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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. biggles

    Atheism is a joke. Even atheists, real ones, know god is. They are dumb but not stupid. The universe is. We are. Explain away god and you aren't playing with a full deck. Many atheists posting here are satanists, disguised as something else. The ferocity of their hatred gives them away. Just look at the demon infested Dorothy.

    April 5, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • biggles

      Dorothy is an evil, evil, hate-filled witch. She is also deeply and profoundly mentally sick. She promotes herself in a thousand subtle ways, duping your average atheist easily.

      Her entire life revolves around cigarettes, coffee and arguing on the net.

      April 5, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • John Brown

      biggles – You think atheism and belief are far apart, but in reality even those like you who profess belief in a particular religion must also reject the many, many other possible gods. Atheists simply also reject that final possibility.

      April 5, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • biggles

      Lol.

      April 5, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • biggles

      There is no such things as gods, demons. That is a little worn, don't you think? The high and lofty one who inhabits eternity is a vastly different being than everything else. Fear him. Hell is nearby. Where weeping and gnashing of teeth shriek incessantly. Think christians get on your nerves? You have no idea. But, you don't have to go there. Your friends will not be there, for there is no friendship there. Mark my words.

      April 5, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • John Brown

      biggles – Don't you recognize that most of the worlds inhabitants also say there is no such thing as your god? Does them saying it make it true for you? Likewise, you saying their gods don't exist means nothing to them, either.

      April 5, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Gods and demons are central to Christian theology.
      The Bible is rife with references to demons.
      Almost all Christian sects have belief in demonic possession and that evil spirits, acting as agents of Satan, impact this corporeal world.

      April 5, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • Abraham

      You've got it backwards. Everyone knows that there are no gods, even those who claim to worship them. The "faithful" are only in it because they are terrified to think for themselves.

      April 5, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
    • The real Tom

      The only joke here is you, piggies. Oops, my bad. Oh, well, never mind. Same difference. Piggies, biggies, who can tell which is which?

      April 5, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
  2. biggles

    Atheists assume wrongly that the world is simply their playground. It is nothing of the kind. It is a spiritual battleground where life and death matters are contested day and night. Hell is the final destination for many of us. It is no joke or laughing matter. And we are all engaged in the warfare whether we realize it or not.

    Picture the guy crying that he hates gravity. Gravity just ain't right. What does gravity think he is? I'll get gravity, you watch.

    April 5, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      It is Christians who believe with all their hearts that they have dominion over all the world.
      They believe that an anthropocentric enti/ty made the entire universe just so that they can exist in it.
      To think that mankind is the predilect object of Creation is the height of delusional arrogance.

      April 5, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • Abraham

      Christians assume wrongly that if there is a god, it is theirs.

      As for your attempt to equate gravity with the existence of a god, your ignorance is astounding. It is quite possible, and frankly, immensely enjoyable to live life for its own sake, and for the sake of those around you, without the manufactured guilt and fear that accompany religious faith. It is not possible, at all, to live life on earth without gravity.

      April 5, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
  3. Science

    Here is where the discussion should be ? Not with some outdated fairy.

    Can Synthetic Biology Save Wildlife? From Re-Creating Extinct Species to the Risk of Genetically Modified Super-Species

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130402182502.htm

    April 5, 2013 at 6:54 am |
    • biggles

      Satan is finished. He is a fairy. He tries so hard to knock off the one who has already defeated him. He squirms and slimes and breathes heavily, grunting and groaning, writhing in agony, using clueless boobs to do his bidding.

      April 5, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • Science

      Biggles ..........................clues ....................who is clueless..................not science.

      April 5, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
  4. truviz

    In my humble opinion Mr. Todd Steffie, you don't have to believe in God but keep his money out of your movement. Focus on finding him instead of destroying him. Here's what I think about atheism and money: http://tvizion.com/2013/03/27/atheist-in-god-we-trust-in-your-pocket/

    April 5, 2013 at 2:28 am |
    • Science

      Moderated post........................

      Origin of Life: Natural Cause no god(s) required.

      Hypothesis Traces First Protocells Back to Emergence of Cell Membrane Bioenergetics

      December 20, 2012 — A coherent pathway – which starts from no more than rocks, water and carbon dioxide and leads to the emergence of the strange bio-energetic properties of living cells – has been traced for the ...

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/news/fossils_ruins/origin_of_life/

      It would be NICE......... but

      Maybe they should not have created the wedge !!!
      The wedge strategy is a political and social action plan authored by the Discovery Insti-tute, the hub of the intelligent design movement. The strategy was put forth in a Discovery Insti-tute manifesto known as the Wedge Docu-ment,[1] which describes a broad social, political, and academic agenda who

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedge_strategy

      Peace

      Please watch

      The African Rift

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

      Dover Trial Transcripts............................................. FACTS.

      Below are the complete transcripts from the Dover Trial. Thanks to our friends at the National Center for Science Education for helping us fill in the missing transcripts.

      http://www.aclupa.org/legal/legaldocket/intelligentdesigncase/dovertrialtranscripts.htm

      And the missing link !

      Looks like that funky talking snake ?........................is the fairy in the fossil bed ?

      Strange Spaghetti-Shaped Creature Is Missing Link: Discovery Pushes Fossil Record Back 200 Million Years

      Mar. 13, 2013 — Canada's 505 million year-old Burgess Shale fossil beds, located in Yoho National Park, have yielded yet another major scientific discovery – this time with the unearthing of a strange spaghetti-shaped creature.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130313142526.htm

      Looks like that funky talking snake ?........................is the fairy in the fossil bed ?

      Strange Spaghetti-Shaped Creature Is Missing Link: Discovery Pushes Fossil Record Back 200 Million Years

      Mar. 13, 2013 — Canada's 505 million year-old Burgess Shale fossil beds, located in Yoho National Park, have yielded yet another major scientific discovery - this time with the unearthing of a strange spaghetti-shaped creature.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130313142526.htm

      April 5, 2013 at 5:20 am |
  5. Cupcake

    I hated the bible and i thought it was an oppressive mental illness. I thought christians had no excuse after the fad of suicide bombers. I persecuted the church with hatred.

    And the I started going down hill . I started wondering how so many people could be brainwashed by choice. and I started reading the bible when I felt desperate to know if God was really there. and I cried out to God. and God answered in sovereign voice. He gave me a faith that will never go away, it would be impossible for me to forget what God has done in my life. Praise His name. Thank you Lord . Please help us.

    April 4, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
    • Dr. Julie

      I'm with you, cupcake. I, too, went to school and learned THE REAL TRUTH-y'know, FACTS. I'm more of an agnostic, mainly because I've experienced some freaky metaphysical-based things, but certainly not anything having to do with dogma in any way. I, too, don't believe that a 'god' wouldn't be nearly as prolifically harsh as the one outlined in the bible. It's not logical. "Free will" doesn't make sense if you're 'free' to make your own choices, but if you make the 'wrong' ones, you're punished! It doesn't make logical sense, and humans are far from logical so the only LOGICAL explanation for why the bible profiles 'god' as a mean, old uncle who will set you up for failure is because that's what HUMANS do, therefore, the bible was written, directed and produced by HUMANS-NOT ANY GOD. It's not hard to understand, if you're smart. 🙂 Great post cupcake. 🙂

      April 4, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
    • Dr. Julie

      btw, cupcake, I hope you catch my metaphor. "Screaming" actually makes you feel good, so if you think that god is the one who made you feel good after 'yelling' at it, then you go ahead and believe whatever makes you feel good. 🙂 Stay in school.

      April 4, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Wait, you 'hated' the bible without knowing what it said about god and other topics? That sounds rather ignorant.

      April 4, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
    • Cupcake

      Did I say I didn't know. Not ignorant. There is a very worldly way to hate what is says as repressive,oppressive.

      April 4, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      I can understand hating ideas contained in a book and what those ideas do to people who use them, but not hating a book. The story sounds too stupid to be plausible.

      April 4, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
    • WASP

      @cupcake: " I started wondering how so many people could be brainwashed by choice."

      easy answer they started scaring the poop out of them as children with nightmare stories of eternal punishment along with discouraging them to question what they were being taught. then when they get to be adults they are already programmed to accept "god's teachings".

      April 5, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
  6. Majestic Lizard

    It's the Santa- non-believer's money man.

    Because people who don't believe in Santa Claus are actually just another tyrannical religion. It takes more faith to say you don't believe in Santa, than to say that you do.

    April 4, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
    • Science

      The NEW LIZARD evolution created................no magic or gods required .

      Peru Surprises With Two New Amazing Species of Woodlizards

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130320115224.htm

      April 5, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
  7. Shakingmyhead

    The atheists lie, they DO worship a god. The god's name is K-Ching..spelled $$$. They and other self serving wolves in sheeps' clothing are doing the same no matter what religion they claim.

    April 4, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • Abraham

      What kind of car does your pastor drive?

      April 4, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @faith

      Wow you really are stupid aren't you?

      April 4, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @faith

      Okay. So either you're completely insane or a complete Poe.

      April 4, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
  8. David

    “I was a cross-wearing, praying, religious-retreat Catholic,” Stiefel said. “You could say there were points that I felt the spirit.”
    This did not say "I may have felt the spirit". Every knee shall bow on the day of Jesus's return. Not everyone may be believer, but everyone does acknowledge that there is without a doubt God. Every time you write the date you are acknowledging that we are keeping track of when the Lord Jesus Christ was here on earth. Without that fundamental belief you cannot acknowledge time. It all started with God and the creation of the earth, and then started over when Jesus died for the world, yes that means even the athiests. As an atheist you belive in one of two things, nothing or Satan. But remember, if you believe in nothing, then what is your self value, and even Satan not only acknowledges God but he also believes there is God and that God reigns. Why do you think Satan is always trying to ruin your life.

    April 4, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • Abraham

      If you genuinely mean what you have said here, I don't know where to begin. "Not everyone may be believer, but everyone does acknowledge that there is without a doubt God" That's just stupid, not to mention untrue. It is, in fact, a self-contradictory statement. "Every time you write the date you are acknowledging that we are keeping track of when the Lord Jesus Christ was here on earth." Mercy. The next sentence is even dumber. "Without that fundamental belief you cannot acknowledge time." So there was no such thing as time before Jesus supposedly lived? "As an atheist you belive in one of two things, nothing or Satan." Pure ignorance. An atheist has no more belief in Satan than in Yahweh. Only a nihilist claims to believe in nothing. Christians actually worship Satan. Think about that. "...if you believe in nothing, then what is your self value..." What value does blind faith give to life? That's a specious connection at best. "Why do you think Satan is always trying to ruin your life." I have no such self-centered delusions. Why not just live your life and stop worrying about mythology? I have faith that you'll be happier.

      April 4, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • David

      Abraham, for almost 2000 years, a tomb which housed the body of a crucified Jesus of Nazareth has been empty. Never was there a body produced by critics to refute the claims of Jesus that He would rise again after being dead for 3 days. Of all the apostles, only 1 died a natural death which was John. The apostles preached a message of a risen Saviour and indeed did put their lives on the line when they were threatened with death to renounce their message of Christ having been seen resurrected from the dead. Seems to me that if they had been preaching a lie, then they would have speedily renounced their message when facing a cruel death. Secular history as well as biblical history, records the life and death of Jesus Christ. Secular history concludes with His death, but biblical history continues with His resurrection. No other man has touched the face and history of the earth as much as Jesus Christ. Atheists have come and they have gone, all claiming that there is no God. Jesus Christ did actually live, and He did actually die. If He is who He said He is, then what will be your destiny? His empty tomb is still an everlasting witness to who He was and is. If He wasn't who He said He is, then no worry. The names of atheists have become obscurred in history and forgotten, but the name of Jesus Christ still stands alone as the most influential historical figure of all time. Wish you well. David

      April 4, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • Abraham

      Yes, and Cronus and Rhea begat Zeus, who rules the Gods from Olympus. That story is just as true as yours.

      April 4, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
    • Abraham

      By the way, what day is it today? ALL GLORY TO THOR ON THIS, HIS DAY!

      April 4, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
    • Matt

      Wow man, like it must be obvious how ridiculous your argument is right?

      April 4, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @David

      Are you serious? You can't be serious. I refuse to believe you are really that stupid.

      April 4, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @faith

      Both have no evidence to back it up. Both are just as valid.

      April 4, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @faith

      Aww how cute. No evidence to present so you go to irrelevant idiocy. Congrats, you are a wonderful example of the damage religion does to the mind. Keep going, please. You only hurt your own cause with your stupidity.

      April 4, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
    • David

      Your way of rationalization is interesting. Just for a moment let's not talk about Christianity or atheism, we can can agree that I believe in God, and you believe in "nothing". Let's just talk about the basics. I am interested in knowing about your way of thinking. At the end of your first statement to me, Abraham, you said that you have the faith that I would be happier. Now, the definition of "faith" is, the beleif in someone or something, but you believe in, what is your explanation not mine, "nothing", so how is it that you have "faith" in nothing? Would it be safe to say that you rely on your 5 senses to tell you that you exist, sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing? After all, how can you exist if it does not pass all of these tests, right? Ok, so we might could look at this from another angle, just pondering in the moment, can we agree that the ONE vital thing you need to "exist" is air, now I could he wrong, but I have never known anyone, including myself, to be able to see, smell, touch, taste or hear, the ONE thing that is vital to your existence, "air". I say air is vital because if you take it away you cease to exist. Now, it is true that you can see tree's blowing in the wind, you can smell fragrances blowing through the air, you can touch leaves blowing in the air, you can taste sand blowing in the air, and you can hear the sound of air blowing in and around things,BUT, if you strip all movement from air, where it is totally still, you have the absence of all 5 senses. By faith, the beleif in someone or something, in this case something, you believe that air is vital to your existance, thus beleiving in something you can't prove exists, except only by "faith" that it does. I am sure you will not be willing to rationalize this, as you will defend "nothing" that you believe in except for your existence without hope. That is the true difference between you and I, you spend your time trying to prove that "nothing" exists. I spend my time worshiping and praising my God. The difference, you have an empty gas tank that is not going to get you anywhere, I have a tank full of Grace, Mercy, and Faith (in this case, the beleif in someone) that will get me to Heaven in the presence of the Lord. One last note, I don't know about where you live, but where I live we don't have greek god book stores, greek god churches, so that kinda shoots your theory down about the Cronus and Rhea begat Zeus idea. It's truly amazing that you people really spend your time defending "nothing". It is ok if you people want to spend your time ripping and tearing apart this post, it will not change the facts though. I don't have to have the last word, sometimes it is better said without saying anything at all.

      April 4, 2013 at 11:06 pm |
    • Jimbo

      Um, David, try this: Wave your hand quickly in front of you a few times. That substance you FEEL going across your hand–that's air.

      April 5, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
    • David

      Umm Jimbo

      You say that without any proof other than the faith you have in the truth of the UNSEEN air. You believe it is air and I also believe it is air. We both believe in something that is unseen by faith. I don't need to prove to you that air exists, you have proven that, I don't have to prove that. There is not one account that air has ever been seen by mankind, unlike Jesus of Nazareth who has been seen by many before His death, as well as after His death. You are grasping at straws to prove that "nothing" exists. It is however easier to prove that air exists rather than "nothing". Maybe you guys should join the millions upon millions who do believe in Jesus, and you wouldn't have defend "nothing", for my God needs no defense. May God's peace be with you and in you. You keep saying that my God does not exist, but what about your "nothing". Wake up sir there is a whole world filled with the Holy Spirit passing you by, and in the end, guess what, something else that we can agree on according to our different beliefs, I be with my Father in Heaven, and you will have your great big "NOTHING". Get the point yet. Please for your own sake try to rationalize this. You people have no defense, science cannot even back you up. By the way I am not Catholic or any other denomination, I am simply a Christian who lives in the Way, the Truth, and the Life of Jesus Christ. You should try it, it is not as bad as you think.
      Peace from the Lord be with you and Good Day

      April 5, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • David

      Um Jimbo

      You say that without any proof other than the faith you have in the truth of the UNSEEN air. You believe it is air and I also believe it is air. We both believe in something that is unseen by faith. I don't need to prove to you that air exists, you have proven that, I don't have to prove that. There is not one account that air has ever been seen by mankind, unlike Jesus of Nazareth who has been seen by many before His death, as well as after His death. You are grasping at straws to prove that "nothing" exists. It is however easier to prove that air exists rather than "nothing". Maybe you guys should join the millions upon millions who do believe in Jesus, and you wouldn't have defend "nothing", for my God needs no defense. May God's peace be with you and in you. You keep saying that my God does not exist, but what about your "nothing". Wake up sir there is a whole world filled with the Holy Spirit passing you by, and in the end, guess what, something else that we can agree on according to our different beliefs, I be with my Father in Heaven, and you will have your great big "NOTHING". Get the point yet. Please for your own sake try to rationalize this. You people have no defense, science cannot even back you up. By the way I am not Catholic or any other denomination, I am simply a Christian who lives in the Way, the Truth, and the Life of Jesus Christ. You should try it, it is not as bad as you think.
      Peace from the Lord be with you and Good Day

      April 5, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
    • nope

      "There is not one account that air has ever been seen by mankind, unlike Jesus of Nazareth who has been seen by many before His death, as well as after His death."

      There are many gods that have been seen before their deaths but that doesn't make them true. Just because a man was seen doesn't mean they were a god either.

      April 5, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • Terry

      "Jesus of Nazareth has been empty. Never was there a body produced by critics to refute the claims of Jesus that He would rise again after being dead for 3 days"

      So did Mithra all hail Mithra the real son of God!

      April 5, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
    • David

      One last short note. Please get past the surface of the message, if all you can say is "Um, David, try this: Wave your hand quickly in front of you a few times. That substance you FEEL going across your hand–that's air.", because you have totally missed what the message was about. Hence, you being in a room perfectly still, with perfectly still air. The point was, without you or the air moving, other than you breathing in and out, you cannot prove that air exists by the means you believe we exist, and that is, getting to the core of it, your 5 senses, smell, touch, taste, hearing, and seeing. You only have the "faith" that air exists, simply because you breath. Really??? Come on Big "un, think

      April 5, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • David

      Can you people not think for yourselves? No wonder you have a hard time proving that "nothing" exists. All I see you people do is copy or quote what others is saying and put something crazy behind it. You people are very shallow surface thinkers. It reminds me of arguing with a two year old child.

      April 5, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • nope

      "The point was, without you or the air moving, other than you breathing in and out, you cannot prove that air exists by the means you believe we exist"

      Air has been proven on a molecular level, plus if I put a bag over your head and tie it tight it will also prove air exists. You have no proof of your god and what you are using as proof, the bible is myth and contains all sorts of literary genre.

      April 5, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • David

      Come on nope catch up Buddy, I am a little deeper than just the surface. I wish just one of you could think for yourself instead taking what I say and copying it to your post and bash it. That is called hating, and I thought you people beleived in doing good just because. See you blew that theory out of the water. I have even tried to rationalize with you and your faith in "nothing" will not even allow that. Actually if you wanna try theory about the bag I think it would probably prove what I said. That air only exists by faith in something you cannot see, hear, smell, touch, or taste, but is vital to your existance. If you strip air away from yourself well you no longer can prove that is there and as a normal person would understand that at that point you cease to exist.

      April 6, 2013 at 12:24 am |
    • Steve

      David:

      " I wish just one of you could think for yourself instead taking what I say and copying it to your post and bash it. That is called hating..."

      Isn't that exactly what you did with Jimbo's post?

      April 7, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
    • David

      Hey Steve, good cut and paste jab. I can tell who your trainers are. Your going to fit very well in their little world.

      April 8, 2013 at 7:25 am |
    • The real Tom

      David, you don't "know" there's any such being as a god, and you certainly have no evidence to show that one exists. If you believe, great. I'm happy you've found something you believe in and that you find comfort in it. As long as you acknowledge that others have just as much right to not believe as you have to believe, great. The minute you start yapping at me and others about your faith being the one and only way, you can shove it.

      April 8, 2013 at 7:31 am |
    • The real Tom

      By the way, David, I have little respect for the scholarship of some bible-thumper who can't figure out how to type "believe" instead of "belive" and doesn't know the difference between "your" and "you're."

      April 8, 2013 at 7:34 am |
    • David

      The real Tom
      Glad you can criticize the small stuff you know like typos. I am not creating a paper to turn into a professor. ALTHOUGH, it seems that if I type belive or your instead of you're it gets my message across. Oh I guess I should go back and put an apostrophe in typos before you can understand what I am trying to say. That was an AWESOME call there the real tom, uh oh another typo. See, I would be willing to bet that 99.9% of all atheists have believed (is that better The Real Tom, do you understand what I am trying to say here big un) in Jesus, and for some reason or another you said a prayer too Jesus. You think Jesus ignored you and did not answer your prayer. I come with good news. Jesus did answer your prayer, it just wasn't (Hey The Real Tom, did you catch the apostrophe in that wasn't) the answer you were looking for.
      Romans 8:28
      28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
      Notice that passage says ALL things. Hold on there The Real Tom, before you go get your greek god bible theory out there, I have already heard that one. What you can do for me though is this (that is if you can look past my imperfections and typo's here The Real Tom), slow down there The Real Tom, I know what your are thinking (or should that be you're). The Real Tom, since you want everyone on here to act like they are scholars, then please, show me your scholar abilities, and prove to me that God does not exist. Please, with all due respect sir, if you want nothing more to do than argue, please find someone else. You see sir, I believe, that my God is not up for debate, he is much more Divine than that. Plus, the way I see it, you are on the defense not me. So come up with an original game plan that you can call your own, or forfeit. I am not a scholar, nor do I have a college degree, to be honest sir, I haven't even read much of the Bible, but I have listened and heard a lot about the Bible and what it says. The rest, I depend on the Lord to show me, and He has not failed me yet. Once again, if you want to argue, go to the mirror and argue with your self, at worst you will at least tie with yourself.

      April 8, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • David

      See, The Real Tom, the difference between you and me is this, in my eyes you are not judged by me, you are however forgiven of any wrong that you may do to or say to me. Unlike, all of you who do not believe in Jesus Christ, who spend their time persecuting other Christians. There were many, many people in Jesus's day that persecuted Him also, but many, many of those people even came to the realization of the Truth. For me it is not about an argument or debate with you people, it is about putting Jesus's Salvation forward as to gift to whom ever shall choose to accept it, and be saved in Jesus's name, so that he may not perish eternally.

      April 8, 2013 at 8:29 am |
  9. Francisco

    Your god is a myth. And I got more bad news. You were dead for billions and billions of years before you were born. When you die you will again no longer exist. Get over it.

    April 4, 2013 at 8:01 am |
    • Be honest

      This is a discussion forum for adults Franco. Jibberish i.e. wild statements with nothing to back'em up is for juveniles and the less able.

      April 4, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Francisco's statements make as much sense as the crap in The Babble, for which there is no proof of any god or a divine jesus.

      April 4, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • Be honest

      Hot air ace – And my aren't you full of it! Read the NEW TESTAMENT, the Bible – written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John who were EYE WITNESSES and worked with Jesus. They heard Him speak; they saw His miracles and John stood at the foot of the Cross with Jesus' Mother when he died.

      There's nothing worse than ill-informed comments from the less able and ill-informed bigots on here. I love you all but I don't LIKE you because of your disrespect.

      April 4, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Go ahead, prove that those 4 alleged disciples actual wrote the chapters you allege.

      April 4, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
  10. Stephen

    Having found peace with God through faith in Yeshua/Jesus as the Son of God who atoned for my sins, my outlook has really changed. I was searching for meaning and peace in my life and was difficult to deal with before. Now, having received Yeshua as my Savior I have great satisfaction and a sense of well being and peace inside. I love to share with others what the Lord has done for me. May you also find peace with God. "Seek and you will find"....Yeshua

    April 3, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I have found peace in reality. I hope some day you will find reality, too.

      April 3, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
    • Francisco

      You will find much more peace my friend in reality. Your god is a myth.

      April 4, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • sam stone

      Why did you feel you were sinful, Stephen?

      April 4, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • Jimbo

      Stephen – You realize, of course, that people find the same peace you describe among the other choices for a god, too.

      April 5, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
  11. Truman Truth

    why won't my posts show up?

    April 3, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
  12. Atheists Smathiests

    3 complaints about atheists from an atheist (MIT Physicist)

    1) They help religious fundamentalists

    2) They could use more modesty

    3) They should practice what they preach

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/max-tegmark/angry-atheists_b_2716134.html#slide=586943

    April 3, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • fintastic

      Wow, you really told them now didn't you!

      April 4, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • I see...

      "They could use more modesty"

      Christian "I know who God is and he created the entire universe including you and I talk to him and he listens to me"

      Atheist "I don't believe there is a God"

      Christian "Well look who's all high and mighty thinking he's a God, try a little humility won't you!"

      Atheist "Um, no I said I don't believe there are any God's"

      Christian "Like I said, totaly full of yourself aren't you, thinking you made the universe or something, how prideful!"

      Atheist "No, I said I don't believe there are any God's."

      Christian "See, just talking in circles now like you know everything, you just want to lord it over everyone else don't you! Disgusting worthless piece of trash!"

      Atheist – sigh – "I'll be going now."

      Christian "Yeah! Going straight to heII!! My God will be torturing you forever you haughty sick crazy person!"...

      April 4, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • ME II

      @Aheists Smathiests,, (sic)

      To be fair Tegmark was not talking about all atheists, just angry atheists.
      "I have three criticisms of these angry atheists..."

      April 4, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
  13. Steve Branson

    This godless heathen and his kind are going straight to Hell!!!!

    April 3, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Proxy threat from a brain washed christian.

      There are no gods and there is no hell.

      April 3, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      What about us heathens who have multiple gods? Or the ones who have one god, but it isn't your god? Or the ones who have your god, but believe different things about him?

      April 3, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • Reasonably

      Which hell?

      April 3, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • Reasonably

      Send them to Detroit!

      April 3, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      I don't believe in Hell. So your threat has a neutral effect on me.

      April 3, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
    • sam stone

      I cannot tell if you are a POE or a moron. Can you let us know?

      April 3, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • sam stone

      I live 3 miles from Detroit, and I have been to Hell (Michigan), 15 miles northwest of Ann Arbor

      April 3, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Detroit is Hell! Sweet! I'm a big Red Wings fan!

      April 3, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
    • Francisco

      A threat! I will be tortured after i die if i don't accept your god as my savior? . Sounds more like a sadistic dictator. Nobody owns you. Nobody is constantly watching you and taking score. I don't want to worship a god for eternity. That's hell.

      April 4, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • sam stone

      Threats is all they have. They always give lip service to that whole "love your neighbor" idea, but when push comes to shove, it is always "believe or fry". Petty vindictive people find comfort in a petty vindictive god.

      April 4, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • faith

      "Francisco
      A threat! I will be tortured after i die if i don't accept your god as my savior? . Sounds more like a sadistic dictator. Nobody owns you. Nobody is constantly watching you and taking score."

      how do you know?

      April 4, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @faith

      Pascal's Wager? Really? Are you really going to present that?

      April 4, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
    • faith

      "sam stone
      Threats is all they have. They always give lip service to that whole "love your neighbor" idea, but when push comes to shove, it is always "believe or fry". Petty vindictive people find comfort in a petty vindictive god."

      (always give lip service-vindictive people-vindictive god)

      prejudicial
      hostile
      discriminatory
      hate-speech

      April 4, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @faith

      I don't see you actually contesting those points. The fact is, that while Jesus talked about "turning the other cheek" and "love thy neighbor", he also preached the "believe or burn" doctrine. In the OT, there was no hell, in fact, the afterlife was a big question mark in the OT that no one really worried about because their legends talked of god kicking their ass in the real world for not obeying.

      April 4, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
  14. mzh

    my apologies for my typo...

    I meant to say: "so there is only one God and NOT Gods"...

    April 3, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • Reasonably

      Freudian slip?

      April 3, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      There is only one God – but that god is kind of three enti/ties...
      Anyone who can worship a trinity and insist their religion is monotheistic is capable of believing anything, given the time to rationalize it.

      "There is only one God and ___________ is His prophet"
      1) Mohammad
      2) Moses
      3) Joseph Smith
      4) Haillie Selassie
      5) Baha ullah
      6) Sun Myung Moon
      7) David Koresh
      8) Zoroaster
      9) Krishna
      10) Buddha
      11) Gahndi
      12) Moses David
      13) Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh
      14) Superdave the Wonderchemist
      15) All of the above
      16) None of the above

      April 4, 2013 at 8:33 am |
  15. John, NS

    "I contend 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."

    Stephen F. Roberts

    April 3, 2013 at 10:34 am |
    • mzh

      Dear John,

      There is only one God... human imagine or uses their thoughts to come up with multiple Gods... which i think is lake of understanding about the definition of God... i also think the reason we see this is mostly because the teaching of these faiths are showing God as an old dude with white long beard and extended hands... its all human imaginations...

      what happens if a human gets the power... i think we can get the answer by seeing whats going on around the earth... but there are some things that are not given to human control otherwise they will also be under human and will not let others to enjoy it... for example the sun, air, rain, what we breath in and out and so on... if the sun was under human then there will be nations that they would have to pay to get sun and so on...

      so there is only one God and Gods... 🙂

      April 3, 2013 at 11:32 am |
    • mzh

      my apologies for my typo...

      I meant to say: "so there is only one God and NOT Gods"

      April 3, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • EnjaySea

      Well, mzh, since you seem to have information that none of the rest of us do, you might want to tell the Hindus about your one-god assertion. They believe in over 330 million distinct gods.

      In fact, by claiming that you (amazingly) happen to know there is one god, you have done exactly what the original poster's quote says, you have dismissed millions of other gods in the blink of an eye. So, I'm free to dismiss yours just as casually.

      April 3, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      I'm going to have to correct myself on that previous comment. Apparently the 330 million figure is a common misconception about Hinudism, due to an issue of translation.

      Let's just say they believe in "quite a few" gods, not just one. By saying there is only one god, you are dismissing those religions which have believed in multiple gods for far longer than the desert religions have claimed the one-and-only-one dogma.

      And since the one-god and multiple-god religions can't both be right, I'll go ahead and just assume they're both wrong, until further notice.

      April 3, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • mzh

      EnjaySea: Its up to you EnjaySea...

      One day I asked one of the coworkers that why do you go a ask this piece of metal where you know that this piece of metal can't even move itself, then she answered that she knows but she saw her forefathers doing it, so also does the same and she does not want to change even she knows its not correct...

      So this actually proves what Quran gives the message to the mankind that God Almighty is so mercyful that we can think of... if you know that either one of correct, so the other should be rejected / punished and it is not happening, meaning everyone is being given chances to correct oneself as long as life time is there... and on that day all will be asked for the actions and then will be only two paths... one to good one and the other to somewhere no one would be willing to...

      Peace!!!

      April 3, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
  16. mzh

    I think most of the Americans are in lost… as most of them do not know who their father is and it is very unfortunate… even if they know who their father is, the mom has children from diff men outside of marriage… and while a child is being raised, watching what his/her parents do to enjoy their life… so things become normal when they grow up… like if you go back early nineteen century, women were not allowed to go to beach without being covered… and now it totally opposite… if you do not have a boyfriend or girlfriend before 15, the parents worries that their teenage has some problem… and lot more can be listed…
    And then you go to Church, what our children learn from there… they see in front of the Church an old man’s statue with long beard standing with extending of both hand… some of the status are blank, white, Spanish and so on… so they are being taught God as an old dude… then you learn from Catholic that you pray to Jesus, Mother Marry, Saints, Death spirit and all these… the poll shows a huge number of young American turns to Atheism or believing there is no God and so on…
    Its hard to assume where these nations are going with the name of modernization… nothing wrong having scientists discovered the cure of aids or the pics from mars but … we should all think and learn from our previous generations and correct ourselves… also ppl are becoming so much slave of material things…

    April 2, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • Damocles

      The only thing I could harvest from your post is that you think everyone should follow the same deity you do.

      April 2, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
    • mzh

      To Dear Damocles:
      Thats not what i want... I want everyone to discover the truth... thats all... let me give you an example: you know that the person who is dead can't even help himself, how can an individual ask for good to the dead person? or we know a statue is not able to move even itself, how can this statue will give me something what others can't and examples could go on and on... but i appreciate you comments dear Damocles...

      may the peace and blessings be upon all...

      April 2, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
    • Damocles

      And what, exactly, is 'the truth?'

      April 2, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      @mzh...................You seem to be all over the place. There are plenty of religious people that have struggles and are sad, just as there are single parents that are happy and successful. What about the young boys mo'lested by the church? Being religious didn't keep them from being ra'ped. My solution isn't with god. We need to teach reality when it comes to children. We need to stop glamorizing having a baby and spell out the true cost of children financially. Most of all ACCEPT THE FACT PEOPLE HAVE S3X. Please stop with the no s3x nonsense.

      April 2, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • mzh

      To Ken Margo:
      I am totally agree with you about this evil thing going around the earth... this evil minded people is there everywhere regardless of faith... that was not what i was trying to say... my point was to be able to recognize the One True God who is Unseen and who has no partners as He is not in need of any partners but we the creation is in need of Him... thats all... I wish I could do something to stop all these taking place around the earth... I think we human fear the fed laws more than we fear the laws of our Creator, for example not to associate any partner with Him, taking the life of others, drug dealing, human trafficking, believing in hereafter and so on...
      I remember a story that I was talking with one of my friends... I was telling him look we all obey the law of the land so much like for example when we drive and no one moves even an inch when there is a school bus stop to pick/drop kids as it is a fed laws but when it comes to the laws of our Creator, we don't care... like having physical relationship outside of marriage and many more... then he said something nice... he said that its because we see the consequence of breaking the law of the land but we do not see the punishment of hereafter even though it is mentioned very details in Quran, it even gives pictures of hereafter.... so human would like to see everything visually even when it comes to The Lord... we human want to see it...

      To Damocles:
      The truth is "There is no God but Allah The Almighty and Muhammad, Isa (Jesus), Musa (Moses), Ibrahim (Abraham) and all prophets and messengers are the prophet or Messengers of Allah the Lord Almighty" and not having any partners either son or daughter or any other associations... in a very high level...

      Again I am here just to let others know but there is no compulsion in religion as it is mentioned in chapter 2: verse 256 of Quran....

      Peace!!!

      April 2, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
    • Robert Slater

      The choice between God and Atheism is simplified by both sides. It is not necessary to abandon reason to adopt religion or believe in God, My reply is spelled out in "The Dawkins Delusion God vs Atheism" A Kindle book from Amazon.
      It is not necessary to trash either side. Maybe there is intelligence in out design?

      April 2, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      @mzh.................You refer to god as our "creator" Since "god created" us. He should know what we're all about by now. We are a violent society. That is the way we are here in the US, abroad in the middle east and every where else you can think of. I'm not religious because I'm not worried about the eternal life. I'll deal with that when I get there. If society focused on this life a little more, maybe we'd all be a little better off.

      April 2, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
  17. Sabrina

    Steiffel isn't an atheist. He is a high priest of Mammon, and he's selling people a bill of goods. Well, let him do his worst. People will continue to believe in God and know that what it says in Psalms 14:1 is right.

    April 2, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • biobraine

      For much of human history the default was to believe in some sort of god. The stories and belief systems changed and evolved over time but before the scientific method came into play, there was little reason not to accept the religious explanations for why the world was the way it was. The fact that so many people believe in some kind of god or another doesn't mean that they have any logical or factual basis to believe in one. We as humans often cling tightly to beliefs even with overwhelming evidence that such beliefs are completely irrational. The number of people that now call themselves non-religious has increased so rapidly that the majority of non-believers were at some point religious. Questioning long held religious beliefs can bring about very compelling reasons for making this change. What people like Todd Stiefel do is bring these questions out into the open and challenge the long held beliefs that so many of us cling to.

      April 2, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
  18. Declaration Awareness

    So, let me try to understand what he is doing... He is spending a lot of money to promote not believing in anything. He is spending money to promote 'nothing'. Sounds like he needs a 'come to Jesus meeting' to discuss his management of his budget. I can see it now... he goes into his boss's office and says "Hey boss! I need to spend several million dollars to convince everyone to believe in nothing..." "Your fired!" his boss states firmly as the now jobless-one walks out of the room.

    April 2, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • Francisco

      The reason he is willing to spend money is BC he wants to separate church from state. The problem is for example stem cell research is prohibited because lawmakers base their reasoning on the myths in the bible. If stem cell research would be allowed to continue their objectives it could save thousands of lives. Another example is birth control.

      April 2, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • Abraham

      Do you also post as "David"? It's not about "nothing." It's about believing in things that have actual value – human life, expression, liberty. Faith is not a virtue.

      April 5, 2013 at 11:37 am |
  19. Francisco

    Why do you think it's a dangerous cult?

    April 2, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
  20. Francisco

    Clever play with words. The first worked better for me. Can you answer me honestly and say using your own common sense. Do you think anybody deserves to be tortured after they die BC they didn't accept Jesus as their savior?

    April 2, 2013 at 12:05 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.