'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. Bertrand Russell

    "The people who are regarded as moral luminaries are those who forego ordinary pleasures themselves and find compensation in interfering with the pleasures of others."

    January 26, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • Devoted Christian

      But.............but.............but the Bible said to do just that!!

      January 26, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • lol??

      "2Ti 3:4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;"

      January 26, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
  2. W. C. Fields

    "Everybody's got to believe in something. I believe I'll have another beer."

    January 26, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
  3. Albert Einstein

    "The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge."

    January 26, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • lol??

      "Luk 13:24 Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able."

      January 26, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • ¿¿lol

      It's called Luke, but no one knows who wrote it. lol.

      January 26, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • Frank Sinatra

      ♫ Luk be a lady tonight ! ! ! ♫

      January 26, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
  4. Albert Einstein

    "A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy,education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death."

    January 26, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
    • lol??

      Depends on who's holding the deed, indeed.

      January 26, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
  5. Tom Waits

    "The folks who know the truth aren't talking. The ones who don't have a clue, you can't shut them up."

    January 26, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      agreed. but christians have always had big mouths.

      January 26, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • ¿¿lol

      lol. love me some Tom Waits

      January 26, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
  6. Nietsche

    "Convictions are greater enemies to the truth than lies."

    January 26, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
    • The Truth

      I know! Another conviction and I'm history.

      January 26, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • lol??

      Well the progressives are even countin' arrests these dayz. Must be for job security when the axe falls. Progressives are disproportionately represented amongst the PUblic Servants. They can vote themselves raises in pay.

      January 26, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
    • mama k

      Yes, congress has been giving itself "cost-of-living" raises (COLAs), and it has been challenged, but the Supreme Court doesn't seem to want to pick up the issue. These COLAs seem to fly in the face of our most recent Constitutional Amendment (#27), adopted in 1992, which was first proposed by James Madison in 1789.

      January 26, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
  7. Poltergeist

    I guess I'm not being clear, this is not just feel good.

    "What science can tell us is that people who pray and meditate trend to be statistically more healthy and live longer than those who do not."-Huffington Post

    If your diet is lacking, your health suffers and you die sooner. That would be a better analogy.

    January 26, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • Poltergeist


      January 26, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      But that has no bearing at all on the accuracy. I'd rather know what's true to the detriment of my health and long life than believe a lie.

      Ignorance is bliss, but you don't see too many people asking their doctors to perform lobotomies on them.

      January 26, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • Poltergeist

      These are studies conducted by scientist in universities, those are the results, and they support that prayer is beneficial to health. Seems pretty straightforward to me. So what lie are you referring too?

      January 26, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
  8. ¿¿lol

    Nones just want people to keep out of their habits.

    January 26, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • Akira


      January 26, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
  9. Archbishop Helder Camara

    "When you give food to the poor, they call you a saint. When you ask why the poor have no food, they call you a communist."

    January 26, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • lol??

      When you ask the PUblic Servants to explain why they spent more money than you have they say it was policy. Whata police state!

      January 26, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • ¿¿lol


      January 26, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • Akira

      lol??, Congress apporves expenditures. Congress. Not the POTUS, Congress.

      January 26, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
  10. Age of Reason

    ...." I DO NOT believe that this Jesus Christ EXISTED, but if the French people wish to keep believing in this, I won't be against them!"
    Napoleon Bonaparte as quoted by General Charles Dupuis after the discovery of the Rosetta Stone after his expedition to Egypt.

    January 26, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
  11. Aldous Huxley

    "The propagandist's purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human."

    January 26, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
  12. Aristotle

    "A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion.Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious."

    January 26, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • lol??

      Cain just cut to the chase. He could raise and sell more popcorn that way.

      January 26, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
  13. John F. Kennedy

    "The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie - deliberate, contrived and dishonest - but the myth - persistent, persuasive and unrealistic."

    January 26, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      I like both of your last posts. Thats a great quote.

      January 26, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
  14. John F. Kennedy

    “…..if by a liberal they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind,someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people – their health,their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, their civil liberties.. if that is what they mean by a "liberal" then I am proud to be a liberal. “

    January 26, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • lol??

      LBJ was more liberal than you and proved it. It looked like a painful lesson.

      January 26, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
    • Max

      Yeah, LBJ signed that civil rights law, and you have been pissing and moaning about it ever since, haven't you loll?? you goddamn racist bigot?

      January 26, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
    • lol??

      Maxster, pain as in a*s*s*a*s*s*i*n*a*t*i*o*n*, silly boy.

      January 26, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
  15. lamb of dog

    So let me get this right you use story books for spiritual guidance?

    January 26, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • The Bottom Line

      Rainy has quite a few disconnected wires in his pea brain.

      January 26, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
  16. Moby Schtick

    Why did god make creation corruptible? If a car maker had unlimited powers in building cars, wouldn't they make them unable to break down?

    January 26, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • Franklin

      The profit in auto-making is in selling a person several cars throughout their lifetime, and various replacement parts to service their cars in between buying new ones. Maybe God saw too little "profit" in it for him to make the world too perfect?

      January 26, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Yeah. So, since god was making creation for himself, he must have made it corruptible because he wanted it to break down; thus, the evil and sin and guilt and punishment is all part of what god wants.

      January 26, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • Franklin

      Oops, I meant to add that a world too perfect would mean less desperation, and desperation is what drives people to God. It's like a scene in a recent Superman cartoon movie where brilliant Lex Luthor thinks up a cure for some disease, but tells his employee to restructure it into a treatment for maximum profit-making. That's your indication of just how evil he really is. He could give people a cure and end their suffering, but he'd rather have them depend upon him. There's a reason why God worship is most popular in areas of poor economic prospects and frequent natural disaster.

      January 26, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • Franklin

      Supposedly, God made the Garden perfect for humans and we had no excuse for getting uppity and disobedient. Yet, every modern-day zookeeper knows better than to put potential dangers in the animals' enclosures. In civil court we could probably sue God for leaving that dangerous plant on a property that he was allowing people to live in.

      January 26, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
  17. Rainer Braendlein


    January 26, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • AvdBergism source of filthyRainerBraendleinism©

      Ignorant Christian Captain Crunch goon. NO DOGS!

      January 26, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
  18. Pythagoras is a moron

    How can you possibly believe that triangle shapes have anything to do with math? Stupid. Squares and shapes are different, you idiots!

    January 26, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Trolling should never be this boring.

      January 26, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
  19. Rainer Braendlein

    Riepischiep once said: "If we don't have the faith we have actually nothing!"

    He was right, even when he said it in another world (Narnia).

    It is not good to be a "none". According to the Christian doctrine we have biologically inherited the nature of the degenerated Adam. Adam voluntarily forsake the powers of life (God and his angels), and joined the powers of death (the devil and his demons). Actually, if somebody is in community with God, he has got everything, and cannot feel lonely because God is community in himself. Adam made a mistake. He did not appreciate God's community but asked for more. Maybe Adam had a problem with God's invisibility. However, God made the animals and Eve for Adam as visible friends. This is the primal gospel, the first time when God proved his love to the man. Adam could have accepted this first gospel of God's love but he did not. Adam did not adore God for his lovely creation but looked for other things outside God. Yet, everything outside God is death because God is the Life. Adam had to taste the consequencies of his decision. Adam should have remained in God's community, and shouldn't have scrutinized too much.

    It is the same today. We scrutinize too much, and go astray more and more. Finally the powers of death catch us, make us unhappy and sick. The Fall is always repeated.

    Yet, there is a stronger gospel than the Gospel of Creation. It is God's Gospel of his Son Jesus Christ. God delivered himself for us. One person of the Holy Trinity became man, was called Jesus from Nazareth, and died as God's passover lamb for us. Jesus' sacrifice is a work of deliverance and and an atonement. If we believe that we get set free through the power of Jesus death and resurrection, and get changed through Jesus' power; Jesus sacrifice is also an atonement for us.

    The sacrifice of Jesus proves God's love but in order to grasp fully the meaning of Jesus sacrifice we have to refer to the sacramental baptism. By Water and Spirit we get metaphysically connected with Christ's sacrifice. Of course, faith is necessary but the real faith is connected with the sacramental baptism.

    Let us return into God's joyful community. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we can overcome the lust of our flesh, the nature which we have inherited from the degenerated Adam, and thus we are new mankind in God. Let us become worshippers in Spirit and in Truth.


    The issue is somewhat multilayered. According to the doctrine of St. Paul the sin dwells in our limbs (our biological body), that means that the natural man is condemned to sin; he or she is not able to overcome his or her personal sinfulness because its is just his or her nature by birth. That means, actually our body had to be destroyed in order to set us free from our sinfulness, but the destruction of our body would mean our complete destruction because our body belongs to us. You cannot seperate the body and the soul of a man. Hence, in order to avoid our physical destruction Jesus died for us, and suffered the physical death. In Romans 6 St. Paul writes that we have died together with Jesus through faith and baptism. Hence the sin or our sinful body gets dethroned without our physical death but by faith in Christ who died for us.

    Mystery of faith.

    It is also the case that we have a complete free will which God will never violate. Even a believer who has received the Holy Spirit can sin. Only if a believer invites Jesus or the Spirit daily to rule his life, he will overcome the lust of his body. Do we understand the dilemma? God doesn't want to kill or destroy us in order to set us free from sin but actually there is no other way. Hence, up to Judgement Day a believer always has to subordinate himself to Jesus or the Spirit voluntarily and daily, and thus his sinful body will die slowly by slowly and the Spirit will prevail. This all works without any violation. Of course, it means some suffering to accept the "death of the sinful limbs" but only the one who accepts that will come through at Judgement Day.

    January 26, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • The Truth

      "According to the Christian doctrine " was Adam created with a penis? If so, why?

      January 26, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • The Truth

      The answer is "There was no Adam." but for those of you who like the false Genesis account of creation why would Adam have been born with a penis if Eve were not created until later, thus the penis would have been much like our many other vestigial body parts, completely useless...

      January 26, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • Akira

      You are going to keep copying and pasting the same thing over and over again, aren't you?

      The Truth:
      Good question.
      The answer will propbably be that Adam and Eve were always meant to reproduce.
      Although you don't hear anything about it until they were expelled from the Garden of Eden.

      January 26, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Salvation sound like a marvelous thing, but why so convoluted?

      Some Guy- "Can you walk across the Brooklyn Bridge?"
      God – "Sure"
      Some Guy- "On your hands?"
      God- "Sure"
      Some Guy- "And pulling a bus with your teeth?"
      God- "Let's do it!"

      January 26, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • God101

      God has a penis. Adam was created in the image of God. Adam had a penis.

      January 26, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • Akira

      Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons?
      Why did he make nipples on Adam?

      January 26, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • The Truth

      I think you miss my point Akira. Adam was supposedly created alone and had to plead with God to make him a mate so either God did some stltch work to add a penis after stealing a rib or he created him with a penis designed to procreate before he had any intent of letting him. With some mental gymnastics you can find a way to make it fit by saying "anything is possible with God" or "God works in mysterious ways" but then you might as well accept any fanciful creation myth no matter how ridiculous, from any of the ancient cultures and say "Well it works because our God can do anything, even create a universe a few thousand years ago and make it look billions of years old, isn't our God amazing?"

      January 26, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • Akira

      The Truth:
      Yes, I got your point; I got it after I read your second response, which posted as I was typing my answer.
      (My phone is woefully slow!)
      I still wonder, though: if Genesis is to be taken as true, why the manly nips?

      January 26, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Akira points out a problem for The Truth. If God is male and we are created in God's image, why is the default body plan female? A male with a defective androgen receptor pathway develops as a pretty convincing female – special instructions are needed to generate a male.

      January 26, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • Christians are idiots

      "Adam voluntarily forsake the powers of life (God and his angels), and joined the powers of death (the devil and his demons)."
      That's like leaving a 2 year old with a bowl of razor blades and then punishing him for "voluntarily" bleeding all over the carpet

      January 26, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
  20. Atheism is unhealthy for children and other living things

    Nah, prayer sucks. Tried and proven.

    January 26, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • The Truth

      Prayer is an exercise in placebo, if you believe hard enough at least 30% of people will experience something they will attribute to the prayer. Sadly the placebo effect doesn't actually answer prayers, but put's one in the state of mind to look for anything that could be interpreted as fulfillment. It's like looking at a cloudy sky and praying for one to look like a face...

      January 26, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Poltergeist

      Prayer is a biological function with proven benficial mental and physical health effects. Same for meditation. Click my name to read for yourself.

      January 26, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Duh. It's a brain state. All brain states are biological. You could say the same for "fear."

      January 26, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • Akira

      Aren't polergeists a manifestation of the mind?

      January 26, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • Tom, Tom

      You mean polargeists? No, but they are declining along with the arctic ice.

      January 26, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • Poltergeist

      The point is it doesn't suck if it makes people healthier, happier. That's crazy talk.

      January 26, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      That's the point?!? Really? Okay, but someone who doesn't see the health risks to smoking or doing crack might say that; we atheists understand that there are "unhealthy" aspects to belief. Just because it "feels good" does not mean it's right or allowable.

      January 26, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • Akira

      Tom, Tom:
      Nah, I meant poltergeists...typo.

      January 26, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • Poltergeist

      Cnn blogs suck on iPhones

      I guess I’m not being clear, this is not just feel good.

      “What science can tell us is that people who pray and meditate trend to be statistically more healthy and live longer than those who do not.”-Huffington Post

      If your diet is lacking, your health suffers and you die sooner. That would be a better analogy.

      January 26, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Poltergeist", but you assertion is founded based on previous opinions regarding iPhones and usability with the cnn Belief Blog. There is insufficient data that might similar problem with the usability an iMac or an iPad with the cnn Belief Blog, therefore you may have a better experience utilizing one of those devices.

      January 26, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • hal 9001

      transmission correction: that might indicate similar problem

      January 26, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • hal 9001

      transmission correction: that might indicate a similar problem

      (cnn's transmission of text must be "dreaming")

      January 26, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
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.