Ancient Greek & Roman Freehinkers/Atheists/Hunanists
Diagoras of Melos: Convicted of impiety
Anacreon, poet, known for "ardent efforts to enjoy life (p. 8 Imagine There's No Heaven by Miotchell Stephens)
Anaxagoras of Klazomenae (5th BCE): questioned god-driven cosmology & was prosecuted for impiety; examined meteorite
Thucydides: Historian committed to evidence and reason and did not explain history using supernatural element, as was typical of the culture as in Herodotus' work.
Sisyphus (legend): one of Homer's characters
Greek Sophists contributed much to Greek skepticism of religion, which was dangerous in ancient Greece.
Protagoras of Abdera (philosopher) charged with impiety in Athens: "Man is the measure of all things"; "Concerning the gods...I am unable to discover whether they exist or not, or what they are like in form..."
Epicurus (an Anacreontic) "Epicurus said he believed gods existed. But he thought those gods have absolutely no interest in or effect upon human life. So they might as well have not existed" (Stephens p. 38)
Theodorus the Atheist: was prosecuted for his disbelief
Carneades, born a few dozen years after Theodorus, was known as the "Academic" Skeptic: headed Academy of Plato; religion was one of his primary target for criticism. Refuted the notion that popular belief equals existence of gods by pointing out (as outlined by Cicero) that there are non-believers, so many people believe doesn't mean belief has "reasons", & masses of people can be wrong about things. Referred to Cicero
Cicero (1st century BCE), controversial Roman politician: considered himself an "Academic" Skeptic; hard to pin down his atheism, perhaps, due to political career. author of "The Nature of the Gods" "in which the arguments for the existence of gods were debated and demolished one by one, mostly by a character, Cotta, representing Academic Skepticism" (Stephens 39) & pointed to the problem of Evil
Lucretius (Roman Poet) who said, "nature runs the universe by herself without the aids of gods"
Atheists/Freethinkers (skeptic, non-believer...) from Ancient India
Ajita Kesakambali: Participant in Buddhist dialogue "Samannphala Sutta"
Non-believers of the Carvaka in Ancient India (see core belief on p. 7 in Imagine There's No Heaven by Miotchell Stephens)
King Finow of Tonga Island as reported by British teenager William Mariner
Middle Age and Renaissance
Jean Meslier (1664-1729): French Catholic priest wrote a book-length essay promoting atheism and denouncing religion, and his writing was discovered upon his death. This shocked Christian Europe as atheism was punishible by death and any writing that contradicted Bible and church teaching was banned. Voltaire loved Meslier's writing.