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'None' leaders to chart path for more political, cultural power for religiously unaffiliated
The Reason Rally -- sponsored by secular organizations -- draws a crowd to Washington in June.
January 25th, 2013
08:51 AM ET

'None' leaders to chart path for more political, cultural power for religiously unaffiliated

By Dan Merica, CNN
[twitter-follow screen_name='DanMericaCNN']

Washington (CNN) - The religiously unaffiliated - the "nones"  - have noticed their ranks are growing. And at a meeting Saturday, a group of leaders will look to turn those swelling numbers into workable political and cultural power.

It's one of the top priorities of the eighth annual Heads Meeting, which will be held in Atlanta. Some of the nation’s most influential leaders, representing various organizations, will convene to chart a path forward and discuss the most important issues facing "nones" today.

“It is not enough that we are growing in numbers,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “We have got to find a way to bring those numbers to bear in an organized fashion so that people will take us seriously.”

A number of studies have found that religious “nones” - people who either don’t believe in God or do not affiliate with a religion - are increasing rapidly in the United States. A 2012 Pew study, for example, found this faction to be the fastest-growing "religious" group in America and determined that one in five Americans now identify with no religion.

These numbers have emboldened atheists, humanists, agnostics and other secular Americans, many of whom have long expressed a desire for more political power.

In particular, they point to the fact that they are widely underrepresented in the halls of the highest U.S. legislative body. Though 20% of the population classifies themselves as “none,” according to Pew, only one member of Congress, Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, identifies as such.

Speckhardt said it’ll take presenting “viewpoints in an organized way” to see change.

Dale McGowan, executive director of Foundation Beyond Belief and one of the Atlanta meeting's hosts, said building awareness through community engagement will be a key topic of discussion.

“Part of it is trying to consolidate that cultural presence,” McGowan said. “That has something to do with politics, but it is also more generally cultural.”

Much as churches and synagogues foster and nurture communities, McGowan said he thinks atheists can do the same to gain clout and broader acceptance.

But the meeting is more than just a forum for "none" leaders to outline their plans going forward. It is also a way for these leaders to meet face to face and discuss differences that they may have with one another.

According to McGowan, finding ways to work together was the original goal when the meeting was first held in 2005.

For years, McGowan said, “These groups operated separately from each other and sometimes at odds with each other. There was a realization that we should meet once a year and come together on the goals that we have in common.”

Other leaders echoed this viewpoint.

“One of the biggest benefits of these meetings is that it is human interaction,” Speckhardt said. “You get people face to face, and you dispel these negative ideas. You realize that we are all endeavoring toward very similar goals and that we can cooperate to make them happen.”

But while the leaders stress the need for cohesion, they also have long highlighted, even celebrated, diversity of opinion in their movement. This diversity has, at times, caused friction.

For example, the Christmas season revealed a growing rift among American atheists. Some activists want to seize the holidays to build bridges with faith groups, while other active unbelievers increasingly see Christmas as central to confronting religion.

“We certainly do disagree,” said David Silverman, president of American Atheists. “But we are on the same side. What we have to do is sit down at the table and say, ‘You are going to do your thing, and I am going to do my thing.’ ”

McGowan called cohesiveness “really the central challenge” for people who thrive on independence. “This is a group of people accustomed to taking a critical approach to things, and that means not just letting differences slide and saying, ‘Hey, these differences matter.’ ”

Other attendees in Atlanta will include Ron Lindsay, president of the Center for Inquiry, and Margaret Downey, founder and president of the Freethought Society, according to Silverman.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Atheism • Politics

soundoff (1,751 Responses)
  1. Devon

    There are no black people in this picture of atheists! They are similar to the Mormons who hated blacks. Atheists thought that blacks and other less civilized races were sub-human! They probably still feel that way

    January 27, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • sam stone

      Atheists thought blacks were sub-human? Based on what, troll cvnt?

      January 27, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Ummmm, you do realize it is your religious text that says people of color are "cursed".

      Oh and here is a link to a blog where I think you should go argue your point.

      http://freethoughtblogs.com/blackskeptics/

      January 27, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • Evelyn

      I think it's a Photoshop.

      January 27, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • gary

      Sigh. Probably Chad – he just dredged up his "Buster" alias a bit ago.

      January 27, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • Southern Humanist

      That conclusion makes no sense whatsoever.

      January 27, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • Hmmmm

      There are few black atheists because of two reasons. 1. African Americans tend to come from very religious backgrounds where their local black Church was the only place they found true acceptance in America, and though this trend is fading it's still far stronger in their community than in the white Churches. 2. African Americans have been struggling with a lack of education epidemic of their young children due to the high violence and crime rates and drugs in the poor communities in which the majority live in America coupled with severe bad dad syndrome with nearly 72% of black children being born to unwed mothers.

      January 27, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Bet

      Devon's logic:

      I can't see any people of color in this photo = atheists think African Americans are sub human.

      The sheer intellectual laziness of most christians is astounding.

      January 27, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
  2. ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

    I JUST CONVERTED MYSELF FROM MUSLIM TO NONE. I DON'T HATE PEOPLE ANYMORE.

    January 27, 2013 at 11:45 am |
  3. thomas

    to dispell a certain myth, I'm a conservative politically, vote Republican. Evolution is basically a fact. There is no reasonable justification to believe in a 6 day creation any more then one should believe a stome carving from 5,000 years ago because someone carved it 5,000 years ago. Reason and common sense are missing in the god debate. No rational person would believe in a Christian, Muslim or Jewish god. Religion is the embrace of the irrational. Faith is believing something based on nothing. Evolution has 162 years of factual data in support and zero data to support creation. The Bible is not data, it's hearsay, mythology, a story to explain the unexplainable for theprople who wrote it. It's time to move on.

    January 27, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • Larry Hannah

      Well said. It is definitely time to move on.

      January 27, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • Dawkins is an idiot

      Hey fool, what are you talking about?!?!? You make no sense

      January 27, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • Evelyn

      He makes plenty of sense.

      January 27, 2013 at 11:52 am |
  4. Thomas Jefferson

    Whenever... preachers, instead of a lesson in religion, put [their congregation] off with a discourse on the Copernican system, on chemical affinities, on the construction of government, or the characters or conduct of those administering it, it is a breach of contract, depriving their audience of the kind of service for which they are salaried, and giving them, instead of it, what they did not want, or, if wanted, would rather seek from better sources in that particular art of science.

    January 27, 2013 at 11:13 am |
  5. Dawkins is an idiot

    All of you IDIOTS have 'FAITH' that mutations create new species. (It has NEVER been observed.) You have 'Faith' that natural selection creates new species. (It has NEVER been observed). Hey IDIOTS, do not force your stupid myths and fairy tales that a frog can turn into a prince on people. It's NOT based on science, its based on faith. All of you idiots belong to a CULT, with Dawkins and other loud mouth atheists as your leader. You stupid liberal, communist, murdering s@v@ge idiot animals!!!

    January 27, 2013 at 11:04 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Dawkins is... You know, you've shaken my faith in evolutionary dynamics. I've thought that it applies to most everything that can change, but the bullshit coming from your sort seems to remain the same. Why is ignorance so stable?

      January 27, 2013 at 11:09 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry "Dawkins is an idiot", but all of your assertions to date have been unfounded Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your repeated unfounded assertions may represent truths is: "MONUMENTAL FAIL". Perhaps the following book can help you cope with the problem of repeating unfounded assertions:

      I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...

      January 27, 2013 at 11:10 am |
    • Science

      Ancient DNA reveals humans living 40,000 years ago in Beijing area related to present-day Asians, Native Americans January 21, 2013

      Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-01-ancient-dna-reveals-humans-years.html#jCp

      Origin of Life: Hypothesis Traces First Protocells Back to Emergence of Cell Membrane Bioenergetics

      Dec. 20, 2012 — A coherent pathway - which starts from no more than rocks, water and carbon dioxide and leads to the emergence of the strange bio-energetic properties of living cells - has been traced for the first time in a major hypothesis paper in Cell this week.
      Peace

      Glad you have the money to take on the courts postion.

      January 27, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • thomas

      Is it rational to believe "P" when no evidence exists to support "P". Answer is no and the textbook definition of “Faith”. We have invented gods to explain our lack of understanding of the natural world. We tend to need an explanation for everything. Thunder was Thor's hammer. Lightening was the wrath of Zeus. Jesus was the ultimate scape goat for explaining human acts of selfishness. Now were saved because we butchered the lamb of god on a post? Saved from what? We're still butchering each other on a daily basis. Religion is the excuse to do evil in the name of a man-made divinity.

      January 27, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • thomas

      To survive Religion is inventing absurd logical fallacies to dismiss scientific explanation that was once the realm of religious claims of truth. This must be painfull for the religions. Sorry you have to go through the pain of knowledge.

      January 27, 2013 at 11:44 am |
    • Southern Humanist

      Not sure if serious...

      January 27, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • Christian intelligentsia at its finest

      “You stupid liberal, communist, murdering s@v@ge idiot animals!!!”
      Well so much for hate the sin, love the sinner

      January 28, 2013 at 5:00 am |
  6. Science

    Evolution won in the Dover court trial. ID/creation can not be taught in public schools in US.. Moving forward, take a blood test map your genes.

    Creationists' tactics also have a more profound impact on science education which goes beyond biology because they communicate the idea that there is something lacking or something wrong with evolutionary theory, an idea which is not actually true from a scientific standpoint. This causes students to develop very mistaken beliefs about the nature of science, the scientific method, and how scientific research is used. This cheats students out of the proper science education which they deserve.

    Attempts to use the law to restrict or dilute the teaching of evolution in public schools matters because science matters. As society relies more and more heavily on science and technology on ever more fundamental levels, it becomes increasingly more important that all citizens receive a proper grounding in science and the scientific method. Science education is becoming a key part of what it means to be a well-informed and well-educated citizen of today; therefore, any effort to temper science education in order to placate a vocal religious group cheats the students, cheats society, and cheats our future.

    January 27, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • Flounder

      Science, great post. Thanks for taking the trouble to present such sensible commentary re the importance of science education, and of what is risked when we bend to the unreason of the creationists.

      January 27, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • Science

      You are welcome.

      Not about the adults beliefs all about the children.

      January 27, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • Science

      New back fill

      Ancient DNA reveals humans living 40,000 years ago in Beijing area related to present-day Asians, Native Americans January 21, 2013

      Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-01-ancient-dna-reveals-humans-years.html#jCp

      January 27, 2013 at 10:59 am |
  7. Science

    @you are an idiot Take it up with the courts ID/creation lost. Better have money. Education has lots of money to defend its
    position.

    January 27, 2013 at 10:27 am |
  8. Dawkins is an idiot

    The teaching of 'evolution' is not based on science

    January 27, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Your opinion is not based on facts.

      January 27, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • Damocles

      I think you have cleverly slipped in the fact that your name is Dawkins and you really are an idiot.

      January 27, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • John not the Baptist

      Learning anything does not seem to be your forte.

      January 27, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Dawkins is an idiot", but your assertion is a falsehood. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your repeated unfounded assertions and falsehoods may represent truths is: "HIGHLY IDIOTIC – EPIC FAIL".

      January 27, 2013 at 11:04 am |
  9. Reality

    The Apostles' / Agnostics’/Atheists' Creed 2013 (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.)

    January 27, 2013 at 7:55 am |
  10. Agnostic about all things

    And other things...

    One thing I can say for myself is I have no idea. Truly, I don't know. I'm not being petulant, its not a political statement it is what it is....I don't know and if you think you know I'm not sure I believe you.

    January 27, 2013 at 5:48 am |
    • NClaw441

      Thank you for that. I believe that all of us, if we are honest (at least with ourselves) have to acknowledge that we do not KNOW most things regarding God and the proper way of knowing Him– beginning with whether He exists. That said, I believe it is the natural inclination of most people to wonder about this and to search for answers. How do we do this?

      I can only explain this for myself, although I imagine that many many others have experiences similar to mine. I also know that many disagree. That God exists has been resolved for me for many years. I really don't have a strong opinion about things like the Big Bang Theory or even the Theory of Evolution. I think about them from time to time, but I don't find these matters to conflict with my faith in God. His existence makes sense to me. He is the starting point. The natural tendency of things is to become less organized– entropy is the term (I am no scientist)– but we seem to be moving towards more order, at least in this part of the universe. To me that is evidence of design, not random acts of a universe without consciousness or conscience. Beyond that, it is faith. I grant that to those who disagree with me. There are things in my existence that are not, and it seems cannot, be explained. That leaves room for faith, and I have it. (For Christians like me, see Ephesians 2:8– faith in God is a gift from God, we deserve no reward for accepting what God give us. I use this verse to temper any arrogance I might otherwise have towards those who have not (yet) been given the gift of faith.)

      I cannot support my faith much further, but I don't feel the need to. I don't insist on anyone else having the same faith that I do, although I cannot recommend it highly enough. How does one get it? I can't say definitively, but I continue to ask for faith every day. Perhaps quiet introspection and a prayer to God (take a shot that He might exist, if you don't yet believe) for the gift of faith would be a start.

      My prayer for today is that more will search for and that many will find, faith enough for the day.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:01 am |
    • Science

      Evolution WON at the Dover Trial. ID/creation can not be taught in public schools in the US .

      Creationists' tactics also have a more profound impact on science education which goes beyond biology because they c
      ommunicate the idea that there is something lacking or something wrong with evolutionary theory, an idea which is not actually true from a scientific standpoint. This causes students to develop very mistaken beliefs about the nature of science, the scientific method, and how scientific research is used. This cheats students out of the proper science education which they deserve.

      Attempts to use the law to restrict or dilute the teaching of evolution in public schools matters because science matters. As society relies more and more heavily on science and technology on ever more fundamental levels, it becomes increasingly more important that all citizens receive a proper grounding in science and the scientific method. Science education is becoming a key part of what it means to be a well-informed and well-educated citizen of today; therefore, any effort to temper science education in order to placate a vocal religious group cheats the students, cheats society, and cheats our future.

      January 27, 2013 at 7:20 am |
    • Dawkins is an idiot

      Hey idiot, there is not one person at discovery who is a 'creationist'. Most of them are 'agnostic'. People who claim that the earth was created in six 24-hour days, 10,000 years ago are just as stupid as you. When you post stupid stuff like this, you prove that your an idiot.

      January 27, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • Larry Hannah

      @ NC
      It's nice to see people admit that it is a faith thing and that you really can not justify believing in gods and afterlives but on the other hand it begs the question from me more, do you care about truth at all? Why just chock things up to faith and sit around and not try to justify it? Who knows, maybe when you finally try to justify what you believe, you might learn something new 😉

      January 27, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      If I were to try to be an Agnostic, and say, “I just don’t know if there is a god,” I would feel just as silly as saying “I just don’t know if there is a Tooth Fairy.” It’s not so much that we Atheists have ‘faith’ in the lack of gods, but we do have faith that theists accept fallacies as proof, most likely out of fear. This may be the same reason Agnostics will not profess true Atheism (the fear of being wrong). In the literal sense of trusting in evidence, I’m okay with being a faithful Atheist, but my faith is nowhere near the amount of unjustifiable faith required to believe in magical spirits helping us with daily activities.

      January 27, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
    • Nclaw441

      Larry, unless you don't think at all, faith is involved at some level of your worldview. I won't elaborate because you seem thoughtful enough to acknowledge this. This is not fairy tale stuff in my view. There is much in our lives that cannot be proven, but we don't that it exists. Do you love anyone? How would you prove love exists?

      January 27, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • Science

      Origin of Life: Hypothesis Traces First Protocells Back to Emergence of Cell Membrane Bioenergetics

      Dec. 20, 2012 — A coherent pathway – which starts from no more than rocks, water and carbon dioxide and leads to the emergence of the strange bio-energetic properties of living cells – has been traced for the first time in a major hypothesis paper in Cell this week.
      Peace

      Glad you have the money to take on the courts postion and edu.

      Making ears for transplant from stems cells and heart valves from pigs and stems cells for transplant, go figure.

      January 27, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • End Religion

      Love doesn't exist. It is a concept we use to describe an emotion, which is a response to other stimuli. Love is used to cloak our desire to procreate. Love is used to cloak our survival impulse to protect our clan (family and friends). The emotions we feel can be measured to the effect that they can be shown to register brain activity, but this isn't actually "measuring love".

      January 27, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • NClaw441

      @EndReligion– Your post: Love doesn't exist. It is a concept we use to describe an emotion, which is a response to other stimuli. Love is used to cloak our desire to procreate. Love is used to cloak our survival impulse to protect our clan (family and friends). The emotions we feel can be measured to the effect that they can be shown to register brain activity, but this isn't actually "measuring love".

      You're going to go with "Love doesn't exist"? And then you go on to describe something that you say doesn't exist? Most everyone agrees, contrary to your assertion, that love does exist. Most have felt love, for spouse, for parents, for friends, even for pets. Love exists. The problem is proving it with the means presently available to us. And that is essentially my point. The fact that we cannot prove the existence of something doesn't mean it doesn't exist (And of course it doesn't prove that it DOES exist either.) But if we cannot prove the existence of something that there are very few doubters (probably no real ones) about, there must certainly be room for faith about other things the existence of which we can't prove, including God. For those of us of faith, the same assurance of the existence of love connects us to God. (It may be too "cute" for some, but Christians believe that God IS love.)

      January 28, 2013 at 9:23 am |
  11. lol??

    "Mat 23:10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, [even] Christ."

    January 27, 2013 at 1:42 am |
  12. lol??

    "Mat 23:8-9 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, [even] Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no [man] your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven."

    January 27, 2013 at 1:40 am |
    • ¿¿lol

      LOL. From the gospels. Early apologists said there was no plagiarism by the gospel writers. The fact that they seemed so oddly like earlier pagan writings was just a pre-emptive strike by Satan himself – to confuse people into thinking they were copied. Right – wink wink.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:44 am |
    • Fluffy Bunnies

      Ah, but Satan himself is a pre-emptive strike by God to place the responsibility for his actions onto an agent of evil, which he himself created.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:51 am |
    • regarding "satan"

      Yes, fluffy but is there a "satan"? For all you atheists who wonder if agnostics are only agnostic about "God" or gods...I'm here to tell you I am agnostic about satan, faries and other dieties also.

      January 27, 2013 at 5:45 am |
    • Reality

      Matt 23: 8-10, a single attestation found no where else in the scriptures and therefore historically nil. See http://www.faithfutures.org/JDB/jdb421.html and Professor Gerd Ludemann conclusions in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, pp. 225-228.

      January 27, 2013 at 8:03 am |
    • lol??

      Reality, you keep extending Lewdmann's 15 minutes. Rumour has it that Lady Gaga is partnering with him for a duet performance, just for the synergistic effect.

      January 27, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry "lol??", but your asserted excuse if unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your repeated unfounded assertions may represent truths is: "EPIC FAIL".

      January 27, 2013 at 11:06 am |
  13. John F Kennedy

    I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.

    January 27, 2013 at 1:23 am |
    • Tip of the hat to Eric Idle

      I believe in separation of church and planet.

      January 27, 2013 at 1:47 am |
  14. President John Adams and the U.S. Senate

    As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion;

    January 27, 2013 at 1:23 am |
    • Science

      And that separation means evolution wins and is what is allowed by the courts to be taught in science class..

      January 27, 2013 at 6:24 am |
  15. John Adams

    The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.

    Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.

    (from A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America [1787-1788])

    January 27, 2013 at 1:21 am |
  16. Thomas Jefferson

    Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.

    January 27, 2013 at 1:19 am |
  17. James Madison

    Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.

    The Civil Govt, tho' bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability and performs its functions with complete success, Whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood, & the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State.

    (4th POTUS, chief architect of the U.S. Constitution & Bill of Rights)

    January 27, 2013 at 1:17 am |
  18. James Madison

    During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

    January 27, 2013 at 1:14 am |
  19. Thomas Paine

    As to the Christian system of faith, it appears to me as a species of Atheism – a sort of religious denial of God. It professes to believe in a man rather than in God. It is a compound made up Chiefly of Manism with but little Deism, and is an near Atheism as twilight is to darkness. It introduces between man and his Maker an opaque body, which it calls a Redeemer, as the moon introduces her opaque self between the earth and the sun, and it produces by this means a religious, or an irreligious eclipse of light. It has put the whole orbit of reason into shade.

    Each of these churches shows certain books, which they call revelation, or the word of God. The Jews say that their word of God was given by God to Moses, face to face; the Christians say that their word of God came by divine inspiration; and the Turks say that their word of God, the Koran, was brought by an angel from heaven. Each of these churches accuses the others of unbelief; and, for my own part, I disbelieve them all.

    Any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child, cannot be a true system.

    It is the fable of Jesus Christ, as told in the New Testament, and the wild and visionary doctrine raised thereon, against which I contend. The story, taking it as it is told, is blasphemously obscene.

    No man ought to make a living by religion. It is dishonest so to do.

    January 27, 2013 at 1:13 am |
  20. Thomas Paine

    The intellectual part of religion is a private affair between every man and his Maker, and in which no third party has any right to interfere. The practical part consists in our doing good to each other. But since religion has been made into a trade, the practical part has been made to consist of ceremonies performed by men called priests ... By devices of this kind true religion has been banished, and such means have been found out to extract money, even from the pockets of the poor, instead of contributing to their relief.

    January 27, 2013 at 1:12 am |
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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.