The Atheist Self-Licking Ice Cream Cone

The atheist Rock Beyond Belief festival has received a fair amount of press recently, though it has mostly come through a variety of outlets repeating a single story originally written by the Religion News Service.

Kimberly Winston of RNS wrote “Military atheists get ready to ‘rock beyond belief,’” which, while a noble effort, still largely came across as a press release for the atheists.  (By contrast, the ChristianPost had a somewhat more thorough article.  In full disclosure, the ChristianPost article does cite extensively.)

What Winston failed to disclose in her original story is RNS received a “donation” of $50,000 last year specifically for them to report, and then distribute reports on, atheists and freethinkers.

(It turns out Winston also wrote a story on Rock Beyond Belief around the time of the original donation.  As noted at the time, her article clearly read like an atheist press release — and it repeated a variety of factually incorrect statements about the atheist event.)

That RNS grant came from the Stiefel Freethought Foundation with the intent of funding a wide-reaching media outlet to get “better coverage of [their] movement.”

Just a few months earlier, the Stiefel Freethought Foundation also gave the same amount of money to (making it the “largest financial sponsor” of) Rock Beyond Belief, without which the event would not have occurred. From the SFF website:

SFF donated $50,000 to Religion News Service to bolster its coverage of freethinkers with a series of news, investigations, feature stories and photos.

SFF donated $50,000 to support the Rock Beyond Belief secular festival at Ft. Bragg.

The SFF was founded and is run by Todd Stiefel, who donated $2.5M to fund his new tax-exempt charity.  Stiefel is even playing in one of the music acts at the festival he’s funding and essentially advertising through a paid media outlet.

In other words, the military atheist Rock Beyond Belief and its recent press coverage are essentially the work of one (non-military) man.  So much for a grass roots uprising.