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The money man behind atheism’s activism
Todd Stiefel, a wealthy businessman, is responsible for bank rolling many atheism activism projects.
March 23rd, 2013
10:00 PM ET

The money man behind atheism’s activism

By Dan Merica, CNN

(CNN) - Todd Stiefel is far from a household name, and the odds he gets recognized on a street corner, even in his hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina, are small.

For Stiefel, a slim, scruffy ex-Catholic, his public persona is his wallet and activism. Through the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, the 38-year-old has made an indelible impact on the nation’s fastest-growing “religious” group: the nonbelievers. Most of the highest-profile atheists campaigns –- flashy billboards in high-traffic areas, news-making efforts to get atheists to come out of the closet, and boisterous rallies - are funded by his fortune.

Stiefel isn’t shy about his far-reaching goals.

“What I am trying to accomplish is multifold, he told CNN. “I consider myself working on the next civil equality movement, just like women’s rights, LGBT rights and African-American Civil Rights. We are still in the early stages of eliminating discrimination against atheists and humanists. That is something I really want to accomplish.”

So far, Stiefel has pumped $3.5 million into those aspirations, and his money benefits a number of atheist organizations, from the Clergy Project, a group that helps atheist and doubting clergy out of the closet, to American Atheists, arguably the most in-your-face atheist group in the country.

Stiefel sees his work as far more than just money. For him, this is just the beginning.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

From Catholic school to atheist millionaire

Stiefel was born in Albany, New York, in 1974 to Catholic parents. He was raised in a Catholic household, confirmed in the church, attended Sunday school, went to a Catholic high school.

“I was a cross-wearing, praying, religious-retreat Catholic,” Stiefel said. “You could say there were points that I felt the spirit.”

But his faith, he said, fluctuated during high school. “I was always a skeptic,” he said, “and I always asked a lot of questions.”

At 18, Stiefel attended Duke University to pursue a degree in psychology. To fill an elective, he took an Old Testament history class at the Duke University Divinity School. It was there, he said, that his final “ebb” away from belief took hold.

In the class, Stiefel said he saw a flawed logic in the Old Testament. In particular, he said, he began to see much of the Old Testament as unoriginal stories that had been told in many pagan traditions.

“'Wait a second, is what I believe in really the truth or is it really the accumulation of myths bundled in a package?’” Stiefel remembers asking himself. “That was the end of my faith right there.”

After graduating from Duke, Stiefel went into the family business: Stiefel Laboratories, a company that develops products to combat skin diseases. For 12 years, Stiefel worked with his family and turned the business into a major player in their specialized market.

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In 2009, with Stiefel in an executive position, the Stiefel family opted to sell the company to GlaxoSmithKline. The price tag: $2.9 billion, according to media reports at the time.

“I only got a very small piece of that, for the record,” Stiefel said with a laugh. “I did, however, find myself in a unique and fortunate position where I was able to do whatever I wanted to do.”

And like many who have the luxury of doing exactly what they want, Stiefel began thinking about what he was truly passionate about. After kicking around the idea of starting another business, the answer became clear to the young millionaire: advocating for atheism.

“I wanted to try to help the world,” he said. “I wanted to give back and this seemed like the most productive way to help humanity.”

‘Just doing my part’

Stiefel put $2 million in to begin his foundation. In his first year, according to tax documents, the nonprofit disbursed $700,000 to groups like the Secular Coalition for America, the American Humanist Association and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

In 2010 and 2011, the giving continued with the foundation distributing around $750,000 to different atheist and humanist causes. In 2011, he also pumped another $500,000 into his foundation.

CNN Belief: Atheists ratchet up rhetoric, use billboards to attack Republican politicians

“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.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

“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. Yakobi

    @ISLAM.....go back to family business of cleaning toilets in Pakistan, taling of Quantum physic, dark matter and invoking Rooooooh (GHOST in muslim language) are not for street BHUNGS like you Mohammad A. Dar

    March 24, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Your hind is hurting, hindu, ignorant. Stay away from your hind lover hindu santan, filthy goon, and you will be all right.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • Yakobi

      stop shooting dark matter from your ass, you saale bhangi ki aulad.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
  2. aimeelouden

    If I could just say, ask Jesus Himself, look into His Word – yes, some would call that praying or bible study 🙂 but God is big enough & when you truly search Him out with your whole heart, He will be found and that is the story of my life. I have also read many a story by people who have set out to disprove or show their point tht God does not exist, only to find Him:)

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

      Nice storytelling aimee, as usual without any substance.

      Got any evidence that would stand up to even a few seconds of honest scrutiny? Didn't think so.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • redlynn8

      I guess I would say, I have know much pain in my life & Jesus has been the ONLY One to give me peace & that sense of deep joy – I just feel it deep inside. I have tired many other things – not religions but things this life offers, & they were not all bad things (some were) but they never satisified or met the deep desires of my being.. but I can say, Jesus has.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
    • redlynn8

      it is still me, just logged in differently 🙂

      March 24, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
    • sandalista

      You cannot disprove something that doesn't exist. The burden of proof is on you. Extraordinary claims need extraordinary proof.
      Old fairy tales mean nothing. Provide testable, disprovable evidence of your god.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
    • redlynn8

      I'm sorry, I'm not sure I totally understand what you are saying... I mean I could give you verses & stories from my life but I'm sure they wouldn't be proof enough because unless you see the Lord with your own heart, I know there is nothing I could say that would be enough. But I know the things God has shown me & the things He has done for me inside and around me... & that is more than proof enough for me 🙂

      March 24, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
  3. His panic

    They are in a total state of Panic.

    Panic and Hysteria are similar behaviors. Hysteria is usually suffered by women but men can also act Hysterical. Both men and women can and indeed do panic ocasionally. This atheist guy is either hysterical or in a state of Panic which can lead to herd behavior on the part of his followers.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
    • qazoo

      I don't know about all that, but he's at that age. And he's questioning. And maybe denying his own beliefs to legitimize his behaviors, who knows. But he is certainly confused.

      And he like all the rest of us will never have the answers, both sides operate off of faith. Believers & Non-Believers ..

      March 24, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • His Panic

      They are in a total state of Panic.

      Panic and Hysteria are similar behaviors. Hysteria is usually suffered by women but men can also act Hysterical. Both men and women can and indeed do panic occasionally. Believers are either hysterical or in a state of Panic which can lead to herd behavior on the part of his followers. (See Benny Hinn video below for an example!)

      March 24, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
  4. guv_garfunkel

    What I've never been able to understand is why athiests seem to have the goal to destroy all religion, when religion is made out of so many different beliefs and people. That's like saying we need to get rid of doctors because they kill people through medical mistakes, get people addicted to narcotics, and cause people to go through so many procedures that are sometimes unnecessary. Who wants to join my crusade to rid the world of doctors? Great idea right?
    I am a very religious person, but I am certainly not any of the usual terms you athiests accuse against religion, such as intolerant, greed, hate, discrimination, etc. I'm a decent guy. I don't care if you don't believe what I do. I welcome you to believe how you want and we can get along. Why the hell are you attacking me? Because, by attacking all religion you are attacking me and of course that is going to make people feel threatened. Most athiests throw the term around "common sense" to describe their way of belief. "Why can't religious people just have common sense like me?" Well, why don't you start using some of that abundant common sense you have and realize all religions are not equal and quit attacking and ridiculing everyone that believes in God. Athiests are some of the most intollerant, hypocritical people I know and don't even have the 'common sense' to see that.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
    • ari

      i will answer your question as truthfully as possible.

      the vast, vast majority of people who call themselves "skeptics" or "militant atheists" have never known a second of discrimination. they are middle or upper class. they are male. they are white, they are straight, they are well-educated. they hold good jobs. they live in nice parts of town.

      most people would love to be like them, but they feel as though something is lacking. they WANT to feel oppressed. they desperately want in on this "persecuted group" thing. so they go after absolutely everything that offends them even slightly–often resulting in hilarity–in order to prove their point.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Comparing religion to medicine, now that is funny.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • G to the T

      Ari – ironic that your response was anything but truthful, but only represents your opinion of what you think is in the hearts/minds of others. Please stop bearing false witness against others...

      April 18, 2013 at 11:07 am |
  5. Fundies Gone Wild

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0-04VDrCbM&w=640&h=360]

    March 24, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
  6. ari

    a rich white guy. how original!

    March 24, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
  7. Etch A. Sketch

    Can you religious nuts answer this question for me please:

    What the heck is this thing you keep calling "God"????

    A Nobel Prize and doctorate degree awaits the person who can rationally answer this question.

    And if you can answer this question ... please explain how the "God" of whatever fairy-tale book you worship ... satisfies your argument.

    Thanks in advance!

    March 24, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
    • Chad

      See Genesis 1

      March 24, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Chad, I see it. Now what?

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

      Chad: see Leviticus.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
    • jd

      Simply because I exist on a Planet about a billion light years from any other currently living form of life, not chemicals, elements or gases, and how I don't see this as some random thing – there is something greater than you and I and the evidence is all around you.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
    • Michael

      Your Creator! The same one you curse when it to hot out side are when you smashed your finger, the one you get mad at when everything goes wrong yes -that one!

      March 24, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
    • Nicodemus Grumpschmidt

      jd: To quote you, the evidence is all around that YOUR god does not exist. You seem to think that the term "higher power" can only be the god YOU believe in. How ridiculously selfish! And when you look at all the traits this god has been imbued with by his human creators, his flaws come through will glaring clarity when it comes to floods, famine, war, pestilence, meteorological phenomena, etc. And don't bother going into god apology mode. These so-called attributes of his are supposed to be absolute and unfaltering, yet you believers are quick to defend him when disaster strikes out of the blue. Please, start thinking.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
    • G to the T

      @Michael "Your Creator! The same one you curse when it to hot out side are when you smashed your finger, the one you get mad at when everything goes wrong yes -that one!"

      LOL... cultural colloquialisms do not infer the existence of a god. That's like saying Jesus must be the son of god because we ended up using a system that counts years from the calculated date of his birth. In fact, I've made it a point to say "Gods damnit" these days, just so as not to confuse people like you... 🙂

      April 18, 2013 at 10:11 am |
  8. WayOutThere

    Fighting against the discrimination against atheists, REALLY? I guess I must be living in a bubble, because I have not once come across a restaurant that would not serve atheists. Or ever known an atheist for loosing his/her job because he/she did not believe in that "spaghetti monster in the sky." Maybe we have to go back way before I was born, when atheists had no voting rights, or had to sit in the back of the bus, or had their own "separate but equal" schools. Or go even further back to look at the root cause of why the founding fathers REALLY had to put in that clause to separate church and state. It must have been to protect those atheists that everyone likes to kick around.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • End Religion

      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/

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

      Great comment! If it didn't happen to me, then it must've happened to anybody! right?

      March 24, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • ari

      end religion, are you unaware that those laws mentioned in your second link are unenforceable, or are you aware of this but are still throwing a hissy fit?

      March 24, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • WayOutThere

      There are also many silly laws that no one ever follows anymore. The laws you put out there will never hold up in today's court. Next, you will say "uncaged bears are discriminated against" (http://www.nwmissourinews.com/news/article_3afc7840-6b3e-11e2-97fc-0019bb30f31a.html) and fish are unjustly stereotyped as drunkards (http://www.dumblaws.com/laws/united-states/ohio). See, I can google anything that proves my point too!

      March 24, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
    • End Religion

      I guess you answered my question: willful ignorance (the hallmark of a nutter). You can easily find atheist discrimination, but I understand you want to trivialize it and discount it, since, well, you're not an atheist.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:21 pm |
  9. Josh

    You people and your beliefs just blow my mind. I will never understand how level headed adults can believe something so ridiculous as the teachings of organized religion. In any other part of your lives you would call such outlandish ideas ludicrous. The best conclusions I can gather: you are completely brain washed or you are so afraid of the unknowns (death, origin of life, etc...) that you have to stick your head in the sand and believe in a fairy tale. Regardless, humans gradually get smarter with every new generation. Eventually, your archaic beliefs will fade away and mankind will finally begin to realize his true potential.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • lolwut

      This comment is fresh and original!

      March 24, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
  10. Regina Spektor

    So how about if all militant atheists to go to hospitals and wars and attempt to convince anyone who is praying that they are wrong to be asking god for help.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • IslandAtheist

      Why would a lovely god need to be asked?

      March 24, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • End Religion

      Regina, your god has a plan, does he not? Why would you pray to him to ask anything? According to the book he does what he wants. You and your prayers mean nothing to him.

      Pro Tip: Your god doesn't exist.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      To question Gods will and infinite wisdom is blasphemy! God will do what God will do, your prayers are actually insulting and blasphemous to think that you can control Gods will.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • Regina Spektor

      But people are comforted by prayer when there is nothing else they can do. So why would you take that away from them?

      March 24, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
    • Josh

      Because Regina, the alternative to prayer is action and accountability. These things, in the long run, are much more comforting and useful then shutting your eyes and talking to yourself...just saying.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
    • Regina Spektor

      Yes, action and accountability, absolutely. But there are times when action and accountability have been satisfied and there is nothing else that you can do. The cancer treatment has been taken, the doctor's orders have been followed, but my father is dying and there is nothing else I can do, but I still want to do something. Why can't my father pray if he wants to, and why can't I pray for him if I want to?

      March 24, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
    • Nicodemus Grumpschmidt

      We're not saying they're wrong. We're just saying they have just a good a chance of recovering if they pray to any other fictional character such as the tooth fairy or the easter bunny.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
    • Regina Spektor

      Yes, I know. But I still want to pray, so don't tell me I shouldn't.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
    • End Religion

      Reggie, no one in your thread told you to stop praying. Your post asserted the strawman to begin with. Hopefully you'll one day see how fruitless it is.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
    • Regina Spektor

      Yes, this thread has been kind and respectful, sort of. But other threads are not. Praying isn't fruitless if it gives me comfort.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
  11. MrMister

    http://www.bizjournals.com/southflorida/news/2012/05/17/former-stiefel-employee-wins-15m.html

    Throwing good money after bad.................or bad money after good....................?

    March 24, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
  12. Helaine

    I don't see that Mr. Stiefel is badmouthing anyone. He is only speaking his mind about what he doesn't believe and encouraging others to do the same. There is so much aggression toward and discrimination against people who don't have religious affiliation; mostly, in my experience, coming from christians. It's interesting to me how defensive christians are in these posts: name calling, assigning unfounded ulterior motives to Mr. Stiefel's cause, and in general sounding very defensive. Always amazes me how fragile christian faith is - seems so many of them are angry and violent against anyone who doesn't think like they do. Guess I shouldn't be surprised; the history of christianity is full of its violence.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
    • Answer

      They do not like it when you don't believe in their particular belief.

      We can be thankful that they do not and can not kill us for it.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • Helaine

      Answer: I believe they do (and have throughout history), in fact, kill lots of people in the name of christ. Most notably Planned Parenthood doctors.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
  13. ken west

    I agree with 99% of what u say more people need to really c that religion is a cult period the bible is evil or the way religions believe is evil very prejudice

    March 24, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • Realist

      atheists and religionist need to stop arguing. At the same time, we need to contribute more to science and place disclaimers on religious behavior. Get the god off our dollar bill for one

      March 24, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
  14. Mike

    It's so cute watching all these believers and non-believers having their silly little pointless arguments....Not realizing most of the real world doesn't give a crap what they believe or don't believe.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • Realist

      Atheists and christians will one day join us, Realists

      March 24, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      You gave a crap to post here .. and realist gave a crap to respond. But I must ask Realist, how is a realist not an atheist?

      March 24, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
  15. Brad

    After all of his hate for Christians; they respond by praying for him.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • Realist

      chistians have persecuted atheists throughout history.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • Nicodemus Grumpschmidt

      As Father Guido Sarducci would say, "You have proof of this?"

      March 24, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
    • Nicodemus Grumpschmidt

      Well, I guess they can pray for him if it makes them feel better about themselves.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Don't be fooled Brad, this is NOT for him, it is selfishly for them ... they are praying for God's brownie points.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • Think

      What hate?

      March 24, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
  16. m ike sposito

    The way mans mind is constructed, he is uncapable of understanding the Divinity of God. That is the ROLE of FAITH. You must believe in God. Jesus even said that you have to "Believe" in him. Amen. That is all there is to it.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • Realist

      you are in insult to human intelligence. Please grow up.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • Helaine

      FYI: incapable

      March 24, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
  17. ann

    Ugh! An ex-Catholic! As a practicing Catholic, I find ex-Catholics the most unbearable. They just can't leave the Church and shut up. I'll take a Jehovah Witness any day over them.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
    • Realist

      I'm glad the 10's of thousands of children abused by their catholic hierarchy spoke out.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      When those in the church shuts up, so will we. Listening to those who hid pedophiles complain about relative morality is just too much.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • Nicodemus Grumpschmidt

      Not very christian of you, o spewer of wrath and hate. (Just doing my duty to point this out to you. You're welcome.) 😉

      March 24, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • Think

      Truth will not be silent.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
  18. LAST DAY

    GOD has so loved the atheists

    that He has sent His only Servant (=i.e. the long awaited and anticipated Son of David) now

    thus to prove them that it is not a Myth;

    GOD is absolutely real!

    http://www.holy-19-harvest.com
    UNIVERSAL MAGNIFICENT MIRACLES!

    Stiefel, so please, do not waste your money anymore for a lost cause (=i.e. atheism),
    sincerely turn to GOD now; you will be redeemed and have a TREASURE in heaven!

    March 24, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • Answer

      "Still $9.99."

      "We do not offer discounts, because this is god's work."

      "God needs your money."

      March 24, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • Realist

      please do not insult our intelligence. If aliens ever came here, they'd look at your religion as we did volcano worshipers.

      You and your religion are an embarrassment to humanity..

      March 24, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • M

      You are an idiot.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • LAST DAY

      Jesus Water / Jesus Blood

      Your Choice – Spring Special – 65% Off!

      4 oz./7 oz. Gold Decorative Bottles

      http://www.holy-19-harvest.com
      UNIVERSAL MAGNIFICENT MIRACLES!

      March 24, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
    • Nicodemus Grumpschmidt

      Son of David? Really? Joseph was of David's lineage, not Mary. According to the myth,Jesus was fathered by god, so no connection to David.So much for that bible verse.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
  19. Sandy

    I consider myself a Christian, and I am perfectly aware of the similarities between Old Testament stories and ancients stories told by other cultures in the same area. However, I think there's truth in all religions, and to me, the similarities between the stories told by different faiths (past and present) increases their credibility rather than detracting from it. At the same time, as a scientist, I accept the idea of evolution, the big bang, and all the other theories of modern science. I think it's very possible that some of the Old Testament stories are metaphorically true rather than literally true, much like the metaphorical parables that Jesus himself was so fond of telling.

    For example, do I think the world was created in seven days? Well, I believe in an all-powerful God, so I think He absolutely could have done this if He wanted to, and have done it in such a way that all scientific evidence would point to the contrary (which it does). Or it's possible that the whole point of the creation story is to teach us about the relationships between God, humanity, and the natural world. Perhaps all the details (light on the first day, dry land on the second day, a garden with two trees, the snake, etc) were just a way of explaining these relationships to ancient peoples in terms they could understand.

    My position is kind of an unusual one, unfortunately, at least for an American. I tend to keep a lot of push back from people on both sides on the debate. People on both sides try to tell me my position is a ridiculous, wishy-washy one. But I disagree.

    To the fundamentalist Christians, I say that the Bible is not a science textbook; its purpose has never been to teach scientific truths, but rather, spiritual ones. I'd also remind them that historically the Church has had to eat its words many times because it was so dead-set on maintaining traditional and literal interpretations of the Bible. The heliocentric theory (Earth revolves around the Sun, and not vice versa) was considered heresy at the time it first came out, but now everyone accepts it as fact, and sees no reason why it would be incompatible with anyone's religious beliefs. Isn't it possible the same thing will soon happen with evolutionary theory? And as for social issues, fundamentalists would do well to remember that for centuries, people have used traditional interpretations of the Bible to justify all kinds of atrocities, from the Crusades to the slave trade. These people fully believed they were in the right, because they thought God had directed them to commit these crimes against their fellow human beings, and they were largely unwilling to even begin questioning their long-held beliefs. Modern Christians should look at history and remember the importance of keeping an open mind and always being willing to question traditional interpretations of the Bible, such as the belief that all members of the LGBT community are sinners who don't deserve the same rights as everyone else. Otherwise, we become just one more entry in the long, sickening history of Christians using religion to justify evil.

    To the atheists, I say there's nothing illogical about believing in a higher power. There's no incompatibility between reason and religion, no conflict between science and spirituality. They are two separate things, two distinct but equally valid ways of understanding the world around us. Science deals only with the natural world; anything supernatural, if it exists, is completely outside the realm of scientific inquiry. How could you ever do a controlled experiment involving supernatural variables that can't be controlled? Science can never prove or disprove the existence of an all-powerful supernatural being, it can never prove or disprove the existence of an afterlife, of immortal souls, and so on. Atheism is as much of a belief as any religion; there can never be conclusive evidence that proves there is no God, just as there can never be conclusive evidence that proves there is one.

    All that being said, I support what Mr. Stiefel is trying to do. I think we need more tolerance in our society for atheists, agnostics, and anyone who is questioning religion, for the same reasons that we need tolerance for people of all faiths.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • End Religion

      "two distinct but equally valid ways of understanding the world around us"

      Sorry, but wrong. We describe our reality via science, not fantasy. You want to base your life on magic, fine, stop using your automobile, don't ever use medicine, please stop typing on your computer. Magic brought us none of that, science did. We do not "understand" the world around us using fantasy. Those who believe are simply denying the reality of our existence because they cannot grasp what it took to happen and cannot fathom that death is a very final end.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
  20. Andrew Vrba

    So lets recap.
    If you use your money to promote Religious beliefs, you're labeled a bigot.
    If you use your money to promote Atheist beliefs, you're labeled a hero.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • Answer

      Showing your own persecution viewpoint.

      Let's see if you ask your own religious fellows about that. All those billboards you have – and none of the religious people don't call those companies "heroes"? You've been sitting under a rock pretending that you religious freaks don't whip yourselves up in arms and say "NOW that is GOD's work?"

      Go fvck off you religious idiot.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      If your religious beliefs include the use of the phrase "God hates f@gs" or a similar belief than yes you are correct.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Andrew- If you support Darwin's racism and hate religion you are a good CNN friend.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      What are Atheist "beliefs"? I don't think you understand the term.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:14 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.