Q: Are there any primitive people who can be classified as Atheists just like people in our society?
I knew this was a complex question but researching this subject made my head spin and I do not yet have an answer. At least, I learned some new things that I wasn’t even looking for.
Q: What all did you learn?
A: First, I learned a new word, Animism. (Wikipedia; Reference) It refers to a belief that everything has a soul or spirit. It comes from the Latin word anima which means life or soul. In other words, it’s worshiping nature and considering humans equal to plants, animals, water and rocks. Eventually, all these souls will combine to become one universal soul, spirit or life. Animism is the main belief system (or religion) of many primitive people around the world. It’s also the basis for Neo-Paganism and Eco-Paganism.
Q: What is Eco-Paganism?
I knew you would ask that and I found the answer on The Green Fuse.
A: According to Dr. Adrian Harris, Eco-Pagans are essentially Neo-Pagans who “express their spirituality through environmental activism and rituals of resistance.” Essentially, they’re tree huggers and Earth worshipers.
Now back to the topic!
The James Randi Educational Foundation Forum, has an interesting discussion about the Pirahã. Mr. Scott reports that the Pirahã are indigenous people in the Amazon who “appear to be atheists”. However, after reading the thread to the bottom and further reading on Wikipedia, that’s not the case. The Pirahã people claim to see and hear spirits everywhere which makes their belief system, by definition, Animism. Not Atheism.
Also, I learned that not everybody defines Atheism the same way. I thought Atheists did not believe in any deity or that humans have a soul / spirit and upon death we simply cease to exist. The lights just go out. Apparently, some who claim to be Atheists have varied beliefs such as, we have souls but there’s no supreme deity (sounds like Animism) or there is some type of afterlife but no spirits. It all confused me so I’m sticking with the strict definition for Atheism – no belief in deity or spirits of any kind.
Still searching for the answer. Does anyone have input?