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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. John Adams

    The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.

    Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.

    March 24, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • dan mckeown

      I wish that more Americans had your insight into the true beliefs of our founding fathers. Very true

      March 24, 2013 at 10:48 am |
  2. No Dice

    Atheism is what you arrive at when one can no longer swallow "faith" in the absence of hard evidence. I have gone from young evangelical to an old hardened atheist in a process that took more than 35 years. It wasn't until I read "The God Delusion" by Dr. Dawkins that my visceral rejection of religious tenants acquired over decades took form as he voiced many of the ideas that were perculating unresolved in my brain. "Where is the evidence?" Yet, he is no prophet nor is his book a bible. I worry about organized atheism becoming more than just a political force but an evangelical movement that becomes a religion within itself. I would prefer that the only organized goals we atheists ought to have are to win the right to be respected and to be left alone without interminable forays from the "soul savers." That may well be a fantasy.

    March 24, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • Science

      It would be NICE......... but
      Maybe they should not have created the wedge !!!
      The wedge strategy is a political and social action plan authored by the Discovery Insti-tute, the hub of the intelligent design movement. The strategy was put forth in a Discovery Insti-tute manifesto known as the Wedge Docu-ment,[1] which describes a broad social, political, and academic agenda whose ultimate goal is to defeat materialism, naturalism, evolution, and "reverse the stifling materialist world view and replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic
      convictions.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedge_strategy

      Peace

      Please watch what the Discovery Inst-itute is trying to prevent.......................... evolution

      Thanks

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okWkmgkS00w&w=640&h=360]

      March 24, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • dan mckeown

      Atheism is labeled a religion by religious people who are trying to taint it by saying "I know you are but what am I" kind of childish nonsense. Atheism is not faith based.

      I repeat. ATHEISM IS NOT A RELIGION BECAUSE IT IS NOT FAITH BASED. It is based on observation of the natural world, the laws of physics, chemistry, biology and all of science. Religion rejects the facts of nature and instead ascribes truth to a faith in a higher power. ATHEISM REJECTS FAITH AND DEMANDS EVIDENCE

      March 24, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • ScottC

      Atheism is what happens when logical thought fails tobe taken to it's inevitable conclusion. Atheist, however, dont feel that way. They consider themselves enlightened. Actually, they have to jump to an erroneous conclusion to avoid the glaring truth of the world and universe around us. You may see flaws in mans attempt to define God, but that does not preclude the existence of God. Open your eyes to the truth. God is as real as anything else we consider real. This life is not the end.

      March 24, 2013 at 11:01 am |
    • Sciernce

      News Release

      3-D structure of the evolved enzyme (an RNA ligase), using 10 overlaid snapshots. In the top region, the overlays show the range of bending and folding flexibility in the amino acid chain that forms the molecule. The two gray balls are zinc ions. (University of Minnesota)

      University of Minnesota researchers unveil first artificial enzyme created by evolution in a test tube

      Media Note: To request high resolution images of Dr. Seelig and/or of a 3D structure of the evolved enzyme, please contact Matt Hodson at mjhodson@umn.edu.

      http://www1.umn.edu/news/news-releases/2013/UR_CONTENT_429344.html

      March 27, 2013 at 9:08 am |
  3. Rob

    Uriel... Not a catholic, muslim, jew or atheist will truly understand how and why we are here.

    March 24, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • dan mckeown

      Why we are hear is not related to science. Why we are here is an anthropic philosophy that is subjective. Atheists don't claim to answer why we are here. That question may be meaningless. After all, does nature care what we think about ourselves? No. All atheism states is that there is no evidence for a so called higher power that is present in the bible. You don't have to know the answer to everything that every was is or will be in order to reject this so called god. It is a matter of evidence. There is no evidence that miracles occur. The God of the bible is a barbaric idiot who commits genocide. He let's you go to hell forever just for not worshipping him. Anyone with a logical brain can see this is not a good god like Christianity, Islam and Judiasm claim. He is a barbaric monster created by primitive minds in primitive times.

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

      Atheists are aware that they don't have all the answers and are searching for them; theists are sure that they have all the answers and no more searching is necessary. Theism is arrogance; atheism is humility...just the opposite of what theists try to propound.

      March 24, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
  4. MO

    To Bob:

    If God showed you his face everyday, how would that affect your free will to choose. This is one of His most precious gifts. God does not want his children to be slaves or robots, He wants you to accept Him or reject Him with your own free will. That is the choice that we must make while on earth.

    March 24, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • Paulie

      Exactly

      March 24, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • Bob Carlson

      It would allow me to actually choose to believe in Him vs not believe in Him.

      By the way, if I really had fee will, I would be able to flap my arms and fly. There is no "free will" as you state. Life is all deterministic in nature. Look it up, you might be enlightened.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • Damocles

      Ahahahahaha, that's funny, really. I see commercials all the time harping on the virtues of Brand X or Product G and yet I still have the free will to choose between them. So your deity is less compelling than commercials for Pepsi.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Gyrogearloose

      Pretty self assured and arrogant to claim that you know what your god wants, isn't it?

      March 24, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • Paulie

      Gyrogearloose read the Bible. And you too will know what God wants

      March 24, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • Unintelligent Designer

      Why is it so important that we accept him? The only reason I can fathom is that he is insecure and needs reassurance that he is almighty. If such a God exists, I can only conclude that he is not who he claims to be, and is some type of fallen spirit who is duping us into worshiping him.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • Paulie

      Nothing says you Have to accept him. Your choice. But you live with the ending also. And that is a very long time

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

      bob carlson you are wrong whether you choose to SEE or not. We all have freedom to choose between Christ or the here and now. I know all too well how satan confuses us all through his enticing lies so you can accept the here and now of this life or you can start once again with John 3:16 and work back and forth between the old and new testaments.

      March 24, 2013 at 11:05 am |
    • Gyrogearloose

      Paulie, The bible is the creation of men who had vivid imaginations. Reading the bible is reading the word of men and not any god.

      March 24, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • G to the T

      I ask for no more proof than Thomas did of Jesus. Let me "see the wounds" and I'll believe. It was good enough for him (granted he was lumped into the "most blessed" category, but we has still "blessed") it should be good enough for me.

      March 27, 2013 at 8:48 am |
    • Saraswati

      @G to the T,

      Yep, I promise that is I personally see someone die and rise again I will take them very seriously. Not so much when folks I don't know claim to have seen Elvis.

      March 27, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • Brother Maynard

      MO
      ( actually posted this before )
      An all knowing – Omniscient – god and his "gift" of free-will are contradictory
      If god is omnicient then he knows prior to my creation that I will go out for example and kill my father when I'm at the age of 25
      He knows this 1000 years before I'm born. Knowning this ... He then creates me anyway. He doesn't abort me in the womb
      ... or has my car break down when I'm driving over to kill my father. No He sits by and plays the passive observer.
      How can I choose to NOT kill my father when god already knows that I will because he is omniscient?

      March 27, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • Brother Maynard

      ... and another thing ( just thought of this )

      MO sez:
      "how would that affect your free will to choose"
      It wouldn't and DOESN'T affect it at all.
      From your own bible
      The people of Isreal had first hand empircal evidence of god when they escaped from Egypt ( parting of the Red Sea and the plagues ) . They then were wondering in the desert. Then Moses left them alone to get the 10 commandments and they created a false idol to worship. They exercised their free will easily and reject him. NO affect of their free will at all

      March 27, 2013 at 9:28 am |
  5. Martin

    Matthew 23. Read it. Jesus was just as much against religion as many atheists. There is a reason people don't believe in God and it usually goes back to an experience with people who say they follow that God. Followers do not equal the truth of God.

    March 24, 2013 at 10:38 am |
  6. amiehol

    I watched "this week" on ABC this morning, and the one thing I agreed with is this country is going so far to the left, the people that are conservative are fast being outnumbered by the left. There is nothing we can do except watch it happen and pray about it. I hate to say a cliche, but one day one of us will be proven wrong . This goes both ways also, , "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

    21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

    22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

    23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
    this is found in Matt 7 20-24. It all comes down to what do you believe?? I choose to believe the bible.

    March 24, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • R

      Why is it that atheism=the left? Have you heard of Christopher Hitchens?

      March 24, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • Bob

      amiehol, you fraud. Per what R said, don't try to claim conservatism as the owned domain of your deluded brethren.That is rapidly changing as certain Republicans are waking up to the unelectable consequences of having made that mistake.

      And while you are dumping select bible quotes on us, let's take a look at some of the nasty behavioral guidances that Christian book of nasty really provides you with:

      Numbers 31:17-18
      17 Now kiII all the boys. And kiII every woman who has slept with a man,
      18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

      Deuteronomy 13:6 – “If your brother, your mother’s son or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul entice you secretly, saying, let us go and serve other gods … you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death”

      Revelations 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

      Leviticus 25
      44 “‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves.
      45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property.
      46 You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

      Note that the bible is also very clear that you should sacrifice and burn an animal today because the smell makes sicko Christian sky fairy happy. No, you don't get to use the parts for food. You burn them, a complete waste of the poor animal.

      Yes, the bible really says that, everyone. Yes, it's in Leviticus, look it up. Yes, Jesus purportedly said that the OT commands still apply. No exceptions. But even if you think the OT was god's mistaken first go around, you have to ask why a perfect, loving enti-ty would ever put such horrid instructions in there. If you think rationally at all, that is.

      And then, if you disagree with my interpretation, ask yourself how it is that your "god" couldn't come up with a better way to communicate than a book that is so readily subject to so many interpretations and to being taken "out of context", and has so many mistakes in it. Pretty pathetic god that you've made for yourself.

      So get out your sacrificial knife or your nasty sky creature will torture you eternally. Or just take a closer look at your foolish supersti-tions, understand that they are just silly, and toss them into the dustbin with all the rest of the gods that man has created.

      Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement.
      Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.
      http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

      March 27, 2013 at 9:20 am |
  7. CronoT

    @Laurie

    If you have to resort to physical harm or the threat of it, then you lack the convictions of the faith you're espousing.

    One of the most insightful things ever said about Christianity & proselytizing was, "Preach the Gospel of Good News everywhere you go. When necessary, you can even use words."

    If you can't understand the truth in that statement, you're the one who needs to open up a Bible again.

    March 24, 2013 at 10:36 am |
  8. TheTraveler

    What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Mark 8:36

    March 24, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • froSTed

      Your soul is a lie. You spend your entire life in fear of living to appease death. Try living, here and now. Realize that the soul has never been found, and by your beliefs, we should be crowded with them. This should be your first clue that it's a myth.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Jesus loves us so much he made hell just in case we don't love him back.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • Bob

      Great point, B.A.T. Cheesemakers.

      March 27, 2013 at 9:21 am |
  9. Pamela

    I am a teacher, I am a mom, I am a wife, I am a humanist. Discrimination against humanists/atheists is real. I am not militant or in anyone's face about my humanism. When it comes up, and it often does as I live in the heart of the bible belt where people are constantly inviting you to church or asking which one you attend, people who know me and have previously counted me as a friend are floored. It is as if they are seeing me for the first time and are disgusted by me. Suddenly I lack morals, I am no longer a good teacher (mind you they specifically chose me to be their child's teacher), I am a failure as a mother. I am ostracized except for required professional or personal interactions. I don't judge them for finding comfort and wisdom in their religions but they definitely judge me for my humanism. Fortunately, the people who have proven to be true friends in my life know that humanism is just part of who I am and it is a non-issue. I have also been lucky, in my refusal to lie about my non-belief, to have found many "closeted" atheists/agnostics and there are many of them. Hopefully, tolerance will soon include us too.

    March 24, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • YouMayDisagree

      Hang on there, I always believed that seeing the truth no matter how unpleasant, is better then blindly lying to yourself. Religion is cleverly built in such way that people are afraid to even imagine the world without god, they think they will be punished, but those who dare to imagine are truly free and much more well rounded.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • Damocles

      Excellent post, Pam.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • tomfjord

      Thank you for this! Discrimination against atheists is incredibly common – especially in the situations you describe.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • Bob

      Thanks for posting that, Pamela. I so hear you.

      March 27, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • Saraswati

      Pamela, do you mind if I ask the general area in which you live? I move around the country a lot and have been fortunate never to be in a spot that bad, even in the south, and if I can keep an eye on where these places are I'd like to. So far I have Texas and the surrounding states pretty well marked off.

      March 27, 2013 at 9:15 am |
  10. Josh

    I wish there were just some way I could see the look on all the believers faces after they die and realize they're just going to rot in the ground until they're nothing.

    March 24, 2013 at 10:34 am |
    • Christian7

      By what means do you know there is not life after death? You know everything and are incapable of error?

      March 24, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • AceShadow

      Agreed 1000%!

      March 24, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • the AnViL™

      "By what means do you know there is not life after death? You know everything and are incapable of error?"

      it's called biophysics and thermodynamics.

      when you cut off the oxygen to the brain, the neurons which comprise you, your memories...etc. decay and die.

      when the brain dies – the biochemical energy which powered those neurons obeys the laws of thermodynamics and "flows downhill", dissipating out into the surrounding system.

      there is no mechanism to cause all that energy to remain coherent. it spreads out into the surrounding system – like smoke from a blown-out candle, never to be reassembled again – for eternity.

      there are no "souls".

      the flat fact of the matter is – when we die – that's it. we silently and finally meet oblivion... forever.

      the good news is – when you die – you will have no knowledge of the fact – as the organ you once used to know things with will no longer exist.

      there simply is no afterlife. after life – there is only death.

      deal with it.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:59 am |
  11. Paulie

    What I don't get is. If these people don't believe in God. Why all the attention to say they don't believe? I mean, what does it matter?

    March 24, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • Josh

      What all attention to god from people who do believe? I mean, what does it matter?

      March 24, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • Doris

      I'm guessing you don't vote or care about what you're voting for.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • Tim

      Couldn't you say the same thing for Christians. Why does it matter?

      March 24, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • Paulie

      Sorry Josh, I don't need attention for what I believe

      March 24, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • Christian7

      Josh, If you thought that people were going to hell and you could stop them from going there, wouldn't you want to tell them how to avoid it? The bible says to tell you how to avoid hell, accepting Jesus Christ.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • Randy

      It matters because left unchallenged religious belief inspires some people to act horribly. It is anti science. It is anti-truth. If religious people kept it to themselves and their homes I would have no problem with it. But you can't. You insist on bringing it into our government, schools, science and laws. That's why it matters.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • R

      What i dont get is: Why all the people outside the abortion clinic hurling death threats? Why are there people holding up crosses and handing out pamphlets that I am going to hell? Why are there people who say hateful things in the name of god at funerals of military personnel? Why do I get handed out flyers in bus stops, subways, and when I am walking down the street minding my own business?

      March 24, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Gerard

      It's very simple, political leaders are pushing their religious beliefs onto the entire nation through laws while there should be a separation of church and state. So they are raising awareness of the LACK of freedom of religion in America, where non believers are judged upon (even though christianity does not allow judging, oh the irony) by believers and thus they are discriminated against. Which in turn is not allowed by law.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Jake

      Because right now religion is a major facet of power and public acceptance. If you aren't some flavor of Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, you are written off as an outlier especially in politics. Speaking up and letting the world know "hey, actually, there are quite a few Atheists" at least pushes it into the discussion so Atheists can't be so easily written off as an unimportant demographic. For example, why would a relevant politician ever identify themselves as Atheist? None will, until a significant percentage of the population identifies themselves that way as well.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • Zeibodique

      "What I don't get is. If these people don't believe in God. Why all the attention to say they don't believe? I mean, what does it matter?"

      Since you do believe in a God, then why must you huff your chest and boast it? Because in you're eyes, you are supposed to "Spread the word" Last time I checked, spreading the word about anything wasn't against the law. Put yourself on the other side of the coin. To me, it doesn't matter what you believe. It doesn't alter my life in any way, shape or form. I tolerate your belief on a daily basis from all you club members. It's not my business and I don't look down on you and your kind because of what you do believe as you shouldn't look down on myself or others like me. If you do, than you are no better than the dirt that lays on the ground.

      March 24, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • Paulie

      WHo's huffing their chest out? You looking in windows?

      March 24, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • Nicole Chardenet

      Because we've got millions of Jesus freaks who think everyone should believe like they do and often successfully pass laws based on their illogical beliefs that affect the rest of us. You don't like birth control? Fine, don't use it. You don't like abortion? Fine, don't have one, and make sure you don't cause one. But DON'T push that nonsense on the rest of us. I am not, BTW, an atheist, but I'd like to see more public atheists like this who force people to question what they think they believe in. Exhibit A needs to be Creationism, which is thoroughly debunked. If you can't handle the reality of established science, you sure as hell can't be trusted on metaphysical questions like whether there's a God, what S/He wants, and what the afterlife holds (if anything).

      March 24, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • Zeibodique

      Paulie, that is the best response you can come up with? That only shows you're lost in the vacuum. Good luck and please, get the help you seriously are in need of.

      March 24, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Zeibodique

      Is that the best response you can come up with? That only shows you're lost in the vacuum. Good luck and please, get the help you seriously are in need of.

      March 24, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
  12. Wenona

    To all those atheists you will have a rude awakening someday , because you will be face to face with your creator and you will be judged. You will not have a chance to say oh I'm sorry God forgive me for being so stupid, He will say depart from me ye sinner of iniquity I never knew ye, then your soul will be sent to an everlasting Hell and you will never get out of it. My advice to all of you is get a bible read it go to church and get right with the Lord before it is too late in your life to do so.

    March 24, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • I Am God

      I will not be judged due to the fact I used my free will to follow a path rarely walked on.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • jungleboo

      So He speaks in Old English? Why would that be. Please explain>

      March 24, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • Tim

      To all you sky worshipers you will find a day that all your hate was for something that is as ridiculous as Santa Claus. You find that you will just rote in the ground and you hated everyone different than you for nothing.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • inspiration for the rest of you

      Stop lording it over!

      March 24, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • AceShadow

      Only the Sheep needs a Shepard. Your writeup about a vengeful god proves your brain and intelligence is that of a sheep. Good luck to you and your Shepard!

      March 24, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • Gyrogearloose

      Who's to say that your religion is right and someone else's is wrong?
      It's exactly your kind of arrogance that convinces me that I want no part of any religion.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • thisguy

      BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

      March 24, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • Trix_NC

      Well, Jesus did forgive the thief on the cross.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Christian7

      That is excellent advise.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Kay45

      That's good. Try to scare people back into believing.

      This is the exact reason why I'm always so hesitant to come out as atheist. The second I do it's "I'm so sorry for you, God will judge you when you die" or "Oh...that's sad...you must have an empty life".

      You want to know what's empty? Not being able to appreciate people's differences. I am good to others, I volunteer when I can, I love deeply and strongly, I work hard and I care a lot about people, the world and humanity.

      Just because I'm atheist doesn't mean you understand my beliefs and my values and if your God is so wonderful and it turns out that we're all wrong then hopefully he'd be smart enough to say that I'm only human.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • Dan

      Maybe you should learn more ABOUT the bible and the fact that most of it is regurgitated myths and made up B.S. and you will realize there is no "creator", much less a heaven or hell to go to(just as there is no Unicorns, or tooth fairy)! But most likely you will just continue on with your ignorance and read your myth book without understanding the actual historical facts about how and why organized Christianity(as with all other religions) were created!

      March 24, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • Bob

      Wenona, sounds like your god is a vicious, spiteful, vindictive ass hole. I stand up to jerks with those characteristics rather than bow to their bullying, so, no thanks, you can keep your nasty sky fairy.

      And you might do well to google and read up on Pascal's Wager; Zeus is gonna whup your backside for believing in that other god.

      Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement.
      Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.
      http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

      March 27, 2013 at 9:14 am |
  13. al

    he is only doing the same thing he hates about religion. he is shoving his kind of religion (atheism) down the throat of others.

    March 24, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • R

      Atheism is not a religion, so how can he be forcing it on anything. The rejection of god and religion is not a religion

      March 24, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • jungleboo

      No, "shoving down throats" is more akin to Sunday School, required church attendance, and damnation to hell if you don't tow the party line, or empty your purse into their collection baskets.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • froSTed

      Atheism is to religion as not collecting stamps is to a hobby. Grow up.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:44 am |
  14. Mairin

    Atheists all seem stunningly incurious to me! They ignore the obvious clues that should be the catalyst toa spark of wonder:
    We did not will ourselves to exist.
    We landed into a family, locale and situation without our permission.
    We have no ultimate control over whether our carefully laid plans will come to fruition...over illness, accidents and faulty decisions.
    We cannot will ourselves dead. (Unless acted upon with an instrument)
    It would appear to me to take MORE faith to be an atheist. One must believe in statistically impossible odds that all we see around us, the order, descended from random chaos...the very celluar structure of an atheist all came together, accidently, and a piece of meat, no animator, can reason and have feelings (both unquantifiable and invisible) just because.
    Because of What? Because of Whom?
    If you did not call yourselves into existence and you cannot will yourself out of existence...that should make you wonder! Not a lot of control over yourselves.
    I invite atheists look into the statistical chances of order appearing naturally from chaos.

    March 24, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • inspiration for the rest of you

      Dumb.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • Bob Carlson

      I invite you to look into the statistical changes that your God was created by no other being.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • R

      You exist because your father excreted semen into your mother. You will inevitably die, like all animals. It takes logic, common sense and reason to be an atheist. You also have to have self-confidence, because the crutch of an invisible old man controlling everything isn't embraced

      March 24, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • Loer

      You can 'will yourself dead' just stop eating and drinking. You won't just stay alive by merely existing.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • Regular Atheist

      Two points.

      1) Atheists are the MOST curious of groups because unlike religious folk that turn to a 2,000 year old book for answers we are actually trying to understand/investigate things in the real world. It's our curiosity that makes us Athiest.

      2) I agree with you that the statistical odds are lets say "astronomical" for the ideas of evolution and the universe forming the way it did. But when you look at the age of the universe which is billions upon billions of years old it is entirely possible.

      Unless you believe that universe is on 6,000 years old...

      March 24, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • Jeesh

      How many galaxies, stars, planets, the number is astronomical; statistical chance, I think it has been done, quite possible.
      Try again.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Michael B

      Rarity and improbability by itself is not evidence of creation. What you are doing here is begging the question – assuming design in order to prove it.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • amiehol

      You have a very good reply, they don't want you to use science because it shows the flaws of what they "believe". thank you for your reply.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:59 am |
    • Blake

      Your comment is chock full of ignorance but I don't mean that in a pejorative sense. The truth is that just because something may really, really seem to be true doesn't mean it must be. We find quite often that both ends of extremes are riddled with examples of things not being what they seem and behaving in ways that contradict our everyday understanding of the nature of reality. I believe it is safe to say that the origin (if that even is the right word to use) of our universe is an extreme event, as is the origin (again, if that fits) of life. So all of your baseless assertions will remain just that until you can perform (or show) repeatable, verifiable, and falsifiable experiments that substantiate your claims.

      In short, just because something seems unlikely because it contradicts our everyday experience certainly does not make it impossible and in no way requires faith in the religious sense or the invocation of a deity. All that is necessary is a change of perspective.

      March 24, 2013 at 11:22 am |
  15. Renee Marie Jones

    Atheism's "big money" man has pumped a total of 7.5 million into "his" project? How does that compare to what the "big money" men give to various religious organizations? According to charitychoices.com Americans give over 90 BILLION to religious organizations EVERY YEAR.

    Sounds to me like the "big money" man is not even close to what religions consider "big" money.

    March 24, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • R

      My thoughts exactly. I believe that the Atheists spending is about the same as what the pope spends on a new pair of shoes and his pope-mobile

      March 24, 2013 at 10:47 am |
  16. Spence

    Well I'm glad he's stepping up and sticking up for his beliefs and everyone else who will have to sit through an easter dinner next weekend and pretend to pray because they will get the stinkeye from the religious side of the family if they don't. I wish him all the best.

    March 24, 2013 at 10:31 am |
  17. servantofTHEWORD

    We Christians know what "spirit" this Blue Devil "is moved by". Turn or burn.

    March 24, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • jungleboo

      You sound like Linda Blair in The Exorcist, during one of the scary parts. Whatever floats your boat. "Turn or burn" OMG!

      March 24, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • The_Lightbringr

      You don't believe because you want to, you believe because you're afraid of the consequences if you don't. A forced faith is indeed a hollow faith

      March 24, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • R

      Find me the Devil in the Old Testament or STFU. I don't mean an English translation, I mean the Hebrew, passed down orally for generations before someone finally wrote down the book, Old Testament. Shocking that one of the slowest growing and difficult to join religions, Judaism, doesn't believe in hell yet it is also the foundation of your religion

      March 24, 2013 at 10:46 am |
  18. inspiration for the rest of you

    The atheists believe in many things: reason, logic, evidence, facts and probablity. I like that "religion"! Why would anyone be against that?

    March 24, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • Unintelligent Designer

      Unfortunately many have been indoctrinated into the belief that there will be "hell to pay", literally, if their dogmas are questioned. They see logic and reason as "tools of the devil" since, when properly applied, religion falls apart.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:34 am |
    • Paulie

      Logic and reason.? You can actually watch the news and conclude there is logic and reason on earth? lmao

      March 24, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • jungleboo

      @ Paulie: You can stare at the rotting soil beneath your feet and fail to realize that there are blossoms overhead. Why would you create a reality for yourself that is based on the evening news. Bottom feeder?

      March 24, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • IDontVelieveInPlanets

      Athiests don't believe in the universe or Mars, Venus, Mercury, Uranus, etc. There is no hard evidence that planets even exist. They're just illusions. Athiests also fail to realize that humankind only knows about 0.000000001% of everything there is to know about the world in and out of this Earth.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:44 am |
  19. Brenda Wilson

    Their always be people who will never embrace any form of the Bible or have a belief in a Higher Power. It amazes me that he compared atheism to a civil right issue and he wants to eliminate discrimination against them. Religion is an organized belief system so whatever a person choses to believe in is his or her right, but kindly do not try to log it as a civil rights issue because everyone will not agree with you. Open your mind to the realization that atheism is your choice of belief not mine, I know that their is a Higher Power and I choose to refer to His as God.(my choice). So Be Blessed in your choice and be satisfied with your choice.

    March 24, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • inspiration for the rest of you

      Athiesm is not a belief system. It's a realization how things are and trying to educated people. It's like converting dummies to accept the idea that the earth is not flat.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • Unintelligent Designer

      He doesn't have a problem with people believing, just the discrimination that goes with being a non-believer. I personally agree that people should be free to believe as they see fit, but as a non-believer, I can attest first-hand that discrimination does happen. Demystifying Atheism will only help in erasing many of the negative, false stereotypes associated with being a non-believer.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • dogmandg

      Unintelligent Designer says: "as a non-believer, I can attest first-hand that discrimination does happen."

      I'm honestly trying to understand this issue. Can you provide an example?

      March 24, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • Reformer

      It is a civil rights issue when religions get preferential tax treatment. Eliminate tax breaks, especially property tax breaks, for religion to put all belief systems on an even playing field.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • Unintelligent Designer

      @dogmandg. If you are sincere, check out the MRFF website. Plenty of examples of discrimination in our military alone.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:58 am |
  20. shane

    i find it odd,that when you gotoshare this to sites like facebook,it does not share this article,yet i share the musharraff story...consopiracy?

    March 24, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • jungleboo

      Drug rush?

      March 24, 2013 at 10:44 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.