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July 31st, 2011
01:00 AM ET

Do you speak Christian?

Editor's note: Kirby Ferguson is a New York-based writer, filmmaker and speaker who created the web video series Everything is a Remix. His videos, like the one above, can be found on Vimeo, an online community where artists share their films.

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - Can you speak Christian?

Have you told anyone “I’m born again?” Have you “walked the aisle” to “pray the prayer?”

Did you ever “name and claim” something and, after getting it, announce, “I’m highly blessed and favored?”

Many Americans are bilingual. They speak a secular language of sports talk, celebrity gossip and current events. But mention religion and some become armchair preachers who pepper their conversations with popular Christian words and trendy theological phrases.

If this is you, some Christian pastors and scholars have some bad news: You may not know what you’re talking about. They say that many contemporary Christians have become pious parrots. They constantly repeat Christian phrases that they don’t understand or distort.

Marcus Borg, an Episcopal theologian, calls this practice “speaking Christian.” He says he heard so many people misusing terms such as “born again” and “salvation” that he wrote a book about the practice.

People who speak Christian aren’t just mangling religious terminology, he says. They’re also inventing counterfeit Christian terms such as “the rapture” as if they were a part of essential church teaching.

The rapture, a phrase used to describe the sudden transport of true Christians to heaven while the rest of humanity is left behind to suffer, actually contradicts historic Christian teaching, Borg says.

“The rapture is a recent invention. Nobody had thought of what is now known as the rapture until about 1850,” says Borg, canon theologian at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, Oregon.

How politicians speak Christian

Speaking Christian isn’t confined to religion. It’s infiltrated politics.

Political candidates have to learn how to speak Christian to win elections, says Bill Leonard, a professor of church history at Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity in North Carolina.

One of our greatest presidents learned this early in his career. Abraham Lincoln was running for Congress when his opponent accused him of not being a Christian. Lincoln often referred to the Bible in his speeches, but he never joined a church or said he was born again like his congressional opponent, Leonard says.

"Lincoln was less specific about his own experience and, while he used biblical language, it was less distinctively Christian or conversionistic than many of the evangelical preachers thought it should be,” Leonard says.

Lincoln won that congressional election, but the accusation stuck with him until his death, Leonard says.

One recent president, though, knew how to speak Christian fluently.

During his 2003 State of the Union address, George W. Bush baffled some listeners when he declared that there was “wonder-working power” in the goodness of American people.

Evangelical ears, though, perked up at that phrase. It was an evangelical favorite, drawn from a popular 19th century revival hymn about the wonder-working power of Christ called “In the Precious Blood of the Lamb.”

Leonard says Bush was sending a coded message to evangelical voters: I’m one of you.

“The code says that one: I’m inside the community. And two: These are the linguistic ways that I show I believe what is required of me,” Leonard says.

Have you ‘named it and claimed it'?

Ordinary Christians do what Bush did all the time, Leonard says. They use coded Christian terms like verbal passports - flashing them gains you admittance to certain Christian communities.

Say you’ve met someone who is Pentecostal or charismatic, a group whose members believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as healing and speaking in tongues. If you want to signal to that person that you share their belief, you start talking about “receiving the baptism of the Holy Ghost” or getting the “second blessings,” Leonard says.

Translation: Getting a baptism by water or sprinkling isn’t enough for some Pentecostals and charismatics. A person needs a baptism “in the spirit” to validate their Christian credentials.

Or say you’ve been invited to a megachurch that proclaims the prosperity theology (God will bless the faithful with wealth and health). You may hear what sounds like a new language.

Prosperity Christians don’t say “I want that new Mercedes.” They say they are going to “believe for a new Mercedes.” They don’t say “I want a promotion.” They say I “name and claim” a promotion.

The rationale behind both phrases is that what one speaks aloud in faith will come to pass. The prosperity dialect has become so popular that Leonard has added his own wrinkle.

“I call it ‘name it, claim it, grab it and have it,’ ’’ he says with a chuckle.

Some forms of speaking Christian, though, can become obsolete through lack of use.

Few contemporary pastors use the language of damnation - “turn or burn,” converting “the pagans” or warning people they’re going to hit “hell wide open” - because it’s considered too polarizing, Leonard says. The language of “walking the aisle” is also fading, Leonard says.

Appalachian and Southern Christians often told stories about staggering into church and walking forward during the altar call to say the “sinner’s prayer” during revival services that would often last for several weeks.

“People ‘testified’ to holding on to the pew until their knuckles turned white, fighting salvation all the way,” Leonard says. “You were in the back of the church, and you fought being saved.”

Contemporary churchgoers, though, no longer have time to take that walk, Leonard says. They consider their lives too busy for long revival services and extended altar calls. Many churches are either jettisoning or streamlining the altar call, Leonard says.

“You got soccer, you got PTA, you got family responsibilities - the culture just won’t sustain it as it once did,” Leonard says.

Even some of the most basic religious words are in jeopardy because of overuse.

Calling yourself a Christian, for example, is no longer cool among evangelicals on college campuses, says Robert Crosby, a theology professor at Southeastern University in Florida.

“Fewer believers are referring to themselves these days as ‘Christian,’ ” Crosby says. “More are using terms such as ‘Christ follower.’ This is due to the fact that the more generic term, Christian, has come to be used within religious and even political ways to refer to a voting bloc.”

What’s at stake

Speaking Christian correctly may seem like it’s just a fuss over semantics, but it’s ultimately about something bigger: defining Christianity, says Borg, author of “Speaking Christian.”

Christians use common words and phrases in hymns, prayers and sermons “to connect their religion to their life in the world,” Borg says.

“Speaking Christian is an umbrella term for not only knowing the words, but understanding them,” Borg says. “It’s knowing the basic vocabulary, knowing the basic stories.”

When Christians forget what their words mean, they forget what their faith means, Borg says.

Consider the word “salvation.” Most Christians use the words "salvation" or "saved" to talk about being rescued from sin or going to heaven, Borg says.

Yet salvation in the Bible is seldom confined to an afterlife. Those characters in the Bible who invoked the word salvation used it to describe the passage from injustice to justice, like the Israelites’ liberation from Egyptian bondage, Borg says.

“The Bible knows that powerful and wealthy elites commonly structure the world in their own self-interest. Pharaoh and Herod and Caesar are still with us. From them we need to be saved,” Borg writes.

And when Christians forget what their faith means, they get duped by trendy terms such as the rapture that have little to do with historical Christianity, he says.

The rapture has become an accepted part of the Christian vocabulary with the publication of the megaselling “Left Behind” novels and a heavily publicized prediction earlier this year by a Christian radio broadcaster that the rapture would occur in May.

But the notion that Christians will abandon the Earth to meet Jesus in the clouds while others are left behind to suffer is not traditional Christian teaching, Borg says.

He says it was first proclaimed by John Nelson Darby, a 19th century British evangelist, who thought of it after reading a New Testament passage in the first book of Thessalonians that described true believers being “caught up in the clouds together” with Jesus.

Christianity’s focus has long been about ushering in God’s kingdom “on Earth, not just in heaven,” Borg says.

“Christianity’s goal is not to escape from this world. It loves this world and seeks to change it for the better,” he writes.

For now, though, Borg and others are also focusing on changing how Christians talk about their faith.

If you don’t want to speak Christian, they say, pay attention to how Christianity’s founder spoke. Jesus spoke in a way that drew people in, says Leonard, the Wake Forest professor.

“He used stories, parables and metaphors,” Leonard says. “He communicated in images that both the religious folks and nonreligious folks of his day understand.”

When Christians develop their own private language for one another, they forget how Jesus made faith accessible to ordinary people, he says.

“Speaking Christian can become a way of suggesting a kind of spiritual status that others don’t have,” he says. “It communicates a kind of spiritual elitism that holds the spiritually ‘unwashed’ at arm’s length."

By that time, they’ve reached the final stage of speaking Christian - they've become spiritual snobs.

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Baptist • Belief • Bible • Christianity • Church • Culture wars • Episcopal • Faith • Fundamentalism • Politics • Uncategorized

soundoff (3,878 Responses)
  1. boka

    Religion is for the weak and the desperate. People that like to be told what to do instead of thinking for themselves. Pathetic.

    August 1, 2011 at 11:25 am |
  2. Chowman

    This article should have been called "Can you speak stupid?"

    August 1, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  3. Jeff

    Wow is this guy late to the game. A lot of people like me are Christian drop outs because after doing some REAL theological study we discovered that a lot of the most vociferous Christians are actually terrible Christains. I discovered that doctrine didn't match scripture and that behavior didn't match doctrine. My study of the history of evangelism showed me that it is the illiterate frontier version of early American Purtanism for people that didn't want to actaully read and learn, but prefered to feel and make it up as they go.

    August 1, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • KingdomCome

      How about this.... don't look to PEOPLE/ PASTORS ETC. to find an answer or a sermon... seek God and He will be your teacher... He promised this in His word...confusion comes from the adversary...

      August 1, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • Jeff

      Kingdom: I would generally agree that I person should do some serious study of their scriptures rather than just relying on the opinions of others. There is a problem with a lack of formal education in theology and history that can cause problems for the average person. Without any historical context, the Christian Bible makes absolutely no sense, and without some knowledge of Hebrew tradition a lot of what happens in the NT loses its meaning.

      August 1, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  4. rod

    Christian.... by the GRACE of God in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and this is the HOPE of having eternal life!

    Yet, Im still in this world since becoming one fifty years ago..... and rejoices everyday for His wonderful plan of being His child, servant, friend thru His pormise of the HOLY SPIRIT who guides, leads me everyday in words, thoughts and actions!

    Yet He is gracious enough to forgive my sins as i confess to Him daily for any limitations, mistakes made because He knows Im still around in human flesh (that I cannot do anything except abiding in HIM!) having His plans for me that His will be accomplished ... and someday declared and deserving..." WELL DONE good and faithful servant"! as Im ushered in and invited ... in that great heavenly lfellowship as my name is written in that BOOK of LIFE!

    The words and actions that I have morning thru the night, He remembers them all (how faithful and loving is my Heavenly Father) as HE cares for my every need!

    This I beleive, is what is missing in this article and as interpreted by a Lutheran minister, WISDOM from above and GRACE on earth! And so it has NOT been REVEALED even though a "christian by HIS OWN calling... and so God knows it ... NOT by His MIGHT, POWER but by the gift of the HOLY SPIRIT as REVEALED and indwelt to anyone whom GOD saw an HONEST and GENUINE heart for HIS choosing and calling!

    It is not how I call myself christian... but how HE calls me and chooses me in serving HIM running the race everyday thru the end under HIS watchful eye!

    August 1, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • Richard S Kaiser

      @ rod;

      GET OFF your Hobby Horse rod! Did Not Christ say that "The Kingdom of God is Within/Inside you!"? 1 Corinthians 6:20, For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify the God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.

      Does not Fractal Cosmologies revel around there being INNER Uiniverses whereas Our Bodies are Temples inhabited by the Gods and Goddesses, Kings and Queens of Godly Royalties? Give one a break and ponder these Words for Christ's Sake!

      August 1, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • KingdomCome

      @ Richard S Kaiser
      actually if you do a word study... on "within"/"inside" from the scripture you quoted... "The Kingdom of God is Within/Inside you!"
      it means ..."in the midst of"
      so it is better worded like this... "The Kingdom of God is in the midst of you... in your midst"

      Interesting, huh?

      August 1, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
  5. Rainer Braendlein

    From the above article:

    "Translation: Getting a baptism by water or sprinkling isn’t enough for some Pentecostals and charismatics. A person needs a baptism “in the spirit” to validate their Christian credentials."

    True doctrine in contrast: The Holy Spirit we receive near-terms to sacramental baptism. The baptism and the receipt of the Spirit are strongly connected. Jesus said: "Someone, who believes and gets baptized, will get saved." Faith together with baptism is the act of salvation.

    Every second baptism (re-baptism) and second receipt of the Spirit is an abomination and satanic deception.

    Pentecostals and charismatics don't belong to the Christian Church. They are cults.

    August 1, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • KingdomCome

      Why is it that the Spirit has been a confusion and a church splitter for years... must be something to it... Isn't Satan suppose to cause confusion?
      Jesus told his disciples to wait for the Spirit...

      August 1, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • Richard S Kaiser

      @ Rainer Braendlein

      Why doeth thou such vain and useless Scripture of WORD to put; "Every second baptism (re-baptism) and second receipt of the Spirit is an abomination and satanic deception."? Do you think that one brother of God; This Christ Jesus is Satan's Brother and King over Satan? Are their not immeasurable amounts of GOD's Gods which are too many to Count? WE Know only of a few Godly Beings and yet we ostracize about but a few, very few Gods of GOD, not to mention the Goddesses of GOD and an unknown to Us GODDESS whom I construe to be Lilith, Adam's 1st meet/mate as is written!

      August 1, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
  6. Tom - Canada

    An article with some very good points in it. However, the author himself - very badly - misses the whole point of the Bible and continuously misinterprets its principles and doctrines. In fact, he is doing the same thing that he accuses i.e., the Christian politicians do – that is speaking a language to attract Christians voters with secreted codes – and this article is nothing but good for those kind of Christians or for that matter for anyone with or without a religion or belief. In my opinion, and through his own words, he has turned himself into a "spiritual snob." as well.

    August 1, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  7. Steve M.

    Wow, a special language for Christians... what's next, secret handshakes and decoder rings? Being a Christian in the modern world is very much like joining a kid's club or gang. You feel like you are into something special because members share an intolerant manifesto which exclude girls or the fat kid (or gay couple) at the end of the block. There's always a ring leader who pushes the idea of the "exclusiveness" of the gang. Kids feel superior up there in the tree house – just like all those "not-perfect, but forgiven" Christians leaving the church, convinced of their moral superiority and mythical ticket to paradise.

    August 1, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • Jake

      Jesus was exclusive and narrow. Read John 14:6. He's also the most inclusive, read John 3:16.

      August 1, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • Richard S Kaiser

      "Time" Steve M. is the GREAT DIVIDER and I fear that a Great Time is soon a coming round the proverbial bend of "What is Truth" Atheism's beginnings like but not necessarily; Leninsm and Marxism and Stalinism and Communism. I dare say that China will be the "Supreme" Power-base (As if it weren't already).

      August 1, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
  8. Michelle

    to the author : why turn this into a political piece? When you began to write of politicians who use Christian-speak, my first thought was obviously of Jimmy Carter, self-proclaimed "born again Christian", and not of the obscure quote by Bush. Yet, you chose to point out that the Bush quote and further that a politician or others like him would only use these words to worm his way into a certain demographic's hearts. But in doing so you classify Bush's party or the right-wingers as all being a bunch of phrase throwers, skillfully avoiding the fact that members of all political parties may do this, in particular, former Pres. Carter's party. It makes your article much less non-political than it at first appears, and suddenly I am wondering if you are making a point about false "Christ followers" in general, or merely trying to cast derision on a particular brand of political person.

    August 1, 2011 at 11:08 am |
  9. E

    READ BEFORE YOU COMMENT: If you don't believe in any of this, THEN DON'T COMMENT. Nothing you say on a webpage is going to change anyone's mind about their religious beliefs. Let the people who want to discuss their faith discuss it and stop flooding the comments with general attacks on religion. Why even click on the article if you think religion is BS to begin with?????

    August 1, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • Nonimus

      "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."

      August 1, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • Sean

      @E

      Welcome to the internet.

      This is public NEWS website.

      Who are you to tell others they are not allowed to comment?

      The fact the comments of this public news website are being flooded by ‘attacks on religion’ should really tell you something. I’m sure it will fly right over your head though.

      So I suggest you stop holding your breath, take your ball and go home. Or be an adult and let others voice their opinions. This is NOT your church.

      August 1, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • Peace2All

      @E

      I second @Nonimus' posting, and... I didn't read anywhere that this is the for "Christians Only" blog. Remember, your 'beliefs' aren't necessarily facts, so 'anyone' is free to question and debate your 'beliefs.'

      Part of the process of the dialogue here.

      Regards,

      Peace...

      August 1, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • J.W

      It seems like most people on here think that belief=religion. I dont agree with that. I could say "I believe in God" or "I believe there is no god" or "I believe that democracy is the best form of government" and all of those things are beliefs.

      August 1, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  10. Seek Proof

    Those who say there is no proof of God have never attempted to seek proof. The proof lies within yourself.

    August 1, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • Nonimus

      Proof, in its literal sense, is unlikely to ever be found. If you have evidence of a god please present it.

      August 1, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • Seek Proof

      I can only say try seeking the proof for yourself. I know there is a God from personal experiences and the proof is held within experiencing Him. I will not attempt to push anyone into believing and please don't attempt to bash me for my beliefs. If you want proof, close your eyes and ask for it.

      August 1, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • Richard S Kaiser

      @ ALL

      Upon an ancient Totem Pole of an Old North AMerican Indian Tribe is glyphed this; Of GOD, By God I am god! What does one get from this ancient of Times; Glyphed Idiocism?

      August 1, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • Nonimus

      @Seek Proof,
      If you do indeed have evidence, I would be greatly interested. However, claiming proof usually indicates having objective evidence. Saying it needs to be personally experienced, is by definition, subjective and not proof. What I think you mean is that if one seeks belief that God exists, then open oneself to the experience.

      August 1, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • Sean

      @Seek Proof

      Typical hypocrite.

      You posted on a public news website:
      Those who say there is no proof of God have never attempted to seek proof. The proof lies within yourself.

      And then: I will not attempt to push anyone into believing and please don't attempt to bash me for my beliefs. If you want proof, close your eyes and ask for it.

      August 1, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • KingdomCome

      @ Seek Proof
      You are totally correct when you say this....

      "I can only say try seeking the proof for yourself. I know there is a God from personal experiences and the proof is held within experiencing Him. I will not attempt to push anyone into believing and please don't attempt to bash me for my beliefs. If you want proof, close your eyes and ask for it."

      Belief is personal... unique for everyone... so individualized for you specifically! It's like Love... personal, unique, individualized... :)

      August 1, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      I see... the way to obtain proof is to close one's eyes...

      August 1, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • KingdomCome

      @ Praise...
      & ask for it ;)

      August 1, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Seek Proof

      You Said: "I can only say try seeking the proof for yourself. I (know) there is a God from 'personal experiences' and the proof is held within experiencing Him. "

      How do you (know) that there is a God specifically...? You state from "personal experiences."

      I'm curious to hear what your "personal experiences" are that you have chosen to mean that there is a God...?

      Regards,

      Peace...

      August 1, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • AvdBerg

      By reading the comments on this Blog it seems very obvious to us that people need to learn more about the gayness of Christ . The truth of Christ’s gayness is coming out more and more each day. For a better understanding of this scriptural verse we invite you to visit our website http://www.gaychristian101.com..

      August 1, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • AvdBerg

      Those that cannot see or hear Christ's gayness refuse to listen or see the truth. The truth of Christ’s gayness is coming out more and more each day. For a better understanding of this scriptural verse we invite you to visit our website http://www.gaychristian101.com..

      August 1, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Rick

      So, you are saying this "proof" is subjective?

      August 1, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • KingdomCome

      Subjective if there is no outward proof of a change and only the believer knows of something... Objective if there is tangible proof for all to see

      August 1, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @KingdomeCome

      And an example of 'knowing' there is a God through 'subjective proof'...is...?

      Peace...

      August 1, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • KingdomCome

      You ask...

      "And an example of 'knowing' there is a God through 'subjective proof'...is...?"

      Plain and simple... knowing is personal for each person who has experienced it, right? I can give you a story, but to you it's only a story....do you believe ME? maybe, maybe not......I'd bet you'd be happier to have your own story ... it's more personal... ;) More proof... ;)

      August 1, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @KingdomCome

      Hey -KingC...

      I obviously already understand the concept of 'subjectivity.' However, what i am asking of @Seek Proof and apparently now of you, is... Just because you have had a 'subjective' experience, how do you (know) for a fact that it is (proof) of God...? I believe you that you have had some experience. But, no... I wouldn't just take your words for it that your personal experience = absolute proof of God.

      The bottom-line is... basically no matter what your personal story is, you cannot (know) it to be (absolute proof) of God.

      It just means you had an experience that you 'chose' to 'label' and 'encode' as God. No more no less. And... I'm 'not' in any way saying that I (know) that there 'isn't' a God.

      Do you understand the difference here...?

      Regards,

      Peace...

      August 1, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @KingdomCome

      BTW- I would love to hear about your 'personal subjective' experience/s.

      Regards,

      Peace...

      August 1, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  11. Mike

    CNN should rename this segment, "Unbelief", because it does nothing but try to undermine people's faith.

    August 1, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • KingdomCome

      I see your point and I even thought the same thing until I started defending my faith with scripture and looking up info. to support my faith....Don't you think if Christians try to back up their faith... even if they don't post their findings online... they can be strengthened and made sharper???
      I've noticed I've learned quite a bit from debating my faith....just a question... it can be confusing if you don't look for answers in the bible and pray about what is confusing... God is good to reveal half-truths and lies

      August 1, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • Sean

      You may disagree with this author’s point of view. But stating Christians in general do not read their bibles is a well known fact. From ancient times when the common man was not ALLOWED to read it, to today’s blind faith mentality.
      This type of academic observation is no more an attempt to undermine your bind faith, than the recording of the fossil record. But hey that’s just a ploy by the devil too right?

      Christians ans religion as a whole for that matter does not own the term “belief”.
      For example. I believe this is all fairy dust and happy thoughts

      August 1, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • KingdomCome

      I am thankful for the opportunity and freedom I have to read my Bible and learn in this country. I'm not trying to undermine my faith by stating I think it's important to read the bible... I did include "pray" which would involve faith that God would answer my questions... so I guess I don't understand where you think I was undermining my faith with my statements.... Prayer & Bible reading go hand in hand... for me

      August 1, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  12. Darkhorserunning

    To those continue to bash, Christians and Jews, for their beliefs and treat Western religion as an anathema. You deserve to live under sharia law. You have the same level of intolerance as any card caring member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

    August 1, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • Guest

      Why are those the only choices; why not a society which tolerates all religions, including those who choose to believe in no supreme being(s), and which does not allow religious principles to become entangled with civil ones?

      August 1, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • Nonimus

      Well said, Guest.

      August 1, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • Richard S Kaiser

      @ Guest

      You wrote, :Why are those the only choices; why not a society which tolerates all religions, including those who choose to believe in no supreme being(s), and which does not allow religious principles to become entangled with civil ones?"

      Does not the Good Ol US of A have in "practice" what you are preaching about? Open your eye(s) Guest and see! :-)

      August 1, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • Sean

      @Darkhorserunning

      Christians and Muslims are just off shouts of Judaism. I’m afraid ALL of these are Middle Eastern religions. Western religion was that of the Greeks, Galics and a few others. That died out ages ago with the help of the Roman Empire. But hey when you are religious who needs facts.

      August 1, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • Darkhorserunning

      Sean Christianity has been called a western religion since the Christian church was organized and defined 330 A.D. in Constantinople, known today as Turkey (the west). Saint Paul the Evangelist as you pointed out was a Roman who preached the gospels to the gentiles across the Meditrranean (to the west). Who needs facts when broad definitions on general subjects pass for knowledge. In other words... 'be'n a smart a– don' make ju smart!...'

      August 2, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  13. Rainer Braendlein

    George W. Bush evangelical? As far as I know he is a Methodist. The Methodists are quite good folk, because the do not re-baptize at least.

    August 1, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      G.W.Bush is someone who traded in his addiction to alcohol for an addiction to religion. They both have a deleterious effect on one's ability to think.

      August 1, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  14. Common Sense

    Lots of Communists and Old Testement Cultists on here who worship or follow the same perverse people

    August 1, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • Richard S Kaiser

      What an obscskewered phraeseology, mixing Communists with Religious Folk! The pathway of Atheism has been but well placed footholds of Leninism and Marxism and Stalinism and yes Communism! Be what May I will stand and say!

      August 1, 2011 at 11:08 am |
  15. Lee Nader

    "I'm going to go on the internet and proclaim my atheism so people approve of me."

    "I'm athiest because it's internet cool."

    Good luck with that. Is even the possibility of your immortal soul worth the approval of a bunch of CNN commenters? Really?

    If you're genuinely athiest or agnostic, that's your RIGHT (in the US). Personally, I wish you would Believe, but I gots no problem with you if you don't.

    However, if you 'remind' folks that Christ is 'a fictional character' so people online approve of you... well, I'm sorry.

    August 1, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • Nonimus

      I'm assuming those quotes are rhetorical quotes.
      As unpopular as atheists are, it seems unlikely that many, or any, are atheist for popularity reasons.

      August 1, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • Richard S Kaiser

      @ Nonimus
      What now oh Wonderfelt Psychiatrist shall we mentally restrained THINK NEXT?

      August 1, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • Burello

      I was a Christian all of my life until about 7 years ago, and I will tell you that in no way shape or form is claiming you are an athiest done for popularity reasons. In fact, it took me a long time to even come to grips with the fact that Christianity is false. I think anyone who believes that someone is stating they are athiest for popularity reasons is clearly not in touch with the realities of the situation.

      August 1, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • Nonimus

      @Richard S Kaiser,
      I'm sorry, I don't understand what you are saying.

      August 1, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • Richard S Kaiser

      @ Burello

      For One to say "all of my Life" and then rebuke it by stating "until about 7 years ago" is so self-ridiculing! Also in your "current" stance stating the your "Now: being an atheist" is NOT to win a Popularity Contest is pure cow turds! May your Atheism bring you such worldy rewards unobtainable by currencies' propagandists in secularizations of Atheistical Omnivorencies!

      August 1, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • Richard S Kaiser

      @ Nonimus

      What's That? U can't understand? Seems to me you might need some ADHD meds And/Or some schooling or maybe have a side order of the KJVB with your next McHappyMeal!

      August 1, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • tallulah13

      Sorry. I became an atheist because I can find no evidence of any god ever existing, nor can I find any practical reason for any god TO exist. It has nothing to do with being cool; I'm not now, nor have I ever been cool. I am not interested in popularity, especially on an anonymous forum. I just believe in finding the most honest answers and those answers are not in your bible.

      August 1, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • Nonimus

      @Kaiser,
      What you said is gibberish:
      "What now oh Wonderfelt Psychiatrist shall we mentally restrained THINK NEXT?"
      Perhaps you need the meds or Psychiatrist of which you speak.

      August 1, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • priam08

      There's a big, big difference between the agnostic and the athiest. One is a position of logic and humility, that is, an admission that the universe is much, much to large for the human mind to grasp, and that there may well be a supreme Creator, but like his/her creation the universe, s/he operates on a scale incomprehensible to us.

      True athiesm, on the other hand, is a firm belief that no god exists. Such a position requires an enormous amount of faith. Declaring, "I KNOW there is no god" is just as foolish as believing in a supreme being who helped you find your keys; who wants you to have a Mercedes; who cares that you spend your Sunday mornings in a particular buidling; who won't let you into "heaven" unless you know the secret handshake (that's a glib summation of Mormon doctrine). In other words, atheism is just a religion like any other.

      So did that sound OK, CNN commentators? Do you approve of me? Do you like me, I mean, do you really, really like me?

      August 1, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @priam08,
      I think your definition of atheism is only one (strong/positive) of a variety of definitions, whereas, I think the majority of self-described atheists won't claim to "know there is no god(s)," but that is just anecdotal.

      August 1, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  16. Bernie

    Luis Wu...you are a pinhead... LOGIC??? REASON??? You are so clueless of faith and things that are SUPER-natural... its idiots like you and atheists that attack things you have no clue about because you feel threatened by an all powerful God....here is a thought for pinheads like you,(And it matters not what you believe or I believe) – YOU CAN"T TAKE YOUR NEXT BREATH WITHOUT GOD'S PERMISSION!

    August 1, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • Nonimus

      Haven't seen the previous comments to this, but...

      So, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, etc. all had God's permission?

      August 1, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • Oh Really

      Your man made god doesn't control a single thing. It can't and hasn't shown up for work for all these centuries since it was created by man.

      Just when will your man made god show up? Apparently it is complacent in sitting behind some desk, drinking coffee, eating donuts and propping its feet up on the desk.

      Actually NOT. It can't do those things because it doesn't exist. Get a life and get real.

      August 1, 2011 at 11:01 am |
    • Nikole

      So, Bernie, is it god's way to call his fellow man a pinhead? Seems very judgmental of you to call those of us who have our doubts (rightfully so) names. But I bet you were in church yesterday praying for forgiveness so that makes it okay.

      August 1, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • Burello

      Bernie,
      Look up the term "brainwashed" in the dictionary and you may feel like you are reading your own bio. Or, just look at the hundreds of thousands (millions actually) who have come before you and said the same ridiculous things and who have SYSTEMATICALLY AND CONTINUALLY been proven wrong time and time again. How many failed religions, unfulfilled prophecies, and just plain stupid behavior does one have to see before realizing they are wrong?

      August 1, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • Josh

      Actually, luis wu is mostly correct, hes just not describing it correctly, and being blunt and rash. If one looks back in history and actually studies religions you would find that all religions have dark pasts, violence, greed, racism, even genicide, murder, and general hatred. How can any religion be believed if they believe all of that was ok because it was for their "GOD" ? (all gods, not just the christian one) having faith is fine and good, but as long as you know that was the same excuse used for the atrocities in history (jihad, crusades...the list goes on), and you know you now associate and use the same hatreds that your religion has taught throughout history (yours are towards athiests and non other non believers). Your no better than anyone else, all beliefs (technically atheism is a belief as well) are equally good and bad.

      August 1, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • Fred1

      This is another piece of evidence for the nonexistence of god. When you consider the number of nice people that continue to breath and the number of naughty people that continue to breath (televangelists especially come to mind, and Howard Camping in particular) god doesn’t seem to have any effect on peoples breathing. Some times absence of evidence is evidence of absence.

      August 6, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  17. Steve_G

    I really do not understand how semi-intelligent adults don't see striking similarities between belief in god and belief in Santa Claus. Neither one have proof, and as you grow up you realize that the whole idea of Santa is BS. Put that same thinking to the test with god. There is no proof. You cannot back up claims for the bible being true with verses from the bible...completely redundant and circular logic. Grow up christians...everyone is scared to die...but it's something we all need to accept and deal with....not invent a heaven where we will live forever...ridiculous.

    August 1, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • Nick

      Steve, there is so much more to Christianity than wanting a safe place to go after death, but for the sake of the argument, let's follow it for a minute. Assume that the atheist's belief is correct, that there is nothing beyond death and that the only thing that happens is that we rot inside a box to eventually feed the grass and beetles above us. In that case, there's no harm done to either side, the Christian or the atheist. But what if the Christian is right? The man that spent his whole life denying the existance of God will then have to face that God, and whatever punishment may be in store. Since you simply don't know with 100% certainty that there isn't a God, that the Bible isn't true, is it really worth that risk? And what, really, is the harm in believing in something greater?

      August 1, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • rdc

      Right! But just curious, how DID the earth and all the creaters get here? Even with evolution. How did the first microscopic creature get here? Hmmm!!!! Curioser and curioser :)

      August 1, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • J.W

      rdc the explanation that I have seen for that is called abiogensis if I am spelling that right. Basically strands of proteins came together to form a cell. However I agree with you. I have made the argument that these things did not happen naturally, but by a supernatural power.

      August 1, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • Civiloutside

      Nick, what you have described is called Pascale's wager, and it is wrong on many many levels.

      Firstly, it assumes that there are only two options: that there is no god, or there is the Christian god. Given that there have been literally thousands of religions and conceptions of god(s) throughout history, this is very clearly false. What happens if Odin is real, and your failure to acquit yourself bravely as a warrior condemns you to Hel? Or if Ra is real, or Zeus, or Spider? The Wager cannot provide any guidance on deciding.

      Secondly, it directly counters the message of salvation through faith with it's claim that you should believe solely out of fear. That's not faith, it's hedging your bets. By this argument, you should believe in whatever religion can convince you it offers the greatest reward for belief and/or the greatest penalty for nonbelief, regardless of the religion's truth or falsehood.

      Thirdly, it is wrong to assume that living as if the Christian god were real, even if it's untrue, means that no harm is done. Most religions restrict some behaviors that have no logical reason to be restricted otherwise, and require behaviors that have, similarly, no logical basis. These can, and often do, result in the oppression or outright destruction of others for no good reason whatsoever, or even subjecting yourself to unnecessary misery. All entirely aside from the fact that, if the Christian is wrong, they are basing their entire existence on a lie. Believing is not a cost-free exercise as you seem to be suggesting (in fact, many believers take great pride in how much it costs them to maintain their faith).

      August 1, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • J.W

      Plus if you look at it from that point of view you do not really have faith. You are just pretending to have faith.

      August 1, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  18. Joe Dokes

    I think the real "take away" from this article is that people who claim to be religious are not actually reading their bible... at all!! They rely on what OTHERS tell them is in the bible. Very dangerous. This is leading to Christians who know nothing about the book they are supposed to live by. Even a quick scan of the Gospels will tell you that Jesus ain't too fond of wealth or political power or preying in public from others to see you. Yet, a whole lot of "Christians" do the exact opposite of what Jesus teaches. Do they notice? No, because they haven't actually read the book or they've only retained the parts that suit them.

    August 1, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • Josh

      The percentage of people who follow faiths, that actually read their sacred texts front to back, is very low, id say 1 in 50 at most.

      August 1, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Josh wrote: "The percentage of people who follow faiths, that actually read their sacred texts front to back, is very low"

      Let's not forget the Muslims and Jews who read their sacred texts from back to front...

      August 1, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  19. Robert Ray

    Coded christian words. Brainwashing,trickery,clouding the truth,slight of hand. Delusional politicians,,like george bush, tricking the simple,supersticious people in order to convince them there are weapons of mass destructions about to fall on us.

    August 1, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  20. shinethelite

    Borg still has a lot to learn. Self proclaimed experts are a problem.

    August 1, 2011 at 10:45 am |
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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.