Thanks to the support of a new generation of activists, the Atheist movement in the United States is expanding its visibility in the public eye, and the public policy discussion over what role, if any, religious groups should have in the affairs of government. This new generation of Atheists, freethinkers, humanists and other non-believers , who are intelligent, well educated, positive, and upbeat rather than angry or especially militant, simply refuse to accept the old stigmas and canards regarding the irreligious.
One noteworthy example is Duke University graduate Todd Stiefel, who is using his financial resources and substantial leadership talent to help groups like American Atheists and Secular Coalition for America. His goal, he says, is the encourage the further secularization of America, and change misleading public perceptions about non-religious people.
Mr. Stiefel, 35 and a resident of Raleigh, N.C., has announced a matching grant program of $100,000 to American Atheists as part of "The Stiefel Challenge." His inspiration was Helen Mitzman of California who last year made a similar offer, successfully met.
"I was really impressed by the Helen Mitzman Challenge and the enthusiastic response to it," said Mr. Stiefel. "So I decided to offer $100,000 on a dollar-for-dollar basis. I hope this helps to fuel the continued growth of American Atheists so we can better share our message and expand the efforts to maintain what Thomas Jefferson eloquently described as "a wall of separation" between church and state."
Stiefel's challenge was revealed to American Atheists members in a recent letter and has already produced a wave of contributions--over $25,000 has already been received, according to president Ed Buckner, including generous contributions from attorney Eddie Tabash and from Helen Mitzman herself.
When he's not working on behalf of enlightened secularism, Todd spends time with wife and two wonderful children, learning how to play the guitar, and watching Duke basketball