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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. Vic

    A man walked up to a scientist and said "I am a big fan, I love what you do, and I don't believe in that nonsense about God!" The scientist scratched his head and asked "Do you have proof there is no God?!" The man answered "No!" Then the scientist said "Get out my face!"

    Another man was standing by and heard the exchange, then came up to the scientist and said "I believe in God!" The scientist said "Do you have proof?!" The man said "Just look around!" Then the scientist sighed and said "I'll give you that!!!

    !!!This Universe and Life in it have "Prima Facie" Revelation about God!!!

    Related Posts:

    http://lightyears.blogs.cnn.com/2013/03/22/science-seat-another-earth-called-a-certainty/#comment-138045

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/03/23/the-money-man-behind-atheisms-activism/comment-page-34/#comment-2237533

    http://lightyears.blogs.cnn.com/2013/03/18/on-mars-more-water-evidence-in-drilling-area/#comment-136832

    March 24, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • abc123

      What a true but albeit grumpy scientist would really say.

      A man walked up to a scientist and said "I am a big fan, I love what you do, and I don't believe in that nonsense about God!" The scientist scratched his head and asked "Do you have proof there is no God?!" The man answered "No!" Then the scientist said "Get out my face!"

      Another man was standing by and heard the exchange, then came up to the scientist and said "I believe in God!" The scientist said "Do you have proof?!" The man said "Just look around!" Then the scientist sighed and said "Get out my face!"

      March 24, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • Yakobi

      That "scientist" must have been Tarver.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
    • End Religion

      Vic, what are you, 7? You appear to have the IQ of a load of unwashed socks. Crack a book open, and not one with so much capricious violence as the bible.

      March 24, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
  2. Ann Marie

    Since our country seperates church and state there is no need for him or his buddies to band together as they aren't persecuted to start with.

    March 24, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • Ravi in Nebraska

      is that a joke?

      March 24, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      He reminds me of a high school biology bully attacking Christians over Darwin, but Darwin's evolution as a means to species was falsed when this fellow was 5.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Except in all those places where religion has forced its way in where it does not belong ie. pledge of allegiance, the Lie that is the motto in god we trust, etc.etc.etc.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • God Illusion

      Haha – hilarious stuff...

      The reason atheists need to organize is precisely because of the involvement of religion in politics! Stem cel researchl funding ring a bell? Foreign aid to Eastern Africa banning condom distribution? The entire abortion debate? Gay marriage? Teaching creationism in schools? Religious involvement in politics leads to planes being flown into buildings and the Westboro Baptist Church picketing soldiers funerals... You simply could not be more misinformed or confused.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      jpt
      a high school biology bully? what exactly is that?
      and evolution is taught in every school in america because it is real, creationism is part of a religious fairy tale.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • God Illusion

      John – I'm so insecure I need to put letters after my name in a forum post – Tarver...

      Evolution has not been "falsed" – it is supported and accept by all who understand it, and only denied by those who don't.

      "Falsed" is not a real word (check the dictionary)... work on your English and then your science... you get a failing grade in both.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • Todd

      Riiiiight. Just ask any Republican candidate about the separation of church and state... or try to run for a political office as an atheist. Unless you believe in the tooth fairy you can't be in government today.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • Vic

      “Why, if species have descended from other species by insensibly fine gradations, (why) do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms?”

      Charles Darwin

      http://evolutionisntscience.wordpress.com/evolution-frauds/

      http://scienceagainstevolution.info/v11i3e.htm

      http://www.icr.org/article/evolution-biologically-impossible/

      http://www.icr.org/article/biggest-problems-for-evolution/

      March 24, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Species occur rapidly following a mass extinction, the opposite of evolution; as we know from the global geological record and Dr. Gould's work in biology.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
    • End Religion

      "(why) do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms?"

      every fossil is transitional, doofus.

      March 24, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
  3. chanel # 5

    got to run. got to barbie up more millions. the brethren are getting hungry.

    March 24, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • chanel # 5

      . got to get started raping more kids, too. been slackin off in that department.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      This is the last Pope, acording to Saint Malachy.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • Yakobi

      Oh, did your creationist bible prophesize that? But wait–plenty of xtians thought the world would end on the arbitrary date of 1/1/2000 (forgetting there was no year 0). Still others erroneously thought 2012.

      (psst)...Don't tell anyone, but the universe doesn't even know you exist. It doesn't care how you measure time or how you mark history.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
  4. chanel # 5

    we do all kinds of psych torture. we invented it

    March 24, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
  5. mike mason

    We are self-aware. We are aware of our own mortality. The Flight -Fight response to an anticipated death results in death anxiety. Resulting in the 7 stages of grief which are, shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and acceptance.
    Plato (429–347 B.C.E.)was both an Idealist and a Reincarnationist. In his Apology, due to the Cycle of Opposites, states that since people are alive they must have been once dead thus the human soul is immortal. Furthermore, in his Platonic Forms, the material world is merely an imperfect copy (eidôla) of a perfect Idea (paradeigmata). Thus, the flesh being material is imperfect and the soul is perfect. Likewise, ideas are superior to material proof. With these analogies Plato espouses asceticism and self-mortification to purify the immortal soul and mortify the flesh. As a result from our denial of our own mortality we are reduced to live a life of mortification, self-loathing and guilt simply for being a normal human. If this reminds you of your religion there is a good reason! Plato’s philosophy influenced Philo of Alexandria with Judaism, St. Augustine of Hippo with Christianity. Plato also influenced Avicenna and Averroes with Islam.
    Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines faith as “firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” Conversely, Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines the scientific method thus, “principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.” The primary difference is the amount of proof required for an idea before accepting it as truth. Whereas Religion claims it is the absolute truth, unchanging and is zealous. Science is a journey toward truth, it is self- correcting and is impartial. Furthermore, many religiously believe in an idea even if there is proof to the contrary. The more emotionally invested we are in an idea, the less likely we are to listen to reason. Whereas, there are many subjective perceptions of reality, there is only one objective reality and one absolute truth. However, to ardently accept one idea often precludes another idea as truth. This inhibits furthering our understanding of reality. This is not merely an academic exercise, to be practical, it makes life a lot harder than it has to be. In fact, accepting things as they really are may be essential to our very survival. Also, the better we understand reality, the better we can utilize that knowledge to actually achieve some of what our heart most desires. All we have to do is to find the courage to accept our own mortality and live life to its fullest. Carpe diem!

    March 24, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      To be self aware is original sin.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • Yakobi

      To "sin" is to first believe in a religion, therefore atheists can never sin.

      Remember, we're all born atheists...we must be taught to believe in religion.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • Phazon

      Rebelling against god was what they did.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • Yakobi

      ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION, f king ID thief

      March 24, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • Yakobi

      Get your own handle. Stop using mine.

      March 24, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
  6. qazoo

    Well, I know where his confusion comes from. Because it almost happen to me. Like him I was raised catholic, and then later in life I drop out of that and became more of aware of the Bible and it's teaching through other Christian groups.

    And so like him I too question somethings because what I had learn under the Catholic theology did not always mesh with what I was learning through other sources.

    He chose to drop out because he could not rationalize what he had grown up believing and what he was learning at Duke University. And that was because he was a kid, who simply never step away from it all and discovered God on his own.

    And that is where God is, on a personal level. Not through or by any religion or preaching or book. I don't want to label him a fraud. He's young and ignorant. And because he can't grasp a God because he mistakenly thought a God wrote the old testament he then turns to convincing himself there is no God.

    For the record people, God had very little to do with writing the Bible, because God is not of religion, mankind created that. Even the name God may be incorrect, but it does have a nice ring to it. And if you lack the faith in a higher power or intelligent design you will simply never believe. That's why they call it faith. And that faith as well cannot be instilled by anyone or any organization.

    What ever works for you and gets you through the day, but don't try going around convincing the world there is no God, you can no more prove that then they can prove there is.

    March 24, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
    • yo yo

      You said it my friend, "other Christian groups." Why are there so many Christian groups if they are right and the Catholic church is wrong? Are they having trouble agreeing on where the Catholic church is wrong? Or is it that they can't agree on how each of them interprets the Bible? Have you asked yourself that?

      March 24, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • qazoo

      Nope, I never did, and for good reason. I got the h-ll away, far away from any organized religion and even fellow believers. It's me and you know who and a dog name blue.

      I do invoke certain names in my conversations with you know who, but to cover my a– just in case. And of course I apologize if I am wrong. But never the less I quite comfortable in my belief system.

      March 24, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
  7. chanel # 5

    i am good, ain't i?

    March 24, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
  8. mike mason

    We are self-aware. We are aware of our own mortality. The Flight -Fight response to an anticipated death results in death anxiety. Resulting in the 7 stages of grief which are, shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and acceptance.
    Plato (429–347 B.C.E.) was both an Idealist and a Reincarnationist. In his Apology, due to the Cycle of Opposites, states that since people are alive they must have been once dead thus the human soul is immortal. Furthermore, in his Platonic Forms, the material world is merely an imperfect copy (eidôla) of a perfect Idea (paradeigmata). Thus, the flesh being material is imperfect and the soul is perfect. Likewise, ideas are superior to material proof. With these analogies Plato espouses asceticism and self-mortification to purify the immortal soul and mortify the flesh. As a result from our denial of our own mortality we are reduced to live a life of mortification, self-loathing and guilt simply for being a normal human. If this reminds you of your religion there is a good reason! Plato’s philosophy influenced Philo of Alexandria with Judaism, St. Augustine of Hippo with Christianity. Plato also influenced Avicenna and Averroes with Islam.
    Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines faith as “firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” Conversely, Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines the scientific method thus, “principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.” The primary difference is the amount of proof required for an idea before accepting it as truth. Whereas Religion claims it is the absolute truth, unchanging and is zealous. Science is a journey toward truth, it is self- correcting and is impartial. Furthermore, many religiously believe in an idea even if there is proof to the contrary. The more emotionally invested we are in an idea, the less likely we are to listen to reason. Whereas, there are many subjective perceptions of reality, there is only one objective reality and one absolute truth. However, to ardently accept one idea often precludes another idea as truth. This inhibits furthering our understanding of reality. This is not merely an academic exercise, to be practical, it makes life a lot harder than it has to be. In fact, accepting things as they really are may be essential to our very survival. Also, the better we understand reality, the better we can utilize that knowledge to actually achieve some of what our heart most desires. All we have to do is to find the courage to accept our own mortality and live life to its fullest. Carpe diem!

    March 24, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • Phazon

      Um bo the bible states that knowledge leads to ever lasting life.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
  9. Snowdog

    What a sorry life this guy lives.

    March 24, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      I agree Snowdog. Living in a world filled with facts and reason is a horrible demise. I mean that.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
    • Democritus

      Snowdog: Yes, being a well educated self-made multi-millionaire would be a miserable life.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
  10. chanel # 5

    see? atheists can trash christians but don't say a word about them

    lol

    March 24, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
  11. guildsbounty

    I'm....confused. "Eliminating discrimination against Atheists and Humanists"? I see an awful lot more of people thumbing their noses at the 'stupid religious people' than I see religious people giving grief to atheists and humanists. Obviously there are outliers on both sides of this, but scroll through just about any comments section on this site where religion comes up. I could be missing something, but I see a lot more fire and disdain fired at religious folk than I do at atheists. (Again, I'm not saying there isn't any fire being spat at atheists, but I see a lot more fire going the other direction.) And this doesn't just apply to this site, I see it in pop culture and day to day life as well.

    March 24, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • End Religion

      You're seeing the reaction. If it looks to you like we're a little angry and have had enough then it's working.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • Samuel

      I'm....confused. "Eliminating discrimination against Blacks and Mexicans"? I see an awful lot more of people thumbing their noses at the 'stupid white people' than I see white people giving grief to blacks and mexicans. Obviously there are outliers on both sides of this, but scroll through just about any comments section on this site where race comes up. I could be missing something, but I see a lot more fire and disdain fired at white folk than I do at blacks.

      I wonder why?

      March 24, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • Gyrogearloose

      I agree completely with End.

      As just one example, I've had it with proselytizing evangelists who ring our doorbell despite the 'No Soliciting' sign that is intended to keep them at bay. This is arrogant, obnoxious, and an invasion of my privacy.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • guildsbounty

      Pardon if I see a little incredulous. Whose belief structure relating to the origin of reality is taught in schools? Whose standards and beliefs are purported by almost all popular media? If atheism is being discriminated against, where is the evidence. Are you forced to kneel and pray? or even forced to sit through it at school events? No...instead, any sort of public prayer is not permitted in schools. Do your children go to public school and have a philosophy and belief structure taught to them that goes against what you believe?

      So, in the interest of educating myself, because I have not seen it in action. In what ways (apart from 'someone tried to convert me to their religion at a personal level' or 'some random person online went off on a rampaging tangent') do you feel you are being discriminated against?

      For the record, I'm being completely serious here. I've never seen it, and if it is truly occurring, then I agree that it is wrong. People should be allowed to believe what they want to believe.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • End Religion

      @guildsbounty: "Pardon if I see a little incredulous. Whose belief structure relating to the origin of reality is taught in schools?"

      We don't teach belief in school we teach reality.

      ***
      "Whose standards and beliefs are purported by almost all popular media?"

      You're on the Belief Blog, which over the last 4 weeks has posted about 20 positive Pope articles. You were saying?

      ***
      "If atheism is being discriminated against, where is the evidence."

      Don't you have access to Google, or are you willfully ignorant?
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discrimination_against_atheists
      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2009/12/15/which-states-ban-atheists-from-holding-public-office/

      ***
      "Are you forced to kneel and pray? or even forced to sit through it at school events?"

      http://www.aclu.org/religion-belief/aclu-calls-end-mandatory-prayer-us-naval-academy

      ***
      "No...instead, any sort of public prayer is not permitted in schools."

      School is for education; church is for your fantasy. They shouldn't mix. that you want them to is why we're fighting back, dimwit.

      ***
      "Do your children go to public school and have a philosophy and belief structure taught to them that goes against what you believe?"

      If you prefer to abuse your children by teaching them fantasy instead of reality keep them home and school them yourself.

      March 24, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
    • ahhhhh look who's here

      ER did you just get out of bed or were you eating brunch after church?

      March 24, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • Gyrogearloose

      Abortion is one very good example of a topic about which the religious right tries very hard to impose their beliefs on the rest of us.

      March 24, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      "philosophy and belief structure taught to them that goes against what you believe?"

      Philosophy is being taught in public schools? Where? And are you saying your children shouldn't be taught anything you don't believe? Why? Are you the walking compendium of all human knowledge? Is what is true or not judged by whether you believe it?

      March 24, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • Really Blind Faith

      Try this. Go one week and every time you hear someone say "Jesus, Christimas, Santa, Thank God, Dear God, Holiday, faith, sin or God bless" try to think of them as someone who doesn't believe and replace them with "Aslan, Camelot, Gandalf, Thank Zeus, Dear Paladine, mana, hit points or Odin's bless"

      Also, take the end of October through the last day of December and imagine three full months of non-stop "it's a small world after all" played everywhere you go, in every store, every mall and every business, all day, every day, and then you get home to an evening to yourself and your favorite channel is playing a 10 hour marathon of the old "It's a small world" Disney video that takes you on a magical tour of the ride and a behind the scenes segment on how they did all the animatronics.

      I'm not saying I don't enjoy it once, or once in a while, but nearly three months straight of any "holy day" is enough to drive anyone crazy.

      March 24, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • guildsbounty

      ER....You're really not helping your case. Instantly dismissing another's belief system as 'fantasy' is much closer to discrimination than 90% of what I have seen here. Furthermore, you attack my intellectual capacities based solely on the fact that I believe in God. And you call teaching what religious people believe to be truth 'abusive'?
      After reading what you linked, I will concede that in some ways, some believers are prejudiced against atheists. That said, they often have the same prejudice against people who believe other things. And I believe that there is an equal balance of atheists who are prejudiced against religious people.

      Gyro...that's a bad example. The 'religious right' feel that life begins at conception, ergo abortion is murder. Folk who believe abortion is okay generally believe that either the mother's rights overwhelm the baby's, or that the baby isn't actually a distinct person until they are born, therefore an abortion is just getting rid of some excess tissue growth. How many people who are pro-choice would start protesting if a society decided that 'until a child is capable of fully caring for themselves, they are not a full person, and therefore can be disposed of at will?

      March 24, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • guildsbounty

      As for the commentary I've seen to the effect of 'I'm sick of Evangelical Christians proselytizing....let me just leave this quote up here from Penn Jillette (who is an atheist, btw)

      "If you believe that there's a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell–or not getting eternal life or whatever–and you think that, well, it's not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward...How much do you have to hate somebody not to proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?"

      March 24, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • FSM

      Ah. Then I hope you will be charitable towards those who spread the Gospel of The Flying Spaghetti Monster. After all, why would anyone want their fellow human being to be subjected to an eternity with STD-ridden st-rippers and a volcano of stale beer, when they could be in Pastafarian heaven enjoying STD-free st-rippers and and a volcano of ever-fresh beer for eternity? All you have to do is allow the FSM to come into your life. Or onto your face, if that's how you like it.

      I hope you will be Touched By His Noodley Appendage,
      R'Amen.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
  12. jowler

    I hope he continues to waste his fortune
    This movement cannot be sustained without his money, so it has an endpoint eventually.

    March 24, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
    • End Religion

      Religion is dying. The endpoint you reference is when religious folk die off and religion in the U.S. falls to @15% like Europe, instead of 75-80%. ENjoy your reign while it lasts. The U.S. is waking up.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Not believing in God(s) has been around since long before religion. Knowledge has been killing God(s) for centuries. Whether he spends his fortune or not, it will make no difference, atheism will continue as it always has .. in the brains of those courageous enough to think for themselves and not just believe because they were told to.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • The Sleeping Giant

      "Yaaaaaawnnn!!!! Alright, alright, i'm awake, so whats this I hear about people who still throw salt over their shoulders and knock on wood to scare away wood demons and bow their heads in ritual supplication to invisible creatures in the sky to aid them in their daily lives? Really? Really?"

      March 24, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • End Religion

      Giant, it's time to wake up, dear. I've made fresh cinnamon buns with glaze and no gods on top. I have fresh juice from fruit that evolved. Wakey, wakey, eggs and bac-y, none of which was poofed into existence by the snapping of any god's fingers.

      March 24, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • ahhhhh look who's here

      are you talking bout the world rebel system on the rise? that prophecy?

      March 24, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
    • Adam

      " Wakey, wakey, eggs and bac-y" now loosen your grip or you'll choke the snaky...

      March 24, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      Sorry to take the red herring you've thrown in the discussion as bait, but I have to ask:

      "You are merely a collection of particles that have been deterministically assembled in many different forms over the course of billions of years."

      So are you saying that the EXACT SAME CONFIGURATION of "mere" particles somehow has free will if it is assembled by a god, and does not if it wasn't?

      March 24, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      Wrong thread.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
  13. Eric

    Atheism is NOT a religious group. It is pure ignorance to say so.

    March 24, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • Chad

      As an atheist you dont believe in free will.

      If you dont believe in free will, what is your basis for condemning someone as "ignorant"?

      March 24, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • End Religion

      Chad, a bit arrogant to think you speak for everyone, but we knew that. Why no empirical evidence for your god yet? WHy haven't you been able to show any good evidence for Jesus' existence?

      March 24, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Chad
      That is absurd. I am an atheist. Free will as you call it is what all creatures have...the will to do and act as they want. The difference is that my free will is part of nature...no gods required.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      A-theism is simply a word describing (to those who need a definition) not believing in theism. It's not even necessary. We don't have a term for not believing in unicorns (aunicornians?) or mind controlling giant teapots (ateapotists?). It's just for those who, through deep indoctrination, cannot conceive of not worshiping/believing in God(s).

      March 24, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • Opposing View

      It matters not whether you believe Atheism is a religion or not. Even if you feel it's not a religion, that still won't save you fron going to hell....

      March 24, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • Yakobi

      But OV, "hell" only exists in your mind. Why do you waste your one life being afraid of something that doesn't exist?

      March 24, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • What IF

      Opposing View:
      "....that still won't save you fron going to hell...."

      Your verified evidence for this statement, please?

      March 24, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • Opposing View

      Yakobi… Prove it. Where's your proof? You still haven't provide an ounce of proof. That's because you don't have any. Still evading the question I see…

      March 24, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • Chad

      @Richard Cranium "That is absurd. I am an atheist. Free will as you call it is what all creatures have...the will to do and act as they want. The difference is that my free will is part of nature."

      @Chad "as an atheist, you believe that the entirety of the universe consists of particles interacting according to the physical laws of the universe.

      The atheist view is that the only difference between a human and a rock, is the increased complexity of the particle interaction in the human. Humans have no more free will than a rock does.

      The electrical impulses in your brain are merely the interactions of particles, an interaction deterministically set in motion 13.77 billion years ago. No soul, no free will. A greater complexity of particle arrangement grants you no free will.


      An atheist who purports to believe in free will simply hasnt thought through the implications of their naturalistic position.

      ========
      @End Religion "WHy haven't you been able to show any good evidence for Jesus' existence?"
      @Chad "???
      actually, I think the task is for you to find a scholar that claims that Jesus never existed, right? 🙂

      Virtually all modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed,[5][6][7][8] and biblical scholars and cla ssical historians regard theories of his non-existence as effectively refuted.[9][10][11] Scholars generally agree that Jesus was a Galilean Jew who was born BC 7–2 and died AD 30–36.[12][13] Most scholars hold that Jesus lived in Galilee and Judea[14][15][16] and that he spoke Aramaic and may have also spoken Hebrew and Greek.[17][18][19][20][21] Although scholars differ on the reconstruction of the specific episodes of the life of Jesus, the two events whose historicity is subject to "almost universal as sent" are that he was baptized by John the Baptist and was crucified by the order of the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate.

      [5] Jesus and His Contemporaries: Comparative Studies by Craig A. Evans 2001 ISBN 0391041185 pages 2-5
      [6] Christopher M. Tuckett In The Cambridge Companion to Jesus edited by Markus N. A. Bockmuehl 2001 ISBN 0521796784 pages 122-126
      [7] Amy-Jill Levine in the The Historical Jesus in Context edited by Amy-Jill Levine et al. 2006 Princeton Univ Press ISBN 978-0-691-00992-6 pages 1-2
      [8] Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium by Bart D. Ehrman (Sep 23, 1999) ISBN 0195124731 Oxford Univ Press pages ix-xi
      [9] In a 2011 review of the state of modern scholarship, Bart Ehrman (who is a secular agnostic) wrote: "He certainly existed, as virtually every competent scholar of antiquity, Christian or non-Christian, agrees" B. Ehrman, 2011 Forged : writing in the name of God ISBN 978-0-06-207863-6. page 285
      ^ Robert M. Price (an atheist who denies existence) agrees that this perspective runs against the views of the majority of scholars: Robert M. Price "Jesus at the Vanishing Point" in The Historical Jesus: Five Views edited by James K. Beilby & Paul Rhodes Eddy, 2009 InterVarsity, ISBN 028106329X page 61
      [10] Michael Grant (a cla ssicist) states that "In recent years, 'no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non historicity of Jesus' or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary." in Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels by Micjhael Grant 2004 ISBN 1898799881 page 200
      [11] Richard A. Burridge states: "There are those who argue that Jesus is a figment of the Church’s imagination, that there never was a Jesus at all. I have to say that I do not know any respectable critical scholar who says that any more." in Jesus Now and Then by Richard A. Burridge and Graham Gould (Apr 1, 2004) ISBN 0802809774 page 34
      [12] Robert E. Van Voorst Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence Eerdmans Publishing, 2000. ISBN 0-8028-4368-9 page 16 states: "biblical scholars and cla ssical historians regard theories of non-existence of Jesus as effectively refuted"
      [13] James D. G. Dunn "Paul's understanding of the death of Jesus" in Sacrifice and Redemption edited by S. W. Sykes (Dec 3, 2007) Cambridge University Press ISBN 052104460X pages 35-36 states that the theories of non-existence of Jesus are "a thoroughly dead thesis"
      [14] The Gospels and Jesus by Graham Stanton, 1989 ISBN 0192132415 Oxford University Press, page 145 states : "Today nearly all historians, whether Christians or not, accept that Jesus existed".
      [15] Paul L. Maier "The Date of the Nativity and Chronology of Jesus" in Chronos, kairos, Christos: nativity and chronological studies by Jerry Vardaman, Edwin M. Yamauchi 1989 ISBN 0-931464-50-1 pages 113-129
      [16] The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament by Andreas J. Köstenberger, L. Scott Kellum 2009 ISBN 978-0-8054-4365-3 page 114
      ^ Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, I. Howard Marshall, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (InterVarsity Press, 1992), page 442
      [17] The Historical Jesus in Recent Research edited by James D. G. Dunn and Scot McKnight 2006 ISBN 1-57506-100-7 page 303
      [18] Who Is Jesus? by John Dominic Crossan, Richard G. Watts 1999 ISBN 0664258425 pages 28-29
      [19] James Barr, Which language did Jesus speak, Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, 1970; 53(1) pages 9-29 [1]
      [20] Handbook to exegesis of the New Testament by Stanley E. Porter 1997 ISBN 90-04-09921-2 pages 110-112
      [21] Discovering the language of Jesus by Douglas Hamp 2005 ISBN 1-59751-017-3 page 3-4
      ^ Jesus in history and myth by R. Joseph Hoffmann 1986 ISBN 0-87975-332-3 page 98

      March 24, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
    • oOo

      There has never been any credible evidence put forth to support the initial claim by religion for the existence of hell. Therefore, to date, no one that I know of has been able to prove its existence. It's easy to say that it can't be disproven either, but on the same level as saying you can't disprove that Tinkerbell exists.

      March 24, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • oOo

      Regardless of the possible existence of a preacher man who made some headlines, there is plenty of reason to question the validity of the gospel accounts in the Bible. The anonymously-written gospels were thought by many to be copies/variations of earlier pagan stories. The charges against them was sufficient enough that several early Christian apologists came up with this whacky notion of 'diabolical mimicry' – that the devil disseminated the supposedly "fake" stories before the "real" gospel accounts. How about that plagiarism in reverse, courtesy of you neighborhood devil.

      Christians took some rehashed folklore and just made it sound even fishier.

      March 24, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      What does free will have to do with ignorance?

      March 24, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • Adam

      "Atheism is NOT a religious group." True. But that is not to say that atheists do not have their own personal beliefs. Atheism is just one part of a persons personal ideology. This is what is so confusing to Christians. They see their religion as interchangeable with their ideology. They say they don't just believe in Christianity, they ARE Christians. Atheists simply do not believe in any Gods because of the lack of evidence for them, however that is not the core of their belief system that they would say makes them moral or informs their choices, that would be "being human" which is by far the larger part to most atheists ideology.

      i·de·ol·o·gy (d-l-j, d-) n. 1. The body of ideas reflecting the social needs and aspirations of an individual, group, class, or culture. 2. A set of doctrines or beliefs that form the basis of a political, economic, or other system.

      As you can see, the absence of God does not remove a persons ideology and you can have all the same "social needs and aspirations" without proclaiming your devotion to one invisible deity or another.

      March 24, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Chad, Who knows if we really have free will. We think we do but as we learn more about the human genome we see more hard-wired tendencies. That doesn't mean that free will is a god-given thing. You'd need to prove a god first . And all your repeated c&p really don't do that.

      March 24, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
    • Chad

      @Santa,
      atheism and free will are utterly irreconcilable concepts.

      ===
      @Tank
      do you consider a rock more intelligent than a pebble?

      what right to you have to levy a judgement of "ignorance" on any object?

      On the atheist view, the only difference between a rock and a human, is the complexity of the particles involved. Atheists dont believe in sentient beings. You are merely a collection of particles that have been deterministically assembled in many different forms over the course of billions of years.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      Again, WHAT DOES IGNORANCE HAVE TO DO WITH FREE WILL? What defense do you have for lapsing into a non sequitur rant about free will when ignorance was the original issue? Are you saying being ignorant is a choice? In your case, it may be so, but willful ignorance is merely one type of ignorance, not the only kind.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
    • Chad

      ignorance lack of knowledge, education, or awareness

      what right to you have to levy a judgement of "ignorance" on any object?

      March 24, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      Sorry to take the red herring you've thrown in the discussion as bait, but I have to ask:

      "You are merely a collection of particles that have been deterministically assembled in many different forms over the course of billions of years."

      So are you saying that the EXACT SAME CONFIGURATION of "mere" particles somehow has free will if it is assembled by a god, and does not if it wasn't?

      March 24, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      "what right to you have to levy a judgement of "ignorance" on any object?"

      Why does that right not exist under a deterministic worldview? Are you saying I can't describe someone as ignorant just because it's not their fault? Why? Do you think DESCRIBING someone as ignorant is the same as BLAMING the person for causing their own ignorance? Are you equating a description of state to that of cause? If so, why?

      March 24, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Chad. Only if you accept that a god gave humans free will. Then of course you'd need to prove that there is a god and that it gave us free will.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Chad. "Atheists do not believe in sentient beings" How did you come to that conclusion?

      March 24, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
  14. Newtonslaw

    I became an atheist in college also. I took all the religious courses and philosophy courses they had. The more I looked, the less I found. Finally, one of my Profs told me religion requires a leap of faith and I told him I was taught to look before I lept. I did not want to be a lemming, just following without Knowing. I am 60 now and have had a very full life without the need of a "god" to follow and see much of what's wrong in the world caused by those who follow blindly. And if there was a "god" would it want us to worship it and hope it solved our problems or would it want us to get up off our knees and solve them ourselves. The more you learn in life the more you realize how ignorant we really are. The only truism I follow is Everything relates to Everything else. Do no harm and keep your mind open to all things possible. Peace!

    March 24, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
    • End Religion

      Excellent post!

      March 24, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • R.Gutierrez

      Thank You!

      March 24, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • Opposing View

      That was your problem. You allowed those college professors to mislead you and to deceive you. And now you're on your way to hell. Those college professors are workers of iniquity (meaning, they're working for Lucifer). Those professors are not saved and they don know anything abut God, so how can they tell you anything about God...

      If you want to learn about dentistry than who do you go to? Answer: A dentist. If you want to learn about auto mechanics then who do you go to? Answer: A mechanic. If you want to learn about God and the ways of God then who do you go to? Answer: A true sent preacher. You don't go to some college professor because they don't know anything about God. So it's no wonder you're deceived. You've been getting your info from the wrong source...

      March 24, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      Where do you go when you want to learn about mental disorders: to a crazy person, or an expert in mental disorders?

      March 24, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      OV, You're the one that's deluded. Presuming that there is a god, how would a preacher know any more than anyone else about a god? He/she may have studied what each tribe has written about its god but as god never shows itself who are you say that the self-appointed gatekeepers have all the knowledge – that's exactly what they want you to believe. They need your tithe – they have expensive lifestyles and buildings to maintain.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
  15. Just Call Me Lucifer

    A true waste of sperm and eggs.

    March 24, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
  16. Smokey

    If atheism wants to be taken seriously as a belief system and not just as a rejectionist, negative viewpoint then y'all have got to provide something, a sense of community or of a greater human endeavour, something more than a flat denial. Unfortunately the secular humanist worldview as it presently stands is a horrific, dystopian abyss of meaninglessness and pleasure-seeking. I challenge the atheists out there to provide a positive, forward-looking worldview that's more than just an attack on organized religion.

    March 24, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
    • Newtonslaw

      What you be smokin' Willis???

      March 24, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
    • Gyrogearloose

      I don't want to speak for everyone in saying this, but my view is much the same as yours if you simply take a belief in a god out of the picture. I don't feel a need for a god in order to be ethical, honest, loving, social, etc.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Atheism does NOT need to be taken seriously .. it is self evident. Atheism is NOT a religion, belief or even a group ... it is simply not believing in theism, poly or mono. Why is this so hard to grasp? Do you have any concept of how many "groups" there would be if NOT believing is something was a group? They would be infinite!

      March 24, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • church burner

      atheism is not a belief system, it is the absence of one. you know, just like the inside of your head is the absence of a brain.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • Samuel

      Treat others as you want to be treated.

      Learn to love yourself by loving others. The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make others so. Be kind. Be loving. Be generous. Share.

      None of these things require any invisible creature or all present sky daddy to work.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • Blake Childers

      Indeed. The Atheists I know are really nice people :). I just don't like how mainstream Atheism bashes on religions. If you are fighting for fairness in belief, shouldn't you have to concede sometimes?

      March 24, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • Romalove

      Atheists need not provide anything, and in essence is not necessarily rejectionist. It is only rejectionist because you have decided (the generic you, of course) an unproven and unprovable God. Absent your assertion, there would be no reason for a non-believer to say anything, we just don't see it to believe it and we live life in that fashion. There is no need to have a worldview or assert anything positive (or negative). There are hundreds if not thousands of belief systems, God based, multi God based, etc, and even those who think they are all believing the same thing (Jews, Muslims, Christians, etc.) have splintered into sects that in some ways are not alike at all. They can't all be right and in fact could possibly all be wrong. I don't know where the idea that atheists must assert anything at all took hold with you.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      And I want religionists to provide a better justification for living a righteous life besides "God will torture you if you don't." But that ain't gonna happen, is it?

      March 24, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
  17. Mitch Miller Guentry

    I like totally applaud this guy. I like totally ( adjusts black framed glasses ) think it's so kewl to be an atheist. It's so hipster and just advanced. Me and my friends make our own shoes, and always talk about hemp, and frequent underground coffee shops and listen to acoustic music, while we bash God. Like, the other day, my buddy Matt like totally saw this guy with a cross on his necklace, and Matt was just like ' dude, you're totally not hip and God isn't real.' It just made Matt look so totally advanced and stuff. We're like so kewl, and did I mention we don't eat meat ? Ya, so we're like totally at the top of the kewl food chain. I kind of have to go now cause me and my buds are gonna go grab some micro beers and stuff, but I'll totally ( tucks hair into ear ) be back in a bit. Atheists rock !!!!

    March 24, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • Nathan

      Looks like another Christian who has never met an atheist has decided to chime in. I'd write more of a scathing retort if it had been at least closer to the mark, as it is it's just worthy of a *sigh*.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • Austin

      Is your ex-boyfriend an atheist and this is your revenge? How christian!

      March 24, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
  18. ScottCA

    “I find the whole business of religion profoundly interesting. But it does mystify me that otherwise intelligent people take it seriously.”

    ― Douglas Adams

    March 24, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
  19. chanel # 5

    "atheist Realism
    I find it rather odd that christians have tortured so many,, yet they act as if they are the tortured."

    you find it odd? what did you expect, that we'd happily confess to all the billions we've tortured and murdered and eaten? nitwit! how could we keep killing 100s of millions daily if we confessed. some atheists are so dumb. lol

    March 24, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
    • ScottCA

      You left out all the psychological abuse to children. By telling them that a belief is true, when their is absolutely no evidence to substantiate that belief, and further abusing those children by telling them if they do not believe it also, they will be tortured for eternity. All of which have no evidence to support a single claim.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • Steve

      Yep. It is called emotional blackmail at best and brainwashing and stealing their minds at worst.

      March 24, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
  20. mykroft

    If any government on Earth made a practice of detaining anyone who didn't follow the party line indefinitely, and torturing them constantly once detained, they would be branded as committing crimes against humanity and international criminals. Yet many Christians believe this is exactly what God does, to those who don't worship him properly. Don't believe? You go to hell forever, to be tormented for all eternity.

    So if we are supposed to learn morality from God, does this means that those international laws against torture and indefinite detention are not necessary? We'd just be following the example provided by God, right?

    Or, if we are intelligent enough to recognize things that are wrong based on reason and self-interest (for building a civil society), then indefinite detention and torture are fundamentally wrong.

    Which means that God is, by any reasonable definition, guilty or crimes against humanity for allowing Hell to exist.

    March 24, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.