David Silverman (activist)

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David Silverman
David Silverman-Apr 4 2011.JPG
David Silverman in 2011
Born (1966-08-13) August 13, 1966 (age 53)
ResidenceCranford, New Jersey, U.S.
Alma materBrandeis University
Penn State University
Seton Hall University
Known forAtheist activism, separation of church and state, criticism of religion
Scientific career
InstitutionsAmerican Atheists

David Silverman (born August 13, 1966) is an American secular advocate who served as president of American Atheists, a non-profit organization supporting the rights of atheists and the removal of expressions of religion in government, from 2010 to 2018.[1] His annual anti-Christmas billboard which calls Christmas "a myth" has often sparked controversy.[2][3] Silverman is also the subject of the popular Are You Serious (face)? internet meme.[4]

Early life[edit]

Silverman was born in a middle-class Reform Jewish family in Marblehead, Massachusetts.[5][6][7] He went to Hebrew school and was bar mitzvahed when he was 13 years old.[6]

Silverman began publicly challenging religion in high school and often states in interviews that he became an atheist at the age of six.[8] Although he was never in the closet about his disbelief, he was forced to do his Bar mitzvah. He calls this the turning point in his life where he decided never to lie about his atheism again because he had gotten up on stage and told all the people he knew that he believed in God.[9][10] Seventeen years later his father admitted to him that he also was an atheist.[10]

Career and activism[edit]

Silverman speaking at the 2017 International Conference on Free Expression and Conscience in London.

He received a bachelor's degree in Computer Science from Brandeis University and MBA in Marketing from Penn State University, and an Advanced Graduate Certificate in International Business from Seton Hall. Silverman is a former professional inventor with 74 patents[citation needed], and has authored several articles, including a cover story for Inventors Digest. Silverman rejects the label of being "Jewish" and in a speech in Phoenix titled “I’m an Atheist and So Are You”, he urged secular Jewish audience to follow his lead and abandon the term “Jew”.[6][7] David Silverman has argued that Judaism is not a culture or a race or a nationality.[6]

American Atheists[edit]

Silverman worked with the American Atheists organization since 1996, and has held a variety of roles, including: New Jersey State Director, Communications Director, and Vice President. He was elected president of American Atheists on September 16, 2010, following Ed Buckner.[11][12]

During his tenure as Communications Director and Vice President of American Atheists, Silverman made several media appearances, but has been especially visible since becoming president.[12] An atheist awareness billboard campaign launched in December 2010 sparked controversy and increased media exposure for the organization.[13] As a result of this campaign, Silverman has appeared on a number of television shows since late 2010, most notably, The O'Reilly Factor on January 4, 2011.

It was under Silverman's direction that the American Atheists group sought to block the preservation of a cross-beam section of the World Trade Center skeleton that resembled a cross. Silverman opined:[14] "The WTC cross has become a Christian icon. It has been blessed by so-called holy men and presented as a reminder that their God, who couldn’t be bothered to stop the... terrorists or prevent 3,000 people from being killed in his name, cared only enough to bestow upon us some rubble that resembles a cross..."[15]

Termination as president of American Atheists[edit]

On April 13, 2018, Silverman was terminated as president of American Atheists.[16] Silverman had previously been placed on paid leave on April 10 pending an investigation into a complaint received on April 7.[17] The day after his termination, BuzzFeed News published an article detailing allegations of unwanted sexual contact by two women, subsequently denied by Silverman.[18][19] The new president of American Atheists, Nick Fish, specified that Silverman's termination was not over sexual allegations, but as a result of a "loss of confidence" stemming from violations of internal policies on staff management, conflicts of interest, and their general code of conduct.[19]

Media appearances[edit]

Silverman attended and spoke at the 2011 American Atheists National Convention, in Des Moines, Iowa [20] During his speech, he announced plans for the Reason Rally. On March 24, 2012 the Reason Rally took place at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. and was the largest atheist gathering in world history. Silverman was the Creator and Executive Producer of the event, and the President of the Reason Rally Coalition, the coalition he founded to run the rally.

On October 28, 2011, Silverman and Dinesh D'Souza participated in a public debate on whether Christianity is beneficial for America.[21]

Silverman went on Fox News's Hannity to discuss Christmas-themed billboards that American Atheists put up in Times Square, New York City.[22] He also gave a talk to the Secular Humanist Jewish Circle in Tucson, Arizona detailing the incorrectness of Jewish atheism and how religion lies in general to promote itself.[23]

Silverman's first book, Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World, was released on December 1, 2015.

Anti-Christmas billboards[edit]

Silverman has spearheaded the controversial anti-Christmas campaign by placing strategically placed billboards from New York City to San Francisco featuring unapologetic slogans like "Keep the Merry, Dump the Myth!", "You Know It’s a Myth. This Season, Celebrate Reason" and "Dear Santa all I want for Christmas is to skip church!"[2][3][7][24] The anti-Christmas billboards and subsequent TV appearances are often followed by a growth in subscribers and donations.[7]

Silverman has also launched antireligion billboard campaigns in the Bible Belt, urging people to skip church.[25][26][27][28]

Personal life[edit]

David Silverman has one daughter who attended I.L. Peretz Secular Jewish school.[8][11][28]

When Silverman requested a customized New Jersey vanity plate with the letters ATHE1ST it was denied by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission as "objectionable". He appealed and the plate was issued.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cary, Neal (April 13, 2018). "Update Regarding David Silverman". American Atheists. Retrieved April 13, 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Atheist Organization Decks Billboards With Christmas Jeer | Time.com". time.com. Retrieved 2017-03-03.
  3. ^ a b "Atheists greet Christmas with anti-faith billboards". usatoday.com. Retrieved 2017-03-03.
  4. ^ "Are You Serious Face / Seriously?". Know Your Meme. Retrieved 2019-08-02.
  5. ^ "Upcoming Events | “Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World,” Author Talk with David Silverman | Abbot Public Library". abbotlibrary.org. Retrieved 2017-03-03.
  6. ^ a b c d "A 'Jewish atheist' lets go of the 'Jewish' | NJJN". njjewishnews.com. Retrieved 2017-03-03.
  7. ^ a b c d "Can You Be an Atheist and a Jew at the Same Time? David Silverman Says No. – Tablet Magazine". tabletmag.com. Retrieved 2017-03-03.
  8. ^ a b "Dave Silverman - MasterMedia Speakers Bureau". MasterMedia. 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-09.
  9. ^ Merica, Dan. "Atheist organizer takes 'movement' to nation's capital". cnn.com. CNN. Retrieved 2013-06-18.
  10. ^ a b Pakman, David. "TDPS: American Atheists' David Silverman Fascinating O'Reilly Behind-Scenes, Agnostic vs. Atheist". Daily KOS. Retrieved 2013-06-18.
  11. ^ a b "American Atheists - Dave Silverman, President-elect". American Atheists. 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-09.[dead link]
  12. ^ a b "American Atheists - Media Releases". American Atheists. 2010. Archived from the original on 2009-04-28. Retrieved 2011-04-09. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  13. ^ "NPR - War on Christmas Spreads to Lincoln Tunnel". NPR. 2010. Retrieved 2011-04-09.
  14. ^ ATHEISTS FILE SUIT TO BLOCK WTC MEMORIAL CROSS, A press release of July 25, 2011 from the American Atheists website, as reflected from the Internet Archive, retrieved August 24, 2018
  15. ^ "Culture War Update - The Dividening of America - American Atheists vs. Ground Zero Cross - The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Video Clip)". Comedy Central.
  16. ^ Cary, Neal (April 13, 2018). "Update Regarding David Silverman". American Atheists. Retrieved April 13, 2018.
  17. ^ Cary, Neal (April 10, 2018). "Announcement Regarding American Atheists President David Silverman". American Atheists. Retrieved April 13, 2018.
  18. ^ Aldous, Peter (April 14, 2018). "This Firebrand Atheist Was Just Fired After Allegations Of Financial Conflicts And Sexual Assault". BuzzFeed News. Buzzfeed.
  19. ^ a b Winston, Kimberley (September 6, 2018). "America's leading atheist, accused of sexual misconduct, speaks out". Acts of Faith, retrieved October 8, 2018. The Washington Post.
  20. ^ "American Atheists - National Convention". American Atheists. 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-10.
  21. ^ "Dinesh D'Souza, The King's College". Dinesh D'Souza. Retrieved 2014-09-15.
  22. ^ "David Silverman on Hannity 12-20-2012 - YouTube". youtube.com. Retrieved 2017-03-03.
  23. ^ "Dave Silverman "I'm an Atheist (And So Are You); Why I've Changed My Mind on Jewish Atheism"". SHJC. Retrieved 2015-11-11.
  24. ^ Katie Halper. "5 atheist and Muslim billboards that drove the Christian right nuts - Salon.com". salon.com. Retrieved 2017-03-03.
  25. ^ "Atheists launch anti-religion billboards in Bible Belt - NY Daily News". nydailynews.com. Retrieved 2017-03-03.
  26. ^ "American Atheists launch provocative campaign in religious Deep South - Telegraph". telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-03-03.
  27. ^ Bowler, G. (2016). Christmas in the Crosshairs: Two Thousand Years of Denouncing and Defending the World's Most Celebrated Holiday. Oxford University Press, Incorporated. ISBN 9780190499006. Retrieved 2017-03-03.
  28. ^ a b Silverman, D.; Maria, C.S. (2015). Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 9781466871281. Retrieved 2017-03-03.
  29. ^ "David Silverman: New Jersey first denies but then gives in to man's request for 'Atheist' vanity plate". Mail Online. Retrieved 2014-09-15.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Ed Buckner
President of American Atheists
2010 – 2018
Succeeded by