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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

soundoff (7,617 Responses)
  1. Kristine

    I'm so glad to see someone of means spending money to support the spread of freethinking. The imaginary-friend believers spend billions to bully and convert people in feeling they have to believe in god. Who is helping to spread the word that science, reason, and skepticism are higher forms of human thinking? Well, now we know who! Thank you, Todd!!!!!!!!!!

    March 24, 2013 at 9:23 am |
  2. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©™

    Some here are writing, with outstanding verbal skills, about "reason" and "logic."
    If the believers could raise their rejections of reason and logic with the verbal skills of the atheists and agnostics, I would consider the believers' rejection of logic a little more seriously.
    "Consider the heavens, wow, somebody must have made that, some big man," is not logical.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • Phazon

      Close your eyes and think for a moment. The way the earth is in a position to protect us from harmful radiation, Asteroids and many other things that could harm our planet. Revelations speaks of the fall of Babylon the great what was Babylon? It was a city roughly 40 mlles from Baghdad Iraq this city was full of false Gods and many pagan rituals thus the Babylon the great can only mean false religions that still carry the same practices they had in the original Babylon. The reason Atheists seem to have a vocabulary is because they read very often , but having wisdom in the world doesn't make you closer to God actually would you not agree that wisdom of the world turns people from God this is why God says to stay out of the world they didn't have any idea about evolution 3000 years ago or even 2000 years ago it was all started by men. Like plato and Aristotle btw whom had boy lovers imagine that accountability? The point is this you can follow the men who seek after riches and fame in this world who has the the serpent as it's ruler but know this if evolution did create everything and God is a myth it would be un questionable but being that either is unproven to most does it not make sense that there has to be a God when all the wonders of life and the universe?

      March 24, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • rmcwilson

      If you are interested in rational, intellectual, philosophical, and historical discussions of the evidence of Christianity then research William Lane Craig, Ravi Zacharias, Hugh Ross. Perhaps one of the foremost skeptics of the 20th century, CS Lewis was invited to investigate the evidence for Christ and the Bible, and in the end of his search, became a born-again Christian. "It is not the lack of evidence, rather the hypocrisy of our search" that leads people to deny Jesus.(RZ)

      March 24, 2013 at 9:39 am |
    • jungleboo

      Phazon, go back to school and learn about the fail of run-on sentences. You are attempting to communicate ideas, but they are all jumpbled one into the other. Is that The skill imparted to you by your religion? "Ideas just bull-dozed together and stared at in amazement because they defy logic?" Go for it.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • Jackson

      The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:14

      Let's face it Joey, it really doesn't matter how logical or reasonable, or how eloquent an argument anyone puts forth on the side of God, you will not accept it anyway.

      For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18

      Now as for reasoning, have you considered how well the human body and it's organs work?
      Simply consider the eye, and how complex it is, and how well it works (until you get to my age anyway).
      There isn't a mathematician alive who can calculate the chances that it was not designed, that it happened
      by chance over time. That is merely 1 organ. Now consider the another organ....

      I could go on and on and science will never convince anyone that with our complexities that we happened by chance.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • Brent

      How do you confuse a Liberal? With facts and logic.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:51 am |
  3. Chef Sun

    I always had a special affinity for the Zeus and the Olympians. Thor and Odin in Asgard are also favoured.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • Complutensian Polyglot

      Totally. The movies are really cool, too.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©™

      @ Chef Sun:
      All you need is Odin.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • Wait A Second...

      Athena.

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

      And I'm sure you also like to sit around in girls close watching Peter Pan too.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:49 am |
  4. Third Plebeian

    A group calling themselves "freethinkers" says it's okay to think, so long as you think what they think. That's interesting. You know, 'reason' has served a lot of masters down the years, including Christians. To think it's the preserve of only one group is ignorance itself.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • george Bush

      Those who can't accept the real world corrupt the young to belive that they are controlled by supernatural powers. I got divorced a few years ago. Since then I've been trying to meet somebody compatible. I have met many interesting and attractive women. But when they say they believe the earth is only 6,000 years old, or a zygote is a baby, I lose interest very fast. The last thing I need in my life is somebody who believes we are controlled by some supernatural thing. The last thing the world needs is to be guided by ignorant men, who lived thousands of years ago, and whose purpose in life was to write books about supernatural powers and mysticism.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • MagicPanties

      Like so many others, you misstate or misunderstand what atheism is.
      It is a lack of belief in imaginary beings. It does not, unlike religion, tell others what they should think.
      Using your "logic", saying that the tooth fairy doesn't exist means you are telling other people how to think.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • Brian

      You are describing Christians, not atheists.Atheists simply require valid reasons to believe things.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • Third Plebeian

      It does not, unlike religion, tell others what they should think.

      ===

      Ah, the great lie of atheism. Mr. Steifel and his well-funded propaganda machine tell us otherwise.

      Hey, I say go for it, if that's what you want to believe, but don't pretend "freethinkers" don't have an agenda and are spending considerable funds to show it down our throats in massive billboard campaigns and rallies.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • Science

      Third Plebeian might be a good read for you...................................?

      Dover Trial Transcripts............................................. FACTS.

      Below are the complete transcripts from the Dover Trial. Thanks to our friends at the National Center for Science Education for helping us fill in the missing transcripts.

      http://www.aclupa.org/legal/legaldocket/intelligentdesigncase/dovertrialtranscripts.htm

      March 24, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • Third Plebeian

      Yes, you've copied and pasted this link many times on this thread. I must say that when you capitalize FACTS, it makes me believe you implicitly. You said it loud, so how can it be wrong?

      Did you know that for hundreds of years, Christians have used facts as well? The gospels claim witness of Jesus rising from the dead. FACT! Did you know that facts change, and have rhetorical purpose? No? Well, you use them like it, so why not self-educate?

      March 24, 2013 at 9:52 am |
  5. east coast

    I believe in both human testimony and God's testimony. I just believe God's is much stronger. Its pretty amazing that this dude is actually advocating for atheism, but the questions he asked himself is the same questions i asked myself. I know all the pagan stories and see those similarities but Jesus says he is the ONE TRUE WAY. Theres been in the past and will be in the future ppl claiming to be the messiah and do great wonders, but do not be fooled by them. He's just going through the classic mistake of discovering science but not seeing that reality is scared. Understand that all of reality is sacred and science is our method of comprehending it.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • Jim

      Good for you. Now if all christians kept their well reasoned beliefs out of the public sphere (laws, schools, etc.) then I bet the billboards would come down.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • Shout-Out: logicked

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ns5pnPab29k&w=640&h=360]

      March 24, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • east coast

      yeeeaaa, uuuhh.. i dont see any one, of any belief ,doing that anytime soon, lol,

      March 24, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Many of mans creations you call god have been "the one true "god.

      Why have you rejected 99.99% of all gods?
      I have rejected them as well, I have just gone one more god than you.

      Why do you not believe in the norse gods, the greek, roman, egyptian, native american etc, etc gods.
      Many of them were the one true one. Why have you selected this one...do you have any valid reason or was it just the early indoctrination tactics and brainwashing that makes you think this way?

      March 24, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • Science

      Hey EC Good read for you maybe !

      Science

      Dover Trial Transcripts............................................. FACTS.

      Below are the complete transcripts from the Dover Trial. Thanks to our friends at the National Center for Science Education for helping us fill in the missing transcripts.

      http://www.aclupa.org/legal/legaldocket/intelligentdesigncase/dovertrialtranscripts.htm

      March 24, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • east coast

      To Richard.

      Because God is Love. The other "Gods' are not.

      Science..i will check out those transcripts, thanks

      March 24, 2013 at 9:40 am |
  6. Christian7

    You lack the capacity to determine if God does not exist. Proving an unrestricted negative is impossible. All atheist are illogical. (atheist is being used to indicate people that think that god does not exist, in other words: Einstein definition of atheist).

    March 24, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • Jim

      This logic would lead me to accept any claim. Name a mythological character and it instantly becomes as viable as your claim.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Atheists look at the answer to a question, in this case the answer is religious dogma, and reject it based on the fact that there is no evidence of the religious claim. This goes for ALL religions. The reason is that all were made by men, all religious works, created by men. Nothing to back up the theory of god, so it is FAR more illogical to place ones beliefs in something that there is not one shred of evidence to back up.
      Logic and reason are why athesist do not buy into religions. Turning off logic and reason is the only way for one to have faith.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Christian7", but "God" is an element of mythology, therefore your assertion is unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your unfounded assertion may represent a truth is: "TOTAL FAIL".

      March 24, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • MagicPanties

      You lack the capacity to determine if my invisible pink unicorn exists.
      Well, it most certainly does and she is praying for you.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • Third Plebeian

      People make choices based on faith all the time. It's funny that the people on this forum who seem to support "freethinking" are going out of their way to make fun of other people's way of thinking, as if believing in God was as infantile as believing in pink unicorns.

      I'm not sure that God IS mythology. Is he/it? Isn't the more honest answer, "I don't know?" I'm not sure how you can know something you've never seen, experienced, or tested. Atheists seem as sure as Christians on the answer, one way or the other, and that requires faith.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:46 am |
  7. Tina

    Further, Mr. Stiefel's argument that "he began to see much of the Old Testament as unoriginal stories that had been told in many pagan traditions" only shows that God seeks relationship with all his children, that his existence is written on our hearts, and that we have but to open ourselves to his grace. The Israelites chose to listen.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • Bob Carlson

      It's either that which you said or the bible was just copied from the other texts. Hmmmm, I wonder which is more likely here?

      March 24, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • Honey Hush

      Tina
      Just stop, you are not helping your cause, you are reinforcing Mr. Stiefel.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • Brian

      Have you ever heard the term, "special pleading"?

      March 24, 2013 at 9:30 am |
  8. The Anti Christ

    Believe in what The Atheists preach.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • Jim

      Most atheists that I know preach to think for yourself and use your critical thinking skills. Good advice for everyone.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • Tbone

      You do not understand what an atheist is. Look it up. Atheist does not equal anarchist.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • The Anti Christ

      Keep spreading The Word. Jim. Believe only in the self.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:23 am |
  9. John

    Religious zealots spend all their time dancing around under the moon while atheists are landing on it.

    The choice is simple.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • Over 40,000 denominations of insanity

      R'amen.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • Third Plebeian

      What a stupid argument. It's as ridiculous as someone tallying up all the scientific and philosophical achievements made by Christians (a considerable list, I might add) and saying, "see, Christianity is right, the choice is simple." That's not how people make such choices, and it's childish to assume so.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • o

      Those that know better, talk with God

      March 24, 2013 at 9:32 am |
  10. Larry

    Yeah, spend money on your propaganda, don't help the poor or needy with your good fortune. Everything ends when we die? What is the meaning of life then? Atheists are in for a rude awakening.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • I Am God

      Hey Larry. Atheist organizations have donated 100s of thousands of dollars to charity. Did you notice in the article where we donated to cancer and leukemia? Troll much?

      March 24, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Why do you think there is a meaning of life?

      March 24, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • John

      Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha . . . right. You mean help the poor and the needy like Jim Baker did? Or Robert Tipton? Or Jerry Falwell?

      Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha . . . uh . . ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Religious zealots are mired in ignorance.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • Mxh

      Like the millions being spend to keep gay people from marrying is really helping the poor. I'd rather make this world a better place for my children than live life believing that this world doesnt matter because some one in fancy clothes promised me that I'll go to some imaginary place with lots of clouds after I die.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • Bob Carlson

      Why must there be a meaning of life other than to just survive and thrive?

      March 24, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • ed dugan

      As soon as I read this article I knew the religious kooks would be out in force with their pathetic reasoning and sure enough, I was right. I am an athiest and I really appreciate the role the catholic church has played in helping add to our numbers. Born-again christians, always tryng to shove their beliefs down our throats are a close second. Sooner or later ignorance (another word for religion) will fail and the cracks are already beginning to appear.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:24 am |
  11. chentwinks

    I'm not too happy that CNN ran this right before the most important holiday for Christians. Ratings are everything, right?

    March 24, 2013 at 9:18 am |
    • Bob Carlson

      I have to admit, CNN's timing is good. Really, it's about time CNN placed a non-believer's article at the top for once. This is the first time I have ever seen this.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • Larry

      Amen

      March 24, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • Stay Strong

      Actually, there are no holy days – that's the point.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:28 am |
  12. Stay Strong

    Congrats to Todd Stiefel – doing the most important work of our age. Religions are in their death throes and that's when they get especially ugly. May common sense and reason rule the day.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:18 am |
  13. shanevb2

    I don't want Atheism to become "organized" like religion has become. While Atheists need an open voice I'm concerned that we will be viewed as an organized system. However I'm glad he is displaying the humanistic and altruistic nature of Atheists. We are not the lawless devil worshipers Christians sometimes portray us as. I hope more Atheists "come out" and make their presence felt.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:18 am |
  14. Andrew

    Religion usually fails basic humanity, under the flag of a deity.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:18 am |
  15. Kate

    Reason leads him to believe that we all and it all came from nowhere? Reason doesn't lead one to be an e-free Biblical literalist, but it also doesn't let us to believe that evolution and gravity and matter came from nowhere. The big bang had to come from somewhere. THAT is where God is. WHAT God is is open to interpretation. Stop and study the life of Christ. A life of peace, and love and understanding and compassion. Even if there is no heaven or "God" a Christ like life is still very, very much worth living.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • Brian

      No, it didn't have to come from somewhere. Your reasoning starts from a false premise.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • humanbean

      Kate, I love how you can say that there's no way we could have gotten nothing from nothing, yet conveniently not ask the same question about the facts of where god came from. If there was a god that created everything, who created god?

      March 24, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
  16. nc guy1

    I want to thank CNN for posting this wonderful (LOL) article 1 week before the world celebrates Easter, the holiest holiday for Christians. Jesus came to save a lost and dying world, it’s a personal relationship with Him through faith that makes someone a Christian. I believe ‘religion’ has done harm in many ways, however, I believe Christianity has done more good around the world. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)

    March 24, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • george Bush

      I got divorced a few years ago. Since then I've been trying to meet somebody compatible. I have met many interesting and attractive women. But when they say they believe the earth is only 6,000 years old, or a zygote is a baby, I lose interest very fast. The last thing I need in my life is somebody who believes we are controlled by some supernatural thing. The last thing the world needs is to be guided by ignorant men, who lived thousands of years ago, and whose purpose in life was to write books about supernatural powers and mysticism.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • History Channel's "The Bible" Parts 3 & 4 - In Under 11 Minutes!

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTRn28iZD_g&w=640&h=360]

      March 24, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • What is That Thing on Aaron Neville's Face?

      That video is hilarious.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:29 am |
  17. popseal

    My driunkeness and anger were profoundly affected for the good, when I agreed with friends who had turned to Christ. My 'conversion' has brought the unexpected redemption, justification, reconciliation, regeneration, sanctification, and one day glorification that Biblical illiterates will never get a grip on. Atheism is not the result of academic inquiry, but a fear reaction to the possibility of one day appearing before the God they spend so much energy denying.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:17 am |
  18. Cerebral1

    I am also an Atheist who was raised Catholic. I am hoping the day will come when I can feel as comfortable saying the words "I'm an Atheist" as nonchalantly as others say the words "I'm Catholic" or "I'm Jewish" or "I'm Lutheran". Being a public school teacher in a small town that is predominantly Christian, I know I would become the subject among hushed conversations and that there are certain parents who would request that their child not be placed in my classroom (though I am an award-winning 25-year passionately dedicated professional). Indeed, a few extremists might even call for my resignation. When asked by my students, I must take the safe route and tell them that I prefer not to say.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:16 am |
  19. bob123

    Trust in mankind, sure, thats the ticket

    March 24, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • Tbone

      Of course it is. Who else is here to trust? Do you trust God after he lets his own priests molest children in epic numbers? It's time to grow up and start placing responsibility and blame on real people.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:19 am |
  20. Joe_ma

    This guy is an idiot. Why spent money on thing he didn't believe. There's a lot of thing we didn't believe but I will not spend anything on it.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • jungleboo

      What a strange train of thought. Does it make sense to you, what you have written?

      March 24, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • Mxh

      Because religious people are making decisions about my country and affecting the way I could live my life. Decisions on healthcare, education, war, poverty, marriage, everything are being influenced by what people think god would want.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:19 am |
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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.