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Four ways 9/11 changed America's attitude toward religion
Construction workers move steel beam pulled from ground zero rubble into its permanent home at the 9/11 Memorial Museum.
September 3rd, 2011
10:00 PM ET

Four ways 9/11 changed America's attitude toward religion

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - David O'Brien couldn't help himself. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, he became obsessed.

O'Brien read the stories of 9/11 victims over and over, stunned by what he was discovering.

He read about the firefighters who marched up the smoke-choked stairwells of the World Trade Center, though many knew they could die; the beloved priest killed while giving last rites as the twin towers collapsed; the passengers on hijacked planes who called their families one last time to say, "I love you."

"I was obsessed with these stories," says O'Brien, a Catholic historian at the University of Dayton in Ohio. "There were so many stories of self-sacrifice, not just by the first responders, but by people fleeing the building. There was this revelation of goodness."

O'Brien saw an Easter message in 9/11 - good rising out of the ashes of evil. Yet there were other religious messages sent that day, and afterward, that are more troubling, religious leaders and scholars say.

September 11 didn't just change America, they say. It changed the nation's attitude toward religion. Here are four ways:

1: A chosen nation becomes a humbled one.

One man died because he arrived early to work. A woman died because she decided to take a later flight. The arbitrary nature of some of the deaths on 9/11 still sticks with many Americans today.

Yet this is what life is like for billions of people on the planet today, some religious leaders say. A random event - a car bomb, a stray bullet - can end their lives at any minute.

Most Americans had not lived with this vulnerability until 9/11, says Mathew Schmalz, a religion professor at the College of the Holy Cross  in Massachusetts, who once lived in Karachi, Pakistan.

"We had this sense of specialness and invulnerability that 9/11 shattered," he says. "Given that a large section of the world's population deals with random violence every day, one of the outcomes of 9/11 should be a greater feeling of solidarity with people who live in cities like Karachi in which violence is a part of everyday life."

Recognizing that vulnerability, though, is difficult for some Americans because of how they see their country, Schmalz and others say.

They say Americans have long had a triumphalist view of their place in history. Certain beliefs have been engrained: Tomorrow will always be better; we're number one. The term "American" even reflects a certain arrogance. It casually discounts millions of people living in Central and Latin America.

The 9/11 attacks, though, forced many Americans to confront their limitations, says Rev. Thomas Long, a nationally known pastor who has been active in post 9/11 interfaith efforts.

"We're losing the power of the American empire and becoming more a nation among nations," says Long, a religion professor at Emory University in Atlanta. "The world is a much more dangerous and fragile place economically."

How Americans cope with their loss of power is ultimately a theological question, Long says. It's the same question the ancient Hebrews confronted in the Old and New Testaments when they faced national calamities.

The chosen people had to learn how to be humble people, Long says. Americans face the same test today.

"The challenge for every faith tradition is going to be helping people grieve the loss of an image of America that they once had," he says, "and acquire a modern understanding of ourselves on the world's stage."

2: The re-emergence of "Christo-Americanism."

Before 9/11, if you asked the average American about Ramadan or sharia law, they probably would have given you a blank look.

Not anymore. The 9/11 attacks prompted more Americans to learn about Islam. Books on the subject became best-sellers. Colleges started offering more courses on Islam. Every cable news show suddenly had their stable of "Muslim experts."

More Americans know about Islam than ever before, but that hasn't stopped the post-9/11 Muslim backlash. The outrage over plans to build an Islamic prayer and community center near ground zero; the pastor who threatened to burn the Quran; conservative Christian leaders who called Islam evil - all occurred as knowledge of Islam spread throughout America, scholars says.

"One of the sobering lessons of the decade since 9/11 is that religious prejudice is not always rooted in raw ignorance," says Thomas Kidd, author of "American Christians and Islam."

"Some of America's most vociferous anti-Muslim critics know quite a lot about Muslim beliefs, but they often use their knowledge to construe Islam in the worst possible light."

Many of these public attacks against Islam were encouraged by conservative Christian leaders such as Rev. Franklin Graham, the son of Rev. Billy Graham, who called Islam "wicked," and Pat Robertson, the Christian broadcaster who declared that "Islam is not a religion," says Charles Kammer, a religion professor at the College of Wooster in Ohio.

Kammer says Graham and Robertson helped fuel the rise of "Christo-Americanism," a distorted form of Christianity that blends nationalism, conservative paranoia and Christian rhetoric.

"A segment of the religious community in the United States has been at the forefront of an anti-Islamic crusade that has helped to generate a climate of hatred and distrust toward all Muslims," says Kammer.

Other strains of Christo-Americanism have swept through America before.

After 9/11, some political leaders said terrorists hated the U.S. because of "our freedoms." But America's record on granting those freedoms to its citizens is mixed, says Lynn Neal, co-editor of the book, "Religious Intolerance in America."

In the 19th century, the U.S government passed numerous laws preventing Native American tribes from practicing their religion. Mormons were persecuted. Roman Catholics were once described as disloyal, sexual deviants, Neal says.

"Religious intolerance is not a new feature of the American landscape. Despite being the most religiously diverse nation on earth, despite having a first amendment that protects religious rights...we as a nation and as citizens have often failed to live up to those ideas."

3: Interfaith becomes cool.

Interfaith dialogue - it's not the type of term that makes the heart beat faster.

Before 9/11, interfaith efforts were dismissed as feel-good affairs that rarely got media coverage. The 9/11 attacks changed that.

Interfaith events spread across the country. Mosques and temples held joint worship services. Every college campus seemed to have an interfaith dialogue. The Obama White House launched a college interfaith program.

Becoming an interfaith leader is now hip, some say.

"A generation of students is saying that they want to be interfaith leaders, just like previous generations said they wanted to be human rights activists or environmentalists," says Eboo Patel, who founded the Interfaith Youth Core in 2002.

Patel says at least 250 colleges have signed up for the White House interfaith program, which he helped design. The program encourages students of different faiths to work together on service projects.

"These young leaders will make interfaith cooperation a social norm in America, similar to multiculturalism and volunteerism," Patel says.

These new leaders include people like Sarrah Shahawy, a Muslim-American medical student at Harvard University and the daughter of Egyptian immigrants.

After 9/11, Shahawy says she felt the responsibility to educate people about Islam. She became an interfaith leader at the University of Southern California,  where she noticed a steady increase in student participation in the years after the attacks.

Shahawy says her generation is drawn to interfaith efforts because 9/11 showed the destructive potential of any exclusive claims to religious truth. The 9/11 hijackers carried out their attacks in the name of Islam, but Muslim religious leaders and scholars said that the terrorists' actions did not reflect Islamic teachings.

"For one religious group to claim a monopoly on truth should be obsolete," she says. The interfaith movement doesn't teach people that all religions are the same, she says.

Shahawy calls herself a proud Muslim. "But for me, there's beauty and truth to be found in many different religions."

4: Atheists come out of the closet.

There's one group, however, that sees little beauty in any religion.

Before 9/11, many atheists kept a low profile. Something changed, though, after 9/11. They got loud.

Atheist leaders such as Richard Dawkins, author of "The God Delusion," and Sam Harris, author of "The End of Faith," wrote best-selling books. Atheist groups launched national media campaigns with bold billboard messages such as "Christmas is a myth."

The pugnacious journalist Christopher Hitchens became the public face of a more combative form of atheism as he went on talk shows and lectures to defend not believing in God.

Criticism of all religion, not just fanatical cults, was no longer taboo after 9/11, says Daniel Dennett, a philosophy professor with Tufts University in Massachusetts.

"Atheist-bashing is now, like gay-bashing, no longer an activity that can be indulged in with impunity by politicians or commentators," Dennett says.

Atheists were driven to become more vocal because of the 9/11 attacks and America's reaction, says David Silverman, president of American Atheists. He says many atheists were disgusted when President George W. Bush and leaders in the religious right reacted to the attack by invoking "God is on our side" rhetoric while launching a "war on terror."

They adopted one form of religious extremism while condemning another, he says.

"It really showed atheists why religion should not be in power. Religion is dangerous, even our own religion," Silverman says.

Atheists are still the most disparaged group in America, but there's less stigma attached to being one, he says.

"The more noise that we make, the easier it us to accept us," Silverman says. "Most people know atheists now. They knew them before, but didn't know they were atheists."

Many Americans knew the people who perished on 9/11 as well, but they didn't know they were heroes until later, says David O'Brien, the Catholic historian who compulsively read the 9/11 obituaries.

O'Brien was so moved by the stories he read that he decided to write an essay for America magazine, a national Catholic weekly, entitled, "9/11 Then and Now."

He wrote: On 9/11, "Our people, my people, were tested and, for a shining moment ... they were found worthy."

He said many 9/11 victims didn't panic as their end drew near. They "thought not of themselves, but others ... when the chips were down." They saw themselves not as individuals, but as members of a "single human family."

So should we, he says, as we face new challenges 10 years later. The 9/11 victims aren't just heroes; they're our guides for the future, he says.

"The story is not over, not by a long shot," O'Brien wrote. "Look at all the love that day. Love can still write another chapter and keep hope alive for a better future. The meaning of 9/11 lies ahead, and it's in our hands, and maybe in our hearts.'

- CNN Writer

Filed under: 9/11 • Atheism • Christianity • Faith • Interfaith issues

soundoff (2,180 Responses)
  1. Secular Ethics

    To Sci Guy,
    You ask the basis for an atheist moral principles. But first ask what are religious bases for ethics, and why would they be superior? I am assuming that you are a Christian. Ok, so a basis could be "I follow the Ten Commandments." So, what is the basis for these as ethical principles? You could say:
    1> "I read it in the Bible." But he fact that you read particular words in a particular book is a pretty slim basis for ethics. What if you read the principles in the Koran, or the Book of Mormon, or in Scientology, etc? Is the fact that you read them make them worthy principles?
    2." I feel that it is true." So, what makes your feelings a foundation for ethics? There are times when emotions can take us to some very violent and evil places (guy cuts you off while driving, someone pushes you in line...)
    3. "It is God's word." Ok so giving you the benefit of the doubt, lets say that there is a God who created the universe in six days, then inspired the writers of the Bible to put down His ideas (though each of those claims is quite debatable). You still have a problem–Are His principles good because he said them? Or did he say them because they are good? (btw, this argument goes back to that good old pagan–Plato). If they are good because he said them, you are still in a quandary...what is it about God that makes his pronouncements good? Because He created the world? But, that fact alone does not provide moral authority. YOU could say that He loves us, and so his pronouncements are good. But then you need to ask, what does it mean that he loves us? Answer...he provides us with good pronouncements. Unfortunately this is circular reasoning and is meaningless, like saying He loves us, because He loves us.

    NOw we get to the other angle-God gave us His pronouncements on ethics because they are good in themselves. Next questions, what makes them good? Well there are different ways to go, we could say "Based on some aspect of our physical nature" or, "Because of the nature of the Earth, Universe, Cosmos, etc. Note how the word "Nature" appears in both. And, this is interesting, looking at nature (scientifically...artistically...) is the way towards a secular, atheistic ethics!!!

    September 4, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • iamdeadlyserious

      Exactly.

      Morality based on a punishment/reward system isn't truly morality.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  2. CNNSUCKS

    All 911 did was make a large amount of people hate Muslims - CNN got it wrong again.

    September 4, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • Mohammad

      And for those who seek the truth, thousands convert to Islam in the US yearly, ironically giving that "Islam suppresses woman according to your narrow understanding" 70% of them are woman and their videos are filling you tube in case you have doubts.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • Sarah

      And thousands more leave the muslim faith in disgust. It is only ignorance of the truth that keeps them in line.
      Ignorance is not proof of a god, it is simply the result of the long-running fraud known as religion.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • Str8whtguy

      When 9/11 happened, I worked at a hotel in Alexandria, VA, 3 miles from the Pentagon. My assistant at the time was a devout Muslim, as were several of our staff of 70. Our office was next door to the "Old Town Islamic Bookstore". A few days after 9/11, some idiot threw a rock with a hateful message tied to it through the window of the bookstore. The Jewish owner of the hotel insisted that the owner of the bookstore and his family spend a few nights at our very upscale hotel, gratis, until things cooled down. Religion didn't matter; this man was our neighbor, a fellow small business owner, and a friend who had been attacked for incredibly stupid reasons. Sadly, the bookstore closed several months later.

      BTW, I am not Muslim.

      September 4, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • not mohammed

      Why, for a muslum is it a crime, punishable by death to leave his religion and the same is true
      for those found preaching christianity to a muslum.

      September 4, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  3. Peter Johngren

    It was religion that caused 9/11. It is religion that is behind gay bashing, behind all terrorism, behind all prejudice and hatred. If we could only evolve beyond religion, we might have a chance. God is our worst invention to date.

    September 4, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • Geez

      Its laughable to think that all those problems are a result of religion... Religion is just an excuse. People with hatred in their heart will find other reasons. Learning to live together is the answer... not eliminating an opposing view. You sound just as intolerant.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • Mohammad

      It's just that sodomy is repulsive to me. but that could be just me.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  4. Mohammad

    The hijackers of 9/11, Robertson and Graham are on the side and they don't know it. Islam is a great religion. Make no mistake about it, all negativities you hear about them in the media are narrow and wrong interpretations. The 72 virgins don't exist in Koran period, Sharia Law is not there to punish people but to ensure the well being of the society. When poverty spread back at the second Kalifate time of Omar ben Khattab, the punishment was stopped. Ironic how in Somalia the poorest nation on earth the first thing Al-Shabab did was to shop hands of those who steal. Islam has text for the handicapped, animals, let alone women rights and minorities and you can find even the atomic weight and mass of Iron in a 1400 old book. It corrected some of the stories that are mentioned in the bible like use of 'King' vs. 'Pharoah in Joseph story.

    September 4, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • Vicki

      Islam is a plague, a blight on the planet. All religions are bad but Islam is one of the worst!

      September 4, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Wastrel

      Mohammed here is an example of how Islam perpetuates ignorance. Let's take the ridiculous claim that the atomic weight of iron is in the Koran - I looked that up and there's a similar claim about the King James Bible that 'proves' that Shakespeare translated it. As for Sharia Law ensuring "the well being of the society", every cruel dictator who ever lived has claimed he was doing that. There is no point in being logical with religious fanatics like Mohammed, who approves of "shopping hands' (and I do wonder if his post is not a parody) so let me just say Islam delenda est and move on.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • Mohammad

      @Wastrel, first the Koran is not the word of Mohammad, it's the word of God who created you from dirt and later a sperm and will resurrect you again. The one who created the stars and moons, and the trillions of sun rises and sun sets in the universe. Second I am a man of science. Your analogy doesn't apply and clearly you didn't look this in the right sources. Look at this and you will realize that the odds of this are very different than anything else, I am too like you hate when someone play the numbers game. But this is different. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUA0EGTGFtg At the end of the day don't believe because of this because this is not what this is meant to do. It just reassures those who already do believe.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  5. ru serious

    Prior to 9-11, I was very open-minded relative to other religions, live and let live, was cool with whatever anyone wanted to beleive or not believe. After the event and the subsequent hateful and violent events by Muslim adherents, I now have an abiding hatrid for them. This includes the "mainstream" people who stood by silently, not standing up to condemn, they are complicit in their silence. While I am not a hateful person by nature, this is what has happened. I do not think I will ever have anything but an extreme negative view of that religion, sorry to say. So sad, and I am just one person. Quite sure that I'm not alone.

    September 4, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • Sarah

      No, you're not alone. Until 9/11 I never bothered to look closely at any religion. Now I have more than enough proof that they are all utter frauds and the most disgusting thing to happen to the human race in all of history.

      September 4, 2011 at 11:00 am |
  6. Vicki

    Thank god I'm an atheist!!!

    September 4, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  7. Garrick Harris

    As soon as America fully understands the full impact and evil of Islam the sooner we will eradicate this evil from the face of our Christian shores. CNN will not print this as they do not admit to freedom of speech. We need to understand that Muslims who come to America do not make any attempt to assimilate being Americans they hide. Multiculturalism doe not work never has never will. As much as organizations like CNN want to hide these facts and say "Can't we all just get a long". It's false promises just do not come to being truths. The fact is that Islam is evil and it is the only true evil in the world today. Take any country where Islam flourishes with it' anti freedoms – anti female – male dominated society. Those countries are a poor. Face it CNN even though you will block this post! CNN by not posting this type of post is the same a communism. CNN does not believe in freedom of speech!

    September 4, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • iamdeadlyserious

      Is it ironic that they printed your response, or does it just make you extra-stupid?

      September 4, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • sleepytime

      Our shores are not Christian you flaming bigot.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • jkn

      Sarah Palin? Is that you?

      September 4, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • rickastley

      So, what you are saying is that the Irish, the Germans, the Dutch, the Italians, the French, the Russians, the Slovaks, the Czechs, the Belarussians, the Lithuanians, the Finns, the Swedish, the Norwegians never really "assimilated." Every culture, from WASPs to Muslims, when they come to America, force multiculturalism. The problem isn't that it doesn't work, it is that the moderates are outshouted by the extremists, just like in today's Republican party. Maybe you know so many Muslims that you were able to generalize from your conversations with them that they are all radical extremists hell-bent on destroying America, but I think it is just as likely you have never met a single Muslim in your entire life.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • John

      Your thought process is as garbled as your grammar. If you want to see “anti freedoms – anti female – male dominated society” in action, give the old testament a read some time.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  8. Mohammad

    Unfortunately many Muslims help in spreading a negative image of Islam and Islamic scholars are not doing enough to stop this. They focus on corner corner items of this great religion and ignore the basics. Saudi Arabia is an example of that. Woman can't drive cars, yet the King steals the country oil day and night and finances the most radical form of Islam.

    September 4, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • Sarah

      The Saudis are known for having the most secular form of Islam, yet they are just as heavy-handed as any other bunch of crackpots with a theocracy propping them up. They are good at holding hands with other men, too.

      September 4, 2011 at 11:02 am |
  9. kathic

    Hmmm interesting idea. I had not considered the impact of 9/11 on the atheist community before. I wonder if this is correlation or causation. Interesting topic.

    September 4, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • Colin

      Hard for me to see the correlation. Given that it was a Muslim attack, most Americans turned anti-Muslim, not anti-religion. Had it been a fundamentalist Christian attack, we might have seen more traction.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • sleepytime

      Looks like Colin didn't actually read the whole article.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  10. Mr. Davidson

    Find out who planted the demolition explosives in the buildings and the one which was never hit that imploded in seconds.Find who stopped the investigation into the highjackers during the year before 9/11.Learn a little more about Israels advanced secret teams and agents operating in the US. and you will not need all this religious bugga boo to figure out what the danger is to this nation.

    September 4, 2011 at 10:13 am |
    • Staszek (short for Stanislaw)

      This is an interesting set of questions, perfect for
      a student writing an essay in psychiatry 101 about
      how things can go wrong.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  11. CNNSUCKS

    Here's how this article sums up:

    Because of 911, the USA became atheist and Muslim.

    What a worthless POS you guys are at CNN.

    September 4, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • CNNSUCKSSUCKS

      If only that conclusion were true.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • CNNcommentersAREretarded

      In the whole run of things. They are better than Christians.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • iamdeadlyserious

      Who says you have to actually read an article to sum it up? Not me, that's for sure.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • CNNSUCKS

      Obama would disagree on all counts. He's a Christian who believes the attacks have united the nation and bolstered our, and his faith.

      Right?

      Riiiiiight. Just like his policy work. About as well as a deaf pig trying to hear the screams of all the little piglets he's laying on and suffocating. Except he's not listening anyway.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  12. Vicki

    No one said it better than Mark Twain:
    "Man, of course, is the religious animal. He's the only one that's got the true religion....several of them! He loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight. Why, he's made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother's path to happiness and heaven. The other animals have no religion, you know. Going to be left out in the heaven. I wonder why. Seems questionable taste."

    September 4, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • SciGuy

      The other animals lack of religion doesn't seem to lessen their propensity to kill each other.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • cm

      Vicki, the magic of nature they are what they were created to be. No agendas, no expectations, no shame. They need no God because they are actualized. Humans suck in comparison. Dogs and Cats are the masters of unconditional love – we cannot even touch their understanding. Humans are not who they were designed to be.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • Vicki

      Are you really that ignorant or are you just a troll?

      Other animals kill each other, primarily for food!

      Take the "Sci" out of your handle as it is clear that you are one of the religious wackos and that "Sci" is disingenuous to people that truly understand science!

      September 4, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • Vicki

      cm,
      Mark Twain had a quote on the that as well. :I wonder if god invented man because he was disappointed in the monkey?"

      September 4, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • Pumbaa

      Animals were left out of heaven when the religious leaders realized that paw or hoof could not place money into the collection plates. If heaven does not have cats and dogs and cold beer, then I do not want to go.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • SciGuy

      Vicki, I suppose you fancy yourself one of those who truly understand science. Science at its best searches for truth. A presupposition on the nonexistence of a creator is definitely not scientific. In fact, such a presupposition destroys any chance of coming to the truth if indeed the creator exists.

      I know it bothers many like you, but you're going to have to deal with the reality: I am a scientist, and I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, our creator and judge, and the world's only redeemer.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Sarah

      He's a troll, Vicki. A religious troll.

      Sciguy, you don't understand the scientific method, epistemology, logic, or any of those complicated things, so please don't pretend you know what you're talking about.
      If your god exists, where is the proof? We want facts, not mere assertion. Without facts, all the gibberish you say means nothing because it is worthless and false. Prove your god exists and watch the whole world join you in your sick religion.
      Otherwise, just shut up about your nonexistent god unless you have something you can prove.
      Talking through your hat is an old religious trick. That mormon founder was convicted of religious fraud for doing just that very thing before he went and did it again up in the hills to found mormonism.
      Talking through your hat is just talking out of your other end. Why not call it a day and go to church where the lies are shared amongst all? Go be with your own mentally-challenged fellows and leave the thinking to people who can handle reality and can think straight. We don't need you here. Really.

      September 4, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • SciGuy

      Vicki, Sarah is a troll. She's ugly, has a big nose, and lives under a bridge. Most everyone avoids her because she smells really nasty. This post is as meaningful as hers.

      BTW, Sarah, please don't tell the academic world how dumb I am, I would hate for them to revoke my masters degree in mathematics.

      September 4, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • Wendy

      SciGuy, you only have a masters because the wise folks on the Ph.D. committee realized that you were too stupid to be Ph.D. material.

      September 4, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  13. brett

    America was built on ideals based on allowing people to be free and to live their lives to their fullest. It is one of the few nations in history that has attempted this. We are a strong nation and one of our downfalls is that we are trying to spread the American Gospel to other countries. That's not to say its a bad thing to spread the freedom of our nation to the rest of the planet, because can't we all say that all people have the right to be free. Those that want power for their own combat this with various fundamental groups that cause such horrific events as those that occurred on 9/11/01. In the fight for freedom not just for America, but to allow people across the world to have that option, sacrifices like this may be necessary, but will never be forgotten.

    September 4, 2011 at 10:08 am |
  14. stevie68a

    Most who believe in religion, were brainwashed as children. Wanting something to be true does not make it true. There are things in this life that cannot be explained, and religion highjacked those questions, and provided fanciful explanations, such
    as "heaven". It really is just a delusion, used to control people. People of faith need to see that theirs is "blind faith"! The key
    word here is "blind".
    The way you discount all the world's other religions, will help you understand why I discount yours. Teach ethics instead.

    September 4, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • AZatheist

      THANK YOU! Finally a voice of reason on this board! Teach ethics, not fairy tales.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • PeaceandLove,NotReligion

      Exactly!

      September 4, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • cm

      And where do ethics come from? Where are their roots – oh...could it be from Holy writs? All written religious writs around the world teach love and take responsibility for what you bring to the table. Religions created ethics and morals.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • Wastrel

      Very good. Should something be done about religious fanaticism? Or should we simply accept it and hope that eventually people will come around to logical thinking, and if they need a religious crutch (some do) they will not choose a violent one. (Image of guy swinging his crutch at your head!) To put it more plainly, would it be unethical to destroy a religion (which is also a political system) that has been at war with the rest of the word for more than 1000 years, has world conquest its stated goal, and is still fighting within itself over a political dispute more than 1000 years old? Is it a religion, a political system or a form of madness? Do we have some obligation to the people who are being attacked by this system, or should we hope that everything will work out? Does the fact that it claims to be a religion make a difference?

      September 4, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • Sarah

      cm, religion did not invent ethics or morals. You are very sadly mistaken about that part.

      September 4, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  15. Msylvester

    Please share your memories and reflections on Sep 11, 2001 at http://sep11memories.wordpress.com/2011/08/31/share-your-memories/#comments. Many of us have stories to tell, and this site is a place to share your story and thoughts for everyone to read.

    September 4, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • Wastrel

      Nancy Grace, is that you? I thought it was time TO MOVE ON!

      September 4, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  16. Vicki

    Belief in an imaginary, allegedly supreme being is taught to you initially. No one is born believing in a deity.

    If that was not the case, then babies would come out of the womb with all the religious nonsense built in.

    September 4, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • SciGuy

      You don't know what I or any other of the billions of babies were born believing.

      It seems reasonable to assume that a baby has not given conscious rational thought to the existence or non-existence of a god or gods. But to debate whether a baby is born atheist or theist is futile, and nonsensical.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • iamdeadlyserious

      SciGuy- You're right, we can't psychically find out what's going on in an infant's head. We can, however, draw a logical conclusion about it. If a child is raised in a religious home, then they will most often become a believer in that religion. The only exceptions are when adolescents or young adults deliberately rebel against their faith. But the point is that if babies were born with some innate sense of the divine, they wouldn't simply end up believing what their parents do.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • cm

      Vicki, I disagree. My God button has always been on. I have always known there was more and more involves a love that surpasses understanding. I 'knew' this while growning up in a violent home. Sadly, atheists are in the minority. Maybe it is a brain thing.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • iamdeadlyserious

      CM- I'm just going to go out on a limb and bet that you didn't start praying to your god until an adult figure introduced the concept to you.

      September 4, 2011 at 11:01 am |
    • cm

      iamdeadlyserious
      My father is an atheist and my mother was religious. I remember at 3-4 just knowing there was a God. Although, I may have had so-called training, but from my standpoint my parents did not reflect God.

      September 4, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • iamdeadlyserious

      CM- Did I say that your parents introduced the concept? I will wager good money that you had another adult figure in your life who helped bring you to your belief system.

      September 4, 2011 at 11:33 am |
    • cm

      iamdeadlyserious
      Sorry nope – there we no adults that reflected God to me. I only had my nuclear family. I had rarely had any extended family influences. And I didn't attend any school until 4-5, but I already knew there was a God before any teachers entered my life. I have always known the God concept and what that term encompasses in spite of my violent and chaotic home.

      September 4, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • iamdeadlyserious

      So it's your genuine contention that, by the age of 4, you had come to a spontaneous and concrete conception of god without your religious mother or any other adults in your life (and I include family friends, extended family, neighbors, that guy down the street who pointed a church out to you, etc.)?

      Sorry, but that just doesn't jive. It's been proven in multiple psychological experiments that the belief systems of children are entirely arrived at through adult influence. That holds true from monsters under the bed to gods in the sky. Either you aren't remembering, or you're lying to make your position seem more believable.

      September 4, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • cm

      iamdeadlyserious
      Yes, it does fly. I just knew there was more – a presence of love and good. Did I call it God? No. It's hard to explain, but then God can only be defined by the individual who acknowleges that presence.

      September 4, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  17. mikel

    It gave CNN an excuse to attack the faith of 60% of the American population....

    September 4, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • CNNSUCKSSUCKS

      And that foolish faith deserves attacking, in a purely non-violent way, regularly and repeatedly, until people get past their silly god delusions.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  18. Jerry R Lucas RN

    My name is Jerry Lucas I am a nurse here in Indiana and I am one of those that responded to Ground Zero. On September 12th at 0200 I walked into hell. I post my views ten years later and I ask you please take a look and respond. I am just one of many that are proud of what we done. Thanks to all those who responded that day and to those in the field today. My video can be found on you tube jerryERRN
    Jerry Lucas RN

    September 4, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • Relax already

      Look, Jerry, you need to get over it. It's been ten years already.
      Quit acting like an attention-wh'ore and go do something worthwhile instead of making "I was there" noises.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • Jerry R Lucas RN

      maybe if you listen to those who work to save life's and make thinks better for other you might find away to help others. Or will you just stick your head in the sand and go do think just for your self. Sometimes it is my faith that allows me to give my life to save that of a stranger

      September 4, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • Terry V

      You haven't given your life at all, attention-ho.
      Quit making yourself out to be something you aren't and people will respect you for it. Your fake stories are not needed here.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • Al

      if you gave your life to save a stranger, who is posting for you? just wondering ;-^)

      September 4, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  19. SciGuy

    Upon what basis does an atheist build a set of moral principles?

    September 4, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • AnswerGuy

      Moral relativism is how the world works, sciguy.
      Either you've got sympathy and empathy for your fellow human beings or you don't.
      It's that simple.
      If there were moral absolutes you wouldn't need a bible in the first place, you utterly clueless bag of simple-minded pig-slop.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • Colin

      While rejecting the supernatural elements of the Bible, your average atheist nevertheless retain a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent we reject Christian morality, it is where it is mean spirited – such as in the way it seeks to curtail freedoms or oppose the rights of $exual minorities. In most other respects, our basic moral outlook is indistinguishable from that of the liberal Christian – we just don’t need the mother of all carrots and sticks hanging over our head in order to act in a manner that we consider moral.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • Alex in Bremerton, WA

      A philosophy of what is best for the community. Too bad for America the so-called Christians in the GOP don't follow that or what their teacher Jesus said about doing for the least of His people.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • Seth Hill of Topanga, California

      I don't speak for all atheists, but I build my moral principles with the scientific method: observing, thinking, testing. What promotes the greatest good for humanity and the planet?

      September 4, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • CNNSUCKSSUCKS

      SciGuy, the "Sci" in your handle is an insult to science.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • Seth Hill of Topanga, California

      To "AnswerGuy": "SciGuy" asks an interesting question; you call him a bag of pig slop. I just discovered a new source of moral principles: do the opposite of "AnswerGuy."

      September 4, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • Seth Hill of Topanga, California

      To AnswerGuy and CNNSUCKSSUCKS: When someone uses the ? punctuation at the end of a sentence, like SciGuy did, that's a question, not a statement.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • AnswerGuy

      Hey, Seth, if you can't handle the truth, why don't you just go suck on some pedo-priest's dick and save a child for once?

      September 4, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • neo

      athiest morality is just whatever modern society says. what most of the population agrees on. which would be populism. and morality would change thought time. their would be no rules that would stay constant. its like jesus would say building a house on sand. the foundations would keep shifting...

      September 4, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Colin

      neo – of course morality changes through time. Generally for the better. The morality of the Bible is barbaric compared with any modern view, save maybe that of Islamic fundamentalists. Would you stone a little girl to death for adultery, kill an entire race due to the actions of its leaders or send your duaghters out to be gang ra.ped to save the skin of a couple of household guests? Of course not, becuase that morality, as espoused by the Bible, is now almost universally rejected.

      Thank goodness our morality has evolved.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • SciGuy

      I am a scientist and a theist. My question was sincere, and it is one of the issues that atheists must grapple with. My hat is off to Colin, Alex and Seth for giving reasoned answers. It is unfortunate for atheists that not an insignificant number of their comrades in atheism respond in ways similar to AnswersGuy. He does not help your cause. Unfortunately, we theists also have many such blowhards.

      September 4, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • John Richardson

      There have been centuries of work on moral thought outside of any religious, let alone specifically Judeo-Christian, framework. Many of us who were raised in Christian homes and who searched fairly far and wide within Christendom for answers actually reject it precisely on moral grounds.

      Your question may have been sincere, but it was also extremely ignorant.

      September 4, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • SciGuy

      I flop in pig slop.

      September 4, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • SciGuy

      JR: fortunately for us all, something is not ignorant by way of your simple declaration. The question represents one of the big challenges for atheism.

      September 4, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • SciGuy

      It would appear that answerGuy, or one of his ilk, has mastered the art of digital forgery. You atheists can have him, he is not an asset (but he's close).

      September 4, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • cm

      Sciguy I like ya. There have been loads of scientists in history and currently who believe in God. Sci and God can get along just fine. Ethics come from religion although I have already been told I am wrong. Even those who write here are probably 1 generation or 2 generations from someone who honored God. Ethics, morals etc. come from God. They are what comes from the heart. It's those who pay attention to that voice inside them who usually do the right thing.

      September 4, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • John Richardson

      @SciGuy Nothing is true just because I declare it to be so, genius. But the fact is that there is a huge literature on ethics that doesn't appeal to the bible or anything else supernatural and yet Christians keep yammering "how can there be a morality without God?" If you really want to know, research it it, just as atheists have researched religion. The fact that you obviously made zero effort before asking your allegedly sincere question shows that you plain and simply aren't the sort of person who truly seeks out truth, but just another religious person who presupposes the truth of what they were told by certain influetnial authority figures at some point in their woeful little lives. You live in an edifice of willful ignorance.

      September 4, 2011 at 11:31 am |
  20. Colin

    While I am happy to see the number of agnostics and atheists growing over the past decade, I do not attribute it to 9-11. As the scientific awareness and the general knowledge of a country increases, religion and other supernatural beliefs, by definition, must decline.

    To me, the big factor in the large number of people deserting religion, is the free availability of information and new ideas and opinions on the internet.

    This is where we atheists need to do a better job (myself included) of helping believers without coming across as arrogant, angry or elitist. Sometimes we forget that the way one delivers the message is every bit as important to its acceptance or rejection as the message itself.

    September 4, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • woodsign

      Hi Colin,
      Great comment, I could not agree more with you!

      September 4, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • AnswerGuy

      Colin, you don't speak for me. Atheists have nothing to tie them together as a group.
      I fling some crap back at the religious, but you want to play nice with the crazy kids who will turn right around and shove you in razor-filled mud. Go have fun, but don't include me in your wishy-washy attempts to reason with these clueless fcks.
      I am not part of a group.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • SciGuy

      That's good to know answerGuy, I'd hate to think your kind comes in groups.

      September 4, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • SciGuy

      my kind comes in egg clusters. I come in my hand.

      September 4, 2011 at 11:15 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.