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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. LOL

    yodaddy your comment was the funniest! For someone who doesn't believe in God, he (Silverman) seems to be going way out of his way to eradicate religion in this country. The religious people in this country are not the ones crashing planes into buildings and blowing themselves up. Why doesn't he pay for those signs to go up in Pakistan, Iraq or Saudi Arabia?

    March 23, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
    • mandarax

      Perhaps, but people who fly planes into buildings are supported by theocratic governments, and there are high-profile politicians among us who are promoting the path to theocratic government.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • Varangian

      Where did this notion of a "theocracy" come from? I thought we were in a democracy wherein the people made the decisions? Why blame the religious people when they're just using the system the way it was meant to be used?

      March 23, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
    • Razier

      No, but they did bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, bomb the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, murder soldiers at Fort Hood, murder doctors performing abortions, and deny people the same rights as others based on their orientation.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • Varangian

      What does that have to do with a theocracy?

      March 23, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • Razier

      @ Varangian, if your last question is to me, my statement has nothing to do with a theocracy as my statement has nothing to do with you. It was a reply to LOL.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
  2. Fake god

    Peaceful Muslims will beat the christian cult and Mormon cult. Allah!

    March 23, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
    • KM

      Eventually secularism will claim this entire planet.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
  3. Gabe

    Religion is as deserving of respect as the belief that 1+1 = popcorn.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
    • Varangian

      If the first 1 equals heat and the second 1 equals kernels than yes, 1+1 = popcorn.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
    • mandarax

      Don't be silly, everyone knows that 1 + kittens = interstellar. You must be praying to the wrong god.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
    • Gabe

      I didn't write 1a + 1b = popcorn. Numeric literals are constant values, not variables.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
    • Varangian

      And likewise, I wasn't being serious and was merely making a joke.

      Amusing how the simple things go over people's heads.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
  4. Elliot

    I agree with his right to free speech but he will never gain "converts" by being aggressive, insulting and condescending. Look at the religious right that he despises so much. He is emulating their methods which have already proven to be fruitless. If anything, he will motivate people on the fence to cling tighter to their religious perspectives.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • Bruce

      Where is he condescending?

      March 23, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
  5. Clyde M

    I'm an atheist and a vocal and happy one.

    But, man, I cannot STAND Silverman or his tactics and I HATE that he has become the antagonistic public face of atheism.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
  6. b4bigbang

    momoya: "You believe in magical beings and magical forces.. Atheists don't.. Get it straight."

    Actually, it's the *atheists* who are pushing a 'magic' as explanation for creation. A classic definition for magic is for something to come to be without any plan or designer. "Poof! it's here!". Those who believe in Intelligent Design see the data/info that the universe is a complex system and logically conclude there had to be a designer, rather than the 'we don't know – we think it just happened' answers that come from the atheist community.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • False Dichotomy

      Hey look, another comment by "Lies4Jesus"

      March 23, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • Gabe

      The lack of a scientific explanation is not evidence of a supernatural explanation.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
    • Eric

      we don't know and neither do you. But in recent years there have been purposed ideas of how the universe could have come about without the need for a "designer". I'm ok with not knowing. I'm just being honest that I don't know. You're just purposing something that breaks the laws of physics as we know them without a shred of evidence to support that proposal.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • momoya

      Do you really not see how god believers are pro.mo.ting magic, and atheists are the folks honest enough to say that they don't know what people don't know?. You're supposing a being that can't be proved (magical) and your supposing that the magic guy did it in some spo.oky way–but not in other spo.oky ways, either (magic).. We don't know what "started" the big bang.. We don't know exactly how life ar.ose, but we can test and prove how life evolved and co.ntinues evolving.. We're ho.nest about what we don't know, even when other people claim things they can't know and can't pr.ove.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • UncleM

      So who created the creator? See – the logic doesn't work does it?

      March 23, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • Clyde M

      @b4bigbang: "A classic definition for magic is for something to come to be without any plan or designer."

      I'd love to know where you got this "classic" definition because that is NOT how any dictionary I've ever seen has defined the term–none has ever mentioned "plan" or "designer. I suspect you're a theist just making up whatever definition for magic suits your need regardless of what the actual definition is. Shame, because lying for Jesus is still lying.

      Merriam Webster's defines magic as "the use of means (as charms or spells) believed to have supernatural power over natural forces" or "an extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source." That's a far more accurate definition of the term. No lying required.

      And here I thought it was the religious that claimed moral superiority and yet I'm not two posts in when one feels the need to lie...

      Typical.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • Razier

      No, that is a misrepresentation of what most atheists say. Most atheists would say that we simply don't have enough data to know what caused the big bang if the big bang is even the true cause of the universe. There is nothing wrong with admitting we don't know. You, however, say that the complexity of the universe calls for a designer, but wouldn't the designer have to be complex himself? So by your own logic, the designer would have to have a designer and that designer would have to have a designer and you just get into an infinite regress. You are answering a mystery with an even bigger mystery.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      The "irreducible complexity" theory as well as every other ID theory has been resoundingly refuted. For a deeper understanding of evolution, physics and the universe, I recommend "A Universe from Nothing" by Lawrence Krauss as well as "The Blind Watchmaker" by Richard Dawkins.

      That will help you not post ignorant statements that have already been addressed ad nauseam.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
    • Rick Levy

      So who created the "designer"? Or "Poof!" did he, she, it just magically come into existence?

      March 23, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
    • Sam

      Great, Very well said and I agree with you 100% and I'm very glad you think this way.

      Now show me why this "designer" needs me to perform all these rituals and prayers?

      Excuse me while I go sacrifice a goat, be back soon awaiting your answer....

      March 23, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • Sam

      @ b4bigbang

      Atheists are pushing "magic" atheists are the first to admit that they DON'T understand everything and that you can't always know the answer to tough questions. It's the RELIGIOUS people who claim to have all the answers...how was the universe created (or come into existence)...obviously GOD did it.

      I don't who/what/how but in the mean time I dont' make up little fairy tales and indoctrinate my kids with them before their brains are even developed. It only takes 1 adult having kids to begin a religion. You don't think the Scientologists' kid's are indoctrinated into Scientology the same way the rest of us were fed christianity/islam/judiaism

      March 23, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  7. A E Houser

    There is little I can say in support of atheism that has not already been argued by more eloquent speakers. However, I can add my voice to the growing movement of reason. Get your heads out of fantasy and delusions, and embrace the truth.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
  8. Al

    Hindus, Buhdists, Christians, Mormans, Seventh Day Adventist, Muslims, Catholics, Atheists. If people want to worship – or not – then, fine. However, everyone should stop jamming your ideology down everyone else's throats. You atheists are more guilty than most of trying to be "right". Disbelieve in private.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
    • Sundays off

      But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

      -Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782

      Ours pockets are being picked through relgious tax exemptions and our legs are being broken, figuratively and literally. And you ask us to be silent?

      March 23, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
    • Avery

      We would love to, but there are Ten Commandments monuments in our pubic schools, "In God We Trust" on our money, and we are told to keep quite every time we identify ourselves as atheists....and now you are guilty of doing it to us.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
    • 5thApe

      "You atheists are more guilty than most of trying to be "right". Disbelieve in private."

      Then take down all your "Jesus Saves" billboards that you see every 100 yrs on the highway.

      Believe in private!

      March 23, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • Razier

      Sir, when is the last time an atheist knocked on your door or approached you unprovoked to try to switch you to his idealogy? I dare say never. However, all of us have probably had christians do exactly that. I'm sick of this ridculous notion that poor Christians are the ones being persecuted at every turn. What a crock.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
    • Varangian

      To be fair, someone knocking on your door, babbling something off for five minutes, and then leaving, is hardly persecution.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
  9. loathstheright

    Good, the ghosts, goblins, angles, devils mythos beliefs need to die away and only looked upon as stories. By the way, Atheists don't need to be told what is right and wrong, we know what is and do follow the "Teachings of Jesus" we just don't believe that there is a God, that is just silly.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
  10. juan

    There is NO need to debate whether God exist or not. Faith for me is matter of personal choice. Let the atheist do their thing and let the religious live there life. I for one, is a FORMER ATHEIST, but I now believe in GOD. It is so because of my personal experience in life. As I said its personal, no amount of billboard nor rally will ever change me.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • Eric

      guess you weren't really good at it then.

      Either way, until the religious stop taking people's rights away and sticking their nose into things that are none of their business we will have to remain out spoken. When a parent lets a child die from diabetes because they refuse to get medical attention because they thing god will fix them, we have no choice but to show the religious that their believe is irrational and dangerous.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • 5thApe

      Which god did you pick? Just wondering how one makes that choice 🙂

      March 23, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • KM

      Juan : you should see a neurologist. There have been studies linking brain atrophy with born-again / later-in-life religious conversions. Google it yourself.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • Razier

      Exactly, don't bother us and we won't bother you.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
  11. Maxx

    It is interesting;

    To listen to atheists speak about how logic and reason will prevail and the world will become one. Unfortunately there is no greater body of evidence than mankind's complete and total history to bear witness that this is itself; a fantasy. This history bears witness that regardless of religious or irreligious beliefs, religion or non-religion is not the problem. We are.

    Atheists and theists simply differ in how to tackle our problem. However, the senseless murder of tens of millions of people during the twentieth century by atheistic godless governments does not convince me atheism holds any real answers.

    Good evening.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • Varangian

      At least you said something different. Diversity is always great.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • catholic engineer

      Maxx, you have spelled it out precisely. At the bottom of everything lies human nature. And you have pointed up a fact that is apparently so big that people can't see it: That the twentieth century was the bloodiest and most godless century in human history.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
    • Gabe

      The relationship between atheism and murders committed under Communist totalitarianism is not causal.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • Eric

      actually per capita we've been becoming less and less violent. And atheism had nothing to do with the wars of the 20th century. It was man who wanted power for himself instead of fighting for the power of god.

      Once we shed the religious veil and we can have an honest discussion on why humans are how they are and what we can do as a group to get along we will continue to have warring factions. We are communal animals. We have to depend on the group for survival. We do this everyday. We just need everyone to understand that.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
  12. Josh

    Why did Silverman protest a cross at the World Trade Center? It is just people practicing their freedom of expression.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
    • Eric

      Using government money to endorse a specific religion is a violation of the first amendment.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • AGuest9

      All part of the PR biz, unless, of course he did so because a lack of other symbols of faith. Were there plans for a crescent or a star of david, or a peace symbol at the site, as well? If not, then there is inequality inherent in the memorial , since muslims, jews, buddhists, sihks, agnostics, people who were atheist, as well as members of other belief systems died there on that day.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • catholic engineer

      @AGuest9 " there is inequality inherent in the memorial , since muslims, jews, buddhists, sihks, agnostics, people who were atheist, as well as members of other belief systems died there on that day." Of course, you're very much right in that everyone suffered. But of all religious symbols, none addresses human suffering more profoundly than the cross.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • Clyde M

      "It is just people practicing their freedom of expression."

      No, it was just people practicing their freedom of expression...WITH PUBLIC FUNDS. That was the crux of the issue. You do have a right to freedom of religious expression. You do not have a right to publicly funded freedom of religious expression.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • Sundays off

      I would think Holocaust survivors and their star of David might disagree.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • ammamaw

      thank you, Eric. What IS it about the 1st Amendment that people don't understand?

      March 24, 2012 at 2:44 am |
  13. Liz

    The Bible itself is the exact Words of God. If the Bible wasn't true, i wouldn't have been able to endure so many years. The truth of the Bible and of God's reality and power have been proved through the millions of miraculously changed lives over the years.

    Deuteronomy 10:17- "For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes."

    Psalms 33:12- " Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance"

    March 23, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • PRS2cube

      Hmmm...what about the Vedas?

      March 23, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • Eric

      Look up the argument from antiquity. Just because a book is old doesn't make it true. Why aren't you Hindu or Buddhist? They've been around longer.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • honesty

      wow.... completely reliant on irrational thought. nice!

      March 23, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
    • Michael

      So... therefore the Qur'an is ALSO true because it has been able to endure for so many years? Yet you, being a Christian, must believe that Muhammad did not in fact hear the last word of God. So your logic is horribly flawed, if you can even call your argument logical at all.

      Just because people are happier with Christianity, or that it "changed their lives" doesn't mean that is is true. Your confusing goodness and truth. I agree that religion is often good for promoting morals and responsible behavior (although it is often abused as well), but it simply does not mean that it is TRUE.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • AGuest9

      That's why there are at least three major protestant versions: the new international version, the new American standard bible and the King James version. There is also the St. Joseph edition of the new American bible, used by catholics. Since the text has changed between versions and throughout the years, which are the exact words of god?

      March 23, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
    • Dan

      Religion is Like a Penis

      It’s fine if you have one.

      It’s fine if you like it.

      But just don’t whip it out in public and start waving it around.

      But most of all, don’t go shoving it down other people’s throats.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • 5thApe

      The bible exactly true???

      You mean this?

      Numbers 31

      31:17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.

      31:18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

      Your god is sick. Either that or these are the words of a bronze aged tribe.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
    • Wanderer

      ' The Bible itself is the exact Words of God.'

      Please name someone who heard God spoke his words that are written in the Bible.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • Razier

      Liz, I suggest you reread the gospels if you really thing the bible is the word of God and not full of errors. Read the geneaologies for Jesus listed in Matthew and Luke. They are conflicting. They can't both be true. Matthew has Jesus born at the time of Herod, but Luke has Jesus born during the census of Quirinius which was years after Herod's death. The baptism of Jesus by John is very different depending on which gospel you read. The gospels have different people acting as the high priest during Jesus's trial (There was only ONE high priest at a time back then). Mark's gospel makes numerous errors when detailing Jewish traditions, every single one of the empty tomb accounts is different. Most bibles today have verses that were not in the originals. For example, the gospel of Mark ends at 16:8 with the women leaving the empty tomb so scared that they do not tell anyone about what happened there. Another example is the story about the adultress that Jesus saves from a stoning. That wasn't in the early manuscripts, it was added much later. Same with the verse from John that explicity states that the father, son, and the holy spirit are one. That is the only explicit statement of the trinity and it was added by Erasmus in the 16th century!!!! This is just the a small small example of the errors in the bible.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
  14. b4bigbang

    Sundays off: Our belief is not a belief. Our principles are not a faith. We do not rely soley upon science and reason, because these are necessary rather than sufficient factors, but we distrust anything that contradicts science or outrages reason. We may differ on many things, but what we respect is free inquiry, openmindedness, and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake.
    Christopher Hitchens

    Wow, Atheism already has scripture! Are the quotes of Hitchens and others from your fold published in black leather covers?

    March 23, 2012 at 10:00 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 10:03 pm |
    • Sundays off

      Nope. The words of a public intellectual can express my sentiments much more eloquently and concisely than myself. I can see the parallel you are drawing though. These words though come from someone much more educated than those who created your so-called scripture.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
    • mandarax

      I'm interested too, b4. Defend your claims, or do you guys indeed just make stuff up?

      March 23, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
  15. Bootyfunk

    religious groups call other religious groups not accepted by society a "cult". once a cult is accepted by society, it is called a "religion". once a religion is no longer practiced by any, it is called a "mythology". this happens to all cults/religions. chrisitianity will go the way of the dinosaur, just like all the others.

    people are starting to wake up. reason festivals like this one are helping. if you are an atheist looking for an ethical system, try Humanism. it promotes equality, compassion, logic, reason, responsibility and other great qualities. no rules saying to kill g.a.y.s or to keep women subjugated. i challenge any christian to show that Humanism, a modern, atheistic ethical system, doesn't hold better values than the bible, a book written when people thought the earth was flat. and you can leave out "because you are a sinner/bad person for not believing in Yawweh).

    March 23, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      well said.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
  16. Sapient

    The difference between atheists and religious people is that atheists don't care what anyone believes, and they don't proselytize. Religious people care far too much what others believe, and demand through constant proselytizing, that everyone else believe exactly what they believe. Religion starts wars and flies you into buildings. Science flies you to the International Space Station.

    March 23, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • Varangian

      Wait, atheists don't proselytize? Than what's the point of this rally?

      March 23, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
    • Eric

      to show we exist. when was the last time an atheist came knocking at your door to try to convert you?

      March 23, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
    • Varangian

      When's the last time a religious fellow came knocking on my door trying to convert me? That's right, never. I tend not to see examples of either, really.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
    • Eric

      Seriously? Where the hell do you live then. Because I'd had Mormons and Jehovah's witness come to my door 7 times that I can distinctly remember and i've lived in the bible belt and in new england.

      It's easy to get them to leave when you answer the door just in your boxers.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
  17. Wanderer

    A true ordinary man is genuine product of God.

    March 23, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
  18. archimedes109

    If I were royalty, and living a life of luxury while the commoners under my rule toiled to survive, I might worry that they could become discontented. If that happened, they might wonder why their lives were so hard, while mine was so comfortable. In fact, if it got bad enough, they might even decide I was a less-than-honorable person, and unworthy of their loyalty.

    However, what if I could convince them to stay in their places, and remain passive? Maybe I could promise them some future reward for being docile...for turning the other cheek...Even better; what if I could convince them that they could endure suffering in this world because it was meaningless? What if I could convince them that their true reward would come...after they die?

    Yeah! Then I would truly be the shepherd, and they the sheep...

    March 23, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • Sam

      It's nice to know I'm not the only one in the world who thinks this way, so comforting, maybe there is hope for humanity afterall

      March 24, 2012 at 1:06 am |
  19. Fake god

    Those corrupted Christians and Bush bankrupted America.
    Let's vote for the Mormon cult and hope his god can fix America and gullible Americans.

    March 23, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
  20. Ashrakay

    Religious people: It's only a matter of time. Just like racism, your fantasy-based meme will slowly die. It won't happen immediately. Maybe you won't even see much change in your lifetime. But IT WILL happen. This is simply because reason and religion cannot coexist. You either use good logic or flawed logic. As the world becomes more compet.itive and progressive, those with good logic will have a compet.itive advantage over those using flawed logic. And when religion is on its deathbed, the final release of its degenerative disease infecting the brain will come in the form of 2 thoughts: 1) There is no god. 2) Hey, natural selection IS true. Go figure.

    In the meantime, reality awaits you with loving arms.

    March 23, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
    • James

      Get a hold of yourself....it sounds like you're sobbing,

      March 23, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      @James, Genius.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • bannister

      I don't think the "racism" analogy is accurate. In fact, I think that racial egalitarianism – and not racism- is the fantasy meme.

      All over the world, Blacks consistently score lower on IQ test than Whites or Asians regardless of income level, education, national origin, etc. There are mountains of supporting data that show differences in brain size, skull shape, testosterone levels, crime rates, mating patterns, etc – and yet liberals retain the FANTASY that "all the races are equal" and that Blacks are just as likely as Whites to launch space shuttles, but somehow – they just haven't had the chance yet. LOL.

      The rigid orthodoxy of racial egalitarianism is actually very similar to a fundamentalist religion. Like religion, it has it's saints (Martin Luther King) it's mantras (Diversity is a Strength!) and a set of social controls (political correctness) to keep it's adherents in line. Anyone who isn't a "true believer" is vigorously excommunicated from polite society and they are labeled a "racist" which is the modern equivalent of the label "heretic."

      March 23, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.