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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. WDinDallas

    Ha ha ha. Figures, a Jew not happy that there are not so many left. Feel abandoned Silverman?

    Next thing they will want is a church and tax exempt status.

    Religion and science are compatable. The Father of the Big Bang theory was a Catholic Priest....

    But, it takes intelligence to recognize where one ends (science) and one begins (religion).

    March 23, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • thePapist0000001

      Nice one.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • Creature

      It's kind of hard to tell where the Catholic Priest ends and the banging begins, too.
      (yes, I did)

      March 23, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • Jon

      No. Religion and Science are not compatible in the slightest. There is no heaven. It's a fairy tale. Also you can not believe in the bible and evolution at the same time. It's just contradictory. With that same logic, the bible goes against the Big Bang. If someone believes in the bible, they believe God made the universe simply by saying, "Let there be light". The big bang was a violent powerful explosion beyond all imagination. They are 2 vastly different things. Don't give credit to God on things we explain with science.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
    • thePapist0000001

      "creature" haven't your parents sent you to bed yet? The adults are trying to have a conversation.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
    • thePapist0000001

      "Jon" your ignorance of the Bible and of science speak volumes of you lack of education perhaps if you went to a parochial school you would have faired better.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • WDinDallas

      I think Monsignor Georges Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaître explained it quite well. Check it out if you can handle the math and physics.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • Lisa

      Oh we know well where science ends and religion begins, it's pretty much the same line as where sanity ends and lunacy begins.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  2. thePapist0000001

    The agnostic is truthful, the athiest is a liar.To disobey the Church is to disobey God...

    March 23, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • Lisa

      Allah kicks God's behind.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • thePapist0000001

      Allah is a failed attempt to interpret God.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • Jon

      Only a true hypocrite would denounce every other God but their own with no proof that any god exists at all.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • Lisa

      Islam is the fastest growing religion. Doesn't look like failure to me.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • The Age of Aquarius

      Well my religion, The Protein Stain Upon The Velvet Couch, states very clearly in our doctrine that to deny our Spiritual Leader, Dick Yackoff, is uhh...your God sucks!

      March 23, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • thePapist0000001

      Crude insults are the recourse of a defeated person.

      If islam was the fastest growing religion then the mohammedons would out number everyone but they are too busy blowing themselves up to be of any consequence.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
    • thePapist0000001

      "Jon" what did I tell you about your ignorance please stop embarrassing yourself with your total lack of reason and education.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • mandarax

      Um papist, I thought that "Crude insults are the recourse of a defeated person."

      Wow, the cognitive dissonance is so immediate it's breathtaking.

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

      Pap, what part of "islam is the fastest growing religion" do you pretend not to understand?

      March 23, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
  3. Ana

    Why is 'movement' in accents? It's not valid enough? The whinging would never stop if they were referred to as
    'Catholics'.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
  4. DavidPaulSolomon

    Being a Christian is not a feel good thing. It is the hardest and most difficult thing in the world to do. Once you have felt God's presence you will never turn away from him. Many are called but only a few are chosen. Those who are claiming to be athiest may have been called but were not chosen. They have been cast out and what they have here on earth is it. If they are called it is never to late but they must repent and surrender their lives to God. When this is done all will be forgiven and a life like no other will be theirs. Being a Christian as hard as it is, is the most rewarding experience a person can have. It is all about loving your neighbor and being a Giver. So I give this please for life eternal repent from what you are saying about God and look at all he has done, he even died for you so that you may live with him in peace for ever.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • momoya

      Hey!! That used to be my old line for nearly 5 decades!! No longer!!

      March 23, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • Dave

      Cool Story

      March 23, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • Taylor

      Therefore, take My hand! Take My hand, all peoples!
      Grasp it, and come with Me as you are!...

      Come, all those who know not My ways;
      I will show you.

      Come, all those who have been abandoned;
      I will comfort you and give you shelter.

      Come, all those who are crippled;
      Let us run and leap for joy together.

      Come, all those faithless;
      I shall fill your cup, and watch how it overflows.

      Come, all murderers;
      Watch Me raise you, and all who sleep, from the grave.

      Come, all you who blaspheme,
      I will give you a new voice;
      Bring with you all those who are blind and deaf,
      For they too shall see and hear...

      Indeed, come all those who have sinned against Me, take My hand...

      I will lead you to the waters where I shall wash you,
      And where your new clothes hang upon the tree
      Which grows next to the stream.

      Come one, come all;
      Ask, and it shall be given you...

      All things are possible with God and made manifest through The Son.

      (Trumpet Call Of God Online Dot Com)

      March 23, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • Jon

      What exactly is God's presence? Do I have to worry about some Guy looking over my shoulder next time I take a shower?

      March 23, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • False Dichotomy

      Taylor, those sure are some lofty promises. There's an old saying: "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

      March 23, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • Lisa

      If he's dead, that's the end of it, time to become an atheist. If he's not dead, it was a sham, and you have been conned.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • Pastapharian

      Lols.really???

      March 23, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • Creature

      **What exactly is God's presence? Do I have to worry about some Guy looking over my shoulder next time I take a shower?**

      No, that would be his priest...

      March 23, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
    • Chad

      well said david

      March 23, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
  5. b4bigbang

    For a deeper understanding of evolution, physics and the universe, I recommend "A Universe from Nothing" by Lawrence Krauss.

    I'm glad one of you atheists brought this up! You posted Krauss' youtube lecture of this, and while skimming through it I found a comment Krauss made, saying "the best theory now is that the universe is flat".
    Wow, that's great! Krauss just gave unwitting testimony baking up the Bible's claims!
    The Old Testimate states that God streches out the heavens [like a sheet or scroll] and the New Testament says that the heavens will roll up like a [flat] scroll.
    Pretty good cosmology for bronze/iron age guys that didn't have giant telescopes, satellites, supercolliders, etc.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • False Dichotomy

      Lies.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • Chad

      Good stuff here, Craig decimates Kraus in a debate, give a listen:
      http://www.philvaz.com/CraigKraussDebate.mp3

      Lot of good stuff, my favorite was when Craig calls Krauss out for intellectual dishonesty by attempting to claim that his "universe from vacuum space" is actually "nothing" as in the absence of everything. Krauss backs down from it immediiately and acknowledges that indeed, what he had been claiming was "nothing" was no such thing (it has space, time, laws, etc) 🙂

      March 23, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • False Dichotomy

      I suspected you and b4bigbang might be one and the same. How about specifying those textbooks?

      March 23, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • momoya

      b4bigbang always runs away from questions he can't answer.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • False Dichotomy

      I've noticed. Especially when caught in an outright lie.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • False Dichotomy

      I've noticed. Especially when he's caught in an outright lie.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
  6. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 23, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • Dave

      Name something a Sugar Pill couldn't also change

      March 23, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • Dubious

      Incorrect. You think it changes things – really, its metaphysical nonsense.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • Lisa

      I'm praying that you grow a brain but it's not happening.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
    • WDinDallas

      Amen

      March 23, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
    • David

      The only thing that prayer 'changes' is your own outlook, by making you feel better about a situation while actually accomplishing nothing of any value whatsoever.

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

      Prayer has no more efficacy than sitting at home on a couch and wishing real hard.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      Ahhhhh, I've got it! If prayer changes things it could explain something.

      It could explain why tornado alley has a bulls eye on the buckle of the bible belt. How so you may ask? That could be explained all those bible belt people praying to their vengeful god to for severe westher to smite the sinners in their community.

      /sarcasm off/

      Could easily be believed by the credulous as they appear eager to link causation with correlation when not justified,
      especially when it fits their beliefs that have no evidentiary support.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
  7. The Age of Aquarius

    There will be a time in all of our lives where will not be alive anymore, both theists and atheists alike. Whatever the post-living scenario, I fully expect that all of you will wish you were still alive. Because of this, death is the greatest motivator in life regardless of what you believe.

    For theists, the point of life is a series of events done to please others, most notably, the almighty "God." Death is motivation to lead a pure life for fear of not being accepted to their ideal spiritual "heaven."

    For atheists, the point of life is more inward and selfish. The fear of not being remembered by the living after their death is the motivation to accomplish a life of purpose.

    We need good, spiritual people in life. We need selfishly driven people in life. We need theists and atheists. We need people who have faith and we need people who question it. It's a balancing act, and if you look around the world, countries that are well-balanced in this regard have a higher level of happiness and productivity.

    Freedom of religion is one of the main tenements of democracy. I could care less what people believe or don't believe, but I care greatly that I have the ability to decide for myself.

    Live and let live, for when the point at which we die arrives, nothing will matter but the time we had before our terminal moment.

    By the way, Christianity is a solar and astrologically based religion and almost a direct copy of ancient Egyptian religion, as were about 35 other pre-christian religions throughout the world and history. Watch the movie "Zeitgeist – The Movie" on YouTube to educate yourself.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • thePapist0000001

      That movie is so full of falsehoods...repent and believe in the Gospel for you do not know when the master will come home. To disobey the Church is to disobey God.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • Dubious

      Either thepapist is a troll or he's not using his entire brain... or both

      March 23, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • The Age of Aquarius

      Telling people to ignore history and repent for educating themselves is what a fascist does.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
  8. markojarvis

    Wow. Almost 1500 comments, and no one seems to realize they're all talking past their opponents and preaching to their own choir.

    I've searched in vain for a post that says anything along the lines of "Valid point." Maybe there are a few buried in their somewhere. Are we really so ignorant that we believe there is NOTHING about the opposite viewpoint that might make sense?

    March 23, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • Eric

      have you seen anything that was a "valid" point that we can discuss specifically. Cause so far all the theist "points" i've read so far aren't valid and have all been proved invalid over and over.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • ezg437

      I said it I said it! We've lost objectivity in this country. That is what I was saying. Live and let live people!

      March 23, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • mandarax

      Hmmm, you make a valid point, markojarvis.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • The Age of Aquarius

      Valid point.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
    • Exterminan The Destroyer

      I did not know that it is a contest, or game to get people to not believe. They are going to win? What's the prize?

      March 23, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • Lisa

      You don't make sense.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
  9. jimbo

    There are more atheists, agnostics and those religious in name only than people realize.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
  10. kgagliardo

    Sorry, I can't be there! I hope Bill Maher is!

    March 23, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
  11. Thinking Straight

    We live on a rotating round rock that gives us air to breath, water to drink, beauty to see, wonderful smells, colors, tastes, we feel many textures and we hear great things. Some see it as an evolution and others see it as a master plan put together by a higher power. Either way, we all see it. I just love being here and living in a great country and enjoy the ability to exist. In the beginning, God created, and I an so happy with his decision. Say what you want, but you do see his creation. It is magnificent, full of love, full of movement, full of learning, full of believing................Believing is O.K.

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

      Yes, believing is okay, and not believing is ok, too.. Why should religion expect to be above debate?.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • Sundays off

      You can't cherry pick what parts you want to believe in .
      The Bible may, indeed does, contain a warrant for trafficking in humans, for ethnic cleansing, for slavery, for bride-price, and for indiscriminate massacre, but we are not bound by any of it because it was put together by crude, uncultured human mammals.
      These are from the literal words of your God. So beautiful.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • ezg437

      AMEN! to that Sundays.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • Dubious

      Believing is "OK," like allowing your child to have an imaginary friend is "OK." It's fine until you reach the age where you should know better.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
  12. Aristocles

    So, are they fighting for the right not to have a religion? They've had it in America since before the year 1800!

    March 23, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
    • Pat

      Really? Then why is there "In God we trust" on our money? Look around. We are force fed your religious beliefs everyday.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • Varangian

      Do you believe it? No. Than what's the problem?

      March 23, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
  13. Bill

    Atheists and Evangelicals are both wrong. You're either happy with the mystery of it all or you're kidding yourself to make yourself feel better.

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

      How am I wrong?

      As an atheist I merely lack a belief in god. I do not claim there IS NO god, I merely lack a belief that there is due to the utter lack of any empirical evidence to support the idea. I posit no active claim.

      How is that wrong?

      March 23, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
    • sailor

      I'm not sure how this means atheists are wrong.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
    • plenty

      Good answer

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

      Want the simple truth about what exists after your death? Here it is: It's the same blackness in your personal universe that existed before you were born. Not a color, but a lack of consciousness. What do you remember prior to your first sense of the world? Nothing. That's the same nothingness that follows your death. That's it. Simple. No analysis. Accept the existence you have now as the only one you'll get in the universe. What a treasure, eh? Makes each moment more valuable knowing it's limited. Common sense, no fantasy about a place above the clouds or the nightmare of a so called "hell". These ideas were the legends of ignorant people in our deep rooted past to help the living and to provide leadership to show people their morals. We all have what it takes to do what's right without religious guidance. Just do it and you'll be free of the biggest lie of mankind.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • Bill

      Clyde, you're not wrong then, but you also don't fully believe in 'nothing'. Just accepting that the possibility is there puts you more towards the center. I'm referring to the people who steadfastly believe, either in nothing or a particular dogma. @Sailor, it means they're wrong because staking claim to an explanation of life, the universe and everything is fool-hardy. How many people believe how many different things? What are anyones chances of being right? How many are wrong? The only truth is to appreciate it for what it is, a gorgeously complex and intense mystery.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
    • Proud atheist

      Exactly. Heaven is here on earth. Why wait to enjoy it?

      March 23, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
    • Bill

      Ariel, you need to widen you're scope. You assume too much, starting with suggesting that the universe as we know it is the extent of this life. We know essentially what an atom is made of, space. We know there is light we can't see and sounds we can't hear surrounding us every day of our lives. Do you think there aren't other amalgamations of energy that our not only beyond our ability to detect, but to even conceive of. We can't explain matter nor time, the basic building blocks of our relationship to our lives, how could we come to any conclusions about what this life is or isn't? That being said, with the diversity we can see, and the depth that physics has show us so far, it is likely that we only understand the slightest fraction of what this existence is about, and we can only guess what's left to learn or if we even have the required physical bodies to be able to sense other dimensions. (Life may simply be a spark that is constrained by the physical properties of the 'being' it is inhabiting). Life may be infinitely more dynamic than you think, and what you know as the Universe may be just a small piece of the pie. and as far as 'the pie' goes...who knows what role, if any, 'matter' plays...we can't even explain it's existence or better yet, it's non-existence.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • Lisa

      What mystery? That religions and gods are the products of men, often shady men, is no mystery.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • Ariel

      Bill, you complicate things too much. You are only a human, nothing more. You do not need to think this out too deeply. Just free your mind from all your complicated thinking and go back to the simple common sense approach. Don't think too highly of yourself or "the pie". Live life as blissfully as you can and try to understand what's well within your grasp of life as you know it to be. Just live and appreciate your existance as simply as you accept breathing and all your other senses. If you want to not bore people and you wish for them to release themselves from the guilt that religion has provided. Keep it simple. Common sense...that's all one needs to understand what the truth really is. What you see and feel is the only essence of your being.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • Clyde M

      "Clyde, you're not wrong then, but you also don't fully believe in 'nothing'. Just accepting that the possibility is there puts you more towards the center."

      I'm an agnostic atheist. I don't claim to KNOW there is no god, but I lack a BELIEF in one. I don't think that is "toward the center," because I don't belief there is a "center" in such a debate. This isn't a soft science, in the end someone will be right and someone wrong. It's kinda like saying there's a center on the "earth goes around the sun/earth doesn't go around the sun" debate.

      Anyway, spend any time with atheists and you'll find most are agnostic atheists (also known as soft/weak/negative/or implicit atheism). That atheism can mean EITHER having an ACTIVE belief against OR that one merely LACKS a belief altogether.

      March 24, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  14. plenty

    I'm about 50/50 on atheism vs religion, I guess I like to hedge my bets.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
    • Ariel

      Want simple truth about what exists after your death? Here it is: It's the same blackness in your personal universe that existed before you were born. Not a color, but a lack of consciousness. What do you remember prior to your first sense of the world? Nothing. That's the same nothingness that follows your death. That's it. Simple. No analysis. Accept the existence you have now as the only one you'll get in the universe. What a treasure, eh? Makes each moment more valuable knowing it's limited. Common sense, no fantasy about a place above the clouds or the nightmare of a so called "hell". These ideas were the legends of ignorant people in our deep rooted past to help the living and to provide leadership to show people their morals. We all have what it takes to do what's right without religious guidance. Just do it and you'll be free of the biggest lie of mankind.

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

      Are you Buridan's ass? Or maybe someone else's?

      March 23, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
  15. Sundays off

    who farted?

    March 23, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
  16. Religious person

    Hahaha atheists have an inferiority complex or something... What is it that they want exactly? they say they want free choice, they have it! No one is forcing them to do anything! So what if there's a religious billboard up or a book in a hote or a tc show on tvl. How is that being forced into it? You are grown ups arent you? Being religious doesnt hurt you so what are they fighting for? who are they protecting? there are much more important fights to fight. why arent they fighting billboards that are forcing young girls to starve themselves and have depression because of their body image? That's something that is actually negatively affecting people. and can hurt your children. Religious people are happy with their choice, religion brings them whatever confidence, peace, comfort they want internally. why are these guys so angry about that? you're the ones who are arguing to force your ideology on others. All atheists are gonna do is get religious people of different faiths to join together in solidarity and will get them to look at each other's beleifs more and consider them. Which is good. So bring it on.

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

      Well since you're asking... I personally want to weed out the disease of ignorance that's affecting people for the betterment of mankind as a whole.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • JaCrid2010

      As an athiest if I see a billboard and its religious...guess what...I stop looking at it and keep on driving. If something religious is in a public area who cares. Dont look at it. Just keep government and religion seperate.

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

      Atheists are open-minded people who don’t need anything hand down from your God. They don’t have inferiority complex because they don’t need protection from God. They are protecting simple-minded people from being poisoned by religions.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • AGuest9

      I became vocal to protect my children from the lies that people want to teach in this country as "science", such as a young earth, and that evolutionary biology is "wrong", and that big bang cosmology is "impossible". Silencing minority viewpoints of such a lack of belief in the supernatural and requiring belief in falsehoods to be in a leadership position in this country is the true danger.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      religious person... and you think it is fine for say, the catholics, to infest the minds of the young with images of hell, and the dislike of gay folks and protestants and almost every other religion? Religion is fear, you are fearful of a vengeful god, worried about sinning..your love of a god is no more than fear of thinking for your self ..this is a learned behavior and that is the reason you have to indoctrinate children...You cannot, will not ,and never will produce a god because he /she does not exist. Use your brain and put the time, energy and money into humanity rather than trying to buy salvation from a myth.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • Pat

      What do the Atheists want? How about peace? Maybe they want to stop the mass murder of millions of people due to organized religion? Have you heard of the Dark Ages? How about the Inquisition? How about the conquest of South America, 12 million dead? How about the Crusades? Shall I go on?

      March 23, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
    • Religious person

      Pat – if you think that religion is the only cause of wars then youre very ignorant. It's one thing to not know the details about the causes of every single war or the dark ages but to believe something so foolish puts you right up there on the list of fools, which is funny because people like you claim that religious people are fools. the korean war, WW2, WW1, vietnam, cold war, gulf war 1, gulf war 2, and the vast majority of conflicts that have ever occured in the world had nothing to do with religion. Even conflicts which had religious overtones, like the inquisition, weren't about religion, they were about land, resources, politics, economics, etc. It's about greed and preservation. Humans fight wars period. Even if there was no religion humans will fight wars, the two world wars were fought not for religion, the only nukes to have incinerated people werent dropped for religious reasons. dont kid yourself. you're the one living in a fantasy land. humans are related to apes and even chimps have "wars"

      March 23, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • Religious person

      EvolvedDNA and all others that have stated similar arguements – youre protecting people who have a fear of going to hell? how is that fear hurting them? they still function just like you. they still work, save their finances, have a family etc. ooohhh nooo kids are being taught about hell..annnd your point is? how is the knowledge of hell gonna affect them? they still live fullfilling lives. they're missing out on all the important things, like eating pork or beef or watching tv on sundays. you people don't have a clue about life. youre so fixated on worldly things, you gotta ask yourself does a girl wearing pants rather than a dress really care about that at the end when shes on her death bed? do you really think the stuff your "fighting" for is really what life is about? if you do, youre the mindless drones. humans have an urge to be anti stuff, thats why you touched things when you were a kid that your parents said not to. you're basically little 2 year olds in an adults body. or worse youre just a drone that finds it cool to be anti establishment. in the end youre the ones who are mindless.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • Exterminan The Destroyer

      The only difference between atheist dogma and church dogma is the existence or non existence of a higher power. Both are tend to want others to acknowledge that their system is right, and all others wrong. Atheists are just as dogged as church hierarchy in trying to "shove their beliefs down our throat". And what is with them saying" we are going to win"? What,is this a contest, a war? What is the prize. And egotistical gratification so they can say "I am right, and you are wrong."? I dunno, and i don't care. I believe in God, and I know that there is life after death. It isn't as Ariel says, blackness non consciousness. I do not think Ariel can say, because Ariel is not dead.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
  17. catholic engineer

    I knew a woman who virtually idolized the famous atheist Madeline Murray O'Hare. She went to a rally where Ms. O'Hare was speaking. The woman left the rally terribly disillusioned. She had hoped to hear a luminary, but instead found a very angry bitter O'Hare. THis rally bears watching. We've been told to imagine there's no heaven and the world will live as one. We'll see if a few hundred atheists of Silverman's temperament will live up to what they claim for themselves.

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

      You don't need a savior – atheist or theist. Ideas must stand on their own merit. If you care about the truth, you don't believe it just cause it makes you feel good.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • AGuest9

      "live up to what they claim for themselves"

      I guess I don't understand the concept. If you don't like something about yourself, then change. That is why many ended up leaving the church and its ways. I'm not sure why people see this process as part of a "movement" or an organization. This should be a very personal journey, one that is certainly enriching and fulfilling.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      CA.. no religion and the world will live as one...you have identified your self as catholic because it most likely makes you feel you are part of a better club than say..a Protestant, or Hindu. This is the division that religion causes. None of the religions have ever had their particular god, prophet materialize in the thousands of years that they have been waiting.. can you imagine the popes face if it is Mohammad that pops in one day ..a recipe .for war if there was ever one. No religion will admit it is wrong.. they will simply claim the other as Satan. the devil or some other manifestation of the human imagination. Break free of religion and become part of the real human race...

      March 23, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • Lisa

      Those who need idols are mental midgets, be they theists or atheists. Atheism doesn't need idols, it stands on its own. Thanks for playing though.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
  18. JLamp

    Interesting how his statements reflect he is fighting a battle. Reminds me of good versus evil...guess you just have to pick your side.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
  19. Bribarian

    no surprise it is a jew

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

      I thought the exact same thing. Jews seem to have a unique tendency to be "contrary" and at times, socially disruptive.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • Jon

      Yea, not surprising it is. There is a reason Jews have won over 170 nobel prizes while other religions like Islam have won less than 15. Even though there are only 15 million jews and over 1 billion Muslims. It's because they don't spend time on religion and actually get stuff done.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • Lisa

      Of course not. Jews own you, financially as well as intellectually.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
  20. capnmike

    Religion is an enormous hoax...if you believe any of it, you have been brainwashed, possibly since birth. It is time the human race grew up and tossed this gigantic clod of codswallop onto the trashpile of history where it belongs.. "Who made the universe?" Who Cares! We undoubtedly will never know, but it sure wasnt some supernatural invented guy-in-the-sky. Let us stop inventing fairytales about "who" created this planet, and instead devote ourselves to taking care of it, since no imaginary "god" is going to give us another one after we have finished screwing this one up.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • catholic engineer

      You've said more than you hoped, capn. In fact, the story of Genisis has many allegories. One is how humanity screwed up himself as well as paradise.

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

      ...another one is how knowledge is the enemy of faith. That faith crumbles with the slightest accrual of accurate information is indeed one of the strongest parables of the bible.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
    • Daniel

      The fool says in his heart.."Their is no God."

      March 23, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
    • worldlypatriotusaveteran

      Excellent! Thanks for sharing!

      March 23, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
    • mandarax

      A fool doesn't know the difference between "there" and "their"

      March 23, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      @Daniel, Naturally you'd expect a self-promoting book to criticize anyone who doesn't believe. You hear this argument from every cult leader and dictator.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
    • fairflair

      mandarax...
      That is not in the Bible. Actually, here are hundreds of stories and passages that exhort people to use their minds and follow wisdom. One is, "love the Lord your God with all your heart, MIND, and soul".

      March 23, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      fairflair.. why ?what use really is that.. why not love your fellow human beings and use your mind and brain for the betterment of them? how much money, effort and time is wasted on religion around the world in just one year? imagine that money put into research for disease. What possible use would the supposed supreme being want with , we are told, the lowly human mind, And what wisdom is there in the bible that humanity did not know before ? any cures for cancer? anything at all that would benefit us? it does not even treat women as equals...

      March 23, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • mandarax

      Fairflare: What do you mean that's not in the Bible? Adam and Eve are expelled from the garden for eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Allegories don't get much less subtle than that.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:39 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.