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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. Sigh

    As a Christian, it honestly is sad how many misinformed people are on both sides. One thing that is most alarming is how people associate science with atheism by default. Yet one thing I can be assured of is how during this "movement", there will likely not be any Christian scholars, from any field, that will represent our faith. They'll likely pick out some local pastor, hammer him with rhetorical questions, and celebrate their "victory". What is worse, the people on the internet who will eat it up as ZOMGAH U OWNEDED HIM LOLOLOLSTOOPIDCHRISTIANZ.

    March 24, 2012 at 2:48 am |
    • The Ole Bullsh!t Detector Is Going Off Again

      Pre-emptive ad hominem. Not surprising. Did you have a real point to make, or are you just being an abusive and bigotted troll?

      March 24, 2012 at 2:52 am |
    • Joe

      The leaders of the atheism movement DO debate the top apologist that Christianity has to offer. Look up the Sam Harris/William Lane Craig debate for an example.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:53 am |
  2. Greggy442

    One time i listened to an athiest talk for 20 minutes.......... then i realized it was a wall.

    March 24, 2012 at 2:48 am |
    • CC50

      LOL

      For all you athiests!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      This is exactly how i feel about all of your arguments

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9kpTvm6CYA

      +1 religious people

      March 24, 2012 at 2:52 am |
    • KM

      @CC50 : I thank you for that. For the record, that's exactly how I feel every time I let one of you religious idiots try to explain why you have a good reason for their particularly wacky beliefs.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:58 am |
  3. Phillip

    This guy is dumb. Atheists are a waste of my time. Its like listening to a lecture that 2+2=3. Yet we all know that makes legitimate no sense. Yet the world was just magically created guys right? mhhm id rather go listen to
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3NBV2jA0z4 for 24 hours straight.

    "Atheism- the belief that there was nothing & nothing happened to nothing & then nothing magically exploded for no reason creating everything & then a bunch of everything magically rearranged itself for no reason which then turned into dinosaurs."

    Makes perfect sense...

    much agreed brutus

    March 24, 2012 at 2:45 am |
    • KM

      for religious people who claim they "couldn't care less" and that they don't care about this guy..

      there are a lot of comments propping up the falsehood that is religion.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:47 am |
    • Sirc

      Atheists don't much care about your time, except when you spend your time forcing your religion on us.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:50 am |
    • John

      So it makes more sense that some magic guy snapped his fingers? Who snapped fingers to create him/it?

      March 24, 2012 at 2:50 am |
    • ItzMe

      Have you read any religious text?... Can you honestly say that women were created from one rib of Adam and that's why men are missing a rib (no, males do not have a rib missing, stop googling)?
      Muhammad was saved by a massive spider which weaved a web in seconds to shelter him from people trying to kill him.
      Vishnu has 10 incarnation, most in animal form saving the world from daemons.
      Some are the best fiction I've ever read.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:54 am |
    • M Houston

      The guy is NOT "dumb". A bit of a rabble rouser maybe, but certainly not "dumb". And your quotation of someone's version of the Big Bang theory is nonsense.
      Maybe its time you go back to your 24hour monitoring of that youtube site.

      March 24, 2012 at 3:08 am |
    • Backatcha

      Philip: Hey, I don't know which atheist you have been talking to... better check out your acquaintances better. You believers are the ones with the magical invisible super dude who just poofed everything into existence.

      and if you are into that kind of thing:
      “ Christianity: The belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree. ”

      March 24, 2012 at 3:29 am |
  4. swohio

    QUOTE: “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.” – END QUOTE

    Fine, Mr. Silverman. Don't expect people of faith to respect you. You see, it's a two-way street. And frankly, no matter how large the amount of effort you may possibly want your message to be heard Saturday, it honestly is NOT going to pursuade people of faith to stop believing in what we know is real. It's quite sad that one day you will have to stand in front of HE who you deny, and give an account of why you didn't believe in Him. You don't scare me, Mr. Silverman. Nothing you could ever possibly say or do will ever influence me, or the fact that I believe in God.

    March 24, 2012 at 2:42 am |
    • M Houston

      It has been my experience that "people of faith" have very little respect for anyone who does not believe in their"faithful"
      version of the "truth". And you admit that no amount of evidence or rational argument can shake your "conviction" that your
      "truth" is THE truth. You can keep your "truth" and your religiosity. I just wish you'd keep it to yourself/selves...

      March 24, 2012 at 3:19 am |
  5. Darwin

    1). God can see into the future and 2). God created Satan. Ergo, vis a vis, it follows that God knowingly and intentionally unleashed evil on man with full knowledge and forethought. SO, it follows that God is the root of all evil. Not Satan.

    March 24, 2012 at 2:40 am |
    • KM

      Don't try to use logic with the sheep.. it's beyond their capabilities....

      He loves everyone but if you break certain rules he'll send you to a place of eternal torment and fire and pain... because he loves you... yeah right!

      March 24, 2012 at 2:46 am |
    • brutus

      Yet more people bashing something they know nothing about....
      @Darwin, anyone can take two sentences to explain a complex topic and make it look stupid. Many Christians (open theists for example) do not hold that God knows everything about the future, and for the rest free-will would be the answer.

      @KM No where does the Bible say do certain things and you will go to hell, instead it says that love conquers all and casts out all fear, and that nothing can separate one from the love of Christ Jesus.

      But you guys don't want understanding, you just want to tear down something you don't like.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:53 am |
    • Human

      TO DARWIN – if that is the case about what you said then it will mean that a criminal commits a crime and it cannot be punished because he is not the root of evil since it was God, therefore he must not be punished. is that how you feel when people commits horrible crimes? wow ! you must be an atheist!

      March 24, 2012 at 2:59 am |
  6. brad

    atheists will waste there time trying to prove there isnt a god.

    Religious people- Wont give a rats a** about what there saying, and keep going to church or do what ever religious duty they want.

    Way to go athiests you seem to amuse me everyday.

    March 24, 2012 at 2:36 am |
    • The Ole Bullsh!t Detector Is Going Off Again

      "atheists will waste there time trying to prove there isnt a god" – no, we all know that you cannot disprove a negative. We just enjoy laughing at the bizarre "logic" of religious people.

      "Religious people- Wont give a rats a** about what there saying" – the correct way to write that is "Religious people won't give a rat's ass about what atheists are saying." If you use the word "they're" (not "there") instead of atheists, it refers to the subject – religious people. There are numerous other errors in your writing, but we have come to expect borderline illiteracy from those who claim to know better than science and common sense.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:45 am |
    • Sirc

      And religious people will continue to try to inject their belief system into the lives of people who do not wish to believe in or follow nonsense. At some point, intelligent people need to take a stand to make it stop.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:46 am |
    • ItzMe

      It may not seem obvious to you but there are people who find relegion to have flaws and hypocrisies but are intimidated by religious people to not speak up and to realize that relegion is not what they might want.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:46 am |
    • CS

      Atheists aren't spending their time trying to prove there is no god. This rally isn't about that either. It is about equality. In the US, it's okay to speak about your belief in god but it not okay for a nonbeliever to say they don't believe.

      March 24, 2012 at 3:04 am |
    • M Houston

      I do hope your god doesn't "get you" for your nastiness. Rave on (or should I say "pray on"?) fool...

      March 24, 2012 at 3:32 am |
  7. Jillian

    Why do atheists want to start arguments with people who believe in God?

    March 24, 2012 at 2:35 am |
    • The Ole Bullsh!t Detector Is Going Off Again

      The real question is "why has religion spent centuries killing and oppressing atheists?"

      Another good question is "why, after centuries of killing and oppressing atheists, are religious people surprised that there is blowback?"

      Yet another good question is "why do Christians ALWAYS to provide any solid evidence for anny of their beliefs, and instead resort to dishonest argumentation techniques or naked threats of eternal torture?"

      March 24, 2012 at 2:57 am |
    • jill

      athiests have been killed and repressed for centuries by chnristians? ha ha, i guess you forgot about lions and all those fun days where christians got nailed to wood.

      March 24, 2012 at 3:18 am |
    • M Houston

      No, jill, he probably didn't forget. The Ole Bullsh!t Detector is probably aware that Roman gladiatorial slaughter was
      just another manifestation of one bunch of bloody "believers" (holders of the TRUTH) trying to stifle another bunch
      of "believers". Its amazing how often the "persecuted" become "persecutors"(crusaders?) themselves...

      March 24, 2012 at 3:45 am |
    • M Houston

      Ol BS detector, the real question should not be "did God create the universe (and man)?". It should be "Did man create God?"
      The answer is obvious to all but "believers".

      Here's another question for the religious to ponder: When humankind ceases to exist (and that most certainly will happen)
      will your god(s) then find some other "purpose" for his universe?

      March 24, 2012 at 4:03 am |
  8. Jillian

    Are atheists trying to unify and make their own cult?

    March 24, 2012 at 2:30 am |
    • Sirc

      Nope. We're just trying to shrug off the religious cults that would run our lives if we allowed them to have that power.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:39 am |
    • jill

      they just need to do this once a week, lets say... mmm.. sunday?

      March 24, 2012 at 3:18 am |
    • CS

      LOL we'll leave the cults to the people who feel a need to believe in something. I simply want it to be okay to be a nonbeliever in the US. You can believe whatever you want, but please stop forcing it on me. For instance, the adding of "under god" to our pledge of allegiance in 1954.

      March 24, 2012 at 3:37 am |
  9. brutus

    "Atheism- the belief that there was nothing & nothing happened to nothing & then nothing magically exploded for no reason creating everything & then a bunch of everything magically rearranged itself for no reason which then turned into dinosaurs."

    Makes perfect sense...

    March 24, 2012 at 2:23 am |
    • mandarax

      Boy, do you have it wrong.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:29 am |
    • Sirc

      Science – the belief that some things are simply explained, and some things we don't know yet, but we are smart enough to continuously check the facts about what we do know and continuously seek understanding of what we don't know.

      Intelligence requires constant questioning and not blind obedience.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:34 am |
    • ItzMe

      Theism- imaginary man came into existence from nothing. Then he created the universe too large for a human to comprehend (again from nothing) and wrote many books to mess with them on an infinitesimal planet...

      March 24, 2012 at 2:36 am |
    • CS

      ...and I guess in your mind Noah's Ark makes perfect sense? LOL Yeah, right, let's build by hand a boat big enough to hold all the creatures on the earth. You need to check out the YouTube video on Noah's Ark (part 1 of 2) by NonStampCollector. Or are you one of those religious types that picks and chooses which part of the bible to believe?

      March 24, 2012 at 3:20 am |
  10. Saphira

    His aggressive approach is no worse than the Catholic Bishops influencing politicians to make it harder for women to get access to abortion services or contraception, citing religious reasons.

    My view on religion is summed up by this quote: "Religion. It's given people hope in a world torn apart by religion." -Jon Stewart

    March 24, 2012 at 2:20 am |
  11. MandoZink

    My old roommate once proposed this test:

    Place one man in front of a church full of devout people, place a second man in front of an emergency trauma center. Then shoot each of the two men in the stomach with a 45. Then let the entire church pray relentlessly and sincerely for their guy, and let the trauma center take care of the other. See who fares better. This should sort out the difference between science and religion.

    March 24, 2012 at 2:18 am |
    • Human

      The difference is this – the man in front of the trauma place will live a lifetime get old and die.
      The man in front of the religious place of gathering ( if in fact is not considered false religion ) will die but

      March 24, 2012 at 2:24 am |
    • Human

      The difference is this – the man in front of the trauma place will live a lifetime get old and die.
      The man in front of the religious place of gathering ( if in fact is not considered false religion ) will die but will be resurrected to live forever because he obey God name JaH and will live forever on this earth when the time come which is not too far away.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:27 am |
    • KM

      Human : you may be human but you clearly are of subhuman intelligence. WTG Forrest!

      March 24, 2012 at 2:29 am |
    • ItzMe

      many religious people study science and believe in medical care. They just practice relegion. But there are some who do reject modern medicine and people do die and those events are very tragic considering they could be prevented. 🙁

      March 24, 2012 at 2:30 am |
    • HB

      If that were to happen on the front steps of my church we would rush him to the emergency room AND pray for him. Why does everyone think it's either/or with people of faith? That's quite a parochial view.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:33 am |
    • mandarax

      HB, that is an experimental design. You isolate the two variables in question (prayer and science-based medicine), and measure their effects individually.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:43 am |
    • mandarax

      HB, the point of that design is to rule out the confusion that comes when the person who is both prayed for and treated gets better, and the faithful claim it was because of prayer despite the fact that he was treated surgically. This is similar to a series of tests done by Duke University Medical School (they didn't shoot anyone, of course). They looked at heart surgery patients and found that prayer had no effect.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:46 am |
    • Human

      to KM – let me ask you something if you know where were you when the earth came to existence? where were you when the first humans came to life? Being an Atheist id a form of religion, is the believe that there is no God. What I do know is that an Atheist become an Atheist because they feel that God is letting them suffer and letting people suffer in the world. they don't seem to get an answer from God, that is why they complain and say real loud that there is no GOD! what they do not know is that GOD completed the complete human guidance which is the bible and has made it available in all the earth to explain people why we suffer? and Gods plan of humankind deliverance from all the things that had been occurring for centuries. Oh atheist if only you would try to listen to God through his word !! ....
      read psalms 1:1 – 5 – tell me atheist where does a tree fare better? in the desert or by the river? the bible is life giving water.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:53 am |
    • JT

      What an oversimplification. I'm a medical doctor and a practicing Christian. Science and religion do not have to be separate.

      March 24, 2012 at 3:06 am |
    • Human

      to mandarax – you carefully examine what is seen and that is admirable, but there is more than meet the eyes, life is a design that could not be a product of chance, especially a physical intelligent being what we call human. I carefully examine what is not seen and the bible is not seen! – a true christian who really understands the bible with spiritual insight knows that no human produce miracles, praying is not a miracle. prayer is a way of communication with GOD the CREATOR of human life, that's all! is the answer of the prayer that produce results, if in fact is GODS WILL to answer prayer. but God have the power of resurrection – and the resurrection can be explained in a very easy logical and scientific way –

      March 24, 2012 at 3:16 am |
    • MandoZink

      The only reason I wrote the above comment is because I noticed that any thoughtful, well written discourse submitted here is immediately derided or ignored. No one in this current discussion is primed to think or consider any points that may be presented in a calmly considered fashion. So I gave you a comment atheists might enjoy musing over in a discussion. It was a mind-trigger, intended for the choir. Maybe later.

      March 24, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  12. Seriously

    Consider these quotes, and how you might feel if you lived in a country where these sentiments were mainstream:

    “Our leader was not elected…he was appointed by Allah.”
    “Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of Allah…must be denied citizenship."
    “I, your Provincial Governor, do hereby proclaim… a day of prayer and fasting for our country.”
    “Allah called me to this government position…my family fasted for three days to make sure it was true.”
    "I would not put a Christian among my advisors, or in my government."
    “(our founding doc.uments) are quite clear that we would create law based on Allah of the Qur’an and Sharia Law, it’s pretty simple.”
    “I hope I will live to see the day when…we won't have any public schools. The Mosques will have taken them over again and Imams will be running them. What a happy day that will be!"
    “There will never be world peace until Allah's house and Allah's people are given their rightful place of leadership at the top of the world."

    These statements should rightfully alarm you. Now consider this, YOU DO live in that country, and these are not Taliban quotes. In the above quotes the religious references have been changed. They are quotes from prominent, politically powerful Americans who would establish religious control over America’s government. Here are the actual quotes:

    “George Bush was not elected by a majority of the voters in the United States, he was appointed by God.” –Lt. General William Boykin, US Army
    “Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of God by submitting to His Church's public marks of the covenant–baptism and holy communion–must be denied citizenship." –Gary North, Inst.itute for Christian Economics
    “I, Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, do hereby proclaim August 6, 2011, to be A Day of Prayer and Fasting for Our Nation.” –Rick Perry, Texas Governor and Republican Presidential Candidate
    “God called me to run for this office, and my husband fasted for 3 days to make sure it was true.” –Michelle Bachman, US Senator and Republican Presidential Candidate
    “"I would not put a Muslim in my cabinet, or in my administration." –Herman Cain, Republican Presidential Candidate
    “(Our founding doc.uments) are quite clear that we would create law based on the God of the Bible and the 10 commandments, it’s pretty simple.” –Sarah Palin
    I hope I will live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken over them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!" - Jerry Falwell
    There will never be world peace until God's house and God's people are given their rightful place of leadership at the top of the world." –Pat Robertson

    These statements should be no more frightening in an Islamic or a Christian context – this kind of rhetoric is a serious threat no matter who it comes from. Theocracy is dangerous no matter whose God is invoked. We hear these things from pious politicians every day and are likely desensitized to them, but even momentary consideration reveals them to be un-American to the core. Religious fundamentalists make no secret of their goal of controlling our government and establishing their narrow beliefs as law. We must not let that happen – not here, not in our country.

    It happens in small steps – the Ten Commandments in courthouses, prayer and creationism (“Intelligent Design”) in schools, revising science, history, and civics textbooks in Texas, State-endorsed prayer rallies, faith-based initiatives, and on and on – and because these steps may individually seem harmless, many people underestimate their consequences. That is why we must stay alert and fight to keep church and state separate. We should shudder whenever a politician or policymaker alludes to his or her religious beliefs as a justification for public policy. We should be deeply susp.icious of anyone who claims to be chosen by God to lead us. We should aggressively defend our free society against any religious group who would hope to gain control over it.

    Do not underestimate the importance of defending the separation of church and state. Stand up for it at every opportunity with your voice and your vote.

    March 24, 2012 at 2:15 am |
    • mandarax

      That's a bit lengthy, but boy is it eye-opening. Well-written too. Good job.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:24 am |
    • KM

      I'd say "amen" but that's really just a word passed down to modern culture from ancient sun-worshipping people who prayed to Amun.

      Well said though. Too bad no one who needs to understand those words will read or listen to what you've said.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:28 am |
    • Chris Lee

      Excellent! I am going to repost this on my FB page for my ultra-Christian relations. I hope you don't mind. I'll give "Seriously" credit 🙂

      March 24, 2012 at 2:32 am |
    • brutus

      @KM You have some whacked out backwater information, any linguist would tell you that Amen has hebrew origins meaning "so be it." Mind want to fact check before you rattle off your mumbo jumbo: dont believe everything you read on google.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:38 am |
    • Seriously

      @Chris. Right on, thanks. Maybe we can establish a meme!

      March 24, 2012 at 2:48 am |
    • Miss Demeanor

      Or you could just say: look how things went downhill while Jimmy (god is my co-pilot) Carter and Dubya (born-agin) Bush were in charge... We don't need another leader whose main qualification is that he believes fundamentalist dogma and is convinced that an invisible friend is going to be his chief and infallible advisor... presumably the same advisor who convinced dubbya that lying about WMD's was a good way to persuade the public to support invading Iraq... or was it to spread democracy... or was it to free our Iraqi friends....

      March 24, 2012 at 2:49 am |
    • MandoZink

      Very well said. Your point is clear. I saved the text.

      March 24, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  13. Ronnie is a boss

    This is all laughable. Lets go start a rally to protest religion and all this nonsense. Why dont you stop wasting your time and get a life. If you believe theres no god, then once you die you can rot and your wooden coffin. But i must say lifes short and yet you intend to waste your time going on and on with rallys? Yeah i understand our country is freedom of religion and speech but get a life. Your wasting my time and everyone elses. And all you people that sit here and waste even more time debating whether god is real or not..... are never going to get any where. Its physically a waste to be posting any bs especially under this article about a clown with nothing better to do with his life. For all you people that follow him, its your right to believe whatever you want. But honestly your DELLUSIONAL and always will be. So listen very very very closely, Go live a happy life, until you finally are in your last moments on earth and your scared out of your mind because you think its the end. But hey maybe it will be for you. but it most definetly will not for me. Goodluck

    ps if cnn does not post this comment or somebody reports abuse, this forum would be worthless. AMENDMENT ONE FREEDOM OF SPEECH

    March 24, 2012 at 2:13 am |
    • ItzMe

      you believe in an afterlife because you are afraid of death? That's what I got from your comment...

      March 24, 2012 at 2:18 am |
    • Ronnie is a boss

      congrats itzme. Your another subjective person who probably does nothing with there life. Yet you probably sit on these forums all night till 2 debating these things. Im not afraid of death one bit. Im extremely religious and was brought up by a family who is not. Im 24 years old and ive been all over the world. Ive seen more things than you have probably would ever see. People dont realize what the world is like and how different it is here, to there. Trust me ive been around people in there waking moments and some are extremely afraid. You may not be now but death is inevitable in life. And my point was, i cant imagine being someone who didnt believe in anything and just dying? wow thats just terrible. I feel bad for athiests that have seen loved ones pass. Well i guess youll never see them again either.

      Everyones got a right to an opinion and i have one.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:31 am |
    • rebbie

      Ronnie, if you think this article is such a waste of time, why did you spend 5 to 10 minutes typing your comment? I mean, it sounds like YOU don't have a life and need to get one!

      March 24, 2012 at 2:47 am |
    • ItzMe

      Yup it's pretty bad when loved ones pass. Makes you realize the importance of each persons, including yours, life and to make most of it. Sorry I don't have beliefs to console my grief and make me feel better.

      March 24, 2012 at 3:06 am |
    • LewisLorens

      So again, you are saying you believe in God and the promise of an eternal life because you are scared. The more you write the more clear you get on your fears. Do you remember anything while you were in your mom's belly? ... do you remember the life "before" this life? ... Exactly....

      At the end, if you have time to get smarter by reading more and more about human history etc, please note that "religion" was created to face fears on ancient human civilizations. How do you raise your kids? based on fear. It is all based on fear... You tell your kid: "if you do that, you will get in trouble" or "if you don't go to sleep, Santa is not coming"... etc..etc.. And you know why they believe what parents say? Because they DONT KNOW... in other words, fear comes from ignorance.

      The reason we are all seeing these type of movements of people constantly questioning DOGMA is because, must of our society is getting smarter and smarter. As an example, before the technological improvements in America, people in this country used to live in a bubble of ignorance. They did not have enough resources to get information, all they had was local/paper press controlled by the local government, churches, etc...As the time went by, and the more people came to America, the more diversity we got, then technology improved, the more access to information we got, the more and more people got in this country, the more access we got to see what's out there in the world, the more and more we learned... thus... the more and more society will question... Let's make it easy for you:

      Don't be too scare of death, it's a natural process, plus, trust me, you won't feel anything after you are gone, nor you would care. Whoever is scared of death, must question their actions while alive. We are not the center of the world, nor we are super special that we deserve "second chances" to "fix" whatever we messed up in this life. Life a live responsibly, respect others, love, laugh, do good and "you shall not fear death" my friend.

      PS: Also, attacking people living in a bubble of dogma is like telling a little kid Santa doesn't exist. It will take the illusion for the child. And the society, like a child, will grow, generations will transcend, and you will see, there will be a world dominated by agnostics. The only way anyone can stop human evolution is by limiting their access to information, keeping them in a bubble. And that my friends, will not happen, it is too late, population is too big, and a lot of people know enough already...

      March 24, 2012 at 3:34 am |
  14. Human

    Just ask the atheist – Where did the sulfur / sulphur came at the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, when there is no volcano activity near the area, neither was any evidence of meteor?
    How did bible writer Isaiah know that the universe is expanding, a man not recognized as a scientist?
    He may be gathering 100000 people to an atheist event which 99.9% are simply too lazy to research the bible, history and archeology along with scientific discoveries. truly I tell you, these are really the last days that the bible predicted.... spend time learning from JaH and Jesus and don't worry about ignorants, the bible is the best guidance for life.

    March 24, 2012 at 2:13 am |
    • KM

      How did Moses NOT know that the Earth was 5 billion years old and that the universe it is in is closer to 14 billion years old?

      People in these times still thought a sneeze was the body's way of trying to expel demons. Any "knowledge" contained wherein is purely coincidental.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:17 am |
    • CJ

      Sodom and gomorrah is a fairy tale, as is all religion. I would also point out that Jesus thought the world was going to end in the lifetime of his listeners. See mark ch 9, verse 1. He says this again in chapter 13. St. Paul also thought the world was going to end in his lifetime and that of the christian followers he wrote to in first thessalonians. It never happened. And then end has been predicted repeatedly and it has a 100% failure rate. If I were you, I would find a different guide for life.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:27 am |
    • Human

      to KM – what you said KM in response was the most illogical thing I ever heard about Moses so far! wow you must be atheist !

      March 24, 2012 at 2:31 am |
    • Human

      TO CJ – another ignorant atheist sorry just thinking out loud – Sodom and Gomorrah was located by archeologists and tested the composition of the materials covering the cities. again when does an Atheist stop being an Atheist ? when they really study, research and think before they speak , but then even thou they do that they still have pride to admit that they were wrong!

      March 24, 2012 at 2:36 am |
    • KM

      Are you really trying to say that sulfur in the soil is evidence of God smiting a certain place on the planet?

      You do realize that there are only a dozen or so other elements which are MORE common on this planet than sulfur, right?

      No, probably not.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:43 am |
    • Human

      to KM lol again you are speaking without knowing, please do some research is all over you tube fro crying out loud videos. archeology sites. you mentioned soil – what was found over the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah was not in its soil, child. It was covering the cities and a huge territory where actual people died within the cities, beneath the covering there are many dead! again this is not a soil archeological research!

      March 24, 2012 at 3:24 am |
  15. MandoZink

    As an atheist, life gets more real. You have a better, more comprehensive understanding of the human condition. You begin to recognize others who "get it", and recognize the good in people, often in spite of their beliefs. What is important to the future advancement of mankind is to understand that our moral evolution, due to our early technological ignorance, required adopting the notion of a god to fulfill our growing desire to explain things in nature. Before science, we needed to know what was going on, and most cultures could be content if they imagined a superior, magical, benevolent being was responsible. We atheists get that. It was human nature. It is a 'vestigial' notion that continues to slip away as we become ever wiser.

    March 24, 2012 at 2:09 am |
    • brutus

      Yeah sure...better, more educated society without God. Heard that before – from Joseph Stalin!

      March 24, 2012 at 2:12 am |
    • Ronnie is a boss

      you must be a scientist? or let me guess a science teacher? grow some seriously, i think im now dumber after reading that.....

      Wheres the like button?

      March 24, 2012 at 2:15 am |
    • LewisLorens

      Mando: I could have not said that better. Agree, 100%. It will take generations for some common sense to emerge.

      March 24, 2012 at 3:43 am |
    • MandoZink

      brutus – concerning Stalin:
      Those who point out past atrocities by so-called "atheists" are significantly mistaken as to the fundamental nature of the people who committed those acts. While religious violence is carried out by extremists in the name of their religious beliefs, the frequently mentioned historic atrocities by non-religious tyrants were committed by maladjusted individuals. They were either paranoid, narcissistic, megalomaniac, psychopathic, totalitarian or a combination thereof. They did not have any comprehension of the inherent moral sense of human kindness that the majority of rational atheists come to know. Integrity, understanding, and empathy for the human condition are the hallmarks of character that enlightened beings come to realize. Those awakened to intelligent atheism understand that this recognition of human quality is essential to a sane, compassionate, and universally moral society. ALL good people, both atheists and theists, should realize this.

      March 24, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  16. Johnny Orlando

    This guy and his followers are usless idiots. They don't seem very intelligent. Just reactionary people who want to be different. If the whole world as atheist, which would probably mean there would still be slavery and other abominations, these people would be religious.

    March 24, 2012 at 2:08 am |
    • KM

      Not believing in a deity doesn't mean you lack the ability to feel compassion and fairness in the way you treat other people.

      How many wars have been fought over religion again? Religion is truly the opiate of the masses. It has been used to turn otherwise logical people into mindless sheep willing to do anything to achieve a charismatic leader's charge. Herr Hitler was popular and he did what he did in the name of Christianity too!

      March 24, 2012 at 2:11 am |
    • mandarax

      Maybe you disagree, but it's ridiculous to refer the that group as "idiots." Do realize how many Ph.D.'s are among those presenters? And not just BS honorary or theological degrees – real hard-science physics and biology doctorates, authors of multiple academic and popular books. Sure, they can be wrong, but idiots they are not.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:21 am |
    • Atheist

      If you want to see useless (religious) idiot look at mirror.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:22 am |
    • Ronnie is a boss

      religion causes war? yes your right. Telling people there is no god? would cause world wars. Why? Globalization. Westernization is what causes wars. We try to install our values and tradiitions (Religion partly) into other societies. The countries dont want globalization so they fight us for it. Yet we have atheists that think somehow religion is what causes all this. Religion is what those countries stand for. Like duh? Go take your white ace to the middle east and try to rally and say religion isnt good. Like are you kidding me, with that you wouldnt stand a chance. Go ahead and run around in america and rally all you want. The only reason you can do it is because we have freedom of speech. So enjoy your freedoms, it will never change anything the rest of the world believes.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:23 am |
    • Sirc

      You do realize that slavery is condoned in your bible, right? And stoning your own family members to death for saying there is no god is somehow not an abomination? Have you even read your own bible?

      March 24, 2012 at 2:24 am |
  17. ItzMe

    I really like these debates, they conjure questions. Questions lead to searching for possible answers and that's where the fun is. Unexpected things can happen when searching. 🙂

    March 24, 2012 at 2:08 am |
    • KM

      There is no debating with religious people. They refuse logic, they deny evidence and fact, they hold up a book as their ultimate truth and attempt to use it to explain away the inconsistencies in their varying belief systems.

      You wouldn't have a duel with an unarmed man. Along the same lines, I refuse to "debate" with people who clearly aren't armed with the intelligence, critical thinking skills, and logic required to debate something.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:14 am |
    • ItzMe

      What I kinda was trying to get at was that these questions raise some sort of doubt in some people and they possibly can educate themselves more on the subject by searching and see that it's based on no logical reasoning. 😛

      March 24, 2012 at 2:21 am |
    • rapp

      This is all quite entertaining... to this point I now know you can be as thick as a post, but if you say you're an atheist you are intelligent, informed and a critical thinker. Mention that you believe in God and no matter your level of education you are unintelligent, insane and without the ability of critical thought. Just have to love those free thinkers.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:45 am |
  18. Ji Tran

    If he has a plan to do something with the Bible, then he is not an atheist. Because, if he is an atheist, the Bible is nothing but a book. However, he doesn't think it is a book. He thinks it is a Bible. So, he is still subconsciously afraid that the Bible may do something to him. So, all atheists are not really atheist until they normally treat religions like any other aspects in life.

    March 24, 2012 at 2:04 am |
    • KM

      Does being that stupid hurt?

      March 24, 2012 at 2:08 am |
    • Ji Tran

      Yes, it surely does. How did you know that? Self-experienced?

      March 24, 2012 at 2:11 am |
    • KM

      at no point in your rambling response did you come close to making a coherent point.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:15 am |
    • Ji Tran

      KM, if you don't believe in God, then the Bible is just a book. My question is why he let the book bother him that much for him to have something to do with that book. Why did he just ignore it? If he really want to promote atheist, do not use attack religions as a tools. It makes him like a religious people using religion to attack non-believers. He is same difference.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:32 am |
  19. A1011010

    In the name of continuum, we are finally coming to our senses.

    March 24, 2012 at 2:04 am |
  20. brutus

    It amazes me to find an intelligent person who fights against something which he does not at all believe exists
    . –Mohandas Gandhi

    March 24, 2012 at 2:03 am |
    • bigfoot

      Tortured logic. Mostly it is a fight against being forced to livemone's life constantly controlled by other people's faith.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:15 am |
    • Backatcha

      brutus
      "It amazes me to find an intelligent person who fights against something which he does not at all believe exists"

      It most likely doesn't exist, but its yellers and bushbeaters sure do exist.

      March 24, 2012 at 3:36 am |
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About this blog

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