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

Atheist organizer takes ‘movement’ to nation’s capital

By Dan Merica, CNN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A nice guy combatant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Hebrew school to disbelief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No issue too small

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Atheism • DC • Politics

soundoff (3,330 Responses)
  1. JonnyPD

    It's a sad that a person whom has his/her own beliefs would have it questioned by a mass group of senile instigators. The people fighting to prove their point cross the boundaries into peoples personal lives, speaking of ways they should living, and the things they should be believing. Is this nothing more than a pathetic attempt to pesk those people whom have beliefs, it's also a sad thing that people have to infringe on others privacy, arrogantly telling them how to believe.

    March 23, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Will

      I agree completely. I'm just confused as to whether you mean the atheists or the religions that are doing just this. If you re-read your post, it could be applied to both without a problem.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • MonsterHead

      Im pretty sure its the religious nut jobs, they have been forcing the kool-aid down peoples throats for a very long time

      March 23, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  2. John Powell

    “I feel a duty to give a response to people that are holding positions that undermine the fabric of our liberties and freedoms.”
    Really? I mean come on.

    March 23, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  3. theimmigrant

    "fools say in his heart there is no God" – now i understand this passage,
    How come you don't see people spending this much time, effort and money saying there is no tooth fairy, or santa isn't real.
    and why are you so angry at something that you don't even believe exists? Why? Isn't this more foolish, trying to prove what you think is obvious. You're obviously look more foolish than those who believe in God, and you don't even realize it.

    March 23, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • Jim

      Because nobody tries to pass legislation or tell me how to live based on the teachings of the Tooth Fairy.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Will

      Did you read the article? The position stated is that he just doesn't want atheists to be regarded as pariah in society. He even says that he is fine with what people believe.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Brett

      Because of people like Rick Santorum, who are scarily close to hijacking the country with a Theocracy.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • !!!!!!!

      only to you.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • Island Jack

      We do this because people aren't using Santa or the Tooth Fairy to impose their delusions on the rest of us. They don't Santa or the Tooth Fairy to subvert out government, invade the separation of church and state, to tell woman what they can do to their bodies, or how I get my health care. And as far as I know, no one ever killed millions of people over the centuries in the name of Santa or the Tooth Fairy. Now, THINK ABOUT IT!

      March 23, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  4. John Powell

    “I feel a duty to give a response to people that are holding positions that undermine the fabric of our liberties and freedoms.”
    Really? I mean come on, really?

    March 23, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • Brett

      Rick Santorum? Really? I mean come on, really?

      March 23, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • John Powell

      Greg that was a quote from the preacher, not Silverman. Sorry I didn't make that clear.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • John Powell

      I mean Bret. I really need to pay attention to what I'm doing.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • John in DC

      You know that was a religious believer that said that and not the AA President, right?

      March 23, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  5. Shawn

    A person should aspire to be defined by what they are for instead of what they are against. My only beef with Athiests is that they are defined by what they despise. I sincerely hope in the near future they aspire to change their image to focus on what they are for. Possibly the sciences, education, kindness towards others for the sake of kindness.

    March 23, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • What Now

      Shawn, I am for science and education. I am for humanitarianism and freedom. I am for helping others and not judging. I only have problems when religious groups who try to override my choices by insisting that our laws, education and healthcare systems be determined by their faith.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • John in DC

      Not all Atheists "despise" God or religion. They just don't want to be forced to follow religious teachings or laws that are passed explicitly by religious groups (ie. Only men and women can marry each other)

      March 23, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Nancy

      I can't despise something I don't believe in, IE. the world of the supernatural, hence religions. I have no problem with spirituality however. But as others here have stated, what I do have a problem with is the new Tennessee bill that allows science teachers to discuss Genesis as a scientific alternative to gasp... evolution. But still despise, nope.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
  6. cony000

    If Jesus could heal a blind person he happened to meet, then why not heal blindness ? -Christopher Hitchens
    That is why it is up to you CH to cure blindness but it is a little to late for you because you ate eat not to long a go. Hopefully another person will pick up the torch and cure something that needs to be cured.

    March 23, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
  7. KMAN821

    Organized atheists are no different than organized religious zealots ... both are fatih-based and extremely obnoxious from this agnostic's perspective.

    March 23, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • Wonderkid

      Except one totes guns, gathers child armies, and bombs things. Can you guess which?

      March 23, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • Amused

      I strongly disagree! Atheism is NOT a belief system! It is simply the lack of belief. There is NO atheist Bible, No atheist comandments, No dogma, just reality.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
  8. Sifleut

    Anyone can be spiritual, but religion separates people. It's time to evolve!

    March 23, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  9. MCR

    It blew me away that he married to a woman who, despite her doubts, is still religiously connected and goes to an Orthodox synagogue, when she goes. The message the Silvermans' marriage is sending me is: He's hedging his bets. 🙂

    March 23, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • Jim

      Actually, most christians I know would say she's doomed as well, Synagogue indeed!

      March 23, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • MCR

      Being Jewish (as are the Silvermans despite what he says) I don't worry about what Xians say or think.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
  10. Ricardo

    This Silverman guy is crazy.Billboards, huge gatherings, trying to convince others that being an atheist is the right thing and not showing respect to others people beliefs, he is behaving the exact same way as religious people do. I hope he is not making a living out of this American Atheist President position, because if he does, he is no worse than those he criticize.
    He is not a atheist he is just one of those haters wide spread trough out the world who wants their $hare

    By the way I am an atheist

    March 23, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • Amused

      Ricardo, I agree with what you are saying. But, I think that Silverman is tired of being "beat over the head" (so to speak) with constant religious propaganda and just wants the gerneral public to understand that there are far more atheists, agnostics and general religous doubters than the religous groups want to admit. From Silverman's point of view, he sees many religous organizations attempting to force and bully their dogma upon politics, media and education without anyone representing the opposing rational school of thought. He sees the obvious lack of an organized voice to speak for the rational people who don't have a belief slanted agenda to push upon our nation's government and infrastructure. Without an opposing rational voice, the religous zealots have a distinct advantage in their attempt to push their agenda into nearly every facet of our nation and our freedoms. He wants to establish an organized front for promoting rational thought. I am NOT a radical activist like Silverman, but I DO support his efforts. He is simply attempting to represent the millions of Americans who believe in rational thought without the useless dogma of religion.

      March 23, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • ammamaw

      thank you Amused.

      March 24, 2012 at 1:39 am |
  11. Sao

    YOU'RE SLOW...THAT'S WHY

    March 23, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  12. Larry N. Scartz

    Mark Twain said, "Faith is believing in something you no ain't so. Blood, Sweat and Tears give good advise, "you will never know (the answer) by living, only your dying will tell". Take comfort, liive a good life, and when you die " another child will be born to carry on.

    March 23, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  13. cony000

    There is no GOD just assho$$$ and MF'S. All religions and atheist are full of s@@@. In the end we will all find out what really happens. Meanwhile everyone needs to get off their culos and do something righteous for humanity.

    March 23, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • MCR

      My friend, the God you don't believe in is not the God I do believe in. That said, I agree with your last sentence. Whether we believe or not, we need to help each other out.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  14. Mary

    I hope for his sake it's all a myth when he meets his maker. The rest of us will hedge out bets that God is alive and well and will try to live according to faith, working to make our society a better place as Christians and people of faith.

    March 23, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • Brett

      I'm a Calvinist. You're screwed anyway, sorry.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • SciGuy

      Brett, you don't understand Calvinism, evidently.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • Sifleut

      You don't have to be a "God" person to be a good person! Whatever gets you through your day, but keep it out of my schools, public areas and politics. Freedom of and freedom FROM religion!

      March 23, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • Brett

      Actually, I do understand Calvinism. And you're not part of the Elect. Sorry you didn't make the cut.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • MonsterHead

      Im a Calvin-n-Hobbesinist

      March 23, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • JakeAZ

      he already met his maker (his parents.)

      oh, is that what christians are doing? making the world a better place? when's that gonna start?

      March 23, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • SciGuy

      Wrong, Brett, I am one of God's elect. As evidenced by my faith in his son Jesus. Your statement in fact is evidence that you don't understand Calvinism. No one knows who is *not* Gods elect. And strictly we don't know who is, but based on one's faith in Jesus and resulting Christ-like works, we can be reasonably assured of their election.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • MonsterHead

      @JakeAZ – WIN!!!!

      March 23, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  15. Andrew

    Everybody has to decide what they want to put their faith in, even if that is faith that God doesn't exist.

    March 23, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • tom

      The word failth has no meaning to me. Your argument is invalid from where I stand.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  16. Jem

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    Those making the claims have the burden of proof, not those who are skeptical.

    Now I will look for the obligatory bible quotations that "prove" existence.

    March 23, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • Andrew

      Actually, in logic it is easier to disprove than to prove. To disprove, one has only to cite an example where the statement is false. To prove, one has to build an argument that is true in all cases. That being said, the onus is on atheism to disprove God as that should be the easier thing to do. It isn't, and that actually is weight for the existence of God. Everybody has faith in something, atheism just puts faith in the statement God doesn't exist.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • Noah

      There exists a real world independent of my mental and sensory experience. This is an extraordinary claim. Now give me some extraordinary evidence.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • Will

      @andrew Purple dragons exist and are out to raid your kitchen of all your rice-a-roni. They will also finish off your Oreos, but only on Thursdays.

      Prove me wrong.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • tom

      Andrew, your ignorance is astounding. Nice strawman by the way.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • Amused

      Andrew, Religious believers have entertaining ways to twist and rationalize completely illogical conclusions!

      March 23, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  17. Canadain

    I'll be there in "SPIRIT"! Go Atheists
    !

    March 23, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  18. Sao

    YOU CAN'T SEE MAGNETIC FIELD/YOU CAN'T SEE OXYGEN/YOU CAN'T SEE GRAVITY......NOW LET YOUR BRAIN GO TO WORK....YOU CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT IT...THINK HARD...HARDER...I HOPE YOU GET IT!

    March 23, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      First, caps lock makes you look like an idiot. Second, those things can be measured reliably, and the effects can even be predicted with a large amount of accuracy. Try again, your argument means nothing.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • Dave836

      OMG, I HAVE THIS PROBLEM TOO!!! IT SUDDENLY HAPPENED LAST NIGHT AND NOW EVERYONE THINKS I'M YELLING AT THEM!!! MAYBE WE CAN CALL A SCIEN...tist. Oh look, all you have to do is press a little button...

      March 23, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • asdf

      I know, right? Why are people just so down on Santa Clause? I mean, I feel his presence everyday. He is light and love and other stuff too.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • Jebus Zombie

      "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was in this wise. When his mother, Mary, was espoused to Joseph, before they came together she was found with child of the Holy Ghost." Yes, and the Greek demigod Perseus was born when the god Jupiter visited the virgin Danae as a shower of gold and got her with child. The god Buddha was born through an opening in his mother's flank. Catlicus the serpent-skirted caught a little ball of feathers from the sky and hid it in her bosom, and the Aztec god Huitzilopochtii was thus conceived. The virgin Nana took a pomegranate from the tree watered by the blood of the slain Agdestris, and laid it in her bosom, and gave birth to the god Attis. The virgin daughter of a Mongol king awoke one night and found herself bathed in a great light, which caused her to give birth to Genghis Khan. Krishna was born of the virgin Devaka. Horus was born of the virgin Isis. Mercury was born of the virgin Maia. Romulus was born of the virgin Rhea Sylvia. For some reason, many religions force themselves to think of the birth canal as a one-way street, and even the Koran treats the Virgin Mary with reverence. (God is NOT great by Christopher Hitchens)

      March 23, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • Andrew

      "You never have true knowledge. At best, you only ever have a partial theory." – Stephan Hawkins. This means you can never "know" anything. So if you look to what he is saying, you don't know that gravity really exists. You have a concept, you have what you percieve to be results that can even be measured...you have a theory. But you never "know" that gravity exists. It is a rationalization. It is faith. That is not popular nomenclature in science, but it is applicable. So the argument does hold weight. It ultmately comes down to what you put your faith in. The question becomes, do you really not believe in God? Or do you just not want to believe in God?

      March 23, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • Huh?

      "The question becomes, do you really not believe in God? Or do you just not want to believe in God?"

      God is a man made concept, there is no proof of it's existence, there is proof that it's all in your head. Plus I think believing in Santa Claus is much more doable too, but I really think Tinker Bell is the bomb!

      So the question becomes, do you really not believe in Tinker Bell? Or do you just not want to believe in Tinker Bell.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • JakeAZ

      we know all of those things exist because of science. if we reversed the clock 1,000 years people just made up the answers to tough questions about things like gravity and magnetic fields. they would just attribute it to some supernatural force. this is why religion was at its height during the dark ages. your supposedly provocative riddle would have held more weight 1,000 years ago. thankfully, today we know better.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
  19. cryofpaine

    "We don’t want the obliteration of religion; we don’t want religion wiped off the face of the earth."

    Then what do you want? "You know it's a myth" seems like you're trying to convince people to turn away from religion. Honestly, I don't understand this obsessive need to try to convert everyone to your way of thinking. Why is it so hard to say "I don't agree with you, and that's fine."? It's fine to discuss religion, fine to share your beliefs (or lack of them), but this aggressive campaigning, it's just silly.

    March 23, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • asdf

      I think he's saying that there's a difference between forcing religion away and convincing people to throw religion away. The former is certainly evil, while the latter is just determined by the individual. There's no coercion.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • asdf

      Also, I doubt you would think that every billboard trying to get people into a church is an "aggressive campaign". This view is exactly what the american atheists are trying to undo. You apply a different standard to each group because you (probably) belong to one.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
      • cryofpaine

        Actually I do think that. Even the billboards put up by my religion. Personally I think most advertising is at best a waste of time and at worst an insult anyway, but especially when talking about issues like this. These kinds of deeply held beliefs aren't going to be changed by some catchy slogan or pretty billboard. They won't even make most people stop and think. All they'll do is irritate people.

        March 26, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • Tim

      It's needed because Religion a) is forced down our throats and b) every GOP candidate uses their religion as a foundation for their politics hence forcing it on the rest of us. durr

      March 23, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Jay

      "I don't understand this obsessive need to try to convert everyone to your way of thinking."
      That argument works both ways.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
      • cryofpaine

        Yes it does. I wasn't singling atheists out, I apply this equally to any group – religious, political, etc. With politics I can understand it a bit more, since convincing someone to your side means more support for your issues, and more likelyhood of getting what it is you want. However, it still doesn't excuse it. We should focus more on recognizing that 99.999% of the time, you will not be able to convince someone else to change their way of thinking, so instead how do we figure out a way to all work together and accept those differences.

        March 26, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  20. No Gods, No Masters

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    Those making the claims have the burden of proof, not those who are skeptical.

    Now I will look for the obligatory bible quotations that "prove" existence.

    March 23, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • Jebus Zombie

      If Jesus could heal a blind person he happened to meet, then why not heal blindness ? -Christopher Hitchens 🙂

      March 23, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • No Gods, No Masters

      @Zombie Jesus, nice.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • SciGuy

      Chris via Jebus: Umm, because he doesn't take orders from you.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • MCR

      There is no proof, but there is much about our world, our universe, that we don't understand. Over the years, science has helped to clarify and answer some of our questions, such as the origin of the universe beginning with a bang, which was confirmed through the discovery of background radiation by Penzias. But nobody has yet answered the question "WHY" did the big bang happen? What was the motivation behind this unfathomably huge event that started the universe? Even quantum physicists are wrestling with what force/being/whatever initiated the universe, and why. It's an intriguing question and discussion for people of faith and atheists to have.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • Robert

      @MCR "Why" in the sense you mean is about motivation and purpose. The issue about asking "why" is because the answer requires an intelligence behind the creation. Science is about answering the How. If sciences leads us to some sort of intelligence than we can ask but that hasn't happened yet. I don't intend to sound sarcastic but even if there was some sort of intelligence involved in our creation I'd ask "why should I care?"

      March 23, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.