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This entry traces the history of the term “atheism” from its earliest use in antiquity down to the present day. The term originally denoted heresy or heterodoxy and not, as it came to be, the belief that God does not exist. Examined in this entry are the epistemological shifts that prepared the way for the emergence of atheism as an intelligible world view in the early modern period. The views of contemporary scholars on the relationship between atheism and modernity are considered, as is the focus of atheism on the rejection of a distinctively modern conception of theism. Finally, the emergence of atheism in the West from the seventeenth century onwards and the place of atheism in the twentieth century are discussed. ⸙