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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.

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. stanknasty

    Atheists believe that an explosion in space millions of years ago created an amoeba...then it became a fish...ten of millions of years later it sprouted some legs and crawled to dry land... after which it grew wings and became a bird.... then more millions of years pasted and it became a dinosaur...it then transformed itself into a monkey....and Alas! it became a human.... and thank God they don't believe in fairytales.

    April 12, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • WOW

      Wow are you ignorant. Is that what you think atheists believe? L O L

      April 12, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
    • jim

      lol and you believe a magic man who somehow already existed created a man from a pile of mud and then took one of his ribs and made him a woman friend.

      April 12, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
    • faith

      "jim
      lol and you believe

      'a magic man'

      no one but crazy god-haters believes that

      'who somehow already existed'

      not somehow, fool. he was god. r u stupid?

      'created a man from a pile of mud'

      which is exactly what he's composed of and returns to at death. he could have used a ham sandwich. (he's god, c. being god has its advantages)

      'and then took one of his ribs and made him a woman friend' u noticed the similarities. maybe there's hope for it after all

      April 12, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
    • WOW

      no faith u r stupid, silly

      April 12, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • biggles

      Faith tires of destroying the feeble-minded. Know anyone intelligent enough to debate on her level? Must be someone out there

      April 12, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
    • brian's assistant

      yeah, lol, that is, IF faith's relentless calling people stupid and not providing any evidence for her arguments is what you mean by "destroying the feeble-minded"; lol

      April 13, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
  2. Kilto

    Jesus says in John 8:12 "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." Jesus Christ is very unique. He did what people can't do...Jesus performed miracles. He healed people...blind, crippled, deaf, even raised a couple of people from the dead. Jesus died in our place on the cross so we could be forgiven of our sins. Of all the religions known to humanity to exist, only through Jesus will you see God reaching toward humanity, providing a way for us to have a relationship with him. We serve an awesome God.

    April 12, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
    • WOW

      Too bad no one knows who actually wrote John . . .

      April 12, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care!

      In the book of the Hobbit there was a wizard that did lots of magical things. I dont think that was true either.

      April 12, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
    • Science

      Or read this Kilto............................. interesting stuff ?

      Scientists Find Genes Linked to Human Neurological Disorders in Sea Lamprey Genome

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130224142915.htm

      April 12, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
    • Kilto

      @ Honey. Well, your problem is that comparing fiction and nonfiction books...it just won't cut it. The bible is the best/most selling book in existence. Are you a superhero too? Like superman/Wolverine/Spiderman? Can you fly? You should stand on the roof of the tallest building you know of and try and fly....just remember to wear a parachute...ok.

      April 12, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
    • Kathy

      I don't see a problem, Kilto. I didn't see anyone discussing non-fiction yet.

      April 12, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • jim

      Funny how the least amount of people believed in Jesus was when he was walking around and supposedly making miracles. Even mega church ministers get more of a following then he did while alive.

      April 12, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • The real Tom

      How do you come to the conclusion that the bible is nonfiction?

      April 12, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
  3. clarity

    One poster recently said that all of the U.S. presidents worshiped Jesus Christ. A good many of them did, but to say all is a gross exaggeration. Let's take a look why:


    Theodore Roosevelt did not take the oath of office on a Bible in 1901.

    John Quincy Adams swore on a book of law.

    William Howard Taft, the only U.S. President to also hold the office of Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court:

    I do not believe in the divinity of Christ, and there are many other of the postulates of the orthodox creed to which I cannot subscribe.

    As Deist Christians, the first five presidents including John Adams, James Madison & Thomas Jefferson were likely to have quite a different notion of God than the Christian God of today. Deist Christians may have followed Christ's teachings, but usually refuted the divinity of Christ. They were always ready to call out on the dark side of organized religion:

    I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved – the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history. "

    (John Adams, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, 09/03/1816)

    Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

    (Thomas Jefferson, from Notes on the State of Virginia, 1785)

    During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

    (James Madison, chief architect of the U.S. Constitution & Bill of Rights – from A Memorial and Remonstrance as delivered to the Virginia General Assembly in 1785.)

    John Tyler, the 10th POTUS was a Deist Christian.

    Many believe Abraham Lincoln was a Deist.

    John Remsburg, in his book Six Historic Americans (1906), cites several of Lincoln's close associates:

    After his assassination Mrs. Lincoln said: "Mr. Lincoln had no hope and no faith in the usual acceptance of these words." His lifelong friend and executor, Judge David Davis, affirmed the same: "He had no faith in the Christian sense of the term." His biographer, Colonel Lamon, intimately acquainted with him in Illinois, and with him during all the years that he lived in Washington, says: "Never in all that time did he let fall from his lips or his pen an expression which remotely implied the slightest faith in Jesus as the son of God and the Savior of men."

    The Deistic side of John Adams comes out strong in these paragraphs A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America (1787-1788)

    The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.

    Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.

    April 12, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
    • DXR2

      I think Taft’s messiah was a grilled baked cheese.

      April 12, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
    • clarity

      lol; OK – I would not be surprised.

      April 12, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
    • Kilto

      It is getting tiring just seeing all the comments from Clarity.. Copy/Paste Wait, let me answer the question. Copy/Paste ...that is all I see from this Atheist...Copy/Paste. It's very old and very annoying. Do you have an original thought?

      April 12, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Why should anyone bother to post anything original to you, Kilturd? You mutter the same crap repeatedly. It doesn't inspire me to create anything original for the likes of you, and I'd guess that clarity has similar sentiments.

      Or maybe clarity is hoping that eventually you'll absorb something and get an education.

      April 12, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • Kilto

      @ the real dick Get lost. I haven't seen a single coherent statement from you. Just a lot of pandering and a lot of bashing Christians. Is this what I can expect from the rest of you Atheists? It certainly appears that way. I love the hypocrites on here...they are a dime a dozen.

      April 12, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Aww. What's the matter, Kilturd? Can't manage to answer? It shows. There's no need to respond with anything original when the posts you vomit up are beyond dreck, honey.

      If you can grow a brain, post a coherent thought in writing that doesn't exhibit ignorance of the English language, and manage to do so in something resembling a timely manner, do alert the media. It would const itute a miracle worthy of notice.

      Otherwise, just dry up, ya stupid troll.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
  4. Bender Bending Rodiguez

    I think the religious and atheists should become friends. Life is too short for squabbles.

    April 12, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care!

      Life is too short to believe that fairy tales are real.

      April 12, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
    • Bender Bending Rodiguez

      Oh, come one. That’s not nice. There could be a higher power. Nobody knows for sure. Now, let’s all be friends and not rivals.

      April 12, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
    • Bender Bending Rodiguez

      I meant to say, "Come on" not "Come one.

      April 12, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care!

      I meant "aren't real".

      April 12, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
  5. Honey Badger Don't Care!

    If the love of money is the root of all evil then why does the church always ask for money?

    April 12, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
    • Bender Bending Rodiguez

      To pay for bills.

      April 12, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
  6. faith

    next time i write a bybull, i ain't including no genealogies, no roman, no ghosts and no pretty girls. it will be pure bloodshed and hans christian anderson take-offs. too many heathen fakin to be religious zealots killin everybody and blaming it on the hero! goes to show ya. don't trust atheists except lulu and sambo

    i'm off to c the wizard

    hey, there's an idea. dorothy could be gods. what da ya mean, dorothy is gods? not officially

    April 12, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
    • Kathy

      Get some help, faith

      April 12, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
    • John

      K, I am trying to imagine a more ironic statement... nothing comes to mind.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:10 am |
  7. faith

    who wrote second sam the sham? boy, u can tell that thing is bogus. harps on FSM as the third cousim a paula jones. she was biorn in israel b4 buddha!

    April 12, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
  8. faith

    ain't that proof, dorothy? if nobody seen gods, they gots 2 b real

    dorothy it can't be duplicate. u flushed it

    i want anvil head

    where is them tom tom idiots and larry

    April 12, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
  9. faith

    ain't that proof, dorothy? if nobody seen gods, they gots 2 b real

    dorothy it can't be duplicate. u flushed it

    April 12, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
  10. faith

    ain't that proof, dorothy? if nobody seen gods, they gots 2 b real

    April 12, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
  11. Atheists spend $6 BILLION paying off victims of their abuse!

    Oh, wait, sorry, that would be the Catholic Church. Atheists as an organization have spent $0 to pay for the zero abuse victims it's had.

    So why are Christians so butthurt this guy spent a measley $3.5 million on atheist programs and billboards?

    Are they angry that atheists don't get the same butthurt treatment they recieved from the Church as a child?

    April 12, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
  12. faith

    no body seen gods. proof they exist

    April 12, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
  13. faith

    Red Dwarf
    "Mistaken or flawed identification has assumed a newfound prominence in recent years: It's been cited as a factor in nearly 78 percent of the nation's first 130 convictions later overturned by DNA testing, according to the New York-based Innocence Project, which works to free the wrongly convicted. As a result, a number of researchers are turning their attention to helping police departments and juries better understand the circ u mstances under which eyewitnesses observe crimes and later identify a suspect." – apa.org

    It's good to know how reliable anyones testimony really is. You may believe your own eyes, but science says you shouldn't.

    i no i no

    nobody seen god so that is the best evidence he must be

    April 12, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
    • Red Dwarf

      "i no i no"

      Did you perhaps mean "I know, I know"?

      Can you see why it's so hard to even discuss things with people who never graduated from the 8th grade?

      April 12, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • faith

      u mean like them authors of john, mark, luke, mattie, hanki and joe?

      April 12, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
    • faith

      wait.

      hanki and joe is part of the lost demons of west Hollywood. sorry

      so dorothy, feel free to present your facts that gods is vs god

      April 12, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
    • Red Dwarf

      Yes, you are right, none of them graduated from the 8th grade and were illiterate and did not write the books attributed to them. As for who hanki & joe are you lost me, but then again, you are just a troll and I am just bored enough to play along for a few minutes.

      April 12, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
  14. faith

    i admit it. i wrote the buybull. on summer break. 3 god-haters bet i couldn't get nobody to believe what i wrote, so i got some beer and didn't get up til i finished. most widely sold book of all time. showed them morons!

    made 50 cent.

    them atheists lied and never paid up. that's when i threw in hell and fire. still didn't pay. made it eternal. still nothin. made dawds invisible and they love it, still never paid up.

    them xtians they hate is my pay. lol right dorothy?

    April 12, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • faith

      i love dorothy

      April 12, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • Salero21

      Isn't it lovable... the "Maturity" of atheists!

      April 12, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
  15. Salero21

    OK you foolish atheists is me again, ready and willing to stomp and trample in your belief in non-belief atheistic stupidity. I have only ½ an hour for this, out of my one hour lunch. So I may have to come back tomorrow.

    Now, before you all star barking, howling and squealing let me tell you that I will not compare you all with monkeys or baboons anymore. It is not according to the Bible. So I'll stay within the frame of Scripture. So remember that Jesus called Herod a Fox. He called those like you, dogs, swine and wolves.

    Now you can bark, howl and squeal. You don't have to screech anymore. Especially that one a$$ with a Diploma from MIT.

    Now; can any of you tell me when, where and how the supposed "ape" ancestor of man came into existence?
    Also; when and how the invisible particle, "created itself" and all other matter?
    And last but not least; whatever happened to the nothing after everything came into existence?

    That's just for beginners, but I'm sure that a$$ with a Diploma from MIT know-it-all has ALL of the answers to everything there is! 😀 Don't forget that atheism is stupidity in full bloom!

    April 12, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • aBBEY dOOBEY

      Seek therapy. it'll help with your immaturity.

      April 12, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • Salero21

      So... you're the manure one... oops pardon me... I meant to say: So you're the "Mature" one!

      April 12, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • Salero21

      My ½ hour is running out, I have to go back to work. So I'll see the asinine reply from A$$ with a Diploma from MIT tomorrow. I know he knows-it-all, he's sooo "Educated"!! 😉

      April 12, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @Salero

      Oh yes, question others maturity when you're the one that comes here merely to try and ease your own self-loathing through constant insults and trolling. I'm sure the irony is lost on you, but it's there all the same.
      Continue, please. Your stupidity is always a perfect example of the divisiveness, immorality, and mental damage that religion causes.

      April 12, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
    • Red Dwarf

      First, what you think of as "nothing" or "empty space" isn't really nothing or empty. It's not the universe that is flawed, just your understanding of it. Second, we did not decend from Apes but share a common ancestor who lived around 5 million years ago. As for an "invisible" particle creating itself, you will first have to understand the basics of matter and dark matter and then understand that even though science has yet to unlock all the mysteries of quantum mechanics we do have many good working theories which allow us to refine our understanding as new data is discovered. With the Higgs Boson we confirmed the existence of the Higgs field which goes a long way to explaining the interactions between particles on a quantum level and is giving us a peek into something that has long confounded us, what Einstein called "sp o o ky action at a distance".

      I have never claimed to have all the answers. I do however fully reject anyone who tries to displace what we do know with religious theory and faith which has no place in science or for that matter, any aspect of the logical mind. Religion is illogical. Faith is illogical. If God shows himself to us and explains to us why he is not illogical then I will be the first to sign up, but until then please keep your religion at home where it belongs.

      I don't care if you pick your nose and eat the boogers, I just don't want to see you doing it in public or trying to get congress to pass laws forcing my children in public schools to learn your disgusting habits.

      April 12, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
    • laststonecarver

      @S21,
      where's His Panic? – your siamese twin,?
      – clarity asked you a question, did you forget the answer?

      plus as a free bonus, some helpful info from a co-xtian –
      per faith
      i seen dorothy doing work too but i was doin acid
      April 12, 2013 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
      per faith
      i admit it. i wrote the buybull. on summer break. 3 god-haters bet i couldn't get nobody to believe what i wrote, so i got some beer and didn't get up til i finished. most widely sold book of all time. showed them morons!
      made 50 cent.
      them atheists lied and never paid up. that's when i threw in hell and fire. still didn't pay. made it eternal. still nothin. made dawds invisible and they love it, still never paid up.
      them xtians they hate is my pay. lol right dorothy?
      April 12, 2013 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
      per faith
      i love dorothy
      April 12, 2013 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
      per Salero21
      Isn't it lovable... the "Maturity" of atheists!
      April 12, 2013 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |

      So now its time for you to sing 'May the circle, be unbroken'...

      April 12, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
  16. Stephen Hawking is an Idiot

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

    April 12, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • Billy

      Is this supposed to be convincing?? L O L

      April 12, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
  17. Hodor

    It's nice that people can at least express their religious freedom, or lack of religion, in this country today without being decapitated. It's strange, however, that federal currency in a secular government should favor one particular deity. This ought to be rectified.

    April 12, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • Red Dwarf

      It is nice but it took a long time to get here. Also, I believe that if all Americans were given a vote to decapitate either "The Religious" "atheists" or "No one" you would find a majority of voting for "No one" with "atheists" being a close second bolstered by the Christian vote who really would not mind adding blasphemy laws and turning the US into a Christian Taliban. It's those right wing nut jobs that has so many in America worried about our future.

      April 12, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
  18. clarity

    One poster here recently claimed all the U.S. presidents prayer to Jesus Christ. Wow. What an exaggeration.
    Let's look a bit more at this.

    Theodore Roosevelt did not take the oath of office on a Bible in 1901.

    John Quincy Adams swore on a book of law.

    William Howard Taft, the only U.S. President to also hold the office of Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court:

    I do not believe in the divinity of Christ, and there are many other of the postulates of the orthodox creed to which I cannot subscribe.

    As Deist Christians, the first five presidents including John Adams, James Madison & Thomas Jefferson were likely to have quite a different notion of God than the Christian God of today. Deist Christians may have followed Christ's teachings, but usually refuted the divinity of Christ. They were always ready to call out on the dark side of organized religion:

    I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved – the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history. "

    (John Adams, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, 09/03/1816)

    Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

    (Thomas Jefferson, from Notes on the State of Virginia, 1785)

    During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

    (James Madison, chief architect of the U.S. Constitution & Bill of Rights – from A Memorial and Remonstrance as delivered to the Virginia General Assembly in 1785.)

    John Tyler, the 10th POTUS was a Deist Christian.

    Many believe Abraham Lincoln was a Deist.

    John Remsburg, in his book Six Historic Americans (1906), cites several of Lincoln's close associates:

    After his assassination Mrs. Lincoln said: "Mr. Lincoln had no hope and no faith in the usual acceptance of these words." His lifelong friend and executor, Judge David Davis, affirmed the same: "He had no faith in the Christian sense of the term." His biographer, Colonel Lamon, intimately acquainted with him in Illinois, and with him during all the years that he lived in Washington, says: "Never in all that time did he let fall from his lips or his pen an expression which remotely implied the slightest faith in Jesus as the son of God and the Savior of men."

    The Deistic side of John Adams comes out strong in these paragraphs A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America (1787-1788)

    The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.

    Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • faith

      jimbo carter was an amalgam fan

      April 12, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • laststonecarver

      @faith,
      been a while since gaddy and et al, eh?
      maybe you can bring them back out to talk to themselves?

      April 12, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
    • Peter

      Copy and paste much? Is your thought process total BS? I'll copy/paste answers that don't really "fit"and fail to disprove anything ....feel free to reread my posts and tell me what James Madison and Thomas Jefferson were really saying...

      April 12, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
    • Kathy

      Peter you didn't put dates on your quotes. And where did those quotes come from Peter so people can check the context? If they were part of some presidential ceremonial thing, then what good is that to us?

      April 12, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
  19. Peter

    Todd Steifel is a complete self obsessed money hungry driven individual. All he wants to do is throw his name around and make it well known. I want him to go to North Korea, China, and Iran and preach his convoluted message of Atheism and see where it lands him. The guy would be in prison or end up dead.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • faith

      see?

      April 12, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • Kathy

      Why is it convoluted, Peter?

      April 12, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
  20. donner

    My favorite quote from Thomas Jefferson. "If God is so powerful, why does he need a human government to prop him up?"

    April 12, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • Peter

      "The Christian religion is the best religion that has ever been given to man " Thomas Jefferson.  "The belief in a God All Powerful, wise , and good, is  essential to the moral order of the World and to the happiness of man." James Madison

      April 12, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • faith

      them Israelites got mighty peeved with gods cause everybody had a king cept them.

      April 12, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • clarity

      "Whenever... preachers, instead of a lesson in religion, put [their congregation] off with a discourse on the Copernican system, on chemical affinities, on the construction of government, or the characters or conduct of those administering it, it is a breach of contract, depriving their audience of the kind of service for which they are salaried, and giving them, instead of it, what they did not want, or, if wanted, would rather seek from better sources in that particular art of science."

      "[If] the nature of... government [were] a subordination of the civil to the ecclesiastical power, I [would] consider it as desperate for long years to come. Their steady habits [will] exclude the advances of information, and they [will] seem exactly where they [have always been]. And there [the] clergy will always keep them if they can. [They] will follow the bark of liberty only by the help of a tow-rope."

      –Thomas Jefferson

      April 12, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.