home
RSS
Atheist organizer takes ‘movement’ to nation’s capital
American Atheists president David Silverman in Washington, planning for Saturday's rally.
March 23rd, 2012
11:04 AM ET

Atheist organizer takes ‘movement’ to nation’s capital

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – Sitting in a chilly hotel hospitality suite in a suburban Maryland hotel, David Silverman plans his attack. As the frequently quoted president of the American Atheists and a constant thorn in the side of religious organizations, attack mode comes easily to him.

At the moment, it isn’t the religious right or the “horribly misinformed,” a term Silverman uses for certain religious people, that are in his sights. Rather, it’s a menu.

“Spinach or Caesar salad?” Silverman, 45, asks to no one in particular. His dinner guests, a logistics consultant, a Marriott hotel representative and Silverman’s new administrative director, eat through a few courses before discussion turns to dessert.

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

“In the beginning, God created chocolate,” Silverman says, his eyes scanning the table for reaction.

Laughter ensues. But this is a business meal. From choosing salads for a fundraising dinner to studying the timing of the Washington transit system, Silverman has been spending less time recently on the big question of God’s existence and more time immersing himself in the nitty-gritty of planning what he promises will be the largest-ever atheist gathering.

On Saturday, Silverman hopes that from 10,000 to 20,000 atheists, agnostics, doubters and secularists of all stripes to converge on the National Mall in Washington for what his group calls the Reason Rally.

Silverman is especially proud of the event’s speaker’s list, dropping names like a proud father. He beams when noting that the man he calls “Dawkins” – Richard Dawkins, the scientist and author of “The Blind Watchmaker” and “The God Delusion” – will headline the rally.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

“We have people busing in from as far west as Ohio, as far south as Florida and as far north as Maine,” Silverman says. The weekend will also play host to the American Atheists’ annual convention, to be held at the Maryland Marriot where Silverman is debating salad options.

Silverman is billing the weekend as a watershed movement in the atheist “coming out,” of recent years.

“We want people to know we are huge, we’re everywhere, and we are growing,” he says. “The goal is to advance the position of atheists in America.”

A nice guy combatant

Silverman, a professional inventor at Bell Labs who has 74 patents under his name in the area of telecommunications infrastructure, worked his way up the ladder at American Atheists.

He started as a volunteer in New Jersey in 1996, moved up to be the state’s director and then jumped from national spokesperson to vice president. In 2010 he became president of the organization, which counts 4,000 members, has a $750,000 annual budget and has become the organizational face of a burgeoning American movement of atheists.

Silverman has taken the group in a much more outspoken direction, reflecting a national trend among atheists.

“Ed is extremely intelligent, better educated than I am… I think I have more fire than he had,” Silverman says of his predecessor at American Atheists, Ed Buckner. “It shows itself in the billboards; it shows itself in the press; it shows itself in our corporate attitude.”

In November 2010, weeks before Christmas, American Atheists placed a billboard at the New Jersey entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel that showed the three wise men heading to Bethlehem with the message “You KNOW it’s a Myth. This Season, Celebrate Reason.”

The sign earned national media attention and stirred so much controversy that it prompted the conservative Catholic League for Religious and Civil rights to respond with a pro-Christmas billboard at the New York end of the Lincoln Tunnel. “You Know It's Real,” the sign said. “This Season Celebrate Jesus.”

Silverman says that atheist billboards started popping up in the 1970s but then mostly disappeared until the Secular Coalition for America started raising billboards around the country several years ago.

Silverman has taken the billboards to an aggressive new level. Earlier this month, his group paid $30,000 to post two billboards - one in heavily Muslim Patterson, New Jersey, and another in a heavily Jewish Brooklyn neighborhood - that read “You know it’s a myth … and you have a choice.”

The signs were admittedly in your face, says Silverman – all the more so because they were in Arabic and Hebrew.

“What I am doing is not giving religion respect that it wants but it doesn’t deserve,” Silverman said. “I respect people; I respect humans. I do not respect religion. And I do not respect the idea that religion deserves respect.”

That attitude has made Silverman a bogeyman for religious groups, especially conservative ones who discern a secular assault on American religion.

“These people are vicious is what they are,” says Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League. “They stand for nothing. Their only existence is to be against people of faith.”

And yet some of his faith-based enemies say Silverman treats them with respect. Donohue says Silverman “is a nice enough guy” and that on the occasions they’ve met, the atheist organizer displayed geniality and a sense of humor.

Alex McFarland, the Christian director of Worldview and Apologetics at North Greenville University, holds regular public debates with Silverman about God and the place of religion in American culture. Though they “disagree on God and a lot of the great issues of life,” McFarland says, he has “great respect for David Silverman.”

“I enjoy dialoguing with people like him that are misguided,” McFarland says. “I feel a duty to give a response to people that are holding positions that undermine the fabric of our liberties and freedoms.”

Silverman speaks highly of sparring partners like Donohue and McFarland. “I don’t see them as evil people, I see them as wrong people,” Silverman says.

But he believes they overlook one major aspect of atheism – that its numbers are growing.

Atheists have long pointed to surveys that suggest atheists and agnostics make up between 3% and 4% of the U.S. population. That number increases when Americans unaffiliated with any religion are included. The Pew Center’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey found that 16% are unaffiliated, though only a fraction of those are avowed atheists and agnostics.

“Atheism is growing in all 50 states,” Silverman says. “What people don’t seem to understand is all we demand at American Atheists is equality. We don’t want the obliteration of religion; we don’t want religion wiped off the face of the earth.”

From Hebrew school to disbelief

As a kid in Massachusetts, Silverman was the only atheist he knew. “I’ve been an atheist all my life,” he says. “When I was a kid, I had to get on a bike, I had to ride 2 miles to the library to find the one book that had to do with atheism.”

Silverman was raised Jewish. His parents sent him to Hebrew school and he had a bar mitzvah, even after telling his mother that he did not believe in God.

“I remember it clearly, getting up on stage and everybody in my life was in front of me. Everyone,” Silverman says, recalling his bar mitzvah. “And I stood up there, and I looked everyone in the eye, and I lied. I lied. And I hated it.”

For Silverman, it was a turning point, a moment when he resolved not to lie about his disbelief. “It was one of those experiences… it saddened me,” Silverman says, the disgust showing as he contorts his face. “And I didn’t really do anything about it. I just did it.”

Silverman studies computer science at Brandeis University, a predominantly Jewish school that helped him cement his non-belief and honed his debating skills.

“I was the fodder of debate,” Silverman says. In the lunchroom, he proudly used the non-Kosher trays and relished debates with religious friends.

“Even the people who had gone to school to become rabbis could not put together a reason to believe in God,” Silverman says.

At Brandeis, Silverman met his future wife, Hildy. “Very early on when we dated, it was more of an issue because I was Orthodox and he was atheist,” Hildy laughs. “We were actually apart for a few years because we couldn’t see how that would work.”

Two years after graduation though, Hildy called him and said that she was doubting her religion and needed a non-religious weekend. Silverman picked her up from the airport and six months later the “mixed” couple, as Silverman calls them, was married.

“Religion is not a factor in our lives to the point that is causes strife,” Silverman says. Hildy stills attends Orthodox synagogue sporadically.

“I am a very strong supporter of separation of church and state,” she says. “My husband has no problem with people believing what they believe. I am proof of that. He just doesn’t want it foisted on him. And I am totally in line with that.

“I think he is extremely brave in what he does,” she says.

The couple has one child, 14-year-old Rayanne. She was introduced to Judaism at a young age and attended a Hebrew school in New Jersey. When it came time to plan for a bat mitzvah, however, Rayanne let her parents knew the truth.

She didn’t want one. She was an atheist.

Silverman says he didn’t want his daughter to be an atheists just because he is, but his pride in her decision is clear. For him, she is the future of atheism.

“I am very confident that we will win within 20 years,” he says. “I am saying that we will have a substantially more equal presence in 20 years.”

No issue too small

Back at the hotel, Silverman has turned his focus from the monotony of salads and soups to more pressing issues.

“What are we going to do about the Bibles in the room,” Silverman asks the obviously surprised Marriott event planner. “We do not want the Bibles in the rooms.”

It is Marriott policy not to remove Bibles in guest rooms, but Silverman won’t back down.

“We need to do something with them,” he says, ticking off ideas with his assistant: Recycle them, give them away, put them outside the doors, perhaps even destroy them.

The event planner sits back in her chair, struggling for words.

“What we don’t want to do is be disrespectful to the hotel,” says Silverman’s administrative director, Amanda Knief, putting an end to the discussion.

Yet Silverman plans to encourage atheist guests to place Bibles outside their doors in protest.

For him, each battle - whether over the presence of a cross at the World Trade Center memorial or Bibles in a hotel room - is worth having.

After the latest American Atheist billboards went up in Patterson and Brooklyn, Silverman said he reported death threats to the police. His attitude: just par for the course, another day in the life.

“We ask the tough questions,” he says. “We say the things that are politically incorrect if they need to be said.”

“We will win the big picture,” Silverman says, twice in a row. “(Being) the Marines of free thought means that we are going to fight the unpopular fight, and yes we are going to win.”

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Atheism • DC • Politics

soundoff (3,330 Responses)
  1. Urafkntool

    Atheistic Jews are typically known by another name:

    Zionist.

    March 25, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Geff Gordon

      I don't care what religion (or none) our politicians have as long as they keep it to themselves. Think about the words and actions of the candidates who make so much about being of this or that faith. I hope that Silverman can expose their charade and restore some degree of honesty to the presidential conversation.

      March 25, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • Urafkntool

      I wouldn't believe a politician if they told me the sun was going to rise tomorrow. Frankly, the beliefs a politician espouse mean nothing to me because as far as I know, they don't stay true to their faith anyway. Hell, Obama's a muslim, and denies it publically (except for one Sean Hannity interview.)

      March 25, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • Gokubi

      @URafkntool

      You lost me.... As an atheist jew I understand the need for a jewish state in israel but I'm a far cry away from being a zionist... care to delve a little further?

      March 25, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • Urafkntool

      Zionists are typically non-practicing, non-religious Jews. Wherever you find corruption you'll find Zionists. The biggest Zionists are in the Bildeberg group, and of course there's Madeline Albright, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his group of Israeli supremecy crazies.

      March 25, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • Gokubi

      @Ura

      Eh.... I think you're mixing up non-practicing jews and atheist jews, and believe me there is a difference.

      March 25, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • Urafkntool

      Non practicing means you no longer practice. Typically because you no longer believe. Being an atheist means you don't believe. What's the difference?

      March 25, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
  2. Hello

    I will believe in a god as soon as HE shows me HIS dic... until then he is just a mythic's imaginary friend who thinks he is a god

    March 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • SpiderCNN

      To Hello,
      you are most funny! It's enough for you to look at your own dic or vig. and realize that there is a creator! LOL

      March 25, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • tallulah13

      You must be a guy, spider. Only a guy would look at his junk and think "there must be a god!"

      March 25, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • SpiderCNN

      Tallullah13 yea i m a guy!
      ... but my junk is a complicated system and someone must have created it ... it is much complicated than your response and the response from Hello. Again logically we can not claim that your response/posting just popped by itself and you and Hello do not exist. ... i must confess sometime my junk does pop by itself! LOL

      March 25, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Spider, if the human reproduction system was designed by "god", then god is a terrible designer.

      You should read a few books about human evolution. There is a reason why we are built as we are, and it has nothing to do with any god.

      March 25, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • SpiderCNN

      Evolution is not bases for refuting creator's existence. Infact it complements the existence of a creator due to limited life
      of the universe as proven scientifically.

      ps. i very much enjoy my junk. i think it is the most perfect system in the world.

      March 25, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • One one

      If god was created in man's image, does that mean he has a penis? If so, what does he use it for...and with who?

      March 25, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • One one

      @hello. google "holy prepuce". Jesus's dic, or at least part of it, is claimed to actually exist.

      March 25, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  3. SpiderCNN

    Atheist say there is no God, but don't provide a reasonable alternate explanation of the world's creation. And please don't tell me it was an accident. I can give you a bag full of alphabet and 1 billion years and let you shake it and create this very article above by ACCIDENT. And i will give a head start by not expanding the bag either.
    To this point i think Atheist among us have the lowest expectation of life on earth, ie to be satisfied with death as being the end of it all.

    March 25, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Hello

      because there is no such thing as creation... thats the point...you just do not understand that..

      dinosaurs did not have gods and neither do we.

      March 25, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • SpiderCNN

      To Hello,
      wouldn't be absurd if i claim your response just popped by itself (by accident) and you as the creator of it does not exist?

      Now how could this world and most amazingly the living in it would be created without a creator, when your simple response demands to be the creation of a thinker and a writer?

      March 25, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • tallulah13

      In other words, Spider, since you lack the intellectual curiosity to find out real answers, you just leave it at "It must be god" despite the fact that there isn't a shred of evidence to support the existence of your god, or any of the literally thousands of gods worshiped in the course of human history.

      March 25, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • igoryok

      "Atheist say there is no God, but don't provide a reasonable alternate explanation of the world's creation. "

      That's because, while there are many alternative hypotheses, if something is presently unknown then the honest reply is "I don't know" instead of incredible and self contradictory stories in the scripture. It is certainly more sensible then determining the reasonableness of creation stories from so many world religions.

      "And please don't tell me it was an accident. I can give you a bag full of alphabet and 1 billion years and let you shake it and create this very article above by ACCIDENT."

      How about we don't know? But even if it was accidental, statistical improbability is far from impossibility. The odds of having a royal flush might be in the millions, but somehow it still happens often enough. Perhaps it wasn;t an accident, but which of so many creation stories is supported by any credible evidence? Taken literally, creation stories are demonstrably false and contradict much of what is known about our universe.

      "To this point i think Atheist among us have the lowest expectation of life on earth, ie to be satisfied with death as being the end of it all."

      Death is a crucial element of life and death of an individual, even if final for the single member of the specie is one of many beginnings for life. Afterlife as presented by Abrahamic religions is presented as utopia/dystopia, which are paradoxically neither. That humans can continue to improve, evolve and expand is a far greater expectation than the zenith of human potential presented by most religions as some eternally happy or painful existence. Life is certainly more wondrous and mystifying than the overly simplistic and often demonstrably false religious explanation. A well lived life, even with the finality of death, is certainly preferred by many to even an eternity of bliss. At any rate, the quality of expectations has nothing to do with the likelihood of them coming true. The lowest expectations can hold a secret to amazing longevity, with bacteria striving with little cause for concern for billions of years despite its base nature, while sentient creatures failed to last for even a million.

      March 25, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • SpiderCNN

      igoryok - thanks for detailed response.

      the divine religions do provide a reasonable creation explanation, however, most of us stop short of fully investigating it due to
      action of the followers of these abrahamic religions.

      I must apologies for my last comment for claiming atheists and low expectation of life.

      March 25, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • One one

      @hello. But if dinosaurs did have gods, they would be dinosaurs.

      March 25, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • igoryok

      "wouldn't be absurd if i claim your response just popped by itself (by accident) and you as the creator of it does not exist?"

      Except you have a prior knowledge with ample evidence of existence of humans who use computers to answer online. But atheism make no such claim, at least not without honest acknowledging that we really don't know yet what came prior to big bang. On the other hand, an honest "I don't know" is certainly less ridiculous then unsupported and self contradictory creators in so many religious texts based on ancient understanding of our universe.

      "Now how could this world and most amazingly the living in it would be created without a creator, when your simple response demands to be the creation of a thinker and a writer?"

      Certainly a more plausible explanation then "We don't know" if the creator was not exempt from the same causality you demand of the universe. And you go further by presupposing a specific version of the creator that has little basis in objectivity and appears to be tailored to the worshipers' claims of superiority and special knowledge. That you would deem our mere existence as proof of some omnipotent and omniscient creator demonstrates fallacious reasoning incompatible with a supreme thinker/writer. The entire existence as we know it is replete with flaws allowing, at most, for a creator of a very low stature.

      March 25, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • igoryok

      "the divine religions do provide a reasonable creation explanation, however, most of us stop short of fully investigating it due to
      action of the followers of these abrahamic religions"

      You have to be a little more specific which creation explanations are reasonable, especially when these explanations necessarily exclude the creator from being bound by the same causality principles that theists claim necessitate a creator. I fail to see any more reason in eternally present omnipotent creator then in an equally arbitrary claim of eternal universe or a similarly convenient but unsupported special plea. .

      I assure you that nothing in the followers' actions has any bearing on evaluating the reasonableness of hundreds of creation stories, which often betray the limited knowledge of the creation story tellers. These stories are unsupported by any independently verifiable evidence, or simply discount our ability to verify the otherworldly. It is precisely the careful and honest investigation of these stories that leads one to doubt their likelihood.

      March 25, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • SpiderCNN

      "i don't know" = underminding the human intelligence. Even assuming lack of prior knowledge, with our cognitive capacity we should be able to at least recognize someone or something created this very message/response! Now who/what that creator is, is a different argument. The very theory of bing-bang begs for existence of a creator. The very limited life of this universe begs for the existence of a guide to bring it to the current status of harmony.

      March 25, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      @SpiderCNN, Your argument about shaking the alphabet for 1billion years and getting this article by accident is based on a flawed assumption, therefore invalid. You are right to believe that it would be highly improbable for such a thing to happen as you suggest, but you are wrong in assuming that life evolved in such a manner. The complexity of a human or an article was not the shaking of 1 billion years of letters. The result was a simple genetic instruction, "replicate." Once this instruction was put into practice, genes (for simplicities' sake) that replicated became more prevalent than those that didn't. From there, more simple instructions were laid down that would make it more likely to replicate, .i.e., do this, don't do this... a simple, yes/no... and so on. This process continued and as replication went on mutation designed to give a compet.itive edge developed. (You can see this process in action today with humans). All of your suggestions you are presenting here have been thoroughly researched and explained. People have even written about how a universe can come from nothing using our current understanding of physics. All you have to do is expand your mind, and read.

      March 25, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  4. BillyOmaha

    The day is coming when a majority of this country, the example for the rest of the world, will stop the illusion speak and found the rationale for society in Humanist terms.

    Imagine the Middle and Near East without the fantasy of Islam to found their hatred and violence upon.

    Religion really does poison everything:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_Is_Not_Great

    March 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Hello

      so much time effort and resources and lives are spend / wasted on mythic madness.. imagine if we had / and are spending all that on keeping and preserving our planet...we might have a chance for survival...
      But no... we are destroying our planet like an invading infestation species. which we are...

      March 25, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  5. Scott Robison

    Atheists are great and all, but I wish they would spend time doing something useful like feeding hungry kids and helping the world become a better place instead of plotting to destroy religion. If the bible offends you – and here's a novel concept- don't read it! But if it helps some people to do good and make the world a better place, then how could you sacrifice your humanity and knowingly tear down people trying to do good?

    March 25, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • igoryok

      "Atheists are great and all, but I wish they would spend time doing something useful like feeding hungry kids and helping the world become a better place instead of plotting to destroy religion."

      First, Silverman unequivocally stated that the goal is anything but destruction of religion. Most atheists are likely fervent defenders of the religious freedoms guaranteed in the 1st Amendment. So there is no grandiose plot to destroy all religion,

      Second, your concern about the hungry duly noted, along with yor assumption that this is all theists do instead of helping less fortunate. Perhaps you should heed your own advice instead of making assumptions about atheist charitable works. Incidentally, that may make the world a slightly better place.

      " If the bible offends you – and here's a novel concept- don't read it! But if it helps some people to do good and make the world a better place, then how could you sacrifice your humanity and knowingly tear down people trying to do good?"

      The bible (Torah and New Testament) doesn't offend me. Neither did Koran, the Mormon Bible or the Greek Mythology. Of course if it was offensive it would be intellectually dishonest to claim so without even reading it. And as long as personally held without encroaching on non-theists or other religion. That the bible is the primary motivating factor for charity would be a redeeming quality were it not for it being the source of violent conflict, mistreatment of human beings, and of ancient moral imperatives that seem arbitrary and cause pain and suffering in millions. Good deeds are to be commended regardless of the source, and one does not sacrifice one's humanity by pointing out that good intentions can pave a road to a personal hell or result in widespread suffering.

      I appreciate your concern that time and effort is being wasted instead of helping people. As such, surely you are similarly concerned about religiously driven initiatives on issues that have no negative impact on the societal health, but that result in millions spent on PR instead of feeding hungry kids or making the world a better place.

      March 25, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Beautifully said, Igoryok.

      March 25, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Hello

      we should not be feeding hungry kids.. we need to teach people who are in areas that can not support their populations to not keep making more humans THEY can't feed themselves. It is the over populations in areas that cause the problem.. feed it only makes is worst...
      How is it that women in these areas who have no resources to take care of kids are having more and more kids? because they are being fed and not taught on how to manage their reproduction to that supply their environment can support.
      Starvation is a way nature tells a species that is it over populated for the resources that are available.

      It is no different than the US paying for welfare breeders to keep making more and more babies they can't support themselves. In time when the support system fails the over population HERE will overwhelm the suppliers then the natural response will be starvation. solving the problem of over population is not to keep feeding it and making it GROW but to control the growth by breeding reductions...

      What we now see in Africa will be coming here.. I bet in less than 50 to 100 yrs. The environment and working class will not be able to feed/ support a non self supporting population. The more there are to feed the larger the group who will starve.
      But before they starve... they will be looking and demanding more and more from the supporters.. until the supported will not be able to support themselves.. we see that now with the massive job loss.. but as long as the government keeps supporting a larger and larger number of non producers the faster and more intense the starvation will occur.
      WE are now as Daniel Quinn had shown us in his books Ishmael and the Story of B.. falling.... not flying in our cultures

      the mythic HUMMM of we are so us to hearing is ki11ing us. saving every product of zex is not the answer for human or our planets survival... we are in a war over resources now.. our tax payers are suffering from being forced to support non self supporters... and those who have lived on the take from society are now.. demanding more and stealing ( group FLASH crime).. we are just seeing the beginning of the terror we have created by listening to the myths created by those who could not even imagine the life we and our children will be facing in the world of super over population.

      Programs like feeding and supporting over populations is not helping humanity. it is CREATING the problem and making it worst .. faster...

      The mythic solution to over population is not to feed it but to manage and control the growth which is counter to the no birth control no abortion, and run a way population growth the religious party is pushing and supporting Imagine 10 or 20 or more people standing where there is 1 now... more and more voters and people in churches will NOT SAVE US from STARVATION.. and neither will gods.

      only when the rich start to get hungry will they demand the stop of run a way populations.... and that will not happen for some time as long as they have the money to hide from the bad choices they are making for the rest of us.

      March 25, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  6. Pipe-Dreamer

    Atheism like any religious construct, needs socially connective fundamentalisms within the individual psyche in order to be a vestiged clarification regarding one's singularity of emtioned assesments.

    March 25, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      emotioned not emtioned,,, 🙁

      March 25, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Not really. Generally, the only thing atheists have in common is the lack of belief in god. However, social organizations provide the strength of numbers that allow us to fight the burgeoning movement towards theocracy that is threatening the very foundation of the United States.

      March 25, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  7. John

    I am an agnostic theist. If atheists believe that there is no God, why do they even talk about him? God has been in discussion for thousands of years. It is a simple logical question that no atheist can answer convincingly.

    March 25, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • momoya

      While I was yet a christian I wondered similarly; now that I am an atheist, it makes perfect sense.. There are several good answers out there, but not just one "one-size-fits-all" answer.. Perhaps google could help you out.. Best of luck in your research.

      March 25, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • JJNYC

      The Boogie man and the Easter Bunny have been in the discussion for years as has been Santa Claus. Doesn't mean that everytime they are mentioned we are acknowledging their existence.

      March 25, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • tallulah13

      John, have you been paying attention to the Republican primary race? That right there is why it is important for atheists to speak out. I don't want to see this nation destroyed by theocratic politics. Complacency is the fastest way to lose freedom.

      March 25, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Hello

      I will believe that god exists... as soon as one shows me HIS dic.

      March 25, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      @John, I recommend, Sam Harris' "The Moral Landscape." While he does not directly answer the question you pose, because no one actually knows for certain, he does provide an interesting perspective into morality and why we do what we do. Dawkins also addresses this in "The God Delusion."

      Personally, I think it's easy to imagine why we create gods. From our early development of consciousness as children, we see the "all-powerful, all-knowing" being that is our mother or father. This gives us a sense of security and well being. In time we realize that are parents aren't the gods we thought they were and we want to replace that sense of well being by finding new gods. For some people it's actually a god. Others it's a person or money or alcohol/food, etc. I think this is just the modern play of the experience primitive man had when his consciousness first awoke and he became aware of "me and other."

      March 25, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  8. missceleryroot

    The world is so complicated and there are so many causes to fight for... Believe or not, who cares? There are still slaves in this world, people who kill for money, people who has nothing to eat, people beaten to death and we all, humans, are the cause of this, because we, as society, let it happen. And is not religion or the absence of it that causes all the suffering in the world. The world is already hell and we are demons. Use all that money to feed some people and all that so-called atheist reason to solve more useful problems.

    March 25, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • JJNYC

      "There are still slaves in this world, people who kill for money, people who has nothing to eat, people beaten to death...." all this has been done in the name of some deity or another, on a bigger scale by the supposedly pious and religious. I would argue it matters.

      March 25, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Hello

      and little catholic boys are still being used as privateZEXrelief toilets by priests..

      and the church is more concerned about taking away a woman's right to birth control and abortion.
      Why should they be concerned about women's rights to THEIR bodies.. since a priest can't get a little catholic boy pregnant by f... HisAZZ... the catholic church's priests answer to birth control is using little boys...buts... So why don't they tell all men to use the same method and leave women alone to make their birth control method choice.

      March 25, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  9. Pipe-Dreamer

    Atheists tend to demand one to stand against issues of moral connectivity and socialized tenacity.

    March 25, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  10. Bryan Moody

    Good for you Silverman!! I have always been an Agnostic/Atheist and will always be! Thank you for standing up for us too! We do not organize as religions do, and so everyone panders to the organizations-the coalitions. If Atheists can have at least a common banner, then maybe our nation will stop equating our freedom, rights, and national fabric with religion, and rather with our reason.

    March 25, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • dav

      Maybe you can be protected by PETA,since you are just animals

      March 25, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • John

      I am an agnostic theist. If atheists believe there is no God, why do they even talk about him? God has been in discussion for thousands of years. It is a simple logical question that no atheist can answer convincingly.

      March 25, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • momoya

      @John

      While I was yet a christian I wondered similarly; now that I am an atheist, it makes perfect sense.. There are several good answers out there, but not just one "one-size-fits-all" answer.. Perhaps google could help you out.. Best of luck in your research.

      March 25, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  11. dav

    Atheists president David Silverman is just what he believes he is – a pile of money droppings.Athiests believe their children are just animals like cows or pigs.Maybe thats why cannibals are athestists.

    March 25, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • Hello

      you and all humans are born atheists.. it si not until you are brainwashed with myths do you become theists.

      If believe in a god/s was so important to the survival of humanity why is not religions a natural knowledge like other instincts.. aka.. hunger, zex drive , breathing, digestion... etc?
      because it is NOT necessary... myths were created to fool the fools and make their salesmen rich and powerful over the masses.

      Read Caesar's Messiah.. to learn who created the Christian myth and why..
      every Sunday evening at 8pm MT on Revolution Radio you can hear from the author Joe Atwill about the hypocrisy of the christian myth..

      March 25, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • aim

      Sounds to me like you are the animal...

      March 25, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  12. Brad West

    I thank God that we live in a country that affords us all the freedom to express our views publicly, express our beliefs, and be who we are. Many in this world do not have that freedom.

    Yes, we know atheists exist. It's ok if they do not believe God exists. Just as it's ok that I believe God does exist. No, I will not go into that "proof" silly thing. Because the response for "proof" by an atheist goes goes two ways . . . prove to me God doesn't exist. But here's the bottom line and what is unreasonable . . . for 85% of the population to quiet themselves and stop being who they are because 15% says they want them to because they feel uncomfortable for being different. That's 'reason' and 'reasonable'? Stand in a room with 100 people, 85 believing, and 15 not believing in God. Tell me then if it's reasonable to expect the 85 to stop believing simply because 15 in the room do not. In fact, if the 15 expect that then shouldn't the 85 be reasonable in expecting the 15 to change their view to accomodate the 85? Obviously, both situations are absurd. Believe or don't believe. It's your privilege. If you're simply upset because people don't agree, then that's not about "reason" but about being too full of pride and simply childish.

    March 25, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • One one

      You say you think it's Ok if they don't believe. Is that true? If you are a Christian , you worship a god who you believe sends people to hell for not believing in him. Since you worship him, you obviously have no objections to him sending people To eternal damnation & torture. How would you feel if you lived in a society where 85% of the people believed you deserve to burn in hell for not believing as they do? Atheists don't tell children that god will send them to hell to be tortured forever if they don't follow their beliefs.

      A message from the god of "love".

      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 25, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • mandarax

      I don't think that people are upset that others don't agree with them. I think they are upset that those others have too much influence on government and private lives. They believe the influence is often detrimental to a free society, and it's time to challenge that authority.

      March 25, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • momoya

      @ Brad West

      You don't seem to understand how a claim works.. The person who makes the claim must prove his claim, not the person who doubts the claim.. If I claim to have the world's best running Ferrari, you can doubt that I have that car until I prove that I do have it.. What would you tell me if I said to you, "No, I have the car unless you can prove that I don't have it.". Do you see how silly that is?

      If you assert that god exists without evidence, than I can dismiss your claim without evidence.. No evidence was brought forth, the default position of disbelief holds.. You don't seriously believe in unicorns just because nobody has yet proved that they don't exist, do you?

      March 25, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • Hello

      you were born an atheist...even of the one you currently accepted as the REAL myth.until someone picked the myth you are forced to believe in.. usually your family or culture picked it for you. . are are still an atheist of all other myths... I am an atheist of all those othere's that you claim are not REAL and one more you do.. YOURS..

      March 25, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • [VOE] Voice of E.Ville

      @one one:

      Who wrote the scripture that you quoted; man or God?

      To say that Scripture is inspired by God is the same as saying "men expressed their enthusiasm for God by writing about what they THOUGHT of Him: SO THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN INSPIRED(INFLUENCED) BY GOD AND SPOKEN/WRITTEN BY GOD.

      So there is no way you can blame God for one man's failure to be more open-minded; what Paul wrote is not God's fault.

      March 25, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • KO

      Mr. West – Your position holds no water. You don't prove negatives... I'm not saying that there is no God. I'm simply saying your position lacks merit.

      March 25, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Nii

      A MESSAGE FROM THE GOD OF LOVE? 2 THESSALONIANS 8,9
      These verses have been taken out of context 4 de purpose of furthering atheism. However de key word there is "obey". Christ aka God doesnt see 'Jews/Xtians' as people who profess dese religions but those who love their neighbor as themselves.

      March 25, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • Nii

      VOE to put things in context read 2Thess1:8,9 n contrast it with Rom 1&2. Paul believed in de Parable of de Good Samaritan n de Parable of de Two Sons. Obedience 2 God is to love your neighbor as yourself( Rom 12:8-10). Don't let people who don't understand Scripture shame u. Paul wasnt a bi.got!

      March 25, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • One one

      The passage I quoted is not out of context, it is what it is and speaks for itself. I agree, it is not the word of god, it's the word of man, and most likely not even Paul. Then if god exists, who is to know what his word is? It comes down to people's conjecture . And one persons conjecture is no better than another's in the Adsense of proof. You would be surprised ( or maybe not) at how many and how different the opinions are from Christians about such things. It appears that everyone interprets the religion to suite their own world view.

      March 25, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Nii

      MOMOYA I will like you to be honest to John. Which Church did you belong to? As a former "minister" you seem to be ignorant of the tenets of Christianity. I don't mind you being atheist now but I also know that a lot of sects use the ID "Xtian" tho Xtians dont consider them as part of the Church.

      March 25, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Nii

      ONE I beg 2 differ here. As I said if de Bible u that u quoted is still around check the Scriptures I gave VOE. Xtians use a principle for interpretating Scripture which says that to put a verse in context use the passage in which it appears n compare with other verses on de same topic. U didn't do!

      March 25, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Nii

      I wish everybody was a spiritual Christian. That is a morally upright and emotionally mature individual who professes CHRIST. However not all will be Christians but all can be spiritual by learning to deliberately love their neighbor as themselves. This is what pleases God not professing belief.

      March 25, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Geff Gordon

      I don't care what religion (or none) our politicians have as long as they keep it to themselves. Think about the words and actions of the candidates who make so much about being of this or that faith. I hope that Silverman can expose their charade and restore some degree of honesty to the presidential conversation.

      March 25, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  13. Chewbacca

    Here's my video of the Reason Rally, there was a decent turnout considering the rain and all.

    In the video, there are people arguing at the end.

    http://youtu.be/y2QEjZwg1BQ

    March 25, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  14. Political Gods

    I adhere to the following of an atheist Sufi named Gurdjieff. Mankind is organic, his body follows the rules of that creation as far as the soul it is a part of the "absolute". NOT a god.

    March 25, 2012 at 8:51 am |
  15. Political Gods

    mankind still refuses to except the absolute truth that God is mankind's biggest invention!

    March 25, 2012 at 8:45 am |
  16. georgex

    That these people can have a rally in this nation is greatly appreciated. With the expression of different ideas people can evaluate and choose for themselves what seems more reasonable and satisfying.
    Have you seen the billboard with "You don't need God to be good", a very thought provoking message.
    You may have doubts about the absolute goodness of religion when looking at a history that set up one man as infalitable and never making mistakes or at the Inquistion of torture and death and the hundreds of years of the Dark Ages where questioning was considered a sin.

    March 25, 2012 at 8:23 am |
  17. Reality

    The Triple A Creed (Apostles'/Atheists'/Agnostics') : (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

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

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

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

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

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

    Amen
    (References used are available upon request.)

    March 25, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • rich

      I respect your thoughts, you're human just like me.
      What has brought me back to Christ time and time again are the prophecies that are in the Jewish Scriptures about Jesus. The Jews do not accept him so they would not have changed the their own scriptures to support his messiahship and preexistence. Isa. 53? Isa. 9 passages in Micah?

      Second when I look at wildlife and the human body I am astounded at the level of design. Sure I know this won't hold water with an atheist but an eagles eye was designed. There were not a hundred or 1000 near sighted or far sighted eagles( male and female) that perished hunting fish from 1000 feet up as an atheistic evolutionist may insist. Gravity that is so advantegous to our life wasn't an accident.

      I'm sorry but atheists in my mind have got to be the most unimaginative people around. Evolution without God is their one answer but they don't seriously think deep enought about the trillions of patterns that would need to fall into line. The earth is simply not THAT old, Then of course there is the question of beauty and abstract thought. If our brains are mere collisions of atoms, how can we trust ourselves?

      Lastly, atheists don't actually believe there is no God. If I KNEW there was no God and only had 70 years on this earth I certainly wouldn't obey the laws of the land so arbitrarily produced to guard society. Life would truly have no meaning so obeying social codes and morality just to propigate the species would be non sense.

      March 25, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • Hello

      to learn the truth of the Christian myth Read Caesar's Messiah..Web site has a link to Revolution Radio for their Weekly Sunday program at 8pm MT broadcast. the best Sunday bible study class on the planet.

      The christian myth was created by the Roman Flavian family to control the jews, fool the world and control the masses... and still does...

      March 25, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • Reality

      Only for the newcomers:

      origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times review and important enough to reiterate.

      New Torah For Modern Minds

      “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.

      The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."

      March 25, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Hello

      the christian myth was created from the Jewish one..

      for more info on that
      read Caesar's Messiah...

      March 25, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  18. Mark

    And if their 'right'?

    March 25, 2012 at 7:53 am |
  19. Mark

    The problem with the 'numbers' is that there really isn't a verifiable means to accurately reflect those who simply no longer participate in religion. Making the choice to leave the rules and rituals behind ranks right up there with the bravest thing I have ever done.

    March 25, 2012 at 7:52 am |
    • Reality

      o http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html
      o
      Religion………………………… Adherents

      Christianity ……………………..2.1 billion

      Islam…………………………… 1.5 billion

      Irreligious/agnostic/atheism.... 1.1 billion

      Hinduism 900 million
      Chinese traditional religion 394 million
      Buddhism 376 million
      Animist religions 300 million
      African traditional/diasporic religions 100 million
      Sikhism 23 million
      Juche 19 million
      Spiritism 15 million

      Judaism…………………………………….. 14 million

      Baha'i 7 million
      Jainism 4.2 million
      Shinto 4 million
      Cao Dai 4 million
      Zoroastrianism 2.6 million
      Tenrikyo 2 million
      Neo-Paganism 1 million
      Unitarian Universalism 800,000
      Rastafari Movement 600,000

      March 25, 2012 at 8:10 am |
  20. Mike

    Uh, and what if atheists are wrong? It will (literally) be Hell to pay.

    March 25, 2012 at 7:48 am |
    • Atheist

      So, you believe only because you're afraid not to? Pascal's Wager is for cowards.

      March 25, 2012 at 7:53 am |
    • Hello

      the life after death myth was started by the Egyptians.... you don't see any mummys with wings or halos walking around do you?

      me either.

      March 25, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • tallulah13

      Better start sending sacrifices to Anubis, Mike. Or Zeus. Or Odin. Because there's just as much proof that they exist as there is proof that your god exists. Wouldn't want to die praying to the wrong god, now would you, Mike?

      March 25, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven.

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

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