Who Are the Atheist "Saints"?


People occasionally argue that one can be a righteous atheist as well as a wicked Christian.

But let’s compare apples to apples for the moment, rather than the worst Christian to the hypothetical best atheist.

I want to know who an atheist “saint” is.

This should be someone who:

  1. Does not believe in God and publicly professes unbelief (to provide sufficient evidence of being an atheist).

  2. Provides a public record of “good works” equivalent to what might be found in the biography of a canonized saint (to establish bona fide “saintliness”.

So let’s put this proposition to the test:

Who are the atheist “saints”?


Well, I dont think Christians are deemed saints because of their works, but rather because of their desire to be holy… or trying to be holy. (Saint from the word sanctus… or santo… = holy)

Under that definition, an atheist cannot be deemed a saint.


Is not holiness known by its fruit?

We have saints who were martyrs. Was it not their martyrdom which for many sanctified them?

Piety may elude atheists by definition, but I think a reasonable array of good works might be a useful proxy for sanctity here, for the sake of discussion.

I’ve eliminated miracles from consideration as well for obvious reasons.,


You are thinking of Peace Corps volunteers, Doctors without Borders, people like that, right?


Anyone who meets the OP criteria. Public profession of atheism, record of good works.

Names, please. :wink:


Teflon, while I think I’m understanding your point, Abii brings up an excellent point which renders your hypothesis IMO a nonstarter.

A saint is not a saint simply because of the ‘good works’ he or she does. (or the miracles performed, or being ‘righteous’).

All those things may be part of the reason that GOD bestows on them the title of saint. But the good works do not mean anything, as St. Paul reminds us, without the core of faith, hope, and love. . .and THAT means not just ‘love of man’ but overall love of GOD. One must have both. And that’s the thing:

Saints are not ‘made’ by US. They are appointed, if you will, by GOD. Decisions on individual saints by the Catholic Church are not arrived at by the decisions of mere mortals, but by the guidance of the Holy Spirit–by the decision of GOD, not man.

Even though you put the word ‘saint’ in quotes for the atheist, the fact remains that unless a ‘Christian’ saint was found to be so by men instead of God, there is simply NO comparison of a so-called atheist ‘saint’ who by definition can ONLY be judged so by MEN on the criteria of ‘good work alone’ that you posit.

IMO it is more confusing for us to bring up the ‘righteous fruits show us who a saint is’ (because quite honestly, there are people who DID do ‘righteous things’ on earth enough that WE might judge them ‘saints’ for that but who rejected God in other ways such that HE did NOT --for proof, check out Ezekiel who reminds us that the ‘good man’ who turns from good and does evil will be PUNISHED even though he has racked up good deeds).

WE do not know the hearts of people. Somebody could look like the best person in the world–give millions to the poor, have 10 foster children, support all the ‘Christian’ tenets publically. . .and somewhere in his secret heart put God right out of the picture. It would not MATTER then no matter WHAT ‘good deeds’ he did–he would NOT be a saint.

Now it is possible that the person who calls and believes himself to be an atheist is, in fact, “aware” of and loving God, even though he himself does not recognize it. Perhaps he grew up thinking that “god” was some stern and cold ‘judge’ and he rejected THAT PERCEPTION in saying that he rejected god. . .but since we know that God is not ‘just’ a judge, not only firm but also loving and tender, what this atheist rejected was not God Himself but a false image of God. And so he may not indeed, in God’s eyes, have rejected “GOD” at all. In fact, he may have some dim understanding, in his service of people who need him, of God who is FOUND IN EVERY ONE OF US. And in that service to people he IS serving God though he does not know it.

So it is not the number of his good works that might make him saintly but the same quality that any Christian ALSO HAS --which is, love of God.


Please note “saints” is in quotes for a reason and let’s press on.


Press on with WHAT?

The whole point is, saints are from GOD, not from MAN. Setting up a category of ‘saints’ from ‘men’ isn’t establishing a parallel view but rather an oppositional view.

Good works are not the sole criterion for being designated a saint.

So what does it matter if an atheist --or for that matter, a Christian–does XXX good works? It is NOT the good works alone which establish saintliness. (Ask your typical Pharisee in AD 33).

Maybe if you ask for a list of atheist philanthropists with notations of exactly what their philanthropy IS (some people would consider for example handing out condoms in Africa as ‘good works’, or ‘advancing women’s rights through full access to abortions and contraception’ as ‘good works’), and WHY they do the philanthropic deeds we will come up with some interesting data.


You’re missing the point.

Relativists claim that there are atheist equivalents to Christian saints.

I would like to see some names, that we may compare the two.

I have yet to see an atheist who approaches Mother Theresa’s goodness; perhaps I am simply uninformed and there are such people.

So let’s see some names.


I went to About Atheism’s web site where a man named Austin Kline (I believe) stated that because Bill Gates only found ‘value’ in some religious principles but not in ‘organized religion’ because he had ‘better things to do on Sunday than go to church’. . .and that Warren Buffett, who does ‘not subscribe to the religious principles he was brought up with’ among other things that they are (according to this Mr. Kline) not only ‘definitely atheists or agnostics’ and PROOF that ‘you don’t need religion to do good things or be a good person’.

Then again. . .despite these men doing praiseworthy things by ‘not’ keeping all the money for themselves. . .just what, exactly, are they ‘doing’ and for whom, and what, exactly, are they themselves ‘getting’?

One could argue that first of all, considering the amount of money they have as well as the incredibly lavish goods they ALREADY POSSESS, it would take too much time and effort for them to spend any more money. IOW–these aren’t people who are SUFFERING ANY by giving away money. They aren’t ‘downsizing’ to help, they’re giving away surplus–and taking tax breaks, and ‘looking good’–without any effort at all.

Second, they are not donating ‘anonymously’. They have ‘gotten a reward’ in the fulsome praises not just of people they help but from the media, from the ‘lasting memorials’ (names on Foundations, etc.). They will have their ‘historical footnote’ that will ‘live on’ after them.

Third, by donating ‘what’ and ‘to whom’, they exercise a ‘control’ over ‘who gets helped’. Thus, they foster their own beliefs and work toward what THEY feel is ‘right and good’, relatively speaking.

Now, compare those Christian saints.

First, not all–in fact, the vast majority–of Christian saints did not GIVE AWAY MONEY.
What they GAVE was Christ–lavishly, and to ANYBODY–not just to those who fit the narrow criteria of whatever would foster an agenda or ‘look good’ for the record books.

Some --kings and queens–DID give what they possessed to make life better because they felt that in SHARING material goods they modeled the real wealth–Christian charity–to others. Some–like Mother Teresa, though themselves poor, managed to gain the fickle support of media and other ‘promoters’ and were briefly ‘recognized’. . .but the vast majority of those who received the gift of Christ from Mother Teresa were NEVER RECOGNIZED. They were the poor, the dying, the outcaste, the hideously ill, dirty, dangerous, ‘human rubbish’ that we don’t even NOTICE when we are pursuing our sanitized, politically correct ‘helping others’.

Mind you, I am NOT saying that atheists are worthless, evil, uncaring monsters. They are not. I truly believe that most of those who call themselves atheists yet who quietly live according to Christian principles (even if they don’t really believe in their ‘perception’ of the Christian God) are going to be found to have enough ‘concept’ and enough ‘service’ to that God to be found worthy of heaven–not for their ‘material sharing’ but for that service to God.

I am saying that unless a person (Christian or nonChristian) is giving to others from a heart, soul, mind and strength that is bent on serving GOD --even if that person doesn’t RECOGNIZE that it is GOD whom he is serving–then ultimately, the ‘good’ done is only TEMPORARY, LIMITED, and in the end USELESS FOR THAT GIVER.

So – I give $500,000 with a ‘blare of trumpets’ to Planned Parenthood. (Heck, or even to the American Life League). Unless I am doing so because this is a loving gift for God, from me, to others. . .the ‘reward’ I will get is my own SELF SATISFACTION ALONE. Even worse, I will likely delude myself into thinking that “because I gave money, I’m a good person. I don’t have anything to worry about even if there IS a god because hey, I’m doing good and isn’t that what life is all about? I’m home free, no matter what. So why try to do anything else? Why try to see if I’m trying to live a good life --it’s obvious that I am-” and so I’m completely oblivious to not only my other faults but I’m blinded by my PRIDE into thinking that I’m so great that I don’t even NEED GOD.


:banghead: Hey Teflon, great thread idea. would you like a asprin?? :smiley:

Obviously the responses to date have not met many atheists. I have had this arguement tossed at me numerous times that there are as many non christians that help as there are christian. I usually start by saying lets count charities founded by christians verses those that are not.

Anyway Id like to know names of any great people who didnt believe. btw with what Ive read about Bill Gates I wouldnt put him in the list of a atheist since hes responding to the verse “to whom much is given much is demanded” and he influenced Warren.

So that leaves us still looking for that atheist?

What about Angelie Jolie?? anyone know her story?

Brad Pitt helped the victims of New Orleans.

Here ya all go what about Marilyn Manson, whats he done? and would atheists claim him??



The philosopher David Hume is regarded as an exemplary “happy atheist”. He was everything a man of the Enlightenment was supposed to be: witty,urbane,sociable,detatched,polished in his manners,well-connected,self-sufficient,accomplished in letters,well-regarded.
He was adulated in Paris and was called “le bon David”.

But when he encountered Jean Jacque Rousseau,who was hyper-sensitive,melancholy,unsociable and sincere,David Hume showed his hidden malice and vindictiveness.


You want some public atheist named that is famous? I don’t know. But my SIL is a wonderful nurse, works with Doctors without borders…I think anyone that does this sort of work are saints and she is an atheist.:shrug:


Per the OP, must be a public profession of atheism and a record of objectively good works.

We’re trying to compare apples to apples. As saintly as your SIL may be, by your definition everyone who works in a Christian NGO type activity would meet it.

It therefore doesn’t really help atheists make their claims, does it?

Since the Catholic Church has hundreds of saints to choose from, dozens quite famous and well-documented, we’re looking for the atheist equivalent.

We’re looking for them because atheists continually assure us they’re there, in great quantities no less.

So who are they?


Great post, Tantum Ergo.

I’ve been trolling the web for famous atheists, and thus far haven’t really found any whose work fits into the objectively good bucket.

In fact, atheists seem to scrape a little bit on these websites, by claiming either people who were not in fact atheists such as the Founding Fathers (how can one read their writings and their direct references to God while believing they’re atheists is beyond me) and famous atheists who became Christians such as Oscar Wilde.

Atheist “saints”, one presumes, must persevere to the end in unbelief as Christian saints must persevere to the end in faith.

Bill Gates does do some good, basically by throwing money at things, but he hasn’t precisely left Microsoft to serve the poor full time either, as many Catholic saints have done.

I doubt he’ll be martyring himself for the atheist cause either.


The philosopher David Hume is regarded as an exemplary “happy atheist”. He was everything a man of the Enlightenment was supposed to be: witty,urbane,sociable,detatched,polished in his manners,well-connected,self-sufficient,accomplished in letters,well-regarded.
He was adulated in Paris and was called “le bon David”.

But when he encountered Jean Jacque Rousseau,who was hyper-sensitive,melancholy,unsociable and sincere,David Hume showed his hidden malice and vindictiveness.
[FONT=“Arial Black”][FONT=“Book Antiqua”]Just one minor problem to that claim to Hume being a “happy atheist” he wasn’t an atheist, neither was he a christian.


Someone mentioned Bill Gates. While I doubt he is an atheist , he is heavily into supporting abortion, as is Warren Buffet.

The primary reason I use Linux and Open Office is to keep money out of his Bill Gates hands, money which he uses to destroy other peoples lives.


Since Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are still living I think it would quite moot to specualate whether they qualify as atheist “saints” or not


It seems to me to be irrelevant whether there are people who are atheists who have done good deeds. People say that a person can be just as good if he is an atheist as if he is a Christian. But the fact is that he distorts what it means to be good. If he is an atheist he has concluded that there is no truth and consequently that there is no ultimate good. Therefore any good deed that he does is simply to fulfill his own pride or his own sense of self worth.

Further, goodness has nothing to do with doing good. It is about a relationship with God and the Church. Doing good works is simply a part of that relationship. It is about love of God and of creation.


Are we talking Saints as per the discernment of the Church or are we talking saints as per atheists who may be in heaven, but nobody really has a clue?

I am sure that in all of history some atheists may have passed through the gates, maybe very few, maybe many, but who could know with any certainty?

I cannot help but think when certain “Christians” tell me that no one who hasn’t explicitly “come to Jesus” can be saved that Matthew 25 and the separation of the sheep and goats may recognize those good generous souls who didn’t explicitly recognize Jesus.

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