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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. Nathan

    What I am saying is that we have limited written records for the pre-Christian pagan religions. Therefore, these religions may have evolved with time. As they evolved, they may have found certain components of Christianity appealing. Therefore, they may have incorporated these aspects of Christianity into their religions rather than vice versa. Furthermore, ideas such as death and resurrection in pagan religions usually related to the crop cycle rather than the idea of a god dying to pay for someone's sins. Many people who have retold the Pagan stories incorporate Christian terminology into the stories, rather than using the actual words/terms that the writers of the Pagan stories composed. Again, see the work of Brown and Nash. Also see Seyoon Kim's The Origin of Paul's Gospel (1982), Edwin Yamauchi's Pre-Christian Gnosticism.

    March 25, 2013 at 1:02 am |
  2. The Seeker

    Or perhaps the Einstein quotes would best be separated this way:

    My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.

    Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe-a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.

    We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality.

    The man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unfortunate but almost disqualified for life.

    The finest emotion of which we are capable is the mystic emotion. Herein lies the germ of all art and all true science. Anyone to whom this feeling is alien, who is no longer capable of wonderment and lives in a state of fear is a dead man.

    March 25, 2013 at 1:01 am |
    • In Santa we trust

      Not sure what your point is, but Einstein did not believe in a personal god.

      March 25, 2013 at 1:31 am |
  3. janey33

    "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."
    There is no such thing as a skeptical Christian. A Christian is one who has repented from their sins, given their heart to Jesus, and follows Him. They have a personal relationship with Jesus, and therefore are not skeptical. If you are skeptical, you are not a Christian. If you know someone personally, you would not wonder whether or not they existed.

    March 25, 2013 at 1:01 am |
    • SisterChromatid

      Let us know when you Christians agree on who the "true Christians" are and what they are "supposed to" believe. I suspect every Christian thinks they are the truest of Christians don't they?

      March 25, 2013 at 1:10 am |
    • yoavnir

      That is a useless definition. We can't see into a person's mind, and can't examine the personal relationship he or she has or has not with Jesus.

      A useful definition of a Christian is one who talks the talk and walks the walk – celebrates Christmas and Easter, goes to Church regularly or semi-regularly, and does not voice their doubts.

      Similarly, an Atheist or an Agnostic is someone who will state so when asked.. Without the question being asked, there is little to separate a non-practicing Christian from an Atheist.

      March 25, 2013 at 1:28 am |
  4. Nathan

    I meant to say, most scholars dismissed the idea that Christianity stole its ideas from paganism after the 1940s. See Ron Nash's Christianity and the Hellenistic World (1984) pg, 9. Also see Dr. Raymond E. Brown's An Introduction to the New Testament (2010) Pg. 83-93. I must make one correction, however, Brown's work is published by Yale. Brown, however, is a professor at Union Theological Seminary in NYC.

    March 25, 2013 at 12:57 am |
    • Pete

      How do you account for Christianity sharing so many features with religious movements that existed long before Jesus lived then?

      March 25, 2013 at 1:02 am |
  5. Norm

    Hello there Satan...

    March 25, 2013 at 12:52 am |
  6. Nathan

    This guy needs to read Christianity and the Hellenistic World by Dr. Ron Nash and An Introduction to the New Testament by Yale Professor, Dr. Raymond Brown. There is no way to historically confirm that the the biblical authors stole their ideas from pagan religions. It may actually be that the pagan religions stole their ideas from Christianity. We have very few pagan manuscripts that predate the writing of the New Testament. Most historians dismissed the idea that Christianity stole its ideas form paganism after the 1960s.

    March 25, 2013 at 12:49 am |
    • Pete

      So, you think it likely that Pagan religions that were around hundreds of years before Jesus lived somehow stole from Christianity?

      Isn't that like accusing Dracula of copying from Twilight?

      March 25, 2013 at 12:55 am |
    • Aaron

      Google the phrase: Epic of Gilgamesh

      There's no denying that one

      March 25, 2013 at 1:14 am |
    • clarity

      There's no denying that the early Christian apologists (Justin Martyr and others) made up that whacky 'diabolical mimicry' notion – saying the the devil caused what looks like plagiarism in reverse; so it's pretty obvious those old Xtians were trying to explain away something that would normally look ridiculous.

      March 25, 2013 at 1:20 am |
    • clarity

      Every time I see that Gilgamesh, for a second I think someone must be talking about some JRRT creation; lol.

      March 25, 2013 at 1:22 am |
  7. allanhowls

    If atheism is a religion, then clear is a color.

    March 25, 2013 at 12:45 am |
    • Alicia

      What else can you call such a fervent movement?.

      March 25, 2013 at 1:02 am |
    • In Santa we trust

      Alicia, Would you call the climate deniers a religion?

      March 25, 2013 at 1:15 am |
    • mickflanigan

      I agree, but i think the negative responses you get are from those fearful of atheist movement getting all the perks and tax breaks all those so called real religions get. maybe we should be classified as a religion!

      March 25, 2013 at 1:19 am |
    • i12bphil

      A more appropriate analog would be "saying atheism isn't a belief is like saying a bald person isn't bald, they simply lack hair.".

      March 25, 2013 at 1:43 am |
    • Opposing View

      Whether atheism is a religion matters not. If a person don't believe they're still going to hell...

      March 25, 2013 at 1:53 am |
    • In Santa we trust

      OV, Where's your proof of a god? Where's your proof that it's your god? They are prerequisites for any discussion on heaven and hell.

      March 25, 2013 at 1:56 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Not collecting stamps is a hobby.

      March 25, 2013 at 8:16 am |
  8. shawbrooke

    And other people might think that it's evidence of truthfulness that more than one tradition has the story. He and his wife donated half the money for the cancer charity, and if any church leader did that, the media would have lots negative to say. This guy is getting an easy ride from the media, and if he $215,000 to give, he's a rich guy that can fund his own movement. The media needs to ask if he just another guy who wants to be the head of his own church, because that's what he's turning his movement into.

    March 25, 2013 at 12:45 am |
  9. TC

    Assuming Todd's right, there is no life after death, nothing we do in this life would matter after 100 years(assuming you can live that long). "Contribution to humanity, enlightenment for next generation, or proving someone's religion is wrong and etc" would not matter. Indeed all the discussions generated from this thread will become meaningless once those who read this article pass away.

    March 25, 2013 at 12:44 am |
    • TANK!!!!

      So? I sense there is a greater prescriptive conclusion you're trying to reach here.

      March 25, 2013 at 12:55 am |
    • Pete

      Look on the bright side, TC. If you were active in opposing things like gay rights people a hundred years from now will remember you at least as well as we remember slave owners these days. Infamy is one way for your memory to last long after your death.

      March 25, 2013 at 1:00 am |
    • TC

      There is no greater perspective conclusion. It really doesn't matter what mine or any of yours belief. Doesn't matter whether I am pro and anti gay right. If there is no life after death, none of our conversations matter in 100 years.

      March 25, 2013 at 1:04 am |
    • janey33

      Pete...You remember slave owners??? How old are you, anyway??

      March 25, 2013 at 1:05 am |
    • TC

      Not trying to be disrespectful, however I am just trying to figure out why "memory to last long after my death" will really matter to me?

      March 25, 2013 at 1:12 am |
    • Damocles

      @TC

      The conversations have meaning now. Are you unwilling to talk to family and friends because of your outlook that nothing has meaning? I don't know your views on religion, but in all honesty it seems to me that many believers have a rather bleak outlook on life. My life has meaning now, the things I do have meaning now. I don't care if I'm not remembered by 99.99% of the world.

      March 25, 2013 at 1:17 am |
    • TC

      "The conversations have meaning now." What about after 100 years?

      March 25, 2013 at 1:21 am |
    • Damocles

      The right conversation can have an effect 100 years from now. If you are unwilling or unable to have the conversations, then nothing will change. I have kids, someday they may have kids and so on and so on, it is for that reason that conversations need to take place. There is no need to remember every single person that had talks, just remember that they happened.

      March 25, 2013 at 1:43 am |
    • TC

      "Just remember they happen" How can I remember after I die?

      March 25, 2013 at 2:11 am |
  10. The Seeker

    For the person saying Einstein did not believe in a higher intellect (this is not an argument for Christianity) I give you the following quotes:

    I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details.
    Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.
    My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.
    The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.
    Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe-a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.
    The scientists’ religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.
    There is no logical way to the discovery of elemental laws. There is only the way of intuition, which is helped by a feeling for the order lying behind the appearance.
    The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.
    The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious; It is the source of all true art and science.
    We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality.
    Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the Gods.
    When the solution is simple, God is answering.
    God does not play dice with the universe.
    God is subtle but he is not malicious.
    A human being is a part of the whole, called by us Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest-a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty.
    Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.
    The man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unfortunate but almost disqualified for life.
    Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.
    Only a life lived for others is a life worth while.
    The human mind is not capable of grasping the Universe. We are like a little child entering a huge library. The walls are covered to the ceilings with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written these books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. But the child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books—-a mysterious order which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects.
    The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.
    What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism.
    The finest emotion of which we are capable is the mystic emotion. Herein lies the germ of all art and all true science. Anyone to whom this feeling is alien, who is no longer capable of wonderment and lives in a state of fear is a dead man. To know that what is impenetrable for us really exists and manifests itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, whose gross forms alone are intelligible to our poor faculties – this knowledge, this feeling ... that is the core of the true religious sentiment. In this sense, and in this sense alone, I rank myself among profoundly religious men.
    The real problem is in the hearts and minds of men. It is easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man.
    True religion is real living; living with all one’s soul, with all one’s goodness and righteousness.
    Intelligence makes clear to us the interrelationship of means and ends. But mere thinking cannot give us a sense of the ultimate and fundamental ends. To make clear these fundamental ends and valuations and to set them fast in the emotional life of the individual, seems to me precisely the most important function which religion has to form in the social life of man.

    March 25, 2013 at 12:43 am |
    • TANK!!!!

      I can't spot any direct argument about the existence of god besides the first one? What does this, for example, have to do with the existence of "higher intellects?":

      True religion is real living; living with all one’s soul, with all one’s goodness and righteousness.

      Or this:

      The real problem is in the hearts and minds of men. It is easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man.

      Many of these just comment on the usefulness of religion, not the truth of it.

      March 25, 2013 at 12:54 am |
  11. Gabe N

    Atheists can even add their businesses to Atheist business directories, such as Nontheist.biz

    March 25, 2013 at 12:38 am |
  12. Bob

    I have many "tollerant" atheist friends. However, I always find the ex-religious atheists to have merely transferred their old zealotry into their new cause.

    The same old self righteous mentality oozing from one religion to another.

    March 25, 2013 at 12:34 am |
    • Dippy

      Can you spell "tolerant?"

      March 25, 2013 at 12:37 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Bob, atheism is not a religion, Please educate yourself.

      March 25, 2013 at 12:38 am |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      At least creation might have happened, unlike the falsed outdated science of the atheist religion.

      March 25, 2013 at 12:40 am |
    • natrldiver

      That would be from their upbringing and not their belief. majority of the motheistic religions preach tolerance as does the pagan practice. Society has bred a culture of religious hatred that is similar to the days before the civil rights movement back in the day. When I grew up we did things like pray in school, said the pledge of allegiance and after prayer was banned, we had our fellowship groups. Turns out now that one of these are being done at all because they are offensive.

      March 25, 2013 at 12:42 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Oh, John – you are clueless, aren't you? Atheism – NOT a religion.

      March 25, 2013 at 12:43 am |
    • allanhowls

      John, we have a better understanding of the workings of evolution than we do of gravity. I'd really like to see some peer-reviewed, credible sources showing that the branch of science responsible for modern medicine is "outdated."

      March 25, 2013 at 12:43 am |
    • Religion is

      Superstition!

      Atheism is not a religion. Why is that simple concept so hard for some people to understand? Are some people really that dense?

      March 25, 2013 at 12:44 am |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      I disagree in that relativity proves Gravity is mass bending Time, although I do understand that Gravity is a standard Darwinist red herring. We do know that a slow hange over time does occur and that was the basis of Darwin's notional hypothesis, but 40 years ago geology proved that species occur rapidly following a mass extinction, the opposite of evolution.

      March 25, 2013 at 12:47 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Tarver, you're breaking up. Start making sense.

      March 25, 2013 at 12:49 am |
    • Oil of Man

      My name is Boffer Bings. The Death of God has been met with sadness by some. It kindles in me the spirit of opportunity. God and the associated baggage of his “moral order” were impediments to progress. Nowhere is this more evident than in the sphere of commerce. Some years ago, I developed a most useful medicine. Taken internally it is a cure for disorders of all kinds and acts as a general tonic. Applied topically, it is a remedy for gout and psoriasis and posses an SPF of 15. The precise recipe is, of course, a trade secret and is protected under US Patent. While God lived, the oppressive machinery of society stood in the way of the production and release of my curative. The Death of God, I hope, will occasion its availability on the free market.

      I speak of Oil of Man.

      Oil of Man really is one of the most useful medicines ever discovered. Its availability has been somewhat limited by the natural reticence of society to make the ultimate sacrifice for the afflicted. During research and development for Oil of Man, I was, in fact, forced to requisition unwilling donations of certain vital ingredients for my vats. The destruction of the logically inconsistent but simple moral system of the theists will, I hope, increase availability of the necessary raw material. I tire of having to spirit shrouded “donors” through the rear door of my oilery.

      A godless society is perfect for the production of Oil of Man. The attempts of the Godless to construct a logically consistent system of ethics sans theos are a failure and are easily discarded by the pragmatic and enterprising among us.

      Empathy is nothing more than an vestige of genetics.

      Some free thinking rural physicians in my area have been utilizing my tonic for years now-sending patients to me (the only dispensing pharmacy) with a prescription they are pleased to designate as __OL. Hom.__

      Thank heavens for the progress of free thought. The elimination of society’s detritus (unwanted children, the elderly, the poor, opposing political parties, etc.) and their incorporation into Oil of Man will be of great general weal to humankind as it hurdles into a future free of outmoded concepts like good and evil.

      March 25, 2013 at 12:54 am |
    • clarity

      Here – JPT – I don't believe you ever properly replied to these other responses given to you earlier by others:

      ==============================

      Science was meant to change over time as new technologies and evidence becomes available. This is why scientists call their conclusions 'theories' instead of 'facts'. A theory is only valid as long as it has not been disproven. Contrary to what you seem to believe about scientists, they do not hold onto theories that have been disproven through scientific method.

      This highlights the difference between science and religion. While new theories are developed and disproven theories are discarded, science progresses and becomes more and more accurate. Religious teachings, on the other hand, are regarded as fact, not theory, as they supposedly come from a higher power. These teachings are not discarded as they are disproven and therefore religion stagnates and does not progress.

      If you want religious teachings to be taught in school instead of science, merely enroll your child in a school that teaches the religious ideas you adhere to. It is as easy as that. Leave science to those who value reason over dogma and leave religion to those who want to keep believing what they were taught to believe regardless of any evidence to the contrary.

      ============================

      Tarver, species don't evolve at a uniform rate. You should think of evolution as landscape with selection pressures as mountain peaks. The mountain peaks are scattered and isolated. Genetic information is moving along the landscape. Most of the time nothing much happens – stability and gradualism. A peak is encountered and the genetic information is significantly transformed by going over it – speciation or extinction.

      March 25, 2013 at 12:55 am |
    • redzoa

      "Turns out now that [n]one of these are being done at all because they are offensive."

      Well, not exactly. Teacher-led prayer is a violation of the Establishment Clause, but students are still free to pray. The Pledge of Allegiance is still recited throughout schools across the country, but it is no longer mandatory. Virtually every school I'm aware of has student groups openly expressing their religious views and if the school provides meeting spaces/times, these groups cannot be excluded.

      The difference between "now" and "back then" is that students individually choose to participate in religious expression as opposed to schools requiring students to participate in religious expression.

      March 25, 2013 at 12:56 am |
    • TANK!!!!

      @Oil of Man Another fool who thinks the threat of eternal torture is all that is preventing him from being a beast. Isolate yourself from society, lest you kill someone.

      March 25, 2013 at 12:57 am |
    • Bob

      Atheism can be a "religion" for many of these ex-religious types. They can't stand the notion of anyone believing anything other than what they believe..... hence the need to convert or preach hate. Atheists who are comfortable in their own skin have little need for this approach.

      The belief of non-belief. LOL

      March 25, 2013 at 1:09 am |
    • janey33

      clarity...Your explanation is flawed. Christians believe that God created everything...the universe, the earth, AND science. The Bible has several places that mention science. I have taken several science courses and find God and science perfectly compatible. I have had science teachers who are Christians and they have no problem with teaching science. They just didn't teach how the universe was formed...that was left up to us to believe as we wished.

      March 25, 2013 at 2:44 am |
    • HitchedBritches

      John P. Tarver, MS/PE: "At least creation might have happened, unlike the falsed outdated science of the atheist religion."

      What a joker. You actually too the time to add on your degrees in an attempt to lend credibility to your statement...then you go and say something incredible. Too funny.

      March 25, 2013 at 4:03 am |
  13. Dingo

    Kudos to him. Voice of reason. The challenge is to now introduce this "concept" to the muslim / arab world. That's where its must needed.

    March 25, 2013 at 12:34 am |
  14. Dingo

    I didn't say that! – God

    March 25, 2013 at 12:32 am |
  15. allanhowls

    Religion explained: Give me your money, and I'll tell you what happens after you die.

    March 25, 2013 at 12:31 am |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      This dude spent $3.5 million and he doesn't even get a story to believe in; just the leap of faith that there is nothing more than this.

      March 25, 2013 at 12:34 am |
    • Answer

      @Tarver

      ==The same thing done by the religious right that doesn't believe in global climate change==

      -quote: http://www.desmogblog.com/who-donors-trust

      Donors Trust Funds Climate Denial Groups

      According to IRS tax returns, between 2002 and 2010, Donors Trust provided over $90 million in funding ($90,989,710 to be exact) to 84 groups that deny the scientific realities of climate change. Between 2004 and 2010, the partner group Donors Capital Fund, provided more than $28 million in funding ($28,490,862) to 75 groups that deny the scientific realities of climate change.

      ===Spamming this is just great.

      March 25, 2013 at 12:37 am |
    • allanhowls

      John, there is no empirical evidence of anything resembling a sentient existence after this one. Believing so is what takes a leap of faith. Going with the available evidence isn't faith...it's reason.

      I grew up in the church, so I understand the difference between KNOWING something and BELIEVING in something. After a while, I realized that all the stuff I was so sure I KNEW was given to me wholesale by family, friends, and clergy who all believed it because it was told to them by someone else, and this here book said the same stuff. Not because it was knowable, or even verifiable, but because it made them feel better to believe it. I just couldn't live that sort of lie. Not while they preached love from one side of their mouths while spewing intolerance and bigotry in a pretty white communion dress with the other side.

      I find more to live for, and more to trust in, in Stiefel's approach than I do in the faith.

      March 25, 2013 at 12:42 am |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      The religious right does not believe in paying a tax for what nature does. No matter how much king Obama wants to play god.

      March 25, 2013 at 12:42 am |
    • allanhowls

      Hey, John, what about the parts that man contributed? You don't think god's gonna be p!ssed when he sees what we did to this planet he gave us?

      Now, please bring the science.

      March 25, 2013 at 12:45 am |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Throughout most of the current geological era North America was a sheet of ice, but the global climate changed; mostly due to solar activity. No redistributionist tax scam can change the weather.

      March 25, 2013 at 12:50 am |
    • janey33

      Answer...You can be a Christian and believe in climate change. Yes, the clilmate is changing, just as it has since God created the earth. It is a natural occurance which has been going on long before humans were here. There is nothing we can do about it.

      March 25, 2013 at 1:30 am |
    • In Santa we trust

      janey33, the point was denial of climate changed caused by humans.

      March 25, 2013 at 1:36 am |
    • In Santa we trust

      JPT, Right wing groups spend a lot of money denying a human cause for climate change, isn't that the same?
      Even if you don't believe the climate change has a human cause, wouldn't you want to do what you could to protect our grandchildren? Or do think that rapture thing will save the deserving?

      March 25, 2013 at 1:40 am |
    • janey33

      In Santa we trust...Like I said...there is nothing we can do about it. We are not in charge of the climate. Yes, there may be some things caused by humans, but not eough to make a difference.

      March 25, 2013 at 1:46 am |
  16. roedygr

    Believers are easily conned out of their money. Part of the that money is used to con more believers. It is a multi-billion dollar scam. It is amazing that this one man has had so much effect to counter this wave of ordure and lies.

    March 25, 2013 at 12:29 am |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Dude just spent $3.5 million conning himself.

      March 25, 2013 at 12:44 am |
    • janey33

      Yes, it is sad that some believers are so trusting and gullilble and lose their money that way. But true believers would not con someone out of their money like that. Those who do this to them are only interested in the money, not the message they pretend to care about. A true preacher will ask for money, but not make a big deal out of it. I even know preahers who tell us not to give if we can't afford it.

      March 25, 2013 at 1:38 am |
  17. Stank-eye

    No need to fuss folks, I guess we are all allowed to think what we want to. We'll find out just who is right when we take our last breath.

    March 25, 2013 at 12:23 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      No, we'll be dead

      March 25, 2013 at 12:27 am |
    • natrldiver

      Very true. I would rather die believing in Christ Jesus and find out he does not exist rather than not believing only to find out that he is indeed real.

      We do live in a place where we are free to practice whatever religion we choose. I am just tired of all those who say what I practice is offensive to them. I do not force it upon you, and do of my own choosing. If you do not like it walk away. What is ironic is that we as a society are becoming more tolerant of Muslim and Pagan beliefs and spiteful against Christian beliefs.

      Oh I have to ask only because I find it hard to comprehend. How does an Atheist have a church or congregation if you have no belief at all? I am not being ignorant, just curious.

      March 25, 2013 at 12:38 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      @nat – you are free to believe whatever you want. Just keep those believes to yourself, keep them pout of schools and government and legislation. No, atheists do not have churches. Atheism is not a religion. It is simply an intellectual response to the claim that a god exists.

      let me ask you this: do you believe in Thor, God of Thunder?

      March 25, 2013 at 12:41 am |
    • janey33

      Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear...Oh, but it's perfectly okay for atheists to shove their beliefs into schools, government, and legislation. Tolerance is a two-way street, but atheists don't believe that.

      March 25, 2013 at 1:42 am |
    • In Santa we trust

      janey33, Atheists are not pushing their views into schools except in the sense that they want to prevent the religious teaching superstition as science.

      March 25, 2013 at 1:47 am |
    • In Santa we trust

      After all, separation of church and state is the law of the land.

      March 25, 2013 at 1:48 am |
  18. The Seeker

    I applaud those of you who refuse to rule out the possibility of a higher intellect . . . .This does not mean we believe in someone else's God . . . But to rule out the possibility is unintellectual and just shortsighted . . . no different from the ultra nutjobs . . .Einstein believed in such a higher intellect as well

    March 25, 2013 at 12:23 am |
    • Cas

      ouch! Ouch! Einstein didn't believe in God, I say JESUS! when I get frustrated, doesn't mean I believe in Jesus...his use of the word "God" was out of context to what you are implying...

      Your comment is saddening, the fact that you can compose a sentence and all the knowledge that can free you from your ignorance are a click of a mouse away, but rather you use your mouse to spread your ignorance rather than seek knowledge..

      March 25, 2013 at 12:29 am |
    • allanhowls

      Actually...
      "I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it. " – Albert Einstein, 1954

      March 25, 2013 at 12:29 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Anything is possible. However, saying so is really pointless. You need to concern yourself with the degree of probability of something, and to do that you must assess the evidence. There is a possibility that there is a god, or a "higher intelligence" but based on the evidence presented, the probability of that being true is vanishingly low.

      March 25, 2013 at 12:29 am |
    • TANK!!!!

      Who's ruling out anything? We simply demand evidence. If you don't have, sit down and stop trying to tell us how to run our lives, religies.

      March 25, 2013 at 12:33 am |
    • tony

      There would have to be at least two. The 10 commandments says #1 is a jealous god. So he'd have to have someone/thing to be jealous of.

      March 25, 2013 at 12:34 am |
  19. judy

    God said He knew us in our mothers womb. He loves us, all of us. and try as we might we can not change that.

    March 25, 2013 at 12:21 am |
    • Answer

      What about the individual sperms?

      You don't like sperm?

      March 25, 2013 at 12:23 am |
    • Answer

      How many sperms are lost so that one makes it to the egg?

      March 25, 2013 at 12:24 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Hey, Judy – I assume you actually heard god say this to you? Ummm – schizophrenia, perchance?

      March 25, 2013 at 12:25 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      @ Answer: Surely St. Monty of Python has your answer: Every sperm is sacred, every sperm is good, etc

      March 25, 2013 at 12:26 am |
    • clarity

      I never thought of that, Answer. Maybe the great flood was just code for Eve just getting into her regular cycle.

      March 25, 2013 at 12:27 am |
    • Answer

      You know how many trillions of potential "people" are wasted?

      Think of this world and all those we have lost!

      –I demand no one go and fondle themselves. XD

      March 25, 2013 at 12:31 am |
    • Pete

      judy
      Your own parents may love you too, but that doesn't give them the right torture you for believing something different, does it?

      March 25, 2013 at 12:34 am |
    • tony

      That makes all the different religions around the world rather hard to explain, doesn't it?

      March 25, 2013 at 12:36 am |
    • End Religion

      Judy, how's that straight jacket fit?

      March 25, 2013 at 12:37 am |
  20. Randomthoughts

    As long as atheiests don't door knock or get in your face. I love this quote though from Stephen F. Roberts sums up the situation very nicely:
    "I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."

    March 25, 2013 at 12:18 am |
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About this blog

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