Glenn Beck’s Website Positively Portrays Atheist Activist… Wait, What?!

When reporters from a company started by Glenn Beck say they want to interview you about your atheist activism, the logical response would be to laugh in their faces and run away, avoiding all the cameras inevitably pointed in your direction.

But philanthropist Todd Stiefel — whose contributions allowed both the Reason Rally and Rock Beyond Belief to take place — spoke with Billy Hallowell of The Blaze. To my surprise, it’s a pretty positive profile of the guy…:

Stiefel, who has given millions toward atheist causes and who considers himself to be Republican-leaning, is a “George Soros” of sorts for the secular community. In addition to allocating funds for numerous freethinking organizations, the Reason Rally and the Rock Beyond Belief, Stiefel is serving on advisory boards and providing non-fiscal advice to movement leaders. Through The Stiefel Freethought Foundation (SFF), the 37-year-old businessman is serving as an atheist philanthropist extraordinaire (he’s devoted $3.5 million to related causes).

Despite his respectful tone, Stiefel has plenty of criticisms for religion. In particular he railed against teaching children intolerance and encouraging them, in the name of Christianity, “to despise homosexuals.” Additionally, he said that telling kids that they will burn in hell for all eternity is “scary” and that it is an unpleasant portion of the religious experience.

“You want to give a kid nightmares, tell them they’re going to burn over an infinite level of years,” he said.

But despite these statements, throughout our interview, Stiefel emphasized the difference he sees between targeting religion and hammering its adherents.

“There’s an enormous difference between criticizing religion and religious people.”

But wait, said The Blaze. Didn’t you see our previous hit piece in which we went after Tim Minchin for his profanity-laced song at the Reason Rally? Weren’t *families* there?! And children with their virgin ears?!

“There were some things said at the rally that I disagreed with — sure,” he said. “My kids were at the event and there were points where their ears were covered. Because of the language — not because of the things that were said…some of the language probably should have been better for nighttime.”

But when it comes to censoring the content, Stiefel explained that he would never advocate such a thing.

I think people need to understand this very specific point. Ideas are not sacred. They don’t need to be respected. People need to be respected. So we do criticize ideas…[and] institutions, including religious institutions,” the freethinking leader said. “Those are not critiques on religious people. And we believe extremely strongly that all ideas need to be open to question and we need to learn from history and mistakes and grow and improve.”

The Blaze must have been thrown off. C’mon, they implored. Say something nasty about us!

Christians and atheists have vastly more in common with their values than they realize… The audience of The Blaze probably has the vast majority of their values in line with what most atheists believe,” he said. “We believe in love. We believe in freedom. We believe in truth. We believe in integrity and living moral, ethical lives…in creating happiness and decreasing suffering.”

Then Hallowell left. And wrote a piece about an atheist activist that’s fairly generous toward someone who disagrees with just about everything Glenn Beck stands for.

Nicely done, Todd!

Side note: Todd also did an interview recently at Pam’s House Blend regarding how he wants to defeat Amendment One (an anti-gay-marriage amendment) in North Carolina.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • TheAnalogKid

    I can’t say for certain whether or not my values are aligned with the audience of The Blaze, but if they are I would like to die now.

    • rhodent

      On the one hand, it is certainly true that our values and the values of The Blaze’s target audience only align at the level of platitudes (i.e., “We believe in love. We believe in freedom. We believe in truth. We
      believe in integrity and living moral, ethical lives…in creating
      happiness and decreasing suffering.”), and that our interpretations of those platitudes differ greatly.On the other hand, I think it’s valuable for people such as the Blaze’s target audience to understand that our values do at least align at the level of platitudes, and I think for some of them it will be an actual revelation to learn they do align at least at that level.  Many of them sincerely believe that atheists genuinely don’t believe in love and freedom (because of the stereotype that we’re either coldly rational or always hatefully angry), that we don’t believe in living moral and ethical lives (because of the stereotype that our acceptance of evolution makes us social Darwinists), that we don’t believe in creating happiness and decreasing suffering (again, because of the social Darwinist stereotype).  Having them understand that these stereotypes are inaccurate for the vast majority of us can only help us gain acceptance.

      • The Captain

        “because of the stereotype that our acceptance of evolution makes us social Darwinists” The great irony here is that while they do think that, they are the ones demanding that we adopt the economic policies of the original social darwinist.

        • Nordog

           Who was the original one?

          • The Captain

            Looks like I forgot an “s” on the end of that. But Herbert Spencer, was the original, along with Thomas Malthus and  Ernst Haeckel their works where bias for the idea then used by others and the Robber Barons of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I was referring to the whole lot of them.

  • RobMcCune

    Clearly there has been a decline in the journalism at The Blaze if they fail to find the vast pervasive conspiracy by their enemies  at the heart of every story.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    Say something nasty about us!

    read the comments

    • RobMcCune

      Those comments show The Blaze readers commitment to love, freedom, truth, living moral and ethical lives,  increasing happiness and decreasing suffering.

      • http://www.facebook.com/todd.stiefel Todd Stiefel

        Based on the comments, I clearly grossly overestimated the values of many of the readers of The Blaze.  Then again, my guess is that most of their readers would claim to value love, freedom and truth; they just have been so blinded by indoctrination they don’t realize their actions are undermining those very things.  

        • Stev84

          Remember that Christians will tell you with a straight face that they love you, but then do everything they can to deny your rights, discriminate against you or tell you that you will burn in hell. Their capacity for doublespeak is unlimited

          • http://www.facebook.com/todd.stiefel Todd Stiefel

            That is true of some Christians, but not most, in my experience.  From what I see, the haters are a large and very vocal group, but still a minority among Christians.

            • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

              Considering his tweet

              [Todd Stiefel is] 1st kind atheist activist I’ve ever chatted with:

              I have to wonder whether a) he’s ever chatted with any atheist activists while not telling them how wrong they are or b) you were too accommodating.  I guess my own bias is that I have trouble with a writer for The Blaze being nice enough to give an atheist an honest shake.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Rhoades/100000175617377 Scott Rhoades

           They had to find something to bitch about. You didn’t fit the image of atheists that they keep in their head. You quite nicely put into words my feelings towards believers and how it should differ from our treatment of their beliefs. Nicely done.

    • Stev84

       Yeah, we certainly share the same values. What a load of crap

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      threatens their sense of self importance

      That one always kills me.  I’m sure we’ve all see Pale Blue Dot etc. that show how insignificant our place is in the Universe.  What could be more self important than thinking we are God’s special chosen people/species/planet/system/galaxy?

      • Stev84

        You can break that down even further to the narcissists who think that the creator of the universe has a special plan just for them.

      • Nordog

         “What could be more self important than thinking we are God’s special chosen people/species/planet/system/galaxy?”

        Nothing.

  • The Captain

    The key here is this “considers himself to be Republican-leaning”. Glenn Beck, and The Glaze are pretty typical of the modern right in that as much as they say they are the 
    ‘christian right” and use christianity as a rallying call against enemies, this is only done to further an “economic” agenda. So as long as you believe in the right (according to them) economic policies, they like you. 

    Now in the comments you can see the difference in the foot soldiers and the movements leaders. The readers buy the religious war crap, the leaders of the Tea Party movement really only care about unregulated markets.

  • ortcutt

    How can someone be a Republican-leaning atheist? That’s like being a gay Republican. This is a party that is opposed to our existence in any form other than a subjugated one.

    • RobMcCune

      Republicans try to frame everything in terms that poll well, “free market” and “limited government”.  Whenever authoritarianism, intolerance, and contempt for empathy are brought up they use those terms as an escape clause.

    • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

      “How can someone be a Republican-leaning atheist?”

      They could if they remember and/or admire Republicans like Barry Goldwater.

  • Gaby A.
  • Keulan

    The article was surprisingly positive, though I suspect part of that was because Stiefel considers himself Republican-leaning. I doubt they’d have been so kind to a more politically liberal atheist activist.

    Also, while the article is decent, the comments on the article are full of stupidity and nastiness.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/Z5X7JPL5IDSB4NLQ6K5PJDBMD4 Frost

    I guess you guys weren’t there when Glenn Beck defended Ellen against the Million Moms and shamed GLAAD for ignoring a blatant hate crime against a black gay man in Jack City.  Believe it or not, he is trying to talk some sense into his audience.  I doubt it will last long, though, as they abandon him for it.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X