Atheism, Brad Pitt, Cosmos, Create My Memories, Dame Helen Mirren, Daniel Radcliffe, Facebook, Family Guy, Foundation Beyond Belief, Giving Pledge, Haiyan, Hemant Mehta, LGBT, Marissa Torres-Langseth, Mark Zuckerberg, New Atheism, ONE, PATAS, Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society, Richard Dawkins, Seth MacFarlane, Sir Ian McKellen, Tess Termulo, The Blind Watchmaker, The God Delusion, The Selfish Gene, The Trevor Project, Yolanda
According to various studies on religion demographics, the number of people who do not identify with any religion is on the rise. Despite this trend, atheists still only make up 2% of the world population. I am happy to say I am part of this small group. Here are ten other men and women who belong in this group. You may know some of them.
As Chairman and CEO of Facebook, he gets paid one dollar a year. But he’s one of the wealthiest people in the world. In 2009, he, together with Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, signed their names on the Giving Pledge promising to donate up to half of their total wealth to charity over the course of time. Less than a year later, he donated one hundred million dollars to the Newark, New Jersey public school system. Cory Booker, Newark Mayor, and Chris Christie, New Jersey Governor, insisted that Mark make a public announcement of the donation; he initially wanted to do it anonymously.
He is one of the richest people in his age group in the UK. It’s not hard to figure out why. But his success did not just give him fame and wealth, it also put him in a position where he could make a positive impact in the world. He has made financial contributions to The Trevor Project, an American non-profit organization focused on providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention among homosexual teenagers. He also openly speaks against homophobia and promotes equal rights. For his advocacy, he was given the Hero Award in 2011.
This atheist is the man behind the Emmy Award-winning sitcom, Family Guy. He is also the voice of several characters in the show including main characters such as Peter, Brian and Stewie. He is also currently involved in the science program Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey as executive producer and occasional voice actor. Like Daniel Radcliffe, Seth is also an advocate of equal rights. In 2011, the Harvard Community named Seth Humanist of the Year for “his active, passionate, commitment to humanist values and his fearless support of equal marriage rights and other social issues.”
Apart from being in the 2% of the global population under the category ‘Atheist’, Brad Pitt is also one of the more than 3.8 million global members of ONE, an organization campaigning towards ending extreme poverty and preventable disease. But this is only one of the many humanitarian causes of this iconic non-believer. He is the founder Make It Right, a foundation dedicated to building high-performance and well-designed homes for people in need, and is the co-founder of the Jolie-Pitt Foundation, a volunteer group working towards eradicating poverty, protecting natural resources and conserving wildlife.
Just two months ago, Dame Helen Mirren donated some of her most cherished childhood photographs to the ‘Create My Memories‘ campaign to help in promoting foster caring in the UK. She’s also known to frequent charity shops; buying clothes she needs when she travels and giving them back to the shop later when she returns.
One of the most ‘epic’ actors of the new millennium, Sir Ian McKellen is an activist both on screen (as Magneto) and on the international stage (well, as himself). He openly campaigns against nuclear weapons and capital punishment and passionately speaks in favor of AIDS eradication and LGBT rights.
What would a list of awesome atheists be without Professor Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist and author of several best-selling books including The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker and The God Delusion. Regarded as one of the Four Horsemen of the Non-Apocalypse, Richard Dawkins is one of the most prominent figures of the New Atheism movement. His non-profit organization, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, promotes secular education and supports charitable organizations that are secular in nature.
When a string of church vandalism incidents happened in Bend, Oregon in 2012, Hemant Mehta, known to the blogging community as The Friendly Atheist, started a campaign to raise funds for the clean up of the vandalized churches. He was able to raise $3,000 in less that 24 hours. Foundation Beyond Belief (FBB), a charitable organization that Hemant helped establish in 2010, now has 1,620 members and has raised more than one hundred thousand dollars since its launch. FBB forwards 100% of all donations received to their featured charities.
In February 2011, Marissa Torres-Langseth co-founded the Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society (PATAS) with John Paraiso and was its chairperson until she retired on New Year’s Day this year. PATAS is a non-profit organization that aims to dispel misconceptions about atheism and agnosticism. As a true advocate of secularism, Miss M mobilized PATAS to organize the first ever atheists and agnostics convention in Southeast Asia. PATAS also actively engages in other community work such as feeding, education, and medical-dental outreach programs.
Dr. Tess Termulo, a.k.a The Atheist Doc, is the president of the Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society. When super typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda) devastated areas in the central Philippine archipelago, she made PATAS and its man-power resources available to Filipinos who wanted to send their support to the people in the affected areas. When PATAS celebrated it’s third anniversary last month, she was among the doctors who participated in a free clinic that attended to nearly 400 patients.
These people make up a small sample of the considerable population of awesome atheists who spend each day promoting reason and critical thinking, advocating humanism, and simply making the world a better place. The quiet majority of atheists anonymously live their lives doing their best to be good, decent citizens of the universe. The best part is not that there is a place in heaven reserved for them; no. The best part is that their charity is done with absolutely no prospect of divine reward.