Scores of searchers raised money from gullible and devout believers to go to Egypt to try to discover the missing texts supporting the Exodus, the plagues of Egypt and the death of the offending Pharaoh. Such events of obvious unexcelled exceptionalism must surely have been recorded by the Egyptians – or so went the thought of the day. Surprisingly, the utter failure to find any supporting Egyptian inscriptions failed to deter searchers, who even in our day are still looking for Noah’s Ark, the Ark of the Covenant and evidence of the Exodus, often resulting in mind-numbingly inane programs on cable TV or YouTube. People hoping to justify their unfounded beliefs still fund these jaunts and propel books on their “findings” to the bestseller lists (along with books on alien abductions and visitations, the Bermuda Triangle, Astrology, Jewish banker conspiracy theories, and the illuminati – tellingly, it’s not just the religious who are unconscionably gullible).
This response in the 19th Century was similar to the Jesuit (a Roman Catholic order founded in 1540) response to the challenges of the Protestant Reformation 10 and to the Islamic response to the Mongol conquests in Persia and Mesopotamia as framed by Ibn Taymiyah in around 1300 AD, who was a follower of Ibn Hanbal (780-855 AD) who was the original proponent of an outright rejection of “reason” (defined as understanding by deduction, in line with the Greek philosophers who were well known to the Abbasid court of his day) in favor of literal readings of the Koran and the primacy of the hadiths rather than adopting modern or evolving interpretations of the Koran and its intentions. This line of Islamic jurisprudence, known as the Hanbali School, popularized after the Mongol defeat of the Islamic Caliphate and sack of Baghdad in 1258 started the Koran on its sad journey to fossilization as an unchanging, eternal, unevolved dogma.
Judaism has had numerous times to face the inconsistency of its teachings about a unique elect “Chosen People” and reality, and would follow along this same path once again when the State of Israel was established, with many archaeological “discoveries” made soon after the founding of the State (especially at Megiddo, Jerusalem and Masada) now being challenged, especially those of Yigael Yadin, who seems to have been primarily motivated to produce claims for Israel’s “legitimate” rights to the territory conquered than to practice professional archaeology 11. The same old mantra is: “we didn’t follow the rules, so we got punished, let’s do better now and follow the law more closely.” If YHWH really wanted to send the Jews a message, He might try another burning bush…
Anyway, this 19th Century Christian fundamentalist movement did not last long in most of Europe, but it found a willing audience in America and some Roman Catholic countries. Sadly, it’s been going strong and gaining adherents, especially in America, ever since.
Getting over WWI, then comes WWII, and then Communism… what next?
Atheism was not given an opportunity to bounce back after the Great War (with total deaths estimated at over 37 million), and then the Spanish Influenza (which may have killed 50 to 100 million people worldwide) before Europe and Asia were plunged into yet another world wide conflict of even greater proportions (WWII with over 60 million deaths). Again, the same compelling conditions prevailed. A lack of religious belief was deemed unpatriotic, as every side (barring Communist Russia) appealed to its version of god for divine support and succor in the war effort. For many civilians, slaughtered by foreign armies, losing sons in the meat grinder of military service, bombed or shelled by unseen enemies, starved, subject to disease, losing home and country, a belief in god may have been their only remaining hope.
Undoubtedly, the failure of god to intervene may have also challenged their faith. But to see how religion can argue itself out of this seemingly unassailable position, just look at the doctrines of what has come to be known as Holocaust Theology 12 which seeks to explain to Jews (and Christians) the tragedy of the German Jewish extermination program. Where was YHWH while His Chosen People were being dispatched on an industrial scale with less dignity than that accorded to the slaughter of an animal? Was this yet another punishment for some real or YHWH imagined sin? Where was the prophet to explain YHWH’s will in this matter to the Chosen People, and instruct them as to how to atone for whatever sin had brought this calamity down upon them (actually, there have a been a great many claimants to this exalted title). Or perhaps it wasn’t YHWH’s doing, as many mainstream Jewish theologians claim, but if that was the case, then where was YHWH to rescue them from the clutches of their un-Chosen enemies? Any way you look at it, it’s hard to see yourself as god’s elect, when your people are cut down so remorselessly. To say that the offered explanations are an exercise in twisted, convoluted, self-serving “logic” is unduly complementary to the genre.
God had clearly been on the side of the fascists in the Spanish Civil War from 1936-39 AD but then sided with the largely Protestant Anglo-Saxons and the godless Communists in WWII against the Lutheran/Roman Catholic Germans, Roman Catholic Italians and Shinto Japanese. But before people had a chance to question where god had been during WWII (he evidently wasn’t protecting civilians, who were slaughtered and died of hunger and disease on an unprecedented scale), the West fell into the arms of a panic about the end of the world through the destructive power of the atomic bomb to be administered against the god-fearing by the atheists of the Communist USSR. Japan was different in this regard, and it can be said that Shinto, the State religion of Japan, has never fully recovered from its failure to deliver the promised victories to the Nihonjin of Japan.
People in the West, who underwent training to survive atomic blasts, and trained to prepare for the impending invasion of the “Reds” focused on their differences with the Soviets, in culture, economics and religion. In America, in particular, this resulted in changes being made to currency, symbols and to the pledge of allegiance, which infamously added in 1954 the words “under God” to the pledge which was originally drafted as a wholly secular affirmation in 1892. “In God we trust” became the official motto of the US in 1956, although it had been on some US currency since the American Civil War (another tragedy compelling people and politicians into the arms of religious fantasy) 13.
Another round of scientific advancement and civil rights, starts the atheist ball rolling again in the 60s
But then, something wonderful happened, and something horrible. The wonderful thing was a new round of significant scientific advancement. Nuclear power showed that there were benefits to the nuclear age as well as dangers. Birth control pills gave women more control over their reproductive system, and spurred their drive for more equal rights with men and greater access to educational and employment opportunities. Ethnic minorities in many Western Republics, especially those with some modicum of African descent, sought to end entrenched discrimination (principally and more notably in America, but not uniquely as many other countries also practiced various forms of ethnic discrimination) which stole the benefits of citizenship from them and made them second class citizens in their own country. And then there was Vietnam, the horrible bit, the first American war with a sizable and highly vocal domestic opposition.
The youth was the primary proponent of the new culture emerging from the questioning and challenging of the established cultural values and societal mores. It was reflected in music, a uniting medium of the age, and eventually on TV where traditional stereotypes were challenged, with shows featuring single working mothers, ethnic Africans in major mainstream roles, and even the first white man - black woman kiss on primetime TV (on Star Trek, a science fiction show taking place in the distant future 14).
Everything was up for debate, everything was questioned, and religion frequently was on the losing end. But it was often not abandoned; rather, organized religions, especially the non-charismatic ones of the non-evangelical protestant Christians, started to lose members. The youth would still get married in church, baptize their kids, go to holiday services, but the days of expanding regular church attendance were halted, and attendance was in the decline relative to population growth. Atheism was, at least in the US, still akin to calling someone an unpatriotic communist, but the sting was being removed from the label.
Madalyn Murray O’Hair founded the “American Atheists” and was its president from 1963 until 1986. She fought in court against the reading of Bible verses in public schools, and was part of a combined case that won an 8-1 Supreme Court ruling holding the reading of Bible verses as prayer in public schools to be unconstitutional in 1963 15. This earned her the singular distinction of being named as “the most hated woman in America” in 1964 by “Life” magazine, which was a major publication of the time. She could be caustic, pugnacious, and she stood up for what she believed in 16. She was a good example of how to get ostracized for your lack of belief, and frankly this probably had a chilling effect on young people’s willingness to directly acknowledge their atheism. Her earlier failed attempt to defect to the USSR and her attachment to communism also tarnished her image and whatever message she might try to make about religion.
Another worthy contributor to the atheist movement was Bertrand Russell, who was the Richard Dawkins of his day, with the 1957 “Why I Am Not A Christian” being a popular book for American Christians questioning their faith throughout the 60s (despite many bookstores allegedly not carrying it). Like Dawkins, he was a well-known and highly regarded scientist, with his forte in the field of mathematics, where he was a founder of the thesis of logicism. He won a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1950 for his “Marriage and Morals” which was thought provoking in its time in 1929 for its views on sexuality and human relationships, but which has not stood the test of time well.
The Moral Majority in America
In America, this movement was countered by the Moral Majority (founded in 1979) and similar movements, where evangelical Christians took to the new media of its day, cable television and radio stations, and combated those questioning religion head on with a concerted political and cultural agenda to roll-back the perceived liberalisms from the 60s and 70s. Europe did not have a similar effective cultural counter-movement, although it did have a resurgence of conservative politicians which were closely identified with established religion. But they were more focused on economic agendas and more limited social agendas than on cultural crusades.
The fundamentalists got their second breath during the 80s, with the political victory of Ronald Reagan and the first development of what would come to be known as mega-churches, serving thousands of parishioners with modern music and entertainment to convey the message of Christianity. Traditional Protestant denominations continued to decline, but the evangelicals grew in numbers, money and political influence. And that has been the case until very recently. Religious fundamentalism or evangelical Christianity has not had a major impact in Europe, and the declines in believers started in the 60s has continued or accelerated. But in the US, while traditional Christian denominations (other than Roman Catholics) have lost ground at a rate not so dissimilar to those in Europe, the evangelical and charismatic Christian denominations have grown significantly. The growth in Roman Catholicism has been chalked up to immigration from Latin America and higher than average birth rates.
What about atheist Communism?
For the West, the big atheist gain was through the top-down instigation of atheism through State repression. It wasn’t just the State taking away religious preferences and special treatment, and getting religion out of public schools. It was much more than that. The movement against religion did not follow the treatment advocated by Marx and Engels, which expected that without Monarchy and State support, it would wither away. Organized religion was seen as a potential challenge to the single Party apparatus (also, not something advocated by Marx and Engels, although its eventual evolution was anticipated).
Under the Communist States, whether in Eastern Europe or in Asia, forced atheism was seen as one facet of thought oppression of the dictatorial State. The level of tyranny varied, and was probably the worst in China, where monks in Tibet were subject to wholesale execution (but this was probably more because of their link to the former theocratic Government there, so they were seen to be as much or more of a political threat as they were an ideological one).
In many Communist States, objection to the tyrannical regimes often resulted in people embracing the restricted – like a child wanting to do something just because they have been told not to do it, as a form of rebellion. There are few generalizations that can be drawn from the Communist experience with religion. Both Poland and Czech Republic were rather light-handed when dealing with the religious, but with totally different results.
Figures on the prevalence of atheism are notoriously difficult to use for purposes of comparison. It is especially problematic in Asia, where the godhead is not always a personified entity, and can be much more amorphous as in the Hindu concept of Brahman and the Chinese concept of Heaven (as noted above). But here are some figures gleaned from the internet, which I would only take as an example, as it’s comparing three different surveys 17.
First, in Europe, the percentage of those who believe in “god”: Bulgaria 37%,Croatia 69%, Czech Republic 18 16%, Estonia 18%, Germany 44%, Hungary 45%, Lithuania 47%, Poland 79%, Romania 92%, Slovakia 63%, and Slovenia 32% 19. How did we get such different results in Czech Republic and Slovakia, when they were both under the same Government as Czechoslovakia? Catholics are resilient in Poland, but died out in Czech Republic and Slovenia. Orthodox died in Bulgaria and came back in triumph in Romania. I can’t make sense of any of it.
Russia, with the longest Communist experience, doesn’t do any better. If you have been travelling to Russia (my first trip there was in the mid-90s) you will have been struck by how quickly the churches have been rebuilt, refurbished and expanded – despite obvious deficiencies in civilian infrastructure. President Putin makes a point of emphasizing his Orthodox credentials, as part of expressing his Russian nationalism. A full 41% of Russians today claim membership in Orthodox Christianity, and 6.5% in Islam.
China is no better, and there is allegedly a surge in Christianity there (perhaps as an expression of rebellion?), but about 47% of people are considered to be religious (a big part of that is from Buddhism, which would not necessarily have been captured if people were asked if they believe in “god”).
So, State Communism with its ability to banish religion absolutely from the mainstream of public life has had some success, but hardly resulted in a whole-hearted rejection of religion. Also, the ways in which these States forced atheism upon their captive populations gave atheism an ungenerous link in people’s minds to authoritarianism. After some 40+ years of Communism, with atheism promoted (some would say indoctrinated) in the schools and society at large, what happened to these countries?
So why is atheism gaining in popularity now?
First, it may not be that it’s significantly more popular, it’s just that more people can connect to other people who are atheist because of the internet. People have always been reluctant to identify themselves as atheist, due to the threat of prejudice or even death depending on the country that they live in. Like homosexuality, we will probably see more of it once it’s fully socially acceptable (it will come out of the proverbial “closet”), but social acceptance does not create it. But, also like homosexuality, just because it’s safe to be an atheist in public, that doesn’t mean that more people will necessarily become atheistic, it just means that those that are will no longer hide the fact.
Second, it’s not because of popular authors. There have always been books about atheism around, and books challenging established religious doctrines. It’s just that recently a few of them became very popular and had some charismatic authors with excellent publicists (especially Dawkins and Hitchens, who were very well established before wading into the atheist pool). Certainly, for some people, these sort of tomes have helped them to think critically about religion, but frankly if you change your beliefs because of one book, or even two, then you are just as likely to change again in the future when you read something equally compelling. You need interested readers to make a book popular, so which came first, the interest in atheism or the books about it (most of which do not make the best seller list)?
Third, it’s popular and is the new form of rebellion against authority. For those of us old enough to have lived through it, there have been many times when it becomes popular for youth to rebel against authority or their family, and that has taken many forms. The Iranian Revolution was a revolt of that nature. So has been the recent cultural trend towards headscarves for female Muslims in Indonesia, which had not been a major issue before. Rebellion is not always logical, and it doesn’t always point in a progressive direction. I suspect that this generation, like my own from the 70s, will have many “atheists” who end up being good church, temple, mosque or synagogue members for what they will tell themselves are “cultural” reasons, or for “the good of the kids” or “to keep the wife happy” (every poll shows a significantly higher proportion of male atheists to female ones – don’t ask me why) 20.
Fourth, it’s correct? I would like this to be the case. But much of what makes atheism correct has been around for thousands of years. Prayer and sacrifices have never been reliable throughout human history. God never puts in a personal appearance. Evil is often unpunished and good is often unrewarded. Natural disasters did not target only the unbelievers. You don’t need science to show that the vast majority of core religious beliefs are just downright wrong. This analysis and its inescapable conclusion does not require an understanding of quantum mechanics, general relativity, chaos theory or evolutionary biology.
What I think happened in the 19th and early 20th century was the erosion of central authority, thereby allowing people to express themselves without fear of reprisal. I don’t think there are that many more atheists than there were before, just that it’s safer to be counted among them. And the internet is helping to make people feel safer too. That might not last, but for now it seems to be working. How many atheists or religious doubters are out there? I really have no idea, but with more exposure to other views this perspective should certainly gain adherents. Maybe only 5% or 10% of Saudi Arabians will be atheist, but until it’s safe for them to declare themselves as such, we will never know.
As more people see that a public atheist lifestyle has advantages or at least no detriments, then they will consider this as a possible option. Don’t expect a change overnight, but slow steady progress will be welcome.
1 If you haven’t read him, his book is known as the “Han Feizi” and you can still find it on Amazon. For me, he is sort of a cross between Confucius and Machiavelli. His was influential for a very short time, and then his philosophy was dropped, while many of his pragmatic recommendations on the use of law codes were retained.
2 Cf. the teachings in the “Kalama Sutra” in the Tipitaka which expressly advises against such beliefs. See: http://www.atheistrepublic.com/blog/deandrasek/13-books-atheists-should-...
3 Paine’s more controversial “Rights of Man” was published in Europe in 1791 in support of the French Revolution, and sold almost a million copies and got him chased out of the UK. After fleeing to France, where he was arrested, he went on to write his indictment of organized religion in three parts which now collectively go under the name “The Age of Reason”, and while it was not a call for atheism it was a fiery attack on the major religions of his day. Undoubtedly, it did not reach the same publication levels of his earlier works.
4 That would equate to about 15 million copies today. Dawkins’ ”God Delusion” published in 2006 had sold 2 million English language copies as of 2010, to a English speaking audience (US, UK and Canada) of about 410 mn.
5 Thomas Hobbes’ “Leviathan” (1651) was getting a re-read as well, although its strident support of absolute authoritarian powers for the sovereign monarch, including power over the religious orders, remained an impediment for the otherwise wholesale adoption of some of his other more progressive thoughts on the rights of the people and the responsibilities of the State.
6 The Cathars were the last of the dualist movements, whose origins may have been in the gnostic sects of the early Christian religion. They were also vegetarians, not because they liked animals, but because they did not want to pollute their bodies with the flesh of anything that came into existence from a sexual act. This was obviously before there was an understanding that plants also reproduced sexually. In any event, there was a crusade against them (yes, there were not just against Muslims) called the Albigensian Crusade, launched in 1208 and by 1321 after a long and very bloody campaign they were finally exterminated.
7 They were dualists, believing in a “good god” and a “bad god”, to put it rather simplistically. See: “The Other God: Dualist Religions from Antiquity to the Cathar Heresy” by Yuri Stoyanov (2000).
8 For a fascinating read, try “Cathars: Their History and Myths Revealed” by S. Martin (2013).
9 I touch on some of this in an earlier blog: http://www.atheistrepublic.com/blog/deandrasek/stop-pandering-superstitious.
10 Which was started by Martin Luther in 1517, or Jan Hus in the early 15th century, depending on who your favorite hero is – I happen to like Hus, perhaps since I am also part ethnic Bohemian.
11 See: “The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts” by Neil Asher Silberman and Israel Finkelstein (2002).
12 Don’t go to most online sites about this, as it’s too hot of a topic and Wikipedia, in particular is nothing more than a battleground of different views bordering on total obfuscation. If you are interested, a good place to start is Dan Cohn-Sherbok’s “Holocaust Theology: A Reader” but many of the better articles are in professional journals and out of print books.
13 If nothing else, at least it was something most people understood, whereas the previous motto as set out on the Great Seal of the United States was the Latin “E pluribus unum” meaning “out of many, one” being a reference to the conjoining of the individual States into a single political union. If re-examined today, the new motto might be “greed is good” or “always ready to fight” or “why think when you can watch Fox News,”, but I digress….
14 In 1968, on the episode “Plato’s Stepchildren” where Captain Kirk is forced by aliens to kiss Uhura. There had been other instances on TV where white men had kissed Asian women, which was probably less remarkable given that a number of US servicemen had married Asian women over the years where there were American military bases in the Philippines, Japan and Korea. Notably, the UK refused to air the Star Trek episode with the offending kiss, ostensibly for other reasons. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plato's_Stepchildren) I don’t like Wikipedia as a source, generally, but for pop-culture it’s an ok reference.
15 Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963), which was a consolidation of Murray’s case and another one.
16 There are many YouTube videos of her, and I would encourage you to check them out, but this tribute by Aron Ra describing her impact on others is particularly good: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4So0Fuz1Kfo A good list of many of her recorded appearances and shows about her are on the YouTube link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGCEeln0OBQ&list=PL-5USpWf-1UEgjWcb-xHoM...
17 For European countries, except Russia, it comes from the Eurobarometer Poll of 2010, asking whether people believe in “god”; for Russia it’s the 2012 Arena-Atlas of Religions (Sreda.org) asking about religious affiliation; and for China it’s the 2010 Pew Research Center report trying to chart religious beliefs. All of them have deficiencies, so if you have a poll you prefer, please leave it in the comments.
18 Being partly ethnic Bohemian, I was pleased to see this.
19 Non-EU countries were not included, such as Serbia, Belarus and Ukraine.
20 The data is often self-reported too. http://www.secularism.org.uk/blog/2013/01/atheists-respond-in-their-thou...
Photo Credits: Wikipedia - Weimar's Courtyard of the Musesdemonstrates the importance of Weimar. Schiller is reading; on the far left (seated) Wieland and Herder, Goethe standing on the right in front of the pillar. 1860 painting by Theobald von Oer.