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Religious Affiliations of Influential People II
Posted In: Religion Articles  3/20/12
By: Yona Williams

Not all influential people in history stayed true to the religion that they were expected to embrace. Some shifted from one belief system to another, while others chose not to believe in anything. In this article, you will learn which significant historic figures were atheists at one point in their lives.

Sigmund Freud

Thanks to the Austrian neurologist named Sigmund Freud, the founding of the discipline of psychoanalysis took place. Although Freud was born into a family with Jewish ancestry and always considered himself a Jew, he did not embrace Judaism and held onto a critical view of religion. He would later identify with being an atheist – meaning that he did not believe in God. While his parents didn’t have a lot of money, they did manage to make sure that their son received an education. Freud excelled in high school and graduated the Matura with honors in 1873. During his studies, he showed an interest in philosophy, but later took a path that led him to research neurology. Freud studied topics, such as the unconscious mind and repression. He founded the Freudian school of psychology and psychoanalysis.

Vasco da Gama

The Catholic navigator Vasco da Gama was a Portuguese explorer responsible for discovering a route from Europe to India that took travelers around Cape Hood – commanding the first ships to sail directly using this path during the late 1400s. Because of his efforts, he was considered one of the most successful in the Age of Discovery.


As one of the most influential Greek philosophers in history, Aristotle's faith is described as a mixture of Platonism and Greek philosophy. This meant that he followed the teachings of philosophy associated with Plato.  Some of these beliefs were also adapted into the Christian church. Aristotle lived from 384 to 322 BC and wrote on a variety of subjects, including metaphysics, music, politics, biology and zoology. Joining Plato and Socrates, Aristotle is viewed as one of the most important founding figures in Western philosophy. His views also helped shape other religions. Aristotelianism had a significant influence on philosophical and theological thinking associated with Jewish and Islamic traditions during the Middle Ages. Some of his writings are also embraced within the Christian faith.

Karl Marx

The founder of Marxism and Marxist Communism was associated with more than one religion during his lifetime, as well as with none at one time. Karl Marx was born in 1818 to a wealthy Jewish family whose paternal line produced many rabbis. His father had converted from Judaism to the Protestant Christian denomination of Lutheranism before his son was born, but there really isn’t evidence to show that the Marx family followed in his footsteps.

Marx's father was interested in the ideas of philosophers, such as Voltaire. He was active in the community and pushed for reforms in Prussia. Marx himself would later identify himself as an atheist. Karl would become a philosopher, economist, sociologist and historian – playing an important role in the socialist political movement. He would also write influential books as well, including the infamous 'Communist Manifesto.'


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