His fortune polishes atheists' reputation
By YONAT SHIMRON - NEWOBSERVER.COM
Added: Thu, 18 Mar 2010 00:00:00 UTC
RALEIGH -- When GlaxoSmithKline bought ToddStiefel's family business for $2.9 billion last April, he began to think about what to do with the rest of his life.
A Duke University graduate, Stiefel wanted his windfall to better society. Like many modern philanthropists, such as Bill and Melinda Gates or Warren Buffett, Stiefel is not motivated by religious zeal. In fact, Stiefel has become one of the country's biggest benefactors of atheist causes.
Last month, Stiefel gave $500,000 to the Secular Coalition of America, a Washington-based coalition that lobbies on behalf of 10 groups of atheists, humanists and agnostics. That's on top of two smaller gifts to two of the coalition's members: a $100,000 matching grant to American Atheists and a $50,000 matching grant to the Secular Student Alliance.
"Not a lot of people are fortunate to have the opportunity to do what I'm doing," said Stiefel, 35. "I didn't want to let that slide."
The gifts from Stiefel, who moved to Raleigh in August, are the largest the Secular Coalition has had. They will allow the organization to step up its lobbying in Washington and to create grass-roots advocacy organizations in every state.
"It's supercharged our ability to move forward," said Sean Faircloth, executive director of the coalition.
But more than anything, Stiefel is interested in dispelling the notion that atheists don't believe in anything and are therefore capable of anything.
"We're equally capable of being ethical as people who are religious," he said. "We just want to be good for goodness' sake."
- - BBC News Comments
A new poll suggests that atheism is on the rise in the US, while those who consider themselves religious has dropped. What's the cause? Two writers debate.
Robert F. Worth - New York Times Comments
A great article about Jerry DeWitt and the growing presence of atheist communities
Chip Rowe - Playboy Comments
Playboy Interview with Richard Dawkins
- - YouTube - townsquare Comments
Cara Santa Maria (Senior Science Correspondent, Huffingtonpost.com) leads this week's panel on 'The Point' to discuss these issues and more with Michael Shermer (Publisher - Skeptic Magazine), Sean Carroll (Theoretical Physicist - Caltech), and Edward Falzon (author of 'Being Gay Is Disgusting').
Kimberly Winston - Washington Post Comments
Last weekend, the Atheist Film Festival showed more than a dozen films about separation of church and state, freedom of religion (and no religion), the conflict between science and religion in public schools.
- - eBay auction Comments
Albert Einstein's Historic 1954 "God Letter" Handwritten Shortly Before His Death