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March 19th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

Rob Bell punches back against claims of heresy

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

New York (CNN) - For two weeks while controversy swirled around him, Pastor Rob Bell stayed silent. His critics said he was playing fast and loose with heaven and hell, salvation and damnation. The eternity of souls was on the line, they said.

All this was over Bell’s new book, “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.” Critics tore into it before the book even hit store shelves on Tuesday, some going so far as to label Bell a heretic. The controversy pushed the book into the third spot on Amazon’s sales ranking, virtually assuring the book a place on The New York Times Best Sellers list.

On Monday night, dressed in black and sporting his trademark black-rimmed glasses, Bell strolled quietly into the auditorium of the New York Ethical Culture Society. This was his chance to hit back.

“I never set out to be controversial,” Bell told CNN before the event. “I don’t think it’s a goal that God honors. I don’t think it’s a noble goal.

“What’s interesting to me is what’s true. And what’s interesting to me is what’s inspiring. And what’s interesting to me is where’s the life? Where’s the inspiration? That’s what I’m interested in. If that happens to stir things up, that was never my intent, but I’ll accept that.”

Bell said he was surprised by the controversy around his book. Critics said he was preaching universalism, a theology that suggests everyone goes to heaven and hell is empty.

“I’m not a universalist. So that’s just not true.” He reiterated that again in the event that evening where he expounded on that idea and said that he didn’t believe God reaches down and sweeps everyone to heaven.

'Good environment for dialogue'

After a budding career as a rock star was derailed by a freak illness, Bell set his sights on the seminary. Now, at 40, he has risen to become America’s hipster pastor and one of the most influential preachers in the country.

He is quick-witted, non-denominational, and he unabashedly loves Jesus. He preaches to 10,000 people at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan, the church he founded. His first four books sold nearly a million copies combined, and his short film series, Nooma, has sold more than 2 million DVDs.

He will tell you he again and again he is a pastor, not a theologian or a biblical scholar.

But for a guy who dresses in black, Bell has made his mark examining the gray areas of Christianity. His questioning of traditional approaches without always giving answers has brought him fans and made his critics gnash their teeth.

“It’s very appealing because he brings lots of facts and lots of information into it and lots of historical context into whatever discussion he has,” said Kristi Berderon, a 25-year-old Bell fan who drove an hour from New Jersey for the event. “He leaves it open-ended. He lets you think and draw your own conclusions for yourself instead of spoon-feeding what he grew up hearing or what he was taught in seminary.”

She and her friend Tommy Hayes are a lot like the others in the crowd tonight: wearing skinny jeans and dark-rimmed glasses - and openly exploring their faith. Berderon’s parents are Southern Baptists; she was home schooled and raised in the church. Today she attends a non-denominational church and self-identifies as a “Christ follower” but bristles at being called a Christian.

Danielle Miller and Maryalice Spencer took a two-hour train ride from Walden, New York, to hear Bell speak. They walked 25 blocks and stood in line in the cold to get in. Miller uses Bell’s short films as a discussion starter in her church. “I think it’s always good to ask those hard questions, and I think that’s what he’s doing, and it creates a good environment for dialogue,” Miller said.

Bell was in New York City to sit down with Newsweek’s Lisa Miller for a conversation on stage and take questions from the 650 audience members and thousands more watching the event streaming live on the Web.

Bell and Miller on stage at the New York Ethical Culture Society auditorium.

Before the crowds arrived, a contemplative Bell settled into a pew to talk with CNN about the book and to answer his critics.

The book began, he said, five years ago. “As a pastor, you interact with so many people [that] some of the same questions keep coming up. And ultimately you keep bumping up against what people really think about God.”

In his church and around the country, he saw what he considered a misrepresentation of the Christian narrative in the Bible.

“At the heart of the Christian story is [the message that] God loves the world and sent his son Jesus to show the world this love. So that’s fundamentally first and foremost the story. God is love and God sent Jesus to show this love.

“In our culture Christians are known for a number of other things. … Rarely do you hear people say, ‘Oh yeah, those are the people who never stop talking about love. Oh a Christian church - that’s where you go if feel beaten down and kicked and someone has their boot on your neck. You go there because it’s a place of healing and a place of love.’

“I’m passionate about calling people back to [Christianity’s] roots,” Bell said.

'Theology of evacuation'

In his new book, Bell challenges the traditional notions of heaven and hell.

“For many people the fundamental story was one of escape - Jesus is how you get out of here. I think for many people in the modern world, the way they heard it was fundamentally, ‘This place is bad, and there is some other place, and Jesus - believe, accept, trust, confess, join, get baptized, whatever sort of language got put on it - Jesus is how you get to some other realm where things are good.’

“So essentially it’s a theology of evacuation. And my understanding is the Bible is first and foremost a story of restoration. It’s a story of renewal.”

“The fundamental story arc of the Bible,” he said “is God is passionate about rescuing this world, restoring it renewing it. So discussions about heaven and hell … for many people are irrelevant and esoteric. … But what happens is, what you believe about heaven and hell deeply shapes how you engage this world now.”

Bell said if a believer has their eyes on heaven, they can miss the opportunities to bring people a taste of heaven here on Earth - and they can miss seeing the hell around them.

“Greed, injustice, the sex trade in Far East Asia, we see hell all around us, whenever people reject what is good and human and right and peaceful and all that,” he said.

“I begin with this world right now and the observation that we are free to choose. It’s the nature of love. So then when you die, I would assume [given] the nature of love you can continue to make these types of choices.”

For Bell the here and now is just as important as any possible life to come. “I think it’s very very important to point out … [that] we are speculating about after you die,” he said.

“In the Jewish context in which [Jesus] lived and moved, you didn’t have that articulated belief system about when you die. It was very rooted in this life - dirt and wine and banquets, family and fishing. [In] his stories, it’s all a very visceral – this world is our home, this world that God loves, that God is redeeming - so that’s the starting point.

“I think for many people they were taught you’re either in or out. But Jesus invites us to a journey that’s a fundamentally different way to think about it, and that frees you up from a lot of things that I think haunt people, bind them up and make them miserable. Then it creates all sorts of space for wonder and awe and mystery and the unexpected,” Bell said.

His perspective does not line up with many of the traditional views about heaven and hell, of separate spaces and places with streets of gold or lakes of fire.

For Christians who see salvation and heaven as crucial elements to their faith, Bell’s message can be abrasive - which in part led to so many people pouncing on his book before it was released.

What stirred many critics was a promotional video in which Bell asks whether Mohandas Gandhi, India’s non-violent leader, was in heaven. Bell’s answer offers a good insight into his view of salvation.

Bell would not be surprised if he saw Gandhi in heaven. “Jesus was very clear. Heaven is full of surprises. That’s central to Jesus teaching.”

Bell insists there is room for mystery in salvation and that Christianity is open to discussion.

“The historical orthodox Christian faith is extremely wide and diverse,” Bell said. “No one has the last word other than God. I am taking part in a discussion that’s been going on for thousands of years. Everyone can play a part in that discussion.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Devil

soundoff (1,308 Responses)
  1. Dan

    All religions are teleological. This does not mean that people do not create them in order to perpetuate them, finally manifesting them into a practice that exists. Rather, it is far too late for believers of religions to ever get out of the brainwashing, if they are full-heartedly fighting everyone else to believe like them.
    Reality exists, and I do not deny people their right to practice religion. However, when are persistant in coming to my door to follow them, and how people fight Others who are different in the name of God and Country, it affects me tremendously.
    I wish people could see through the smoke and mirrors, and stop being lead like sheep to their deaths. I really really want to give humans more credit to see through the lies, but I do not yet know when that day will come.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Dan, I would never come to your door. I did however, notice you came to a Belief site.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  2. Tom

    The Christian faith is not, "man made". Man would create a religion where everything about him/her is perfect. Man would not invent a religion that points out all the terrible things him.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • El Kababa

      Is Mormonism "man-made" or not?
      (Warning: Slippery Slope Ahead)

      March 19, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  3. funny

    can we at least point out how ironic it is that the self-proclaimed "Atheists" not only took the time to read the article on the BELIEF Blog, but also took the time to formulate arguments against religion and belief systems in general, and post them as comments. Hahaha this blog is for BELIEVERS! Not of one particular god but you have to at least believe in one! Hahaha come on people stop being so antagonistic and get lives! Go post on the Atheist blogs and stop ruining the discussion on ours! Thank you!

    March 19, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • JohnR

      What's funny is how you don't understand how blogs work. The ISSUE of belief is of legitimate interest to atheists, thus legitimizing their presence here. And note that not all of us who are disgusted by Chrisitian dogma are atheists.

      March 19, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • loo

      JohnR why is what other people believe an issue to you? It's none of your business, or any other atheists business. Who are you to call it an issue? Shame on you for your lack of tolerance.

      March 19, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • Magic

      funny & loo,

      When your beliefs affect the laws and public policies of the country and how my taxes are levied and spent, they are an issue to be discussed.

      If you want no debate, go to a Christian blog, where very often people who don't agree with them are banned. There you can revel in your fantasy all you want.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Magic, get over your temper tantrum. Truth (Jesus) always rises above the lie (satan).

      I suppose you never heard the saying "truth ALWAYS PREVAILS". Lies always try to suppress truth, but truth always prevails. His Truth is for all eternity. Alpha and Omega.

      You're on the wrong side son.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  4. Tom

    I wish atheists would keep an open mind. They tend to be so closed minded to even the slightest possibility that God is real.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • Dan

      When you say "God is real", do you mean that religion exists because people somehow had some insight to an existential meeting with a "God" sometime in the past that hasn't happened since then? Or, do you mean that simply because people practice religion today, and by virtue of practicing religion today, it exists?
      You cannpt have it both ways.
      You should really decide. And when atheists are telling you that "God is not real," they are trying to get you to see through the teleological smoke in mirrors, albeit in what you may consider an "condescending" way.
      Whether it is condescending or not to you, you must at least realize that you have been effectively brainwashed, and your particular bias is in fact, arrogant in and of itself.

      March 19, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  5. El Kababa

    A survey showed that 25% of all Christians believe in reincarnation. After all, you must be "born again" to enter the kingdom of heaven.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:13 am |
    • HeavenSent

      El Kababa, we've always existed since the beginning with God. God destroyed the 1st earth age. God then created all again and erased our memories of Him, allowing our spirits to be born unto woman (which is born from above, born of water, or born again). Life (Genesis to Revelation) is our 2nd chance (test from God) to love and follow Jesus (truth) and our spirits are alive down in human form on earth then in Heaven (back to spiritual bodies again) to reside with Jesus or, your free will choice for the other alternative is love and follow satan (lies) and you die spiritually while on earth as well as in heaven, until the Day of the Lord. You decide. Do you want to live with Jesus for eternity or do you want to perish with satan into the eternal flames, blotted out.

      There is no re-incarnation. Our souls came from Him who created ALL and we were with Him. We will all exist for eternity if we love and follow Jesus. The only way to know Jesus is to read the Bible, comprehend what He teaches, then apply His wisdom to our lives to have His righteousness as a conclusion. Follow satan's lies and you get blotted out for eternity. If you don't follow Jesus you follow satan. No, ifs, ands, or butts about this truth of His.

      Amen.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:25 am |
  6. shirley

    all religions are man made. the republicans so called chrisitians are the wost example of god's love if it even existed. i am so happy that the internet exists because trying to find a black freethinker was so difficult before the internet. would a loving caring god have allowed blacks to be taken into slavery. allow all of the hunger the world over. stop wasting time believing in a a man made myth and live the best life u can becquse this is all there is. people in secular countries. score higher on the happiness scale than those bogged down by religion. the difference between me an religious zealots, you calim to know how the wolrld was created and i am smart enough to know that i don't have a clue and don't care

    March 19, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • Ryan

      Shirley
      You do realize that a great may Democrats are also Christians, including the President, and that many Republicans are Atheists, right? The President attended church in Chicago and says he's a Christian, so you're also slamming Democrats. Just thought I'd point out that, as well as the fact that you admit to not knowing how the universe was created, but at least some of us try to find out.

      March 19, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  7. David Donahue

    Two statements:
    CNN may or may not be "hyping" this guy. Either way, it is bringing a lot of discussion, and as a result "eyes" (read consumers) to their site.
    I like the comment about Stephen Hawking, a person who I have done three college papers on. However, as great as he is, (and Einstein, and, and, and...) no one has been able to explain HOW all of this started. No empirical evidence of the "big bang", "evolution", etc...all of which are denoted as THEORIES by the same people who espouse them.
    Makes one wonder if these scientists aren't trying to shill their way in to multiple ways of salvation/end.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  8. brad

    it is ridiculous that people can't see the beauty of universal parables without getting hung up on whether they represent word for word historical facts. as an Atheist (or more correctly someone who doesn't see the point in worrying about things that will never be known because of human limitations) I can read major/minor religious texts and receive great nourishment of the so called "soul". the issue right now is that the verbatim believers want to inject their myths onto everyones schoolchildren and our country's laws, which isn't at all different than the bogeyman Muslims they fear.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  9. Dora

    Most people who are not religious will make derrogatory comments about someone talking about God, Jesus disciples were upset because other people were preaching the Word of God, and he said, that it didnt matter, that whoever teaches about God is not against the teachings of Jesus, I dont think this man is heretic, I believe that the ones judging him are. God is love, whether in whatever part of the world and whatever your notion of God is, he is, and will ever be love. people do go to hell though.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • RICK

      No one can question gods love, for we know that god loves us, I tend to think of gods wrath, I don't think you can fully understand gods love without understanding his wrath. I have seen almost everything justified by people who speak of god love, but he wrath let you know that everything is not alright with god.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  10. The reality is...

    In the beginning there was Adam and Eve, who gave birth to Cain and Abel. Able worshiped God the way God wanted to be worshiped; Cain worshiped God the way Cain wanted to worship God. And this is what continues on through the ages. God gives His plan and man chooses between God's way and his own way. If man rejects His plan and chooses his own way of worshiping, then God will not be pleased. Time will tell whether or not Bell has rejected God but it seems to me that Bell has chosen the way of Cain as he clearly seems to be rejecting what Jesus Himself taught. Yes, God is love but He also is just.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • Irving 143

      One of the unresolved mysteries of Genesis is the reason God rejected Cain's offering of grain over Abel's offering of meat. Prior to this God makes no mention whatsoever of His preference, when it would've been helpful to Cain. As it stands—and no, we can't assume God told the brothers how He was to be worshipped when the Bible does not relate that he, by any agency, did so—the tale of Cain and Abel reads as a not at all extraordinary fable of divine parental favoritism and down-to-Earth sibling rivalry. This fable, moreover, serves to validate the quite common practice of animal sacrifice among the various peoples of Biblical times, including the Hebrews, though later narratives backpedal a fair bit in establishing that God's okay with agricultural offerings as well.

      March 19, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • Davis

      I'm sorry but that isn't a mystery at all. God didn't reject the offering because it was grain; He rejected it because it wasn't the best he could offer.

      Gen 4:3 In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground,
      Gen 4:4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering,
      Gen 4:7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? [fn] And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for [fn] you, but you must rule over it."

      you'll notice cain just brought the fruit of the ground, but nothing else special is said about it. Abel, hoever, brought the firstborn and also gave the fat portions; so not only did abel give the first and best but he spared nothing in the brocess. On top of that you'll notice in 7 that God repremanded him for what he was doing not what he offered.

      March 30, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  11. RoadRunner, Albuquerque, NM

    God is love: no, not THAT kind of love, stupid; the other kind.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  12. jimmydoda

    Atheism as Aezel said is not a religion. It's common sense. I'm still amazed to live in a world where someone who doesn't believe in magic simply because there is not now and never was any evidence of it is considered the odd man out. Religion is a useful tool for controlling the ignorant masses. How do you get someone at the bottom of the economic scale to vote for policies that only benefit the people at the top ? Fear, hate, and religion. All three are the same thing.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      I hate to disagree with you, but... atheism is not common sense... Given the demographics, it's rather uncommon sense...

      March 19, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  13. Lee

    Deuteronomy 13:12-16 Kill those who worship differently...
    Exodus 22:18 Kill the witches...This one had lots of traction...
    Luke 12:47-48 Beat the slaves...
    Hosea 1:2 & 2:1-3 Adultery is fun...

    Remember, quote only the things that agree with you...Saves all sorts of agonizing...

    Idiots

    March 19, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • Jesus

      You're forgetting the Godly punishment for rapists – Have 'em pay a few pieces of silver to the girl's Dad and then marry the broad (Deut 22: 13-29). Is that a wise God or the musings of some primitive culture where women had no status.

      March 19, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • loo

      old testament writings my friend, not what Jesus taught. thank you for playing! try again!

      March 19, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  14. The Dude

    If I am going to life a deluded life, I will live under my delusions, not someone elses. Religion is crap.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • HeavenSent

      The Dude, you are sending yourself to the eternal flames for living in that big ego of yours and refusing to read Jesus' truth that will save your soul. He left us His blueprint (the Bible) what He wants for us and what He wants from us. There is no excuse when you meet Him face to face that you never read His letter (the Bible) he gave to all of us.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  15. Milo

    Ryan
    I love it when people say Atheists should stop forcing their thoughts on everyone. Well I am tired of people I don't know saying god bless you, or I will pray for you. I drive home past dozens of billboards for churches. Who is shoving their ideology down my throat. I am sorry if one person questioning the existence of God unravels the fabric of your life. I am not an atheist, I do believe in a higher power – however I don't call it the God. I do not call myself a Christian. I do not believe in the bible. A book written by man, to support the power of man and is rewritten constantly to support the changing views of mankind in order to keep it relevant or people will stop coming to church.

    March 19, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • shirley

      my sentiments exactly

      March 19, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • the questioner

      Tell me more about this higher power...

      March 19, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • Ryan

      Milo
      And that's fine. Just don't tell me, just like I'm not supposed to tell you about what I believe.

      March 19, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Milo, Jesus' truth written in the Bible does not change. Man/woman changes, not His truth.

      I'm waiting for your next excuse to not read His truth (the Bible). There is no excuse when you meet Him face to face after you leave this life. Jesus had righteous men scribe His truth through His Holy Spirit. God is the author of the Bible.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • Evan

      "I'm waiting for your next excuse to not read His truth "

      Oh, I know one, you get so oppressed with the internet you forget to have a life.

      March 21, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      I thought you weren't going to post anymore LJ, cough, I mean Evan. LOL.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:11 am |
    • LJ

      I see you are making more assumptions about others HS. Nice job on continuing to prove you lack reading comprehension. Evan just ignore this person they are delusional.

      March 22, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  16. El Kababa

    "Heresy" assumes that there is an accepted doctrine or belief which is NOT heresy. Heresy is the denial or contradiction of universally accepted beliefs. However, there are hundreds of religions named Christianity. Their gods all have the same names: Yahweh, Christ, the Holy Ghost, Satan, etc. However, that is merely coincidence. All of those Christianitys have different teachings and different expectations of human beings.

    Here in El Paso, there must be hundreds of men named Jesus Rodriguez. Just because they all have the same name doesn't mean they are the same man. Ask the Pope, a Christian Scientist, an Evangelist, a Mormon, and a Witness of Jehovah to interpret any verse in the Bible.

    March 19, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • HeavenSent

      El Kababa, satan is the anti-christ. Meaning, instead of Christ. Satan is Lucifer. Fell from Heaven because of the sin of Pride, wanting to be bigger and better than God.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  17. The Dude

    Why do people feel they need to follow others at all?

    No one is qualified to give spiritual advice. It is all opinion. Believe what you believe, why believe what others believe?

    Say yes to spirituality, give religion the boot.

    Religion is there to control you, nothing more.

    March 19, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • Ruby

      Nicely done, thanks.

      March 19, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Jesus is truth. That's why He had men scribe His truth. God is the author of the Bible.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  18. Marcel Cousineau

    Another 'popular' young preacher whom the mainstream media ignores has something to say.
    FED UP WITH FOOLISHNESS
    http://mikeboldea.blogspot.com/2011/03/fed-up-with-foolishness.html

    March 19, 2011 at 9:47 am |
  19. Thackerie

    "My fiction is better than your fiction."

    March 19, 2011 at 9:45 am |
  20. Ryan

    I agree with Horvath – Atheists say no religion should ever be forced on anyone, yet they try to stuff the religion of Atheism down our throats in internet, schools, billboards, radio, television, and blogs like this one. They should do exactly what they're telling everyone else to do: sit down, shut up, and keep to yourself!

    March 19, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • Aezel

      Atheism isn't a religion, it is just the lack of one. Asking people to think in that way isn't trying to "stuff it down your throat." It is simply asking people to behave in a sane manner. Psychology defines religious belief as a form of schizophrenia, because you live in a world in your head that is disconnected from physical reality.

      The fact that you don't even KNOW atheism isn't a religion makes you appear so stupid as to not possibly be taken seriously.

      March 19, 2011 at 9:46 am |
    • Mark Williams

      Atheist see how dangerous and damaging religion and dogma can be, there for they are even in some extreme cases just trying to challenge people to "think" for themselves. This guy is one of the very few Christians that finally gets it. No one knows what happens after we die when our consciousness fades, so yes everyone should shut their mouths. Problem is the religious right needs opposition even if its somewhat aggravating to the guys in the middle. People need to know its OK to not follow traditional dogmatic teachings and do as they are told. And finally in this day we have people strong enough to make that stand.

      March 19, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • The Dude

      Atheist do not indoctrinate children, unlike the Christ Cultists.

      If I child is not old enough to vote, they surely are not old enough to decided what religion to follow.

      March 19, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • Nathan

      Aezal, your speaking truth. No one here wants to hear that.

      March 19, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • Bubba

      Gawd. are you ever stupid. Ever considered that maybe you believe because you are dim-witted? I'm not saying every believer is dumb, but you seem to be really stupid. Try keeping quiet yourself.

      March 19, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • HLS2012

      Disregarding the actual definition of "religion" which varies, you are not correct in defining non-belief as Atheism Aezel... A person who actually does not hold a core belief or makes a faith based assumption is an Agnostic. Atheists choose to believe in the lack of God, which itself requires some sort of leap beyond pure logic.

      March 19, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • doresearch

      As soon as organized religion in the US surrenders its tax-exempt status, then I – an atheist – will "sit down and shut up".
      But as long as I am subsidizing organized religion and the properties that it owns, I consider that I have purchased a seat – against my will – at this very public circus. So, Ryan, ready to advocate for organized religion to lose its tax exempt status?

      March 19, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • notmyname

      @Azazel: I beg to differ. Webster's dictionary defines religion as: "a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith". Atheism, whether a cause, principle or system of beliefs (spiritual or material) is definitely held with ardor *and* faith. Can you prove the non-existence of God? Were you there at the beginning of the world/life? Just as the "religious" cannot prove the existence of God or when/how life began and take this by faith, atheists that cannot prove the non-existence of God and when/how life began also take their belief by faith. We simply don't know and cannot prove either. Theism and atheism is taken by faith.

      March 19, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • Bluebarron

      The mark of true intellectual insecurity is to call someone else's "stupid".

      March 19, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • Smart but No Atheist

      It can certainly be argued that Atheism is in fact a religion. It takes just as much belief to say there is no God than to say there is. I constantly hear Atheists say that Christianity is dogmatic, unaccepting, and non-inclusive, but I would argue that Atheists tend to be exactly what they are railing against. They call believers stupid, talk as if only they could possibly know the truth, and speak as if they have some sort of authority on the subject. Here is a quote from one such Atheist:

      "Psychology defines religious belief as a form of schizophrenia, because you live in a world in your head that is disconnected from physical reality... The fact that you don't even KNOW atheism isn't a religion makes you appear so stupid as to not possibly be taken seriously."

      What I just read is dogmatic, non-inclusive, and written as if they have absolute knowlege and authority. In fact, the quote above is completely incorrect. Physcology does not 'define religion' at all. You may find 'a psychologist' that defines religion in such a manner, but the majority do not. Do a search and you will see that 'psychology' is not as dogmatic as Ryan is. The quote above also infers a believer is stupid and cannot be taken seriously. Again, exactly the type of behavior and language that belief is looked down upon for is expressed by one who claims to have none.

      While I think often believers use their faith as an escape from having to seriously think through issues and to claim a moral high-ground, I think many Atheists do the same. Personally, I have attempted to seek for the truth, and have come to the conclusion that God does exists based on the facts that I have found. I'm not saying you must come to the same conclusion but would encourage an open mind and lack of hostility.

      March 19, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • bc11

      @notmyname
      you're defining the wrong word. You need to define "theism"...not "religion". Theism is a belief in a god(s). Atheism is the opposite of that. A lack of belief in god(s). Atheism is a response to the claim by theists that there is a god. Like you already defined, religion is a system of beliefs based on theism. Atheism has no dogma, no tenets, no set of beliefs, no doctrine. It's simply a response to a theistic claim.
      The burden of proof of a god is not on us...it's on the theists. You're the one claiming there is a god. If I am to accept your claim as well, you need to prove it to me. If I believed in an invisible pink unicorn who lived in my closet,would you accept that purely because I said it was so? Or questioned it?

      March 19, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • Avarren

      Atheism is not a religion. Disbelief in elves, Santa, fairies, the Flying Spaghetti Monster (sorry, Pastafarians), Zeus, Hecate, Ganesha, Gwanyin, Coyote, unicorns, or the Tooth Fairy are likewise not religions – merely a logical conclusion to the lack of evidence for supernatural beings in this fine world of ours. I imagine you find all of the abovementioned just as fantastical as I do; I just happen to include your god in the same category. Our insistence on broadcasting atheism is a cry for rational thought, for rejecting the childish exclusionism and demand for unthinking devotion common to most religions – a demand for us to come together to focus on and improve THIS world, not the imaginary next.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      You know believers are pathetic, changing your handles to make it look like their are so many of you fools in the world. LOL.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      The Dude, Christians follow the Bible. Stop mixing up the Talmud teachings.

      Amen.

      March 21, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • John

      "You know believers are pathetic, changing your handles to make it look like their are so many of you fools in the world. LOL."

      Wow maybe to you but those that believe are not a pathetic as someone who spends all their time trolling this site.

      March 21, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • dendata

      Independence from God is the cause of all of mans suffering. To think to much of ones self is foolishness. Our ability to think and reason are God given. When the Christian congregation was formed in the first century of our Common Era, one of its outstanding characteristics—despite the diversity of its members—was its unity.Of course, believers in the first century were imperfect, and situations developed that challenged their unity.
      Using a simple illustration, Jesus showed that immediately after he planted the seeds of Christianity, an enemy, Satan, would interfere. (Matthew 13:24, 25) Thus, it was not a mere social phenomenon that caused Christianity to be transformed during the first few centuries after Jesus’ ministry. It was enemy action, Satan’s action. Today the churches of Christendom are perpetuating mistakes made in the past and are reaping the effects.—2 Corinthians 11:14, 15; James 4:4.

      April 9, 2011 at 4:07 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.