Atheist Weight Classes

If it were up to me to choose the atheist “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” I could do a much better job than the New Atheist four:


As a philosopher, Nietzsche towers above the others.  Sartre easily takes second place, although his thought is heavily dependent on Heidegger and Alexandre Kojève’s interpretation of Hegel.  Much of Freud’s thought is taken (uncredited) from Nietzsche, and almost all of real philosophical substance in Marx is borrowed from Hegel.  In terms of influence however, Marx and Freud certainly rank as high as any.

This got me thinking of them as atheist “Heavyweights.”  I didn’t know anything about boxing weight classes, but Google is my friend, so here we are.


Heavyweights: Nietzsche, Sartre, Freud, Marx, Hume, Schopenhauer, Feuerbach, Stirner

Middleweights: Bruno Bauer, Auguste Comte, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Baron d’Holbach, Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Bertrand Russell, Albert Camus

Welterweights: A. J. Ayer, Antony Flew, Michael Martin, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Jean-François Leotard, Quentin Smith

Lightweights: Peter Singer, Kai Nielsen, J. C. C. Smart,

Featherweights: Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Ayn Rand, Michel Onfray, Peter Atkins, Massimo Pigliucci, Michael Ruse

Bantamweights: Lawrence Krauss, Jerry Coyne, Michael Shermer, Victor Stenger, Alex Rosenberg, A. C. Grayling, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Carl Sagan

Flyweights: P. Z. Myers, Richard Carrier, Thunderf00t, The Amazing Atheist, David Silverman, Rebecca Watson,

Strawweights: 99.99% of atheists on social media, including Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. This idiot. These idiots.

Special: I want to include Dostoyevski among the Heavyweights, but since he’s a theist, it doesn’t seem right. Nonetheless, he thought through atheism as deeply as anyone (and certainly more profoundly that most of the atheists on this list) in, e.g. Demons and The Brothers Karamazov.

Some of these names may be a little obscure to people not in the field of professional philosophy or not conversant with the history of philosophy.  I didn’t really go back further than the 18th century, and then only to pick up Hume and the French Philosophes—this is mostly about modern atheism, beginning in the 19th century.  Hume’s just too damned important to leave out though.

Personally, I recommend you don’t go below the Lightweights if you are a serious inquirer. It’s around that point where rhetoric begins to replace argument, or when argument is to be found, the same arguments are found much better in the higher weight classes.  Well, that’s not entirely true; Thunderf00t and the Amazing Atheist are both pretty entertaining, and frequently have interesting things to say when not straw manning theism.

Let me know what you think.  Did I miss anyone?  Miscategorize anyone?


6 comments on “Atheist Weight Classes

  1. Jay E. says:

    Stephen Hawking, Bantam Weight?


    • Eve Keneinan says:

      I was wondering if/where I should put him, but I left off “famous atheists who are not known to be persistent public spokesmen for atheism.”

      Hawking really didn’t add anything to the debate except his name. If his co-author had written the book alone, it would’ve been entirely unnoticed.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jay E. says:

        And yet you included Dawkins and Tyson, who I would’ve thought fist that same “famous atheist” category. Hey, it’s your list; do what you want 🙂


  2. Scholar-at-Arms says:

    Thomas Hobbes? Niccolo Macciavelli? IIRC neither argued for atheism directly, but I read them as atheists who were intentionally undermining the Church through their philosophy. Do you agree?


    • Eve Keneinan says:

      I do, and that’s one of two reasons I didn’t include them. The other was I wanted to keep it 19th century forward, but Hume and the Philosophes seemed too important.


  3. […] via Atheist Weight Classes — Last Eden […]


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