Antireligion, or anti-religion, is a form of irreligion that is characterized by opposition, at times leading to hostility, to all religions, generally those founded on sacred texts. This includes, but may not be exhausted to, monotheism, nontheism, and polytheism, whether organized or not. As much as antireligionism, which is the act of antireligion, rejects significance of all forms of religion, it also opposes them. In this way, antireligionism goes beyond the spectrum of atheism and even anti-theism, both of which contends with the existence of a deity. Antireligionism stretches its reach to reject and oppose all other religions, such as nontheistic Buddhism and Confucianism. Its opposition to religion also goes beyond the misotheistic spectrum.
Antireligionism may find its beginning in the Enlightenment through self-confessed Baron d'Holbach. In his book Christianity Unveiled published in 1761, d'Holbach attacked not only Christianity but religion in general as an impediment to the moral advancement of humanity. Antitheist Christopher Hitchens may be one of the leading antireligionists of the 20th century for maintaining opposition not just to the Abrahamic religions, but to some other religions such as Buddhism.
Antireligionism became increasingly violent with the rise of Communism, where hostility to all religions was realized in the national level.
While antireligionism may be attributed to Baron d'Holbach, his tirade against religion in general is only miniscule compared to his argument against theism.
The Soviet Union directed antireligious campaigns at all faiths, including Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, Jewish, 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.
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.Intellectuals
Paul-Henri Thiry, Baron d'Holbach (1723-1789), French-German philosopher who attacked not only Christianity but religion in general as an impediment to the moral advancement of humanity.
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
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.
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.
Matt Dillahunty, Host of The Atheist Experience, engages in debates with apologists, and former president of the Atheist Community of Austin.