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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. Rolph

    Imagine

    March 24, 2013 at 8:39 am |
  2. Jerry

    Atheism is myth understood. Myths have too much control over governments, cause too many wars, etc.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:38 am |
  3. One one

    God is perfect, never makes a mistake.
    He tested mankind with a talking snake.
    Things didn’t work out like he originally planned.
    He decided to change his religious brand.
    He killed his son to “save” mankind.
    From the curse and wrath of his self centered mind.
    Now we have hell for those who doubt.
    To give fairy tale salesmen a lot more clout.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • Mark

      Funny, The sad thing i some people actually believe that!

      March 24, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • john

      you do not understand meaning of God words. Word of God have much more meaning then what your eyes can see.
      Happy Easter, Christ loves you.

      March 24, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
  4. roike

    Atheism in the "Belief" blog. Too funny.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • Sense0326

      Well they'd put it in the reality blog but there isn't one. (Not original to me)

      March 24, 2013 at 8:40 am |
  5. liz

    I am an atheist and unlike my religious friends and family I never try and force my beliefs on them. Todd Stiefel is doing a wonderful job fostering understanding.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:37 am |
  6. RickD

    If there is (was) a God -he/she/it is dead!

    March 24, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • o

      The almighty God is very much alive

      March 24, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      @ o – your proof of that statement is?????

      March 24, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • Shout-Out: logicked

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ns5pnPab29k&w=640&h=390]

      March 24, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • Christian7

      And then He rose again.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • Science

      Hey............................ o little knowledge how is it going been a while ?

      March 24, 2013 at 8:46 am |
  7. Phazon

    For in the last days critical times hard to deal with men will become lovers of money, haughty puffed up with pride not showing natural affection, there will be a cooling off of the greater crown, children will become unruly, Men will show a form of godly devotion but prove false to the power. For just like in Noah's day they took no note tell the deluge was upon them they unlike Athiests knew god existed but they didn't think it would flood why because it had never rained tell that day. You really can believe what you wan't cause you have free will and to disprove evolution on this everything on this planet other than humans doesn't have free will humans are the only beings on this planet with a choice to chose their road in life nothing else has this every animal besides humans are guided by instinct not humans, humans are driven by choice making we can decide not to eat a juicy T bone steak but a dog cannot, you cannot make a dog eat lettuce every time you throw that steak down unless that dog is extremely ill will eat it even f he is so full he is puking.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • orwell had not seen this before

      ???
      time to take your meds.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • Phazon

      Why you say that cause you don't see it happening.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • yo yo

      Last days? All this has been going on since the beginning of time. Where have you been?

      March 24, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
  8. lonespeed

    I have a new idol.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:35 am |
  9. Rob

    I am a Christian and I am excited to see what Mr. Stiefel is doing here. He may or may not know it, but God is working in and through him this very moment. The real Son of God, I believe, is at his side, attempting to change him into the same kind of thing as Himself, without his conscious knowledge. This is evidenced by his good deeds listed above.

    I urge each and every one of you to consider reading C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity." My comment above will make since once you have. C.S. Lewis, a Christian apologist and the writer of the Narnia series and many other less well-known works such as "The Screwtape Letters," and so forth, was actually an atheist himself earlier in life.

    I'd like to share an excerpt from Book 4/Chapter 7 of MC:

    "...You may say 'I've never had the sense of being helped by an invisible Christ, but I often have been helped by other human beings.' That is rather like the woman in the first war who said that if there were a bread shortage it would not bother her house because they always ate toast. If there is no bread there will be no toast. If there were no help from Christ, there would be no help from other human beings. He works on us in all sorts of ways: not only through what we think our 'religious life'. He works through Nature, through our own bodies, through books, sometimes through experiences which seem (at the time) anti-Christian. When a young man who has been going to church in a routine way honestly realizes that he does not believe in Christianity and stops going–provided he does it for honesty's sake and not just to annoy his parents–**the spirit of Christ is probably nearer to him then it ever was before.** But above all, He works on us through each other.

    Men are mirrors, or 'carriers' of Christ to other men. Sometimes **unconscious carriers**. This 'good infection' can be carried by those who have not got it themselves. People who were not Christians themselves helped me to Christianity..."

    March 24, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      Care to share any evidence to support your claims?

      March 24, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • Phazon

      For many false prophets will arise and men who like their ears tickled will follow them the problem with your thinking is this what this man is saying and teaching is not part of Gods word the bible no matter how you try and justify it in your mind if you are believing separate teachings other than those found in the bible you are not following God remember this everything Jesus ever taught came from the scriptures not from his own ways but that of his fathers. People that like to follow teachings other than the bible want their ears tickled and want salvation without having to work for it. Think about this this goes for all you Joyce fans as well and all these other filthy rich religious stars.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • Rob

      Phazon, what you say is true, and perhaps I did not explain myself fully. Is some of what this man is doing, insofar as charity: raising money for Leukemia and Lymphoma, not good? That is what I am referring to.

      Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear, I'm not about to get into an objectivist debate. I am a pretty simple man, but if it is evidence that you want, I would suggest you read the book I refer to above. It will do a much better job of explanation than I.

      MC is obviously NOT, but I would suggest it as a tool, an aid, in understanding Christianity and the bible. I am only sharing what has helped me in my own understanding.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • Rob

      Last sentence correction: MC is obviously NOT *something that should trump the bible*, but I would suggest it as a tool, an aid, in understanding Christianity and the bible. I am only sharing what has helped me in my own understanding. Lewis says many times in the book: if it does not help you, drop it.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:08 am |
  10. jeanhipslots

    If you truly believe that atheism is a religion, then why do you persecute it? Guess what? There wouldn't be ANY Protestants unless people protested against another belief system. Criticizing the established belief of believers is a long, cherished tradition. And if you weren't so afraid of someone coming to visit you in the middle of the night, you'd probably be pretty vocal yourself of your opinion of other religions. Atheists simply have the courage to speak out on their convictions. They nail their protests on the door of every "other" church every day and say, "Come outside and defend your beliefs." Discussing politics and religion may not make for polite dinner conversation, but blind loyalty and fear of criticism doesn't make you a better believer. It only makes you an unthinking slave.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:34 am |
  11. Avdin

    Could it be that the reason some stories show up in myths is because there is some truth to them?

    March 24, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      How about Spiderman? Spiderman is set in New York City, New York City is real. Therefore, Spiderman is real.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • Phazon

      Spider-Man has not been passed down 3500 years and isn't on cuneiform dating over 2500 years old huge difference maybe you should look at evidence instead of your own accountabilty.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • Dionoysus

      Avdin
      You are damn right, but some jesus comes lately comes along and steals your gig. The compet-ition, back in the day, was quite brutal of who got to be top dog/god. Daddy, Zeus, used to tell me to layoff the broads and booze but I didn't listen.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • Steve

      Exactly, It is not hard to understand how things were past down over time and retold and applied in different cultures. I do sympathize with this fellow some. With all unbiblical teachings in the catholic church it is no wonder he became an atheist.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:52 am |
  12. john

    Everything that we see and we do not see, had to be created.Life is not build on its own, you need Mom and Dad, House someone needs to build did not build itself, computers had to be made and so on and so on.
    If you look what advances Humans were able to make, It does make sense that there is God, Creator of all.
    He did what we are doing know, He created everything.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • Science

      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 whose ultimate goal is to defeat materialism, naturalism, evolution, and "reverse the stifling materialist world view and replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic
      convictions.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedge_strategy

      Peace

      Please watch what the Discovery Inst-itute is trying to prevent.......................... evolution

      Thanks for watching !

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okWkmgkS00w&w=640&h=390]

      March 24, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      If everything needs a creator, who or what created god?

      March 24, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • jennifer

      Then who created God?

      March 24, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • Big D

      And how did he create himself?

      March 24, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • john

      science, world that has no fear of God , have no hope.
      Your science has managed to destroy or put at risk many God given Blessings,
      Like water, forest, natural resources of all kinds.Lots of things that your science have put it hands of are endangered ,including planet Earth itself.Your ideology of science has managed in last 100 years, to destroy, or put at risk ,like
      never in Human History.Glaciers are melting, dramatic climate change .Your science also created nuclear bomb real danger to the Humankind .Why leave everything in tact when you can play God, and put your hands on everything and suck the life out of planet Earth, ultimately destroying it

      March 24, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • john

      to all , God is eternal, Alfa and Omega.
      He was and will be always there for us.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:07 am |
  13. Chris

    The Old Testament is "Unoriginal"? The Jews where the only religion to believe that God was outside his creation like a man is outside a women when life is created or like an author is outside of his book when he creates. That is why the Jews had no priestess's like every other religion around it. They were the 1st masculine form of creation. The Jews were a tiny outpost between the ancient superpowers of Egypt and Mesopotamia, if there stories were nothing but rehashed myths their faith would have dies with them thousands of years ago. If God is the God of all He is knowable to all so why would some of the early peoples have an inclination of this nature?

    March 24, 2013 at 8:33 am |
  14. Susan

    I have no problem with his campaign, except that that he feels it's acceptable to belittle others to do it. Before you whine that "Christians do the same thing," know that the vast majority of those who believe never discuss their beliefs with others. Ever. There are more polite ways to do things.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      Susan, religion is far from benign. It has caused, and continues to cause, death and horror throughout the world. Once humanity grows out fo the need for such fairy tales we will all be better for it.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • Olliegert

      That is so not true...the continual discussion of who is a good christian/who is not is, a virtual 24/7 festivus...I hear people daily professing their religious beliefs, whether it is... "have a blessed day", "god bless you", "thank you jesus" ...to me that is an affront to my sensibilities, that is an assumption that i am a religious person... I do not go around saying "have a godless day", I don't speak of my Atheism unless it is in a discussion and I am prompted to make a response...there definitely is discrimination when one divulges their Atheistic beliefs...I have experienced this many times after replying...you must learn to keep an open mind and listen...that is the evolution of peace...cheers

      March 24, 2013 at 10:27 am |
  15. At least Thank the Sun

    The problem is not the existence or absence of God. The problem is in the fools who try to evangelize and force their beliefs on others who are not asking for it.

    I'm Sure this six thousand year old debate will be resolved somewhere in this thread today, and with the answers clear, we will all be able to move on on in peace.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • Kathy

      I suppose if you look at it your way then Todd Stiefel is another one of those trying for force his beliefs on others.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • At least Thank the Sun

      It would seem so. "Pulling believers out of the closet" is a bit aggressive. I say to him, enjoy your closet, and I'll enjoy mine. If I need a hand getting out of my closet, I'll ask.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:44 am |
  16. A dose of reality

    A few questions should help shed light on the relationship between religion and rational thought.
    The completely absurd theory that all 7,000,000,000 human beings are simultaneously being supervised 24 hours a day, every day of their lives by an immortal, invisible being for the purposes of reward or punishment in the “afterlife” comes from the field of:
    (a) Astronomy;
    (b) Medicine;
    (c) Economics; or
    (d) Christianity
    You are about 70% likely to believe the entire Universe began less than 10,000 years ago with only one man, one woman and a talking snake if you are a:
    (a) historian;
    (b) geologist;
    (c) NASA astronomer; or
    (d) Christian
    I have convinced myself that gay $ex is a choice and not genetic, but then have no explanation as to why only gay people have ho.mo$exual urges. I am
    (a) A gifted psychologist
    (b) A well respected geneticist
    (c) A highly educated sociologist
    (d) A Christian with the remarkable ability to ignore inconvenient facts.
    I honestly believe that, when I think silent thoughts like, “please god, help me pass my exam tomorrow,” some invisible being is reading my mind and will intervene and alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to help me. I am
    (a) a delusional schizophrenic;
    (b) a naïve child, too young to know that that is silly
    (c) an ignorant farmer from Sudan who never had the benefit of even a fifth grade education; or
    (d) your average Christian
    Millions and millions of Catholics believe that bread and wine turns into the actual flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because:
    (a) there are obvious visible changes in the condiments after the Catholic priest does his hocus pocus;
    (b) tests have confirmed a divine presence in the bread and wine;
    (c) now and then their god shows up and confirms this story; or
    (d) their religious convictions tell them to blindly accept this completely fvcking absurd nonsense.
    I believe that an all powerful being, capable of creating the entire cosmos watches me have $ex to make sure I don't do anything "naughty". I am
    (a) A victim of child molestation
    (b) A r.ape victim trying to recover
    (c) A mental patient with paranoid delusions
    (d) A Christian
    The only discipline known to often cause people to kill others they have never met and/or to commit suicide in its furtherance is:
    (a) Architecture;
    (b) Philosophy;
    (c) Archeology; or
    (d) Religion
    What is it that most differentiates science and all other intellectual disciplines from religion:
    (a) Religion tells people not only what they should believe, but what they are morally obliged to believe on pain of divine retribution, whereas science, economics, medicine etc. has no “sacred cows” in terms of doctrine and go where the evidence leads them;
    (b) Religion can make a statement, such as “there is a composite god comprised of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit”, and be totally immune from experimentation and challenge, whereas science can only make factual assertions when supported by considerable evidence;
    (c) Science and the scientific method is universal and consistent all over the World whereas religion is regional and a person’s religious conviction, no matter how deeply held, is clearly nothing more than an accident of birth; or
    (d) All of the above.
    If I am found wandering the streets flagellating myself, wading into a filth river, mutilating my child’s genitals or kneeling down in a church believing that a being is somehow reading my inner thoughts and prayers, I am likely driven by:
    (a) a deep psychiatric issue;
    (b) an irrational fear or phobia;
    (c) a severe mental degeneration caused by years of drug abuse; or
    (d) my religious belief.
    Who am I? I don’t pay any taxes. I never have. Any money my organization earns is tax free and my own salary is also tax free, at the federal, state and local level. Despite contributing nothing to society, but still enjoying all its benefits, I feel I have the right to tell others what to do. I am
    (a) A sleazy Wall Street banker
    (b) A mafia boss
    (c) A drug pusher; or
    (d) A Catholic Priest, Protestant Minister or Jewish Rabbi.
    What do the following authors all have in common – Jean Paul Sartre, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Victor Hugo, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, René Descartes, Francis Bacon, John Milton, John Locke, and Blaise Pascal:
    (a) They are among the most gifted writers the World has known;
    (b) They concentrated on opposing dogma and opening the human mind and spirit to the wonders of free thought and intellectual freedom;
    (c) They were intimidated by the Catholic Church and put on the Church’s list of prohibited authors; or
    (d) All of the above.
    The AIDS epidemic will kill tens of millions in poor African and South American countries before we defeat it. Condoms are an effective way to curtail its spread. As the Pope still has significant influence over the less educated masses in these parts of the World, he has exercised this power by:
    (a) Using some of the Vatican’s incomprehensible wealth to educate these vulnerable people on health family planning and condom use;
    (b) Supporting government programs that distribute condoms to high risk groups;
    (c) Using its myriad of churches in these regions to distribute condoms; or
    (d) Scaring people into NOT using condoms, based upon his disdainful and aloof view that it is better that a person die than go against the Vatican’s position on contraceptive use.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:32 am |
  17. mark

    He kind of looks like Damien from The Omen. 666. He is but a vapor!

    March 24, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • Olliegert

      there you go again:(...closed minded, not thinking for yourself etc., etc., etc.,

      March 24, 2013 at 10:51 am |
  18. Tim

    Where do atheists get discriminated against? Are any not getting the good jobs because they don't believe in God? Being made to sit in the back of bus? Not given the same opportunities as people of faith? Really? In Mr. Steifel's own words: “We believe in a lot of things; we don’t all believe the same things.” That my friend is not discrimination, it having different opinions on things. Agreement is not tolerance and disagreement is not discrimination.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • At least Thank the Sun

      Exactly. Thank you.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • A dose of reality

      Obviously you have never lived in the American South. These folk are one step away from lynching someone. And since it's illegal now for them to burn and hang blacks, atheists are looking pretty good for a rope necktie.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • Roger

      How many atheists have ever held a major public office? None. It's because of discrimination.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • amg

      you want an example of discrimination - how about the ongoing obstruction by catholic clergy to affordable heathcare act? the people really need and want it but the church is opposed to it. how about all the laws in various states regarding buying alcohol on sundays?

      March 24, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • Brad

      try living in Oklahoma and being scared to voice your beliefs whatsoever, even if it is a comparative religions class, because you will be looked down on and talked about by your fellow students, teachers, parents, coaches, etc.

      this is the reality, not only in Oklahoma or the United States, but the world over

      see reason

      March 24, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • Myopic

      Right on Tim! So ridiculous to say they are discriminated against. Sounds more like he has a beef with the Catholic Church and like an idiot he's spending all his money to try and prove them wrong. What a waste. If he really wants to do something to help people then donate to ones in need like starving or abused children, cancer research, whatever. Instead, oh let me put up a billboard that says God doesn't exist....news flash, most people already believe that, didn't you get the memo. I think the only person he's trying to convince is himself which means deep in his heart, he knows it isn't true.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • Christian7

      Roger, Are you saying you want to stop discrimination by voters? How? Take away our vote?

      "I do not think I could myself be brought to support a man for office whom I knew to be an open enemy of, or scoffer at, religion." Abe Lincoln [July 31, 1846]

      March 24, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • Akinsc

      I struggled for 40 years to find the faith I was supposed to feel. I was raised southern baptist and simply could not understand why I was unable to find the comfort and peace I was always told would come to the faithful. Like may others here, I spoke to people from all walks of life, I researched everything I could get my hands on and counseled with Pastors, Rabbis and Ministers of many faiths and then I realized that I simply could not believe.

      I felt foolish and angry. I felt I had been lied to my entire life. It took a year to get past the anger. It took another 5 years before I before I let it be known I was no longer a Christian. It cost me relationships with family members and life long friends, it has cost me advancement at work. I did not make an announcement regarding this change (but people gossip), ask anyone to give up or defend their faith.

      However I have never been at more peace. I continue to give to charities and participate with non-profit groups in my community and I have never been happier with who I am. But to think that atheists are not discriminated against, particularly within the bible belt is unrealistic.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:59 am |
    • Olliegert

      Amen Brad!! live in a small town and know/experienced what you are talking about!

      March 24, 2013 at 10:54 am |
  19. Nathaniel

    Mr. Stiefel expresses the cardinal sin of the modern age: Pride. We will pray for the conversion of his soul. Dear God bless and help him to see the light of salvation. His case illustrates the fact that the Mainline Protestant Divinity Schools are producing skeptics and need to be Reformed. Just one Catholic's thoughts.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      Hey, let's move that priest that abused all those boys to another parish, so he can abuse some more! – Another Catholic's thoughts

      March 24, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • rschier

      blah....and blah.....

      March 24, 2013 at 11:43 am |
  20. Waitaminute

    He says he's working on the next Civil Rights Equality Movement. What civil rights is he being denied? To my knowledge, atheists can and always have been able to legally marry, vote for public officials, sit on any seat they wish on public transportation. To put atheists in the same bucket as lesbian/gay, women, African-American is ludicrous and narcissistic.
    On another note, I feel sad that he did not experience the truth of Christ in his youth. Just because you go to church doesn't make you a Christian; same for Catholic school. God is all powerful but he also gives us choices. For example, those that choose to murder will have their day in court with God just like their victIm will. However, it is not our place to point the finger at God by telling him that he's not really God since he didn't physically swoop down and rescue the victim. If he did that, we would all believe, right? If that were the case (having eyewitnessed God personally) then Jesus would have died for nothing. Again, we all have a choice. I choose to believe.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:31 am |
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About this blog

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