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Atheist organizer takes ‘movement’ to nation’s capital
American Atheists president David Silverman in Washington, planning for Saturday's rally.
March 23rd, 2012
11:04 AM ET

Atheist organizer takes ‘movement’ to nation’s capital

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – Sitting in a chilly hotel hospitality suite in a suburban Maryland hotel, David Silverman plans his attack. As the frequently quoted president of the American Atheists and a constant thorn in the side of religious organizations, attack mode comes easily to him.

At the moment, it isn’t the religious right or the “horribly misinformed,” a term Silverman uses for certain religious people, that are in his sights. Rather, it’s a menu.

“Spinach or Caesar salad?” Silverman, 45, asks to no one in particular. His dinner guests, a logistics consultant, a Marriott hotel representative and Silverman’s new administrative director, eat through a few courses before discussion turns to dessert.

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“In the beginning, God created chocolate,” Silverman says, his eyes scanning the table for reaction.

Laughter ensues. But this is a business meal. From choosing salads for a fundraising dinner to studying the timing of the Washington transit system, Silverman has been spending less time recently on the big question of God’s existence and more time immersing himself in the nitty-gritty of planning what he promises will be the largest-ever atheist gathering.

On Saturday, Silverman hopes that from 10,000 to 20,000 atheists, agnostics, doubters and secularists of all stripes to converge on the National Mall in Washington for what his group calls the Reason Rally.

Silverman is especially proud of the event’s speaker’s list, dropping names like a proud father. He beams when noting that the man he calls “Dawkins” – Richard Dawkins, the scientist and author of “The Blind Watchmaker” and “The God Delusion” – will headline the rally.

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“We have people busing in from as far west as Ohio, as far south as Florida and as far north as Maine,” Silverman says. The weekend will also play host to the American Atheists’ annual convention, to be held at the Maryland Marriot where Silverman is debating salad options.

Silverman is billing the weekend as a watershed movement in the atheist “coming out,” of recent years.

“We want people to know we are huge, we’re everywhere, and we are growing,” he says. “The goal is to advance the position of atheists in America.”

A nice guy combatant

Silverman, a professional inventor at Bell Labs who has 74 patents under his name in the area of telecommunications infrastructure, worked his way up the ladder at American Atheists.

He started as a volunteer in New Jersey in 1996, moved up to be the state’s director and then jumped from national spokesperson to vice president. In 2010 he became president of the organization, which counts 4,000 members, has a $750,000 annual budget and has become the organizational face of a burgeoning American movement of atheists.

Silverman has taken the group in a much more outspoken direction, reflecting a national trend among atheists.

“Ed is extremely intelligent, better educated than I am… I think I have more fire than he had,” Silverman says of his predecessor at American Atheists, Ed Buckner. “It shows itself in the billboards; it shows itself in the press; it shows itself in our corporate attitude.”

In November 2010, weeks before Christmas, American Atheists placed a billboard at the New Jersey entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel that showed the three wise men heading to Bethlehem with the message “You KNOW it’s a Myth. This Season, Celebrate Reason.”

The sign earned national media attention and stirred so much controversy that it prompted the conservative Catholic League for Religious and Civil rights to respond with a pro-Christmas billboard at the New York end of the Lincoln Tunnel. “You Know It's Real,” the sign said. “This Season Celebrate Jesus.”

Silverman says that atheist billboards started popping up in the 1970s but then mostly disappeared until the Secular Coalition for America started raising billboards around the country several years ago.

Silverman has taken the billboards to an aggressive new level. Earlier this month, his group paid $30,000 to post two billboards - one in heavily Muslim Patterson, New Jersey, and another in a heavily Jewish Brooklyn neighborhood - that read “You know it’s a myth … and you have a choice.”

The signs were admittedly in your face, says Silverman – all the more so because they were in Arabic and Hebrew.

“What I am doing is not giving religion respect that it wants but it doesn’t deserve,” Silverman said. “I respect people; I respect humans. I do not respect religion. And I do not respect the idea that religion deserves respect.”

That attitude has made Silverman a bogeyman for religious groups, especially conservative ones who discern a secular assault on American religion.

“These people are vicious is what they are,” says Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League. “They stand for nothing. Their only existence is to be against people of faith.”

And yet some of his faith-based enemies say Silverman treats them with respect. Donohue says Silverman “is a nice enough guy” and that on the occasions they’ve met, the atheist organizer displayed geniality and a sense of humor.

Alex McFarland, the Christian director of Worldview and Apologetics at North Greenville University, holds regular public debates with Silverman about God and the place of religion in American culture. Though they “disagree on God and a lot of the great issues of life,” McFarland says, he has “great respect for David Silverman.”

“I enjoy dialoguing with people like him that are misguided,” McFarland says. “I feel a duty to give a response to people that are holding positions that undermine the fabric of our liberties and freedoms.”

Silverman speaks highly of sparring partners like Donohue and McFarland. “I don’t see them as evil people, I see them as wrong people,” Silverman says.

But he believes they overlook one major aspect of atheism – that its numbers are growing.

Atheists have long pointed to surveys that suggest atheists and agnostics make up between 3% and 4% of the U.S. population. That number increases when Americans unaffiliated with any religion are included. The Pew Center’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey found that 16% are unaffiliated, though only a fraction of those are avowed atheists and agnostics.

“Atheism is growing in all 50 states,” Silverman says. “What people don’t seem to understand is all we demand at American Atheists is equality. We don’t want the obliteration of religion; we don’t want religion wiped off the face of the earth.”

From Hebrew school to disbelief

As a kid in Massachusetts, Silverman was the only atheist he knew. “I’ve been an atheist all my life,” he says. “When I was a kid, I had to get on a bike, I had to ride 2 miles to the library to find the one book that had to do with atheism.”

Silverman was raised Jewish. His parents sent him to Hebrew school and he had a bar mitzvah, even after telling his mother that he did not believe in God.

“I remember it clearly, getting up on stage and everybody in my life was in front of me. Everyone,” Silverman says, recalling his bar mitzvah. “And I stood up there, and I looked everyone in the eye, and I lied. I lied. And I hated it.”

For Silverman, it was a turning point, a moment when he resolved not to lie about his disbelief. “It was one of those experiences… it saddened me,” Silverman says, the disgust showing as he contorts his face. “And I didn’t really do anything about it. I just did it.”

Silverman studies computer science at Brandeis University, a predominantly Jewish school that helped him cement his non-belief and honed his debating skills.

“I was the fodder of debate,” Silverman says. In the lunchroom, he proudly used the non-Kosher trays and relished debates with religious friends.

“Even the people who had gone to school to become rabbis could not put together a reason to believe in God,” Silverman says.

At Brandeis, Silverman met his future wife, Hildy. “Very early on when we dated, it was more of an issue because I was Orthodox and he was atheist,” Hildy laughs. “We were actually apart for a few years because we couldn’t see how that would work.”

Two years after graduation though, Hildy called him and said that she was doubting her religion and needed a non-religious weekend. Silverman picked her up from the airport and six months later the “mixed” couple, as Silverman calls them, was married.

“Religion is not a factor in our lives to the point that is causes strife,” Silverman says. Hildy stills attends Orthodox synagogue sporadically.

“I am a very strong supporter of separation of church and state,” she says. “My husband has no problem with people believing what they believe. I am proof of that. He just doesn’t want it foisted on him. And I am totally in line with that.

“I think he is extremely brave in what he does,” she says.

The couple has one child, 14-year-old Rayanne. She was introduced to Judaism at a young age and attended a Hebrew school in New Jersey. When it came time to plan for a bat mitzvah, however, Rayanne let her parents knew the truth.

She didn’t want one. She was an atheist.

Silverman says he didn’t want his daughter to be an atheists just because he is, but his pride in her decision is clear. For him, she is the future of atheism.

“I am very confident that we will win within 20 years,” he says. “I am saying that we will have a substantially more equal presence in 20 years.”

No issue too small

Back at the hotel, Silverman has turned his focus from the monotony of salads and soups to more pressing issues.

“What are we going to do about the Bibles in the room,” Silverman asks the obviously surprised Marriott event planner. “We do not want the Bibles in the rooms.”

It is Marriott policy not to remove Bibles in guest rooms, but Silverman won’t back down.

“We need to do something with them,” he says, ticking off ideas with his assistant: Recycle them, give them away, put them outside the doors, perhaps even destroy them.

The event planner sits back in her chair, struggling for words.

“What we don’t want to do is be disrespectful to the hotel,” says Silverman’s administrative director, Amanda Knief, putting an end to the discussion.

Yet Silverman plans to encourage atheist guests to place Bibles outside their doors in protest.

For him, each battle - whether over the presence of a cross at the World Trade Center memorial or Bibles in a hotel room - is worth having.

After the latest American Atheist billboards went up in Patterson and Brooklyn, Silverman said he reported death threats to the police. His attitude: just par for the course, another day in the life.

“We ask the tough questions,” he says. “We say the things that are politically incorrect if they need to be said.”

“We will win the big picture,” Silverman says, twice in a row. “(Being) the Marines of free thought means that we are going to fight the unpopular fight, and yes we are going to win.”

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Atheism • DC • Politics

soundoff (3,330 Responses)
  1. Larry

    One person is born within the locale of major religions. Joins, or is joined, to one of those religions. Lives a good life, dies and supposedly goes on to his/her reward.

    A different person is born without any religions available. Lives a good life, dies and goes to Hell or "Purgatory" for lack of commitment to a particular religion.

    Sort of underlines the very "unfairness" of any religion. Hard to believe in a "God" that oversees this kind of system.

    My personal feelings are that I cannot find any way to believe in a "God", but admire and envy those who truly do believe.

    March 23, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • shane

      heavenly father knows us each and our abilities and potential and will judge us on that,, dont worry about that...but always strive to do your best...thats all he asks..we tend to judge on our limited piont of view...he dosent

      March 23, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
  2. Mary

    It is certain that the whole contingent world is subjected to a law and rule which it can never disobey; even man is forced to submit to death, to sleep and to other conditions - that is to say, man in certain particulars is governed, and necessarily this state of being governed implies the existence of a governor. Because a characteristic of contingent beings is dependency, and this dependency is an essential necessity, therefore, there must be an independent being whose independence is essential.

    (Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 5)

    March 23, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • Larry

      "state of being governed implies the existence of a governor" ?

      Person who falls/jumps from a height, becomes subject to the "natural law" of gravity, not any outside "governor"

      March 23, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
  3. Redemption23

    @ Brett Your argument for the universe being eternal is flawed. Science has clearly posited theories (Big Bang) (Theory of Relativity) that show the universe had a beginning. Something that had a beginning had to have a beginner! In order for something to be eternal, it has to be outside of the parameters of Time, Matter and Energy..... The laws of the universe. That would make this "first" cause self-existent. Even the atheist have to answer questions of origin, meaning, and morality. Oh by the way, this guy's commentary is contradictory. Notice he uses the terms evil and wrong. Huh? He's taking a moral position which is firmly rooted in religion. Funny thing to deny God, and yet stand on his principles.

    March 23, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • lucentsky

      The Big Band model doesn't necessarily imply a beginning to anything. It's simply a process. A change. It's a prediction that space and matter were in such and such a configuration at some point in time, but does NOT necessarily say anything before that time.

      Besides, to arguet that "something that begins had to have a beginner" is simply word play. It's a meaningless statement, and it holds no logical relevance to either empirical evidence or reason.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • lucentsky

      Also, "right" and "wrong" are not exclusive property of religion. In addition to the great secular thinkers on morality, there is good evidence that morality is implicit in the human mind; that we indeed are born with a basic notion of "good" and "bad."

      March 23, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
  4. shane

    I know god exists by the things that happen in my life and by the things i have seen and the feeling that confirm it...but we all have the right to choose and he can too..but it will be very intresting for him to stand before heavenly father and his son after he dies one day and tell them they dont exsist..that will be intresting moment...

    March 23, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  5. Russell Hammond, Hollywood

    Finally, a voice of reason. BTW, let's tax churches. They've become one of the political arms of the GOP anyway.

    March 23, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  6. Mary

    One of the proofs and demonstrations of the existence of God is the fact that man did not create himself: nay, his creator and designer is another than himself.

    It is certain and indisputable that the creator of man is not like man because a powerless creature cannot create another being. The maker, the creator, has to possess all perfections in order that he may create.

    Can the creation be perfect and the creator imperfect? Can a picture be a masterpiece and the painter imperfect in his art? For it is his art and his creation. Moreover, the picture cannot be like the painter; otherwise, the painting would have created itself. However perfect the picture may be, in comparison with the painter it is in the utmost degree of imperfection.

    (Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 4)

    March 23, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  7. Rebel4Christ

    Everything in existence points to God. The trees, the sky, Yourself being alive and breathing!!, Even Dawkins said that there will never be perfect proof to deny the existence of God!!!!
    I don't get how you could be so foolish in to deny your creator?

    Imagine if you were a kid and you came up to your father and said "I don't believe in you anymore" THAT IS SO FOOLISH!

    March 23, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Edgar Friendly

      I'm right there with you, dude. I don't get how these people can sit here and deny Zeus.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Greg

      Your analogy is flagrantly inaccurate. Are you four years old?

      March 23, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Huh?

      "Everything in existence points to God."

      No, it points to evolution.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • Brett

      The main theological argument for the existence of God is that life could not have been created from nothing. Yet, take that one more step back, and they have no trouble in believing that God could have been created from nothing. When you explain this to them, they scramble for a response, and then insist that God is eternal and didn't need a creator. That's fine, however with that logic, it could also be argued that the Universe is eternal, and therefore didn't need a creator.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • lucentsky

      Then my father would say: "You don't believe in me because I'm invisible!? Well, you're going to BURN FOREVER!!!"

      March 23, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Huh?

      "Imagine if you were a kid and you came up to your father and said "I don't believe in you anymore" THAT IS SO FOOLISH!"

      If I did say that to my parents they wouldn't be so stupid as to throw me into a burning pit for all eternity only a monster and evil god would do that. But seeing as god is a man made concept they had to come up with the fear factor to keep you believing just in case to justify your cult.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • Rebel4Christ

      foolish foolish people! You prepare for earthquakes, you prepare for hurricanes, You prepare for fires, storms,war. But not once do you prepare for the Coming of God (which a lot more lifes will be lost in than any storm or earthquake) The bible even says there will be more non believers in the end days!!!!
      So many prophesies have come true but instead of believing you deny!!!!

      March 23, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • InLightOf

      A tree does not equal proof of a god. If you're so sure god created everything on this earth then how was "God" created?

      March 23, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • Grace S

      Everything does NOT point to a deity. On the contrary, the tremendous amount of horrendous evil in the world, often called "Acts of God," argues against the existence of an all-powerful all-good all-knowing deity.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • Rebel4Christ

      God does not send you to a burning pit! technically you send yourselfs!!!

      It's like somebody has a vaccine for cancer. If you take it your healed, but instead of taking it your like "No im fine I don't believe there's a cure for cancer!" DO YOU NOT SEE JESUS IS THE CURE FROM AN ETERNITY DOOMED TO HELL!!!

      March 23, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • Zeus

      None of you bitches are getting into the Elysian Fields, I'm telling you right now.

      March 23, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • Baby Jesus

      You're making me cry, Rebel. Tone it down a little.

      March 23, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
  8. Martin

    Great article. Theism is totalitarianism; the longing for a king. I'm a proud American Atheist. Was raised, brainwashed a blood sacrifice Baptist, but saw the light of reason. Atheists, agnostics, deists, freethinkers are coming out of the closet by the millions. There are far more of us than people realize. Most Americans are not really religious at all, and do not practice a religion. They just check a box about what ever myth they were raised in, but no longer believe.

    March 23, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Dave

      Need a logical explanation leading to defining atheism as a religion? No problem. First, here are the inputs: Atheists believe God does not exists (as opposed to Agnostics who merely don't think there is conclusive evidence of the existence of God, and therefore he probably doesn't exist). When asked why, they will state that it is because there is no evidence of him and he in incomprehensible. Athiests also believe in logic and reason. Now, let's construct a formal logical argument.

      For a given atheist, we will define the following:
      v = I am an Athiest.
      w = Atheists believe in logic.
      x = I believe in logic
      y = God does not exist.
      z = We cannot comprehend god nor prove his existence.

      Given these statements, and accepting v, w, and z as axiomatic (the proofs of these are for another argument, and for the sake of this one, we will assume they are true to begin with):

      v AND w -> x (transitive nature of belief in logic. This line states "If I am an atheist and atheists believe in logic, then I believe in logic). We may now accept x as truth.

      z -> y (This reads "If We cannot comprehend god nor prove his existence, then God does not exist". It is a restatement of the second input in the previous paragraph)
      NOT y -> NOT z (This is the contrapositive of the previous statement, which by the formal rules of logic is equivalent to the previous statement. It reads "If God did exist, then We could comprehend him and prove his existence")

      I tire of writing in formal logic and then rehashing for those not trained to read it, so I'm going to reassume a conversational tone. Given that we have now shown the initial statements v-z simplify to "I believe in logic" and "If God did exist, then We could comprehend him and prove his existence", then it must follow that the atheist believes in the logical conclusion of the latter statement, namely that it implies that the atheists comprehension and ability to prove something it a prerequisit for its existence. A more coloquial way of saying the same thing is "I comprehend and can prove the existence of all things that exist", or, more succicntly, "I am omniscient". Omniscience is a "higher power" associated with diety. Therefore, the logical conclusion of atheism is self diefication, or the worship of ones self as an all knowing God. Therefore, atheism is indeed a religion. QED

      March 23, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • Dave

      The previous diatribe was actually supposed to be in response to McGuffin's thread below. My mistake.

      March 23, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
  9. McGuffin

    If you're an atheist and try to push your beliefs on other people, then don't try to say atheism isn't a religion (looking at you, Bill Maher). You have unverifiable beliefs and are evangelistic about them. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck.

    March 23, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Martin

      so wrong. It is theism that has unfalsifiable beliefs.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • lucentsky

      A religion is not defined by convincing others of something. If that were true, then all parents and teachers would be zealots.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • Greg

      You badly need to procure a dictionary. And, I'm guessing, a GED.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • We know the truth...

      You desperately need to look up the definition of 'religion'... It specifically says that a religion is a set of beliefs related to the existence of a deity... If you can't figure out the error in your 'logic', I'm not surprised... I feel sorry for you, but I'm not surprised.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • The Lord of Excess

      Supporting freedom FROM religion isn't a religion. You are practicing Reductio ad absurdum essentially and furthermore let me reduce what your saying to the absurd. Because someone talks about something and feels passionately about it, does not a religion make it. Otherwise the Yankees, the Red Sox, NASCAR, American Idol, they are all also religions.

      Believing in freedom FROM religion is what most Atheists are ardent about, they see religion crossing the line all over the place in what should be a nation that allows freedom to practice religion but also freedom to choose what (IF ANY) religion one practices. That is not the case these days. Evangelicals in particular have pushed for prayer in school, they inserted "one nation god" into the pledge of allegiance in the 1950s, they place religious icons on public property, etc. etc. they are always pushing to break down not only religious freedom but FREEDOM FROM religion.

      When people are truly free to make their own choice about religion, and the right to not be religious is seen as just as sacred as the right to be religious ... well then there is nothing for Atheists to be up in arms about.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • Grace S

      Atheism is no more a religion than theism is a religion. Atheism might or might not be a PART of someone's beliefs about religious questions, though. Maybe the Hindus should just paint Christians and Muslims and Jews as being A-Reincarnationists and FORCE you to accept that label.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • Dave

      @Lord of Excess, careful what you accuse people of. "You are practicing reducto ad absurdum". Did you realize when you wrote that that reducto ad absurdum is not a logical fallacy, but actually a common practice of mathematical proofs? It is also called proof by contradiction. You just accused the guy of using proper logical techniques.

      March 23, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • Dave

      Reposting this in the correct thread (sorry for the duplication)

      Need a logical explanation leading to defining atheism as a religion? No problem. First, here are the inputs: Atheists believe God does not exists (as opposed to Agnostics who merely don't think there is conclusive evidence of the existence of God, and therefore he probably doesn't exist). When asked why, they will state that it is because there is no evidence of him and he in incomprehensible. Athiests also believe in logic and reason. Now, let's construct a formal logical argument.

      For a given atheist, we will define the following:
      v = I am an Athiest.
      w = Atheists believe in logic.
      x = I believe in logic
      y = God does not exist.
      z = We cannot comprehend god nor prove his existence.

      Given these statements, and accepting v, w, and z as axiomatic (the proofs of these are for another argument, and for the sake of this one, we will assume they are true to begin with):

      v AND w -> x (transitive nature of belief in logic. This line states "If I am an atheist and atheists believe in logic, then I believe in logic). We may now accept x as truth.

      z -> y (This reads "If We cannot comprehend god nor prove his existence, then God does not exist". It is a restatement of the second input in the previous paragraph)
      NOT y -> NOT z (This is the contrapositive of the previous statement, which by the formal rules of logic is equivalent to the previous statement. It reads "If God did exist, then We could comprehend him and prove his existence")

      I tire of writing in formal logic and then rehashing for those not trained to read it, so I'm going to reassume a conversational tone. Given that we have now shown the initial statements v-z simplify to "I believe in logic" and "If God did exist, then We could comprehend him and prove his existence", then it must follow that the atheist believes in the logical conclusion of the latter statement, namely that it implies that the atheists comprehension and ability to prove something it a prerequisit for its existence. A more coloquial way of saying the same thing is "I comprehend and can prove the existence of all things that exist", or, more succicntly, "I am omniscient". Omniscience is a "higher power" associated with diety. Therefore, the logical conclusion of atheism is self diefication, or the worship of ones self as an all knowing God. Therefore, atheism is indeed a religion. QED

      March 23, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
  10. Edgar Friendly

    Wait... these dudes don't believe in Zeus? Blasphemy!

    March 23, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • Zeus

      I know, I'm still pissed about it. Gonna ready my lightning bolts.

      March 23, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
  11. Cooper Franklin

    The existence of God is a question of faith rather than knowledge. I don't know, and no one else does, that God exists. It perplexes and confounds me that in the millions of years that humans have roamed the earth, God, if he exists, hasn't seen it necessary to make an appearance. Be it as it may, the organized religion's sales pitch of meeting God in the afterlife is the most enduring con in the history of mankind. There is no proof of delivery on that promise.

    March 23, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      Many religions now come before us with ingratiating smirks and outspread hands, like an unctuous merchant in a bazaar. They offer consolation and solidarity and uplift, competing as they do in a marketplace. But we have a right to remember how barbarically they behaved when they were strong and were making an offer that people could not refuse.
      – Christopher Hitchens

      March 23, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • comm0nsense

      Well said. In fact, the often ignored fact is that all the forces in nature have been accounted for - and none have been discovered that can account for an invisible God to work out his miracles through. Not even microscopic ones.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • Blooper1

      Oh, He/They made His/Their appearance quite clear. Look at the crusades, 9/11, Gott mit uns/In God we trust .. (G)god was manmade and well used. Gold for the Saoudis a for the Vatican.Happyness in the aftermath for the people. The perfect answer for those who can't live with death as a natural end for life. Your only life. Your only seconds of living. That is the fear and the controlling factor. Relgions prevent people ot misuse the only seconds they have, unless those seconds can be used by the religions themselves. Does this mean all non-believers are criminals, misusing their seconds for their pleasure, fun and misbehaviour ? No. Rekigious people need that fear of hell to behave well .. Believers: grow up, be responsable, act with comprehension and know that these seconds are the only ones you get to enjoy a fine, reasonable and productive life. Standing before the mirror and saying 'Well done' is a greater challenge than counting the hours of prayer.

      March 23, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
  12. Char

    Just to be perfectly clear.... GOD WINS.

    March 23, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Huh?

      "GOD WINS"

      Prove it.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      Gullibility and credulity are considered undesirable qualities in every department of human life – except religion.
      – Christopher Hitchens

      you might need a dictionary Char as there are some big words over three letters long

      March 23, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • Greg

      Citation needed.

      Just to be clear, your words are meaningless.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • We know the truth...

      As is always the case with religious people... you weren't clear at all.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • SkepticalOne

      Charlie Sheen is god?

      March 23, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
  13. khanjee

    Obama must include a shrink for all Atheists in the healthcare plan.

    March 23, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • Iconoclast

      Yes! they should study sanity so they might be able to replicate it in the religious.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • Grace S

      Yes, it would be useful to have some help in dealing with the insanity of believers. But just try defending yourself in a court of law with the defense that God told you to do it. Won't work. Why? Because the standard in a civilized society is REASON.

      March 23, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
  14. Mark Russell

    This man is the greatest human on earth.

    March 23, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  15. jeff forsythe

    I practice Falun Gong, which is a heart and mind cultivation practice available everywhere for free. This practice has over one hundred million adherents Worldwide. It consists of five exercises and basically nine lectures.
    I consider myself very lucky because Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, has allowed me to distinguish the difference between right and wrong concerning such difficult issues as gay rights, drug use, euthanasia, suicide, abortion and many other very important subjects. The practice is available on line and thank you for your consideration.

    March 23, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  16. Sancho

    I consider myself Agnostic, and people like this guy make me sick. People such as American Atheists, Bill Maher, and so many other non-theists complain when religion exits the private sphere and religious people try to impose their values, teachings and morals on the rest of society, yet they have no concept that they are doing the same thing. These people are behaving in the same way as fundamentalist wackos who believe birth control should be outlawed and every schoolchild in America forced to pray, but of course its okay for THEM to do it, since its promoting their belief! Religion should not be pushed on the American public by anyone, but neither should lack of it. David Silverman and Rick Santorum are both just as responsible for distracting the American public with stupid arguments that have no place outside one's personal life, much less on the national stage.

    March 23, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • momoya

      Atheism isn't pushing anything except the right to exist and fight back against stupid laws based on religious views rather than practical social views.. Atheism would have a long, long, long way to go to match the influence of religion.. This is just one little meeting; no need to start worrying about anything just yet.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Brett

      When we get an Atheist President, I will leave Christians alone.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • turner1988

      What a strange, strange way to live one's life. I mean, I think it strange when Christians insist that non-Christians live by Christian values, but I find it even stranger when an Athiest insist that others NOT practice religion of any kind. Christians have a "cause", they just forget it sometimes (ok, a LOT of times). But what in the world is an Athiest's cause? To get other people to stop practicing religion? What a complete waste of time and resources. Go feed the homeless, dig an African well, or provide healthcare for needy children. Fanaticals of any kind have completely lost the plot.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • graham

      Agreed. Gives the rest of us a bad name.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • phred

      They may in fact be doing the exact same thing, but that's the point you fail to grasp. We've allowed religous nutjobs to shove their icons and beliefs in our faces for centuries, and not fought back on a level field. Well...that time is over. And no, removing religous teaching from schools is not the same as teaching there is no religion. We don't generally teach Greek either, but we don't teach that it doesn't exist.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • McGuffin

      Seriously, I've never understood why someone as otherwise intelligent as Bill Maher could be so blind to the fact that he's pushing his beliefs about God on other people. It's fine if he wants to be an atheist, but when he claims that his brand of evangelistic atheism is not a religion, that is hogwash. When you are committed to a set of beliefs about something that is not directly observable, and you assert that your unverifiable beliefs are truer than those of other people, that is a religion.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  17. M-AZ - I Don't Trust Religion

    Belief in God is not about religion; it is about one's spiritual awareness and accountability of and to a higher power. Religion is about man and so is atheism. I don't need anyone trying to influence my relationship one way or the other with my higher power; as far as I am concerned that is just plain politics.

    March 23, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • John

      Religion is belief in and worship of god(s), by definition. You can't separate the two, no matter how hard you try. Either way you believe in some supernatural stuff, without evidence.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  18. Brett

    The main theological argument for the existence of God is that life could not have been created from nothing. Yet, take that one more step back, and they have no trouble in believing that God could have been created from nothing. When you explain this to them, they scramble for a response, and then insist that God is eternal and didn't need a creator. That's fine, however with that logic, it could also be argued that the Universe is eternal, and therefore didn't need a creator.

    Any believers care to answer this?

    March 23, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • Dick Clark

      I'll take a quick stab at a response. It's not that there is belief that God was created from nothing, but He "is, was, and will always be." I'm even wrong in classifying God as a "He." God is given that classification just because God is beyond human comprehension. The Universe is not beyond comprehension, but simply too vast of an expanse that in order to understand without time. It is possible to say that the universe is eternal and yet had a creator. If time did not exist at the creation of the universe then would it not still be without a "beginning" since that would denote a point in time?

      March 23, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • Mark

      I agree Dick Clark, God is the unknown and humans were not given the knowledge or capability to know how everything works with him. That is the problem with humans is we believe that we can know everything with time, but once you think about it then you start to realize we know nothing. Who are we to say there is no God? It is impossible to understand how everything in this universe works or was made. The power of God is so great we cannot even begin to understand it.

      March 23, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • zander rose

      I would not say that the main point of argument for the existence of god is the idea of a universe created from nothing, its just a point. I would also say that while many atheists sit on their high horses and claim to be backed by "reason" they leave out the fundamental truth of their beliefs, and that is they are no more steeped in evidence than are ours. Maybe the big bang happened doesn't' mean god didn't set it in motion. Maybe evolution is true, doesn't mean god didn't need to experiment with genetics to create. Do i have evidence for this...no, do you have evidence against this...no. do you have sound evidence for the big bang at all...no, do i believe in evolution and the big bang...it is a likely occurrence, but i don't believe in spontaneous creation in regards to these things. I am a man of faith, yet a man of reason. i see value in facts and i see value in exploration of facts. i believe in searching for answers and running experiments. in asking the hard questions and challenging blind belief. but there is no reason science and religion cannot work together, i see no reason to be at odds. it is merely a game of wait and see, of explore and understand, of mysteries and adventure.

      March 23, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • LMAO

      "The power of God is so great we cannot even begin to understand it."

      But here you are the two of you trying to define it but you can't because "it" doesn't exist.

      March 23, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
  19. Leucadia Bob

    I am totally down with this. Especially when you see how butt hurt religious people get from it. When someone mocks my beliefs, I could care less: I know they are right. When you need faith, there is complete uncertainty, so you really don't know if you're right. My suggestion: don't profess to knowing anything because you honestly won't until you die. Now check out my new song – it kicks but:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIu5aPIIzzM

    March 23, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  20. Some Dude

    When there is no room for God, God is finally free.

    March 23, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • ammamaw

      Nice, Some Dude. Peace.

      March 24, 2012 at 1:57 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.