The money man behind atheism’s activism
Todd Stiefel, a wealthy businessman, is responsible for bank rolling many atheism activism projects.
March 23rd, 2013
10:00 PM ET

The money man behind atheism’s activism

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

(CNN) - Todd Stiefel is far from a household name, and the odds he gets recognized on a street corner, even in his hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina, are small.

For Stiefel, a slim, scruffy ex-Catholic, his public persona is his wallet and activism. Through the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, the 38-year-old has made an indelible impact on the nation’s fastest-growing “religious” group: the nonbelievers. Most of the highest-profile atheists campaigns –- flashy billboards in high-traffic areas, news-making efforts to get atheists to come out of the closet, and boisterous rallies - are funded by his fortune.

Stiefel isn’t shy about his far-reaching goals.

“What I am trying to accomplish is multifold, he told CNN. “I consider myself working on the next civil equality movement, just like women’s rights, LGBT rights and African-American Civil Rights. We are still in the early stages of eliminating discrimination against atheists and humanists. That is something I really want to accomplish.”

So far, Stiefel has pumped $3.5 million into those aspirations, and his money benefits a number of atheist organizations, from the Clergy Project, a group that helps atheist and doubting clergy out of the closet, to American Atheists, arguably the most in-your-face atheist group in the country.

Stiefel sees his work as far more than just money. For him, this is just the beginning.

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From Catholic school to atheist millionaire

Stiefel was born in Albany, New York, in 1974 to Catholic parents. He was raised in a Catholic household, confirmed in the church, attended Sunday school, went to a Catholic high school.

“I was a cross-wearing, praying, religious-retreat Catholic,” Stiefel said. “You could say there were points that I felt the spirit.”

But his faith, he said, fluctuated during high school. “I was always a skeptic,” he said, “and I always asked a lot of questions.”

At 18, Stiefel attended Duke University to pursue a degree in psychology. To fill an elective, he took an Old Testament history class at the Duke University Divinity School. It was there, he said, that his final “ebb” away from belief took hold.

In the class, Stiefel said he saw a flawed logic in the Old Testament. In particular, he said, he began to see much of the Old Testament as unoriginal stories that had been told in many pagan traditions.

“'Wait a second, is what I believe in really the truth or is it really the accumulation of myths bundled in a package?’” Stiefel remembers asking himself. “That was the end of my faith right there.”

After graduating from Duke, Stiefel went into the family business: Stiefel Laboratories, a company that develops products to combat skin diseases. For 12 years, Stiefel worked with his family and turned the business into a major player in their specialized market.

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In 2009, with Stiefel in an executive position, the Stiefel family opted to sell the company to GlaxoSmithKline. The price tag: $2.9 billion, according to media reports at the time.

“I only got a very small piece of that, for the record,” Stiefel said with a laugh. “I did, however, find myself in a unique and fortunate position where I was able to do whatever I wanted to do.”

And like many who have the luxury of doing exactly what they want, Stiefel began thinking about what he was truly passionate about. After kicking around the idea of starting another business, the answer became clear to the young millionaire: advocating for atheism.

“I wanted to try to help the world,” he said. “I wanted to give back and this seemed like the most productive way to help humanity.”

‘Just doing my part’

Stiefel put $2 million in to begin his foundation. In his first year, according to tax documents, the nonprofit disbursed $700,000 to groups like the Secular Coalition for America, the American Humanist Association and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

In 2010 and 2011, the giving continued with the foundation distributing around $750,000 to different atheist and humanist causes. In 2011, he also pumped another $500,000 into his foundation.

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“I am just doing my part within my means,” he said. “Different people have different means. I am doing what I can do, just like the rest of the people in the movement are.”

But recipients of the money, such as David Silverman, president of the American Atheists, see his impact as much greater than just a one-off activist.

“Todd is an example of what major contributions can accomplish for atheism,” he said. “From a donation stand point, he is really leading the movement to a different level.”

Walking the line

One of Stiefel’s major concerted contributions in the last three years was the Reason Rally, an event held on the National Mall in Washington, which was billed as a watershed moment in the atheism movement. The goal of the event was to show to religious Americans that atheism was a powerful minority in American life.

Stiefel speaks onstage at the Reason Rally.

The rally drew a number of high-profile speakers, including Richard Dawkins, the author of “The God Delusion,” and thousands of attendees, despite rainy weather.

In his speech to the crowd, Stiefel talked about what he sees as the most important problem facing atheism: “Discrimination comes from ignorance, and in this case it is ignorance about our beliefs,” he said. “We are told freethinkers believe in nothing, but that’s a misunderstanding. We believe in a lot of things; we don’t all believe the same things.”

Stiefel put $250,000 toward the rally, a contribution that Silverman, the organizer, said was critical.

“He brought the Reason Rally to a brand new level,” Silverman said. Without that money, “we would have had far fewer people and a far smaller event.”

Silverman and the Reason Rally advocated for a specific brand of atheism. Silverman, who regularly calls his group the “Marines of the Freethought Movement,” is not shy in making it clear that he views his goal in calling out religion and elevating atheism.

Stiefel says he doesn't necessarily endorse those tactics wholly, but he does see their validity.

“I try to walk a line,” he said. “I see religious criticism as valuable, and groups like American Atheists are good at that. I do think we have to have a dialogue about who has the right ideas and part of that is pointing out the flaws in religious ideas.”

Stiefel continued: “I also see inter-belief work, though. I do find a lot of value in inter-belief work and I do see a lot of value in general charity work.”

Evidence of that is his work on cancer fundraising.

In 2012, Stiefel approached the Foundation Beyond Belief with an idea of creating networks of nonbelievers around the country to help raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Stiefel tapped into his atheist network and began organizing different event.

In total, the atheist groups raised $430,000 in 2012, including a $215,000 donation from Stiefel and his wife, Diana.

“Across the country there are 150 local groups of atheists and freethinkers raising money for charity,” Stiefel said proudly.

The key, however, was bridging the gap between atheist and religious communities in the name of charity.

“We welcomed Christians, as well,” he said. “Some of our biggest fundraisers were Christians.”

For 2013, the goal is to raise $500,000.

Expanding the community

With money and resolve comes great influence for Stiefel. He has the ear of many atheist leaders, meaning he can dictate the movement’s focus.

Stiefel said he wants to see the atheism movement expand its footprint.

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“What I would really like to see is expanding out communities to people who may not just be atheists or agnostics and into people who are religiously skeptical and may still have some religious beliefs,” he said. “Nobody is a perfect skeptic and I would like to see more people like that in our community.”

For Stiefel, this is a personal priority. He says his wife, whom he describes as a skeptical Christian, is someone who would fall within an expanded atheist movement.

“My message is not only of anti-theism,” Stiefel said. “I don’t choose to attack religion itself. I see religion as something that provides both good and ill to the world.”

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Atheism

soundoff (7,617 Responses)
  1. dogmandg

    When atheists imply all Christians are unreasonable, that feels like discrimination. I never had a problem with a atheists before, but this new brand of atheist activism is really starting to bother me. These billboards create negative feelings toward atheists.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • nanee

      I cant wait to file a discrimination lawsuit against the first POS tbat stsrts their hatred diatribe.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:48 am |
    • Nicodemus Grumpschmidt

      But you religious folks are allowed to have your billboards? Hmmm. You seem to be favoring a double standard here. If you feel threatened and insulted by an atheist billboard, then the problem is entirely yours. Deal with it, dude!

      March 24, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
  2. Dan Roper

    In a nutshell Christians believe that a cosmic Middle-Eastern Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a woman made from a rib was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.
    And you don't understand why I have doubts?

    March 24, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • nanee

      Oh great, another POS with their life bashing hate. Get a life you loser and find something better to do than to find ways of making fn of people. You must lack something, I however do not pity you. It is expected of atheists to act like children

      March 24, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • Dan Roper

      @nanee – I don't hate, I just question your strange beliefs. Show me where I am wrong with my statement.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:59 am |
    • funfly

      Well said,

      March 24, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • centeredpiece

      But you have NO doubts that in the beginning there was nothing and at some point all the nothing in the universe got together and decided to have a BIG BANG and viola – suddenly the nothing was something and the nowhere was everywhere and the universe began. That, to me, requires more faith in pixie dust and fairies.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
  3. Steve

    He is no fool who surrenders that which he cannot keep for that which he can never loose.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:46 am |
  4. DukeAJuke

    To Dan the Author. When an article about an atheist starts by calling atheism a religion group, it has already failed. The only qualification for being an atheist is not believing in a god. Beyond that, atheists have very little in common..

    March 24, 2013 at 8:45 am |
  5. the AnViL™

    ancient middle eastern slave cults are physically, psychologically, and socially dangerous to all of humanity.

    the abrahamic religions are predicate on ignorance, misogyny, fear, hate, division, bigotry, and intolerance.

    if one thing is clear, if history has shown us anything... it is the complete and total lack of divinity in xianity.

    it is impossible for any adherent of xianity to "be nice" and still remain faithful to the admonitions, instructions and edicts in their bibles.

    here on this blog – every day – we see the incredulous nature of xian thinking.

    we see the dishonesty and malevolence that xianity breeds.

    xians are virtually identical to their muslim cousins. they seek to control others and eschew liberty. they seek to restrict others and stomp on equality.

    xianity – being a slave cult, has instilled the slave mentality in its adherents. they literally desire to be eternally dominated by an unjust, megalomaniacal, blood thirsty, vain, jealous, homicidal, infanticidal, intolerant, bigoted, hate filled, imaginary man who lives in the sky.

    they believe it is their moral, ethical, and divine duty to assert that if others do not believe as they do – they are damned to an eternity in a lake of fire. most of them, with great pride and glee are happy to point this out, and relish in the idea that those who do not agree with them will suffer infinitely. clear evidence of the malevolent nature of xianity.

    time and again – xians prove themselves to be the true force of darkness in this world and an intolerable danger to our nation.

    xians are the enemy of freedom, liberty, and equality.

    xians are the chaff.
    tolerance of religious idiocy is coming to a swift end.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:44 am |
  6. Christian7

    "It is no longer enough that we pray that God may be with us on our side. We must learn again that we may be on God's side."
    — Wernher von Braun (chief architect of the Apollo Saturn V rocket)

    March 24, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      Braun the Nazi war criminal? Yes, those nutty, whacky Nazis had God on their side. And the Vatican. Ain't religion grand!

      March 24, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • the AnViL™

      wernher von braun – like adolph hitler – was xian.

      most good nazis were xian.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:50 am |
  7. Steve

    For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."Rpmans 1:20
    Seeing the universe is enough for everyone to be responsible to God. To say it just happened would be like walking in the desert and finding a Rolex watch and saying," wow look what evolved !" I say let the agnostics rage, there arent any true atheists because they cant prove God doesn't exist. Its just so much meaningless man-talk. Hes real and in case you havent read the Bible they way things are going looks like hes coming back real soon.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • Mirosal

      really?? So after 2000 years, YOU have the proof that "god" is fast approaching?? Oh, please, do tell . I'm thinking you were a member of the "Great Disappointment" back in 1844 in your previous life. Oh, I was told that your "god" will be arriving riding alongside Apollo in his mighty sun chariot, and Thor and Ares will be their honor guards.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:57 am |
  8. Ponyboy Garfunkel

    A person might feel similarly about t-i-thing.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • Ponyboy Garfunkel

      The above is a misplaced reply to Emily, who feels this fellow is wasting $.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:55 am |
  9. Iohlawyer

    Stiefel's campaign is funded by his fortune......PRIDE. Listen carefully, he believes in god, but his god is Todd.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • A dose of reality

      If that's true, at least his god exists.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • Antony

      Yes, and PRIDE belongs to the DEVIL. Put the pieces together, and you find that the Devil wanted to be equal to God...and, therefore...who would be behind this, in the "Catholic Church" sense?

      March 24, 2013 at 8:49 am |
  10. Solomon Walker

    CNN is blocking some commentators that support religious faith.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      No, it's an automatic filter that blocks certain letter combinations. Perhaps someone can post the forbidden list

      March 24, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • Phazon

      Your absolutely right same thing happened to me on Facebook maybe it's not them but something else that doesn't want people speaking of God.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:14 am |
  11. nanee

    For those who say atheism is not a religion, wake up and please s-t-f-u! The way you people believe in not believe rivals the believing power of the people from west baptist ministries church.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • A dose of reality

      Religion is a belief in a higher power. To call atheism a religion shows your ignorance. Would you like to keep on posting some more of it?

      March 24, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      And not believing in Bigfoot is a religion. And not believing in the tooth fairy is a religion. And not believing in the Loch ness Monster in a 40 foot jockstrap playing cards with talking unicorns is a religion.


      March 24, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • Comeonman

      I don't believe in anything that doesn't have significant evidence based proof. I don't believe in bigfoot, the loch ness monster, alien abductions, ghosts, or your GAWD. The difference is atheists are vocally atheistic because of the fact that religion holds too much sway in the public discourse when it has 0 evidence to back it up. If people's belief in ghosts meant that gay people couldn't marry, I'd be pretty vocally anti-ghost too.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:52 am |
  12. H. J.

    Worked in a hospital for 10 years.When someone is in agony from pain the first words out of their mouth are "God help me or Jesus please help" To all you atheists talk is cheap...you will answer to Jesus.now go prepare your answers.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • A dose of reality

      oh Jeebuz! Oh GAwd! Now there, don't you feel better?

      March 24, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      But instead of God helping them, doctors and nurses and science helped them. What's your point, God-Boy?

      March 24, 2013 at 8:48 am |
    • Comeonman

      How does this in any way mean it's true ? Pretty sure Hindu's, Muslims and every other faith out there calls out to their divine being(s) when their scared. I'd also like to point out that their cries to their magical sky friend doesn't stop whatever they're suffering.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:48 am |
    • Athiest346

      And how many times were those "prayers" answered? Who eased their suffering with medication and treatment? Not "god", we did, humans did. More specifically, a doctor or a nurse.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:57 am |
    • J. W.

      I faced potential death in a flood about 7 yrs. ago. I pondered for a moment if this was a good time to choose a religion, but realized that I fully believed my own mix of Buddhism/Paganism/Humanism, and I was content with that. I said goodbye to my loved ones, and was not angry at Mother Nature. Yes, I was afraid to drown–I don't like pain like the rest of us. But to those Christians who say you will change your mind when faced with death or pain, my experience says you're wrong. Oh, and I was raised a "born again" Christian, but I always questioned a lot and finally was able to accept that it did not ring true to me.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • BP

      Were those same words uttered by Buddhists and Muslims and Native Americans etc? Didn't think so. The article neglected to mention how narrow-minded many "believers" can be.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • JW

      It is always like this with the Christians. First, the carrot, then, the stick. It is all about love until you use your head and reject them, then it's all "you will answer to him" and the inevitable threats of hell and punishment.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:14 am |
  13. John

    A lot of atheists argue that religion is forced on them in all sorts of different forms... Just as I have a right to believe in something, you have a right not to... forcing anti-religious views on everybody else is the same exact thing these people fight against... It's hypocritical, but nobody ever bothers to point that out because, "Oh that's different!" No it isn't... I don't care how you look at it, it's the same exact damn thing. You say I can't put up a billboard with Jesus or Buddha or whoever because it offends you? Well you're anti-religious banter offends me! But, guess what, I'll get over it and go on with my life, instead of whining like a crybaby about somebody "offending" me. I swear people still act like they're in kindergarten.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • nanee

      Good point, but these people will pretend or ignore the preposterous methods they use are identical to those they claim every religious person has tried on them. Always playing the victim in order to justiify their methods. I just wished they would accept that their "diety" like many atheists say, is their hatred for religious people and their beliefs. Afterall, these atheists just want to hurt people who think differently than they do

      March 24, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Most of us wouldn't have an issue with religion if it were kept out of the public square and didn't step on equal rights of all. It is used to tell gays they are wrong; it is used to tell women what they can and can't do with their bodies; it is used to tell other who don't believe they will suffer in some eternal torture that can't be shown outside of religion to exist.
      It's rather funny that theists use science but when it comes down to it they fight against it. Science is what makes this world go round.
      Have your faith all you wish but do not use it to dictate on how others should live...if they are not affecting your life in a direct manner then it is not your business how they live.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:54 am |
  14. A Linoge

    I'm all for what this guy is trying to do, but these methods aren't always the best. The billboards they put up are in bad taste. They're rude, insulting and childish. Every time I hear about one, it feels like a step in the wrong direction. Making fun of someone's god isn't going to get them to question their beliefs, it just offends them and demonizes us atheists.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:41 am |
  15. Kevin

    THIS is the most blatant display of intollerance ever. In this age of acceptance, when Christians are urged to accept everything even though it may be against their core beliefs, here is a "man" who not only belittles others religion but does not want them to believe simply because he does not. Tell ya what, Mr. Stiefel....why don't you lead a campain against Islam and put up billboards about Allah ??? I bet you will be recognized on the streets then.....if you know what I mean.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • JW

      So you're saying, "go pick on their imaginary sky god. He is much worse than our imaginary sky god." Untrue. Yours is just as bloodthirsty and hateful, but he has been largely defanged by science and the separation of church and state in the west. Remove that and Christians would once again rival Islamists as theocratic dictators. You hold no moral high ground.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • centeredpiece

      Atheists are often the most intolerant of all. They "know" the truth and try to silence everyone else.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      That is only your invalid opinion. I know you don't have anything to back it up since I have read the studies that show otherwise.

      March 24, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
  16. Avdin

    Welcome to the admission of evangelical atheism

    March 24, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • A dose of reality

      Please explain in detail you're reasoning for your opinion

      March 24, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • Phazon

      Bill board signs about ones faith is evangelizing because to them they believe they are spreading good news which is what evangelizing means.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:18 am |
  17. Face-Palm

    If God exists, he is inseparable from truth. Why do so many people run away and hide from the truth? So many scared children sucking their thumbs in the shadows. Why not let truth shine into each and every corner? If God’s not there, at least we have been honest and honorable.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • polonelmeagrejr

      Face Palm: How does one acquire such a huge false sense of superiority?Fact is – for about 300 years almost every serious philosopher knows there is no way to logicallly prove or disprove god's existence. SOrrry, just the way it is.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:46 am |
  18. A dose of reality

    I got a bone to pick with this god bloke.. but cant seem to get hold of him he has no phone number no address and no one has seen him ... Its like he just dont exsist

    March 24, 2013 at 8:39 am |
  19. Reality

    For your next billboards:




    Added details upon request.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • ko

      He's an angry elf

      March 24, 2013 at 8:47 am |
  20. Dan Nord

    It's his money to do with as he pleases. Jesus has made the greatest impact since history began with his teaching and church.
    The Bible has been and will always be the greatest book written because it represents the first written and printed book, not to mention the most ever printed.
    Just because Stiefel chose not to study the Bible properly doesn't mean his questions are free thinking or even logical. He's a man trying to make a place in history for himself with money.
    To make my point, free thinking does not equal intelligence. Science and theory have created more questions with each answer they find. That doesn't mean science is wrong, it means that humans will always make judgements in error.
    Stiefel has made the greatest one and that is thinking he will lead.

    March 24, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • Reality

      Moving now to the 21st century:

      The Apostles'/Agnostics’ Creed 2013: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of 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

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, 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.

      (references used are available upon request)

      March 24, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • A dose of reality

      Is that the zombie Jesus you're praying to? The one who came to Earth as his own son, in order to die (but not really) and then go back into the sky to join himself (this is the ultimate sacrifice????) so that people, if they telepathically say that zombie Jesus is their master, will be cleansed of the sin that was placed on them thousands of years ago when a lady made from a rib was convinced by a talking snake to eat an apple, and if they do that (even if they are the most horrible, evil people in the world) get to live forever in paradise, while people who don't accept zombie Jesus will burn forever? Is that the Jesus you pray to?

      March 24, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • Mark

      One thing that science has proved is the bible is allegory not fact. Loyola Academy even teaches that. Too know the bible is to know its not a history book. The damn thing contradicts its self all over the place from the origin of eve to Jesus' lineage. Only the most ignorant non thinking person could believe otherwise. You can believe what ever you want about Jesus but to believe the bible is a history book and every word is sacred, that tells me that you have never read it.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:51 am |
    • BP

      I would submit that the guy or girl who learned to harness fire or that special someone who invented the wheel had far more impact than jesus ever did.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:13 am |
    • Phazon

      Reality what you say is not it in the scriptures but false doctrines of the catholic church or maybe you just added your own thoughts but you are 100 percent wrong.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • Reality


      Joe Smith had his Moroni. (As does M. Romney)

      "Latter-day Saints like M. Romney also believe that Michael the Archangel was Adam (the first man) when he was mortal, and Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah."

      Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;

      Mohammed had his Gabriel (this "tin-kerbell" got around).

      Jesus and his family had/has Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day demon of the demented. (As does BO and his family)(As do Biden and Ryan)

      The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other "no-namers" to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.

      Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these "pretty wingie/horn-blowing thingies" to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals. Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.

      Some added references to "tink-erbells".


      "The belief in guardian angels can be traced throughout all antiquity; pagans, like Menander and Plutarch (cf. Euseb., "Praep. Evang.", xii), and Neo-Platonists, like Plotinus, held it. It was also the belief of the Babylonians and As-syrians, as their monuments testify, for a figure of a guardian angel now in the British Museum once decorated an As-syrian palace, and might well serve for a modern representation; while Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar the Great, says: "He (Marduk) sent a tutelary deity (cherub) of grace to go at my side; in everything that I did, he made my work to succeed."
      Catholic monks and Dark Age theologians also did their share of hallu-cinating:

      "TUBUAS-A member of the group of angels who were removed from the ranks of officially recognized celestial hierarchy in 745 by a council in Rome under Pope Zachary. He was joined by Uriel, Adimus, Sabaoth, Simiel, and Raguel."

      And tin-ker- bells go way, way back:

      "In Zoroastrianism there are different angel like creatures. For example each person has a guardian angel called Fravashi. They patronize human being and other creatures and also manifest god’s energy. Also, the Amesha Spentas have often been regarded as angels, but they don't convey messages, but are rather emanations of Ahura Mazda ("Wise Lord", God); they appear in an abstract fashion in the religious thought of Zarathustra and then later (during the Achaemenid period of Zoroastrianism) became personalized, associated with an aspect of the divine creation (fire, plants, water...)."

      "The beginnings of the biblical belief in angels must be sought in very early folklore. The gods of the Hitti-tes and Canaanites had their supernatural messengers, and parallels to the Old Testament stories of angels are found in Near Eastern literature. "

      "The 'Magic Papyri' contain many spells to secure just such help and protection of angels. From magic traditions arose the concept of the guardian angel. "

      March 24, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
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About this blog

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