Godless Who's Who

A look at some of the major players among American nonbelievers.

BY: Rebecca Phillips

 

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In 1977, Newdow became an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church, which now ordains anyone in just three minutes online. But it was only when he brought the pledge suit did he begin signing his full name "Rev. Dr. Michael Newdow." "Back then," he says, "I just thought it was cool."

Newdow says he is not, as his detractors claim, out to convert the country to atheism. "I'm not a proselytizing atheist," he says. "It doesn't bother me if the whole world is atheist or if nobody is an atheist." He said his primary concern is to "have the establishment clause upheld. It was a brilliant idea to have religion and government apart."

The 'Infidel Guy'

 Reginald Finley is known by the name of his popular online radio show, "The Infidel Guy." Finley estimates that about 100,000 people listen to his radio show each year, earning him, he proudly boasts, the title of "America's most dangerous black atheist" by the parody website Landover Baptist Church. He also co-founded the Atheist Network, a collection of about 16 nonbeliever radio broadcasters.

On his show, Finley discusses the separation of church and state, evolution versus creationism, and the existence of the soul. "Anything dealing with the supernatural, I like to challenge that," he says. "The Infidel Guy" helps nonbelievers "feel like they have a place where they belong," He explains. "We're here, but for some reason we're treated as though we don't exist."

Finley, 28, grew up a devout Christian in Atlanta, where he sang in a Gospel group and did a spell in the army. ("There are atheists in foxholes," he notes), where, he says, religion wasn't talked about much. It was in college, at the Catholic Saint Leo College in Florida, that he realized he was an atheist.

Finley says he never hides his atheism. "I make it a point to be rather overt about my nonbeliefs." His openness isn't limited to his radio show. Having moved recently to California from Georgia, he has plans for an atheist show on local television. He has recently started posting atheist singles ads on his website, and founded a resource site for black atheists "to show that it's OK to be black and a nonbeliever."

Still, Finley, like Newdow, doesn't necessarily want to convert the world to atheism. " Despite his lack of belief, he isn't raising his children as atheists. "My 10-year-old calls himself an atheist but he doesn't really know," he says. "I'm going to allow my children to believe what they want to believe. If they become believers, I won't care." His radio show and other projects, he says, aren't "atheist activism, per se. It's intellectual activism."

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