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

The money man behind atheism’s activism

By Dan Merica, CNN

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

From Catholic school to atheist millionaire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CNN Belief: The secular high priest of SXSW

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

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

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

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

‘Just doing my part’

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

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

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

“I am just doing my part within my means,” he said. “Different people have different means. I am doing what I can do, just like the rest of the people in the movement are.”

But recipients of the money, such as David Silverman, president of the American Atheists, see his impact as much greater than just a one-off activist.

“Todd is an example of what major contributions can accomplish for atheism,” he said. “From a donation stand point, he is really leading the movement to a different level.”

Walking the line

One of Stiefel’s major concerted contributions in the last three years was the Reason Rally, an event held on the National Mall in Washington, which was billed as a watershed moment in the atheism movement. The goal of the event was to show to religious Americans that atheism was a powerful minority in American life.

Stiefel speaks onstage at the Reason Rally.

The rally drew a number of high-profile speakers, including Richard Dawkins, the author of “The God Delusion,” and thousands of attendees, despite rainy weather.

In his speech to the crowd, Stiefel talked about what he sees as the most important problem facing atheism: “Discrimination comes from ignorance, and in this case it is ignorance about our beliefs,” he said. “We are told freethinkers believe in nothing, but that’s a misunderstanding. We believe in a lot of things; we don’t all believe the same things.”

Stiefel put $250,000 toward the rally, a contribution that Silverman, the organizer, said was critical.

“He brought the Reason Rally to a brand new level,” Silverman said. Without that money, “we would have had far fewer people and a far smaller event.”

Silverman and the Reason Rally advocated for a specific brand of atheism. Silverman, who regularly calls his group the “Marines of the Freethought Movement,” is not shy in making it clear that he views his goal in calling out religion and elevating atheism.

Stiefel says he doesn't necessarily endorse those tactics wholly, but he does see their validity.

“I try to walk a line,” he said. “I see religious criticism as valuable, and groups like American Atheists are good at that. I do think we have to have a dialogue about who has the right ideas and part of that is pointing out the flaws in religious ideas.”

Stiefel continued: “I also see inter-belief work, though. I do find a lot of value in inter-belief work and I do see a lot of value in general charity work.”

Evidence of that is his work on cancer fundraising.

In 2012, Stiefel approached the Foundation Beyond Belief with an idea of creating networks of nonbelievers around the country to help raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Stiefel tapped into his atheist network and began organizing different event.

In total, the atheist groups raised $430,000 in 2012, including a $215,000 donation from Stiefel and his wife, Diana.

“Across the country there are 150 local groups of atheists and freethinkers raising money for charity,” Stiefel said proudly.

The key, however, was bridging the gap between atheist and religious communities in the name of charity.

“We welcomed Christians, as well,” he said. “Some of our biggest fundraisers were Christians.”

For 2013, the goal is to raise $500,000.

Expanding the community

With money and resolve comes great influence for Stiefel. He has the ear of many atheist leaders, meaning he can dictate the movement’s focus.

Stiefel said he wants to see the atheism movement expand its footprint.

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

“What I would really like to see is expanding out communities to people who may not just be atheists or agnostics and into people who are religiously skeptical and may still have some religious beliefs,” he said. “Nobody is a perfect skeptic and I would like to see more people like that in our community.”

For Stiefel, this is a personal priority. He says his wife, whom he describes as a skeptical Christian, is someone who would fall within an expanded atheist movement.

“My message is not only of anti-theism,” Stiefel said. “I don’t choose to attack religion itself. I see religion as something that provides both good and ill to the world.”

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Atheism

soundoff (7,617 Responses)
  1. faith

    who would still the candy from a laughing baby's mouth
    when he could take it from the money man?

    CEM I. A.

    April 8, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • faith

      I WISHED I TWERE A BABY BUMBLE BEE

      then your mother be so proud a me

      dear brethren, rejoice and be exceedingly glad when men shall revile you and say all manner of evil against you, falsely, for my sake

      know why?

      big rewards comin your way in glory

      don't lose your saltiness

      April 8, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
  2. faith

    i love these idiots. i really do. wish they twernt gonna burn, but hey, what's a poor boy gonna do?

    April 8, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • faith

      DIPWAD!

      April 8, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • faith

      hey u devils, u lets me nos when i b allowed to speak agin, ok? please!

      i wanna speak agin!

      April 8, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • Science

      faith ....................visit this thread you might find the answer.

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/04/07/my-take-how-churches-can-respond-to-mental-illness/#comments

      April 8, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • sam stone

      you're just a diseased gash

      April 8, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
  3. faith

    god is, baby. don't believe it? too bad. lol idiots

    April 8, 2013 at 9:13 am |
    • faith

      uh oh.
      i gotta prove he exists
      or the geniuses,
      the atheists,
      have ordered me to shut up.

      lol

      April 8, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • The real Tom

      Can't do it, can you?

      That's okay. I knew you couldn't.

      Why do you claim you can?

      April 8, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Faith
      Let me fix that type-o for you.
      "God is a baby."
      That's why His primary characteristic is Jealousy and why He is prone to stamping His feet like a petulant child when things don't go His way.

      April 8, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • The real Tom

      Wow, faith, you sound a little perturbed. Better watch that blood pressure of yours. You might have a stroke.

      April 8, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • faith

      HEY!

      KNOCK IT OFF!

      THAT IS PLAIN WRONG.

      DON'T EVER SAY THAT AGAIN, GOT IT?

      THEY CALLED ME

      dipwad,

      dipwad!

      April 8, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • sam stone

      faith: you are a snivelling sycophant. get back on your knees, b1tch

      April 8, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • Science

      Faith .................are you smarter than a 5th grader ?

      Listening to the Big Bang – In High Fidelity

      Apr. 4, 2013 — A decade ago, spurred by a question for a fifth-grade science project, University of Washington physicist John Cramer devised an audio recreation of the Big Bang that started our universe nearly 14 billion years ago.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130404170154.htm

      April 8, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • red delicious

      I agree with faith, God exists. I got an email and a phone call where my mom confirmed God is real. She said Jesus and the Holy Spirit are real too. I believe her, and I believe them.

      April 8, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • The real Tom

      I got a phone call telling me that I could get a free night at a hotel if I'd listen to a presentation about buying a condo.

      April 8, 2013 at 10:10 am |
  4. faith

    "jrose
    True, and another is that many companies run by Christians refuse to hire someone they know to be atheist."

    true. whenever i wear my tie that says "kill all xians" to a job interview, all them christians in there freak out man,you know?

    what i find particularly revealing is the way the heathens insist on proof that gods exist. they are so curious. they crave knowledge and the truth and the facts– so, whom do they ask? they ask the delusional, mentally disturbed, crstards! who else?

    April 8, 2013 at 12:23 am |
    • Science

      Education works faith

      Another timeline go figure interactive too

      For all creationists and bible thumpers !!!

      Earth’s timeline works better than the bible's timeline

      Trace our planet's geological and biological ages

      http://www.nbcnews.com/id/33184839/ns/technology_and_science/

      April 8, 2013 at 5:55 am |
    • Science

      Evolution .......................faith billions of years ago ?

      How Life May Have First Emerged On Earth: Foldable Proteins in a High-Salt Environment

      Apr. 4, 2013 — A structural biologist at the Florida State University College of Medicine has made discoveries that could lead scientists a step closer to understanding how life first emerged on Earth billions of years ago.

      April 8, 2013 at 6:44 am |
    • The real Tom

      "Who do they ask?"

      Certainly not you, dipwad. Atheists aren't "curious" when they ask you for proof. They are challenging you to put up or shut up. You claim you "know" a god exists and that you "know" what he thinks, wants, and requires.

      Then you wonder why those who don't believe your tripe ask you for proof?

      How stupid are you?

      April 8, 2013 at 7:09 am |
    • Science

      faith .....................being self – employed works well.............with the tax code also.

      April 8, 2013 at 7:24 am |
    • faith

      "Austin
      Ah. Lol. I feel like I am back in seventh grade when they do their side show."

      austin, u drive our resident god-hating dingbats right out of their little brains. keep it up. do more, in fact. whatever u b doing, pour it on. atheists r the cutest thangs on ert when u get em all worked up. true colors. they start spazzin out and their demons surface.

      April 8, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • The real Tom

      Using that reply feature is tough, isn't it, faith?

      Especially for a 5th grader. Good on you for trying, though.

      April 8, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • faith

      Well, i seen signs at atheists' companies that says fundies go to hell! boo hoo

      April 8, 2013 at 9:37 am |
  5. Kilto

    @ Tallulah....It's not the Christians on here spewing idiotic comments. It is the Atheists, honey.

    April 7, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
    • His panic

      That's because they're in a total state of Panic, they're panicking!

      April 8, 2013 at 12:01 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Why should atheists panic? It's religion that is in decline.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:36 am |
  6. faith

    yea baby. our heathen cherish the virtues like honesty. they are so completely hilarious. they always love the one liners, hoping to bait some doufus into a silly little side argument that has nothing to do with his precious shed blood.

    they specialize in asking questions to avoid trying to form intelligent answers. got to pity them.

    pop goes the weasel, here we is. of course god can't exist!

    April 7, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
    • faith

      c, it ain't be possible for gods to exist. man made all dem, all 12,641 gods be man made. i knowd for a fact. c, i am atheist, b a b y. i be hip. i can tear xians apart with whatever puke i wants. i ain't claiming no holier than thou. so what if i lie? xians started every war and murdered most people.

      HITLER B MY GOD!!

      April 7, 2013 at 10:11 pm |
    • Austin

      Ah. Lol. I feel like I am back in seventh grade when they do their side show.

      April 7, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Do you, Austin? I doubt that. I think you're terrified most of the time. That's why you get on here and bloviate. It's the only place you can be crazy without consequence.

      April 8, 2013 at 7:26 am |
    • faith

      "Austin
      I believe in the word of Hitler so na na na na poo poo." not only that, he's my best evidence for gods. amen? we believe that boy. no why? he said so!

      April 8, 2013 at 9:39 am |
    • faith

      and my boy hitler said the reich, numero three, was gonna last for a 1,000 years. so there! we noed that b true and is happen right now. how do we noed? mein kampf, ch 4 vs 16a- 22.

      April 8, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Austin

      Plus Adolf knows eye balls.

      April 8, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
  7. tallulah13

    Is it wrong that I hope that all these psycho-seeming believers are actually trolls? Honestly, the christians I know in real life are generally honest and intelligent. The "christian" posters here do not reflect that at all.

    April 7, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
    • Salero21

      "honestly" really! Honesty is not an atheist virtue, is a Godly virtue.

      April 7, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
    • Austin

      I believe in the word of Hitler so na na na na poo poo.

      April 7, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
  8. faith

    demons understand something about his power. they freak. "What do you want with us, Son of God?" they shouted. "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?"

    April 7, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
    • seance

      The Christians were crusaders and Hitler, and witch burners. hhisssss. they are killers. Jesus is buried.

      April 7, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
  9. faith

    hitler was a saint. we know because he said so. atheist lunatics say

    however, when they think a christian has posted a no-no or done some naughty deed on this forum, they crucify the punk for not being a hypocrite.

    April 7, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • Science

      The beat's a banging in your head maybe faith ?

      Sound of the Big Bang are available in several lengths here:

      http://faculty.washington.edu/jcramer/BBSound_2013.html

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130404170154.htm

      April 7, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
  10. Austin

    Hebrews 6:4-9 ESV / 1 helpful vote

    For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. ...

    April 7, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
  11. faith

    we don't need to ask, "why are we here? how did the universe arrive? is there meaning or purpose in life, in my life, what am i doing here?" those questions cannot be answered by imagining gods out there made everything and that they magically offer me meaning. anyone who believes in gods is delusional. there is no evidence of god anywhere.

    this is the best god-haters have come up with

    April 7, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
    • One one

      Anyone who cannot figure for themselves why they are here and what is the meaning of their lives is lost.

      April 7, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • Austin

      what would be the meaning of supernatural revelation from God?

      April 7, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • faith

      hitler was a saint. we know because he said so. atheist lunatics say

      however, when they think a christian has posted a no-no or done some naughty deed on this forum, they crucify the punk for not being a hypocrite.

      is there one intelligent god-hater?

      April 7, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • faith

      atheist reprobates refer to the inquisition and the crusades as proof that god sucks. it never dawns on them that anyone can claim to be a christian. (well, that's not true. they know perfectly well, but they make as much hay as possible by pretending to confuse the two. anything to make jebus look bad.) lol

      April 7, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • Austin

      I trust in the "word of Hitler" but there is no God. and there is no such thing as apostate false teachers (anti-Christ deceiver)

      But Hitler WAS a Christian

      This is evasive exploitation. The are evasive when it comes to apostacy, but exploit Chris with the "word of Hitler" that they DO believe in.

      April 7, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • faith

      ask a heathen what is the meaning of life and they cannot answer.

      ask who was jesus and they will never answer

      mention his blood and they go wild

      April 7, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • Austin

      Have a good one! I hear ya.

      April 7, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • faith

      demons understand something about his power. they freak. "What do you want with us, Son of God?" they shouted. "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?"

      time is coming

      April 7, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • One one

      @austin, So far as religion of the day is concerned, it is a damned fake... Religion is all bunk. [Thomas Edison]

      April 7, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • faith

      God is light; in him there is no darkness at all

      Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. ... In him was
      life, and that life brought light to humanity. ...

      i have come that you might have life

      i am life

      He came as a witness to testify concerning that light,
      so that through him all might believe

      And those who were with me saw the light, but the voice of him
      who was talking to me came not to their ears

      April 7, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • faith

      Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and
      in him there is no cause for stumbling

      April 7, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Yawn.

      Faith, why is it that you post so much, but you don't really say anything?

      April 7, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
    • faith

      who said those things, btw?

      what is really funny? watch the big mouths keep silent, overwhelmed by the power of his words. they will never address that question. why? they know who said those things. you better believe they know. and they hate him, with raging fury. with maniacal, demonic, frothing at the mouth and convulsions they detest, they despise him.

      April 7, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • faith

      austin, there is not one intelligent atheist who posts here.

      yes, they adore hitler and never question his sincerity. that's what i mean. they are so unintelligent.

      notice, too, they will never even attempt a mature response to the issues i just mentioned.

      watch this:

      christ bled and died to take away your sin

      April 7, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • Giggles

      So faith – when has some said they adore Hitler? Can you copy a post from the BB with its time stamp showing such?

      April 7, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • faith

      you know what is really cute? they don't hate god, right? they don't believe in gods, so they cannot hate what isn't there. great argument!

      and one certainly gets that impression when reading their lovely comments about gods, you know. it is clear they really sort of favor the gods, but just can't quite see enough evidence to believe in the old boy! Amen?

      that's how we know they are demons. their hatred for jesus christ consumes them

      April 7, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • Giggles

      Be sure to include the URL link so that we can verify your source, faith.

      April 7, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
    • sam stone

      "ask a heathen what is the meaning of life and they cannot answer."

      why do you feel there must be a "meaning of life"?

      ask who was jesus and they will never answer"

      nonsense....we will answer. we ma ynot give you an answer you would like

      "mention his blood and they go wild"

      no, we are just amused by your snivelling toadyism

      April 8, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • The real Tom

      faith, you're just about the best recruiter for atheism since HeavenSent.

      April 8, 2013 at 9:43 am |
  12. Salero21

    OK here I'am again to stomp and trample in the Civil, Consti-tu-tional and Constipation Rights of any and all atheists.
    They're like rabid and ravenous wolves and have less social graces than a troop of baboons. They're foolish, brutish and appear to be all neighbors in the same trailer park.

    They're so stupid that now they think that some particle is God! Now, atheism is stupidity in full bloom.

    April 7, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • Salero21

      OMG I think I made another typo mistake. I can see the legal enforcement Branch of Atheism THE GRAMMAR GESTAPO OF THE INTERNET chasing me down with toothpicks till I'm no more.

      April 7, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • Austin

      I think that maybe there is a slight possibility that you are correct in your mental imagery of your descriptive description of the God denying atheistic, dogmatic and evasively exploiting, dim lit spirit deprived synthetic reality of an aggressive mockery.

      April 7, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • Salero21

      If I could translate my mental imagery into a painting, maybe, just maybe, it could be a work of art. 😀

      April 7, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Solero21
      You aren't trampling anyones rights....you are just throwing a tantrum.

      No one thinks any particle is god ( atheists believe there are NO gods...get it?)...as a matter of fact it was originally the god damn particle as it was so difficult to detect.

      They changed it to the god particle to appease people like you who clearly do not understand what this discovery means. When they changed the name to the god particle, they knew people like you would not understand and say things as ridiculous as what you have said above, They have been sorry for the name change ever since thanks to un-educatable individuals such as yourself..

      You clearly have no understanding of reality, so go back to your virtual world in your story book and leave reality for those of us who have the mental capacity to comprehend it.

      April 7, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • Austin

      God denying atheistic, dogmatic and evasively exploiting, dim lit spirit deprived synthetic reality of an aggressive mockery.

      April 7, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • Salero21

      @empty Cranium,

      So you do believe that a Particle Created everything else, therefore in your imaginary reality this particle (Higgs-boson) becomes a DE FACTO god.

      April 7, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
    • Austin

      Why else would they name it the " God Particle" (as if its some joke?)

      April 7, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
    • One one

      Atheism existed long before Christianity and Jesus and will continue to exist long after Christianity fades away like so many other religions and their gods have.

      April 7, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
    • Salero21

      So an invisible particle Created EX NIHILO ALL other particles, atoms and matter, that's so Stupid.

      The Big Bang Facts are; God Spoke it and Bang it Happened.

      April 7, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
    • Austin

      Ya but the Holy Spirit gave me a faith that can never disappear for my entire life. How is that fading? that is the opposite of fading away, that is giving birth. That is spirit filled ministry and spiritual life.
      Romans 8:23

      And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
      2 Thessalonians 2:13

      But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.

      April 7, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Why do you keep posting the same thing, over and over and over again? It wasn't interesting the first time.

      April 7, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • Salero21

      Just so you know!

      April 7, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
  13. Ted Ward

    What's with the claim to "reason"? Atheism is showing it's lack of reason here because as reason shows, it is not possible to either prove or disprove the existence of God. Atheism has no claim to reason anymore than anyone else. Either way, it's just a matter of personal faith and choice. Pascal probably was no fool.

    April 7, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • clarity

      I don't think you understand what atheism is, Ted.

      April 7, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Pascals wager is the worst reason to believe.

      Believe or burn...ridiculous.

      And gods existence can not be proven or disproven ...yet. So why do so many follow what only can be described as delusion since you cannot know if there are any of the thousands of gods that are reported to exist?

      Do you still believe in leprechauns, unicorns, the great pumpkin...you cannot prove or disprove any of them, but you would certainly ridcule someone who truly believes in unicorns...same premise.

      April 7, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • R.M. Goodswell

      Atheism is simply not believing in a god(s). you re right, we cant prove he doesn't exist..... the same way we cant prove that elves and unicorns don't exist. but like elves and unicorns, there is zero, as in absolutely no evidence that god or god(s) exist.

      The only impact god or gods have ever had are the actions of their middlemen.

      April 7, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • Ted Ward

      Please enlighten us, Clarity...

      April 7, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • Jimbo

      Pascal incorrectly presumes only two possibilities: Christianity or atheism. Since there are plenty of other religions, some of which also say that non-believers in their religion suffer penalties after death, Pascal's wager simply doesn't work.

      April 7, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
    • clarity

      Reread what you wrote, Ted, and then read what "R.M. Goodswell" wrote. Do you see a difference?

      April 7, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • davidpun

      True religion must first come from an inner sense that we are part of something greater than us but cannot be reduced by us to any simple description or word or concept. Organized religions are often meaningless because they try to confine this something larger and greater in terms that only mean something in our simpler universe. Atheists don't even get out the gate because they believe we are just animated lumps of meat and that there is nothing beyond what we can know by empirical verification. This is just another way to attempt to confine everything to the universe we already know.The sad thing is that atheists try to fool themselves into thinking that science supports them. Yet, if they could momentarily throw aside their infantile pseudo intellectual brainwashing, they would see that even though science can never prove or disprove something defined to be outside science, if we look at every other species known to man, we see that they interact with a universe that WE know to be much more complex than what they can perceive or grasp, but they can never even suspect exists but which is perfectly real to us. My dog will never know what the Internet is or what CNN is or what I am doing tapping on my computer. So by the same reasoning why would a few random mutations in a genome enable us to grasp the whole complexity of the Universe? It can't. Its really that simple. Religious people seem to sense that, but spend too much effort tying their minds in an endless loop of symbolism and ritual, and atheists appear to be happy to tie their minds in an endless loop of pseudo-intellectual empirical nonsense.

      April 7, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      David
      "True religion must first come from an inner sense that we are part of something greater than us but cannot be reduced by us to any simple description or word or concept"

      False presumption...only opinion.

      "Atheists don't even get out the gate because they believe we are just animated lumps of meat and that there is nothing beyond what we can know by empirical verification."

      Incorrect. Atheists do not believe that. You do not know what atheism is.

      The rest of you post is nothing more than opinion and offers nothing of any value outside of that.

      April 7, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • R.M. Goodswell

      David,

      So.... One of the religions go it right? 3500 year old thinking trumps a 21st century lab and countless experiments? Really?
      Your 'spirituality' can change on a dime btw...a head wound, or chemical change in your brain will change how your universe appears....."pseudo-intellectual empirical nonsense"? really?

      April 7, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • Dippy's sub

      It's = it is
      Its is a possessive.

      Let me know when you figure out which is correct.

      April 7, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
    • davidpun

      To Dippy's Sub
      Wow. I knew atheists had to have something left that was important in there life's (just trying to irritate you). I had totally forgotten about spelling. You've just disproved all my theories. I'm defeated.

      April 7, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
    • Kilto

      Clarity is a fool or an idiot or both. She can't even tell us what she believes in and she defends Atheists to a tee. A lot of bull crap spews from her mouth. She can't even defend her ideas. She expects you to tell everything about what you believe in but she can't do the same in return. I smell bull crap.

      April 7, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • His panic

      That's because the dude is in a total state of Panic, I' am his panic!

      April 7, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • Austin

      i have proof that God exists. I experienced supernatural revelation.

      April 7, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      "True religion must first come from an inner sense "

      I love it when stupid theists criticize science for not being able to determine certain truths, and then present "inner sense" as a method of acquiring knowledge. Tell me: what significant and universal insight or knowledge has ever been obtained by "inner senses?"

      April 7, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
    • tallulah13

      So Ted, why are you wasting time on the internet? It takes a lot of time to worship all the thousands of gods that you can't prove aren't real. You don't want to end up in the wrong place because you chose the wrong god.

      April 7, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
  14. davidpun

    test

    April 7, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
  15. Kilto

    STupid Atheists!!!!!!!!! First, they claim they don't believe in anything yet they believe in the big band theory. Then they harass us Christians because they have nothing better to do with their time. Third, they haven't proven or dis proven anything!!! All they can do is be ugly because they know deep down in their hearts that there is an all powerful, all mighty God. He created everything and anything and we owe everything to him. Jesus is the King of Kings and he lives in Heaven. Atheists can suck a Big elephant dong because they will never shake my beliefs and yes I know Im being a little vulgar but its ok, right Atheists???

    April 7, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • The real Tom

      I DO believe in the big band theory! It posits that Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman were the greatest musicians of their time and that big band music is the reason we won WWII.

      Anyone who says otherwise is a blaspheming, tone-deaf idiot and is going straight to hell where he will have to listen to Celine Dion 24/7 for eternity.

      April 7, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • CMNSNS

      It is people like you that prove the moronic minds of believers. Please read the definition of Theory as it applies to science. Definition – In the context of science, a theory is a well-established explanation for scientific data. Theories typically cannot be proven, but they can become established if they are tested by several different scientific investigators. A theory can be disproven by a single contrary result.

      The reason why it is still a scientific theory is because it has never been disproved by a single contrary result of well-established data. The reason why religion is not a scientific theory is just as simple. There isn't a single piece of established data that hasn't had contrary results of well-established data. Please read something other than a religious text if you want to try to sound intelligent.

      April 7, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Kilto
      If you can get the christians to stop with their persecution against the many who do not feel or believe the same as they do, then I'll stop coming up here and trying to talk some sense into believers.

      Tom
      Please not Celine Dion....I enjoy Glem Miller///is that good enough?

      April 7, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • Ted Ward

      Yes! The Big Band theory and, of course, Swing Theory puts the Standard Model to shame. Ellington has it all over Einstein.

      April 7, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
  16. faith

    why do atheists lie all the time?

    April 7, 2013 at 3:48 am |
    • SOMETHING FROM NOTHING ? [OFFICIAL] Richard Dawkins & Lawrence Krauss

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUe0_4rdj0U&w=640&h=360]

      April 7, 2013 at 5:55 am |
    • whatever

      Look at the picture of them in the video, now realize, they are convinced that nothing made an entire universe all at once and never again. I don't think that's anything close to what happened. I think God made the universe.

      April 7, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • Science

      Can you read a map whatever ?

      Best Map Ever Made of Universe's Oldest Light: Planck Mission Brings Universe Into Sharp Focus

      Mar. 21, 2013 — The Planck space mission has released the most accurate and detailed map ever made of the oldest light in the universe, revealing new information about its age, contents and origins.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130321084221.htm

      April 7, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • mzh

      Whoever says that God has a son or daughter or an associates to run the universe is a lie... calling Jesus as son of God where he was son of Mary is accusing Jesus with something that he was... even Jews used says 'Uzair' is son of God and even the first commandment of ten commandments is not to associate anything with God... I hope you get the answer who is lying and who is not...

      One needs to work hard to get out of these lies... one should spend time to study the basic principles of the all the books we have around us this time which include the book of Mormon and LDS... then you think what make sense and what not... the accept the true one... I can assure you that there is only one Truth as two can't be truth... you just have to look for it and use ur intellectuals...

      April 7, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • mzh

      sorry I missed a word...

      ...calling Jesus as son of God where he was son of Mary is accusing Jesus with something that he was NOT...

      April 7, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • The real Tom

      "Look at the picture of them in the video, now realize, they are convinced that nothing made an entire universe all at once and never again. I don't think that's anything close to what happened. I think God made the universe"

      What led you to that conclusion?

      Where do you get the "nothing made an entire universe once and never again"? Nobody is claiming that "nothing" "made" the universe, just that we don't know how it came into existence yet.

      Where do you get the idea that there never was any other universe and never will be one? We don't know that, either.

      Why do you think jumping to the conclusion that "gawd done it wif spellz" is more reasonable than "we don't know yet."

      April 7, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • whatever

      How did you come to the conclusion that everyone must remain ignorant of God?

      April 7, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Magnificent New Channel - MUST SEE!

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pW3PBK6GOv0&w=640&h=360]

      April 7, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
  17. faith

    knock it off

    April 7, 2013 at 3:28 am |
    • faith

      dorothy hacks posts

      April 7, 2013 at 3:28 am |
    • faith

      it was written over decades from the mid to late first century. it was written by men who saw and heard jesus christ and other disciples. it is powerful. it leads the lost to the person of jesus christ as he lived among us for 30 years 2,000 years ago and was murdered and rose from the dead. it describes how his representative, the holy spirit, came on Pentecost and revolutionized the lives of his weary and disillusioned followers. references are made in secular materials to the same people found in the N.T. like Ananias and sapphira. today we are writing acts chapter 2013.

      April 7, 2013 at 3:29 am |
    • faith

      stay on message. focus on jesus christ and his shed blood. they will not, indeed -listen- they CAN NOT discuss him or his blood, shed for the forgiveness of our sins. satan fears and flees from him and his blood. stick to him and and his redeeming power and watch these demon infested swine bolt

      April 7, 2013 at 3:31 am |
    • faith

      you are a jerk

      April 7, 2013 at 3:32 am |
    • Science

      Hey faith for you and dorothy

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoNqSrA7Mos&w=640&h=360]

      April 7, 2013 at 7:11 am |
  18. faith

    the new testament rocks

    April 7, 2013 at 3:23 am |
    • faith

      no other book like it

      April 7, 2013 at 3:23 am |
    • faith

      proven to be accurate and entirely dependable

      April 7, 2013 at 3:24 am |
    • mzh

      My humble advise to you is to go and study the history that how, when and who wrote these chapters and what type of time it went through and then say that if there is any statement in this book is the real time statements of Jesus PBUH... please be honest with yourself... and don't do anything to please others but only you... and make sure you are convince with this study... whats the difference btwn what is in this book and what was written in a book last year when a Hindu claim himself as God and millions believed in him and still they believe even after his death by being ill... no one asks if I take a human as my God then how could he be ill or eventually be dead? and so on...

      April 7, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • Shout-Out: TheBibleReloaded

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSKAGA7AwLQ&w=640&h=360]

      April 7, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • tallulah13

      Don't you have any homework, faith? When your mom finds out your trolling instead of doing your algebra, you'll probably grounded until high school.

      April 7, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
  19. R.M. Goodswell

    "The New Testament was written by eyewitnesses to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead after His Crucifixion or by close followers within one generation of the Resurrection."

    This is the biggest problem with your post. ....there where no eye witnesses... the bible was written between 50 ad and 270 ad.

    as for the name dropping in the rest of your post..... Isaac Newton was convinced alchemy was possible and astrology was extremely relevant ... was he right about all that just because he was a mathematical genius?

    Einstein could have been the most devote Christian ever (he wasn't,he made it very clear he was agnostic at best) – but God would still imaginary religion would still be the steaming pile that it is.

    April 7, 2013 at 2:35 am |
    • R.M. Goodswell

      blew the reply button – Felix this is for you:)

      April 7, 2013 at 2:36 am |
  20. Felix Chau

    Interesting article. I also graduated from Duke University and had the opposite journey of faith, from a weak and unsteady Christian faith as a Protestant to currently a practicing Catholic Christianity. The studies I went through at Duke were on the New Testament, instead of the Old Testament. The New Testament has something very real as its center that cannot be explained away as myth: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The New Testament was written by eyewitnesses to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead after His Crucifixion or by close followers within one generation of the Resurrection. The eyewitnesses of the Resurrection of Jesus – those who ate, drank, spoke with, and listened to the Lord Jesus Christ after His Resurrection – were so convinced of the Good News of God's Love, Forgiveness, Peace, and Healing Power for all humanity revealed by the Risen Jesus Christ that these eyewitnesses were willing to die as martyrs for their belief in the Risen Christ as fully God and fully man when it was illegal to do so under Roman authority (where Cesar was considered a deity in the state cult religion). The saints of the New Testament joyfully died for the historical truth that "Jesus is Risen" and the theological truth that "God is Love." They were so inspired by the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ that they were willing to pay for their faith with their lives. St. Peter was crucified upside down, St. Paul was beheaded, St. James died by the sword, St. Andrew died on an "X" cross, St. John was exiled to Patmos to die alone. What could have inspired these men to willingly die as martyrs preaching peace and forgiveness from God through Jesus Christ and preaching the invitation from Jesus Christ to call God "Our Father in Heaven" by means of the Holy Spirit among us other than the historical reality of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead – proof that Jesus is both God and Man? St. Ambrose, St. Thomas Aquinas, and modern physicians and scientists who are Christians, Jews, Muslims, or nonspecific theists will testify that both faith and reason are great gifts, assets, and friends that complement one another because they are both given to us by God. Consider Fr. Georges Lemaitre, a Belgian priest, who is a physicist and father of the "Big Bang" theory acknowledged by Albert Einstein to have "the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I have ever listened." Consider the establishment of the University system itself by the Catholic Church and the numerous hospitals, schools, and charitable works of Christianity over two thousand years. Consider that scientists from Copernicus, to Kepler, along with Boyle, Linnaeus, Faraday, Kelvin, and Rutherford were scientists who sought to understand God through His creation. The universe is intelligible by the scientific method and logic because it was created in brilliance by God with infinite intelligence. St. John wrote that the "Logos of God" – or Logic of God – created the Universe... and that Logos/Logic became flesh and dwelt among us in Jesus Christ... revealing the infintely good news that humanity has always and will always long to hear: God is Love. Even without acknowledging God, the atheist in this article feels and knows that it is good to work for charitable efforts like helping the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society fight cancer... for by doing so we live out "love your neighbor as yourself" and by following this commandment from God – Jesus Christ's summary of the Law – we experience "God is Love."

    April 7, 2013 at 2:20 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      The way I understand it is that god is all things...so he is love, and just as much hate. He is compassion, and cruelty. He likes life, but enjoys murder.

      Just read the bible...it says all that. You have just decided to choose the good, but he is just as much evil. He created your satan character, knowing full well what he was going to do.

      Or.... All the stories in the bible were made up by men, borrowing stories and myths ffrom other cultures, and there are no gods as described in the bible. Follow the history of the bible and you will find this is actual reality.

      April 7, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • One one

      Has it ever occurred to you that it's all a myth and people just telling stories ?

      April 7, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79
Advertisement
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.