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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. Mike A.

    If these people were the real atheists they claim to be, then a bible in the room should be of no concern. To them it should be just another book. Instead they seem bothered by its presence.

    March 23, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • momoya

      It's not the belief that bothers atheists, it's the prevalence.. If there were as many unicorn believers and churches dedicated to them, you as a believer, and I as an atheist would be protesting the sheer volume of unicorn nonsense.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • no.

      wrong. think harder.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • Fn0rdz

      No True Scotsman much?

      March 23, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      So Martin Luther King Jr., should not be bothered by white supremacy books from the KKK or Jews shouldn't be bothered by books by Hitler? As atheists, we study the bible by choice. That doesn't mean we want it around us all of the time. Most of us find the book appalling and offensive.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • July.faction

      For the record a Q'aran would be just as offensive to have in the same room as me. Its not the book its the controlling your freewill and your mind aspect of it its message. There are some other books I don't like to keep around me, too. I don't like to have torahs or torahs and copies of "the communist manefesto", "the little red book" "with the century" "watchtower" "book of mormon" "mein kampf" or maharishi literature around either, just to be fair

      April 11, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  2. The way, the light, and the life

    "... and you have a choice.” Yes I do, and you're not part of it. Thank you and God bless.

    March 23, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • Ricardo

      Wow, talk about the compulsion to cherry pick a quote. You snapped the most convenient three words from an entire article. It is didn't matter to you what words were in the sentence even. "I'll take those three words there and make myself a nice little cherry pick quote, I will" you said to yourself. It is such intellectual dishonest that is so pervasive among many believers I argue against.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • Big Joe

      Ricardo is right. You really should look at the words in the whole sentence.

      "You KNOW it's a MYTH....and you have a choice."

      There, Ricardo. NOW I'll say it...I choose God.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
  3. yourmom

    Meh, who cares.

    March 23, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
  4. Brilliant!

    I find it interesting that god fearing, commandment following children of a benevolent higher force feel they need to take it upon themselves and offer death threats to Mr. Silverman. If you believe, leave the judgment of others to your master!

    March 23, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
  5. Ashrakay

    Haha, Finally! CNN got the hint and put up an atheist article in the Belief section. Thank you.

    March 23, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  6. July Faction

    Wow!! This is so great. Our time has finally come. I would go to this thing if I didn't have work commitments and live in the heartland (my city is a nice place, but not close enough to DC to make it to the coming out party). I applaud him for keeping up the fight! Bringing Atheists together in our nation's capitol is an awesome statement of how we won't be marginalized anymore in America. Some intolerant faith-filled people think of us as hippies, commies or worse. I love my country so much and I love that we are free enough to reject god, allah or moses if we want to. Exercising that right has only been really happening in the last 50 years or so. Now people aren't scared of their family as much. If I ever get married I want to have an atheist wedding. I'm guessing my uncle the minister won't be officiating...

    March 23, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • eriktogo

      Please attend a Christian Church for a year and listen to the pastor's message with an open mind and then decide. I do not mean to offend anyone, but let us not rely on our own understanding and give the word of Jesus Christ a chance.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • no.

      i gave his word a chance. his word suc.ks.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • truth is...

      you are an atheist, you believe in marriage or wedding? as an atheist, just live in one roof. Who do you think the author of couple coming together to wed? It is God. Who will officiate your wedding, a by stander? common person? think...

      March 23, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • Jay

      Atheist and agnostic zealots are just as bad as religious zealots I don"t knock anybody for their believes but Mr. Silverman seems to be a very petty man why can't we live and let live.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • mandarax

      Truth is...that people get married outside of Christianity all the time. Sorry to burst your ethnocentric bubble but marriage predates Christianity.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
  7. WeDon'tMatter

    I'm an atheist, and one of the things I hated about religion is that the Christians are always trying to force their absurd beliefs off on other people now there is an organized group of atheists trying to do the same thing with a non-religion. Atheism is a belief in a non-belief there is nothing to force on people. Being an atheist is a choice made from life long experience not learned from some pulpit hugging airbag. There is a place for religion in this World trying to force disbelief on people is like flirting with social suicide. This putz is not an atheist he's an opportunist.

    March 23, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • Ralph N

      Force? When was the last time someone forced you to believe in God? Did someone hold your head over the Bible and threaten you if you didn't read it? Athiests love to make claims then strike them down. Yours is nothing more...Oh, and may the force be with you!

      March 23, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      Atheism is NOT "a belief in a non-belief." It's an acceptance of reality as the evidence suggests. Nothing more. There is no action required to accept what is presented in the evidence.

      March 23, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      @Ralph N, For the record, though no one forces belief in god (except parents), religious folk are endlessly trying to impose their moral beliefs on people who don't share them. Look to birth control, gay marriage, abortion, and embryonic stem cell research if you need examples.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • WeDon'tMatter

      Yea Ralph, Force. When some fool comes to your house every week saying, "I have a message for you from God", after you have told them numerous times that you are not interested that's trying to force.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • avd

      are you actually listening to yourself? Because you're contradicting yourself in just one paragraph.

      Pot meet kettle...

      March 23, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
  8. The Idiot

    If there is a God we must find him, and if there is a Soul we must perceive it.....Instead of denying what you don't know...Look for it..even if you find nothing, the journey will make you a better person. If there is a God, we deserve all that we have received
    for we use his name in vain and we blame him for our own faults, its time we all grow up.

    March 23, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      If there is a god, we must destroy him for the atrocities he's ordered and the atrocities done in his name.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
    • Ricardo

      I fail to see how the journey to discover the existence of Zeus or Neptune or any other god (or worse Allah) is at all edifying. Nothing about knowing Allah for example, would expand my knowledge of nature or the Cosmos one iota. I would just waste a lot of time learning about a cramped and retrograde 7th century bronze age belief system.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
  9. Muneef

    That is a smart move and obviously meant to protect the non Christian minorities from having the country become whole Christian State... Wiser it became in the name of Atheists and not in the name of any other religious minority. Otherwise it would have caused her to suffer.
    Therefore I will not be surprised if those religious minorities would rally with him disguised as Atheists... It is obvious as well that him being of Jewish family that the Jewish organizations are behind the seen supporting/financing him..and that is only my assumptions of this new movement of Billboards and rally...

    March 23, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • Ricardo

      We atheists should all remember that in almost every country where Muslims are a majority, free thought and changing religions is a crime that is often punishable by death. No matter how bad the Santorum crowd is, they are tree huggers when compared to Islam.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
  10. Mike

    It is just so cool and trendy to be an atheist.

    March 23, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
  11. abhi

    I agree with the big bang guy.....if we talk about proof....let's first figure where we all came from....we have all heard this "Well we know what happened after the big bang...but have no clue what came before" well first figure that out...and if you can't in the next 20 years then there has to be something beyond Physics....

    March 23, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      Someone call for the b4bigbang?

      March 23, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • momoya

      It's reasonable to think that there are other realities not represented by our big bang; it's NOT reasonable to make claims about beings who live outside our big bang and what they want for our species and whatnot.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • mandarax

      "and if you can't in the next 20 years then there has to be something beyond Physics...."

      What kind of logic is that? What is the basis for a 20 year ultimatum for physics? It has taken us about 150,000 years to figure out genetics. Heck it took us 110,000 years to figure out how to weave clothes. Why should we be able to see beyond the singularity in the next 20 years? What small-minded thinking.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Ricardo

      What you offer is a 'god of the gaps' argument. Essentially it looks to phenomena that aren't yet explained by scientific consensus and says "this is where the evidence for god is!". This is a fallacy that has forced believers to slowly retreat with the progress of our understanding of nature and the universe that science has brought.

      You need positive proof that your claims for your particular version of god, not weak gestures at the edge of knowledge. And you sir, still do not offer one shred of evidence.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • False Dichotomy

      "someone called for the b4bigbang?"

      Yes! I did! you said: "the atheists will publish that the fossils of a new species of prehistoric ape-like 'man' has been dug up, when later the 'fossil' was found to be a single tooth, which was subsequently found to be a common pig's tooth, they don't even bother to remove it from the textbooks! Why confuse the masses with the truth? i guess they're thinking."

      My response from earlier: What you are referring to was called "Nebraska Man" and was either a hoax or a mistake that was revealed decades ago...by scientists.

      I'm calling you out. Show me the modern textbooks that present "Nebraska Man" as a hominid fossil, show me or admit once and for all that you creationists often simply lie to try to support your point of view.

      I'm serious. What textbooks? Let's hear it.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • fred

      momoya
      What? Any other reality so long it does not include things we cannot even imagine. In short you propose we limit what exists to that which we can conceive of? Why not just cut to chase and say anything is possible in that 99.999999% we do not know provided it does not include God.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • False Dichotomy

      As expected b4bigbang has slunk away again.

      Lies. Indefensible lies.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
  12. Ralph N

    I think that Jesus will have quite a lot larger and different audience than Silverman when he makes his grand appearance.

    March 23, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
    • sailor

      You are correct! And us athiests would suddenly become believers if that ever happened.

      But don't hold your breath.

      March 23, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      @sailor, well some of us would choose to fight god if he were real. Accept the reality, sure... Worship, no thanks.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • Soak my Cork

      At my age, the only chance I'll have at experiencing a second coming is with Viagra.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
  13. GeorgeH

    I can't believe how slanted this article is against atheism. Well, yes, I can too. It's typical of CNN and the other corporate media. Notice that the teaser headline identifies Silverman as an "agitator" and this article's headline has "movement" in quotes, as if it's a bogus claim. Would CNN identify Billy Graham as the "chief Baptist agitator"? I seriously doubt it. But we atheists are accustomed to this kind of blatant bias. A century from now, people will look back on our religion-dominated society the way we look back on the Middle Ages, with its weird, religion-based cruelty and violence.

    March 23, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
    • Mike

      Well said, GeorgeH. One of the more gratifying things about this Reason Rally is that it's providing a forum for those of us who don't believe to see that there are so many other like-minded people. I hope we don't have to wait a century to see today's religion melting into mythology.

      March 23, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
  14. Aaron

    The problem with Atheists is that attest there is no God and that religion is only a myth. Religious followers will willfully state that religion is based upon faith. As a Christian, I believe that Christ died for all of us and whosoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life. I also believe that Christianity is fact and although I am flawed (human nature) I go to church to seek forgiveness and to recharge my spiritual battery for the next week. My personal convictions are that I think that non-Christians will regret their decisions on the judgment day. Now I know there are others where their convictions say I am wrong, but let me ask you this people: What is wrong with having a backup plan? Let's say for a moment your right and there is no God, Which means to me that I lived an honorable life where I used a moral compass that helped me live as best as I could. Now, if I am right, which I willing to bet my soul, that there is a God and that Jesus did in fact die willingly for us, then I'll be in heaven and everyone who rejects Christ will be unhappy campers for the rest of eternity. Now look at it like this, why is it that so many people are willing to pay top dollar for houses, cars, and pricy items, but willfully turn away a free gift of salvation? All you have to do is say it once and you’re saved.

    March 23, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • momoya

      I don't think god wants believers who consider him a "back up plan."

      March 23, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • DarkBronzePlant

      Good to see that old argument crop up here. Hint: look up "Pascal's Wager" and you'll see that your argument has been refuted many times.

      March 23, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Patrick

      That's called Pascal's Wager. The downfall of it is ... which religious reality do we take our chances with?

      March 23, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
    • bff

      You can have your own beliefs but you can't have your own facts.

      March 23, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
    • Chris

      Aaron

      You haven't put much thought into this have you?

      March 23, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • BigSkyHumanist

      your god asked for human sacrifice in order to save his flawed creatures he designed and then promised to burn forever 99% of all humans that ever lived. Wow, that's OK with you? You are a cold heartless person who worships a cruel god.

      March 23, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • GeorgeH

      There is not a shred of evidence to support your beliefs. They are fantasies based on Mideastern folktales. It's very strange that adults still believe in such stories.

      March 23, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • sailor

      Don't you think your God has already seen through your back-up plan? You are already doomed!

      March 23, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • mandarax

      "All you have to do is say it once and you’re saved."

      Then I'm good – I was baptized in a Baptist church at the about the age of 12.

      I suspect some version of that is true of many, if not most atheists. Contrary to popular belief, atheists aren't typically ignorant of religion. They usually are experienced and well-versed in scripture (surveys show they know the bible better than believers) but they have opened their eyes wide enough to see through it all.

      March 23, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • Mike

      Aaron, so let me get this straight. You believe that your loving, omnipotent god decided that the best way to absolve the sins of humans was by a medieval human sacrifice of his self/son. I suppose that's what I would do too if I had to figure out how to forgive humans. Nothing like human sacrifice to appease the gods, although this one is quite odd because of the son's supposed divinity.

      March 23, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • Aaron

      Unfortunately, for those replying to me, I am not able to portray emphasis like I could in person. For some of you, your missing my points that for 1, salvation is for free and 2, that there is nothing immoral with believing in Christ. Christianity uplifts me everyday. I am hand copying the bible with a feather and quill and I enjoy it and feal a deeper connection to God. So why is it wrong for me to say that...the answer: It isn't. I can do it because of Amendment 1 says I can. There is nothing wrong with having faith in something higher than yourself. Why is it that it's wrong for Tim Tebow to pray, but we must be accomodation of everybody who view Christians as intolerant when non-believers don't approve of us?

      March 23, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • Ha

      Seriously Aaron, that is the most worthless post I have seen in a long time. By that argument, shouldn't you then practice all religions as "back up plans". As for being a good person, I am clearly better then you since I am a good person AND an atheist. I don't need to believe in fairy tales to be honorable, humane and kind.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
    • Aaron

      Again, everybody is misinterpreting the emphasis which can only be shown in actual person. My argument wasn't a literal argument for "A backup plan" but can only be understood when having a conversation in person. I was trying to place emphasis, but text can only do so much. Here is my belief: Courtesy of Biblos.com (John 3:16-21) 16“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,f that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.g 19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

      March 23, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • momoya

      Aaron, you believe that because it's the religion you were trained to believe.. Had you been brought up to believe in a different god, you'd be talking about him right now.. If any one religion could demonstrate its superiority, then it would have by now.. Every religion has the same thing: Faith–people believing just to believe.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • John

      Arron, please. No one wants to take away your first-amendment right to spout nonsense, and if believing that a myth is real brings you happiness, more power to you–but it doesn't make your myth true. I've been there–a believer for the better part of my 52 years–and a much happier person being free from such lies. FEAR is the currency of many religions, including yours–eternal punishment (what could be worse?) for not believing. How ridiculous–does this sound like justice? How about this for justice–God decides to punish all of those who believed in him as a "safety net" and never really looked for the truth.

      The truth is the only god worth seeking. Truth is its own reward; it brings its own fulfillment and contentment. Are you really happy with your head in the sand, living in a myth of fear that if you look elsewhere you risk eternal flames? Any evidence for that belief? Better check out Islam too then, they have the same belief. You don't want to be on the wrong side of that one!!! Geez...

      March 23, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • Aaron

      To all about the supremacy of religion: The mission statement of Christianity is to spread the lessons of peace and love taught by Christ to the world. The Islamic one however, is to conquer. Now, I know that Christianity has had its moments of pain, but for close to 2,000 years, Christianity has had to mature. The current and preferable method is simply spreading the word is more appropriate than using force. Granit there are still some that utilize violence, but Christianity has matured and evolved to the point where there is no necessity to conquer, but only to preach the word.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
  15. Seriously

    Freethinkers are convinced that religious claims have not withstood the tests of reason. Not only is there nothing to be gained by believing an untruth, but there is everything to lose when we sacrifice the indispensable tool of reason on the altar of superst|tion.

    Most freethinkers consider religion to be not only untrue, but harmful. It has been used to justify war, slavery, se.xism, racism, ho.mophobia, mutilations, intolerance, and oppression of minorities. The totalitarianism of religious absolutes chokes progress.

    Religion does not have a monopoly on good deeds. Most modern social and moral progress has been made by people free from religion–including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Charles Darwin, Margaret Sanger, Albert Einstein, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, Marie Curie, H. L. Mencken, Sigmund Freud, Bertrand Russell, Luther Burbank and many others who have enriched humanity.

    Most religions have consistently resisted progress–including the abolition of slavery; women's right to vote and choose contraception and abortion; medical developments such as the use of anesthesia; scientific understanding of the heliocentric solar system and evolution, and the American principle of state/church separation.

    http://ffrf.org/publications/nontracts/What-Is-A-Freethinker/

    March 23, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
  16. Angel

    So what? Silverman states he is an atheist-so. If he wasn't-so. Just exactly what is it he wants? Does he think he is so knowledgeable that society will change whatever beliefs they have. Mr. Silverman why not use all your "energy" and do something positive like help at a food pantry, visit a veterans home, help a child read.

    March 23, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • momoya

      There's millions of churches, half of them believing a different thing, all across the country on almost every street corner and you're begrudging the atheists one little meeting?! How rude!

      March 23, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • Chris

      Or maybe build another mega church?

      I live in Oklahoma, I live 4 miles from where I work, and I pass 6 churches on my way.

      In the mean time some people on this planet don't have clean water to drink!

      March 23, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • bff

      Angel,
      There are many secular charatable orginizations. And they don't hold their charity hostage for a sermon first.

      March 23, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
  17. Margarette

    Dear Atheists. Really now, you have to beleive in something or you will fall for anything. Look around you. Tell me really you don't feel anything? Who created all this? The beautiful world that you are in? comon-nnn. Think a little harder, and you'll see or feel something.

    March 23, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • Sailor

      Why do you think someone had to create this? And even if there were someone, then who created him?
      Really now. Are there more areas in you life where you accept things as important as this with zero evidence?

      March 23, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • Kris

      In fact I would need to STOP thinking in order to believe in any sort of God...because believing in God would "provide me all the answers". Answers which, when questioned, would then get me kicked out for asking them. So no, I refuse to stop thinking and accept the "truths" which my believing will benefit those in power and instead will continue to empower my own life, tyvm.

      March 23, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • DarkBronzePlant

      We atheists believe in plenty of things. Just not 2000-year-old fairy tales.

      March 23, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • CanOnTo

      Dear Margaret, you're making an excellent point. Somebody had to create all this! Who??? Well, the answer is obvious – the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Praise his noodly appendage!

      March 23, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • Mark

      "A lighthouse is more useful than a church"-Ben Franklin

      March 23, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • BigSkyHumanist

      Nature is wonderful but also indifferent. People want to give god credit for the butterflies but not for killer bees. Can't have it both ways girlfriend.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Chris

      It's called 4.5 billion years of evolution. Think about it.. you might feel something... it's called a 'thought'

      March 23, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      Yes, this is what we need... country music philosophy. Atheists do believe in something for your information... it's called reality. We base on this currency called, evidence. This is what separates the world of fantasy from the world of fiction. But getting back to that country music philosophy... Would you find a person that believed that Harry Potter was real and stood for it, actually credible? Didn't he already "fall" for something? Take a look in the mirror. You've been suckered and you've already fallen for something that has tricked you into standing up for it.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • Bigtime Timmyjim

      "Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?"

      March 23, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
  18. MSchimpf

    For those of us who have experienced the vilification and marginalization of being atheists, David Silverman is doing a great job advancing our rights and our viewpoint. Some in this thread have asked why we, as non-believers, would need to gather in DC. The answer is that the Christian right in our country is constantly trying to force their religious beliefs into the public sphere (science education, school prayer at public schools, Decalogue displays at court houses, nativity scenes on city hall property, crosses in all kinds of public places, national days of prayer, etc.) – if these things stopped, the outcry from us non-believers would be greatly diminished.

    In any case, it's a great time to be an atheist when we can call modern religion by its real name, contemporary mythology.

    March 23, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  19. achepotle

    He makes a lot of common sense...I really respect him...too bad America didn't have 300 million more like him instead of the wife-swapping evangelical doushbaags who have destroyed the country.

    March 23, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
  20. Caiha

    I don't get this. People treat athiesm like it's a religion. I'm an athiest, and I can tell you for certain that this d-bag doesn't speak for me, or anyone I know. I believe in respecting other people's beliefs, even if I don't share them.

    March 23, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • CanOnTo

      I believe that there is a huge diamond buried in my backyard. I also believe that the diamond is telling me to kill all gays. Do you still respect my beliefs?

      March 23, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • Chris

      I'm sorry Caiha!

      But the time has come where people who believe in non-sense get no respect!

      March 23, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • BigSkyHumanist

      Sure having people like us cower, living in fear and staying in the closet has worked well for believers for over 2,000 years.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
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About this blog

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