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. Me

    Yep just like the Bible says:

    1 Corinthians 1:18
    18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

    March 24, 2013 at 7:07 am |
    • idl3d3m0n

      Heres a couple of my favorite bible scriptures! Pay attention and look them up! This is the WORD OF GOD!

      1 Timothy 2:12
      I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;[a] she must be quiet.
      1 Samuel 15:3
      Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy[a] all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”
      Psalm 137
      "Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks"
      1 Peter 2:18 “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel.”

      Doesn't sound like an all loving God to me? But hey I'm just a lowly human so who am I to question the word of God?

      March 24, 2013 at 7:47 am |
  2. Squiggy

    CNN's hero.

    March 24, 2013 at 7:06 am |
  3. Joe Beggs

    Meanwhile the church of Jesus continues to build wells for clean water, build schools, educate children, fix peoples homes, clean up after disasters, provide first aid, doctors nurses and share hope in the world. Because God calls us to make an impact through love and the belief that all people are His children.

    March 24, 2013 at 7:05 am |
    • Chris

      There are human beings that do the same thing without subscribing to the 'Church of Jesus'. People have the capability to do great things without subscribing to a particular belief system (religious or not).

      March 24, 2013 at 7:08 am |
    • the AnViL™

      Joe – all that jazz is noble,

      when xians learn to stop meddling... when they stop attempting to inject their mythologies into public school science classes – and put an end to nullifying equality for those who do not follow their theological ideals..... maybe people will ease up?


      i dunno – xianity has 2000 years of idiocy and repression to answer for, all the ire is well earned.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:11 am |
    • Get Real People

      Yes but the recipients of your grace have to listen to you spout a bunch of crap from an old white guy's book. Yikes!

      March 24, 2013 at 7:20 am |
    • j

      i have faith but i'll go to church when the crazy christians (far right loonies) and the regular church folk stop demonizing anyone for whatever reason. the biggest thing that irks me about any religion is that they preach love for all with a big exception list. does not reconcile.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:20 am |
    • buddy

      HAHA yeah because the church never tries paying political leaders to follow their agenda (extreme sarcasm). Also it says he donated 3.5 million to groups who are only for equality. I'm pretty sure this is the U.S. where everyone should support equality. Also google him, he gives far more money to charities around the world than he does to these groups. And you said the church only does these things because god told them to. That's absurd, you shouldn't have to have a divine being telling you what to do to be good. Be moralistic for the sake of humanity.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:26 am |
    • terri

      Yes meddling, similar to telling your children to eat vegetables while they roll their eyes. Jesus said to tell others about Him even when those others don't appreciate the message.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:27 am |
    • the AnViL™

      wow terri... you appear to be a veritable fountain of dumb.

      when any religious group seeks to legislate their morals – we understand – because of the nature of monotheism – they feel morally superior, and divinely justified in doing so. we get it.

      guess what, dipshit – the general population of the united states – over 300 million people... are NOT your children.

      here's some good questions:

      why do so many xians hate freedom?
      why do so many xians hate the bill of rights?
      why do so many xians hate the constitution?
      why do so many xians hate equality?
      why are so many xians opposed to liberty?

      and here's the answer:

      because that's the true nature of monotheism.

      tolerance of religious idiocy has to end – and it is.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:44 am |
    • idl3d3m0n

      And the price for this Noble giving is that you must submit to the House of Christ! If atheist's had that kind of money we would simply do all of what was said and say "Have a nice day now!"

      March 24, 2013 at 7:49 am |
    • Funny

      Terri– Here is the difference
      Making your kids eat Veggies is actually good for them. Will provide them with valuable nutrician that they will later in life thank you for.
      Making your kids eat Religion should be child abuse. Will provide them with a false sense of hope that they will later in life hate you for because your dumb.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:50 am |
    • J

      the AnViL™, you truly express the tolerance I expect to come from the atheists in the future.
      You are the poster boy for what I fear with the rise of a group of people who see religious beliefs as idiotic and abhorrent.
      You group is nothing but an organized and godless group much like the communists before who killed 10s of millions.
      Your new order does not only run counter to the religious establishment, it desires the overthrow of religion in general. For those who have faith and understand that something from nothing or introduction of information from chaos is absurd ( those who believe in a creator/God), you should be concerned about the current atheist movement. There is no discrimination against atheists that I am aware of, no turning down of jobs, no rights being denied. This movement is based of falicies and is hostile to those who believe in something more than CERN.

      Let me leave you with a remark from the AnViL™ which encompasses the current atheist movement (not those athiests who see others belief in god as something personal or plausible, not just for them):
      "tolerance of religious idiocy has to end – and it is."

      This coming from those claiming to be discriminated against and desiring less "discrimination". 1

      March 24, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • carl

      Yes, we do need to love one another because we're all we've got

      March 24, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
    • Jim

      Great point but I disagree with one thing – the people in this world are either children of God based on faith in Jesus Christ, or children of the devil. That's why the bible says of believers that they are adopted (e.g., Eph 1:5)

      March 24, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
  4. jan buyck

    I would like to point once again that "Atheism" is "NOT" a religion, but just a lack of belief, just meaning having no religion at all ... like not believing in Unicorns could be called A-unicornism or not believing that spiderman really exists might be called aspidermanism... both examples could hardly be called religions, i think... thank you.

    March 24, 2013 at 7:02 am |
    • box1813

      Your effort is appreciated. Honestly, you are far more likely to be successful in debating the specific positions instead of the general philosophy. We are talking about a party of both scholars and bigots.

      I'm not telling you to stop. Please keep fighting the "good" fight, but don't be disrespectful along the way.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:13 am |
    • the AnViL™

      I didn't see a da,b>mned thing that was disrespectful in jans post...

      but tell us – what has any religion ever done to earn any respect?

      why should anyone respect religious idiocy?

      March 24, 2013 at 7:18 am |
    • box1813

      It seems my replay was applied to the wrong comment. My apologies.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:34 am |
    • Jeff

      Amen to that sister! ... HAHAHA GET IT ... I SAID AMEN ... I love me.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • davidpun

      I find it difficult to see how you can make a principle out of a lack of belief in something. That doesn't contribute anything. Imagine if Einstein had come along and said. Space time is not flat in the presence of mass....Well OK. Instead he gave us equations that described the exact curvature of the space time continuum in the presence of mass. Theism attempts to describe our interaction with a level of complexity in our Universe that is beyond our ability to perceive or rationalize. They use highly symbolic and mythological language to describe it, but I don't see any alternative to that. Atheism simply denies the existence of this higher level of complexity. They can of course make this claim, but the onus is on them to prove it. Why. Well from a scientific perspective, every other species on the planet lives within its own self consistent boundaries and simply cannot process higher levels of organization. I have two dogs. they are happy in their doggy ways. They can hear me discussing General Relativity or religion or whatever with a friend, but they will NEVER understand what it means to us, nor can they. So why are we any different with the rest of universe.
      Atheism sounds rational on the surface, but it is a deeply flawed concept on may levels.
      Agnosticism is the only rational approach.

      March 24, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • i wonder

      "Agnosticism is the only rational approach."

      And how do you live your daily life? Do you worship one god one week and another the next?

      If you live it without a belief in a god or gods, you are living a-theistically.

      If you live it thinking that there is a god, but don't know which one, perhaps you are an agnostic deist?

      March 24, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • Jay F

      David ya don't understand the basics. Ever heard of Occam's razor? If a simpler explanation exists the burden is on the persons supporting the more complicated explanation to show that the simple explanation does not work. So its up to you.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
  5. ToivoS

    There was a time I willingly described myself as an atheist. I was raised in a family that described themselves as such and there was no time in my life that I felt any spiritual need to rely on a deity. I felt quite comfortable in my beliefs. As my education progressed I realized that it was impossible to prove that "god" did not exist because logically it is not possible to prove a negative. That realization did not however change my world view.

    However, politically I underwent a change. It is based on an interaction with a believing Christian. This was someone I worked with in an effort to reform public health laws relating to nursing care homes. We both agreed that current regulations were too lax in controlling nosocomial infections, especially those caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria. There was a point when he asked me about my religious beliefs and I matter of factly told him I was an atheist. His immediate reaction was one of horror. He asked "that means you must hate God". I was flummoxed by this. I tried to explain to him that is was not possible for me to hate something that I did not believe existed in the first place. I asked him if he hated UFOs. Of course he didn't because he didn't believe in their existence so what was the point. But I came away from that interaction with the feeling that he really didn't get my point.

    I learned from this. I really respected this Christian friend and felt I offended him. Ever since when someone asks I just say that I am an agnostic. That answer does not cause unpleasant confrontation.

    March 24, 2013 at 7:01 am |
    • JH1

      Why should you have to sanitize your end of the conversation in order to avoid confrontation? You're dealing with grown people acting like children who've encountered someone that doesn't believe in Santa Claus. Their ability to double-think their way through their delusions is their problem. Fairy tales shouldn't trump reality.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:11 am |
    • OwnReward

      Agree with JH. Little by little, the atheistic view of the world mu become a more and more "normal" part of societal understanding. Hiding our beliefs behind some less controversial word just keeps us from taking the little steps we need to move forward. Our goal should be to help everyone recognize atheism as a viable worldview, worthy of respect and consideration. Your sanitizing the situation doesn't help get us there.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:24 am |
    • box1813

      Sometimes defiance of establishment is hard. Just remember that skepticism is at the heart of all scientific endeavor.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:36 am |
    • Bucko

      Last spring two Jehovah's witnesses came to my door. I said "you're wasting your time here, I'm an atheist". You should have seen the look on the woman's face. It was like a hand just grew out of my forehead. I live in a heavily wooded neighborhood, with well kept yards. One of the women said "how can you deny that god exists, when you are surrounded by all this beauty". I said "god has nothing to do with this, my neighbors spend a lot of times keeping their yards nice". They looked at each other on horror, and walked away, shaking their heads. The point of this is, especially in the south, you'd better be pretty careful who you tell your little secret to. You could be out of a job, real quick like.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Dave

      Hi Toivo$,
      Although I do understand your argument and your concern for the feeling of others is admirable, I would have to counter that argument, however, with the fact that your atheism should be just as acceptable to others with likewise respect. Personally, I started life as a catholic and later converted to born again fundamentalism with which I had been deeply involved for 20+ years before going through a de-conversion process and finally becoming an atheist. A large reason for my move to atheism is my occupation within the biological industry, which the fundamentalist view of creationism doesn’t hold up.
      While I feel a sense of freedom that was never possible as a christian, I don’t push my non-belief on anyone. I do, however, believe religious views are constantly pushed on me, my children, my grandchildren and public school science programs.
      One thing that I’ve grown to detest is religious witnessing; I try very hard to hold my tongue, but witnesses can quickly ruin a family outing. Having studied early church history and the bible intensely, coupled with a background in the sciences I can turn such a conversation vile, but usually choose not to as it simply ruins the outing.
      I have to agree with the article that atheists (and agnostics) are indeed discriminated against, and it is time for tolerance.

      March 24, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
  6. Grw

    A lot of religion bashing being posted on this page. The church and believers are less than perfect because we are humans. Humans that are trying to know our creator and trying to live to a higher calling. Humans that understand that we are more than just matter made by chance. Compare that thinking to atheist thinking and then ask which position is reasonable. Think about the people you love and care about and then ask why do you hvae these feelings. Think about your ability to even have this discussion. Mere masses of physical matter is not what we are as humans.

    Religion may not answer the question for you of where we came from and why we exist. But I would argue that reason alone cannot even begin to answer this question.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:59 am |
    • JH1

      It's a simple matter of quantum mechanics and chemical reactions. If you understand the shear mind-boggling size of the universe and the concept of monkeys with typewriters, it's completely logical that if life is possible, somewhere in the universe, our world and intelligence was bound to happen.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:05 am |
    • Pahlease

      Yes we are all 'less than perfect.' So why struggle to become even less perfect - and further afield reality - by embracing myths and delusions. Religion is going, going (almost) gone.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:13 am |
    • Jackdonahue

      Just because someone doesn't believe in a "creator" or an "afterlife" does not mean that they do not believe in love, goodness, honesty, peace, integrity, kindness, etc. The world would be a much better place if we could come together around these qualities.rather than divisive bickering over rituals and customs.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:26 am |
    • box1813

      Jack has the right idea. Existence is too frail of a thing to hang upon a responsibility specific religion these days. The world is an amazingly beautiful place. you should all divest yourselves of and see it while you still can.

      Stop hating each other and learn to see the common ground. This is where peace will be found.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • PsiCop

      Re: "The church and believers are less than perfect because we are humans."

      That may well be true, but one would think that if a religion were truly of divine origin, it would have some power to make its adherents behave better than they would without out. In other words, it should influence them positively in a way that can be seen in their words and their behavior.

      Your assertion that believers can't be expected to be any different from other human beings ... and I agree, on the whole, they aren't ... only shows that religion has no such power, and thus, is evidence there's nothing especially divine about it. That, in turn, shows how useless it is, in a pragmatic sense.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:58 am |
    • oldleftcoastdude

      Sure it can.

      March 24, 2013 at 11:08 am |
    • laguna_greg

      Well Grw, that's not true.

      What you have here is not Xian bashing. What this is, is some well earned, level-headed criticism, which your religion has been able to stifle successfully for the last 2,000 years. You can't burn us at the stake any more, so you'll just have to get used to it.

      You believers have made the best case possible for not following your beliefs, very simply. better get used to it, and clean up your behavior so it's more in order with what you say you believe. rather than what you say the rest of us should do while insisting we put money into the collection plate as you pass it around....

      March 24, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
    • steve

      I read about three pages of responses and realized that this has just turned into an argument of atheists vs. believers, which is quite dumb IMO. The overriding point here should be that as humans we are bound to believe different things for the very simple reason that no one knows for sure. I encourage people to read the Dali Lama's book on modern ethics. I believe it makes some great points on the fact that if humanity is to succeed we need to teach first that morals, values, and ethics are most important and that our deep religious or non-religious beliefs should be private, personal and something we don't push onto others. I would class myself probably closest to atheism but have an open mind to possibility of a deity. However as a human being I would relate much better with a religious person who has an open mind than with an atheist who only wants to argue why there right.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:09 pm |
  7. The Reality Crusade

    If Palm Sunday isn't for you.... "(Belgian) Palm Sunday" is an option.

    Pick up a couple sixers of Palm Speciale–that almost good Belgian pale ale–and try to forget that people made up these proposterous and ludicrous stories to control sheep in the first place.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:59 am |
  8. Me

    Wow, talk about the blind leading the blind..

    March 24, 2013 at 6:58 am |
    • JH1

      More like the logical leading the rational.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:00 am |
    • box1813

      You expect rational discourse to follow a specified course? We are a grouping of scientists (those dedicated to the pursuit of evidence). Every possible explanation is up for discussion, just don't don't get hutr feelings if your opinion is rejected. We are a community based on evidence. Any augment against will need to adapt it's course to our guidelines.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:17 am |
  9. Oneforall777

    From this whole article and reading about this 'group' I have no idea what he's trying to do at all. What is he exactly? Not at all clear what he is trying to achieve. Is he anti-religion? He's anti something. Just a load of confusion and he sounds really mixed up. Maybe he's working for the Anti-Christ. Maybe he gets a load of followers who are also as confused as he is. Sounds like he stands for absolutely nothing.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:57 am |
    • the AnViL™

      i'm not trying to inject noise or invective so please don't take this the wrong way... but if you were unable to understand this mans goals... you've got very poor reading comprehension skills.

      your bias is preventing you from understanding this article – and i suspect – a great many other things.

      if maintaining and propagating ignorance is your goal – you're doing an excellent job. keep up the good work.

      may the imaginary god of your choosing bless you.

      cha cha chamen.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:02 am |
    • Lostnowfound407

      His point is to make people more comfortable about letting others know they are atheist. I grew up and anytime I even spoke about not believing in God I would get a speech or loose a friend. I then gave up for a long time and lived in a type of fear. Thanks to people like this fellow I now know that I do not need to hide and that their hate was wrong not my belief that there is no god. Thank goodness for Todd.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:18 am |
    • fisherjason

      He's working to raise awareness, promote free thought, and to dispel ignorance about Atheism. Many people are indoctrinated into the religions of their families or communities, or they they live in a part of the world where a certain religion (such as Islam in the Middle East) is dominant – and they simply never question the beliefs they were raised with. Or, they may be questioning, but don't have any information, a place to begin their search, a support network to come out to, or are fearful that they may be rejected by their families or communities. By being visible, and pro-active, he's reaching out to these people to let them know that there are other types of beliefs, and that there is a huge community of people that can help them work through their situations. Additionally, Atheist groups – much like religious groups – do a lot of charity work. Mr. Stiefel is working to increase the number of these groups, and proudly mentions in the article the huge amounts he's helped raise so for for charity.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • Thegoodman

      " What is he exactly? Not at all clear what he is trying to achieve. Is he anti-religion? He's anti something."

      He is a perfectly normal and successful man who believes very much in a cause. That cause is the abolition of laws and the end of practices that discriminate against non-believers in the US.

      "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. . . ."

      There are many cultures, people, employers, and laws that actively discriminate against people for not being a member of a particular religion.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
  10. infamos

    the article is too long to read (i skimmed through the last part) the topic is almost irrelevant today. The author is obviously biased. god bless CNN

    March 24, 2013 at 6:55 am |
    • the AnViL™

      if this article was too long for you – then you're probably one of those people who won't ever be bothered to actually read the bible.

      good form!

      March 24, 2013 at 7:03 am |
    • OwnReward

      The topic is more relevant than ever. The world is finally starting to shake off the cloak of myth that it has been wearing for thousands of years - in large part because we are, one-by-one, empirically explaining that which humankind formerly relied on gods to explain.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:33 am |
    • RM

      the Bible is too long to read (i skimmed through the last part) the topic is almost irrelevant today. The author is obviously biased.

      March 24, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
    • Thegoodman

      Much to the chagrin of the followers of old and outdated religions; this article is more relevant today than any day in history so far. Luckily, it will be very irrelevant in 50-100 yrs when most have tossed aside their childish belief systems and work together to improve our planet.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
  11. bigfoot

    Instead of advocating atheism, his money would be better spent showing American Christians just how hypocritical they are while exercising their faith. Not all Christians, mind you. But an unbelievable number of them stand behind Jesus while advocating hate of their fellow man and destruction of other faiths by murder. All the while discounting the science that is the essence of their being. They are about as far away from the teachings of Christ that is spiritually or secularly possible.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:55 am |
    • SixDegrees

      I don't see what that would accomplish. You're not going to convert the true believers, or convince them of much of anything they don't already believe to be true. It's a waste of time.

      Advocating for the legitimacy of atheism, on the other hand, will automatically draw those already on the fence, without any proselytizing.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:04 am |
  12. barfly

    there is no god or gods, therefore , there are no non-believers, neither exists

    March 24, 2013 at 6:55 am |
    • bigfoot

      You are confusing faith with your own beliefs.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:56 am |
    • Say it ain't so

      Actually there is a God, not that you'd bother looking...

      March 24, 2013 at 6:59 am |
    • barfly

      the closest thing to a god or gods is amway

      March 24, 2013 at 7:01 am |
    • the AnViL™

      gods exist – oh – they do...

      but only in one place:

      between the ears of the ignorant people who choose to believe in them.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:04 am |
    • Mark

      Well put barfly. There are believers and then there are just normal people. Not deluded into believing in mystical beings. I gave up on the easter bunny and santa at an early age.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:17 am |
    • box1813

      You've not provided evidence for either case, the philosophy and science are both flawed. Please return when you have a rational point to make.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:19 am |
  13. Peter Q Wolfe

    What kind of discrimination do atheist face in the work place, publically or privately? I wish this article was more comprehensive cause it has many holes to the interview answers that would be interesting to know. I'd also be interested to know the beliefs of atheist towards disabled people e.g. blind individuals like me. Personally that I am an atheist-agnostic spiritualist not claiming to know just airing on the side of using my brain to say that more than likely there isn't any deity. I don't think either way that God or whatever would care cause your using your God given ability to think logically for yourself not by others or anyone else!

    March 24, 2013 at 6:53 am |
    • tomfjord

      Can you imagine living and working as an "out" Atheist in Iran or Saudi Arabia? You'd be fired, shunned, or possibly beaten. Absolute discrimination. Additionally, I've heard religious people spew hatred towards Atheists, while defending other religions as "as least they believe in something!" Very bizarre, and very discriminatory.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • G to the T

      Other than personally believing accommodations for the disabled is a good idea, I don't know that atheists have any particular view on that subject as it has nothing to do with not believing in a deity. So really, you're likely to find the full spectrum of opinions on that one.

      As for discrimination – I too have lost jobs and friends because I was foolish enough to tell someone what I actually believe.

      March 25, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
  14. FreeSpirit

    Sounds like Todd is lifting the lid off suppression and opression...it's about time, the hypocracy, as in pedo priests, is styfulling...religion is a good mask for war...just look at history.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:50 am |
    • austinwppt

      Everything is a mask for war.... learn

      March 24, 2013 at 6:55 am |
    • JH1


      Sure there's a lot of "masks of war." War is an absolutely ridiculous concept if you think about it from an individual human's point of view (ie. it's basically 7 billion people allowing nutjob leaders to throw global temper tantrums). Religion is a major tenet utilized to gain popular support for it. Religion, along with all other 'reasons' should be eradicated asap.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:21 am |
  15. myway

    It's true, much of the OT, especially the first 5 books, are mythologies borrowed from other cultures such as the Sumerians. The scribes of the OT had the same goal as the Israeli state has today, namely to establish the tribes of Israel have a claim on their land since Abraham. Complicating matters is that Abraham is also the father of all Arab tribes. Much of the OT was composed or integrated during the exile in Babylon as an instrument to preserve the jewish faith. Jews needed to believe they will return to their homeland otherwise they were in danger of being absorbed into the Babylonian culture. The jewish leaders knew what they were doing and it obviously worked. However, the OT was not written by the hand of God. In modern terms it was written by politicians.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:48 am |
    • box1813

      Be careful with your accusations of the elder authors (I don't know another way to better describe them). I am certain that much of their influence was good. Order has largely reigned since their time, and it is safe to say that their guidelines were conducive to a well behaved society.

      While I do not accept religiosity as a sole source of governance, I do understand that the lessons learned should not be forgotten. Atheists, religion is not inherently evil, it is instead misplaced enthusiasm. These people love humanity as much as we do (just with more prejudices).

      March 24, 2013 at 7:26 am |
    • JC

      Why is it that non-believers demonstrate tolerance while religious followers are 98% hate.

      March 24, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
  16. thehorror

    Great. Another group to accuse me of being an idiot because I don't know what everybody else doesn't know, except for this particular group which is so sure it knows what it knows.

    Money: Responsible for more wars, persecution, suffering, injustice and murder than any other cause in the world. Swear that off and I might listen to these other gripes.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:47 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Driven past any megachurches lately? There is several orders of magnitude more money sloshing through the hands of clergy than through the hands of atheists.

      Sounds to me like you're more worried they might be making sense.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:08 am |
    • Will

      Who was Martin Luther King Jr? He obviously hated whites because he tried so hard to kill them through violence. Oh wait, no he didn't. He led a peaceful campaign to try and get people to put aside their differences and accept each other.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:09 am |
    • thehorror

      6.... You have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about. None. It makes no difference to me which side makes more $, or which side makes more "sense". It doesn't matter which side believes or which side doesn't. It's old. It's dated..... The difference is between ppl who have whatever is their stab at questions like "what is the meaning of life" and the ppl who are just D!%&S to everybody else about it..... You sound like u could be part of the later group; but I don't form strong opinions about things and ppl I don't know.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:26 am |
    • box1813

      Will, though crude, has a point. Marten Luther King Jr embodied the will of your Christ more than anyone in recent memory (Mohandas Gandhi a close second). Please understand that we are a democracy, not a theocracy.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:29 am |
    • thehorror

      Will................................... Huh?

      March 24, 2013 at 7:30 am |
  17. slimandscruffyREALLY

    Why do we need to know he is slims and scruffy?
    A. Would you rewrite this as " obese and oily" if his physical appearance were different.
    B. There is a picture of him with the text and readers can see by themselves how he looks like.
    C.slim and scruffy...while you are at it also mention his vitals signs, BMI, how many times he poops etc.
    Thanks for the information overload...NOT

    March 24, 2013 at 6:46 am |
    • box1813

      Temper yourself. You will not win favor with a sarcastic tongue.

      FSM bless you.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:30 am |
    • JH1


      March 24, 2013 at 7:34 am |
  18. Bootyfunk

    awesome. i don't agree with every policy he has, but i agree with most. and he's getting the message out. yay for reason and cognitive thinking!

    March 24, 2013 at 6:45 am |
  19. Blogifer

    Some of Christianity's biggest spokespersons started out as atheists, agnostics, or people who dabbled in the occult. Then, perhaps they had a direct interaction with demons or God, and became Christians. Examples are Malcolm Muggeridge, C.S. Lewis, and G.K. Chesterton.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:45 am |
    • Robert

      I would surmise that the greater number of conversions either to or from religion and atheism is weighted heavily for religion to atheism.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:00 am |
    • the AnViL™

      flat fact: every human begins life as an atheist.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:07 am |
  20. gdouglaso

    I think this clearly speaks to the "religion" of atheism...a structured and ordered system of belief. I find most atheists run from the banner of religion, but they appear to cling to the dogma with great tenacity. The interesting thing is that the message of atheists is not one of tolerance, but rather, hatred toward those of other religious beliefs. Ironically, they hate other religions because they perceive them not to be tolerant.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:44 am |
    • Robert

      You are perhaps blinded by a stereotype. Most atheists I know, myself included, don't share their perspective with anyone as American society is not particularly tolerant of non-christians. It's much easier to hide my non-belief/non-religion from people who are taught to try to convert others to their beliefs. Thank you though for trying to demonize atheists. You prove my point perfectly.

      March 24, 2013 at 6:55 am |
    • Akinsc

      Atheism is not a religion, simply a choice not to believe in a god, any god. Accountability and responsibility drive my desire to be a good person and try and help my fellow man, not fear of eternal damnation. I have no issue with what or how you choose to believe – as long as it is kept out of government.

      March 24, 2013 at 7:04 am |
    • Rusty5

      I disagree that atheists hate other religions. We may think they are naive or lacking certain powers of observation, but not hate or contempt. I think in many ways, atheists tend to be more tolerant than christian views.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • SayItAintSo

      Atheism is not a religion. That's like saying not collecting stamps is a hobby.

      March 24, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • Mike

      I'm an atheist and I don't hate religions. I don't "practice" atheism or adhere to any agenda. I simply don't believe in a personal god. Science searches for truth using logic and cultivating inteliigence but there are some things we may never come to know.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • Arnaud

      SayItAintSo: That was so good. Thanks for making me laugh.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • jasonedw

      Well said! So many of these atheists are fascists and nothing more.

      March 24, 2013 at 10:31 am |
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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.