Atheism is, in the broadest sense, the absence of belief in the existence of deities. Less broadly, atheism is the rejection of belief that any deities exist. In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which, in its most general form, is the belief that at least one deity exists.
It follows from the Objectivist metaphysics that God, as understood by Western monotheistic religions, does not exist. Atheism is the only rationally defensible attitude toward the question of God's existence. ... Some people think that if there is no God, then life has no meaning or that there is no reason for a person to be moral. Rand dealt crushing blows to both objections.
The word 'atheist' has traditionally been used as a smear word--or 'bugaboo epithet,' as the historian Preserved Smith once described it. To call someone an atheist was more often an accusation than a description, an invective hurled by orthodox Christians against any and all dissenters, including other Christians. Derived from the Greek atheos (meaning: 'godless, not believing in the existence of gods'), an 'atheist' is 'one who does not believe in the existence of a deity.' Atheism, or the absence of theistic belief, is therefore a perspective, not a philosophy.
Mencken's atheism is, again, well-known, but for him passionate hostility was reserved for those religious groups which persisted in imposing their moral codes by coercion upon the rest of the population. In Mencken's day, the prime example was Prohibition: and therefore Mencken's hostility was directed chiefly toward the Methodists and Baptists. In contrast, Mencken had no particular animus against the Roman Catholics (especially the non-Irish sections): "Catholics are not Prohibitionists, they have more humor than the Methodists," he is supposed to have said once ...
Is There a God?, by Steve Chapman, Andrew Sullivan, Slate, 24 Sep 1996
A series of 11 letters from Steve Chapman to Andrew Sullivan and vice versa, from 24 Sep to 7 Dec 1996; quote is from the third one dated 8 Oct, others are accessible using the tag link at the bottom of the page
You say belief in God is not an answer to a human need. ... Belief in a deity affords great comfort to the many people vexed by the cruel realities of human existence. Accepting that there is no God forces you to look to your own mind for moral answers, and not everyone feels adequate to the task. It also means coming to grips with the bleak fact of death. Most religions, particularly Christianity, provide an appealing alternative. And, of course, they carry a threat: Denial of God can lead to an eternity of suffering, not to mention widespread disapproval in this world.
Atheism is not a denial of God; it is a disbelief in God. ... There are three ways of accounting for existence. One premises an eternal and conscious entity, idle and solitary until he or she or it created the universe, which is not eternal, since it had a beginning. ... The first is ludicrous, preposterous, and cruel. ... I believe in the third, because the first and second are to me incredible, and because I can see no fourth.
The Philosophy of Paine, by Thomas Edison, The Diary and Sundry Observations of Thomas Alva Edison, 7 Jun 1925
Edison laments the lack of interest in Paine's writings, outlines his life, discusses the main writings and encourages others to read him
He has been called an atheist, but atheist he was not. Paine believed in a supreme intelligence, as representing the idea which other men often express by the name of deity. His Bible was the open face of nature, the broad skies, the green hills. He disbelieved the ancient myths and miracles taught by established creeds.
Reverence for Skeptics, by Leland B. Yeager, Liberty, Oct 2007
Describes how Prof. Yeager albeit raised as Christian became what he calls a "reverent atheist" and discusses the bases for his views; includes relevant Baloo cartoon and bibliography
To refer to the etymology of "atheism," mine is a belief "without God." I am not certain that no personal God exists. I have changed my view on the issue once, and further information and reasoning could conceivably make me change it again ... A great mystery remains—the universe itself—but saying that God created it is no solution. Who then created God? Are we not verging on an infinite regress? If something as wonderful as a creator God could have existed before he set to work, why could not something just as wonderful, the universe, have existed without a creator distinct from itself? And why be so anthropomorphic?
Chapman writes "What I no longer understand, looking back on my life as a Christian, is the capacity to believe in something so outlandish as the existence of an Almighty God—much less one who created us all one by one, cherishes our immortal souls, intervenes on behalf of those who call upon his name, and holds a place for his faithful in an everlasting paradise. None of us has ever seen this being; none of us has ever heard him, except in the silence of our own heads; none of us can produce a piece of evidence as large as a mustard seed that what we think of as God is anything more than a thought ..."
Today, those who know about freethought at all usually associate it with organized atheism, with Robert G. Ingersoll as the Madalyn Murray O'Hair of the 19th century. But in fact there was much more to freethought than that. As ... Eugenia DeLamotte, has pointed out, freethought was
an eclectic movement that included atheists, agnostics, and deists as well as religious thinkers ... who shared a scorn for religious dogma as a source of truth or authority; a rejection of biblical miracles ... and an insistence that human progress depends on the exercise of each indivi-dual's reason with regard even to subjects held most sacred.
Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies
by George H. Smith, Apr 1991
Partial contents: The Meaning of Heresy - My Path to Atheism - Atheism and the Virtue of Reasonableness - Defining Atheism - Atheism and Objectivism - Ayn Rand: Philosophy and Controversy - The Righteous Persecution of Drug Consumers and Other Heretics
by George H. Smith, 2000
Partial contents: The Methodology of Atheism - Belief and Doubt - Belief and Knowledge - Belief and Free Will - Why Philosophy? - The Career of Reason - Theology and Metaphysics - The Roots of Modern Atheism - Some Irreverent Questions Concerning God