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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. Ethan Clarke

    Every liberal is a crusader in spreading error.
    The media has become vile (!) while attempting to get rid of Christ and making way for the religion of “MAN”. The antichrist will come because man no longer loves the Truth. Lord, distinguish my cause from a nation that is not holy.
    Deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man.
    Send forth Thy light and Thy truth; they have conducted me and brought me unto Thy holy hill, and unto Thy tabernacles. The luckiest [most blessed] man in the world is the one who has been given the True Faith.

    March 24, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      Your absolutism and willful ignorance are appalling.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Jesus was not that impressive, I would expect a god to provide better wisdom and morals.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      You realize that your bible was created by men, just like all the other gods.

      Why don't you believe in the other thousands of gods out there ( and many of them are also the "one true god" so that is not an answer.)

      Why do you disregard 99.99% of the gods, but yours is real?

      March 24, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
    • .

      You don't think that liberals believe in God? Well, there's your first mistake. You think all conservatives DO believe in God? Well, there's your second mistake. Your third mistake is that you make broad sweeping generalizations about a topic you know zip about.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • akmac65

      EC.... Your argument is invalidated by your very first word, there is no purpose in reading anything after that.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
    • DoctorDan118

      The fact that you immediately blame liberals renders your argument completely invalid, and impotent. The highest educated people in this country are liberals, while the lowest educated (in the south), are bible beating rednecks, probably much like yourself. The fact that you are unaware that the mythology of jesus is just a copy of the pagan myths before it, and the further fact that you spew such drivel as if it was fact, shows everyone on this board that your IQ is in the double digits. Bring on your imaginary antichrist, and the tooth fairy, and santa claus. I will ride my purple unicorn and army of leprechauns against them.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
  2. Where is your God now?

    Witnesses said that they saw a man throw the infant from the Miller Street pedestrian overpass, but police said they are not sure if the child was alive or dead when the man threw the child. It appears the child was hit by at least two cars, officials said.

    March 24, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
    • mark

      Giving man free will.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      mark, free will is not possible according to the bible. Where are you getting your information?

      March 24, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Free will is a myth.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
  3. mdc

    That video is a hoot!

    March 24, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
  4. john

    If you are an atheist and you are truly and completely committed to that world view, I don't know why you even give a s**t about anything at all - at least when you are wearing your "rational" hat (I get that we all take off and put on different world views at times). Social justice??? what does that even mean in an atheistic universe? environmentalism??? who gives a s**t? if the universe doesn't care, why should you??? Gay rights??? why not just defend the rights of any old inanimate object like a porch swing or a toilet bowl? Listen up people: atheism = nihilism. There is no other way.

    And don't even try to tell me that truth is important if you're just a random speck in a random universe.

    Don't kid yourself. If you think you can be a rational atheist and at the same time rationally defend the value of things like love, goodness, honesty, peace, integrity, kindness, etc - you are just delusional. I am a theist (and a Christian one at that), and I readily admit that I have plenty of challenges in defending my belief system. But in the context of my worldview, I don't have to struggle to explain the value of goodness, sacrifice, love, honesty, devotion, human rights, civil rights - concepts that are supremely important to humanity and (to most people) intuitively apparent. On the contrary, an atheist cannot possibly defend any of the values that Steifel is promoting.

    If you really believe that the universe is not created, that there is no God, then concepts like "love, goodness, honesty, peace, integrity, etc" HAVE to erode into senseless drivel - remember, if everything is random, then EVERYTHING is random. If you dont believe in God, how can you argue that goodness REALLY matters any more than badness? why should love REALLY be any more valuable than hate? why should honesty be any better than lies? who cares about integrity if you really are just a meaningless speck in a meaningless universe?

    So Todd Stiefel, hedonism would make a lot more sense than humanism. And with all the money you have, you could make a really good go at hedonism. Meanwhile, your efforts at atheist humanism seem pretty silly.

    March 24, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
    • What is That Thing on Aaron Neville's Face?

      Well that was a big bowl of stupidity.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Everything you just listed does not require a God(s). Morality, love, ethics are all natural human characteristics which are based on survival of the species and evolve from societal needs.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      You're so amazingly stupid and repugnant that I hope you're a christian and you never even think about being an atheist. Stay on their side; it's where we want you and it's where you'll do the most good for our side.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
    • Gregg H

      So, what you are doing is giving reasons why we should believe in something that is patently ridiculous. The ancient Greeks who didn't believe in Zeus were wrong because belief helped their moral code.
      How about this – something is either true, or it isn't. Stating we should believe something is true because it makes us better is absurd. I guess what you are saying is we should try and fool people into thinking there is a god so they behave.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • God doesn't exist

      If God is the only reason you have values you should really rethink your life.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
    • Lilith

      QUICK! Someone swap john's bible with a book on psychology, biology, sociology!!

      March 24, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
    • akmac65

      John... Your reasoning is circular and invalid. Basically, you announce that your opinion is fact, therefore it is correct. Please show how Atheists are unable to have values that count, just because they do not subscribe to the existence of supernatural gods. Religion has not cornered the market on positive human values, you know.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
    • Alex

      you seem to have confused empathy for religion

      March 24, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • DoctorDan118

      John, the reason that atheists and agnostics put their voice out there, as opposed to simply ignoring those who do believe, is because of the discrimination they receive. Everyday, the ignorant Christian right tries to put laws into the books banning atheists from holding public office and from allowing their voices to be heard. This is ridiculous, and is tantamount to not allowing someone to hold office because of their gender or skin color. Are you saying they should "just get over it?" I agree that it makes no sense to argue with someone of belief, and if you don't believe, then simply walk away. But when ignorant christians trample on people's civil liberties, something must be done. And who says that "goodness" only stems from a magical sugar plum fairy in the sky? Can people not promote goodness and character and morality, without doing so only out of fear of the adult santa claus? You, sir, are an idiot, and your ignorance is clearly showing.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • ab77

      So the only thing keeping you in line is an irrational fear of what happens to you after death? Sounds INCREDIBLY SELFISH to me...

      March 24, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
    • Saving the earth,one pithy comment at a time

      Buddy-if you can't figure out some of these questions without inserting a god there is no hope for you.Throw a blanket of god over your head and continue to sleepwalk through life.C'mon.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
    • john

      akmac65

      "John... Your reasoning is circular and invalid. Basically, you announce that your opinion is fact, therefore it is correct."
      - not sure where you are coming from on this one. Haven't said anything about my opinion being a fact and certainly am open to the possibility that I'm wrong. but i'm not convinced by you or any one else here who is calling me stupid for thinking that an atheist would have a hard time defending a particular value/ethic as anything more than an evolutionary adaptation. And evolutionary adaptations are neither good nor bad, only useful or not useful for a given time and place.

      "Please show how Atheists are unable to have values that count, just because they do not subscribe to the existence of supernatural gods."
      –not saying that Atheists are unable to have values that count. you are welcome to have any value you want to have. I'm just saying that if atheism is true, I dont see how any set of values "count."

      March 24, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
    • Kristin

      So, John, you are equating gays to inanimate objects? Is that what your belief system tells you? I think a little self reflection is required. At that moment, your whole point became a rant of intolerance and hypocrisy. Those people with internal sets of morality and ethics have to need of an abstract belief system to know right from wrong. Those without, hide behind religion to enforce their beliefs on others. Religion is not all bad and wrong, using it to elevate oneself to a false superiority is.

      March 24, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
    • john

      "So, John, you are equating gays to inanimate objects? Is that what your belief system tells you?"

      no Kristin, I'm not equating gays to inanimate objects. can you even read???
      what I'm saying is that if you are an atheist, then you believe that all we are is matter. (still with me?) therefore, why should any one type of matter (inanimate object) be valued over any other type of matter (a human). Therefore as i see it, in the context of an atheistic world view, defending human rights ultimately doesn't seem very defensible.
      But I get it that all of you are much smarter than me and I'm just a moron.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
  5. If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

    ".. the nation’s fastest-growing “religious” group: the nonbelievers." WOW and at just a fraction of what the religion industry has pumped into propaganda!! It's so obvious that it sells itself!

    March 24, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
  6. CHILDS GAME

    This guy and his followers are the anti christ and Dajjal's movement, be careful everyone. The are so many signs God exists and we should always be grateful.

    March 24, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      ONE sign .. just ONE! Please.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
    • Where is your God now?

      The mother of an Apopka toddler severely burned and beaten was arrested today on one count of child neglect, police said.

      Marlita S. Stokes, 23, was at work when her boyfriend Darlanne Toussaint, 24, used his fist to smash the 17-month-old’s chest and back, and a blow dryer to burn the child’s skin. The boy who suffered second-degree burns on his genitals, back, chest and head, is in stable condition at Florida Hospital Orlando this morning.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
    • child of midian

      Ignorance and intolerance begin at Church and are brought home like rampant disease and spread about the family and community. To call Atheist the Devil when it's Christians that have so much hate towards others, so much intolerance, so little morals. You're sick, if there was a devil it would be hate-breeders like you.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
    • Bob

      Religion is the best tool ever devised to subjagate the masses. Any time a political party begins ranting about gog, run...run very fast.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • ab77

      Couldn't answer the challenge and give even one sign, eh? Typical...

      March 24, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
    • akmac65

      CG.... Which god? There are supposedly quite a few and no way to determine which one is The God. You are welcome to your beliefs but they have no more weight than anyone's opinion. Belief/opinion is not fact unless supported by proven facts.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
    • sinner Tom

      One question I always ask any atheist: If you're right, then I'm right, too. But, just imagine for one split second that I'm right. That means what's going to happen to you when you're dead? In other words, if I'm right, you're dead wrong. Try to get your head around that before 'ye of little faith" reply! It's called faith for a reason.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      sinner tom ... No, it's called Pascal's wager. Look it up.

      If God doesn't play dice with the universe, I'm pretty sure God wouldn't treat it like a hand an poker like you are either. Wrap you head around that. Then go do a little research to back up you claims like most Atheists do.

      March 24, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
    • Bad Boys

      @sinner Tom

      Allah, Zeus, Ra, Vishnu
      Whatcha' gonna do when they come for you?

      March 24, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
    • What IF

      sinner Tom:
      " if I'm right, you're dead wrong."

      This is another tired repeti.tion of Pascal's Wager - thoroughly refuted since the 17th century (where have you been?)

      - What if the real "God" is Allah, or Vishnu, or Zeus, or Quetzalcoatl, or any of the other of thousands which have been dreamed up over the centuries? Some of them are very jealous and vengeful and will relegate you to nasty places for not worshiping them. You'd better cover your butt by believing in ALL of them and fulfill their wishes and demands.

      - What if the real "God" prefers those who use logic and reason and punishes you as a silly sycophant?

      - What if the real "God" detests those who believe something just to cover their butts in eternity?

      March 24, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
  7. ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

    There is not other God, but truth absolute is Lord and GOD of universe, Prove, if you can, stand without balance, if you can hindu Atheists, denier of truth absolute GOD, without truth absolute GOD, constant, no one can exist without, by only in hindu ignorant minds of hindu Atheist, ignorant self centered.

    March 24, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
    • oOo

      There is no "ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION" so STFU.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
    • Gregg H

      Yea -, no one can exist without by only!

      Listen to this guy, he know what he's talking about!

      March 24, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
    • Bob

      Wait..what? Ganesha's gonna smack your mohammad!

      March 24, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
    • STFU

      MUSLIM BHUNG (LOWER CAST MUSLIM) WITH BAD DIARRHEA.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
  8. Apple Bush

    Atheists, with few exceptions, are the most interesting and moral people I know. This is not scientific, just my experience. Atheists have eyes wide open and appreciate the amazing diversity of life and the incredible mysteries of the universe. Atheists push the envelope of discovery, always eager to learn more and understand the reality behind what they experience. They give, they are caring, they are intelligent, they are compassionate, they are educated, and they are inquisitive. In short, atheists are a valuable resource.

    March 24, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
    • Opposing View

      You are deceived. There is no such thing as a moral atheist. Morality comes from God. Atheists do not know God. Therefore it is impossible for them to be moral. Everything they do is of the devil.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Well Opposing View, if that is true I choose the Devil. Cool dude.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
    • akmac65

      OV.... Civilized values are derived from the necessity of cooperation between individuals in order for cultures to survive. Religions are merely ways to codify those values. The values are the key, not the god(s) created to give them greater legitimacy or create a priesthood to enforce them.

      March 24, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
    • Saving the earth,one pithy comment at a time

      @opposing view-If you take your morality from god you are a sadistic cowardly murderer.Read the bible thoroughly...it has many examples of god's so called morality...or,did you manage to skip the naughty bits.Sickening.

      March 24, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
    • sinner Tom

      But why were they born in the first place? What are their reasons for living? This is not about who's eyes are open wider on earth, but rather, what happens to us when we die? If the atheist is right, then I'm right. I live, I die, I'm done. So what? If the atheist is wrong however, then I'm not "done" after I die. I'm banking the rest of my "everlasting" life on the faith that I have in Jesus Christ. When the atheist dies and it turns out they were right, they don't even get to gloat about it because they're just "done."

      March 24, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
  9. Amy

    Why would you put this in your Belief section when Atheists have no belief in a higher being?

    March 24, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
    • Lola Bunch

      Why not? It is an article about how religions have impacted atheists. Where do you want them to put it? Eatocracy?

      March 24, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Amy honey, just back away from the computer. You are probably downloading all sorts of viruses right now.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Correction Amy ... Atheists have no REASON to believe in an anthropomorphized higher power.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
    • akmac65

      Amy.... Because the definition of "belief" does not only include your beliefs. Very simple.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
    • absolutionis

      Atheism is a religion and requires faith just like other religions. While many other religions claim their deity is true and have faith that the others don't exist, atheists have faith that all deities don't exist.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      No, absolutionis .. Atheism does not require faith that deities don't exist, there just is no reason to believe they do. It is very simple once you let go of the indoctrinated idea that you NEED to have a religious style faith in something.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • Arin

      Amy, atheists do not believe in Jesus or Allah etc as being the representatives of a higher being. What they believe is based on the discoveries that mankind has made. Atheists are always ready to learn more, ready to ask more questions, eager for mankind to leave more about ourselves and our origins. But they refuse to believe made up stories just because we cannot yet explain how the universe including life started.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
  10. Lucidifer

    Looking at the comments by the religious here, it adds new meaning to the shortest sentence in that trashy novel you call the bible.
    "Jesus wept."

    March 24, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      That quote and a misrepresentation of the story of Onan are the favorites of athiests, but why? Did mommy tell you God did not want you to touch your winky?

      March 24, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
    • mark

      We are blessed by your persecution of us. Thanks ! And he weeps for you! The cult of unbelief the minions of Stiefel will continue to persecute Christians in this forum.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
    • Yakobi

      That's the first correct thing you've said today, Tarver: they're "stories", aka ancient fables passed down from generation to generation, modified for each religion.

      I'm sorry to inform you of your insignificance, but the universe isn't aware of your religion, doesn't care, and won't notice when you and it are gone. Your entire faith is based upon what someone else told you when you were an impressionable child. Remember, we're all born atheists...we have to be taught to be religious.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Yak-The story of Onan is an interesting study of a daughter in law, betrayed by her brothers in law, and then impregnated by her father in law; qouted by athiests as a prohibition on masturbation. Why do you suppose athiests do that?

      March 24, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
    • Yakobi

      The same reason xtians quote Einstein, I suppose.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      This story of Tamar is where the klansmen and the hippies get their yin and yang symbol. At one time (circa 1920) the Klan wore this symbol over their hearts, replacing the demon names they wore previously. As Farakahn says, "the white devil ..."

      March 24, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
    • G to the T

      This story of Tamar is where the klansmen and the hippies get their yin and yang symbol. At one time (circa 1920) the Klan wore this symbol over their hearts, replacing the demon names they wore previously. As Farakahn says, "the white devil ..."

      HAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAH.... oh thanks. I needed that... 🙂

      April 5, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
  11. silentcount

    The most logical and scientific explanation of how something was created from nothing is that there's another dimension that controls the dimension containing physical matter. It's the original dimension from where our own being comes from and will return to. There's always been a link to this original dimension, but some people are just too "intelligent" to understand it. Perhaps they need to stop thinking of God as a man in a white beard sitting on a cloud and instead visualize a force beyond our wildest imaginations. We're basically cavemen trying to understand how a computer works. It's like magic, but in the end it'll all make perfect sense.

    March 24, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      For what purpose should we do that?

      March 24, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
    • silentcount

      Because Moby, when your physical body no longer exists, your inner being will move on... or perhaps not, depending on what you do, say and believe now.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      You assume too much and you expect me to order my life based on your assumptions. Sorry, but no. I require better argumentation for your position or some evidence that allows for a logical conclusion similar to yours.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Black box radiation is something from nothing in this universe. A scientific interpretation of creation would be a vacuum fluctuation.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • silentcount

      Not assuming, concluding or expecting. Just open minded to ideas of who we are, how we got here and why. So far, there is no concrete explanation from science or you.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
    • Yakobi

      Lemme guess...you've spent an inordinate amount of your life trying to make the observable facts of the universe fit into the fables you were indoctrinated into as a child.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
    • Peregrine

      So, NC, your god will burn me in hell for all eternity for;
      Being exactly the way he made
      Having perfectly rational doubts (as Tomas did and he saw how many miracles?)
      Being disgusted by his best representatives on earth, ie child molesters, hate mongers, megachurch millionaires and power hungry politicians.
      Doubting because science describes the world around us differently than his scribes.
      Doesn't sound like perfect justice or morals.

      March 24, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      The natural place for humans to go after death is sheol, called paradise by Islam and Christ. Daunte's hell does make a nice hook however.

      March 24, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      JPT
      The natural place to go is a supernatural place....this is ridiculous even for the troll that you are.

      March 24, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      robert- My tribe of Scots were hunted by the Dutch as troll during the 6gth century and I find your racism aborrant.

      March 24, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
    • oOo

      Who are you even talking to, Tarveball?

      March 24, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      oOo- It was an answer to your question about Einstein and it is still no, Einstein's theory stands; solid as a rock.

      March 24, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
    • Yakobi

      Just for you, Tarver...
      "The Word of God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish"– Albert Einstein

      March 24, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
    • oOo

      No, idiot – above where you start to reply to a "robert".

      March 24, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
    • jan buyck

      I'm sorry, but the only true and reasonable answer to the question: "Why is the universe created from nothing?" is: we simply don't know (yet)!

      March 24, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
  12. Yakobi

    Ever notice how intelligence and religious faith trend in opposite directions?

    March 24, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
    • DaveB

      Nice try, but not really the case.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      yes...check this out.
      http://hypnosis.home.netcom.com/iq_vs_religiosity.htm

      March 24, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      and this
      http://500questions.wordpress.com/2011/06/19/18-why-does-belief-in-god-decrease-as-intelligence-increases/

      March 24, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Actually, it is the case. The more education a person has the less 'fundamental' that person is likely to be in their religious beliefs. Most highly-educated people are atheist.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      and this
      http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-scientific-fundamentalist/201004/why-atheists-are-more-intelligent-the-religious

      March 24, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Daveb
      need I keep going or do you realize now your opinion does not match the evidence.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
  13. el_incr

    Steve
    Re: Roman Catholicism ; "Just because you don't like it doesn't mean it isn't Christian."

    I didn't say I didn't like Roman Catholicism. I simply made an observation re its "fruits". No pun intend. A man claims to be a plumber when he comes to fix your faucet. When he leaves and there's water all over the floor and water shooting out of the pipes, well, maybe I can make an accurate assessment (judgment) that he wasn't really a plumber.

    The fact that so many here are trying to disprove this hidden God makes for a great discussion. Obviously, this hidden God is dealing with us on His terms. We're the ones having all the doubts and questions-certainly NOT Him. Apparently, He holds ALL the cards.

    Psalm 2:4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them (unbelievers) in derision.

    March 24, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Your god is invisible and undetectable. That you want people to believe in something invisible and undetectable is not our problem. Any evidence for your god? No, didn't think so.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      In 1927 Einstein claimed relativity and quantum mechanics require a sentient being outside the universe to make the universe real. Did and done.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
    • Yakobi

      That wasn't the last time Einstein was wrong.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      So no evidence, then? Must suck for you.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Einstein's relativity stands as a theory under the scientific method after over 100 years. Perhaps you are a minion of the relativity denier Hawking, who is not very scientific at all.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
    • oOo

      Isn't it now pretty accepted that Einstein's theory has its limits?

      March 24, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
    • Yakobi

      I find it ironic and amusing that an xtian would quote Einstein–a jew who was forced to flee his country because of the persecution by Hitler–an xtian.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Hitler was an evolutionists who believed a master race would come of genocide.

      March 24, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
    • el_incr

      Moby Schtick, what evidence would convince you that God exists? A voice from heaven? In John 12:29; The crowd standing there heard this (a voice from Heaven) and said that it was thunder. Others were saying, "An angel has spoken to him." Even when God did speak, no one there agreed on just what transpired.

      Our experiences in this life can be very subjective at best. I saw many things that appeared real when I was high on LSD or drunk (in years past). These things were only "true" in my mind but certainly not to my friends who were with me. They had their own subjective "reality". That's what made LSD trips so much fun! It was an illusion of reality.

      Here's the truth; you and I are sinners. Your conscience can attest to that. Animals have no conscience that convicts them of sin. We do.

      Since we sinned against this most Holy, invisible God who created us, we now have to die. "Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” (Ezekiel 18:4).

      You now get to die as do I. We're BOTH in the same boat regarding this fact. God owes you NOTHING, not even your next breath.

      As I said earlier, He holds all the cards. You must come to Him on His terms. We are in no position to make any demands on Him. He transcends time and space and is beyond our ability to interface with Him except on His terms. He came to earth as a man. This man, Yeshua (Jesus), was God in the flesh. Colossians 2:9 For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. He came to pay a price that you couldn't for your sin against His Father. You and I are the problem. He alone has the solution. His blood for yours. All you have to do is agree with His indictment against you. You have sinned against Him and now you die! whatever your decision, make it fast because you may have just run out of time.

      The Bible says God is angry with sinners EVERYDAY. Consider a sermon by Jonathon Edwards:

      Most of the sermon's text consists of ten "considerations":
      God may cast wicked men into hell at any given moment.
      The Wicked deserve to be cast into hell. Divine justice does not prevent God from destroying the Wicked at any moment.
      The Wicked, at this moment, suffer under God's condemnation to Hell.
      The Wicked, on earth – at this very moment – suffer the torments of Hell. The Wicked must not think, simply because they are not physically in Hell, that God (in Whose hand the Wicked now reside) is not – at this very moment – as angry with them as He is with those miserable creatures He is now tormenting in hell, and who – at this very moment – do feel and bear the fierceness of His wrath.
      At any moment God shall permit him, Satan stands ready to fall upon the Wicked and seize them as his own.
      If it were not for God's restraints, there are, in the souls of wicked men, hellish principles reigning which, presently, would kindle and flame out into hellfire.
      Simply because there are not visible means of death before them at any given moment, the Wicked should not feel secure.
      Simply because it is natural to care for oneself or to think that others may care for them, men should not think themselves safe from God's wrath.
      All that wicked men may do to save themselves from Hell's pains shall afford them nothing if they continue to reject Christ.
      God has never promised to save us from Hell, except for those contained in Christ through the covenant of Grace.

      March 24, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
    • Yakobi

      Hitler was an xtian, Tarver who tried to wipe out a different religion (and atheists).

      March 24, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • oOo

      el_incr- that's quite a load of self-serving BS.

      March 24, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      oOo-No.

      March 24, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
    • el_incr

      oOo, self serving BS? Really. Make your case, then, as I did.

      March 24, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
    • oOo

      @el_incr – Actually there is no need. I have already done so in pointing out this point of embarrassment for you – trying to make any case based on self/circular reference.

      March 24, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      el_incr. You haven't made your case, all you've done is quote the bible. If some of the events were reproduced in the internet age that would be compelling, you know water into wine, woman into salt, men living for centuries, man living in a large fish, etc. etc.
      Got any examples of those on YouTube?

      March 24, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
    • el_incr

      oOo
      "el_incr- that's quite a load of self-serving BS". Self serving? Really? I indict myself as a sinner. Where is the self serving you convict me of? I am guilty of every sin in the book. Years of rock bands and the life style, drugs, women, parties, Harleys. You name it-I did it. I had a blast and not ashamed to confess what I am at heart. You can't do that. But none of these sins sends a person to Hell. It's your rejection of Yeshua's sacrifice that sends you there. My sins just prove who and what I am by nature.

      I loved being a sinner but the problem came when someone told me the cost!

      March 24, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
    • oOo

      "Self-serving" as in what little you are willing to accept to hold a belief that you feel benefits you.

      March 24, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
    • el_incr

      oOo

      "Self-serving" as in what little you are willing to accept to hold a belief that you feel benefits you."

      What? A belief that benefits me? This belief condemned me! It revealed who I am at heart! I simply agreed with God's indictment against me. You can't and you won't but you still get to die; maybe soon. It MAY be today.

      I'm trying to warn you that your house is on fire. Why don't you see for your self.

      March 24, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
    • oOo

      OK, so you choose once again to ignore the point. Unless you can give credible evidence for your God (hint: the Bible is not a good example in case you didn't understand what I meant by self/circular reference), then you will continue to be ridiculed for being gullible.

      March 24, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
    • el_incr

      oOo
      "Unless you can give credible evidence for your God (hint: the Bible is not a good example in case you didn't understand what I meant by self/circular reference), then you will continue to be ridiculed for being gullible."

      First, I sense no ridicule from anyone here. None. You're like a man who drives a Ford but doesn't believe that a place called Ford Motors actually exists or even the man, Henry Ford.

      The evidence for a Creator is overwhelming. It's just that you refuse to acknowledge this evidence. If you did acknowledge the evidence and where it points, you would then be faced with the fact that you are a sinner and accountable to this most Holy God and are now going to die. It is YOU who is going to die and be judged-NOT God, He is the One doing the judging.

      Hebrews 9:27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment. No reincarnation here! Die ONCE and then judgment. Wholly smoke, Batman!

      I've made my point. It is your rebellious heart that now rejects your only hope from what is coming to you. Hebrews 10:31; "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

      You want proof, honestly look at the evidence around you. Did YOU create it? Did you put it there? Did you create YOURSELF and put yourself here? Did YOU determine that YOU are to die? Why would you destine yourself to die? Where were you, as God asked Job, when I (God) laid the foundations of the earth. Where were you when it all began. Did you cause the birds to fly? Did YOU cause the lion to hunt? Was it YOU who created the seas and everything in it? Was it YOU who put the planets in their orbits? Who taught the birds to fly south for the winter? Was it YOU?

      You want proof? Look at yourself and reflect on what God has to say toYOU; Psalm 14; The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

      March 24, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      el_incr. Avoidance doesn't prove anything.
      The Ford analogy is a ridiculous; anyone can see the Ford factories and dealers. And they can see that automobile manufacture is not exclusive to Ford.

      There is no evidence for a creator. You see the universe and say that, but there is no evidence. Religion was created by ancient peoples to explain events they didn't understand – eclipses, earthquakes, floods, thunder, lightning, etc. We understand what causes those events. The creation myths of all religions are proven to be incorrect by modern science.
      There is no evidence of a creator and especially not your god.

      March 24, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      el_incr,
      " 'Psalm 14; The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

      A quite old and sometimes effective tactic – declaring that those who do not believe your story are fools'. Nobody wants to be considered 'dumb' for not seeing the Emperor's new clothes, or a 'bas.tard' for not seeing the Sultan's new turban, or a 'cuckold' for not being able to see the Miller's gold thumb.

      Even Joseph Smith used it when he gathered his 'witnesses' to his golden plates. He told them that only those with 'true faith' would be able to 'see' them.

      The ancient, primitive Hebrews who originated those Bible stories were quite adept at manipulative mind-games.

      March 24, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
  14. Kanageloa

    It's his God given right to say what he wants.

    March 24, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      He can spend all his money trying to overturn the fist amendment, as it his right of speech under the first amendment.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
    • oOo

      For the 100th time Tarver – if he's supporting separation of church and state – how is that trying to overturn the 1st Amendment? You're such an idiot.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      The first amendment guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. Seperation of church and state has to do with keeping the state out of religion, not the other way around. Although Chief Justice Black, grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, did interpret "seperation of church and state" to be a means to deprive Catholic schools of public funding; a situation reversed by Jack Kennedy.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
    • clarity

      JPT:"Seperation of church and state has to do with keeping the state out of religion, not the other way around."

      That's only part of the picture, JPT, for the 100th time. It is also about restricting religion's involvement in government. Madison wrote about this in several ways. You can choose to ignore history, but his feelings about his handiwork – the 1st Amendment are quite clear.

      Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.

      The Civil Govt, tho' bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability and performs its functions with complete success, Whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood, & the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Kana
      It is his first amendment right. The people grant the people the right (of the people, by the people for the people).

      No gods required.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • Hello

      and which god it that?

      March 24, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
  15. Lucidifer

    This is the 21st century. If the God of the Jews, Christians, And Muslims really existed I am certain at this point he would die of embarrassment.

    March 24, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
    • DaveB

      Or that great line from Hannah and Her Sisters (paraphrasing): If Jesus came to earth and actually witnessed the things that were being done in His name, He wouldn't stop throwing up.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
  16. John P. Tarver, MS/PE

    History judges athiests amoral, not the bible. Christians are to be kind to the spiritually impoverished. (poor)

    March 24, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
    • Yakobi

      There are no gods or goddesses, demons or devils, ghosts or goblins. Religion was invented by man to control the masses.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Sooo ... when are these christians going to start?!

      March 24, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Religion is the cure for normal human psychosis, as defined by Dr. Freud; prior to cocaine taking over his mind.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
    • Over 40,000 denominations of insanity

      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.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      "There are those who say I have come to bring peace; I have come not to bring peace, but a sword. To turn brother against brother and father against son." JC

      March 24, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
    • clarity

      There is no credible evidence for Christ as a supernatural character nor any of the supernatural events in the Bible.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Clarity- John the Baptist is also an historical character, as he was jailed for starting a riot that killed 120,000 Magis. A riot directed at one group without breaking into looting is a story I have never seen elsewhere in history.

      March 24, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
    • Hello

      Read Caesar's Messiah by Joseph Atwill on created the christian myth and why

      March 24, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
  17. Fundies Gone Wild

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmWBc1jvyRc&w=640&h=390]

    March 24, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
  18. Christa

    I am very disappointed that CNN would highlight this man on one of the holiest of days, Palm Sunday. He is an atheist. That is his choice. He has every right to be that. We all have consequences for our actions and our beliefs. I am just saddened that CNN had to highlight and bring attention to him today. I plan on praying for him.

    March 24, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
    • Joam

      CNN is an atheist organization.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
    • .

      It was posted yesterday. You just clicked on it today. Save your outrage.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
    • Alex

      Praying – how to do nothing and still think you're helping

      March 24, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
    • yo yo

      I doubt you REALLY feel offended at CNN's timing or threatened by Todd Stiefel. You and your fellow believers have about 80% of the country, what else do you want?

      March 24, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
    • Larry L

      You can be disappointed all you want. Palm Sunday means nothing to many Americans and the media isn't obliged to pander to your mythology. Your prayers will be no more effective than all of the other prayers you've wasted. All religions were created by ordinary people – either to satisfy their fears or to accomplish a social, financial, or political agenda.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
    • Chris

      Your response highlights the type of ignorance he is trying to fight. Palm Sunday is not a national holiday, christianity is not a national religion, and CNN is not a religious news provider. Atheism is a way of thinking, just as religion and neither should be prevented from being discussed, no matter what day it is.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
    • Lucidifer

      I think Palm Sunday is a perfect day to discuss Atheism. It highlights how the times have changed. When you compare Jesus entering Jerusalem in triumph 2000 years ago with the reception he receives in the New Jerusalem we call the internet, you can clearly see the difference.

      This is the 21st century, It looks like this time Jesus will be crucified on Good Friday for being a nuisance instead of for the imaginary sins of man.

      What you are seeing is a religion in its death throes.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • mark

      What you are actually seeing the slow death of a persons soul as it posts on CNN. Enjoy your blip on the eternity timeline.

      March 24, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
    • Hello

      Read Caesar's Messiah By Joseph Atwill to learn who created the Christian myth and why

      March 24, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • MMC

      @Christa – Palm Sunday is a holy day for you and people that share your beliefs. For everyone else, it is simply another Sunday.

      March 24, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
    • who

      cares

      March 25, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
  19. sqeptiq

    "When men wrangle by the mouth with no certainty that they mean the same thing while using the same words, it would perhaps be as well if they would keep silence." -Abraham Lincoln

    March 24, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
  20. Lucidifer

    Most Atheists do not believe death is the end. We all recognize that we still have some decomposing to do.

    March 24, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
    • Lilith

      No, that was Beethoven!

      March 24, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
    • mark

      You are already decomposing, apparently from the mind down.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
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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.