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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. Lala

    The founder of American Atheist group who got rid of prayer from public school was kidnapped and murdered by another Atheist......... LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!!!!!!!! I hope Silverman gets heartattack

    March 23, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • *sigh*

      Religious people are so nice and loving.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • Chris

      Typical ignoranous!

      March 23, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • Jamie

      Spoken like a true Christian. 96% of convicted murderers were religious BEFORE and AFTER they committed their crimes. I can't wait until the future when you "believers" are begging in the streets for money. Next time you use medicine and technology, remember that these products come from atheist. Please do not reproduce.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
  2. Ex Atheist

    Reasons why Atheism is TERRIBLE and unhealthy for our children and living things...

    † Atheism is a religion that makes you stupid, ignorant & blind.
    † Atheism is a disease that needs to be treated.
    † Atheism makes you post stupid things (90% of silly comments here are posted by closet Atheists)
    † Atheist are satanic and have gothic lifestyle.
    † Atheists causes problem in our religious society.
    † Atheists are mentally ill, that's why they have no faith.
    † Atheism won't take you to kingdom of heaven and paradise.
    † Atheism making you agree with Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot & other terrible mass murder leaders.
    † No traditional family lifestyle, no holidays, no culture, boring and feeling 'outsider'
    † Atheists are angry, drug additcted and committ the most crime.
    † Atheist try to convert people over internet because they feel "safer" behind closet.
    † Atheists do not really exist, they just pretend that they don't believe in God and argue with religious people.
    † Atheists have had terrible life experience, bad childhood and not being loved.
    † Most Atheists are uneducated... No Atheists could run for presidency.
    † Atheism brought upon the French Revolution, one of the most evil events of all of history.
    † Atheism cannot explain the origins of the universe, therefore God exists.
    † All atheists believe in evolution, which means they don't believe in morality and think we should all act like animals.
    † The Bible says atheism is wrong, and the Bible is always right (see: Genesis 1:1, Psalms 14:1, Psalms 19:1, Romans 1:19-20)
    † Countries where Atheism is prevalent has the highest Suicide rate!

    †† Our Prayers goes to Atheists to be mentally healthy and seek their creator ††

    March 23, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • Chris

      Your a troll !

      March 23, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • Reality

      Only for the newcomers:

      The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

      Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
      Jerusalem.

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
      and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

      Amen
      (references used are available upon request)

      March 23, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • Reality

      Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are either agnostics or atheists depending on what biography you read.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • NJBob

      Thank you for sharing your unfathomable ignorance.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • anthony poole

      It's people like you that are preventing this country from getting past religion and succeding, all of those statements are BS

      March 23, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • Jamie

      I don't even know where to begin. Just like the bible and most christians, you have just about all your facts completely wrong. No need to pray for us idiot. We are not deficient in any areas.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • shinden58

      Ex Atheiest, I doubt you were ever an atheist, rather you are probably a christian that believes in imaginary friends. Show me once item scientific proof that god exists. Oh sorry you can't, you would rather believe in the Easter Bunny. I will stick with stuff that can be proven through scientifically verifiable evidence.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:14 am |
  3. Puzzled in Peoria

    Being an atheist is great. Except maybe on Mother's Day, when your Mom forces you to prove scientifically that you love her.

    March 23, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • *sigh*

      Your mom makes you do that? Maybe you two should seek family therapy. Or better, try Atheism. We understand the emotion of love. We don't need fairy tails to help us.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
  4. Imam

    Insallah Allah kill david silverman.....

    March 23, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
  5. Lewis Craig

    I hate to inform Mr. Silverman, but Mr. Dawkins is dead. That is his first mistake. The first of many.

    March 23, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
  6. Jan

    I hope a lightning struck those nasty atheists on the rally!!!!

    March 23, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
    • *sigh*

      Nah! Because your wrathful god does not exists. We're just fine – thanks.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • NJBob

      Spoken like a true Christian.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • enigma

      Newsflash: He/She isnt a Christian. But I am, and I wouldnt wish that on anyone. SMH.

      March 25, 2012 at 12:54 am |
  7. Justin Hamaker

    It's only in the last year or two that I have really become outspoken about being atheist. I know that it has cost me some friends, but I also hope it has opened some eyes. My message generally comes from a position of reason, kindness, and mutual respect. I try to avoid being overly critical of religion.

    In general, I would be perfectly content to leave the religious to their beliefs and not worry about it. However, it is painfully obvious from observing the American public that most people have faith in the idea of god because of ignorance. You see it in discussions of science, politics, history, and many other topics. Ask the average person about "under God" in the pledge or "In God We Trust" on our money, and they will tell you that it's always been that way. As the average person about evolution, and they will give you answers that show they don't even have a basic understanding of what it is.

    My point is I would be just fine with people and their beliefs if they were coming from a position of education where they actually understand the competing idea. Where they can understand Christianity within the true historical context.

    March 23, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
    • Chris

      Great comment Justin!

      March 23, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
  8. *sigh*

    I never understood true joy in living until I stopped believing. All religions oppress. Atheism delivers us from oppression. Truth is freedom. JOIN US. You know you want to.

    March 23, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
    • Puzzled in Peoria

      No, I don't want to. "I am the way and the truth and the life," Jesus said.

      I know the truth, and He is it.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • *sigh*

      WHo? DOn't know the guy. Sounds like a used car salesman to me.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • Chad

      Get away from religion, Jesus Christ didnt care for religions either.

      I wish Christians going through a season of doubt would be as skeptical about their doubts as they are about their faith. Do some investigation!

      March 23, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
  9. b4bigbang

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

    Really? How so? No proof? Specify please. What kind of proof are you requiring?

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

      Hey, b4, why are you such a liar?

      March 23, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      If you had a shred of proof, b4, you'd stop stalling and produce it.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
  10. *sigh*

    Wish I could be there. I support the Atheists of America. We are the future.

    March 23, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • NJBob

      Absolutely!!

      March 23, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • anthony poole

      Amen.-haha

      March 23, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • Jamie

      Hells yeah!!! 3 cheers for reason, civility, tolerance, education, progress, science, change, environment, animals, health, and respect for women. All the things that Christianity not only doesn't support, but hinders.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
  11. The Age of Aquarius

    Jesus is historomythical interpretation of the Egyptian sun god Horace. All of the main points' about Jesus' life, death, and resurrection were a direct plagiarism of Horace's life. The ten commandments originate in the ancient Egyptian script "The Book Of The Dead".

    Christianity is all based on ancient sun and astrological-based religions that were around thousands of years beforehand. Read a book instead of blindly parroting your dogma on the rest of us.

    March 23, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      Zeitgeist has already been thoroughly exposed as a pseudo-intellectual fraud, Aquarius.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • Puzzled in Peoria

      First, it's Horus, not Horace, and you're rehashing that from some atheist junk you read years ago that some other atheist rehashed. That atheist propaganda was disproved decades ago. Get up on the latest scholarship and stop repeating dead drivel.

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

      You're right, I shall go back and read my bible where we have 800 year old people dolling out ribs to talking snakes. That's the ultimate source of truth.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
  12. madonfan

    It isn't hard to see why a Jew would become an atheist. They are still trying to keep laws and are never sure of their atonement of sins. If you really examine the whole scope of Christianity, you will see that if Jews are right and a messiah is still coming, then where is the atonement for the Gentiles? The bible doesn't call for Gentiles to become Jews not even in the Torah. So does that mean that everyone else is damned and does not have atonement? Atheists must think we are innately good and we choose to be evil. Not so. We got our morality from somewhere. The laws of America were set on the precepts of God. The Mayflower brought over a copy of the bible when they arrived. The bible says that God will give people to their own dilusons about what they believe if they harden their heart to Him. Some people will never believe. We got here somehow. People need to get right or get left. Jesus is coming back!

    March 23, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • momoya

      Humans made morals and gods.. Neither is dependent upon the other, and plenty of god believers have acted totally immoral..

      March 23, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • Jamie

      You're an idiot, plain and simple.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
  13. actor1611

    It's people like this that should be dragged out into the street and shot. To dedicate your life to bringing down someone else's beliefs is so ridiculous. What's next? A gang of people traveling to grammar schools throughout the country, speaking to classes and telling them there is no such thing as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny? Let people live the way they want to live. Let them believe what they want to believe. I wonder if the atheists ultimate journey is to make people believe what they believe? If that 's the case, they are no better than what they're fighting. To believe so strongly in fighting against something you don't believe in, there has to be some faith there. Maybe I should lead a pilgrimage around the country fighting all of those who believe in unicorns. "You're crazy!! There are no such thing as unicorns ya big dummy!!" Is it me or does that just sound ridiculous?

    March 23, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • momoya

      Clearly, you are not understanding the facts presented.. Perhaps if you take the article to a grammar school and get some help in comprehension.. There are some longish words in there..

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

      I agree as long as your belief in unicorns does not hurt anyone. As soon as you start harboring young unicorn pedophiles or adjust your foreign unicorn policy to start wars upon the turban-wearing horses, it might be wise to have some people around who question your belief structure.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
    • anthony poole

      Is what he is doing any different than those people going from door to door and spreading "the word of Jesus"? you are so hypocritical when saying he should be shot for bringing down otheers peoples beliefs when you are bringing down HIS beliefs. Think before you speak.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • KT

      Actually it has been Christian missionaries who dedicated their lives to "bringing down someone else's beliefs" and baptising the "natives"

      March 23, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • John McGurk

      The irony of this is killing me. To "us", God, Jesus, Allah, Jehova, Yaweh, Buddah, Krishna, unicorns, the Easter Bunny, and last but not least, Santa Claus are different shades of the same color.... Imaginary/fictional characters from top to bottom.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
    • Jamie

      It's definitely you. Unicorn and Santa Claus believers aren't bombing anything or degrading women and gay people. Religion is infecting every part of progress in this country. Read the bible if you don't believe me. We are saying that it is not ok to support these beliefs and that Christians should be put in the same category as those who do believe in unicorns. Talking snakes, raping and pillaging, rising from the dead, burning bushes that talk, returning to bring hell upon earth. Give me a fuc!@#ng break!

      March 23, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • Cesar

      "...be dragged out in the street and shot"??? Wow, I hope you don't call yourself a christian, a follower of Jesus, the man who said "love your enemies" , but the reality is many of so-called Christians are not Christians. Let us read the words of Jesus and try to follow them instead of hating people because tey disagree with us. Peace.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • actor1611

      Somehow I knew a bunch of people would comment on this bashing my every word. First off, I never said what I believe. Second, yeah maybe the 'dragged into the street & shot' was a bit overboard. I never comment on these things because there will always be people who don't believe what you believe and are waiting for that sliver of a moment to shoot down whatever you say & try to make you feel like you said nothing at all. I have no problem with what he believes. I think he's wrong. But that's my opinion. Everything every single person writes on here is their own opinion. It doesn't mean it's right... No matter what anybody out there thinks about anything, there will always be millions of people who think the exact opposite of you. Wonder what this guy is gonna do if one day nobody believes in God. Is he going to feel a sense of self-accomplishment? I myself believe. For those who don't, that's you. I can't prove the existence of anything. But then again, you can disprove it either.

      March 24, 2012 at 1:29 am |
  14. retief1954

    So, if this guy is an "atheist agitator" as the link suggests, let's talk about who is America's biggest "Christian agitator". How about identifying the biggest "Jewish agitator"? "Muslim agitator"? "Born-again agitator"? "Evangelical agitator"?

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

    When Silverman lied at his bar mitzvah, and he said "he hated it," where does this sense of right & wrong come from? Seems to me that Silverman is acknowledging some kind of moral standard when it comes to not telling what he thinks is the truth. Where does this moral standard come from? Could Silverman actually be acknowledging the existence of God and God's moral standards and not even know it? I'd think a true atheist wouldn't care about telling the truth. For them there is no God, so what does it matter if they tell the truth or not? So is Silverman really an atheist?

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

      Is your god moral? If no, why would I obey it? If yes, morality doesn't come from god.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • jorgath

      Or, you know, there could be the ability to tell right from wrong without religion. Immanuel Kant's principle of ethics essentially holds that one should not do anything that would be harmful if everyone did it, which is philosophical, not religious.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • dark paul

      A sense of right and wrong does not have to have religious roots. Common sense and human decency are not exclusively a religious phenomenon and existed for millenia before Christian-Judaic laws came to be. Don't be so self-righteous.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
    • tnfreethinker

      Curious...are you saying that if you did not fear god, you would feel free to lie? What next? Cheat? Steal? Kill? As an atheist, I believe I only have one life and I intend to make the best of it. The only way to have a happy and fulfilling life is to do the right thing. Morals do not come from god. It's sad that you must be bullied to do the right thing.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
  16. Brian

    So in the Atheist's world view there is no evil, murder is not wrong, and this "heaven" as they describe our current existence, which for many is filled with inexpressible heartaches, ultimately has no meaning. Yeah, ok. I think I will embrace the message of Jesus Christ who said "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Moral judgements, by necessity, implies a standard that is outside of human experience. If moral judgements are merely subjective, then the notion that murder is wrong, is just someone's opinion. Objective and absolute moral judgements are necessary for human existence and ultimately points to something or someone beyond ourselves. As Greg Bahnsen and Van Til stated quite clearly in their writings, one of the greatest arguments for the existence of God is the impossibility to the contrary. If you say if God did not exist then there would be no religious tyranny or persecution. I would then say to such a person, you are implying that such things are wrong, and if so, where do you get your sense of right and wrong from and more importantly, WHY does every human being have such a sense? If morals are merely subjective and conventional, then they cease to be standards and all of human existence breaks down. Guilt is real. Justice is real. Evil is real. Nobody argues that. However the Atheist cannot account for such things in their world view.

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

      Not sure where you're compiling your information on the "atheist world" but I think you should educate yourself.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • NJBob

      I feel really bad for you. It saddens me to see how poorly informed you are.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • *sigh*

      Uh. Not even close. Too many fantasies, not enough rational thought. Atheists are good people – all by themselves.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
    • Brian

      Both comments are based upon ad hominem attacks.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      For example, most atheist think that the mur.der of women and children is evil. Yet this is precisely what god ordered in the bible. We also think it would be evil of a god to tell a man to kill his own child just to test him. Yes, we believe in evil. And atheism IS the justice coming to balance the evils of religion.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • Brian

      "Atheists are good people – all by themselves." So where does your standard of good come from? This is my point exactly. So far none of these repliers even took a minute to consider what I said. All they did was employ the standard ad hominem attacks that most religious people endure when confronting the ignorance that is Atheism.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
    • Wanderer

      I am not sure, either. But I can say your view about the 'atheist world' is as delusive as your 'religious view'.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I don't know of any atheist who believes that murder is not wrong. It's wrong because it infringes on the rights of others. I don't need an invisible fairy to tell me that something is 'wrong'.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • Brian

      "For example, most atheist think that the mur.der of women and children is evil. Yet this is precisely what god ordered in the bible. We also think it would be evil of a god to tell a man to kill his own child just to test him. Yes, we believe in evil. And atheism IS the justice coming to balance the evils of religion."

      How can an Atheist ascribe to the notion of evil? By what standard do they use to judge? Evil implies that there is good. What standard do we use to judge something good? How does such standards even play into a materialistic world view that all Atheists ascribes to?

      March 23, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • Brian

      "I don't know of any atheist who believes that murder is not wrong. It's wrong because it infringes on the rights of others. I don't need an invisible fairy to tell me that something is 'wrong'."

      So what makes infringing on the rights of others wrong? I used murder as an example because 99.9% of humanity would agree it is wrong. However according to the Atheist, there are no ABSOLUTE laws of morality. That means morals comes down to subjective opinions and conventions and ulitimately, and if this is true then there is no such thing as good and evil and murder being evil is just your opinion. This is what is so funny about this debate. Everyone is using moral judgements, but no one is actually thinking about where these judgements come from. We are in presupposing a universal standard of morals that everyone has an obligation to live according to while arguing away its very foundation. Whether you like it or not, everyone has to live by that Fairy's Law. It is written in our hearts and we cannot escape from it's requirements.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      @Brian, What we define as evil can be ascribed to that which is a detriment to survival. Evil does imply good and those are human standards which have nothing to do with religion. The concept of dualism has been written about long before the Abrahamic god popped onto the scene. You are the one that makes the assumption that god is required for good to exist. It's circular logic. As to the "materialistic world view that all Atheists ascribes to" that you're referring to, you'll need to be more specific as I have know idea what you're referring to. I happen to be an altruist and existentialist.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      @Brian, There is no ABSOLUTE law against murder. We know this is true because animals do it freely, as do humans. If the laws were absolute, then we would be incapable of breaking them. If we went by the "absolute" laws of the bible we'd still own slaves kill our kids when they disrespected us, find r.ape to be acceptable as long as it's followed by marriage and that it's okay to marginalize women because they're women.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      @Brian, one last thing... all of your questions have been answered by Sam Harris in The Moral Landscape. Go read a book.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • Brian

      @Ashrakay,
      You are still avoiding the fundamental question. Where does your standard that allows you to judge anything good or evil, come from? What makes the survival of our species the ultimate good? Atheists do not hold to anything absolute. I have been to enough of their conferences where they make that abundantly clear. So if there are no absolutes morals, then your opinion and mine are subjective and ultimately of no consequence. Nothing matters in an Atheistic universe. You and I both assume good exists. The presupposition is there clearly in our posts. Yet you do not question why does this "concept" of good exists and why such a concept is universal and inescapable. Circular logic? The Atheist is just as guilty of circular reasoning/logic as the Christian. What I mean by materialistic is that the majority of atheists believes in only those things that can be explained by the workings of matter and energy, i.e. our physical universe and world.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:01 am |
    • Brian

      "one last thing... all of your questions have been answered by Sam Harris in The Moral Landscape. Go read a book."

      My questions were rhetorical, obviously. Your replies? Condescending. Nice way to think of others that disagree with you. That is why I always laugh when I hear atheists talk about how "tolerant" they are.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:10 am |
    • Brian

      @Ashrakay said, "There is no ABSOLUTE law against murder. We know this is true because animals do it freely, as do humans. If the laws were absolute, then we would be incapable of breaking them. If we went by the "absolute" laws of the bible we'd still own slaves kill our kids when they disrespected us, find r.ape to be acceptable as long as it's followed by marriage and that it's okay to marginalize women because they're women."

      So a law is not law because we are capable of breaking it? That doesn't even make sense. The Laws given in the Bible were of different categories. There were laws concerning the Tabernacle that obviously had an expiration date, i.e. once the tabernacle was no more, those laws concerning it were no longer required or valid. There were cultural and national laws given to Israel, and were ONLY given to Israel, which meant other nations were not under the same obligation to keep them as Israel was. Then there are UNIVERSAL laws given to everyone that holds us accountable and will be used to testify against us on the Day of Judgment. This Universal Law is written on the hearts of everyone and explains why mankind has a universal, working definition of what is wrong and what is right. This Law/Standard says murder is wrong, absolutely wrong. The same Law says marriage infidelity is wrong. The same Law says stealing is wrong, dishonoring your parents is wrong, coveting your neighbor's property is wrong, Bearing false witness is wrong, and yes, worshiping other false gods is wrong. So if you are going to criticize the BIble for what it says to do and not to do, make sure you understand the context in which these commandments are given.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:20 am |
    • Ashrakay

      @Brian, An absolute refers to a thing which exists without being dependent on anything else. When you start spouting "context" then you remove absolutism. Let's take your universal law of marriage infidelity. David did it and was punished by being given the "wisest man to ever live" as his child. And from his marriage infidelity came the line of Jesus. Where is the "wrongness" here? "Stealing is wrong," yet the Israelites went in and stole the lands that belonged to the people of Jericho. These so called universal laws you have written on your heart are conveniently disregarded whenever justification is involved.

      For me personally, I know that humans created the concept of right and wrong as we evolved into societies. There is a human law that is universal but it applies to every living thing. Replicate. That which interferes with replication, bad. That which expedites replication, good. It's not complicated. It's genetic mandating. Billions of years before the concept of god evolved, we were putting this method to practice. The method and implementation has evolved, but the underlying act remains the same.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:54 am |
  17. American Entrepreneur

    God is Nature- Nature is God
    Humankind has a spiritual and moral responsibility to all life forms, indeed to life itself, to preserve and protect the only place in the entire Universe where we know for certain life exists.

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

      So we have a moral responsibility? Interesting. Where does one get his morals from? If you say they form as a result of our upbringing or culture, then such morals are subjective and just a matter of one's opinion. You have no right to say "your" morals are superior or better to someone else if both set of morals are based upon subjective standards. I love when someone appeals to an impersonal "spirit" while using very personal moral judgments to make their point.

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

      AE.. what? we are beings on a planet that happens to be favorable for life,, and we share it with other life forms which have as much right to be here are us. We need them possibly more then they need us... We are connected to every other life form and are very closely related , and owe our very existence to the universe..exploding suns... look it up......no god needed. God is no more nature than a oak twig makes a better magic wand.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • jorgath

      @Brian: From logic. Read Kant or Mill, and if you can overcome the headache (especially Kant), you can get a pretty good sense of morality based on the concept of "hurting people is bad for you and helping people is good for you."

      March 23, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • Brian

      "From logic. Read Kant or Mill, and if you can overcome the headache (especially Kant), you can get a pretty good sense of morality based on the concept of "hurting people is bad for you and helping people is good for you.""

      But do get my point? We have to appeal to a standard that is outside of ourselves to judge anything good or evil, right or wrong. However such a moral standard based upon Kant's does not stand the test of human existence. What if I believe I am doing good for a homeless person by murdering him and therefore ending his miserable existence. Does that make my act of murder right? According to Kant's philosophy it would.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Brian your "spirit" is called god.. just because you give him /it/ her a name does not make it any more real than American Entrepreneur.. Human morality existed long before we invented said gods. Humans are social animals and need each other to survive, it was part of our evolutionary heritage. We understood death and knew it was final...at least until we invented the afterlife.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
    • Brian

      "Brian your "spirit" is called god.. just because you give him /it/ her a name does not make it any more real than American Entrepreneur.. Human morality existed long before we invented said gods. Humans are social animals and need each other to survive, it was part of our evolutionary heritage. We understood death and knew it was final...at least until we invented the afterlife."

      You never even addressed my comments of why does such a morality exist. Why is it there. Telling me it existed is like telling me the Sun or Moon exists. Of course it existed. It has always been a part of human existence. As for death,, everyone understands this about it: it is terrible, unwanted, should not happen, and a scourge on our existence. Understand it? No, I don't think you really do.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:07 am |
  18. Funny

    It's funny how hypocritical he is. I respect his opinion and he has a right to it. But he's kidding himself if he thinks he's not warring against religion. Is it not just as intolerant to go demand Bibles be removed from hotel
    rooms? He doesn't have to read the thing, it's in the drawer. No one is preaching in front of him. Religious symbols and billboards stents shoving Christianity down his throat. His belief system is that God does not exist. Well by removing any speck of religion from public view, isn't he in effect making God disappear and thus shoving HIS views down MY throat? And the crosses at memorial sites like WTC? Get off it man! It's a memorial symbol. What do you want, FDNY to hoist a gigantic metal sad-face up? Should we go to every cemetary and demand that any cross be removed? Maybe HE should do a reason rally for himself...

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

      Anything that can be displayed in public also can be removed from public. Religion could put the Bible there that could also be removed by atheist. It is the law of appearing and disappearing.

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

      So let me see if I understand you. If there is nothing, that's shoving something down your throat.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
  19. Kenneth Pitchford

    Mandarax, your last comment is priceless. Thank you. As to the tis and taint, the commenters are often dogmatic about the same thing, whether in affirmation or denial. The important thing is to affirm being itself with no other codicils. Buddhists find it in meditation. I find it in trying always to be "in the moment," since it is the only one I have and it is disappearing as I speak or think and will not come again. Still, you must not grasp it, but give yourself completely to it, hoping for no reward. This is my creed as an atheist. It works for me. Good luck with whatever gets you through your night.

    March 23, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
  20. Mat

    David has every right to (not) believe in whatever it is he thinks is right. I believe in God. If the number of people who dont believe grows, then so be it. It shows the GOD i believe in are not making Robots.

    March 23, 2012 at 11:03 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.