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CNN Special Report: Atheists, Inside the World of Non- Believers

Aired March 24, 2015 - 21:00   ET


[21:00:01] ANDERSON COOPER, AC360 HOST: The CNN Special Report, "Atheists, Inside the World of Non-Believers," hosted Kyra Phillips, starts now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no one creator...

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: American losing faith everyday.

JERRY DEWITT: Can I get a Darwin.


DAVID GORMLEY: I was a bible camping Christian until I was about 12.

PHILLIPS: They say, there is no God.

DAVID SILVERMAN, PRESIDENT OF AMERICAN ATHEIST: If Santa Clause lands on my roof, I will believe in Santa Clause.

PHILLIPS: An stigma is stifling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We completely stop leaving the house.

PHILLIPS: Paralyzing pastors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard to visit troubled people who beg me to pray out.

PHILLIPS: Fracturing families.

JOHN GORMLEY: It is a constant burden to our hearts.

PHILLIPS: So many people with faith will see this documentary and they'll be in raged. What do you say to them?


PHILLIPS: The A word, what is it? Who are they? And why should we care? Tonight a CNN Special Report, Atheists, Inside the World of Non-Believers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As we gather now my friends, we give praise to almighty God.

PHILLIPS: Sunday morning, 11 a.m. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The spirit of the Lord God is upon me.

PHILLIPS: Anywhere and everywhere USA.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: May Lord be with you.

PHILLIPS: Where faith and family go hand and hand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

PHILLIPS: One nation under God, it's how we are, and religion is what we do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One God, forever and ever.

J. GORMLEY: We were always faithful.

PHILLIPS: For John Gormley, Sundays have always been sacred. He's a deacon in Moreland, Georgia, South of Atlanta and in the heart of the Bible belt.

Did you require the boys to go to church?

J. GORMLEY: Certainly, unless we're providentially hindered form going.

PHILLIPS: John and his wife Diane, have devoted they're entire live to the Lord.

DIANE GORMLEY: My father was an independent Baptist Minister. The Lord had saved him right after I was born, so I grew up in church.

PHILLIPS: Did you discuss how you are going to raise your kids by faith?

J. GORMLEY: Certainly, yes.

PHILLIPS: What did you talked about?

J. GORMLEY: How we were going to instruct them in scriptures and what our desire was for them that they grow up to be.

DIANE GORMLEY: Godly men. You know, that would be our desire for them, to be Godly men.

PHILLIPS: And how did you do that as a couple?

J. GORMLEY: Not as well as we should.

PHILLIPS: Not far from home...

D. GORMLEY: Delicious cookies and all of our condoms.

PHILLIPS: On the campus of the University of North Georgia...

D. GORMLEY: This is for ask an atheist. Cookies and condoms with butter.

PHILLIPS: The Gormley son has chosen a life within God.

D. GORMLEY: Nice to meet you, I'm David. We're part of the (inaudible) skeptic society.

PHILLIPS: David Gormley, is an atheist.

D.VID GORMLEY: Jesus was probably a historical person.

PHILLIPS: An activist.

D. GORMLEY: But what evidence is there about him being the son of God and being there to fulfill the law of the old testament.

PHILLIPS: Loud and proud.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's complete blasphemy.

PHILLIPS: He rejects almost everything his parents believe about God and religion.

D. GORMLEY: Because we are in the Bible belt, a lot of people are more developed in their belief. And so when you try and question that at all, it makes them angrier.

Thanks for stopping by.

RICHARD DAWKINS: I have a lot of affection for the Church of England, it's a nice gentle church, nobody actually believes it.

PHILLIPS: Richard Dawkins, is one of the most well-known atheist in the world.

What is it about atheism that rock so many people to the core?

DAWKINS: It's a very odd thing that the very word atheism has a sort of terrible resonance to people.

PHILLIPS: Because people think devil worship. They...

DAWKINS: It's something like that.

PHILLIPS: ...morally bankrupt.

DAWKINS: Yes, I know. It's possible that that let us become so deeply in (inaudible) in this with a horror reaction, but we do need to find a better word.

PHILLIPS: And there are other words out there.

[21:05:01] Nones, humanist, skeptics, free-thinkers, agnostics, millions of Americans.

I've interviewed men and women, they say, "I'm a humanist. I'm a free-thinker. SILVERMAN: Yeah.

PHILLIPS: I'm a skeptic."


PHILLIPS: So many people won't say, "I'm an atheist."


PHILLIPS: Is it all the same thing? Are these just softer terms for, I'm an atheist?

SILVERMAN: Yes. These are atheists who are afraid to use the word. And what are they doing? They're lying.

You want a flyer about atheist? Flyer about atheist.

PHILLIPS: David Silverman is the fire brand head of American Atheist.

SILVERMAN: The flyer will not hurt you.

PHILLIPS: A group formed in the early 60s that now has more than 5,000 members.

SILVERMAN: Atheist at CPAC. Yes, we're here.

More and more Americans are realizing that they do not have the responsibility to pretend to believe the lies that their parents believed. Right now, the under 30 crowd is about one-third atheist. Millennials are the future of atheism.

PHILLIPS: So who are these non-believers and what exactly is atheism?

DAWKINS: For me, it's that there is no positive evidence what so ever, there's no reason to believe in any kind of supernaturalism. And so I live my life as though there is nothing super natural.

SILVERMAN: Atheism is the absence of religion. There are no Gods. Now if Santa Clause lands on my roof, I will believe in Santa Clause. But until Santa Clause lands on my roof, fiction is fiction.

When a God appears in front of me, I will believe it.

PHILLIPS: Why are millenials giving up on God?

SILVERMAN: Because they read the internet. They are the ones that are doing the most communicating about religion. They are the ones that are doing the most research about religion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People that don't believe in God and follow God are building up punishment for themselves.

D. GORMLEY: But if you kill them as non-believers, that also prevents them from repenting. PHILLIPS: David Gormley, isn't just an atheist, he's the president of UNG's Skeptic Society, a secular club of about 25 members. They meet once a week.

D. GORMLEY: Today is ask an atheist day, so once a month we setup tables on campus, on the top of that is all of our information and just have people come up and start discussion with us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jesus says, I'm the way, the truth. He said, I am the truth. So that means there can be no other.

D. GORMLEY: That's not an exclusive claim to your religion though. Half of the people that walk by give us those looks of judgment or dissatisfaction, but half them actually stop and talk and have generally good discussion with us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is objective, wrong is not.

PHILLIPS: Dawkins says, when it comes to atheism, most people just don't get it.

DAWKINS: It just means there's certain philosophical position, it just means that you don't believe in a supernatural creator. It's not like being a (inaudible) or a communist for example.

PHILLIPS: But for many Americans, accepting atheism just isn't that simple.

D. GORMLEY: A couple of my uncles and cousins have completely stopped talking to me. I sort of felt as though I was the black sheep of the family.


PHILLIPS: But gatherings like these provide support.

D. GORMLEY: How many of you here tonight believe at least that Jesus was a historical person? Our weekly meeting are kind of like a group therapy session, it's kind of a relief.

SILVERMAN: People don't even realize how down (inaudible) atheist are. The fact is that we're the most hated group in this country.

PHILLIPS: When we return.

J. GORMLEY: It is a constant burden to our hearts.

PHILLIPS: David's family, devastated.

D. GORMLEY: They will always harbor some sort of regret.

PHILLIPS: Are you afraid your son is going to go straight to hell.

J. GORMLEY: The scripture plainly declares it to be so.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PHILLIPS: The campus of University of North Georgia, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. To locals, it's God's country. For David Gormley, it's just 15 miles from his childhood home, yet a world away from the life he left behind.

D. GORMLEY: We went to church twice a week, Wednesday nights and Sundays, and we would be there for six to eight hours. There was just this -- always this pressure to assume that there was God and that if you didn't hear him or he didn't speak to you, you aren't trying hard enough.

PHILLIPS: It never really felt comfortable.


PHILLIPS: David is not alone. Today, many young people are doubting their faith and walking away from God.

Why are millennials now questioning so much?

DAVID KINNAMAN, PRESIDENT OF BARNA GROUP: I think they're struggling with questions of living with a lot of different faith groups in their schools, in their network of friends, they in dated with media, with different perspectives.

PHILLIPS: Author David Kinnaman has studied this phenomenon. He says eight million millennials give up on God by their 30th birthdays.

KINNAMAN: We know that 59 percent of people who grow up in a Christian home are going to walk away on some level, they're either going to become ex-Christians or they're going to become de-churched.

PHILLIPS: David Gormley struggled for years and at 16, gave up on God.

D. GORMLEY: I actually came out as an atheist, it didn't want to lie to people anymore, I was just tired of pretending that I was someone that I wasn't.

PHILLIPS: David's news rocked his deeply faithful family.

Do you remember how they took it?

D. GORMLEY: With quiet silence at first, for about six months afterwards, we had a very rough period. Tensions were just very high.

PHILLIPS: Take me back to that moment where David said, "I need to tell you something. I don't believe in God."

[21:15:07] DIANE GORMLEY: I guess, to hear him say it, to verbalize it, that's kind of shocking. But it wasn't in the sense that we knew that he had never come to Christ.

J. GORMLEY: This is deep water for us. To see your own flesh and blood, pursuing a life of rebellion against God, it is a constant burden to our hearts. PHILLIPS: Alienated from friends and family, David finally find solace with like (inaudible). Despite their religious differences, David does live at home with his parents but it's an easy paece.

J. GORMLEY: We really don't have a great deal of interaction with David on a day to day basis.

DIANE GORMLEY: We do have conversations and it could be in the dinner table, what's new? What's happening here and there? But really and truly those are superficial things.

J. GORMLEY: And it's tampered and it's bittersweet, because the reality is that you're talking to a dead person.

PHILLIPS: God, it just breaks my heart though that you see your son as dead.

J. GORMLEY: Well it's not a matter of me seeing it that way, it's a matter of what scripture objectively declares.

D. GORMLEY: It hurts as their child.

PHILLIPS: We asked the Gormleys to sit down with their son and us, but they declined.

J. GORMLEY: The reality is that you're talking to a dead person.

PHILLIPS: That one got me.


PHILLIPS: How does that feel?

D. GORMLEY: In saying they see me as a dead person. He says, well it's not a question of me seeing it. It's a question of what the scripture objectively says. But it is about the way he sees it.

PHILLIPS: Do you feel like you judge them as harshly as they're judging you?

D. GORMLEY: I would never say that they're dead people just because they believe on something that I don't. I wouldn't condemn them for it.

PHILLIPS: Are you afraid your son is going to go straight to hell?

J. GORMLEY: It's not a matter of being afraid, it is inevitability for every person on earth who remains in their sin and away from God. Do we shed tears?


J. GORMLEY: Absolutely.

PHILLIPS: What do you tell them when they say, "Son, this hurts us. You're hurting our hearts." D. GORMLEY: I am who I am and I'm not going to change that. I can't change that. It's just part of who I am. And as loving parents of a loving son, on some level they should be accepting of that. And they are outwardly, of course, but it's still lurking there underneath the surface, they will always harbor some sort of regret or anger towards me for just being who I am, and that kind of hurts.

PHILLIPS: Coming up.

STAN: I almost wish I still believed in God.

PHILLIPS: Closeted and in the clergy.

STAN: Nobody knows my secret.

PHILLIPS: Living a double life.

STAN: I was on my knees, wishing I could go get my gun.


STAN: I sing because I'm happy.

PHILLIPS: He's a minister in a small town. Everyone knows him, even if they don't go to his church.

STAN: I sing because I'm free.

PHILLIPS: He takes care of them in the name of Jesus.

STAN: And I know he watches me.

PHILLIPS: This is Stan (ph)

STAN: I function as a teacher, counselor, social worker, Chaplin and spiritual guide, that's the work...

PHILLIPS: We met him hundreds of miles from his home, changed his name and changed his voice. Because Stan has a very dark secret, he's an atheist.

STAN: I almost wish I still believe in God, because it would be easier in some ways. It's hard to visit troubled people who beg me to pray out loud and say magic words I no longer believe.

PHILLIPS: He calls this his sermon to himself, he's secret letter. Await event without being vilified.

What was it like to read that out loud? How did that feel?

STAN: In strange form. Because these are not things I say to anybody.

PHILLIPS: So why not just get up to the pulpit and say, "This is how I feel?" STAN: I wish, if I were about 20 year younger, that had more energy and I had more vigor and I -- but I could have said, "OK, so I'll flip hamburgers for a while."

PHILLIPS: But you're sacrificing your heart and your soul.

STAN: I never thought I end up lying to take care of the family.

PHILLIPS: So Stan has stayed in the clergy and in the closet.

Do you remember that moment where you sat back and went, "Oh my God, I'm doubting everything."

STAN: Yeah. When I was having a little turmoil with the church and so I was trying to pull my thoughts together. And I was thinking about the upcoming sermon and I thought, "I don't believe in this."

[21:25:06] And then I thought, "I don't believe anything."

PHILLIPS: Did you panic?

STAN: Yeah. Yeah.

PHILLIPS: Panic about a God that just wasn't there. So Stan turned away from religion. Detailing every doubt in his journal for the last 15 years.

STAN: Why is he letting me wallow in this hell hole? It feels like he abandoned me.

PHILLIPS: What is it like for you to put your hands on that pulpit and look at your bible and look into the eyes of all those men and women and children in your congregation?

STAN: When I'm standing up here, I often can not look them in the eyes. Sometimes I feel like my knees are going to buckle, like I can't even gold myself up.

PHILLIPS: He says now he mouths the words, but he's thoughts are his own. To Stan, God is a product of our culture, invented, so he has disinvented him.

STAN: We don't talk about that crazy atonement theory that where God has his son killed for the salvation of a sinful world that he kind of hate. I have two sons and nobody gets to have them, ever.

If there is a God, he had lived up to his reputation. If there is a holy spirit, I have searched for him or her or it and it has not been there.

PHILLIPS: And Stan is not alone. We found him through the clergy project, started four years ago for ministers like him who need an anonymous way to talk about giving up on God. There are more than 600 religious leaders in the group.

What do you ultimately want? STAN: I would like to get free of all the religious paraphernalia. Could we please quit spending money on stained glass windows and church building and gymnasiums that we don't need? Could we please use all of that and use it towards the (inaudible) of our communities for real, in my town? 30 percent of the people live in poverty, we could feed them for what we spend on church buildings. We could feed them indefinitely.

PHILLIPS: For Stan, atheism just makes more sense.

Do you think you'll ever eventually come out or is this something you're going to take to the grave?

STAN: I'm going to come out. I will walk away from the pulpit. I wouldn't do it right away because, you know, these people, many of then have depended on me and they're vulnerable and I don't want to hurt them. I'll try to be as gracious and kind as I can. But yeah, I'm going to walk away.

DEWITT: Now, that we understand that there is no one creator...

PHILLIPS: Coming up.

DEWITT: It's very sad.

PHILLIPS: What happens when you do leave the pulpit?

DEWITT: My wife left, family and friends had already disowned us. Everything was as bad as they could get.


DEWITT: Check one, two, there we go.

Do the keyboard one more time. I'm going to check some E.Q. level here?

Thank you all for being here today we feel like your church yet?

A little bit? A little bit?

PHILLIPS: The Lord's Day in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

DEWITT: About to release you from something...

PHILLIPS: Jerry DeWitt owns the pulpit.

DEWITT: Brothers and sisters let me tell you, this is how valuable you are. I think the universe will hide you in its pockets, so that you would never be scratch then never receive a (inaudible).

PHILLIPS: I'll tell you what, you're born to preach.

DEWITT: This is natural for me.

You're valuable to the universe. Sunday, you truly are the king of the world.

When happiness is an option.

PHILLIPS: For 25 years, he was a Pentecostal preacher in the Evangelical south but listen to this sermon a little closer.

DEWITT: I'll preach to you just like I would have in the old days, just minus a few characters in the story.

PHILLIPS: There is mentioned of God or Jesus.

DEWITT: Can I get a Darwin?

PHILLIPS: Three years, ago, Jerry DeWitt lost his faith.

DEWITT: It felt like living a lie.

PHILLIPS: And made the hardest choice in his life.

DEWITT: The real heartbreak, soul crushing heartbreak, was realizing I had to give up the ministry. Even though I've been here my entire life, on the outside, or due to this one little word called atheism.

PHILLIPS: DeWitt's painful journey begins in small town Louisiana.

DEWITT: This is my life blood. Our world in DeRidder, Louisiana, it is nothing but churches in food, that's it.

PHILLIPS: So you start playing preacher at age five.

DEWITT: I did and I was horrible at it. I was horrible at it. But it came back around at the age of 17.

JIMMY SWAGGART: Worship Jesus.

PHILLIPS: Raised in a Pentecostal home, where a charismatic preacher lasted from the T.V. every Sunday.

SWAGGART: Worship in God is never a waste.

DEWITT: I fell in love Jimmy Swaggart whenever on Sunday morning the television be left on at my mom's house. It's in the bible around the red (inaudible) would fly into air and it was just the power of other's presence.

[21:35:05] PHILLIPS: His hero fell from grace.

SWAGGART: I have sinned against you my Lord.

PHILLIPS: But DeWitt was saved and discovered a charisma of his own.

By 20 years old, he was married, a father and soon preaching to overflow crowds of Pentecostals all over the south.

DEWITT: What you're doing is change in the world for the better. It was euphoria, it was a sense of oneness, family, community, connection.

PHILLIPS: And in 2004, DeWitt rich spiritual stardom. He was a full time pastor even contemplating running for mayor. But privately his faith was fading.

DEWITT: It was such a slow burn. It had taken literally years to get that place because I read what I shouldn't read. And I went where I shouldn't have gone and I studies what I shouldn't have studied.

PHILLIPS: Swapping the bible for atheist best sellers. But it was a desperate call from a congregant where DeWitt had his real awakening.

DEWITT: I got a call from a former church member. Her brother had been in a very severe accident. She was calling from outside of the emergency room, depending on me for prayer.

I'm trying to say things that are comforting to her and I'm also trying figure out how I'm going to get out of this box without crushing her. And I just avoided it. I just pretended that I didn't know that's what we're supposed to do.

PHILLIPS: So you didn't pray with her?

DEWITT: I didn't pray with her. Not because it was suddenly against my convictions, my ethics, my morals to pray, it was that the reality is, prayer doesn't work.

PHILLIPS: For DeWitt, as religion became more troubling, atheism looked much closer to the truth.

Eventually in 2011, DeWitt quit preaching altogether. He took a job as a building inspector and hoped to live a quiet life.

And that's when your aunt comes into play.

DEWITT: That's right. My 85 year old Aunt Grace on Facebook.

PHILLIPS: Yes. Aunt Grant spotted a Facebook photo of DeWitt at a gathering or skeptics standing right next to the father of atheism Richard Dawkins.

DEWITT: I posted this picture of me and my son with Professor Richard Dawkins.

PHILLIPS: The news that DeWitt had become an atheist sent shock waves to the community and the fall out was like a punch to the gut.

You lost it all. Your job...


PHILLIPS: Your congregation, your wife left, you lost all your money.

DEWITT: I've been thinking everything. PHILLIPS: This is the house that went into for closure.

DEWITT: At on point, we literally sit down and begin to Google how to live in your car.

PHILLIPS: Why did you continue down this path?

DEWITT: Because it's right. The only thing that's different is theologically, I no longer believe in God. Outside of that almost everything is identical.

PHILLIPS: Abandoned by family and friends, ostracized from his hometown. DeWitt feared for his life after receiving a string of threatening calls.

DEWITT: We completely stop leaving the house.

PAUL DEWITT: It's hard to sleep as nervous. You know, I slept with nothing on my bed just in case, you know.

PHILLIPS: DeWitt says his 20-year-old son Paul who converted to atheism just two years before he did saved his life.

DEWITT: I can say without in a doubt whatsoever that he had not been in my life during this time. I think I wouldn't make it. I know I wouldn't make it.

P DEWITT: It really upsets me. I mean, it irritates me because I know how much that dad has tried to help people in the community.

PHILLIPS: So why stay here in Louisiana? Why not go somewhere that's more progressive, open-minded?

DEWITT: If we're going to things better, we got to make things better where things need to made better.

Ready, ready, ready, ready, ready.

PHILLIPS: Making things better, came in the form of doing what he knows best, starting his own congregation, but this time, for atheist.

DEWITT: Community Mission Chapel where everything that a good church is minus the Jesus.

PHILLIPS: That's it?

DEWITT: That's it.

I want you to shake the hand of the person next to you.

[21:40:01] PHILLIPS: Was it hard to find the place to hold a service because you're considered running with the devil?

DEWITT: Yeah. I mean an atheist and Satan is the same thing down here, you know.

And that's all we're asking for, is somebody give us chance.

We got limited time have a seat.

PHILLIPS: So for now a rented home, an hour away in Lake Charles, Louisiana will have to do.

DEWITT: The world is actually getting better.

PHILLIPS: Dewitt saved his marriage, his house. And he's cautiously optimistic about what's next.

DEWITT: And the evidence is that you got better days ahead of you I want you got behind you.

PHILLIPS: You preach, say about happiness.

DEWITT: Right.

PHILLIPS: Are you happy?

DEWITT: I am happy, yeah. I'm content with a lot of things. I'm extremely happy about the ministry that now I have and the future that holds. So I'm scared, you know, what you see is you see a scared smile. And it tells the story.

PHILLIPS: Ahead, atheism here?

There's a lot of atheist that would be very uncomfortable in this environment.


[21:45:17] PHILLIPS: This is the divinity school at Harvard University, one of the most prestigious places in the country to study religion.

VANESSA ZOLTAN: OK, friend's thanks for coming we had a really interesting paper on the book today from a student in a class.

PHILLIPS: It's week two of the fall semester.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The awareness of the role that I play...

PHILLIPS: Here a rare pick inside spiritual formation class.

ZOLTAN: Is that when your (inaudible), is that when you're like I'm the Messiah.

The history of this place becomes richer every year, it feels like going to somebody's church.

PHILLIPS: Third year grad student Vanessa Zoltan finds herself constantly inspired.

ZOLTAN: Every year we have our preaching competition here and more and more beautiful sermons are preached here. PHILLIPS: But unlike most of her classmates, Vanessa has no plans to become a minister in the traditional sense, she's an atheist.

ZOLTAN: Everything I wanted to learn even without believing in God was in the space.

PHILLIPS: There' a lot of atheist that would be very uncomfortable in this environment.

ZOLTAN: I just think you miss so much if you cross out all religion you're not going to understand (inaudible), led alone the spirituality of thousands of year.

PHILLIPS: Vanessa was raised a reformed Jew.

ZOLTAN: There were shabbat dinners and there is seder and there is Friday night temple.

PHILLIPS: But without God.

ZOLTAN: All for my grandparents are Holocaust survivors and God does not survive Auschwitz, so God does not come in to our home.

STEPHANIE PAULSELL: That is going to be a good experiment.

PHILLIPS: Stephanie Paulsell is not only Vanessa's professor, she is an ordained Christian minister.

Religious experts have said to me, atheism is dangerous.

PAULSELL: I think it's dangerous to fundamentally misunderstand religion. I think that's very dangerous. I feel that God makes a claim on my life in a way that it makes me want to sacrifice for the good of others that makes me not -- went to not put myself always first. But, you know, Vanessa wants all those things too.

PHILLIPS: So does that mean you can be good without God?


GREG EPSTEIN, HARVARD'S HUMANIST CHAPLAIN: Is anybody here not like sing in public or does like signs, can I hear (inaudible)? OK, all right, OK, good.

PHILLIPS: Greg Epstein certainly is good without God. He wrote the best selling book and has been Harvard's humanist chaplain for a decade.

So what is humanism?

EPSTEIN: Its being a good human being and working at being a good human being without a concept that we have any super natural powers to guide us or tell us what to do.

PHILLIPS: Humanist, atheist, skeptic, free-thinker...


PHILLIPS: ... isn't that all the same thing?

EPSTEIN: It's all one community.

PHILLIPS: A community that gathers here at Harvard's humanist talk. A secular community with its own space.

Are getting any push back though? I mean this is Harvard, it's a huge name, it's got a famous divinity school, right?


PHILLIPS: And you're a humanist chaplain, you're talking about it Godless generation.

EPSTEIN: Yeah. I think the biggest thing is that Harvard tries to take a neutral approach where a humanist, a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Jew, whoever we're all equally welcome here.

I think that we're seeing the turning of a tide. There are more and more people who are coming to Harvard Divinity School, wanting to study humanism and how of to be a leader in humanist communities.

ZOLTAN: So the two things that...

PHILLIPS: Like Vanessa who is recently promoted to assistant chaplain.

ZOLTAN: I think here, what we're practicing is a sort of radical hospitality, that's wise in for (inaudible) of this community, so that we can bare witness to all of someone's life and you'd there to support them to their (inaudible).

EPSTEIN: From early in the morning to late at night, we get in dated with request for help. What we're trying to do, is we're trying to take the best aspects of congregations and bring them into the lives of humanist and atheist.

ZOLTAN: I think our scope is broadening and now atheists aren't just devil worshippers anymore, but they're full pledge human beings. And I hope that were a small part of moving, you know, our society in that direction.

PHILLIPS: Redefining what it means to be good without God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: States to states, city to city...

[21:50:01] PHILLIPS: Coming up.

SILVERMAN: Atheists are coming out of the closest.

PHILLIPS: Atheism in you face, does it work?

DAWKINS: I'm the good cop and he's the bad cop.

SILVERMAN: Three, two, one.


SILVERMAN: Well here we go. five, four, three, two, one.

PHILLIPS: Move over televangelist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The world's first television network by and for atheist.

PHILLIPS: And welcome to atheist T.V., launch just last summer the first T.V. channel geared to the Godless.

SILVERMAN: It used to be that atheist could relay on some television stations. The history channel is now having a serious on the bible, as if the bible is history. The science channel has alien abductions and big foot, it's all punk.

PHILLIPS: American atheist front man, David Silverman, came up with the idea. Funded by donors Silverman says, atheist T.V. streams to 25,000 subscribers.

Tell me what we're going to see?

SILVERMAN: Comedy, talk, soap operas, and reality shows.

[21:55:01 We are satisfying an itch. Religion is harmful. Religion is bad. Religion is wrong. We can say that on atheist T.V., we can't say it on any other network.

PHILLIPS: He's built quite a rep than taking the helm of American atheist in 2010.

SILVERMAN: We are here and we will never be silent again.

PHILLIPS: He led the 2012 reason rally in Washington D.C., the largest ever gathering of non-believers in one place. And spearheaded a national anti-Christmas billboard campaign. His is in your face tactics have made them a legend in the atheist world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is something people don't run into everyday, your husbands face on someone else's body part. This is why they enjoy to being married today.

PHILLIPS: But not everyone is laughing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you're marry band of fascist, all right.



SILVERMAN: You get it revoked, you called me a facist.


SILVERMAN: I am patriot, sir.

PHILLIPS: Without question, his fiery approach alienates people even his own.

DEWITT: Figure out what it is that they have organically.

David would consider winning to be doing a way with religion. He's out there loud and proud saying that's religious people are stupid. I'm here saying, I love everybody.

PHILLIPS: Even famed atheist, Richard Dawkins has soften his approach.

David Silverman has very aggressive tactics, what do you think of that?

DAWKINS: People tend to identify with their religious beliefs. It's sad to say your religious belief is ridiculous and here is why. It's a bit like saying, "what an ugly face."

PHILLIPS: Silverman is unapologetic. Is America, America without religion without God?

SILVERMAN: America is greater without God.


SILVERMAN: Think about all of the hatred that would go away. Think about all the bigotry that would go away.

PHILLIPS: But David, God is a part of our culture, the traditions. I mean it's in God we trust. We're talking about our military, our money, God bless America, everybody says that, God bless you.

SILVERMAN: Not everybody. In God we trust is a great example of how religion lies. We do not trust in God, you may trust in God, but we don't. One nation under God is drilled into every student. This is the government pushing religion on everybody, it's disgusting and it's wrong and it's the exact opposite of what America stands for.

PHILLIPS: So would the world be a better place without God?

DAWKINS: The world would be a normally better place without God, without religion, yes. There all sorts of things we don't know but let's seek the truth, let's be open minded. The time should come. I hope it will come and we don't even need the word atheist, because we should live in a time, I hope when people believe things because there's evidence. And since there's no evidence for fairies or leprechaun or Gods, we shouldn't need the word atheist at all.

PHILLIPS: David Kinnaman says, that day isn't coming anytime soon.

Could Christianity become obsolete?

KINNAMAN: Not in the next century, but we are becoming more religiously diverse, atheist is a part of that diversity. PHILLIPS: So what does the future hold for the Godless? Back at the University of North Georgia, David Gormley.

D. GORMLEY: There's a kind of a new wave of atheism, the first people to come out were very angry, very militant.

It would be nice to have it setup.

But I think the people that are coming out now tend to be calmer, they want to genuinely have discussion and exchange ideas.

Can you give me a short summary of why you don't think he was...

DEWITT: I can see clearly now, the rain is gone. Come on now, sing it, you know this song.

PHILLIPS: Like atheist ministered Jerry DeWitt who is already doing that in the Deep South, preaching peacefully, hoping for normal sake.

DEWITT: The place was a fire bomb. We didn't have protest outside. We enjoyed ourselves and now we're living happily ever after. So one day that would be the story for all ages.

There is the rainbow I've been waiting for. Good job. Bright, bright, sunshiny day. Come on now, sing it with us.