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The money man behind atheism’s activism
Todd Stiefel, a wealthy businessman, is responsible for bank rolling many atheism activism projects.
March 23rd, 2013
10:00 PM ET

The money man behind atheism’s activism

By Dan Merica, CNN

(CNN) – Todd Stiefel is far from a household name, and the odds he gets recognized on a street corner, even in his hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina, are small.

For Stiefel, a slim, scruffy ex-Catholic, his public persona is his wallet and activism. Through the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, the 38-year-old has made an indelible impact on the nation’s fastest-growing “religious” group: the nonbelievers. Most of the highest-profile atheists campaigns –- flashy billboards in high-traffic areas, news-making efforts to get atheists to come out of the closet, and boisterous rallies - are funded by his fortune.

Stiefel isn’t shy about his far-reaching goals.

“What I am trying to accomplish is multifold, he told CNN. “I consider myself working on the next civil equality movement, just like women’s rights, LGBT rights and African-American Civil Rights. We are still in the early stages of eliminating discrimination against atheists and humanists. That is something I really want to accomplish.”

So far, Stiefel has pumped $3.5 million into those aspirations, and his money benefits a number of atheist organizations, from the Clergy Project, a group that helps atheist and doubting clergy out of the closet, to American Atheists, arguably the most in-your-face atheist group in the country.

Stiefel sees his work as far more than just money. For him, this is just the beginning.

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From Catholic school to atheist millionaire

Stiefel was born in Albany, New York, in 1974 to Catholic parents. He was raised in a Catholic household, confirmed in the church, attended Sunday school, went to a Catholic high school.

“I was a cross-wearing, praying, religious-retreat Catholic,” Stiefel said. “You could say there were points that I felt the spirit.”

But his faith, he said, fluctuated during high school. “I was always a skeptic,” he said, “and I always asked a lot of questions.”

At 18, Stiefel attended Duke University to pursue a degree in psychology. To fill an elective, he took an Old Testament history class at the Duke University Divinity School. It was there, he said, that his final “ebb” away from belief took hold.

In the class, Stiefel said he saw a flawed logic in the Old Testament. In particular, he said, he began to see much of the Old Testament as unoriginal stories that had been told in many pagan traditions.

“'Wait a second, is what I believe in really the truth or is it really the accumulation of myths bundled in a package?’” Stiefel remembers asking himself. “That was the end of my faith right there.”

After graduating from Duke, Stiefel went into the family business: Stiefel Laboratories, a company that develops products to combat skin diseases. For 12 years, Stiefel worked with his family and turned the business into a major player in their specialized market.

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In 2009, with Stiefel in an executive position, the Stiefel family opted to sell the company to GlaxoSmithKline. The price tag: $2.9 billion, according to media reports at the time.

“I only got a very small piece of that, for the record,” Stiefel said with a laugh. “I did, however, find myself in a unique and fortunate position where I was able to do whatever I wanted to do.”

And like many who have the luxury of doing exactly what they want, Stiefel began thinking about what he was truly passionate about. After kicking around the idea of starting another business, the answer became clear to the young millionaire: advocating for atheism.

“I wanted to try to help the world,” he said. “I wanted to give back and this seemed like the most productive way to help humanity.”

‘Just doing my part’

Stiefel put $2 million in to begin his foundation. In his first year, according to tax documents, the nonprofit disbursed $700,000 to groups like the Secular Coalition for America, the American Humanist Association and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

In 2010 and 2011, the giving continued with the foundation distributing around $750,000 to different atheist and humanist causes. In 2011, he also pumped another $500,000 into his foundation.

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“I am just doing my part within my means,” he said. “Different people have different means. I am doing what I can do, just like the rest of the people in the movement are.”

But recipients of the money, such as David Silverman, president of the American Atheists, see his impact as much greater than just a one-off activist.

“Todd is an example of what major contributions can accomplish for atheism,” he said. “From a donation stand point, he is really leading the movement to a different level.”

Walking the line

One of Stiefel’s major concerted contributions in the last three years was the Reason Rally, an event held on the National Mall in Washington, which was billed as a watershed moment in the atheism movement. The goal of the event was to show to religious Americans that atheism was a powerful minority in American life.

Stiefel speaks onstage at the Reason Rally.

The rally drew a number of high-profile speakers, including Richard Dawkins, the author of “The God Delusion,” and thousands of attendees, despite rainy weather.

In his speech to the crowd, Stiefel talked about what he sees as the most important problem facing atheism: “Discrimination comes from ignorance, and in this case it is ignorance about our beliefs,” he said. “We are told freethinkers believe in nothing, but that’s a misunderstanding. We believe in a lot of things; we don’t all believe the same things.”

Stiefel put $250,000 toward the rally, a contribution that Silverman, the organizer, said was critical.

“He brought the Reason Rally to a brand new level,” Silverman said. Without that money, “we would have had far fewer people and a far smaller event.”

Silverman and the Reason Rally advocated for a specific brand of atheism. Silverman, who regularly calls his group the “Marines of the Freethought Movement,” is not shy in making it clear that he views his goal in calling out religion and elevating atheism.

Stiefel says he doesn't necessarily endorse those tactics wholly, but he does see their validity.

“I try to walk a line,” he said. “I see religious criticism as valuable, and groups like American Atheists are good at that. I do think we have to have a dialogue about who has the right ideas and part of that is pointing out the flaws in religious ideas.”

Stiefel continued: “I also see inter-belief work, though. I do find a lot of value in inter-belief work and I do see a lot of value in general charity work.”

Evidence of that is his work on cancer fundraising.

In 2012, Stiefel approached the Foundation Beyond Belief with an idea of creating networks of nonbelievers around the country to help raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Stiefel tapped into his atheist network and began organizing different event.

In total, the atheist groups raised $430,000 in 2012, including a $215,000 donation from Stiefel and his wife, Diana.

“Across the country there are 150 local groups of atheists and freethinkers raising money for charity,” Stiefel said proudly.

The key, however, was bridging the gap between atheist and religious communities in the name of charity.

“We welcomed Christians, as well,” he said. “Some of our biggest fundraisers were Christians.”

For 2013, the goal is to raise $500,000.

Expanding the community

With money and resolve comes great influence for Stiefel. He has the ear of many atheist leaders, meaning he can dictate the movement’s focus.

Stiefel said he wants to see the atheism movement expand its footprint.

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“What I would really like to see is expanding out communities to people who may not just be atheists or agnostics and into people who are religiously skeptical and may still have some religious beliefs,” he said. “Nobody is a perfect skeptic and I would like to see more people like that in our community.”

For Stiefel, this is a personal priority. He says his wife, whom he describes as a skeptical Christian, is someone who would fall within an expanded atheist movement.

“My message is not only of anti-theism,” Stiefel said. “I don’t choose to attack religion itself. I see religion as something that provides both good and ill to the world.”

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Atheism • Faith Now

soundoff (7,617 Responses)
  1. Raider

    I'm a big fan of Stiefel. The more we work on getting rid of stone age beliefs, the faster we can progress. Religion is holding the planet back.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:44 am |
    • bginger

      How is religion holding the planet back? It certianly does more good than bad. The majority of athiest are cowards, never expressing their views. So the closet is still full of gay people, no room at the inn so to speak. Quit hiding, news flash, most people don't freakinking care.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:09 am |
    • the AnViL™

      so long as delusional xians seek to install their ignorant mythologies into our public school science classes and deny equality to any americans based on theistic morals... they retard progress.

      so long as any human harbors delusional ideals and holds them over science, passing them along to the proceeding generation – they retard all of humanity.

      only retarded people fail to grasp this.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:25 am |
    • JH1

      @bginger

      It's holding the planet back when we let people write laws based on ancient books backed up with zero evidence.

      If I had the power to write laws based on my unfalsifiable belief in leprechauns and their 42,000 year old ways, I hope you would speak up and say hold on a second, let's see some evidence of your little green friends before you start legislating based on the scriptures of the Leprenomicon.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • Aeros

      I agree with you completely. I unfortunately suspect part of the human brain is wired for this. We evolved to see agency when there is nothing. It will be hard to isolate.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • Tony Pendarvis

      To the non-believer: If there is no God, this whole discussion is hogwash. It means nothing, because everything means nothing. If no God, there are no morals, no kindnesses, no love. Nothing. In which case I see three choices: get on with the party and live it up because this is it, blow your brains out since your life is meaningless, or try to be the fittest and decimate those around you (One with the most toys wins). If there is no God and you, a non-believer are right, trying to convince someone else or even espousing it is simply a waste of everyone’s time (especially your own). Your crying "foul" when someone expresses belief in God because of perceived atrocities arising from past misplaced belief is without merit. Because if no God exists, there are no atrocities, no fouls. All is fair, because there is no such thing as fairness. Anything goes, because every action, word, belief (or non-belief) is irrelevant. If there is no God, there is no worth. No right, no wrong. All is futile. No truth, no lies. If you are right, we believers are all going to look like fools and you can relish in your intellectual superiority. Oh yeah, you won't be able to relish anything because you, like me, will be dust. So can someone please tell me why the heck this rich know-it-all and all you other non-believers are wasting your breath and making noise like you are scratching a chalkboard. Get on with your self-described meaningless lives or don't. Whatever.

      Or may God open your eyes and show you the Truth. In the precious and holy name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

      March 24, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • Michael

      @Tony Pendarvis

      If you need an imaginary being to justify your own existence, you must have pretty low self-esteem.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Tony, Prove that there is a god. Then prove that morals, kindness, etc. only come from a god. I presume that you don't believe in Zeus, Odin, Kokopelli, etc. Why not? What proof do you have that they don't exist?

      March 24, 2013 at 8:25 pm |
    • Zyggy 2003

      So how do you explain this Genius. I suppose 70,000 people made this up http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Lady_of_F%C3%A1tima there are many stories like this, if you would care to look as you or one of you colleagues said 'THESE DAYS WE HAVE THE WEB !! " Ha ha, You made your own bed and now you are going to sleep in it.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
    • stanknasty

      Ok....who invented the monkey?

      April 12, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
  2. calvin

    your leader choice is easy to follow. if you do believe his though thatok with me, i do believe in God. i am the wrose sinner in the world. i hope that god willl forgive me when my judgement day comes. i do not tell you to follow god that your choice. plese let me follow my and not be told i am wrong.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:36 am |
    • I <3 atheism in the morning

      For 2000 years your group persecuted the whole world....and you are pathetic enough to say "don't touch me, my virgin ears"?

      Check yourself. Turnabout is fair play.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:46 am |
    • laguna_greg

      Calvin, you are not the worst sinner in the world. And god doesn't have to forgive you after you die. You do, and it'll be a tough job as you are so inflexible...

      Better start work on it now

      March 24, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
  3. jamnee

    Religions will slowly lose their followers as knowledge is gained and ignorance is disipated. Realism will take its place and we will all be a much better world because of this.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:33 am |
    • thehorror

      Exactly... and of course the 20th Century can attest to that.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:39 am |
    • Don

      This man will find Jesus!

      March 24, 2013 at 6:41 am |
    • Randy Furco

      Ummm...nope, no it will not. Every creature knows there is a creator. Silly Athiest. Like the fuy that stood on a balcony and said the bible would be obsolete soon. That house became a bible making facotry...lol...

      March 24, 2013 at 6:55 am |
    • Robert

      I highly doubt that civilization will ever fully become atheistic. The human mind developed to believe in god. It's was an excellent adaptation that was reinforced by natural selection. Humankind is not really evolving much these days as their is no real selective pressure on the species anymore. Pretty much if you are born, you can reproduce, and medical science can keep your progeny alive no matter their condition.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:23 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Robert: No-one is born believing in a god. Belief is a taught thing and usually when it comes to a god or gods, is not based on anything that can be substantiated with any form of evidence. As we advance, the number of those believing in religion will decline.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:34 am |
    • Robert

      Truth – I am not saying people are born believing in god. They are born with a predilection to believe in a god. The theory behind this is a bit long winded for a posting forum. Also, I guess I am more pessimistic about the prospects for this old world of ours. With skyrocketing population, I hesitate to think we will make it to an enlightened age where everyone is well educated, well adjusted, and prosperous.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:04 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Robert: Is it really predilection if it is a taught thing? It is passed through the generations but as more information becomes available and is shown to contradict the need for a god, it is less likely one will believe. The world is in a chaotic state and we are dooming our species as a whole. I fear what this world will be like in 20 or 50 years if we don't get back to some basics and start respecting our volatile planet.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • Phazon

      Really people like you act like your so smart cause you don't believe in God but have you ever actually done any research on your claim I doubt it or else you wouldn't be saying it take a look at how bad things are where atheism is encouraged the Congo Russia and a few other places not only are you wrong about your everyone just live life according to their own morals and their own desires you fail to realize that where atheism is law of the land the human rights conditions are disgusting why do good if you have no one to answer to but yourself.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:23 am |
    • meg

      LOL that s what you think. People will always worship something. Sometimes that worship is evil. Its hardwired.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • Buenare

      Phazon – You definitely need to do some research. I have a feeling any "research" you have done was already bias to your beliefs. Make sure you look into the history of Christianity. Most of the "third world" is very religious, much more so than the United States. According to recent Gallop polls many people in the US say they have a religion, but they follow that by saying that is isn't that important to them. As for the Congo, you really should research that more because your accusations are completely unfounded. I would like to point out that many European countries where the crime rate, mistreatment of the poor, and inequality problems are significantly lower than the US are considerably less religious. This completely invalidates your claim.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • Ross White, Canada

      That was perfectly stated... thank you!

      March 24, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • Bob

      Unfortunately I wouldn't be too sure about that. After all, this is 2013, and quite a lot of people who call themselves Christians are acting not much different than Christians did hundreds of years ago. 911 seemed to fuel the Christian/Muslim wars all over again, of course there was a lot of help from the religious right in promoting it as well, what a perfect way to build their numbers. Us against them, the root of most evil that should go completely against true religious people's beliefs, but it rarely does.

      Simply by saying that one being (supposedly supreme) is responsible for creating the heavens, the earth, and all living things, and that man is patterned after his image, essentially makes that being responsible for everything that happens, good AND BAD, and there is a lot of bad.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • gordys

      Mankind can never be true atheists, since there are too many unknowns in the universe to be so sure of oneself. All you have is five senses (at least so far as we found) and extensions (technologies) to those five senses, and all your reasoning is based on those senses. Imagine what else we haven't been able to sense. It's like a blind leading a blind.

      BTW, evolution favors mediocrity. Nothing more advanced comes from evolution in the long run, since the state of the universe is to find the equilibrium. Why do you think unbelievers increase over time when there are less effort to spread the Good News? That's the state of the equilibrium: people tend toward their sinful nature without outside intervention.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • In Santa we trust

      gordys. Unknowns do not mean that a god did it. Science has shown that all creation myths are incorrect. Apart from a few people and places, nothing in the bible can be confirmed. Prove to me that a god exists and that changes everything.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • Miguel

      The Soviet Union tried it. It did not turn out that well.

      March 24, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
    • craig

      Have you looked at the state of man as he is today with all this so called Knowledge, I am sorry we are still the selfish self centered people we have always been. Certainly not enlightened. Still in need of a Loving God. Who is waiting for us to repent and follow his son, Jesus. What are we waiting for???

      April 3, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • stanknasty

      If ....monkeys were evolving a little at a time and it took millions of years to evolve, how did they poop if their bottom did not evolve but after millions of years in the process? It doesn't make sense. If you can't go poo, then you won't be around much long... therefore if it doesn't make sense, it's not true. No poop for millions of years? How's that possible? I can't go a day without pooping.

      April 12, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • fiftypercenthollow

      What? Knowledge gained can be both right and wrong, if you mean that a focus on realitive ideas of truth then what you are saying is we will still be confused about who is right and wrong and both sides will continue along, until on decides to off the other.

      April 15, 2013 at 12:40 am |
  4. Matamoros

    I was religious, but soon realized that God has died and gone to hell.

    Look at all of the poor murdered souls that religious people have tortured and butchered simply because they did not believe in the same stupid imaginary god.
    They should all be ashamed, not the Atheists.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:32 am |
    • box1813

      Religiosity is an almost necessary evolutionary adaptation. Most of them are so indoctrinated that they will never realize, but there is a small percentile that will see the truth.

      Please, work in the metrics of change and benefit instead of loss and suffering. We will achieve our best gains though logic, not guilt.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:50 am |
    • Ross White, Canada

      Couldn't agree more. Just imagine how many wars and murders there WOULDN'T have been throughout history if religion was never even a thought... that would be one less thing to argue about to.

      Proof? Read this forum page...

      March 24, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • Chadrock

      Murder and mayhem aren't exclusive to religious zealots. There have been plenty of us atheists over the years who have done their share of pillaging and plundering.

      March 24, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
  5. Ed

    He's just like a televangelist. Atheism: the worlds newest religion. He's mimicking everything he claims to be against.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:25 am |
    • moobs

      atheism is a religion like 'off' is a tv channel.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:31 am |
    • ShingoEX

      Atheism is a religion as much a not collecting stamps is a hobby. Your ignorance, misunderstanding, and manipulation of the message being sent here are on full display.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:34 am |
    • Paul232

      What all-knowing being is he praying to exactly?

      March 24, 2013 at 6:35 am |
    • cminmiami

      And not collecting stamps is a hobby.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:40 am |
    • Jack Cole

      Atheism is over 2500 years old, much older than any form of Christianity.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:48 am |
    • gdouglaso

      Not collecting stamps and not watching television as you speak of them in this context are conscious and deliberate choices to not engage. A systematic and unwavering dedication to not collecting stamps and not turning the television on - and an intolerance of those who want to - atheists have typically, though not exhaustively, struck me as the most bigoted and intolerant people out there. They are not passive in their faith - they are clear and deliberate in their desire to have others not believe and call those who choose to follow a different path by all sorts of other names.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:53 am |
    • Irk

      Ed, you're bang-on about this. Wish more people could see it.
      I refuse to affiliate with any organized 'religion'.
      I always say I'm not an Atheist, I just don't believe there's a god.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • Ross White, Canada

      "moobs

      atheism is a religion like 'off' is a tv channel."

      Hey "Moobs" -

      I want your permission to be able to use your quote from now on... I will pay you 20% royalties if I end up on Letterman! This is one of the best and most direct illustrations I've read!

      Pefect!!

      Thanks from Canada...

      March 24, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Dave

      You’re missing the point, which unless you are inept or unable to read I’m sure the true definition of atheism has been explained numerous times; atheism is the lack of belief.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      gdouglaso, Where's the proof for a god? In the USA, christians push for laws based upon their beliefs, want their religion displayed on public buildings, want their religion taught in place of science. Is that tolerance?

      March 24, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
    • fiftypercenthollow

      Now we can all see what being called a hypocrite will do, i see a long career for this one, I hope he got good organization skills, there is a lot of lies out there just waiting to be believed. You believe what the last one told you based on authority what do we call this... drumroll please... faith. Prepare yourselves brothers he can and will mislead we are fallible beings... just look at what you call evolution, he will eat you and not even shed a tear. If you believe in reason start asking yourselves what are his to say that he is descrimated against by believers when he has no right to say his right is my right. We are lucky we have brains that trust so easily, without it we would devour our own, wait it is happening now, humanism is the end.

      April 15, 2013 at 1:30 am |
  6. Joshua Farmer

    I hope this guy doesn't think that HIS life IS original. Those unoriginal and uninspired stories he writes of; truth. His only issue is that he is afraid of the unknown and hides behind that fear by spreading lies via his wealth. God rest your soul, wolf.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:12 am |
    • box1813

      Because evidence and truth will always remain subservient to your world view...

      (that's sarcasm, kids)

      March 24, 2013 at 6:19 am |
    • Desdemona's Bane

      Actually, Joshua, it is the religious folks who hide behind a fear of the unknown by making up their own reality.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:27 am |
    • ShingoEX

      " spreading lies via his wealth"

      I'm not sure how promoting critical thinking is "spreading lies". He's not telling you what you should believe or not believe. You're ironically judgmental of him.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:37 am |
    • Paul232

      Someone is acting out on his own issues....

      March 24, 2013 at 6:37 am |
    • Farmer Johnson

      I am with you. I have read many of the resposes to this article and it makes me sick. If you do not believe in God but believe in man or yourself, Who would be the one to guide and direct you? How do you select the person to follow? The one with the most money? Well I think I have said enough. For you haters of religion we that believe have the same right as you not to believe. Please quit acting like little school bullies as if you are now somebody. The only thing you have going for you is an outlet to open your mouth without reprisal or consequenses

      June 1, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
  7. Glynn

    The atheist is one who fain would pull God from his throne, and in the pace of heaven's eternal king set up the phantom chance.

    March 24, 2013 at 1:37 am |
    • Answer

      Religious retards never have any evidence. They continue to spew their delusions as real.

      March 24, 2013 at 1:41 am |
    • Desdemona's Bane

      Where, exactly, is this throne you speak of, Glynn? Is it floating on a cloud?

      March 24, 2013 at 6:29 am |
    • box1813

      Contrary to the other posters, I appreciate your religiosity (and, as a veteran, I've acted to defend it). But, you've missed the point.

      Any atheist you find in the street will gladly discuss the possibility and implications of a deity (with a few, nonsocial exceptions). We are a marginalized group of thinkers, often accused of indignities we've never committed. I offer to you this olive branch: take a moment to contemplate the very nature of your religion. Are you the image of your savior? Have you lived by his/her tenants? We do not (most of us) wish to deprive you of your morals, but instead we want you to see us as philosophical equals. The common argument is to label the religious as zealots, but I, and most of us, realize that to be ignorant of your personal feelings.

      We want you to be happy, so long as you allow us to be happy. Is that so wrong of a compromise?

      March 24, 2013 at 6:31 am |
    • Mack

      Most atheists were believers at one point but choose to look at the evidence, read the books, and declare them null and void. You've never objectively done the research....you believe what your parents taught you just like most people. If you had been put up for adoption and taken in by a Mormon couple, you'd almost certainly be Mormon today; beating that drum that you likely find a little strange, huh?

      March 24, 2013 at 10:27 am |
  8. Larry

    And here I thought that you had to sell your soul to the Devil to make millions of dollars, but here's a guy who doesn't believe in souls or devils making it rich. Not many of them around. Good on you Stiefel! :-)

    March 24, 2013 at 1:28 am |
  9. Douglas

    C-e-libacy can save lives now!

    New York City health officials are urging some men to get vaccinated against meningitis amid an outbreak that has sickened 22 New Yorkers and killed seven.

    The dangerous strain of bacterial meningitis appears to be spreading through s-e-x-u-a-l encounters between men who meet through websites or smartphone apps, or at bars or parties, according to the City's health department. More than half of the infected men have had HIV, a virus that attacks the immune system making infections more likely and more severe.

    "Vaccination is the best defense," City health commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said in a statement. "I urge all men who meet these criteria – regardless of whether they identify as gay – to get vaccinated now and protect themselves from this disease before it is too late."

    March 24, 2013 at 1:19 am |
    • Douglas

      I just can't stop thinking about gay sex.

      March 24, 2013 at 1:21 am |
    • Larry

      Dr. Oz keeps saying that having lots of se x is key to good health throughout your life. I prefer his opinion.

      March 24, 2013 at 1:30 am |
    • Douglas

      Our clients reject gay coitus and begin new lives...free from fornication.

      The Bible is the best medicine to cure the sin of fornication.

      March 24, 2013 at 1:31 am |
    • breathe deep

      :Whoa whoa I'm just trying to get in, I'm not running for jesus: Homer:5:23

      March 24, 2013 at 1:46 am |
    • Really Now?

      Clients? People pay you to be an uber-repressed self-closeting bigot?

      March 24, 2013 at 1:51 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      The buybull is actually the best path to Atheism.
      The whole fornication thing is a little tiring Douglas, considering your views are unfounded and go against what is natural to the very species you belong to. Maybe try taking your sex ed from something other than the buybull and open your mind to reality.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:22 am |
  10. Curiouser and curiouser

    Is it me, or have all the Christians stopped taking their thorazine? The Christian looney-meter has been going to 11, just like the amplifiers in Spinal Tap.

    March 24, 2013 at 12:21 am |
    • box1813

      Please moderate your disapproval. The implications of change are of the life altering magnitude. Imagine having your whole understanding of the world stood on its head.

      OK, the analogy is abrupt (mostly because people like us are more accepting of change), but you must give the religious time to change. Really, you are discussing a distraction of their whole existence.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:37 am |
    • box1813

      *correction: destruction*
      autocrrect ftl

      March 24, 2013 at 6:38 am |
    • katty wompus

      They are crushed by Obama's re-election. They were convinced they had prayed hard enough for the Mormon (go figure) to win. Now the only solution is to Pray Harder! Sad.

      Atheists aren't trying to "convert" anybody. I just find it funny and sad that grown adults believe these childish fairy tales. Not long after learning the truth about Santa Claus, I realized the whole god thing was a scam too. Lots of people pulling in lots of ca$h from the "faithful" trying to buy some non-existant salvation.

      "He's makin' his list; checkin' it twice. Gonna find out who's naughty and nice. Jesus man is comin' to town!......" One of these days.

      March 24, 2013 at 11:24 am |
  11. david maurer

    religion is many things – a way to create and consolidate power, con the less educated out of their money, seize property, control social and political discourse, give comfort and a feeling that someone – albeit an imaginary someone – cares and is on one's side, prevent the breakdown of law and order, and on and on. in the end, though, it is a form of communicable mental illness – a meme – as destructive as a computer virus.

    March 24, 2013 at 12:11 am |
    • Dead Atheist

      YOU have wrought all this with the upmost absurdity you sickly ghost. See me? LOOK! Look sweetheart. The delicious plump temptation of ME! Who can say no?

      March 24, 2013 at 12:14 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      ............No........?

      March 24, 2013 at 12:16 am |
    • .

      Hell no....

      March 24, 2013 at 12:21 am |
    • Dead Atheist

      I just want to give YOU a carpet to walk on don’t I? Sticky and sweet and neat for your feet!

      March 24, 2013 at 12:27 am |
    • .

      What the...Apple, is this you amusing yourself again??

      March 24, 2013 at 12:38 am |
    • Dead Atheist

      Oh you are good! ;)
      AB

      Yes, I have been out tonight tasting your fruit if you know what I mean you old carnal bastard. Genius, master, maker of my death. That is you! But I love you don’t I??

      March 24, 2013 at 12:41 am |
  12. Universe

    God in Quran says, (Islamic scripture)

    “They do not value God as He should be valued. God is the Most Powerful, the Almighty.”[22:74]

    “If you obey the majority of people on earth, they will divert you from the path of God. They follow only conjecture; they only guess.” [Quran 6:116]

    “They say , "We live only this life; we will not be resurrected. If you could only see them when they stand before their Lord! He would say, "Is this not the truth?" They would say, "Yes, by our Lord." He would say, "You have incurred the retribution by your disbelief." [6:30]

    “Losers indeed are those who disbelieve in meeting God, until the Hour comes to them suddenly, then say, "We deeply regret wasting our lives in this world." They will carry loads of their sins on their backs; what a miserable load! [6:31]

    “Recall that your Lord said to the angels, "I am placing a representative on Earth." They said, "Will You place therein one who will spread evil therein and shed blood, while we sing Your praises, glorify You, and uphold Your absolute authority?" He said, "I know what you do not know." [2:30]

    “They even attribute to Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims.” Quran [6:100]

    “The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]

    Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to clear your misconception by going to whyIslam org website.

    March 24, 2013 at 12:10 am |
    • End Religion

      Religion is a manmade club like any other, with rules by which to segregate and perks to make the club feel special from other clubs. The club gets together periodically to reinforce the delusions of members. Many branches of this club have dues which most call a tîthe. Each club redefines words so its intolerance seems righteous.

      You've chosen, or were likely born into a family who joined, the club that aligns best with your own fantasy concerning how to minimize your fears in life. You and others in the club are afraid so you've made up a god that soothes you by making decisions for you, helping you feel less alone in the universe, and promising you life everlasting. The various club gods offer perks to induce membership such as seeing dead relatives, virginal séx partners, planets to rule or even one's own god status.

      The Jesus you believe in never existed, was and is king of nothing. The bible is a collection of stolen, modified, pre-fabricated myth and forgeries about a non-existent deity. You don't have to be afraid. You do not need religion.

      Deal with the lack of afterlife by celebrating life and family in the here and now. Be responsible for your own decisions. Be kind to the earth and others on it. Forge a path with determination, or "go with the flow" and let life determine the course if you're the lazy type. Either way, you don't need a god or a club for any of that.

      March 24, 2013 at 12:17 am |
    • box1813

      End Religion is attempting to convey the basic premise of atheism: That societal governance should be based upon the will of the people instead of the will of a deity. Now, before you become to incensed, I'm not implying that your morals are inapplicable (for the most part). Instead, understand atheism as this: we don't care what your book says, we are going to love every human being equally until they prove otherwise. (here's where you enjoy your viewpoint) Until the point that we need to swing the biggest hammer we can find.

      The difference is not in application, but in philosophy. I love you, both as a citizen and a veteran, but we need to move past the binds that religion presents.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:00 am |
  13. Rusty Yates

    Interesting story. I learned a lot from this article.

    March 24, 2013 at 12:04 am |
  14. End Religion

    This Palm Sunday, thank an atheist for helping set you free!

    March 24, 2013 at 12:02 am |
    • Dead Christian

      Why are you here my son? What evil do you bring into my house monster? Are you here now to cling to my robes? Are you here now to weep before me? Do you beg forgiveness or do you seek company with the only heavenly being that knows your heart?

      March 24, 2013 at 12:09 am |
    • Austin

      In honor of Palm Sunday, I am using my palm as much as I can.

      March 24, 2013 at 12:13 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      If Dead Christian and Dead Atheist get in a fight, is it like a cripple fight?

      March 24, 2013 at 12:18 am |
    • End Religion

      "Why are you here my son?"

      There was a sign outside that said, "free püssy inside."

      March 24, 2013 at 12:19 am |
    • Dead Christian

      It is past the time, purveyor of mold, have you something to share? What grotesque misrepresentation of man have you sniffed with your snotty beak??

      March 24, 2013 at 12:29 am |
    • What Is That Thing on Aaron Neville's Face?

      LMAO @MS

      March 24, 2013 at 12:35 am |
    • Larry

      Spend Palm Sunday not putting another dime into the palms of religious opportunists. :-)

      March 24, 2013 at 1:37 am |
  15. Dead Atheist

    You have made death for yourself. You can now wrap yourself in the misery of your own making and loving. Sinister and dark. You crawl from beneath your own foul skin, consuming the meat and wearing the package. Is that why you smell so bad brother?

    March 24, 2013 at 12:00 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      I'm not a fan of death metal. Which band was that? Do you go to many live shows?

      March 24, 2013 at 12:04 am |
    • Damocles

      Is this some sort of advant-garde ad for coffin air-fresheners?

      March 24, 2013 at 12:04 am |
    • Damocles

      Mmmmm death metal.... not as big into it as I used to be, but still a fan.

      March 24, 2013 at 12:06 am |
    • End Religion

      OK, no more AMC's Walking Dead for you....

      March 24, 2013 at 12:07 am |
    • Dead Atheist

      You cannot deceive a deceiver you obese midget. I am a meat and potatoes man. Our gifts are meant to be given and taken back, like rain dripping to form puddles, then evaporating to become hovering splatter bags overhead. Sweat from cooking flesh. Stick out your tongue!!

      March 24, 2013 at 12:07 am |
    • Sounds like . . .

      Wasn't that dialogue from "Halloween 14: Michael Myers Buys A Guinea Pig"

      March 24, 2013 at 12:08 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      Meh, the sequel just didn't have the flavor of the original. Straight to video, I'm afraid.

      March 24, 2013 at 12:10 am |
    • Damocles

      See, you failed to follow instructions again. I'm sure your supplier told you to take the drugs AFTER you post, not before.

      March 24, 2013 at 12:12 am |
    • End Religion

      Obese midget? Man, that's gotta be a tough life....

      March 24, 2013 at 12:21 am |
    • Sane Person

      All I really got out of that was a desire to eat a steak.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:29 am |
  16. highplainsparson

    A young Catholic takes an Old Testament course at Duke University, and loses his faith. Sad but very predictable. It's too bad he was not told the truth regarding the Bible while at Duke. All the old hat liberal arguments about pagan roots to biblical tradition are smoke and mirrors at best.

    March 23, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
    • What is that thing on Aaron Neville's Face

      Get specific and we'll see what is smoke and mirrors.

      March 23, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
    • CS

      @highplainsparson

      You are correct. The Christian mythology has its roots in far more ancient Greek, Roman and Eastern religious traditions. The Judeo – Christian god isn't even old enough to sit at the big kids table yet with Zues and Mithra and the gang.

      March 23, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Certainly if we knew the Truth we would accept that The True Word of God has been transported through history in unfailing purity and is worthy today to be deemed True in every respect. Eh, parson?

      March 23, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
      • highplainsparson

        Indeed the Holy Bible is entirely truthful, having been preserved down through history by God's providential hand.

        March 24, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • Damocles

      Yes, very predictable in that the more you honestly look at your belief, the more you may very well move away from it.

      March 23, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
      • highplainsparson

        The problem is that they are not looking at the Scriptures honestly at Duke and other universities. They are importing their own agendas.

        March 24, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • .

      And what is "the truth"?

      March 23, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
    • CS

      We both have truths, are mine the same as yours?

      March 23, 2013 at 11:42 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      The truth is that no god is involved in your life or anyone else's. The truth is nothing compels us to consider anything good or evil. We define good and are solely responsible for bringing it about in the world. The truth is only nil waits for us, nothing is eternal except that we will be eternally non-existent.

      March 23, 2013 at 11:42 pm |
      • highplainsparson

        If that were correct, then please explain where the universal human perception of good and evil comes from?

        March 24, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • .

      I misread OP's post. When I read it again, I realized that I agreed with him. Mea culpa.

      March 23, 2013 at 11:51 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      Ah. The "Everybody's doing christianity wrong except me!!" argument. Never fails to amuse.

      March 24, 2013 at 12:08 am |
      • highplainsparson

        In fact we are surrounded by a great and innumerable cloud of witnesses down through history.

        March 24, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • box1813

      You seemed to be learned in your experiences. Please, dedicate to us a moment of your time to explain your religiosity. We atheists are not specifically evil, we only seek the truth whatever it may be. You may, in fact, be the voice fo reason that assuages our feelings and turns us back to a religion.

      Please impart upon us you reason and logic...

      March 24, 2013 at 7:04 am |
      • highplainsparson

        I have no interest in turning you to "a religion", but that God would turn you to the true religion. Perhaps a good start would be to peruse my blog, linked from the name you see above this comment, and look up the tag apologetics. Even better, if you are really interested in knowing the truth, pick up the Holy Bible and read it carefully for yourself.

        March 24, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • The reader

      Actually reading the bible is probably one of the greatest antidotes to believing it – if only more pushy proselytizing christians read the bible they claim is so full of goodness, wisdom, and coherence...

      March 24, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
      • highplainsparson

        No diligent reader of the Bible will come to the conclusions you do, but perhaps a superficial reader might sometimes.

        March 24, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
    • laguna_greg

      higplains, you can only say that because you bought that real estate hook, line and sinker. And your education is really shallow

      if you believe that, I've got some swampland in Florida you could get a really good return on!...

      March 24, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
    • The reader

      A superficial reader ... you mean someone with a vested interest in the 'truth' of the bible who therefore is unwilling or incapable of recognising its numerous glaring internal contradictions and inconsistencies with the observable world and universe around us, among many other problems?

      March 24, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
      • highplainsparson

        No, that's not what I meant. Those who come to the Bible diligently to understand it on its own terms will come away with a minimum amount of respect for its integrity, even from an unbelieving point of view. But beyond that, as far as "vested interest", everyone has a vested interest in the Bible, because it's the book from the Creator of everyone.

        March 24, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
    • Kafir

      Assertions without evidence can be dismissed without argument.

      And the bible is not the evidence, it is merely the assertion.

      March 25, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
      • highplainsparson

        The evidence is in the Bible, friend. Because in the Bible, the true God reveals himself. It will teach you things you didn't know, and explain things to you about yourself that you already know, but have never heard before.

        March 26, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
  17. o

    Atheists believe life was created by dead things

    March 23, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
    • What is that thing on Aaron Neville's Face

      Dead things? Things that were once alive and now are dead? 'Splain thyself, fool.

      March 23, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Your words betray you. You don't "believe" evolution because you don't know what it is. How would you respond to someone who rejected christianity because he did not understand why Jesus and Mary were part of the trinity.

      March 23, 2013 at 11:22 pm |

    • o probably doesn't know that Mary is not part of the Trinity.

      March 23, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Precisely. You would say that they had no right to reject christianity because of their ignorance of what christianity actually says about the trinity. In the same way as you would say that, i call you foolish in your understanding of evolution. You would not say what you said if you understood what evolution states.

      March 23, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      In what way does life depend upon "dead things?"
      In what way does life come from living things?
      What chemical processes seem to be undefinable as either living or not living?

      March 23, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
    • Larry

      Christians believe life was created by some guy who never had parents of his own. Now that's weird!

      March 24, 2013 at 1:39 am |
    • Sane Person

      Not even close. But with your level of ignorance, I can see how the thought of an invisible sky man protecting you, and saying he loves you would feel comforting.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:27 am |
  18. The monkey man behind atheism's activism

    Yeah! Finally, the much needed activism begins.

    March 23, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
    • Damocles

      Yeah! Believers in a deity never use money to try and get their point across! All those religious billboards just magically appear.

      March 23, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
    • The collection plate

      Please donate for a worthy cause:
      Funding women's rights aka abortion rights
      LGBT rights
      Evangelize the movement to skeptic Catholics
      Promote Godless bill board advertisements

      March 23, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • Damocles

      Right, ok, I get your point. No rights for anyone, everyone better believe even if they don't and any billboards can only praise the deity you believe in.

      March 23, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
    • #prince of reason

      where do you get your morals from? If you don't have any scriptural guidance, from whence cometh morality?
      The book , God delusion or the book of evolution?

      March 23, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      The billboards of neither side really affect me. I'd rather read a witty one from either side than a stupid one from either. I do wish that the stupid among them would understand that nobody's ent.itled to support of his perspective. What seems reasonable to most today can change overnight.

      March 23, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Morals are derived from social relationships and the desire for acceptance.

      March 23, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Mammals have morals. The higher the brain functioning ability of a mammal, the more complex their morals and the more similar they are to the morals of humans.

      March 23, 2013 at 11:19 pm |
    • #prince of reason

      Is swinging lifestyle ok?

      March 23, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Depends on all sorts of factors.

      March 23, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      S3xual morality for a conjoined twin is quite different because of the unique situation, isn't it?

      March 23, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
    • Damocles

      What is moral about supposedly murdering all of the world except for eight people? Do you really want me to have the moral compas-s of your deity? I rather think you don't.

      March 23, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
    • #prince of reason

      So, man sets the standards based on the brain functioning? The more complex the brain functioning the more morals? what about those with average brain functioning which would be 60 -70% of the population? are their standards set by those who have been endowed with complex brain functioning?

      March 23, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
    • #prince of reason

      Also, just to clarify those with complex brain functioning are the evolutionists, right?

      March 23, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
    • Damocles

      You are more like the court jester of reason. What I think Moby was saying is that mammals have a higher degree of morality then say, jellyfish, because mammilian brains are a bit more complex.

      March 23, 2013 at 11:40 pm |
    • #prince of reason

      Please congregate here all day tomorrow to sing the glories of your religion.

      March 23, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Holy sh!t, I just got dumber reading that stupidity. How fvcking simple do I have to make this for you? Ants don't have a concept of "polygamy" do they? Seriously? Yet birds with complex brains and dophins and whales and other mammals have s3xual codes that they strictly follow and there is jealousy and fear and revenge and care and concern and sympathy-–even forgiveness. You can only have compassion to the degree that you can understand the situation and the complex social structure in which the act was performed. Yes, what we label "morality" is more specifically defined the more complex the brains that are defining and empowering the term.

      March 23, 2013 at 11:45 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      I hope that prince of reason is a christard. I sure don't want him advocating what I do. Maybe he'll stay stupid and be a perfect example of why somebody shouldn't follow his example.

      March 23, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
    • Johnny Guitar

      I would suggest that social animals have systems of "morality." Animals that tend towards lone behavior really have no need for it.

      You see, it is the social nature of humans and some other animals that gives rise to morality, not so sky-guy magicking it into being. You get more of what you want through cooperation than theft and aggression, and you and your loved ones are hurt less as well. Social rules develop to enhance that. Presto zippo, morality. It's better to not steal as that is a one time gain that creates a real danger to you and your family of harsh retaliation, and cooperation creates long term prosperity. You can do this for most major concepts.

      Morality: it comes from the real world and our nature as social animals.

      Did you know that porpoises show clear signs of a moral system and punishment? And they show absolutely no signs of any religious awareness?

      March 23, 2013 at 11:49 pm |
    • Damocles

      So, prince of reason (giggle) gets some answers to his questions, doesn't like them and proceeds to meander off the road because something shiny caught his eye.

      March 23, 2013 at 11:51 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      It's interesting that the more childish and vindictive the christian the more childish and vindictive is his god.

      March 24, 2013 at 12:07 am |
    • box1813

      The can of worms you have openend is large. Please, in the future, think more of enlightening the willfully ignorant masses, instead of insulting them. You will catch far more flies with sugar than honey.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:07 am |
    • derived function

      So, your morals are animalistic? Oh, the irony! you are just not that evolved after all!

      March 24, 2013 at 7:59 am |
  19. John

    I support this guy 100%. A few years ago religion came up at work. I was asked by a person who had some control of my fate what I thought. I told him the truth (no god, god is BS...not being so brunt). He said to me, he did not believe me and that a person who acted so "good" MUST believe e in a god. But I heard him! If I was to be taken seriously as a non-god believer...I was "evil". This scared me. I knew my job was at risk, so I shut up.

    March 23, 2013 at 10:11 pm |
    • Damocles

      I know what you mean. I don't think I would lose my job, but the few times talk at the job has strayed into religion, people get awfully quiet when I bring up my views. Differing viewpoints has cost me a few friends over the years, it's sad.

      March 23, 2013 at 10:21 pm |
    • ..

      log cabin atheists !!!

      March 23, 2013 at 10:54 pm |
    • Laurie

      It's very tricky, even in some college settings, to express atheist views. In the more conservative rural Midwest, where I teach, I was once told by a student (who was unaware of my views) that she thought any professor who didn't believe in God should be fired. She was quite serious.

      March 23, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • Damocles

      @laurie

      Wow. That's pretty sad.

      March 23, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
    • End Religion

      The tide is turning, Laurie!

      March 24, 2013 at 12:24 am |
  20. Answer

    Only 3.5 million? Man we're way behind in terms of the cash that we have to use to debunk the religious crowd.

    From what I have read even recently, about "Donor Trust".. this money is nothing compared to that.

    March 23, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
    • Larry

      Religion is where the big bucks are, everyone knows that. Wasn't it L. Ron Hubbard who said "The way to make a million dollars is to start a religion"?

      March 24, 2013 at 1:43 am |
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About this blog

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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.