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. Kirk

    After reading the article, reading a dozen or more posts – my only comment is to say – how sad – for all of you.

    March 24, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Yeah, one must sympathize with the plight of all believers. To devote your life to an imaginary being does seem very sad, but there is hope. Reason!

      March 24, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • Kirk

      Now, back to the Enterprise!

      March 24, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • Captain Kirk

      Hey, that is... my line!

      March 24, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Scotty, set the controls for deep space. Two ten, mark one. Energize, NOW!

      March 24, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  2. Pipe-Dreamer

    The quantifications of seeded theocracies throughout the world of perplexism's pawdry people are deniably the exuberancies of and alibastering romanticisms for retrograded levels of hyped up God Declarations tending to demean God and His Kingdom that is Inside all living things. Whatb a shame, what a shame! 🙁

    March 24, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • Troy in Austin

      Keep smokin that pipe!

      March 24, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • One one

      Sacred cows make the best hamburger.

      March 24, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  3. spinosaurus1231

    I am Atheist and I really don't like it when Atheists are going around telling people that their religion is stupid. Who are you to judge. My friend is Christian and we never fight about that.

    March 24, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • spinosaurus1231

      I also hate it when any religious person passes judgement the same way Atheists often do

      March 24, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • spinosaurus1231

      And I hate broccoli.

      March 24, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • do so understand

      Hello spinosaurus,,

      The offerring plate of righteousness slides both ways and I do so take your words of wisdom with revelry and eat vicariously its' umberance. While the spoils of hedonisticism are found in every inch of every citizen's mindset, the days are yet to be in sensual fruitedness wherein the abundances of verbalized pleasentries become a security. Live Life therefore waiting one's end and deny not the best of friendships no matter one's pillared stance. Love is the weighty necklace all do endure and while some find it unpleasent they nevertheless are comforted by it.

      Love Enduring and Peacefilled Life
      P. D.

      March 24, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • One one

      What could be more judgmental than preaching that non-believers will be sent to hell by the magical master of the universe?

      March 24, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  4. Sancte Tigriel

    I wanted to note another motivation for atheism, namely, paranoia. A paranoid can easily fear an omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient God. This explains why atheists often seem to have a paranoid fear of authority: some of them became atheists precisely because they were paranoid.

    March 24, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • Troy in Austin

      You apparently don't know any. Where do you get your information.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • Nonimus

      "Paranoia is an unfounded or exaggerated distrust of others, sometimes reaching delusional proportions. Paranoid individuals constantly suspect the motives of those around them, and believe that certain individuals, or people in general, are 'out to get them.'" (http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/paranoia)

      If someone thinks that God is "out to get them," then they must first believe in God, hence they are not an Atheist.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • Jim

      I just love it when fundies have to make things up in order to be right. Particularly, as in this case, it is simply reversing the facts, claiming what is true for "god-fearing" Christians is true for athiests.

      March 25, 2012 at 1:47 am |
  5. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes lightbulbs.

    March 24, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • One one

      And cat litter too.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Thank you, one. I will use that one next. May God bless you and not send you to eternal damnation in the fiery pits of Hell or Cleveland.

      March 24, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  6. Pipe-Dreamer

    Clyde M wrote on Saturday, March 24, 2012 at 5:27 pm, stating, " "Of course, an intelligent person would see the proof of God's existence that over 75% of people on earth see." Provide me with one single shred of empirical evidence and I'll convert right now. I'll be waiting..."


    I'll see U at the church alter on Sunday Clyde,,,, 🙂

    March 24, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • mandarax

      If he said empirical evidence, Fox news is pretty much ruled out by definition....

      March 24, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • Troy in Austin

      He said EVIDENCE not a poll, you cannot prove god as I cannot disprove it. (yes ... IT!)
      What bugs me about religion is you are, in general, whatever your parents were. You don't get a choice, until later, but by then you are already indoctrinated. So your choice is limited.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • Nii

      The english language does not use "it" as the pronoun for a god or goddess prefering him or her. God as in Elohim the Christian God is a Him. It is spiteful to insist on using "it". Are u really an atheist or angry with God?

      March 24, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Nonimus

      I think he was saying empirical evidence of God, not evidence that >75% of people believe in God.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  7. Sancte Tigriel

    The most common cause of atheism is unnatural desire, and shame concerning it. Men reject religion because their religion makes them feel ashamed. This is why men who love men are very often atheists, and why even married men with strong unnatural desires are atheists. Their shame has caused them to reject religion. I suspect that this is Silverman's motivation.

    Necessarily, there can not possibly be a rational basis for atheism, as God's existence is obvious and self-evident.

    Atheists pretend to have reasons for their atheism, but their reasons are actually rationalizations. They wanted to believe that God does not exist, then found atheist arguments which provided rationalizations for what they wished to believe. And all of this was because of their shame.

    March 24, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • mandarax

      Wow, what a condescending, egocentric perspective. Thanks for that.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • Troy in Austin

      Ha, your opinion is noted, you are very confused.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • ticktockman0

      It is evident that the stronger a person's religious inclinations, the more likely they are to suffer acute mental illness. When someone actually claims to hear voices no one else hears, the greater probability that that person will require medication, perhaps hospitalization.

      Two can play your game. At least there is some professional literature to back my assertions. All you have are your own prejudices.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Nonimus

      "Necessarily, there can not possibly be a rational basis for atheism, as God's existence is obvious and self-evident."

      Exactly, just like the Invisible Pink Unicorn is obvious and self-evident.

      March 24, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • Jim

      "The most common cause of atheism is unnatural desire"
      That is patently false. The most common cause of atheism is reading the bible.

      March 25, 2012 at 1:50 am |
  8. Wesley Wiliams

    I honestly don't have much a problem with moderate athiests. Silverman and his followers really bother me though. Especially at the end of the article when they were protesting Bibles in their hotel rooms. IGNORE IT. Why do you have to stir up trouble at all? Equal rights?? What rights do athiests not have that religious people do? Strong athiests that are offended by such things as Bibles in hotel rooms or "In God We Trust" on our currency really just make me upset. They do no good for our country at all. I wish they were gone to be honest.

    March 24, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • ticktockman0

      So. atheists are OK with you as long as they accept a second-class status and shut up? Very big of you. I suppose black people should have just sat at the back of the bus as well?

      March 24, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes tires.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • One one

      You just did a great job displaying the problem with your "I wish they were all gone" comment. How would you like it if you found a copy of "God is not great" in every hotel room? Or if every dollar bill had the message "god is a myth"? Or if all atheists preached that anyone who doesn't believe as they do deserves to burn in hell? The time of religious dominance is coming to an end.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • Wesley Wiliams

      No, i never said they were second class citizens. They are the minority, but that doesnt mean they get any fewer rights.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • Wesley Wiliams

      @ One One. Actually no, it's not. Atheism in America will not become anywhere close to Christianity % speaking for another 200 years.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • Jebus Zombie

      Wesley troll is a typical christian who would love to slaughter all non-christians if he had his way. What do you think the roman and spanish inquisition were, the crusades. Religious trolls are the most dangerous people on earth. 9-11 is proof.

      Wesley, here are some quotes from your holy bable, word of "god".

      You must kill those who worship another god. Exodus 22:20

      Kill any friends or family that worship a god that is different than your own. Deuteronomy 13:6-10

      Kill all the inhabitants of any city where you find people that worship differently than you. Deuteronomy 13:12-16

      Kill everyone who has religious views that are different than your own. Deuteronomy 17:2-7

      March 24, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • One one

      New study finds that religion is heading toward extinction. Among other things it concludes:
      "religion may become extinct in Australia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Canada, Finland, Ireland, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Switzerland."
      "In 2008 those claiming no religion rose to 15 percent nationwide, with a maximum in Vermont at 34 percent,".
      "The study also found that "Americans without affiliation comprise the only religious group growing in all 50 states."

      March 24, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  9. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes diapers.

    March 24, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • One one

      Atheists don't tell children and other living things that god sends them to h e l l to be tortured forever for not believing as they do.

      2 Thessalonians, 8-9:"In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power."

      March 24, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Mowald

      But delusional thinking is?

      March 24, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Troy in Austin

      Aww geese, not you again ....... try the topic this time .......

      March 24, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • Nii

      The key word is OBEY. Obedience to God is not a matter of religious observance. I tell this to atheists all the time. Morality n emotional maturity is all that is demanded of us as humans to be in obedience to Him. You have learnt the WORD of SCRIPTURE but not the SPIRIT.

      March 24, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • Val

      prayer is what fills them (diapers). All children are born atheists. it depends on where you live as to what religion you may or may not be indoctrinated into.

      March 25, 2012 at 9:23 am |
  10. Sancte Tigriel

    It is easy to tell from the quotes by Silverman that he is not an intelligent person.

    Of course, an intelligent person would see the proof of God's existence that over 75% of people on earth see.

    March 24, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • Nonimus

      "Of course, an intelligent person would see the proof of God's existence that over 75% of people on earth see."
      Which is what?

      March 24, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • one one

      Which god?

      March 24, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • ticktockman0

      Truth is not a popularity contest. An intelligent person would know that. A scant few hundred years ago, most people "knew" that the Earth was flat.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • Atom

      More than 90% of American Academy of Scientist are athiest and 0.2% of the the people in the American prison system are athiests.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • Clyde M

      "Of course, an intelligent person would see the proof of God's existence that over 75% of people on earth see."

      Provide me with one single shred of empirical evidence and I'll convert right now. I'll be waiting...

      March 24, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • Nii

      The experience of de spiritual is 4 him who seeks it. What God do u seek? He'll manifest to you. If you dont seek Him He'll not manifest. So My atheist friends how do you seek 2 prove to one whose God has manifested to him that there is no God. If you r a cyclist exclusively how do u teach flying?

      March 24, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • Troy in Austin

      People have been believing in a god of one type or another for thousands of years, just because 75% of people are delusional doesn't mean it is true.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • gavilansalvaje

      ticktockman0 – Science held that the Earth was flat. Science also held the belief that the earth was the center of everything. How about eugenics?

      March 24, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • Nii

      There r still people who for all intents n purpose the Earth is flat. There are Americans who don't care a whoot about Theology or Geography. I don't know why we pretend that everyone cares about our "TRUTH". The EARTH may still be flat. Just let it be. Atheism is not the best religion.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • Sancte Tigriel

      That was funny. I wrote, "An intelligent person would see the proof of God's existence that over 75% of people on earth see," and two different atheists ASKED ME FOR THE PROOF. Ha, ha, ha!

      March 24, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • mandarax

      Sancte, when you get through making a fool of yourself with your misplaced laughter, you might try learning what "evidence" and "proof" actually mean. Perhaps then you will understand the problem.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Sancte Tigriel,
      Obviously, you are claiming to be an intelligent person, so please, present your obvious evidence.

      Otherwise, by your own statement, you are not intelligent.

      March 24, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Do you see what I see?

      Sancte Tigriel

      Of old time there was a great king. One day a man came before him and said, "My king, I shall weave a turban such that one born in wedlock will see it, while the ba.stard will see it not." The king marveled and ordered that that weaver should weave that turban; and the weaver received an allowance from the king and tarried a long while. One day he folded up this side and that side of a paper and brought it and laid it before the king and said, "Oh king, I have woven that turban." So the king opened the paper and saw that there was nothing; and all the viziers and nobles who stood there looked on the paper and saw nothing. Then the king said in his heart, "Do you see? I am then a ba.stard"; and he was sad. And he thought, "Now, the remedy is this, that I say it is a goodly turban and admire it, else will I be put to shame before the folk." And he said, "Blessed by God! Oh master, it is a goodly turban, I like it much."

      Then that weaver youth said, "Oh king, let them bring a cap that I may wind the turban for the king." They brought a cap, and the weaver youth laid that paper before him and moved his hands as though he wound the turban, and he put it on the king's head. All the nobles who were standing there said, "Blessed be it! Oh king, how fair, how beautiful a turban!" and they applauded it much.

      Then the king rose and went with two viziers into a private room and said, "Oh viziers, I am then a ba.stard; I see not the turban."

      The viziers said, "Oh king, we too see it not." At length they knew of a surety that the turban had not existence.

      March 24, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • ticktockman0

      @gavilansalvaje – Scienctific theory changes when new facts are known. Our understanding of things changes as we acquire knowledge. What are you suggesting, that science and religion are equally valid as ways of understanding the world? If so, beg to differ. Religion relies on dogma, which by definition is supposed to be unchangeable. Dogmatic thinking cannot change as new evidence is found, so it is inferior to science as a way of acquiring knowledge. So there were mistaken theories that were arrived at scientifically, that is true – but scientific method is self-correcting as it discards theories that do not best fit the known facts. Religion is not self correcting. Religion requires that eveything – including science – bends around it.

      As for eugenics: it is not a science, but rather an application of science, usually used to promote a racist agenda based on some belief in a sense of natural superiority of certain traits. Belief, being another word for faith, is a religious principle, and should not apply in the vernacular sense to science.

      March 24, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • Clyde M

      "That was funny. I wrote, "An intelligent person would see the proof of God's existence that over 75% of people on earth see," and two different atheists ASKED ME FOR THE PROOF. Ha, ha, ha!"

      So, you mock them instead of providing it?

      Good strategy.

      Come back when you are ready to play the adult and present the evidence you claim exists. If you are so sure of it and really do desire to save another's soul, here's your chance. One shred of actual, empirical evidence is all it will take.

      Or you can keep mocking and when you stand before your god and he asks why you didn't help someone asking for it when they did, you can explain you thought insulting them the better option...

      March 24, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
  11. mandarax

    As an ex-member of the Westboro Baptist Church just said at the rally (I'm paraphrasing):

    "I was called a rebel, and I was ashamed of that for some time. But I gradually realized that when you are being taught intolerance and hate in the name of God, rebellion is the only moral choice."

    He turned out to be quite a powerful speaker.

    March 24, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • One one

      @preacherman, I think he just took a hit on his pipe.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • Nii

      Xtians know real well how spiritually abusive churches and quasi-Xtian cults cause people to lose faith. I experienced spiritual abuse but by sheer determination I kept my faith and it taught me to be a spiritual Xtian in the end. Spiritual abuse cant be tolerated in any religion even Atheism.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
  12. JULIE

    hey,one question here,if you feel God is not real then why do you care if other people do and want them to shut up so not to express their faith? just shake your head and laugh but it's not right you should tell others to remove the bible or not discuss it openly,you don't have that right,sorry,besides if we are wrong and you are right we just wasted our time if we are right and you are wrong then you have ALLOT to lose.

    March 24, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • One one

      The problem is quite simple. Christians feel that people who don't believe as they do deserve to burn in hell. Many non-believers find that to be intolerant, unjustified, imposing, and even hateful. Some believers may deny they are OK with non-believers being sent to hell. But a central belief of their religion is that their god sends people to hell if they don't believe. Since they worship their god, they obviously have no objections. Therefore, they feel eternal damnation for non-believers is acceptable. Some people find that to be offensive.

      March 24, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • mandarax

      That would be fine and good, if it weren't for two things:

      1. Some really horrible things are done in the name of religion, and are justified/tolerated by the religious. Some are immediately and urgently horrible (like bombings and killings) and some are more gradual and insidious (like suppression of science education and discrimination against women).

      2. Despite this, there is a large and powerful portion of our society that would like to give religion MORE power in our government and in our personal lives.

      So, the complacency of "live and let live" is not really an acceptable way forward.

      March 24, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Don't you love clouds


      Believe what you want... just keep it out of government, public policy and public education (in which you obviously did poorly if you think that "ALLOT" is the correct word in that mangled sentence of yours).

      March 24, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Jim

      Julie, the question itself demonstrates you are dangerously ignorant. Religious fundamentalists have for centuries forced their beliefs on others, denying them their rights, persecuting them, and in many cases eving killing them. This is not just a problem in Muslim countries, but the United States, as well. If the religious fundamentalists do not like the freedoms America guarantees, they should go to Iran or some similar place and let the freedom loving people stay in America. Once the fundamentalists grow out of the bronze age and allow people to live their lives as they choose, then aitheists will no longer need to fight back.

      March 24, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      @ JULIE,,, Hello,,

      Upon the cusps of wisdomnomics bellows the clamorings of religious teardrops. Being myself a Believer. I choose to "rightly divide the word" and/or Scripture. Is it not a righteousness to say that some of scripture is more worthy of clingning to and toward? Should not one SEEK !ST, The Kingdom Of God and leave alone the otherly things in Scripture? Where do you JULIE say the Kingdom Of God is at or for that matter is such a place real?

      Mat 6:33 tells the religious to "seek 1st" God's Kingdom while Luk 17:21 states quite irrovocably that the Kingdom of God is INSIDE US. It is also written in 1Cr 3:9 that we do labor together with God and we are God's BUILDING.

      It seems quite clear that we are nothing more than huge buildings where God and God's subjects reside. Fractal Cosmology tends to bare out such a reality.

      Love, Peace and purity of thoughtfulness,
      P. D.

      March 24, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • preacherman

      Pipe-Dreamer is speaking in tongues again.

      March 24, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      @JULIE, Trust me, often we do "just shake our heads and laugh." As far as I've seen, no one is saying that you don't have the right to express your beliefs. However, when you bring those beliefs into the open, you cannot control how others respond to it. Just as it may irritate you that people tell you how wrong your beliefs are, others feel irritated by you telling them their beliefs are wrong. You have the right to spout whatever nonsense you desire. We, on the other hand, retain the right to ridicule, contradict or correct anything you might say.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      preacherman "Pipe-Dreamer is speaking in tongues again."

      Just because one cannot fathom rmy writ doeswn't mean I am speaking in tongues. Grow up preacherman and learn the pleasentries of word's witt! God created and did establish the Micro-Cosm of Inner Sapce relatives long before our Macro-Cosm became relavent. To know of and understand the Inner and Outer Cosms a Spatialness is the beginning moments of truly understanding of God's fidelities.

      Written with purity's sakes,
      P. D.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • preacherman

      PD, just keep telling yourself that and it will be alright. No matter what they say, Jesus and your mommy know how special you are.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  13. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 24, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Wintersnow

      Well children and others should learn to respect all religions. Please respect atheism. Who are you to say that atheism is not healthy and insist that you are right? -from an atheist

      March 24, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Atom

      If a theist prays and it comes true, then god exists...
      If a theist prays and it does Not come true, it was in gods plan and let it be...
      Either way, the pink unicorn is devine!

      March 24, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • just sayin

      You have no clue as to what prayer is do you? It would be best to comment on something you know about, is there something?

      March 24, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • just sayin

      All should respect the Truth, It does no one any good to assume that atheism is a valid life choice when it is not. The same goes for false religions. Know the Truth and the Truth will set you free.

      March 24, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Don't you love clouds

      Isn't is cute how @just sayin thinks that it has the truth (Truth, TRUTH) all figgered out...

      March 24, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • One one

      @atom. And, of course, YOU know the truth.

      March 24, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • One one

      Sorry atom, my comment was meant for just sayin

      March 24, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • One one

      Atheists don't tell children that god sends them to h e l l for not believing as they do.

      2 Thessalonians, 8-9:"In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power."

      March 24, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • Atom

      @just sayin
      I'm not the one just sayin. I think before saying anything. Please do not even try to offended me in such a way. Just by your name I can tell you and I are worlds apart. You know, just saying.

      March 24, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • just sayin

      Bottom line you do not have a clue what prayer is all about as referenced by your post. That is your post is it not?

      March 24, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  14. False Dichotomy

    Streaming video of the rally can be found at:


    Thank you, Dave Singer!

    March 24, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  15. Nate

    I am athiest, but I don't agree with placing signs up with anti religious propaganda, just like I would not like to receive hatred or disbelief directed at me and my befiefs. Keep religion to yourself and the church or no church. I do not however like to hear religious based laws that I have to abide by because the majority says so. Its rough because I believe in being a neighbor, a friend and a loving person without a god. So it is not necessary to live that life without a religion. But as growing up as a fighting christian, it took myself a lot to show that I truly did not believe. I could sit in church every day but in my heart there is no desire to follow something that I have no desire or logic to do so.

    March 24, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • [VOE] Voice of E.Ville


      There is nothing wrong with being atheistic or agnostic: its probably a better place to start. Notice that no child is born believing in God; even Jesus is said to have enquired in the temple when He was a child. So there is no need to apologize for your stance...To apporach God in humility might not even mean to "be submissive": humility might imply "not asserting that you know" (Him).

      The problem is not with atheism nor agnosticism. The problem is with the prejudiced interpretation of data and/or experience; when people refuse to contemplate the validity of an idea or a possibility simply because it makes them uncomfortable or it appears to conflict with everything they previously held as truth (while the conflict might not really exist; for example, evolution rather supports the idea that God exists).


      March 24, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  16. Atom

    There are extremes in atheism as there is in theism. Some people are offended by prayers as some people are offended when I say I am an athiest. I do not like name calling but I do call people who tell me to go to hell and burn for all of eternity , jerks. I do not take offense when people say they will pray for me. I actually do hesitate to tell people I am an athiest when asked beacuse I have had too many people gasp in shock and look at me like I were an alien.

    March 24, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • Atom

      This was supposed to be a reply to Nitalynn...

      March 24, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Nitalynn

      I did catch the reply, thanks. My problem lately is I am seeing an evangelical form of Atheism lately online that is every bit as bad as the worst "fire and brimstone" preacher you could ever dream of seeing. I blame a lot of what is going on lately on the political climate. I do not agree with mixing politics and religion. I don't think it is possible to make politics a good thing because there will always be those that will abuse their power. I also think that getting involved with politics has hurt the church a lot. There are too many compromises that have been made in the church and now there have been too few compromises made in the government houses. They have succeeded in getting it all backwards.

      March 24, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  17. swaf

    anyone that really wants to know what is true or not can and will find it eventually. If you study and learn with a mindset of accepting whatever the knowledge shows you and leads you wether its what you want or think you will find you will eventually find it, if you learn and study fairly, even the scriptures you will find what you are looking for.

    March 24, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • swaf

      But if your looking for what you want to find you will find that too

      March 24, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Atom


      March 24, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • Faithful

      Swaf and Atom – religion is like science. You can do research but unless you have the open-mindedness and intellect to SEE the result of your research, you won't – even if you desperately want to.

      March 24, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Atom

      Agreed. Basic observation without bias type scientific method tought in middle school science classes (hopefully taught at least).

      March 24, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Faithful

      Atom – So when people say – as I do – that the Bible [Old and New Testaments] give answers and make perfect sense; they do so by using them and understanding what they mean, yes?

      March 24, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Atom

      Some of it is good realistic advice (bieng respectful and such) some not so much (like the killing of people). But I do not particularly like the explanation of how the universe work because much of it has been proven not to be as written in the bible.

      March 24, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • [VOE] Voice of E.Ville

      @ ATOM:

      So if you find that basic observation can yield accurate knowledge, why do you deny the value of the "religious" man's experience that he has observed?

      Dont your scientist state what they also observe and you accept it as fact?

      All you keep saying is that you would rather kiss the ass of man, than bow you head in reverence to a "God"... which is your own business.

      And if there is a God, who do you think he would rather interact with; a man who is confident in him, or a man who would rather not know that he exists?

      March 24, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Atom

      Anything of any realistic value can be taught through nature and interaction with life rathern than text filled with many inaccuracies.

      March 24, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • [VOE] Voice of E.Ville


      Ok. so the observations that one makes in life and "interaction with nature" are free of errors? Whatever you observe is the absolute truth, right? You must be joking...

      Like I said before: atheists willingly block their minds from ideas that are in conflict their theories and philosophies just like people who practice religion...

      So Atheism is a religion in the sense that it is a BELIEF SYSTEM"; because the things that science and nature reveals in no way conflict with the idea that there is a God.

      The only difference between atheism and religious systems is whether you are bowing down to kiss the ass of a man like yourself; or you are lifting your head up to thank God who is Sovereign.

      March 24, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  18. swaf

    It seems that atheists are the intollerant, they hate what others believe, even if its seems silly to them, whats wrong with live and let live, sure others may not follow that, including atheists, but they have become even worst than the religeous establishemnts, at least there is a purpose to what they try to do wether its fail or not. Atheists are all about rebelling and standing in oposition wether than having a way of their own they feed off the ways of others. If you are so smart why do you lower yourself below what you think is so bad? And alot of you fail to realize that people have tarnished christianity and what it stands for because they are corrupt like the rest of everyone, that most christians arent, if you study and read beyond what you want to see or hear you will see that its all about love, kindness, fairness, forgiveness, not judging, not condemning, and everything good, though rarely is it actually practiced, doenst mean that the method or truth of it is wrong.

    March 24, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Atom

      I'm sorry I have not seen athiest extremists mass murdering people all over the world because they stopped believing in a god..
      Saddens me to hear the stories of the relegious but who killed all those kids in Sweden and the Muslim guy in France who killed others for not believing the same relegion.

      March 24, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Faithful

      Atom, my friend – there have been more more mass murders and religious persecution of people by Atheists in the last 100 years, than all the religious wars in history – because they DID believe in God, or they 'offended' the State

      Stalin, Lenin, Trotsky, Marx, Pol Pot, Mao Zedong, Zou Enlai, Kim Il Sung, Breschnev, Castro, Ceausescu, to name but a few. Sorry.

      March 24, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Atom

      Faithful my comrade,
      Their actions pale in comparison to what relegion has done to humanity in all of it's existence.

      March 24, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • just sayin

      Atom that would be Joe Stalin, as well as several other well known mass murderers.

      March 24, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  19. swaf

    for a people that dont believe in God, you guys sound more religeous than religeous people?

    March 24, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Atom

      Most non-religious people were relegious some point their life. I was raised in a relegious household but as time went on and I observed the many contradictions with relegion and reality I stopped believing, same way I stopped believing in the tooth fairy 🙁

      March 24, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • chubby rain

      How so, swaf? There is no atheist holy book, no atheist dogma. We don't gather and sing songs about how there is no God. We don't go door to door handing out science textbooks, though we probably should start doing that, the science literacy of our country is on a third-grade level.

      March 24, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • [VOE] Voice of E.Ville


      There is nothing wrong with being atheist or agnostic: its probably a better place to start searching for the Truth of God.

      Notice that no child is born believing in God; even Jesus is said to have enquired in the temple when He was a child. So there is no need to apologize for your stance...

      To apporach God in humility as the bible suggests might not even mean to "be submissive": humility might imply "not asserting that you know" (Him) before you actually experience (Him).

      The problem is not with atheism nor agnosticism. The problem is with the prejudiced interpretation of data and/or experience; when people refuse to contemplate the validity of an idea or a possibility simply because it appears to conflict with what they previously held as truth (while the conflict might not really exist).

      For example: if I get on the phone at 2 pm with two people, and one says goodnight and the other says good night; does that mean the one that says good morning is a liar or believes in something false? Of course Not; the rotation of the earth in relation to the sun causes some to experience night while some experience day.

      So even concepts which appear to be utterly contradicting can validate the same thing... Hence, there is no real reason to reject religious concepts because they appear conflicting. In times past, men used to personify natural influences as gods (for example, they called the pressures which caused volcanoes to erupt, "VULCAN" god of fire). So the authors of the bible may well have been using figurative language to describe a real existence.

      March 24, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  20. Nitalynn

    I would love to introduce these "Active Atheist" to a concept that they seemed to have missed along the way, "Freedom of Religion". I guess it is because they are late to the idea of evangelism but they seem to think it is ok to pound their ideals all over the heads believers but if one of us try to talk about our beliefs then they start screaming how unfair it is that we be allowed to talk about it in public.

    March 24, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Atom

      We actually say stop pounding us with YOUR beleifs and then theists start questioning our non-beliefs and get angry by our reaponses which actualy make sense and then proceed to tell us we will go to hell for all of eternity... That is just being a jerk, not practicing relegious freedom.

      March 24, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Nitalynn

      I have seen plenty of places where a religious person has offered to pray for a person or situation and been attacked by atheist for doing so. We are allowed to express our opinions just as you are. I do not understand how you think attacking people is ok. If it were discussions about beliefs or lack of it I could understand but it is name calling and personal attacks. It is as bad a the worst right wing evangelical spouting their beliefs that people will go to hell for not believing as they do.

      March 24, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • chubby rain

      I don't care if people pray for me. It's their time to waste.

      March 24, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
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About this blog

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