Theos, in Greek, means God and from it is derived the word ‘theist’, meaning someone who believes in god, and ‘atheist’, standing for someone who does not believe in God. The basic argument given for not believing in God is the lack of empirical evidence. Another argument is that atheism is a more parsimonious view than theism. According to the principle of parsimony, in the case of competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected and the simplest explanation is usually found as the correct one. According to some estimates about 2.3 % world population is atheist and the prevalence is highest in the Western Countries. France is the foremost with 32% of its population being atheists, while Germany with 20% is next only to France in this respect. It is interesting to note that the most advanced country in the World, USA, has the least number of atheists in its population, even though presumably the prevalence of atheism is in direct proportion with the scientific advancement or modernity.
1. Joy Davidman
Helen Joy Davidman was born to Joseph Davidman and Jeanette Spivack, on April 18, 1915 in New York City, New York, U.S. and died on July 13, 1960 at Oxford, U.K. She was a child prodigy and earned her masters degree in English literature from Columbia University in 1935. She won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition in 1938 and the Russell Loines Award for Poetry in 1939 for her poetry book Letter to a Comrade. She was an atheist when she was a member of the American Communist Party. After her conversion to Christianity, she and her husband, who was the father of their two children, divorced. Thereafter, she moved to England along with her children. She is best known for her work Smoke on the Mountain: An Interpretation of the Ten Commandments, which was published in 1954. She converted to Christianity under influence of C.S. Lewis, who later on married her. BBC featured their relationship in a film titled Shadowlands.
2. Dame Cicely Mary Saunders
Dame Cicely Mary Saunders was highly decorated nurse, social worker, physician and a writer. She was born on June 22, 1918 in Barnet, Hertfordshire, England and died on July 2005, at the age of 87, in South London. She is best known for the Hospice Movement, which refers to palliative care extended to the terminally ill, medically declared with a life expectancy shorter than six months. She had been skeptical about the presence of God, but in 1945 she converted to evangelical Christianity. She said ‘I prayed to know how best to serve God’. By dint of her invaluable service to humanity, she was honored with many awards. Queen Elizabeth II honored her with the title Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1979.
3. Tamsin Margaret M. Greig
Tamsin Margaret M. Greig was born on July 12, 1966 in Kent, England. She is an English actress, best known for her comedic roles as Fran Katzenjammer in Black Books and Dr. Caroline Todd in Green Wing, televised by Channel 4. In 2007 she was awarded a Laurence Oliver Award for Best Actress for her outstanding performance in William Shakespeare’s comedic play, Much Ado About Nothing. She was raised as an atheist but converted to Christianity while she was living with her ailing father in 1996.
4. Nicholas Glyn Paul Gumbel
Nicholas Glyn Paul Gumbel, better known as Nicky Gumble, was born to Walter and Muriel Gumbel on April 28, 1955. His father was a German Jew from Stuttgart and his license to practice law was withdrawn by the Nazis, whereupon he moved to England. His father became a successful barrister there, while his mother served on the Greater London Council and also had been Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea from 1967 to 1986. Nicky Gumbel was an atheist but converted to Christianity after going through the New Testament in Trinity College, Cambridge. He commented ‘I was enthralled. It was as if I had found what I had been looking for all my life’.
5. Cyril Edwin Mitchinson Joad
Cyril Edwin Mitchinson Joad was born to Edwin and Mary Joad on August 12, 1891, in Durham, U.K. and died on April 9, 1953 in Hampstead at the age of 61 years. He is best known for appearance in The Brains Trust, one of the most popular BBC radio programs during war time. In April 1948, he was fined Â£2 for his obsessive fair dodging. It was humiliating, as it was the front page news on all the national papers. He renounced his disbelief in religion and became a Christian of the Church of England.
6. John Orley Allen Tate
John Orley Allen Tate was born to Orley Tate and Eleanor Parke on November 19, 1899 in Winchester, Kentucky, USA and died on February 9, 1979 in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. He attended Vanderbilt University in 1918 and formed a group of poets called the Fugitive Poets. The group included Robert Penn Warren Tate and other young poets under the leadership of John Crowe Ransom. In 1928, Tate said to John Gould Fletcher, ‘I am an atheist, but a religious one, which means that there is no organization for my religion.” He was attracted towards Roman Catholicism but deferred converting, because he realized that it was only an intellectual act.
7. Francis Sellers Collins
Francis Sellers Collins was born on April 14, 1950 in Staunton, Virginia USA. He earned his B.S. from the University of Virginia in 1970 and received a Ph.D from the Yale University. In 1977 he earned an M.D. from the University of North Carolina. He described his parents as only nominally Christian. He considered himself as an atheist during his formative years. While interacting with terminally ill people, he reviewed different faiths critically. Having gone through Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, he ultimately converted to Evangelical Christianity.
8. Aleksandr Tsarevich Solzhenitsyn
Aleksandr Tsarevich Solzhenitsyn was born to Taisiya Solzhenitsyna and Isaakiy Solzhenitsyn on December 11, 1918 in Kislovodsk, Russia and died on August 3, 2008 in Moscow, Russia. He was a Nobel Laureate known for One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and The Gulag Archipelago. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1970. He was exposed to the brutality of the Soviet labor camp system and therefore converted to Christianity. He also won the Templeton Prize and the State Prize of the Russian Federation.
9. Seraphim Rose
Seraphim Rose was born to Frank Rose and Esther Rose on August 13, 1934 in San Diego, California and died on Platina, California on September 2, 1982 at the age of 48 years. Although Rose was baptized in the Methodist Church at the age of fourteen years, he rejected it and became an atheist. He was noted for his opposition to the orthodox participation in ecumenical movement, which aimed at broader Christian unity and cooperation. He was attracted towards Eastern religion, however it was a transitory stage, and he ultimately reverted to Christianity and into the Russian Orthodox Church. He was influenced by his friend Jon Gregerson.
10. Sigrid Undset
Sigrid Undset was born to Ingvald Martin Undset and Charlotte Undset in Kalundborg, Denmark, on May 20, 1882 and died in Lillehammer, Norway on June 10, 1949 at the age of 67 years. She was awarded the Nobel Prize for her trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter and the four volumes of The Master of Hestviken. Her parents were atheists and she spent most of her life as agnostic. During the period of unhappy marriage and the outbreak of the World War I, she experienced a crisis of faith and ultimately converted to Roman Catholicism in 1920. She fled to USA from Norway in 1940 due to her opposition to Nazi Germany.
About 12% of the world population is considered non-religious. A non-religious person is distinguished from an atheist in that the former negates the religion, while the later is characterized by the absence of religious belief. In fact, knowledge paves the way to God and a knowledgeable individual can rarely be an atheist.The turbulent history of France has probably uprooted the belief in God. Once uprooted, a tree takes lot of tender care and time before recovery. The rate of the prevalence of atheists in France is -n decline and it is opined that it will become a theist country in the future.