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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.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

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. Joe

    Just another whack-job.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • oOo

      Just another whack-poster.

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

      a "whack job" is a person who lives their life based on belief in a 2000 year old fairy tale.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:01 am |
  2. Danee

    Amen to all of that, Mr. Steifel. Keep up the good work!

    March 24, 2013 at 9:49 am |
  3. NJreader

    Guy is full of prunes. I have been an atheist for all my long life, and have never been "discriminated against" for it. I don't go around telling religious people to leave their churches. I just live without religion. I believe in no gods, no devils, no supernatural beings. I have a nice American Christmas tree every year and enjoy the secular, much maligned, Santa-type Christmas-presents and feasting. My friends cover the spectrum, from deeply religious, church every day to what I will describe as European anti-theism, rather more forceful than American atheism. True atheists don't need an organization or a rally or to give money for such occasions. We are quiet, we fit in, we are good citizens, we do not take offense at "Grace" said at a meal in somebody else's house-we are polite, we bow our heads . . . and just don't pray. This idea of organizing straight-facedly, yet, around a Great Big Nothing is a bunch of baloney, pass the mustard.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Dan Roper

      Try running for public office in the USA.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • Dana

      I have been a soft spoken atheist my entire life and I HAVE been descriminated against. The only reason some atheists aren't descriminated against is that people don't know they are atheists.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • Bob Carlson

      I think you are missing the point of his movement. It is to educate everyone, including yourself, what non-believers are all about (including their morals without a god). Without this understanding, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for a non-believe to run for any public office in today's world.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • Ross White, Canada

      Good post... very logical.

      The only problem that I see, really, is that the Christians are constantly pushing their beliefs on everyone else. This is why people like Siefel and Silverman do what they. They feel pushed. Standing up for themselves, I'd say.

      I like your post though... a lot like me. If I have people over for dinner and they want ot pray at my table, they can. I don't care either way. I'm polite. However, I do thank myself for the food "we are about to receive," because I worked my butt off earning the money so I could buy it.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • Luis Wu

      Religious people want to FORCE their ignorant nonsense on everyone else through legislation. Look at all the anti-abortion bills that various states are trying to pass. And they're also trying to bring back forced school prayer and to force the teaching of creationism nonsense in science classes. They're trying to force their ignorant beliefs on everyone else. Atheist and humanists don't want to force their ideas on people, they just want religious people to stop trying to force their ignorant nonsense on everyone else and to open a few tightly closed minds.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:07 am |
  4. Grinning Libber

    End the fairytales. They are out to control you and your money.
    Science!

    March 24, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • Science

      Education works for children

      Earth From Space

      Detailed satellite images reveal the web of connections that sustain life on Earth. Aired February 13, 2013 on PBS

      Program Description

      "Earth From Space" is a groundbreaking two-hour special that reveals a spectacular new space-based vision of our planet. Produced in extensive consultation with NASA scientists, NOVA takes data from earth-observing satellites and transforms it into dazzling visual sequences, each one exposing the intricate and surprising web of forces that sustains life on earth. Viewers witness how dust blown from the Sahara fertilizes the Amazon; how a vast submarine "waterfall" off Antarctica helps drive ocean currents around the world; and how the sun's heating up of the southern Atlantic gives birth to a colossally powerful hurricane. From the microscopic world of water molecules vaporizing over the ocean to the magnetic field that is bigger than Earth itself, the show reveals the astonishing beauty and complexity of our dynamic planet.

      http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/space/earth-from-space.html

      March 24, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • Science

      Science

      Mind mapping NO GOD(S) REQUIRED! Chad

      Gone but Not Forgotten: Yearning for Lost Loved Ones Linked to Altered Thinking About the Future

      Mar. 18, 2013 — People suffering from complicated grief may have difficulty recalling specific events from their past or imagining specific events in the future, but not when those events involve the partner they lost, according to a new study published in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130318151631.htm

      Maybe the bible needs to be updated

      Have a great day !

      March 24, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • That's just crazy talk

      You enjoy that computer you just typed that on yes? I suppose you think that was a creation by some guy on a donkey ordained by God riding through the desert 2000 years ago.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • Rob

      The only fairytale is the belief that there is no God... Not to mention that you can create something out of nothing (Science).

      March 24, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • Saving the earth,one pithy comment at a time

      Which begs the question:What created god?His god?..or nothing?But I suppose you can say-He just IS...insert bible passage here:................

      March 24, 2013 at 10:33 am |
  5. Ken

    Faith brought comfort to my parents and in-laws in their final hours. Therefore I believe, but I'm not about to force my beliefs on you or anyone else.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • Edweird69

      Santa used to bring me comfort, when I was a child. But when I grew up, I put away that childish thought. Reality is harsh, but it's the only thing we truly have. Sorry about your loss, sincerely.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • jungleboo

      Can you imagine final hours spent in joy at the beautiful life you have experienced? Can you imagine living each moment so fully in pursuit of good creative work, that at the end, you are fully happy that you spent your life living it? No regrets? Why would anyone spend their final hours pretending that they are going to "go somewhere better" ? How about looking about you and loving what you see and who you see, and being joyful for its own sake. If you die without doing that, you probably missed a very interesting part of your own life, and death. Truth is, you are about to return to stardust, which has nothing to do with feelings, and everything to do with the Universe.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • Robert

      Very good man. If only the rest of the world didn't feel the need to force their religious views down society's throat, then we wouldn't need those stupid billboards. If it works for you, then i am happy you found something.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • Rob

      @ Jungleboo... Wow, and you thing people who believe in God crazy.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • Saving the earth,one pithy comment at a time

      A belief in Zeus or Allah would provide the same level of comfort.The terrorists of 911 were very comforted,knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt,that they were doing god's work and would be rewarded as they joined him in paradise.If you can believe your in-laws,you MUST believe the terrorists.I too,am sorry for the loss.Reality is not as bad as most religious folks think it is.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • dan mckeown

      It takes a healthy mind to deal with facts. I am sorry for you and your family's mental situation but I understand. Hope you get healthy enough to start thinking logically someday. All the best

      March 24, 2013 at 11:23 am |
  6. Ed F.

    Atheism is not a religion, it's the absence of religion, the complete opposite.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • Leroy445

      Yes but it is still a belief and everyone has beliefs. And more and more atheists seem to be organized!

      March 24, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • paq

      Atheism is a relision. Websters defines atheism as the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: . Darwin is their profit. Look at Atheism and what their following spouts, it most certainly a religion of anti religion. Most members are those who were forced by overbearing parents to adhere to something and now they are having their post adolescent rebelion and doing just what kids of extreem do..they go extreem the other way. The only science in this mess is the science of s

      March 24, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • Steven CoboWabo

      Technically atheism is not believing in magical beings or things.
      I don't care if they call it a religion, not a religion or something else.
      I find even needing to have the term atheism a bit odd, like needing to have a name for someone that does not believe in santa clause.
      But I still enjoy holiday movies.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • G to the T

      @paq
      The ACTUAL definitin from Webster's:
      Definition of ATHEISM
      1archaic : ungodliness, wickedness
      2a : a disbelief in the existence of deity b : the doctrine that there is no deity

      So much for "though shalt not bare false witness"....

      March 26, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
  7. Ed F.

    There is no god, atheism is the only way to go.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • Rob

      How do you know?

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

      And prove it.

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

      I love it when people want you to prove that God does not exist. Sorry, but the burden of proof never lies on the skeptic. Prove that Unicorns don't exist. Or flying spaghetti monsters. Oh, you can't? Well...that must exist then! lol

      March 24, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • Edweird69

      @Rob – it's not possible to prove a negative assertion. It's like me asking you to prove there are no invisible unicorns.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • SixDegrees

      "prove it."

      Sorry, but you're demanding a negative proof, which has been recognized as a fallacy – by the church, in fact – for centuries, and is not permissible in any court of law for the same reason.

      It is up to those making extraordinary claims to provide the proof of their claims. Pony up.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • oOo

      No one knows if there is a God or not. There is belief, but beyond that is pure speculation.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Steven CoboWabo

      As an atheist, I will say that a god, or multiple gods or other things we don't understand or call magical are without judgement up front possible. As in anything is possible. It is possible our universe is one big marble in a bag of marbles that are other universes, a la Men in Black.
      It is when we evaluate all of the information we have and how different theories work out that we start to limit the theories to ones we believe. Most religious people evaluate based on what they feel, where as atheists tend to evaluate based on a more analytical nature.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:16 am |
  8. REDEEMED

    He will believe the day He takes his last breath, but then it will be TOO LATE!!! I will be praying for him:)

    March 24, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • Ed F.

      No he won't, and your prayers are unanswered because there is no god. On your death bed you will be crying for the science and doctors to save you.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • jungleboo

      @ Ed F. Good logical work! Points+!

      March 24, 2013 at 9:54 am |
  9. Kevin

    Total mis-representation of what the Clergy Project's aims are. It's merely there to get information from non-believing clergy... not proselytize them one way or another.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:44 am |
  10. Mark

    So this is why atheist marketing exists.....you have a kid under 30 using his daddy's money to fund something he doesn't understand. My guess is he's spoiled, bored, and looking for a way to rebel.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • I Am God

      He was the executive of the company before it sold; meaning he was a partner of the company. When the company sold he was giving a lot of profit because he was part owner of the company.

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

      At least he is keeping the money in the family. He is NOT on television weekly asking people to send their hard earned dollars in so he can have lavish cars and homes. Your weekly televangelists bilk money from people daily and line their pockets in the name of religion. But hey, you're not having a whiney fit with them because you're part of their club.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • bthumble

      And my guess is that you are spoiled, bored and looking for psychological support for your beliefs.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • jungleboo

      Years ago, my brother came home from work one day to discover that his stay-at-home wife had emptied their savings account of $7000 (years of overtime work), without consulting him. She brought him to the television and showed him an Evangelist preacher who wanted to save the world. With my brother's money. He tried for months to get the money back, consulting lawyers as well as the preacher's home base in Oklahoma. No dice. That's the bottom line. They want and will get your money if you are not very careful. He eventually threw the wife out. IMHO, she was weird from the beginning.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • Steven CoboWabo

      You sound like your possibly a religious person, and a hater.
      Keep talking, you make a better case against some forms of religion than others could.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:19 am |
  11. Technoman

    Lol never heard of this guy nor have I seen any of his billboards FAIL!

    March 24, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Ed F.

      Still believe in invisible men in the sky?

      March 24, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • Veronica

      That is because you are living under a rock, reading your stupid book of myths and believing in a god who allow people to suffer.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:51 am |
  12. Johnson perry

    Non-believers believe in not believing.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Ed F.

      NOPE

      March 24, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • Robert

      Well, at least we do not claim to know something with 100% conviction when there is no way of doing so.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:48 am |
  13. Edweird69

    "the 38-year-old has made an indelible impact on the nation’s fastest-growing “religious” group: the nonbelievers."

    Atheism is NOT a religion! It is a null stance. It simply means, religionists have made an extraordinary claim... now prove the claim. It is NOT a religion. No more than abstinence is a type of s. e.x.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:43 am |
  14. Over 40,000 denominations of insanity

    Poster "Brent" wrote: "If you don't believe then that's your business but stop trying to shove it down our throats."

    Well . . .

    Some believe the Pope is the Anti-Christ. Some believe Obama is the Anti-Christ.

    Some believe that celibacy is appropriate for certain people, or for certain positions. It's ridiculous. Celibacy is unnatural and will continue to cause problems for the religious institutions that employ it.

    Many of the people from these same institutions advocate against abortion, but don't understand the realistic benefit of the morning after pill or even basic contraception; their unrealistic wishful thinking is causing the death of many at the hands of disease. Realistically, many abortions could be avoided if a morning-after pill were not viewed as such an evil option. Many of these same people bring children into the world at a high pace, and then would prefer that the rest of society take over and educate their children in their particular brand of religion when they don't plan well.

    In the U.S. recently we learned of the head of Lutheran CMS chastising a minister of that church for participating in a joint service for the victims of the Newtown school shooting.

    One sect calls homosexuality an abomination while the next one in the same denomination is already performing gay marriage.

    One sect, the Westboro Baptist Church believes Americans are being killed at war because America is too kind to "fags".

    One sect believes that Jesus and Satan were brothers and that Christ will return to Jerusalem AND Jackson County, Missouri.

    One sect believes women to be subservient, while another sect in the same denomination promotes equality between the sexes.

    Conflicted right from the very beginning, Christianity continues to splinter and create divisions and more extremism as it goes.

    =================================================
    Has anything improved with Christianity since 200+ years ago?

    Thomas Jefferson, POTUS #3 (from Notes on the State of Virginia):

    Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

    James Madison, POTUS #4, chief architect of the U.S. Constitution & the Bill of Rights (from A Memorial and Remonstrance delivered to the Virginia General Assembly in 1785):

    During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

    John Adams, POTUS #2 (in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, 09/03/1816):

    I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved – the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history.

    Ben Franklin (from a letter to The London Packet, 3 June 1772):

    If we look back into history for the character of present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practised it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England, blamed persecution in the Roman church, but practised it against the Puritans: these found it wrong in the Bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here and in New England.

    Thomas Paine (from The Age of Reason):

    All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:43 am |
  15. Judy Wood

    Hey, he's in my town.....yea!!!!!! Logic and reason are the solution.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:43 am |
  16. BDaddy

    Don't know how it happened but I am here

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

      And you need to know WHY? Scientific explanations are useful as far as they go, and they keep getting more specific all the time, proven without a shadow of a doubt, by researchers in laboratories working for identical results. Not so, religions. They keep shattering and splitting, forming new denominations, disagreeing with each other. For Western Civilization, the downhill slide started with monotheism. Had we kept our gods of nature, gods of stars, gods of the sea, we would have been free to explore and learn about each subject on its own. Monotheism put the kibosh on exploration for millennia. We are only just starting to repair ourselves from that self-inflicted wound. Go Hubble!

      March 24, 2013 at 10:18 am |
  17. chris

    It seems that those who knock the faiths of our society tend to try to cut down religions due to the "fairy tale stories" and completely miss and disregard the lessons and guidelines those stories are meant to teach us so that as a whole we learn some basic qualities which allow us to live together and treat each other with basic human kindness. You don;t have to go to church to learn these foundational qualities, but that is where many of us enjoy going to learn and reinforce them. Stories or not religion at it's core is good for society.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • glenn

      So is Dr. Seuss but I am not going to deify him.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • That's just crazy talk

      Such lessons are found in many non-religious texts dating even thousands of years back. The problem with religion is its entire postulate operates from a belief of its immovable truth and thus an authoritarian platform. You can't reason with a Christian as to the veracity of the book who has inculcated them self in the bible because all they do is regurgitate it's passages. You also can't argue with dead people, as the bibles authors are. Religious people bring disparagement on themselves because their very method recruiting is God is right (i.e. I’m right) you are wrong or lost, and God only can save you. Honestly, why are you surprised the religious get called out by the non-religious?

      March 24, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • Coffeeclue

      Really? Good for society? Is it good to have to be good because otherwise you'll be punished in later life? I would prefer being good on its own merits, not for a promise of heaven or 64? virgins.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • Steven CoboWabo

      I love some of the stories in the bible (others not), and enjoy watching the movie the 10 commandments.
      It is all of the other stuff, and the submit to a magical being part.
      For people that say: just enjoy the good part, don't focus on the rest. I can't turn off my brain that way.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:23 am |
  18. Which god?

    Thank you, Todd. People who believe in ridiculous things should not have special protection from ridicule.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:42 am |
  19. muslim2012

    In mathematics there is a theory known as ‘Theory of Probability’. If you have two options, out of which one is right, and one is wrong, the chances that you will chose the right one is half, i.e. one out of the two will be correct. You have 50% chances of being correct. Similarly if you toss a coin the chances that your guess will be correct is 50% (1 out of 2) i.e. 1/2. If you toss a coin the second time, the chances that you will be correct in the second toss is again 50% i.e. half. But the chances that you will be correct in both the tosses is half multiplied by half (1/2 x 1/2) which is equal to 1/4 i.e. 50% of 50% which is equal to 25%. If you toss a coin the third time, chances that you will be correct all three times is (1/2 x 1/2 x 1/2) that is 1/8 or 50% of 50% of 50% that is 12½%.

    A dice has got six sides. If you throw a dice and guess any number between 1 to 6, the chances that your guess will be correct is 1/6. If you throw the dice the second time, the chances that your guess will be correct in both the throws is (1/6 x 1/6) which is equal to 1/36. If you throw the dice the third time, the chances that all your three guesses are correct is (1/6 x 1/6 x 1/6) is equal to 1/216 that is less than 0.5 %.

    Let us apply this theory of probability to the Qur’an, and assume that a person has guessed all the information that is mentioned in the Qur’an which was unknown at that time. Let us discuss the probability of all the guesses being simultaneously correct.

    At the time when the Qur’an was revealed, people thought the world was flat, there are several other options for the shape of the earth. It could be triangular, it could be quadrangular, pentagonal, hexagonal, heptagonal, octagonal, spherical, etc. Lets assume there are about 30 different options for the shape of the earth. The Qur’an rightly says it is spherical, if it was a guess the chances of the guess being correct is 1/30.

    The light of the moon can be its own light or a reflected light. The Qur’an rightly says it is a reflected light. If it is a guess, the chances that it will be correct is 1/2 and the probability that both the guesses i.e the earth is spherical and the light of the moon is reflected light is 1/30 x 1/2 = 1/60.

    Further, the Qur’an also mentions every living thing is made of water. Every living thing can be made up of either wood, stone, copper, aluminum, steel, silver, gold, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, oil, water, cement, concrete, etc. The options are say about 10,000. The Qur’an rightly says that everything is made up of water. If it is a guess, the chances that it will be correct is 1/10,000 and the probability of all the three guesses i.e. the earth is spherical, light of moon is reflected light and everything is created from water being correct is 1/30 x 1/2 x 1/10,000 = 1/60,000 which is equal to about .0017%.

    The Qur’an speaks about hundreds of things that were not known to men at the time of its revelation. Only in three options the result is .0017%. I leave it upto you, to work out the probability if all the hundreds of the unknown facts were guesses, the chances of all of them being correct guesses simultaneously and there being not a single wrong guess. It is beyond human capacity to make all correct guesses without a single mistake, which itself is sufficient to prove to a logical person that the origin of the Qur’an is Divine.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • SixDegrees

      I'd stay in school, if I were you. Or, be at peace with the phrase "Welcome to McDonald's; may I take your order?"

      March 24, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • Helena Troy

      There is a strong probability that you are deluded...

      March 24, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • Kevin

      And if you believe utter nonsense like you just posted, it's no wonder you come to equally absurd conclusions.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • Damocles

      Yeah, I have a problem with that..... the moon issue, it either is, or is not, reflected light, so 50/50. People are made partly of water.... I'm guessing people drank water back then much like we do today, so the book saying we are made of water is not so mysterious. People in other lands knew that the earth was spherical in shape, but again it comes down to either the earth is spherical, or not. 50/50.

      You are inserting options to make it seem more inspiring, but it isn't.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • froSTed

      You say that the Qur’an speaks about hundreds of things that were not known to men at the time, but you leap to the conclusion that it must be divine. You have not defined divine, but you can not show evidence that there is no other explanation for the things your book has in it. In fact, many things that are well known today, were known in ancient times and suppressed through the ages. Limiting knowledge is a form of control, and all religions are about control. You need to show some kind of proof that there is no other rational explanation for your beliefs before anyone will simply take your word for it. Today we require hard evidence that is testable. And there has never been one shred of reliable evidence for anything "divine". Remember, no matter how hard you believe in something, it doesn't make it real. Real things DO NOT REQUIRE your belief.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • JustJosh

      LOL... Replace "Quran" with "The Iliad and Odyssey" and hardly anything about your statement changes. It doesn't prove anything. The Greeks knew the earth was spherical over 700 years before Mohammed was even born... and that the moon reflected light in the 5th century BCE. Your book also claims (verse 81:1) that the sun is a flat disk... Care to explain that one away? These "revelations" were indeed known prior to your magic book being written. There's nothing divine about plagiarism... in fact, it's wholeheartedly dishonest to claim someone else's work as your own. Also worth mentioning – why is it that these things are only 'confirmed' with science? Why is science the ultimate arbiter? I thought science was secondary to the words of the almighty? No? As far as probability goes... I think there's a 100% chance of you being a mental midget.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • Ajax

      False equivalence.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:33 am |
  20. Brad

    Stiefel offers a lot of misinformation and incorrect quotes in his presentations. He lacks an understanding of Evangelical Christianity when he calls it a "hate" group and misuses Bible quotes to prove it.
    Evangelical Christianity is based on the law of Christ: Matthew 22:37-40 "“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

    March 24, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • SixDegrees

      'He lacks an understanding of Evangelical Christianity when he calls it a "hate" group'

      Oh, I'd have to say he pretty much nails that assertion. Five minutes on these message boards anytime an article about gays or women's rights or atheism is published, the hate brigade is out in force, foaming at the mouth and calling down hellfire on the blasphemers, as they see things. The amount of sheer, raw hatred poured forth by evangelical christians is staggering, and is central to their beliefs and pursuits.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • boubour zlaq

      Love your neighbour and kill everybody that does not look or believe like you

      March 24, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • froSTed

      You must understand that morality is derived from story telling. Your leaders take your bible stories and manipulate them into anything that gives them control. Every single one of your bible verses can be manipulated, reinterpreted to mean anything that they want, and you just follow along, like good little sheep. Maybe you should consider that the analogy they give you every Sunday is quite apt, you are sheep, they tend their flock, remove from them anything they can to "free you" of the burden of your hard earned money, and herd you toward an imaginary after life, like lambs to the slaughter.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:06 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.