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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. Laurie

    no money is going to buy him salvation when he discovers he has been wrong and is brought to account for all those he proselytized. Yet I will pray for him.

    March 24, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • Rosanna

      Laurie,

      You truly come across as smug.

      How can you be SO SURE you have it right?

      March 24, 2013 at 10:20 am |
  2. Ultramayan

    Whatever, Dude.

    March 24, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  3. GonzoG

    If someone chooses not to believe–that's fine. HOWEVER, I get as upset with the militant atheists as I do the Evangelical Christians who hit me over the head with Bibles. (Yes, that happened once)

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

      LOL

      March 24, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • Laurie

      you may wish you were hit with Bibles a little more often come your time to face the door of eternity. Perhaps opening one for yourself is a good idea.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • lmc2

      You nailed my thoughts exactly.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Laurie", but " the door of eternity" 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 10:15 am |
    • huggylove

      I agree Gonzo, That is why we have freedom of choice. To choose Christianity, or athiesm, muslem, whatever. But this guy is spending millions to turn people away from any belief. He shold keep his money, or donate it to the starving, or pay some more taxes to balance the budget, but keep His opinions to himself.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • Damocles

      @laurie

      Threats are never pretty.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • Thinking Man

      @ Laurie, Your assumption that he is not a believer (he ever stated his position), and the subsequent admonishment is pretty much what GonzoG was speaking out against, well done!

      March 24, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • Aononbid

      Militant atheists? Hitting you in the head with a bible? Man stfu, and quit acting like you didn't do some dumb stuff to provoke somebody.
      You clearly don't get atheism. We're a be and let be mentality. You would never know my beliefs if you kept to yourself. I have no reason to go out of my way to say anything to anyone unless provoked, and even then I let most things go simply out of pure self preservation and the fact that I don't like talking to walls.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • Erik

      Aononbid – LOL if you feel like your prosecuted by believers. Where the heck are you? Holy cow, like, religious people exist. Do religious people actively walk up to your and start prosecuting you? If that's the case I bet you get all huffy and start arguing. You should learn how to peacefully end the conversation and brush it off and go on with your life.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • GonzoG

      @ Laurie. NO, I am NOT an atheist. I won't tell you my actual religion, but some of my family are lapsed Catholics, some are Protestants (one was a Nazarine minister when he was alive), some are non-practicing Jews. A few have become Evangelical Protestants. (One of those took EXTREME exception to having a family reunion in the rented out community hall of a Methodist church)
      The assault with the Good Book was more years ago than I care to admit. The assailant was a member of a Holiness Church who HONESTLY believed that ONLY members of HIS church were Heaven bound. He was bound and determined to save my mortal soul–I don't know WHY...nearly everyone who knows me knows I skirt the borders of heresy no matter what religion we're talking about. I, OTOH, was determined that I'd at LEAST give the young gentleman a workout with his Bible. A book I AM versed in, even though I don't always agree with people's versions of what "TRUTH" to read from it.

      As our long running conversation progressed over several months, the gentleman became more and more desperate. Occasionally, he'd bring backup. Occasionally he'd bring his Ryrie Study Bible with copious sticky notes and a spare notebook. As I said, he WAS determined. It was almost cruel–I could have held my own against almost ANY seminary graduate. I had taken and passed Jack Mahoney's Old and New Testament as Literature courses. Jack was a defrocked Catholic priest–he was defrocked for because he defrocked a nun–whom he married and had a couple of kids by when I knew him.
      SO ANYWAY, desperation REALLY started to take hold of the boy. And, during one of our marathon Biblical B$ sessions, he hauled off and SWATTED me with that Ryrie Study Bible. The really big ones can weigh a good 5 lbs. I hit the ground like a sack of potatoes.
      "SO, did you FEEL the power of The WORD OF GOD?" he asked.
      I replied through my near concussion "I suppose so, dude, but, JESUS, you could have done the same with a baseball bat!"

      March 24, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
  4. Martino

    Well some atheism have seen the light.
    http://www.billygraham.org/TVSpecial/tv_index.asp

    March 24, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • Edweird69

      And some Christians have become atheists...what is your point?

      March 24, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • Back when Billy was getting out and going door to door

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fuet7GRv7Bo&w=640&h=360]

      March 24, 2013 at 10:09 am |
  5. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©™

    @ Truthis:
    "Why are we so tied to Israel?"
    Truthfully, not because of the Bible.
    What's in it for US?
    BTW, regarding a "search or meaning," what is the "meaning" of land? It's just a piece of land.
    What is the "meaning" of life?"
    Life is just life. Why does it have to "mean" anything?

    March 24, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  6. J Galt

    Another Sunday, another chance for CNN to bash religion!

    March 24, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • Edweird69

      You should be at church worshipping your fairytale, not at home with family, like us logical people.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • J Galt

      Actually I went already Edweird, thanks for asking. You should get out of your Mom's basement.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • Mack

      It's a very relevant story within the "belief blog" realm that CNN hosts. Hardly religious bashing.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • Me

      Why wait for Sunday?

      March 24, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • Edweird69

      I didn't have to go to church today. Guess what! It saved me gas money, I didn't have to contribute to a hate group either. I wish I was in my mom's basement, but my parent's are deceased. Yes, they were believers all of their life, and your god didn't heal them of cancer, and a stroke. Nothing fails like prayer.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:14 am |
  7. Doug

    Why do we have to be subjected to atheist garbage on Palm Sunday. CNN once again is showing its left wing disrespect for all things Christian.

    March 24, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Edweird69

      You worship a story of horror! You worship a god who drowns babies in floods (yes there were babies on the earth when Noah's flood (never) happened. Your religion deserves ridicule, and you know it.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Doris

      I don't care to know what you do with your palm on Sunday or any other day of the week thank you.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Damocles

      Tell ya what, you can have Palm Sunday to be free of atheist garbage, if I can have every other day to be free of believers garbage. Sound fair?

      March 24, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • J Galt

      Once again the left shows its "tolerance". Liberals are only tolerant to other sheep that think EXACTLY as they do.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • wjs

      We just got through several weeks of pope publicity give someone else a chance

      March 24, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • Mack

      Doug, what about all the people who don't care about your Palm Sunday? Shall they all remain politely silent while your (most important and correct) religion does it's thing?

      March 24, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • J Galt

      I've no issue with giving someone else a chance...CNN seems to revel in putting these stories out on Sunday and putting it in the "belief" section.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • seankerwin

      Seriously, Doug? And atheists are not subjected to religious dogma 365 days a year? Reporting on what is happening to the side you don't agree with is far from pandering... one might even call it reporting.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • Edweird69

      @J Galt – would if make you feel better if CNN created a non-belief section? Your complaint is so petty.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • James

      Why do atheists have to be subjected to religious nonsense every day of the week?

      March 24, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • J Galt

      Edweird, I'm really sorry for your loss and the way it has hardened you. It is often difficult to make sense of such a situation that can seem so senseless and to lash out at others who "cling to their beliefs". However, God acts through others when we walk through the valley of the Shadow of Death. My complaint is only that a media outlet that touts itself as unbiased, continually and systematically attacks faith on the day these people of faith come together, and at the beginning of Holy Week.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • Gene

      Why should nonbelievers respect Christianity when Christians such as yourself dismiss our thoughts as "Atheist garbage"? You will get our respect when you give us your respect. Palm Sunday? Christians do not own this day or any other moment in time. Just because you slap a name on a date does not make it yours. Non-christians are free to speak and act as they choose on this day and any other day.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:25 am |
  8. Dennis

    When will Atheist learn that Goat herders from 5000 years ago know best.

    March 24, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Face-Palm

      So true… Don’t forget to thank a 600 year old alcoholic for building an Ark and gathering his family and the animals so God can be the biggest serial killer in all of history. What a divine and loving individual God must be. I’m just too evil to worship him *sigh*

      March 24, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • Bohemer

      Negative, no shepherds then. According to the believers in the Imaginary Friend, that's about when Earth was being created. Never mind radiocarbon dating.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:10 am |
  9. Religion

    "Religion is an organized collection of belief systems, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values" ( from our friend wikipedia).
    If I want it or not, accordign to this definition, Atheims is a type of religion. They believe that there is no deities/God, based on science or frustration with a main stream religion. I do believe science is a great accomplishment of modern humanity, but it is full of mistakes and errors; just look at how many times science set something as e a true fact was later corrrected by the improvement of science, we currently now that they are not true. (http://science.discovery.com/strange-science/10-science-mistakes.htm) Science is a great tool, but it is not perfect ( and we would be arrogant fools to think that current science is not makes mistakes – I guess future generation will reveal that).
    Furthermore, a conscious and reasonable conclusion would be that Atheism is a religion where people have to have faith in what has been observed by science ( once its not a absolute truth), just like any other religion.
    I fully agree that one should have the freedom to choose his faith ( if God gave them that freedom, who am I to take it away). Furthermore, its not our job to judge someones faith, once that job will be done by God ( if you believe in it or not).

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

      Science =Spirituality, I think not. Casper the ghost, the atheists great Spirit, or not, can be PROVEN to be fiction. So can all religious books/tomes be proven to be fiction, you all will just not recognize that FACT.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • Bob Carlson

      The great thing about science is that it DOES allow for revolution and change as we grow our knowledge-base everyday. However, religion does not allow for change and everything that was written/spoken thousands of years ago must remain as stated regardless of new knowledge. While science is not perfect, it is repeatable and produce plausible theories whereas religion does not and cannot.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • maybrick

      No, atheism doesn't correspond with that definition because it isn't organised. Do you think that atheists gather together on a regular basis? They don't. Most of them don't even talk to each other and suffer other people's belief systems in silence.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • TexasAtheist

      Fools,

      Atheism=Without Theism!!

      That is it. Simple.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • Louie

      If you are religious, you are stubborn and ignorant. If you are athiest, you are stubborn and ignorant. Both sides claim to know the truth(whatever that may be), and at the moment NO ONE knows the truth. With that said, the only way to find the truth is to keep looking, and the only medium that constantly progresses towards the truth is science. I read a comment that said "Science is full of errors because its made assertions before that were later disproved". That is an ignorant statement if I have ever heard one. That person clearly doesnt understand the point of science. Too me, the changing of those errors is what makes science GREAT, because its willing to admit that it doesnt fully understand the truth, and that its willing to evolve and progress to find those truths. ITs not about religion or atheism- Its about the constant search for the truth. So what ever group follows that logic- im on their side.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • James

      You clearly do not understand what atheism is. It is not a “collection of belief systems.” It is the very opposite. Atheism focuses only on observable reality. That is, not “beliefs”, but facts. Atheism does not make moral judgments. Science may make mistakes, but it is constantly being refined, is observable by all, and testable by all. Remember, “facts” are nothing more than mass subjective consensus based upon the best evidence we have at the time. There is no “absolute truth.” Religion, on the other hand deals with mere conjecture. It is not testable. It is not observable. You cannot conjure your god up for me to tell me what he wants me to do. If you could, I’d be a believer in an instant.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:28 am |
  10. Gerald Tobias

    It is amazing to me that intelligent people can believe in God and the bible. I agree with another post that if there was a god he is evil.

    March 24, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • Edweird69

      If I had my child crucified, humanity would want me beheaded. But, in religion, I'd be worshipped. BIZARRE!

      March 24, 2013 at 10:03 am |
  11. Nate

    LOL. Atheism under belief category on CNN. I told you it is basically a religion. Come be enlightened.

    March 24, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • Edweird69

      Atheism is not a religion! It's like saying being bald is a hair color.... It is a null stance. I'll be a believer, when there's evidence of your sky daddy. Until then... it is just another fairytale.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • Edweird69

      Atheism is not a religion! It's like saying bald is a hair color.... It is a null stance. I'll be a believer, when there's evidence of your sky daddy. Until then... it is just another fairytale.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Belief and religion do not go hand in hand. That is a misconception. Atheists believe in many things, just not a god or gods.

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

      > Atheism under belief category on CNN.

      Then it must be a religion!! You saw it on TV.

      That's like saying there is a god because there is one in the bible, and there is a Superman because it says so in the comic book!

      Category wise it should be 'no religion', or you can take the word of the person who named the category, if it suits you.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:20 am |
  12. sockpuppet1984

    just another religious extremist

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

      > just another religious extremist

      Not at all. Being opposed to religious extremism doesn't make you religious. It makes you critical of religion. Call it a religion if it makes you feel better, but that is just something else you are wrong about.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:08 am |
  13. Jeff

    His unbelief is a natural effect of the fall of Adam. The bible says that there is no one who understands, no one seeks after God. It also says that no one can come to faith in Christ unless the Father draws him. God's word says that if you seek God with all your heart you will find Him. Man is spiritually dead but the word of God is spiritual that's why it seems foolishness to the natural man. Good luck with your atheism but as soon as you die your eyes will be opened to the truth. The bible says "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Jesus offers everyone salvation as a free gift to be received by faith if you willfully reject that gift I would be afraid, I would be very afraid if I were you.

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

      Jeff, when you die, your eyes do not reopen, you don't see or think or feel because your organs don't function anymore. One you understand this you can begin to let go of the fear that your old reference book instills in you.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Don't care what your buybull says. It is a book written by man to control man with tiny bits of fact to make the gullible accept it.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • Edweird69

      @Truth – That is a CLASSIC !! Buybull... all of these years of hearing that word, never did I think of it like that. YOU ROCK!

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

      No one can come to the deity unless the deity draws them in, yet you can look for it and find it. It's a free gift, but you are fuct if you refuse the offer. All those infomercials that offer free gifts are obviously going about it the wrong way. When they say that you have a limited amount of time to accept their gift, they should send someone out to whack you when the time runs out. Just to send a message to all those other people who don't want the free gift.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • wjs

      Yes, we will all glow in

      March 24, 2013 at 10:13 am |
  14. RillyKewl

    Freethinkers are the last great minority in this country without fair representation in public office.
    We need more vocal exposure. Todd Stiefel is helping. I'll stand with him, gratefully.

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

      Totally. Thankfully, there are more and more atheists being elected to national public office.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:13 am |
  15. Marc

    Wait until all of those Bible quoting pumper's get to those pearly gates and that gate keeper tells them that the Bible was written by Satan. Going down.....

    March 24, 2013 at 10:00 am |
  16. Edweird69

    The use of supernaturalism to manipulate and control people is the world's oldest confidence scheme,
    it relies on the ritual abuse of children at their most impressionable stage by adults who have themselves
    been made childish for life by artifacts of the primitive mind.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • Tsingi

      > The use of supernaturalism to manipulate and control people is the world's oldest confidence scheme

      Its had thousands of years to iron out its scams. In stpite of all of the religious lies that have been exposed, It's still conning people. Opposing the lies of religion is an honourable quest and a great service to humanity.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:47 am |
  17. Realist

    ************************

    The Christian .......... GodisImaginary.com (visit the link)

    ************************

    March 24, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  18. rand

    Discrimination against atheists and humanists??

    This rich guy has nothing better to do with his time and money apparently.................

    March 24, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • Veronica

      You need to get your nose out of your book of myths and into a dictionary to look up the word "discriminate".

      March 24, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • Face-Palm

      Truth, honesty, freedom and liberty… What a waste of money.

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

      What chance does a person have becoming School Superintendent if he declares himself or herself of being atheist? The same holds true for anyone seeking political office.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • Tim Brown

      How many atheists are in Congress, and how many people would even think of voting for an atheist? Yeah there is a lot of discrimination.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • Glea D.

      Yeah, yours is the one of the default positions of believers who can't imagine that other people might think differently than they do.

      Right now, dummy, around the world, atheists are being killed and tortured to death for their non-belief. Only somebody living under a rock (like someone who gets their news from FOX News) would not have heard of the terrible ways religions, just like yours, kill nonbelievers because they think they have nothing better to do.

      Witches, gays, atheists, albinos, women... religions like yours believe these people deserve death just for being who they are.

      I think Mr. Stiefel's money and energy is WELL spent.

      I hope to see in my lifetime people like you, with the religious beliefs you have, are moved to the fringes of society.It's long past due.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:32 am |
  19. rebru chapson

    Atheism is a belief that colors one's perspective of the world; therefore, it is also a "religion" of its own. Anyone is free to believe in Atheism, just as anyone is free to believe other religions. The way to gain respect is to ask if you may share your thoughts/beliefs with someone, and if they aren't interested – do not shove it down their throats!! I have had bad experiences of Atheists bashing others as if they think they are superior, and trying to force conversations. At least when the Mormons or Jehovah's Witness people come to my door, they respectfully back off/leave when I tell them, Thanks, but no thanks! Bottom line – it's okay to share your beliefs respectfully if the person wants to give you a hearing; if not, back off – it is their personal responsibility what they believe or do not believe.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • Nicodemus Grumpschmidt

      "Colors one's perspective of the world"???? Are you kidding me? It's the fallacy sans proof of religion that colors one's perception of reality. We atheists look at things as they ARE, not in accordance with some ridiculous religion telling us how to see the world. Any time you accept baseless dogma without any shred of proof behind it, your perception is colored and false. Get a clue!

      March 24, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • TOOZX5

      You can't "believe" in atheism because it is simply a rejection of an unsupported assertion. That's not a belief. Everyone is free to believe in asserted claims with no evidence. But some people require evidence before they blinding accept anything as fact. Believers are shoving their assertions down people's throats. Atheists simply say "where is your evidence to back this unsupported assertion besides blind faith? How then does that make this claim any more relevant than the claim of fairies with no evidence?" That's not bashing, its a legitimate question. It isn't our problem if it make believers uncomfortable in being forced to prove their blind belief to be something more than a mere invention. Isn't it rational responsibility to not believe anything without investigating the claims so that you aren't made gullible?

      March 24, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • Ed

      When we pop an "a" in front of the word, it means non, or anti. So, an atheist is a non-believer. You need to differentiate between this and thinking something is real with no basis in fact (a "belief"). You don't seem to have any idea that what you're saying is contradictory in itself. Which is what most atheists have been trying to tell you for years. Sadly, you can't see the forest for the trees. All the best.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • James

      Atheism is no more a "belief" than bald is a hairstyle. A lack of "religion" is not religion. Atheists focus on reality and facts. Religion tries to guess at things that cannot be demonstrated as facts. The real problem with religion, is when the faithful try to claim their beliefs are facts, and then use them as a basis for public policy. That is intolerable. It is fine to be religious, but do not claim to know the will of a god, or the rules by which he wishes us to live by. That is just plain arrogant.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • saggyroy

      It is not a belief, it is our natural state.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • wjs

      You must be joking. Christianity not a proselytizing religion? Does the word "Inquisition" ring a bell?

      March 24, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • Mack

      I don't believe there is a pink wooly mammoth in my backyard. If others share that mindset are we of a particular subset, group, religion, etc. that needs definition and categorization? Of course not. There.....get it?

      March 24, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • Tim Brown

      I suppose you are a Zeus atheist, and that's one of you religions.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • Lisa

      Agreed!

      March 24, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • Glea D.

      Sorry, you're not going to get away with changing definitions to fit your fallacy. Many things "color one's perspective of the world" and are NOT religions.

      With all your flowery philosophizing, your understanding of the issue is as dead as the so-called "morality" of the Old Testament. Challenge with that, I dare you.

      A refusal to believe in something is NOT a religion, dummy. Do you believe in Unicorns? Probably not, right? If not, does that mean you are a "non-Unicornist"? I assume you are some kind of theist, perhaps christian? If you do not give credence to the Islamic religion, are you a non-Islamist?

      I find no reason, no evidence, to believe in any kind of supernatural world. So I go about my business as a human thinking human thoughts and trying to better myself as a human. I care about suffering and try to alleviate it where I can. That's all I can do. IF... and that's a big IF, you feel some kind of need to assign some kind of religious nomenclature to my life and the way I live it, you might call it "Humanism." But not even that fits the definition.

      I lack belief in a god. That is all.

      Oh. Prepare yourself. All your talk about "respect" for others religions and beliefs, not shoving one's beliefs "down others' throats..." Islam is coming. Your'e really going to whine when you have a band of thugs beat you to the ground because you were in an "Islamic area" of your city, and you were not conforming to Islamic Law.

      Right now, Christians are killing atheists, albinos, and gays in Africa because "the Bible tells them so." Why aren't you doing it? Christians committed genocide in Serbia and Armenia, killing every Islamic man, woman and child they could get to.

      In Africa and Asia muslims kill Christians any chance they get for breaking Islamic law. They'll even fabricate evidence.

      Religion? God? No thanks.

      I will fight it every time I see it trying to creep its creepy way into my laws and in my schools.

      No thanks. Too much in my face

      March 24, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
  20. David

    Why do atheists always confuse "religion" with "Christianity". So often the faults of "religion" are the faults of "Christianity" in their arguments. Then they lazily assume all other religions must look at the world the same way as Christianity, which is patently absurd (if one takes the time to truly study them). If you dislike, or don't believe in "religion" that is fine, but at least bother to learn what it is you are generalizing about.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • Over 40,000 denominations of insanity

      I think for most who visit the BB, separation of church and state in the U.S. is a key issue where Christian extremism has always been the prevailing force attempting to knock down Jefferson and Madison's "wall".

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

      I'm not confused, and please don't speak for me, thx.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • ShaneRa1n

      Christianity has the most followers. Christianity in it's history is responsible for the worst persecutions of humanity – even Hitler used his Catholic faith as a foundation for the holocaust. Christianity has the most influence of any religious group. The world's most powerful country is "Christian." So yes, Christianity deserves every bit of attention it gets.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • isnerc

      The same way you're making generalizations about atheists right now.
      SOME atheists do, in fact, tend to get weighed down and only focus on Christianity. MOST however take a look at all religions and see them all as nothing more than a collection of myths and legends. Jewish, Christian and Muslim are the three largest faiths in the world. All three share the same stories to a point and the Jewish faith breaks off at the belief of Jesus, where Muslim and Christian faiths only differ in minor ways that most Christians are to blind to see.

      Typically SOME atheists focus on Christianity in arguments to blanket all "religion" because they are usually the ones arguing the loudest and are most vocal about it.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • James

      Most atheists view all religions as equivalent nonsense. Scientology, Mormonism, Christianity, Islam, etc, etc. All are equivalent in that none of them have basis in fact. It has always amazed me how people who are religious don't see the similarity in behavior between themselves and another belief system. A Christian thinks he knows what god expects of him, and is sure that everyone else is wrong. A Muslim thinks he knows what god expects of him, and everyone else is wrong. If these supposed "gods" had any basis in reality, one would think that someone would be able to conjure his "god" up to resolve the issue. If we can't do that, then we really should discard all this religion nonsense and deal solely with observable facts.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • wjs

      Which "you" are you preaching to? Here's one atheists take on it: I don't need to study religions. What they have in common is a belief in something unprovable.I've applied Occam's razor, and arrived at a complete world view without those beliefs.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • Charlie

      Because it's all basically the same when you take away the names, especially the big two: Christianity and Islam. Discrimination against minorities? Check. Abuse of children and women? Check. Holidays stolen from paganism? Check.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:22 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.