home
RSS
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.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

“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.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

“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. .

    Atheists needs to SHUT UP and leave us alone... I am sick and tired of their baby whining trying to take away our faith. WE ARE STRONG AND WE WILL NEVER DISAPPEAR YOUR MO´RONS!

    March 24, 2012 at 12:11 am |
    • *sigh*

      The truth hurts, I guess. There is no god. Belief is slowly disappearing from the earth. Good riddance.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:13 am |
    • loathstheright

      You first, dillhole.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:14 am |
    • The Age of Aquarius

      Trying to stifle dissent is what fascists do. Why can't atheists question you and your belief system?

      March 24, 2012 at 12:14 am |
    • EvolvedDNA

      noname...and you think that your views are inspired by a loving god....you are the reason people start to think and use reason.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • R

      Why is it we cannot question your point of view? Because you're scared of something? Scared that the faith you hold so dearly may be all for naught? You are the defitinition of irony, telling atheists to stop whining when you're sitting there crying like a baby.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:22 am |
    • loathstheright

      And what do you mean, "Your M0R0Ns"? I don't own any "M0R0Ns" but it seems you are one.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:28 am |
    • I_get_it

      @.

      You remind me of my 7 year-old, talking to himself in the mirror on Christmas Eve: "The kids say that Santa isn't real... but I believe - I DO BELIEVE!!!

      March 24, 2012 at 12:31 am |
    • R

      My rationale goes back to one of the fundamental laws of physics, matter cannot be created nor destroyed. It makes me believe it had to start somewhere but there is something the crazy religious invalids fail to acknowledge. Couldn't your so called "God" (for lack of a better word) just be some energy source that started it all? It doesn't give a f***, it isn't a conscious being, it just...is. Why don't they acknowledge that? Because they're weak minded and have to believe something higher cares about them. Giving yourself over to something unknown is an incredibly lazy form of faith. Don't be scared to admit that when you die, maybe you just I don't know...rot in the ground. Get over it.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:37 am |
    • jgthinker

      The vast majority of Atheists don't want you to change your beliefs. Believe in Santa Claus for all we care.
      Just shut up about your faith. Keep it to yourself in home and in church.
      Keep it out of our countries laws.
      Keep you mindless prayers out of my public space.
      God will never really back the US currency so take the late 19th century "In God We Trust" nonsense off our money.
      Prayer does not belong in school. You want your kids to pray in school, send to your church, don't waste my tax dime on teaching your kid myths and telling them it's true.

      Maybe when the self righteous, judgmental, mighty high rolling Bible thumpers sit down and shut up, Atheists will too.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:48 am |
    • R

      @jgthinker Probably the best post I've read all night

      March 24, 2012 at 12:52 am |
    • Thepacific

      I went to a feed store the other day. This young man told me Christians are now being deprived of their rights, their voices, and their way of life. Excuse me, I said, I thought it was you, christians, who have always attempted to infringe onto others' bedroom and personal matters. Your religions created more hatred than love, more division than unity, and much more conflicts than peace. God, as of now, exists only in a book written by would-be male terrorists (by today standard). You can do whatever with your god. You can sleep with him, feed him, breed him, and even screw with him if you like. Just stay out of our bedrooms and personal matters.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:57 am |
  2. John

    America is a Christian country.... Non-Christians should leave this country!!

    March 24, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • *sigh*

      Spoken like a true believer in christ – not democracy.

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

      You do realize how America was founded, right? Whether or not you do, your comment is either very hypocritical or very poorly sarcastic.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:12 am |
    • The Age of Aquarius

      Wow, you sound like the president of Iran. If Jesus read your post, he'd cry then turn into the Easter Bunny and poo out a talking snake into your stocking for Christmas.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:13 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      John, you are ent¡tled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.
       
      The likelihood that the US is a Christian country is directly proportional to the number of occurrences of the words "God", "Jesus", "Christ", "Christian", "Christianity", and "Bible" in the Const¡tution. Go ahead and count 'em up. We'll wait.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:25 am |
    • gavilansalvaje

      Your "Christ" wasn't a Xtian. He was jewish. And the term "christ" itself is something the greeks tacked on to your messiah's movement after it was redirected by Saul of Tarsus into a religion for gentiles.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:32 am |
    • Jadugara

      John,...I suggest you read article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli, written by our very founding fathers merely a few years after our nation was founded...

      "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

      March 24, 2012 at 12:41 am |
    • Thepacific

      It is surely time for men to think for themselves, and to throw off the authority of names so artificially magnified.
      - Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Short, August 4, 1820 (see Positive Atheism's Historical section)

      March 24, 2012 at 1:03 am |
    • Thepacific

      It is surely time for men to think for themselves, and to throw off the authority of names so artificially magnified.
      - Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Short, August 4, 1820 (see Positive Atheism's Historical section)

      Of publishing a book on religion, my dear sir, I never had an idea. I should as soon think of writing for the reformation of Bedlam, as of the world of religious sects. Of these there must be, at least, ten thousand, every individual of every one of which believes all wrong but his own.
      - Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Rev Charles Clay, rector of Jefferson's parish church in Albemarle County, Va., January 29, 1815

      Read and think.

      March 24, 2012 at 1:07 am |
  3. explainist

    When I tell people about the John Frum cargo cults of Vanuatu, they laugh at what the sillyunsophisticated natives believe
    When I tell people about Mormon beliefs they shake their heads at the things a fool will believe
    When I tell people about $cientology they shake their heads at the things a fool will pay to believe

    Then I say "Wait until you hear what Christians believe" annd they get outraged

    March 24, 2012 at 12:07 am |
    • I_get_it

      Right on, explainist.

      "When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours." – Stephen F Roberts.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:26 am |
    • gavilansalvaje

      Aren't mormons xtians?

      March 24, 2012 at 12:36 am |
  4. Jew

    I feel bad for Mr. Silverman.... In less than 60 years he will face the truth!

    March 24, 2012 at 12:06 am |
    • *sigh*

      He doesn't need to wait 60 years. He already knows the truth. No god – never was one.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:07 am |
  5. loathstheright

    The highest average educated part of the country, the Pacific NW, they are for some reason also the least Religious part of the country also....mmmmm.....inteligent people might see some sort of theme here.

    March 24, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • Jew

      Yep and high suicide rate too.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:07 am |
    • T

      What Pacific NW are you from?

      March 24, 2012 at 12:07 am |
    • loathstheright

      yeah, we get a bunch of Southerns who can't find any racists to mingle with and they go nuts when they realize that it really does rain that much here. We just kick them in a communal ditch and forget about them.

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

      Illogical. If all people of a certain intelligence believed one way, we could say the belief is based on intelligence. But since some very smart folks believe one way/some another, and some dummies one way/some another, we must realize intelligence isn't the deciding factor. For example, maybe higher educated people have more personal security and as such feel less need for God....etc.... Either way your premise is false and illogical.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:11 am |
    • Josh

      Do you think that an omnipotent god has any concern with the education of humans on the tiny speck of planet earth i mean honestly human education couldn't even touch the mind of a God

      March 24, 2012 at 12:15 am |
    • jgthinker

      To Jew.....
      Those suicide rates might have some correlation to the weather perhaps? Is there any statistical correlation between suicide rates and Atheism? Thanks for your input though.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:53 am |
  6. T

    IIT TAKES JUST AS MUCH FAITH to say there is no God as it does to say there is one. That's a fact not an opinion that atheists would rather not talk about.

    March 24, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • loathstheright

      Uh, it takes logic and reason, no faith involved.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:07 am |
    • T

      IIf it takes logic and reason maybe you should start by adding some to your posts

      March 24, 2012 at 12:07 am |
    • sybaris

      Another atempt by the religious to call atheism a faith or a religion unto itself.

      So what?

      Call it the Religion of Reason

      Whatever you call it it still makes more sense than subscribing to willful ignorance.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • Leah

      No faith needed. Just scientific facts. It is amazing the faith that religions people have in people who existed 2000 years ago. These people would have thrown you in prison as a heretic for saying the Earth is not the center of the universe and yet people of faith worship these ideals. It is hilarious. Whatever gets you through this evolutionary existence on Earth I guess. I just don't want this fantasy faith shoved in my face in the forms of wars, laws, and tax policy.

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

      all this talk about facts...yet I have to hear even a single one that proves God doesn't exist

      March 24, 2012 at 12:11 am |
    • T

      hell, give me a fact that even SUGGESTS a god doesn't exist

      March 24, 2012 at 12:12 am |
    • R

      I agree wholeheartedly with this statement. As an agnostic, I am constantly making the point that it takes a hell of a lot of faith to be an atheist as well. While I believe deep down that something created everything, modern religion has twisted it for their own agendas and have people thinking they'll be playing harps after they die. To listen to truly religious fanatics that make it seem like they absolutely know the truth and everyone else is ignorant makes me want to vomit. Just like lunatic fanatics, atheists only have reasoning and logic to guide their opinions.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:15 am |
    • T

      Nicely said R, I think it's a point both sides would be better off listening to. Unfortunately it doesn't fit either's agenda.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      I am right and you are wrong. That's a fact, not an opinion — using your own particular idiosyncratic definition of "fact".

      March 24, 2012 at 12:22 am |
    • Bernard

      @T:

      I have not seen one shred of evidence proving that the Flying Spaghetti Monster doesn't exist. Does that prove her existence?

      March 24, 2012 at 12:23 am |
    • T

      @Bernard

      When did I say it proves anything? What a silly argument.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:26 am |
    • Ashrakay

      T, I haven't seen you present any proof that Zeus or leprechauns don't exist. Question: Does it require faith for you to believe that these don't exist?

      March 24, 2012 at 12:31 am |
    • gavilansalvaje

      T – I am an atheist and I approve of your message. "Science", just like "Religion" is a man-made construct designed to make us feel better about ourselves and our insignificant existence in a Universe that we can only make guesses about. We need to have faith in what we believe in, and I believe the Cubs will win it all this year!!!

      March 24, 2012 at 12:40 am |
    • T

      Ashrakay these are by definition mythological creatures, root word myth with traceable origins of fiction.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:44 am |
    • T

      gavilansalvaje what does belief (or lack thereof) in a higher power and science have to do with each other?

      March 24, 2012 at 12:51 am |
    • Ashrakay

      @T, prove it.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:58 am |
  7. Curios

    BTW if we have seperation of church and state... then why do government favor Christians? Why does federal buildings have the 10 commandments?

    March 24, 2012 at 12:04 am |
    • T

      umm, maybe because the intelligent people that founded this country were Christians? why are you so ignorant?

      March 24, 2012 at 12:06 am |
    • Clyde M

      Because they are in violation of their own principles and have been found to be so on several occasions?

      March 24, 2012 at 12:09 am |
    • sybaris

      Because this country has been hypocritical from the start.

      "All men created equal" yet it took almost 100 years for slavery to be abolished and a lot of those intelligent founding fathers you think so highly of were slave owners.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:14 am |
    • T

      Umm, they were intelligent and that's exactly why they owned slaves. Most rich people in those days did, it was a different world back then.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:29 am |
    • gavilansalvaje

      Why are so-called "liberals" so determined to take away our 2nd amendment rights?

      March 24, 2012 at 12:41 am |
    • jgthinker

      "We" favor Christians only because the majority of people of faith in America are Christians.
      The Ten Commandments were plastered as a publicity stunt for the movie the Ten Commandments by the P. T. Barnum of Hollywood, Cecil B. Demile.

      March 24, 2012 at 1:00 am |
  8. oOo

    Looks like bad weather for the rally tomorrow ¤Punishment from God¤

    March 24, 2012 at 12:02 am |
    • *sigh*

      Y'all LOVE that punishment stuff, huh.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:04 am |
    • Zap

      Shall we wish for another devastating tornado in the Bible Belt, then?

      March 24, 2012 at 12:09 am |
  9. Agnostic

    FÚCK RELIGION & ATHEISM!

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

      Nah. I'd prefer to do it with a warm human body. Or Two.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:42 am |
  10. Bob Fairlane

    Religion is the biggest waste of time. Some dumb flucks in a desert region wrote a bunch of tall tales, and some English guy with a big vocabulary translated them for ships and grins, and you all spend every weekend clubbing with and herking off to this silly book.

    March 24, 2012 at 12:00 am |
    • Tom

      How do you know that God does not exist?

      March 24, 2012 at 12:01 am |
    • *sigh*

      Hey Tom. Trust us – we know.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:02 am |
    • Eric

      The god in the bible, quran, torah doesn't exist. And an overall god most likely doesn't. There is no good evidence to infer otherwise.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:03 am |
    • Tom

      "sigh", No. I will not trust you.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:03 am |
    • *sigh*

      Tom. You know you want to – you know you have doubt. Just use your own judgment and say it. God doesn't exists. It's no biggie. It's just true.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • kendallpeak

      Actually, the bible is so intricate and complex that even intelligent nonbelievers realize it is one of the most incredible pieces of literature ever conceived. What you wrote shows an incredible ignorance, you are like a 3rd grader saying physics is dumb because you don't understand it. I'm embarassed for you.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:06 am |
    • Tom

      *sigh*, You are making a claim to truth without proof. That is called a belief. Why not say: "I don't know because I do not have enough information?"

      March 24, 2012 at 12:11 am |
    • explainist

      "kendallpeak

      Actually, the bible is so intricate and complex that even intelligent nonbelievers realize it is one of the most incredible pieces of literature ever conceived. What you wrote shows an incredible ignorance, you are like a 3rd grader saying physics is dumb because you don't understand it. I'm embarassed for you."

      an incredible mass of contradictions, plagiarisms and forgeries

      March 24, 2012 at 12:11 am |
    • *sigh*

      Tom. I told you already. I KNOW. There simply is no god. Never was one. Just facts, man.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:15 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      kendallpeak said the Bible "... is one of the most incredible pieces of literature ever conceived".
       
      I totally agree, but I suggest you look up the original meaning of "incredible".

      March 24, 2012 at 12:19 am |
    • kendallpeak

      Richard$russel, My mother told me never to argue with an English major.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:29 am |
    • gavilansalvaje

      We all need something to get us through the night.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:43 am |
  11. Tom

    Silverman, like all atheists, lacks the ability to reason. You can not know that God does NOT exist. You can't look everywhere at exactly the same time in all dimensions. IT is a logical fallacy to say you can prove a negative. It would be more intelligent to simply say "I don't know."

    March 23, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
    • Eric

      Most atheists say it's highly unlikely that one does exist therefore we don't believe one does.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:04 am |
    • Tom

      Eric, Then they are not atheist, they are agnostic. An Atheist is someone that thinks God does not exist.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • Chuckles

      @Tom

      Interesting... you believe this and yet feel you can say with certainty that god DOES exist? As an atheist I have no problem saying "I don't know" if someone asks me if god exists or not, but the evidence points so far that god is fictional and I operate within a world were there isn't a god. To believe there is a god defies all evidence to the contrary and glorifies ignorance in the extreme.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:09 am |
    • Chuckles

      @Tom

      you got your definitions wrong, atheism is a rejection of religion, agnosticism is what deals with god and his/her existence. An atheist can also be an agnostic or not. Capiche?

      March 24, 2012 at 12:11 am |
    • Clyde M

      You are right. I can't KNOW that a god does not exist. That's why I don't claim to KNOW any such thing.

      I lack a belief in a god or gods because there is simply NO empirical evidence to support such a claim–for YOUR version or anyone else's.

      As an atheist, I DON'T claim to KNOW there is no god, I merely lack a BELIEF in one.

      Big difference.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:11 am |
    • Jadugara

      Tom,...as a spiritual person myself, I still have to say that I find your comment that "athiests can't reason" to sound ridiculous...

      Of course they reason,...it's just that their reasoning doesn't jive with yours... Their reasoning leads them in a different direction from your reasoning... It's that simple...

      Of course you can't "look in all directions and in all dimensions at once", but for you to imply that's why he can't see a god of some kind indicates that you think god keeps "hiding from him" every time he turns around...which seems somewhat foolish to me as well...

      I know that I see elements of divine around me in things and in ways that others don't, including other religious people... And as long as different religions and even sects constantly argue about what god truly is, and as long as they come up with different asnwers, then I have to say that the spiritual elements of our universe simply manifest differently for different folks, including not at all for some...as with those who label themselves as athiest...

      March 24, 2012 at 12:15 am |
    • James

      By your logic then, the only viable alternative is agnosticism. If you cannot know there is not a god, and you cannot prove there is a god, then it is all doubt.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • science 101

      I am an atheist and I can't prove what does not exist but I intuitively do know what cannot exist – a giant guy in a toga with a magnificent gray beard sitting somewhere up in the sky – who sometimes gets jealous and sometimes gets angry. He writes a book. He creates the universe and then he rests. Where exactly did this guy come from and why? Do you actually know or care?

      March 24, 2012 at 12:23 am |
    • LinCA

      @Tom

      You said, "Silverman, like all atheists, lacks the ability to reason. You can not know that God does NOT exist. You can't look everywhere at exactly the same time in all dimensions. IT is a logical fallacy to say you can prove a negative. It would be more intelligent to simply say "I don't know.""
      You just don't get it, do you?

      Whether you have the capacity to comprehend it, or not, agnosticism and atheism are not mutually exclusive. The first is about knowledge, the latter is about belief, or the lack thereof.

      Most atheist do say that they don't know. It's the only logical position. They tend to be agnostic because they can't know with 100% certainty whether there are any gods. They tend to be atheists because the case for gods is unsupported by any evidence, and therefor highly unbelievable.

      Taking into account that in thousands of years of data there isn't a single shred of evidence that supports the existence of any god. Without evidence, the odds that there are gods that actively interact with the universe as we know it is so astoundingly small, that they are virtually indistinguishable from 0. And without evidence in support, the position that there are gods has no merit.

      Just assuming there any gods is utterly ridiculous. Based on ALL available evidence, Silverman is most likely correct.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:33 am |
    • gavilansalvaje

      True atheists say "I don't care".

      We are more interested in what Jennifer Lopez is wearing and the look on her face when one of her pet idols gets booted off.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:44 am |
  12. The Age of Aquarius

    WWJP – What Would Jesus Post?

    March 23, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
    • *sigh*

      something like...

      March 24, 2012 at 12:02 am |
  13. HAHA!

    THUNDERSTORM IN D.C. TOMORROW 😀

    March 23, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
    • Zap

      You get a big thrill out of imagining someone getting injured/killed, eh? :devil:

      March 24, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • .

      👿

      March 24, 2012 at 12:07 am |
    • sybaris

      it's even funnier when your god sends a tornado to wipe out it's own churches.

      Stupid god

      Bad aim god

      March 24, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • The Age of Aquarius

      Who says its God? It's most likely Zeus. He was stated to live in the clouds hurling lightning bolts down to the ground. Oh wait. we have since discovered the secrets of weather.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:20 am |
  14. Sandra Garrett

    I respect the fact that they choose to not have a belief...I choose to believe in God. I believe Jesus Christ is my Savior. I want to know why they think they are right. How do they know there is no God? I feel sorry for them.

    March 23, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
    • The Age of Aquarius

      I respect believers, and appreciate the reciprocity. Like you and your questioning, I hold the mirror up to Christianity. What's the proof?

      The best explanation I have heard is that there was nothing before the big bang - the incident in which the universe was created. Stephen Hawking makes the claim that nothing could have existed before it, therefore a god could not have created it.

      I admit it is an abstract idea and I don't fully understand it. There is much we as a human race don't understand scientifically about the creation of the universe, but that does not mean that we should fill in the blanks with religion.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:04 am |
    • TheGarderner

      They don't know if there is a god or there is not. The burden of proof is on those who have made such claim. So far, there are PLENTY of people hate, deprive, and kill others in the name of their God. That is the only proof of a god's existence, I wonder why!

      March 24, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • Eric

      It's not a matter of knowing it's a matter of likelyhood. I see no evidence to suggest that there is a god, so I don't believe that there is one. Just like how you don't believe there are unicorns (of course this is assuming you don't believe in unicorns). The god of the bible doesn't exist and jesus probably didn't exist but if he did he was just a guy and was not divine and was not born of a virgin.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:07 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      Here's an honest answer to your honest question. If you're talking mere superhero gods — Zeus with his lightning, really strong Hercules, crop-growing Osiris, Thor and his thunder, extremely wise Ganesha, etc. — you're dealing with exaggerated human beings. No reason at all to think that such critters CANNOT exist, and no atheist I know denies the possibility (tho there's absolutely no evidence that they DO exist).
       
      But when you're talking about a god that's got even ONE ultimate characteristic, you're talking about a logical impossibility. Standard test: Can God create a rock so heavy he can't lift it? Either way you answer, you get an impossibility. Therefore such a critter CANNOT exist. Same deal with being all-knowing, all-present, all-loving, etc. You can match ANY of these against any others, and one of them must lose, thereby proving that there can be no such super-DUPER-deity.
       
      Don't believe this? Try another example. God knows everything, right? Therefore he knows exactly what's going to happen for all future time. Therefore he can't change anything, or otherwise he wouldn't have KNOWN what was going to happen.
       
      You can play this game all day, and it always leads to the same result. We KNOW there is no God like the one Christians claim to believe in.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:12 am |
    • sybaris

      Sandra, quite simply, if you had been born and raised in say Thailand, you would most likely be Buddhist. You were born an atheist, you learned/were taught/influenced to follow whatever religion that was prevalent in your region. Also fear of death or an eternal hell is a powerful motivator to subscribe to something that promises an afterlife. Most agnostics and atheists were in your shoes, have studied the bible and more importantly the history behind it's composition but at some point most realized that the reason for the current focus of worship was no more valid than worshiping any other god.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:26 am |
  15. kendallpeak

    What's funny/sad about atheism is they feel they have the high ground in logic and science, when in fact their position is so illogical. A quick example, realizing space restrictions. If several people report seeing bigfoot, I can logically surmise they are several delusional people. If most people report having encountered bigfoot, even without physical evidence, I must logically assume there is a bigfoot, he just has not been revealed to me. This is where atheists err. Their pride makes them not realize there probably is a God, He just hasn't chosen to interact with them.

    March 23, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      When you were a kid, most people reported to you that Santa Claus was real. By your standards, that means he was.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:02 am |
    • mandarax

      So really, that's why it's illogical? Not believing everything everyone tells you is illogical?

      March 24, 2012 at 12:02 am |
    • Mr Mark

      And 90% of Americans believed Saddam Hussein had WMD, even though he didn't.

      At one time, everybody believed the Earth was flat.

      And most people in the USA are Christian, so Christianity must be the "real" religion while all other religions are false.

      The argument from authority is never a good argument to make.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • Clyde M

      This is known as the logical fallacy of argumentum ad populum.

      Popularity is NOT proof, or even a reasonable basis to assume truth.

      What you claim is as silly as saying "when only a few learned scholars figured out the earth went around the sun, that was wrong because MOST people believed the sun went around the earth and claimed to see that motion every day."

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

      Of course the myths to kids as compared to spirituality is not worth responding to, but as to the "refering to authority argument". My point is not that anyone need to believe due to popular opinion. But the logical atheist would think...billions of people experience something that I don't experience, sure they call it by different names, but they still are experiencing something. Logic dictates that there really is something there, I simply am not experiencing it. To claim most of mankind is delusional because you don't share their experience is illogical.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:21 am |
    • sybaris

      kendallpeak, please do some research on your arguments. Stop regurgitating the tired old PRATTs your minister uses every Sunday to rev up the flock. Religion depends on ignorance to survive. Don't be that guy.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:33 am |
  16. Tolerant_Atheist

    While I am an atheist who doesn't support other atheists/agnostics who harass and bully people of faith (or religious people who bully/harass atheists) this article seems condescending and a bit mocking. This Silverman guy might be aggressive but he has the right to say what he wants. Understand that non-believers have had 2000+ years of censorship and myopic denial by churches (and governments that wrongly endorse them) to build up their anger. (Galileo was almost beheaded because he said the Earth revolved around the Sun, not the other way around.)

    March 23, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
    • kendallpeak

      Study the history regarding Galileo. He was harrassed because he bucked the prevailing opinions of the day, much as , say, a scientist who is anti-global warming is today. The Church was the main center of learning in that day, so while his treatment was unfortunate it was much more centered on finances, politics, etc... than on religious fervor.

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

      Nice way to slip that global warming denialism in there, Kendall. The reason scientists that deny global warming are looked down on is because they are indefensibly wrong.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:04 am |
    • Eric

      The difference is we're not threatening to kill them for dissenting.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:11 am |
    • Clyde M

      This is known as the logical fallacy of argumentum ad populum.

      Popularity is NOT proof, or even a reasonable basis to assume truth.

      What you claim is as silly as saying "when only a few learned scholars figured out the earth went around the sun, that was wrong because MOST people believed the sun went around the earth and claimed to see that motion every day."

      March 24, 2012 at 12:19 am |
    • Clyde M

      Sorry, posted to the wrong thread accidentally.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:20 am |
  17. WWW

    Saturday looks like a stormy day. I think I'd be real cautious of lightning if I were an Atheist!

    March 23, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
    • Zap

      Nah, Thor just hates golfers.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:00 am |
  18. Teheran man

    Here in iran we know how to deal with them..... hang or stone them. Allah Akbar!

    March 23, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • science 101

      Point made!

      March 24, 2012 at 12:41 am |
  19. Ex Atheist converted to Christianity

    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 11:53 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Wow, thanks for the public service you have performed in assembling the list of most frequently told lies about atheism.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:00 am |
    • Andy

      really? I hope this is tounge in cheek. Otherwise you are sadly ignorant

      March 24, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • BinMesa Former catholic

      I thought you all believed it was a sin to lie. I also have believers believe they will be punished for lying.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • Real Deal

      Perhaps tongue in cheek, but I have been reading these forums for a while now and I have seen every one of those statements made by Christians... some numerous times.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:15 am |
    • Yvonne

      Animals are kinder than humans!!!!

      March 24, 2012 at 12:15 am |
    • SemperFiGuy

      1. Many of the finest intellectuals today and throughout history have not believed in any deities.
      2. This is too stupid to actually address...
      3. Did god tell you this fantasy figure?
      4. I'm not sure if you're afraid or just ignorant.
      5. We cause problems because our society is not religious, but religious folk try to make it so.
      6. Interesting that NOT talking to or believing in invisible characters makes me mentally ill and you healthy.
      7. Neither will any other religion, as those places do not exist.
      8. I, for one, disagree with all of those people. For the record, religion has been the cause of countless pointless wars throughout history, especially in modern times.
      9. Again, untrue. I know many atheists and they all are socially well-adjusted. Even with religious people.
      10. Another fantasy statistic.
      11. Most atheists don't try to convert anybody. People of faith trying to convert us is one of our biggest gripes.
      12. No, really, we don't believe in god and we're actually here. Not sure what else to say about that one.
      13. One of my greatest fears is that my life has been too good and too easy and that I have not had enough to overcome. Many people "find god" after terrible life experiences, however.
      14. In fact, this is opposite the truth. The more educated one becomes, often the less religious they will be. For the record, several presidents have not believed in god, although they obviously would not make that public as it would effect an election. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln are among them. Even more were technically aligned with a church but can be considered irreligious.
      15. The French Revolution was not necessarily brought on by Atheists, and some of the finest ideas of the enlightenment can be garnered from it. Many would consider it to be a positive event: the people overcoming the state and purveying liberty.
      16. If you understood simple logic, you would understand how incorrect this statement is. I honestly wish I could generate an example to help you figure that out.
      17. I think this is probably the crux of our debate. Religion is like math. It makes sense to me that 2+2=4, so I trust it and believe it. If you're that way about religion, arguing about it with you is about as useful as you trying to convince me that math is wrong.
      18. One final fantasy statistic, thanks.

      Things like your post are why I can't stand (certain) people of faith. But if I were you, I'd probably at least pretend to do research or something before you blatantly spread lies. If you accept it as true you shouldn't need to hide behind falsehoods, right?

      March 24, 2012 at 12:31 am |
    • gavilansalvaje

      Yvonne – humans ARE animals. We are the Prime Apes!

      March 24, 2012 at 12:47 am |
  20. Aeroman

    I can't believe that in the 21st century people are still believing in sky fairies and sun gods. Seriously people, grow up. You stopped believing in Santa Claus when you were 6, time to stop believing in gods too (and there's even more evidence for Santa Claus than a deity lol)

    March 23, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
    • HAHA!

      Washington D.C. weather: Thunderstorm.
      Exactly what I prayed too.... we had beautiful weather for weeks until tomorrow finally thunderstorm to ruin their ungodly and evil parade 🙂

      March 23, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
    • mandarax

      Yeah right, dimwit. You personally made the thunderstorm forecast happen by praying. Why if you believe that you might as well believe....oh, wait. You probably already do.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:09 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40
Advertisement
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.