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'None' leaders to chart path for more political, cultural power for religiously unaffiliated
The Reason Rally -- sponsored by secular organizations -- draws a crowd to Washington in June.
January 25th, 2013
08:51 AM ET

'None' leaders to chart path for more political, cultural power for religiously unaffiliated

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – The religiously unaffiliated the "nones"  have noticed their ranks are growing. And at a meeting Saturday, a group of leaders will look to turn those swelling numbers into workable political and cultural power.

It's one of the top priorities of the eighth annual Heads Meeting, which will be held in Atlanta. Some of the nation’s most influential leaders, representing various organizations, will convene to chart a path forward and discuss the most important issues facing "nones" today.

“It is not enough that we are growing in numbers,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “We have got to find a way to bring those numbers to bear in an organized fashion so that people will take us seriously.”

A number of studies have found that religious “nones” people who either don’t believe in God or do not affiliate with a religion are increasing rapidly in the United States. A 2012 Pew study, for example, found this faction to be the fastest-growing "religious" group in America and determined that one in five Americans now identify with no religion.

These numbers have emboldened atheists, humanists, agnostics and other secular Americans, many of whom have long expressed a desire for more political power.

In particular, they point to the fact that they are widely underrepresented in the halls of the highest U.S. legislative body. Though 20% of the population classifies themselves as “none,” according to Pew, only one member of Congress, Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, identifies as such.

Speckhardt said it’ll take presenting “viewpoints in an organized way” to see change.

Dale McGowan, executive director of Foundation Beyond Belief and one of the Atlanta meeting's hosts, said building awareness through community engagement will be a key topic of discussion.

“Part of it is trying to consolidate that cultural presence,” McGowan said. “That has something to do with politics, but it is also more generally cultural.”

Much as churches and synagogues foster and nurture communities, McGowan said he thinks atheists can do the same to gain clout and broader acceptance.

But the meeting is more than just a forum for "none" leaders to outline their plans going forward. It is also a way for these leaders to meet face to face and discuss differences that they may have with one another.

According to McGowan, finding ways to work together was the original goal when the meeting was first held in 2005.

For years, McGowan said, “These groups operated separately from each other and sometimes at odds with each other. There was a realization that we should meet once a year and come together on the goals that we have in common.”

Other leaders echoed this viewpoint.

“One of the biggest benefits of these meetings is that it is human interaction,” Speckhardt said. “You get people face to face, and you dispel these negative ideas. You realize that we are all endeavoring toward very similar goals and that we can cooperate to make them happen.”

But while the leaders stress the need for cohesion, they also have long highlighted, even celebrated, diversity of opinion in their movement. This diversity has, at times, caused friction.

For example, the Christmas season revealed a growing rift among American atheists. Some activists want to seize the holidays to build bridges with faith groups, while other active unbelievers increasingly see Christmas as central to confronting religion.

“We certainly do disagree,” said David Silverman, president of American Atheists. “But we are on the same side. What we have to do is sit down at the table and say, ‘You are going to do your thing, and I am going to do my thing.’ ”

McGowan called cohesiveness “really the central challenge” for people who thrive on independence. “This is a group of people accustomed to taking a critical approach to things, and that means not just letting differences slide and saying, ‘Hey, these differences matter.’ ”

Other attendees in Atlanta will include Ron Lindsay, president of the Center for Inquiry, and Margaret Downey, founder and president of the Freethought Society, according to Silverman.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Atheism • Politics

soundoff (1,751 Responses)
  1. Dave8582

    It warms my heart to see so many, who have come to realize that religion is no more credible than Santa Claus.

    If the slaughter of so many young children did not shake people's faith, then nothing will. People keep suggesting guards, guns, barriers, etc. to keep the children safe. No one is suggesting prayer. Why? 'Cause they know it does not work.

    An all powerful god could have stopped the killings instantly. Turned all the shooter's guns to roses. Given the shooter a bolt of lightening. But of course, He didn't.

    Some will say: "The innocent children are in Heaven now. Others will say: "God works in mysterious ways."

    Nice things to say. But these things could be said, whether there is a god or not.

    Tell me how this tragedy would look different, if there were no god?

    Cheers!

    January 26, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Way of hindus, deniers of truth absolute GOD, shout for right of choice and hinduism denial of truth absolute by choice of human, lay it on GOD. hindus ignorant want to have a cake and eat it too. hinduism, BS of worst kind.

      January 26, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
    • amy

      ignorant islam troll is clueless

      January 26, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      @amy

      All I am saying is that the religiously unaffiliated – the "nones" are muslims by default and the followers of truth absolute GAWD. Do you have any problem?

      January 26, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
    • lol??

      Cheers was a silly lousy show.

      January 26, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
    • Sue

      I'm with you, Dave8582. Thanks for your post of reason.

      January 26, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
    • Max

      Muslim by default??? Are you fucking nuts? Shuddup!

      January 26, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      amy

      NOT ME BUT YOU.

      January 26, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Max they are muslims by default. All Middle East was goodless aka "none" at one point. People turned to Judaism or Christianity, and left over from "none" became muslims. So you have no GAWD you are muslim.

      January 26, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • ¿¿lol

      Annnnnnnd, ISLAM FOUNDATION troll proves self to be an idiot once again.

      January 26, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • Poltergeist

      In other words because God does not correct for the failings of the society we built it means he must be evil or not exist? There are no simple answers to the sandy spring massacre, but that killer was a product of our society whether we like it or not. There weren't mass killers like this a generation ago, now they are common, instead of questioning God ask what's changed around us because mass murders dont just randomly spawn, they are made.

      January 26, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
    • midwest rail

      " There weren't mass killers like this a generation ago,..." False. The first mass murder in America is recorded as having taken place on February 3, 1780.

      January 26, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
    • Poltergeist

      That was a killing spree by a pair of serial killers over a large area. Those arent new, Jack the Ripper. I'm referring to the recent people suddenly killing as many as they in a can before suiciding massacres that are so popular today.

      January 26, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • Poltergeist

      Those were serial killers they murdered over a large area over time. Those are definetly not new.

      January 26, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
    • midwest rail

      No, it was not. It was a single individual killing an entire family in one evening.

      January 26, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • Poltergeist

      I'm looking at a different murder then, who?

      January 26, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Barnett Davenport.

      January 26, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • Poltergeist

      Yeah that was pretty gruesome. But something tells me this wasn't something happening with frequency like today.

      January 26, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Frequency ? Of course it was less. In 1780, the estimated population of the entire country was less than 3 million. Today we have 100 times that many. Remember also, that in 1780 religion dominated.

      January 26, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
  2. Robert Green Ingersoll

    "While I am opposed to all orthodox creeds, I have a creed myself; and my creed is this. Happiness is the only good. The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make others so."

    January 26, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
  3. James Madison

    "The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries."

    January 26, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Church and state were kept seperate, but truth absolute GOD was made foundation of American consti tution, because religions are hinduism corruption of truth, created by hindu sanatans, filthy goons to spread hinduism, racism among humanity to be gods of humanity.

      January 26, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
    • amy

      You obviously have no idea what you're talking about islam goon.

      January 26, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • lol??

      JM shoulda left a note for Lincoln.

      January 26, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      correction in my above post, please replace Church with Mosque, and like to add further more: Mosque and state were kept separate, but truth absolute GAWD made Nation of Islam a foundation of American consti tution, and white folks took it over and claimed America Nation of Christian crusaders, goons.

      January 26, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
  4. Thomas Jefferson

    "History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government."

    January 26, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      nor a priest-filled people maintaining a free civil government.

      January 26, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
    • The Truth

      Ridden: Verb – Sit on and control the movement of (an animal, esp. a horse).

      Flea-ridden: Infested with fleas; Mangy; filthy.

      Priest-ridden: See flea-ridden...

      January 26, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • lol??

      What's a "...free civil government..."? I think we've paid enuff already.

      January 26, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
  5. Thomas Jefferson

    "Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one,He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear."

    January 26, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
    • lol??

      Paul was not fearful right up until he was blinded. TJ was confused about the facts.

      January 26, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
    • Max

      Paul was a misogynistic closet gay man. There's your FACT, you vacuous twit.

      January 26, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
    • ¿¿lol

      It wouldn't have made a good story without some drama in Paul's life.
      TJ missing facts? What facts? lol.

      January 26, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
  6. Robert Frost

    "Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or yourself-confidence."

    January 26, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
  7. Molly Ivins

    "If you took all the crooks, idiots, and bigots out of the legislature, it would cease to be a representative body."

    January 26, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      "Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."

      "Fleas can be taught nearly anything that a Congressman can."

      "All Congresses and Parliaments have a kindly feeling for idiots, and a compassion for them, on account of personal experience and heredity"

      - Mark Twain

      January 26, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
  8. Dawkins is an idiot

    Darwin finches are still finches

    January 26, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      don't see a difference in finches? YOU are the idiot.

      January 26, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
    • TANK!!!!!

      You think finches are a species? How many times have you taken a sledgehammer to the head in the past few hours?

      January 26, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
    • Dawkins is an idiot

      Both of u are stupid idiots!!!!!!!!!i

      January 26, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      i know, i know. you've never had much use for book-learnin'. just the sight of a college campus must make you irate. now explain yourself or sheddup.

      January 26, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
  9. Butch Hanc.ock

    "Life in Lubbock, Texas, taught me two things: One is that God loves you and you're going to burn in heII. The other is that s.ex is the most awful, fil.thy thing on earth and you should save it for someone you love."

    January 26, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      lol.

      January 26, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
    • ???????

      Maybe you visit Killeen Tx that has to be hell .

      January 26, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
  10. Bootyfunk

    always nice to see a positive story on the belief blogs instead of the usual christian fluff: scrambled egg looks like jesus!

    January 26, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
    • TANK!!!!!

      I saw jeebus in my toilet bowl this morning. He looked awfully brown-skinned, though. Nothing like how he was depicted by the Italian masters.

      January 26, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
    • Bet

      It's certainly more interesting than reading about jeebus' problems with lice and dysentery.

      January 26, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
    • Mary Mary

      This article is a nice read.

      The resentment filled, insensitive posts by people like Bootyfunk, not so much. He seems worst than those he professes to despise.

      He hates himself?

      January 26, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      yes, Mary, you just wrote a very "love-filled" post. people in glass houses...

      and do you point out the insensitive posts by christians telling us we're going to burn in hell? hypocrite much?

      January 26, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
    • lol??

      Cutsie bootsie, burnin' in hell is debatable but the lake of fire is a whole 'nuther story.

      January 26, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
  11. ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

    Word Satan or Lucifer means nothing else, but self centered, Atheist or denier of truth absolute, hindu ignorant follower of hindu Judaism filthy atheism, obey none but their hindu sanatan, goon god Lucifer, denier of truth absolute,

    January 26, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
  12. Franklin

    When people learn no tools of judgment and merely follow their hopes, the seeds of political manipulation are sown. Stephen Jay Gould

    January 26, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
    • lol??

      Ye ol' hopey changey is not so new after all, eh?

      January 26, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      lol, who said it was?

      January 26, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
    • TANK!!!!!

      Jeebus = The original Nobama.

      January 26, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      jeebus, the mythological cult leader?

      January 26, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
    • Ben Franklin

      Some books against Deism fell into my hands; they were said to be the substance of the sermons which had been preached at Boyle’s Lectures. It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them. For the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to be much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist.

      January 26, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
  13. Saints, Sinners and demons

    who woulda thot satan had such a following..seriously! those faces paint a picture of being lost and hopeless in this life and the next!

    January 26, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      satan, the invisible boogeyman, is just as imaginary as your invisible sky fairy. seems your biggest problem is with people that think for themselves.

      January 26, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • Really?

      thot?

      January 26, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • Bob

      If you really thought God did not exist why focus so much energy on God????

      January 26, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      childish question, bob. you know why. because the people who believe this garbage are making laws that affect me. creationists are keeping our children ignorant by fighting against evolution being taught in school. christians kept abortion illegal for a very long time. a lot of women died in back alleys because of it. look around and answer your own ignorant question. we spend time on "god" because your belief in a deity that doesn't exist affects my life.

      January 26, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • Dave8582

      @Bob

      Because we must, Bob. In the last election, we dodged a bullet. If Romney had won, the nation would be well on its way to becoming a theonomy. The Dominionists want very much to control this country. Fortunately, democracy proved their downfall. But, the religious nuts, won't go away. So, the lovers of freedom and truth must spend time exposing religious stupidity.

      Cheers!

      January 26, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
    • The Truth

      "If you really thought God did not exist why focus so much energy on God????"

      Because from Presidential inaugurations to football games we are inundated with people talking about God, thanking God and blaming God's supposed opponent for disasters. I would think that would be obvious.

      January 26, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
  14. ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

    Atheism, self center ism, otherwise known as , Judaism, pagan ism, pig ism, Majooci ism, hyena ism is foundation of hinduism, denial of truth absolute, handy work of hindu Jews, filthy secular, believer of hinduism racism of hindu dark ages. One has to be a hindu blinded to claim, what they claim, to be Atheist, self centered, deniers of truth absolute, because, nothing can exist WITH TRUTH ABSOLUTE. Bunch of hindu's uneducated hindus crooks out to hind fool humanity.

    January 26, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • BillNil

      Nothing does not exist.

      January 26, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      No one can exist, thanks for correction.

      January 26, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
  15. Bertrand Russell

    "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are co.cksure and the intelligent are full of doubt."

    January 26, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      It is best to realize that you don't know what you don't know.

      January 26, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • Will Rogers

      “The problem ain't what people know. It's what people know that ain't so that's the problem.”

      January 26, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • lol??

      I perceive that as an idiotic statement. Where's fallacyspotter?

      January 26, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • The Truth

      I see this on the boards a lot. Most atheists essentially say "We just don't know but so far we find no evidence for intelligent design so reject the hypothesis until actual evidence is provided or discovered." while the religious zealot says "I know who God is and know he made me and everything and nothing you can say will dissuade my belief for that is the definition of true faith!"

      January 26, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      yep. except evidence can prove a case - faith cannot.

      January 26, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
  16. H. L. Mencken

    Christianity: the haunting fear that someone, somewhere is having a good time

    January 26, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
  17. Bootyfunk

    as more and more "nones" come out, the numbers will grow. and today's youth are the most non-religious this country has ever seen. it's gonna be a bright future. it'll be good to see politicians that aren't part of a religious cult, like christianity, in there making rational laws. there are people on the Congressional Science Committee that don't believe evolution. hopefully we get to a day like in europe where politicians don't interject their superst.itious beliefs into law.

    January 26, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • lol??

      Oh, ooooohhh. Another victim for Affirmative Action to fix.

      January 26, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      lol, keep reaching.

      January 26, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
    • lol??

      Well cutsie bootsie, you ARE a false prophet.

      January 26, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
    • lol??'s Keeper

      Get you ass back on that pole, baby. I needs me some cash!

      January 26, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • lol??

      Just like there are actually more females than males, there are actually more false prophets than true ones.

      January 26, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
  18. Al

    I've always wondered if there was a god. And now I know there is - and it's me.

    Homer Simpson.

    January 26, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • Franklin

      "Suppose we’ve chosen the wrong god. Every time we go to church we’re just making him madder and madder."

      Homer Simpson

      January 26, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
  19. Laurence Ringo

    Wow.I've got to finally admit it:atheists are funny!!I'm willing to bet a dollar to a doughtnut most of you go about your daily lives without one single believer"inflicting"him/herself on you in any appreciable way,let alone try to do any of you actual physical harm,and yet you practically go apoplectic on the CNN"Belief Blog"at the mere mention of God,religion,or anything pertaining to spiritual matters!!And the funny thing,for once this particular post was about you and those of your ilk...and you're STILL not happy!!? What's wrong with you people?? Who DO you get along with?

    January 26, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • Zingo

      Hysterical much?

      January 26, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      "I'm willing to bet a dollar to a doughtnut most of you go about your daily lives without one single believer"inflicting"him/herself on you"
      and i'm willing to bet more than a dollar that you go about your daily life without one single non-believer "inflicting" him/herself on you.

      and you'd be wrong. last sunday a group of christians knocked on my door to tell me i can be saved. when the last time an atheist woke you up to tell you their personal philosophy? and no harm? tell that to the doctors shot in the back in front of abortion clinics by nutjob christians. and btw, you are commenting on an ATHEIST story and you're complaining? lol.

      January 26, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • The Truth

      Hey Larry, I won't be happy until the fvcking nuts who claim a womans body can reject "legitimate r a p e" sp erm are ever even considered for political appointment. Religion has infected every tiny corner of society and does effect every aspect of the "nones" lives so you can just take your smarmy self righteous ignorant ass to Iran where they have a theocracy already in place.

      January 26, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • Bet

      Believers are keeping several couples who are friends of mine from marrying. Believers are insisting that my children be taught myths about the origin of life on earth instead of science. Believers want to keep me from making my own decisions about my body. Believers want to keep our young people ignorant about sexuality. Believers insist on having candidates for office declare personal beliefs to the public, an invasion of privacy that isn not necessary to be an effective public servant. Believers insist on asking me about my personal beliefs, then react in horror when I state them. They then insist on telling me that I am going to hell and want to spend hours of my precious time telling me why I need to believe in the same things that they believe. When I refuse they usually become abusive and tell me how sorry I will be when I die, with arrogant, condescending glee.

      January 26, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      great post, Bet.

      January 26, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
    • Poltergeist

      Your neighborhood sucks bet.

      January 26, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
    • lol??

      Bet sayz, "......Believers insist on asking me about my personal beliefs,......." A simple thought for your bwain: Why not get off the blob and you won't get so tired of talkin' 'bout ya sef.

      January 26, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • Max

      lol??says: A simple thought for your bwain: Why not get off the blob and you won't get so tired of talkin' 'bout ya sef.
      They asked HER about her beliefs you fucking simpleton. Get back on your pole, you inbred whore.

      January 26, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
    • lol??

      Well Maxster, a little solid Christian doctrine could have assisted the poor thing........"Mat 5:37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil."...........She wouldn't get sooo tired out.

      January 26, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • Bet

      @ Bootyfunk

      Thanks, dahlin'!

      @ Max

      Thanks as well. lol?? is just a troll, I skip over its posts.

      January 27, 2013 at 12:10 am |
  20. hal 9001

    A life vest is located in a pouch under your seat or between the armrests. When instructed to do so, open the plastic pouch and remove the vest. Slip it over your head. Pass the straps around your waist and adjust at the front. To inflate the vest, pull firmly on the red cord, only when leaving the aircraft. If you need to refill the vest, blow into the mouthpieces. Use the whistle and light to attract attention. (Also, your seat bottom cushion can be used as a flotation device. Pull the cushion from the seat, slip your arms into the straps, and hug the cushion to your chest.)

    –American Airlines

    January 26, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlozGOXJNFg&w=640&h=390]

      January 26, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      Lionylamb, what best explains reality? the choice is "logic" or "magic".

      January 26, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • Poltergeist

      Cross Angel clearly has our reality figured out.

      January 26, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
    • Poltergeist

      *Criss Angel

      January 26, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
    • lol??

      I think American Affirmative Action Airlines has a better ring to it.

      January 26, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • Damocles

      I like David Blaine better.

      January 26, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
    • Max

      You really hate equality for all people don't you lol??, you vicious twat? You're about as Christian as dogshit.

      January 26, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.