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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. julianpenrod

    Among other things, the article speaks of "a chosen nation" becoming a "humbled one". In fact, the attacks of September 11, in the eyes of those who allowed themselves to be changed by it, did not necessarily have much at all to do with humbling. Those who can be humbled are not arrogant. If they are attacked, they spend at least some time asking, "Did I, somehow, though malignant action on my part, cause this?" Most did not embrace this process, most thought from the start, "America is perfect. I am perfec, therefore America is perfect. Therefore, there is no one who was so harmed by America's craven activities overseas that they are responding out of anger for genuine grievances unanswered." BUt, then, those who can accept humility would be asking if there weere crimes America committed that it wasn't admiting, and that could lead to them accepting that the events of September 11 were another crime by Washington that they refused to admit! The majority of the public, evidently, were insulted, felt threatened, but did not experience a moment of humility. And, unlike those who truly espouse at least Christianity, they craved vicious retaliation. Even if it meant butchering those who hadn't carried out te attacks! But, then, any attack overseas was action taken aainst those not directly responsible for the events of September 11.

    But there is a genuine principle involved in the sense that America was a special nation, invulnerable to attacks from without and within. Indeed, at one time, America was superior in many at least nominal goals of governance and society based on ethic and principle, rather than a modification of "if it works, do it". There was a genine spirit called Columbia that represented the highest aspirations of America, and that made America particularly pleasant to God. That's why things went America's way so much, certainly much more than other nations. But America was slipping for a long time. Even before Bill Clinton spat in God and Columbia's face by lying openly to the American people. But the filthy CLinton Administration was one of the final nails in Columbia's coffin. Bill Clinton's foulness made it possiblefor things to slip and for the New World Order, through George W. Bush, to stage the opening salve of the eternal war. The unprovoked attack on a non-aggressor nation finally killed Columbia. Columbia is no more. She will never return. Any attempt to gai God's overt favor will be a long trek, now. ANd, if it is ever gained, it will have to be constantly replenished. Because there is no constant spirit of bright hopes for the nation any longer.

    But, too, for all the claims of an emphasis on religion in America since the events of September 11, in reality, a society shaped and governed by fear is in no way religious! Truly religious people abide by the codes of ethics, moral and decency that religions espouse. And they do feel protected by God. Anyone who doesn't feel protected by God does so because they know they are not deserving! There is no real religion among those guided solely by fear! They may go through motions for some palliative effect, but they do not experience the cure of ills that truly folowing God's laws provides! True, if there were a backlash against the fearmongering that the New World Order is attempting to use to enslave humanity, the NWO would manufacture another "terrorist" incident, or worse, to try to get the people back in line. But, if the people were truly in God's good graces, the New World Oder would not succeed!

    September 4, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • likewhoa

      so there was a genie named columbia? i don't follow the whole middle paragraph!

      September 4, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • likewhoa

      stop bogarting all the good drugs man.

      September 4, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • GAW

      The New World Order thing threw me off. Sounds like a Conspiracy Theorist to me.

      September 4, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • likewhoa

      i want to know about this genie spirit named columbia. i thought for a second they were talking about the space shuttle?!

      September 4, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Scott

      Uhh... just a thought, but Columbia happens to be the third word of D.C.??

      I mean... come on folks, maybe I'm just blind too and you know the real word.

      September 4, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • julianpenrod

      The hate filled can mock all they want, but there is no free ride for America in God's eyes, anymore. Columbia is gone. Columbia will never return. It was allowed to be thrown away by shiftless, uncaring, shallow individuals. Tornadoes occurring where they were never known, like Brooklyn; bees disappearing, threatening crops; diseases from avian flu to SARS emerging from nowehere; massive food poisoning outbreaks; bridges like the one in MInnesota literally evaporating unprecedentedly; steam mains like the one in New York exploding; earthquakes occurring where they were never known and, where they were known, occurring in clusters never before seen; the economy collapsing, an unexplained two football field long crack in the earth appearing suddenly in Michigan; a never before seen fault dwarfing the San Andreas occurring beneath the East Coast, all are signs of God's wholesale displeasure. Many will try to insist that many were the work of men, from chemtrail doping of the atmosphere to make weather malleable, financial improprieties by lenders, even machinations by the New World Order. But, if God approved of America as much ads He once did, He wouldn't have allowed those projects to get as far as they did!

      September 4, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • Real Deal

      julianpenrod,

      Yikes, those dinosaurs must have sinned mightily then, I guess. And the evil, lecherous Dodo birds, oh my!

      September 4, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • julianpenrod

      To begin with, punishment as such can be applied only to animals that really think. And the fact of the matter is, anyone who trusts what "science" says, including evolution and even the supposed history of the earth, is only setting themselves up.

      "Science" has a huge record of deceitful tactics and "results". Every few months or so, you can find someone claiming they have discovered that everything from earthquakes to "terrorist" attacks follow "a power law". Actually, "proving " a "power law" depends of curve fitting logarithmic data. Logarithms automatically "squash" data, so values taking on any obtuse shape can be made to appear like a "straight line" once you take the logarithm! Most don't even try to point that out.

      For every need, there can be many different developments equally good at answering it, but evolution glosses over that fact when talking about the apparent singular developments through history.

      And note that most of those who mock those who question evolution tend also to discredit the idea of UFO's, visitations from other worlds. But, if there are no aliens who can visit earth, that means earth is the only planet with life, and that is consistent with earth being a "special creation". In short disbelief in UFO's has difficulty bein consistent also with disbelief in "Intelligent Design".

      But another point comes in. Many who want to mock these points will say I am endorsing Bibilical creationism. Extremely short sighted and shallow. Who is to say there isn't a third, or even fourth, fifth and so on, alternative explanations? So many people stopped at what the "official story" says are "the only explanations" for life on earth, but there can be many others. So many are cheating themselves by not trying to development a plausible alternative even to the "official story's" offerings!

      September 4, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
  2. Yaright

    So the new argument from ROBERT and the like is that humans are too unintelligent to ever have morals or values without the help of Religion?

    September 4, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • likewhoa

      Morals and values belonged to us millennia before religion came onto the scene. many religious people believe that without religion we would fall into a state of anarchy. Humans had morality before religion hijacked it.

      September 4, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Yaright

      my point exactly, good post.

      September 4, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • alma1313

      The word Barbarians comes to mind.

      September 4, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • Yaright

      alma, barbarians as in neanderthals or religious zealots?

      September 4, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • likewhoa

      what about the mongols?

      September 4, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • Scott

      That would be a pretty stubborn point of view, to relate morality with religion. Even a kid can see the two do not correlate. And to use that as a reason to denounce religion is odd at best, just as fanatics use religion to mass murder, aka Hitler, et al.

      Morality and spirituality and religion are all completely unrelated.

      WItchcraft is a religion. Prisoners have few morales. Religion is non-exclusive to that of a god, but simply something that is "greater" or "desired".

      September 4, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  3. inhok

    All is One. When you truly understand what that means, these differences between various religions and science will be obsolete. A lot of people are wasting their time fighting for their "side".

    September 4, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  4. FifthApe

    "THE BIBLE DOES NOT JUSTIFY KILLING INNOCENT PEOPLE (sure some people will misquote and twist it, but IT DOES NOT)."

    I guess you should *READ* the bible then:

    31:17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.

    31:18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

    Numbers 31

    This bible is one of the most evil books in all fiction.

    September 4, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • Scott

      *Obviously* that means go out and kill people.

      Verse 19 goes on to say that if you partake in the lawful "retaliation" against the group that committed sin and unlawful crimes, then you must spend a week in solitude, cleanse yourself, and leave that behavior "at the door" when you come back.

      Chapter 23 describes Balaam, who would be similar to Davidians in the 50's.

      I won't continue on, because I know you don't really care, but the first thing out of mouths like yours is a one or two verse quote out of a five thousand verse chapter of a book of dozens of chapters.

      September 4, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • FifthApe

      Scott

      What context could EVER make this moral.

      " Now therefore kill every male among the little ones"

      And god apparently approves of slave keeping – Exodus 21

      September 4, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • Scott

      I didn't realize I was speaking about morality. But, if you read the chapters surrounding that topic, you will find that the means justify the ends – which is inherently not a teaching of morality but servitude. That event in Numbers refers to following a king who wishes to be godly, asking his visitors to curse their own people – I find similar relevancy to Bullies getting their just due, pimps getting some just desserts, etc.

      You and others are the ones who say this is a teaching for what is moral, but you never read the whole book to begin with – or simply ignored it.

      September 4, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  5. Yaright

    robert, are you god or a tyrant? what right do you have to tell that person they MUST keep the child....

    September 4, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • Scott

      The issue is not about choice – it's a matter of whether or not you believe abortion is moral. Is it killing another human being or not. On the flip side, those that contest you have to keep it, suggest the reversal of the question, "What gives you the right to deprive the life of a human being, whether a fetus, 6 months in term, or a 2 year old that still has little decisions to be had?"

      September 4, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • Yaright

      man finally an intelligent answer? Thank you.....
      This is the fundamentally problem with free choice. What is right what is wrong for me, as a society, as a world. My only answer is this.. Do i believe in killing a 2 yr old because i dont want them? No, that is a conscious human being. Is a baby that is 6 months term a human being? Yes,i believe at this age there is a conscious, why else will a baby kick you or have mood swings in utero. I do not believe in partial birth abortion, unless the mother is in serious jeopardy of life, or the baby is extremely deformed. Because to me that would be a horrible life however long the have to live. Now other parents that had a serious deformed baby as we have all seen the stories have said that is was the best time of their lives when the child finally passed away. Again, free choice in that instance... Do i think that a human being is created a conception? No, even before 4 weeks you can now find out if your pregnant. At this time the fetus in my opinion does not have a soul if you will or consciousness.

      Ok to the good part, i have a beautiful daughter that i love more than life itself. At the time that i found out my girlfriend was pregnant i felt that we were not ready and i pushed for an abortion. Well, as i have been preaching "free will", what right do i have to demand she gets a abortion.... NONE, it is now her choice and i am glad she made the right one... :))))

      September 4, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  6. SpiderCNN

    There are fundamental questions remaining surrounding the 911 yet to be answered.
    As such the best we conclude is that we do not yet know who was behind the 911.

    September 4, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • John Richardson

      I think some of the Truthers did it themselves so that they could sell books.

      September 4, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  7. likewhoa

    i prayed to god to make my fish tank stop leaking. I even said please and he didn't do it. I need some insight on this.

    September 4, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • likewhoa

      Do you have to say pretty please or can I just tell him to fix it like my boss does to me?

      September 4, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Dennis

      He told me to tell you to get some silicone. See, he is listening

      September 4, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • alma1313

      Maybe he wants you to have a heart and go out and buy a better fish tank and save your fish.

      September 4, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • likewhoa

      i temp fixed it with superglue. can you ask him if it will hold till i can get some silicone?

      September 4, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • inhok

      This is avery simpleton argument that ignores the known complexity of a relationship with consciousness beyond our own. It never has functioned in the way a human relationship might, and to negate it on those grounds alone doesn't prove anything. Dig deeper.

      September 4, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • Dennis

      He said get off the computer and get busy or those fish are going to fishy heaven

      September 4, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • You don't get it

      You don't ask God for selfish requests. He always answers prayers. Sometimes He says yes, sometimes He says no, sometimes He says wait. He knows what is best for us and He knows how our story ends so even though we really want something, He may say no for our own good. Later on, when we look back, we realize He was right.

      Think about the times when your own children have asked for something that you know is not best for them. You tell them no, they are mad and think you are unfair and unkind but years later they look back and they are so thankful that you told them no and guided them instead to what was best for them.

      September 4, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • John Richardson

      I asked god to give SciGuy a clue. Alas, he said no ...

      September 4, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      You Don't Get It refers to not being able to ask God for personal favors. Must be referring to some God other than the Christian God, because THAT guy promised, quite clearly, in John 16:23-24, "... Verily, verily I say unto you, WHATSOEVER ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and YE SHALL RECEIVE, that your joy may be full."

      September 4, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Fred1

      When I was a kid every night I would pray for a bicycle
      But then I realized that god doesn’t work that way
      So I stole one and prayed for forgivness

      September 4, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      Your fish must not be true Christians!!

      September 4, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
  8. alma1313

    Reading all these detailed arguments "for" and "against" is exhausting. It all boils down to if you are human do you believe in a higher power and spiritual dimension or not. If you do their are many mysteries and it requires you to have faith. If not you carry no burden except your time on earth. This question is as "old" as mankind. We will not know answers until we die.

    Currently the believers are in the majority! I think this is because of the message that has been given by word of mouth for millenniums expands the human spirit!

    September 4, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • GAW

      @ NotQuiteRight Sounds like that type of thinking could lead some to consider genocide or religiocide. Let's kill those who disagree with us because the world could become a better place without them. I guess one does become like those one hates.

      September 4, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Fred1

      I think the believers are in the majority because it is very human to be afraid of death and to grasp at whatever straws are available.

      September 4, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      @alma1313: You better figure out the answers now while you're alive because I assure you that the fantasy of a divine proctor giving you the answer key after you die is highly unlikely.

      September 4, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
  9. NotQuiteRight

    Religion = Delusion
    Coexistence is Futile

    September 4, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Scott

      I'm sure you would succeed well as a politician.

      September 4, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  10. Tom

    The author of this article is out of touch with the real changes caused by 9/11 but it is a nice PC piece of work.

    September 4, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  11. Walter

    The author says "The term 'American' even reflects a certain arrogance. It casually discounts millions of people living in Central and Latin America." The author did exactly the same thing by casually discounting millions of people living in Canada.

    September 4, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • Fear the Looming Canadian Menace!

      Please! If we ignore them, they just might go away!!!

      September 4, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • neednottoknow

      Haha Canadians are not Americans?

      September 4, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • Scott

      The only issue is that you have:

      A.) Americans
      B.) United States Citizens
      C.) United Statians
      D.) Insert uncommon descriptor here

      September 4, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • Free

      Well, I think we could have went with the term "United Statesers" but, for some reason, it just wasn't very popular. 😉

      September 4, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • Scott

      Oh, "United States of America" does include America. And besides, North America, South America, nobody refers to Jamaican as Americans, or Brazilians as Americans... sure, you can protest all you want, but just like people say conneticut instead of Connecticut, you can't change history.

      September 4, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • Jim

      neednottoknow
      "Haha Canadians are not Americans?"

      Nor do we want to be! 🙂

      September 4, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      The author's complaint is misguided. The only nation in the world that has "America" as part of its name is the United States of America. If you prefer instead to refer to people by the name of the CONTINENT that they come from (instead of the country), you go with "North American" or "South American". Still no confusion (tho why you'd want to do it, I don't know).
       
      But if this is the sort of thing that keeps you awake nights, spend some time trying to figure out how denizens of the 2 separate nations named Congo should refer to themselves.

      September 4, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Scott

      Wouldn't blame you, Jim

      September 4, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  12. Babs

    It's interesting to note that Christopher Hitchens brother is a Christian. But he rarely gets any air time. Humph.

    September 4, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • Babs

      Poor Peter.

      September 4, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • inhok

      Why is that interesting? A lot of high-profile people have siblings who don't get much media attention.

      September 4, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      I woiuld've thot that you'd be more struck by the irony that "Christopher" means "bearer of Christ".

      September 4, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  13. likewhoa

    did teenage jesus have acne?

    September 4, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • harmonynoyes

      well maybe, but as far as I know, that would have been the least of his problems

      September 4, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
  14. Ibn Al-Haytham

    Religious people are all "crazy/ignorant/foolish/brainwashed." Society would be so much "better/peaceful/real" without the mumbo jumbo of "Christians/Jews/Muslims" (I'll leave the Hindus out of it 'cause I went to India once and it was amazing). Can you believe all the hate they spew? Not me, I'm rational, so it's observation.

    I can empirically prove that civilization would be better without religion. Yup, it's a simple undertaking for my unbiased mind. I just figured it out after a couple days studying Wikipedia articles on all of the events of human history.

    Can anything be true unless it's proven to me personally? Only if it was peer reviewed (I'm not crazy!). Because we own science, and we'd like to pit it against religion as much as the televangelists (representatives for all religions that they are) pit religion against science. Also, I took the a world religions class in college and had this bad experience with a nun once, so I've got it all down.

    Anyway, I'm ready for your Einstein quotes. Talented physicists are well equipped to talk about anything. Anything.

    Atheists getting a bad rap from all these CNN.com comments... Wow.

    September 4, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Al

      Are you trying to be funny? You are failing.

      September 4, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Scott

      You missed the comment then.

      Einstein: "...there are yet people who say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me for the support of such views."

      Newton: "Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be done."

      September 4, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Newton lived in a time when it was dangerous to your well being to deny the existence of god. Newton did research into areas that he knew the church would frown upon so kept them very secret.

      While the quote above can be used to show that Einstein was not an atheist, there are numerous others than can be used to show that he was not a theist.

      September 4, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • Yaright

      I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own - a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotisms.
      - Albert Einstein, obituary in New York Times, 19 April 1955, quoted from James A Haught, "Breaking the Last Taboo" (1996)

      September 4, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • Yaright

      hotairice, just posted one.. Stupid for people to use a agnostic to support religion. And yes he was a agnostic. Just read some of his books and articles.

      September 4, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Robert

      We know for a fact that universe is not eternal. The observations of the Hubble telescope and COBE sattelite prove that beyond any doubt. That leaves atheism as a delusional and discredited religion.

      It is impossible that the universe produced itself out of a steady state of absolute nothing. The first cause had to be self-existant, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, intelligent, wise, and powerful. The being theists call God.

      September 4, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Totally lame attempt at satire. Don't quit your day job.

      September 4, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • inhok

      If you read the book "Quantum Questions", you'll find a compilation of the mystical writings of many of our famous scientists, such as Newton, Bohr, Einstein... What you'll find is not a declaration of a God or lack thereof, but an awareness that science is only equipped to measure the shadows on the wall of the cave and not the source of light. The problem religious people make is in assuming they know what that source of light is all about.

      September 4, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • John Richardson

      @Robert It never ceases to amaze that theists think positing an unexplained god to explain the existence of the universe solves something.

      September 4, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • neednottoknow

      Well, sure you can talk about anything, then people will get mad at you and you will be an outcast among those people haha And don't say Hindu is not like other religions... I am sure you heard there were Hindu uprisings in the past. I think any organized groups of people can do mean things to another group of people, it can be a group of people within a religion, a group of people within a country, within ethnic, within gender and so on. You can't really do much about human nature, the only thing you can hope to do is to have a better justice system and better education system so people know what to do... Well, there you go, I think it is fine for people to have their own belief but hey don't get extreme about it or cops will get you 😛

      September 4, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • Free

      "It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it." Einstein, March 24, 1954

      No, when did Einstein give your quote?

      September 4, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  15. Yaright

    ? 1. If your pro life, what right do you have to tell a woman or child that have been ra–ped, that they must keep the child. Are you god?
    2. if your catholic, why do you revere the pope so much? is it because you believe he is a Stuart of god and god has blessed him? If that is the case, then why does he drive around in a bullet proof car? Does he believe that his sacrifice would not be held in the same regard as Jesus?
    3. If you do not believe in birth control, why do i have to take care of your children? I understand that i cannot afford more then two children of my own without resorting to welfare. Why if you cannot take care of 'X' amount of children do i have to help you out instead of your church?

    September 4, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • Yaright

      i will countinue asking this question until some intelligent human beings answer. Please, no 'uhhh' the bible says so..

      September 4, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • Scott

      Why do you have to assume that I (religious believer) force you to make a decision?

      Why do you have to assume that I (religious believer) think Catholicism is fully relevant in the broader topic? Why do you think so many non-Catholic Christian sects exist? That should answer your question right there.

      Why do you have to assume that I (religious believer) think birth-control is inhumane? My wife takes it, everyone I know takes it.... seems like a narrow-minded bunch of questions to me.

      Closed-Minded, once again. I'm sorry, but "stereotyping" comes to mind – which in society isn't a good thing.

      September 4, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • likewhoa

      and what the heck is up with all the saints/demigods? i could never understand this? do you worship the pope or god or the ghost or jesus? kinda reminds me of hinduism.

      September 4, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Scott

      You realize there are time stamps on posts? You waited a full 3 minutes for a reply, and already complained about not getting a response.

      That's like showing up online these days and posting, then logging off so you don't have to wait for a legitimate reply – it's called immature.

      September 4, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Yaright

      Scott, first off i asked these question before and didnt get an answer from religious folk. Second, if you read my question you would of realized that i asked pro life people why a free will person must keep their child. I don't believe your ignorant enough to not understand my meaning.. Third, your not Catholic but protestant, hence why I ASK A CATHOLIC. Fourth, again a lot of religions disapprove of birth control and i was just wondering again if you disapprove of birth control, then why doesn't your church fully fund your children... Read before you accuse some one of being close minded...

      September 4, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Jeff from Columbus

      1. Life is a gift from God and only God can take away that life. That's a major tenet of the Catholic faith. Its why Catholics are opposed to abortion and Capital punishment. If anything, its proponents of either one of these practices who are trying to play God by choosing which life is important and which life isn't.

      2. I'm not even sure what your point is with this question. That the Catholic Church should just allow anyone to take a shot at the Pope? And, no, a Pope's death would not have the same impact as Jesus' death. If you're that ignorant of the Catholic faith, then don't try to engage others in a debate.

      3. You think the only children you have to "take care of" are Catholic children? What about welfare mothers? Where's your rage against them? Or anyone of any faith who doesn't use birth control?

      September 4, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • Robert

      It is evil to kill a child simply because his father was a rapist.

      September 4, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • Yaright

      Jeff, if you have such a firm believe in a god and afterlife and all that, then why be afraid? So he dies believing in what he believed in. Isn't that the ultimate sacrifice? Does he have doubt that there is no afterlife? If not, why does he care that he could die, isn't suppose to be better in Heaven? Second, welfare is meant to help out struggling people get back on their feet. Not a permanent job and again, catholics are not the only religion that believes in no birth control. I was simple stating that if your views is that birth control is bad and i must have as many kids that god allows me. Fine more power too you, no welfare the church must take care of you and your kind...

      September 4, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • John Richardson

      When exactly did the Catholic Church first oppose capital punishment? They sure didn't oppose it back when they held the power to decide who was going to be burned at the stake next.

      September 4, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • Jeff from Columbus

      @Yaright: Its hard to take you seriously when you use such logic. So, if I believe in heaven I should just walk out in front of a bus? I shouldn't be afraid of dying because heaven is so great? That's not what the Catholic faith is about.

      And you're just rambling about birth control. What's your point? That Catholics shouldn't have so many kids? That the Catholic Church doesn't offer assistance to low-income families who are Catholic?

      September 4, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Yaright

      again Jeff, my point is that if your certain religion denies the use of birth control, then by all means deny it. But, do not expect me to pay for it or any other American. Does churches help out the needy? yes they do, so have i by volunteering at shelters. Kinda of like the panhandler on the side of the road, do you give them money or go to a store and buy a loaf of bread and some peanut butter? Secondly, if your belief is that this world sucks and that a afterlife awaits you that is infinitely better than this world we live in. Then by all means jump in front of a bus, what are you waiting for????

      September 4, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • tglou

      Your thinking sounds as narrow and myopic, as the folks on the opposite end of the argument. Call me crazy, but couldn't it be possible, we as humans are not equipped with the intellectual capacity required to comprehend what, or who is behind the miracle of life? Those who take up residency at either end of these polar extremes, or commit horrendous crimes to humanity in
      the name of religion, is tragically hubristic, no?

      September 4, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Yaright

      tglou,,, thank you as a agnostic, that is my point. i try not to look at something that we as humans now cannot understand. Do i believe that eventually we can? I hope so, but for now i will live my life and be kind to fellow humans. Even the crazy supernatural, i believe in ghost people........

      September 4, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • Fred1

      These “Pro Life’ers” are actually just pro birth’ers. If they were really against abortion and really though it should be stopped by any means possible, they would be using their time and effort to promote birth control. Every babe that is not conserved guarantees no abortion.

      Contraception is the best is the best defense against abortion; but these people secretly feel that children are God’s just punishment for fornication and uncontrolled lust, so contraception is an inconceivable option for them

      September 5, 2011 at 12:14 am |
  16. Matt

    Food for thought: "The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment–or, as the Nazi liked to say, of 'Blood and Soil.' I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some Ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and in the lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers." In other words, if you can convince people there is no God, then you can convince them also, that people have no worth. If they buy it, then you can logically conclude exterminating some (or a bunch) is o.k. And though men have tried to use God to justify the same, THE BIBLE DOES NOT JUSTIFY KILLING INNOCENT PEOPLE (sure some people will misquote and twist it, but IT DOES NOT).

    September 4, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • Yaright

      What bible?

      September 4, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • sanjosemike

      Matt, nihilism was not the reason why Auschwitz existed, and neither was atheism or "blood and soil." The Holocaust was a political excuse for scapegoating. No more, no less.

      And, as we now know,it was entirely constructed out of junk science. DNA has proven without a shadow of a doubt that humans are all basically the same genus and species, no matter our color or ethnicity. And, to draw the logic of science even further, we must also welcome our cousins the apes and chimpanzees. And they ARE our cousins.

      sanjosemike

      September 4, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • Robert

      Exactly. In a world view without God anything is permissible. That is why EVERY officially atheist nation that has ever existed has been a bastion of mass murder and denial of basic human rights.

      September 4, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • TheRealJesus

      Hitler was a Christian, and a vegetarian... what's your point?

      September 4, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • inhok

      This old argument you lifted (without crediting its source) fails when you move beyond your culture's creation myth (the Bible) and look at all cultures throughout history that have believed in a god of some sort. More people have died in the name of some god than for any other reason in the history of humanity, not the least of all Christianity. Just look at the genocide of Native Americans marching step-in-step with missionaries in our own country in a quest to destroy other relationships to God. Much evil you condone.

      September 4, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • Chris

      I am an ignostic (that's not a typo, it's similar to agnosticism, but different), just to get that out of the way. I am also of the mind that people have the right to believe whatever they want; who am I to say a god or gods does or doesn't exist or even what the term "God" means? I, personally, do not worship any higher power nor do I believe in a god in the Christian sense of the word. However, you could never convince me a human life is worthless. That's not an atheist ideal, that's the ideal of a sick and disturbed individual.

      September 4, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • Free

      As the Nazis also liked to have on their belt buckles, 'God With Us'.

      The Bible may teach not to kill innocents, but the Nazis didn't see Jews, gays and atheists as innocent, did they? They went to their bibles and found reason to find them guilty enough to eliminate.

      September 4, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • John Richardson

      What makes this quote particularly unconvincing is that the Jews suffered a lot of persecution on openly religious grounds for centuries in Europe. Science may have been complicit in the technological aspects of Hitler's killing machines, but the decision to scapegoat, persecute and kill Jews was hardly novel and didn't need to be invented by science or anyone, At most, there may have been some sense that with the rise of science, the old religious rationales didn't work like they used to. So some knuckleheads developed this Aryanist pseudo-science mumbo jumbo. But again, scapegoating, persecuting and killing Jews was a policy that was practiced on a large scale in Europe for centuries before there even was anything you could plausibly call science, let alone genetics.

      September 4, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Fred1

      Jewish persecutions: banning Jews from working for public office, the enforcement of wearing yellow badges, the Jewish ghettos, burning of synagogues, and the extermination of Jews remind us of the atrocities committed by Nazis in WWII. However the atrocities above do not pertain to Nazi actions but rather the practices of Catholicism, centuries before Hitler came into power

      Hitler reminded the church he was doing it’s work
      In the 1930s, as the Catholic leaders listened to Hitler's rhetoric against the Jews during his appeal for power, his speeches condemning Jews only correlated with the Church's own long history of Jewish hatred. Indeed, in Hitler's meeting with Bishop Berning and Monsignor Steinmann on April 26, 1933, Hilter reminded his Catholic guests that the Church, for 1,500 years had regarded the Jews as parasites, had banished them into ghettos, and had forbidden Christians to work for them. Hitler said he merely intended to do more effectively what the Church had attempted to accomplish for so long.

      September 5, 2011 at 12:19 am |
  17. John Geheran

    As it nearly always is with main stream media, this article is an example of its disinclination to deal with Islamic-related topics except at the shallow end of the enlightenment pool. Name one religion other than Islam that, inclusive of its sacred texts, commands the faithful to acts of violence against non-believers? When connecting all the dots (Qur'an, ahadith, four schools of Islamic jurisprudence and other credible Islamic souces) all roads lead to a political ideology (aka "a religion") that is fundamentally flawed. Mercifully, there are only about 200 million "devout" believers.

    September 4, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • Tom

      Name one religion? Christianity. Ever read the old testiment? I mean, really read it? It was good to read the article's comments about athiesm, it's true, in the last 10 years I've felt more comfortable coming out of the closet of athiesm.

      September 4, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • sanjosemike

      The "god" of the Old Testament is basically a psychopath who should have been "imprisoned" for the great suffering "he" caused.

      sanjosemike

      September 4, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  18. Scott

    Isaac Newton is credited used the phrase "Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be done.".

    Just because science can explain the world, it does not explain why something exists.

    Einstein also wrote "In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human understanding, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me for the support of such views."

    What was it that was said about a fool? A fool knows everything, and a wise man does not? Someone posted earlier that most scientists are atheists. What strikes me odd is that that goes against historical record – scientists often try to explain the world, but rarely go as bold as to say they can prove god doesn't exist.

    That's the difference between you and them.

    September 4, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • iamdeadlyserious

      No one can prove the non-existence of any gods. No more than one can prove the non-existence of Bigfoot. The complete lack of positive evidence is enough to justify not believing in their existence.

      September 4, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • Al

      True! With every passing year the amount of wilderness that Bigfoot could be hiding in is getting lesser and lesser, just as every new scientific discovery rules out yet another place where God could be hiding.

      September 4, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • Chris

      I would think that, when you are a man of science and understand the beautiful and perfect machine that is our world, it would be hard to not believe some higher power is at work. It's easier to believe evolution was a tool created and utilized by a God and that He made us special than that we are the result of millions of years of coincidences. But just because a lot of people believe in something, that doesn't make it right. I do not worship any deity or higher power and do not plan to, but I am merely man and am not in the position to say one does or does not exist for sure or condemn others for worshiping one. I think what I like, draw my own conclusions, and try my best to not let others influence my thought process or attempt to influence theirs.

      September 4, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  19. T

    I also do not believe in religion. I do believe in Jesus Christ, in a changed life, and a God that is bigger than myself. There may not be proof that can be seen with your eyes but no one can discount how He has changed me. I am a better wife, mom, friend, and all around person because of my faith. I don't consider myself as close-minded, judgmental, or a terrorist. I just want to show all the people that I come in contact with that there is hope in a living God.

    September 4, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • sanjosemike

      T, I'm glad that religion works for you. But just because it works for you does not mean I must abide it. As an atheist, I live a fine, fulfilling life. I give to many charities, both time and money. I pay my taxes. I have never been on welfare. I am still married to the same woman after almost 45 years. I have never, ever cheated on my spouse. I raised my children to be atheists also, and they are very happy and doing very well.

      Religion or a belief in god is totally unnecessary for living a fine, decent life. Religious people put entirely too much energy on the possibility of an "afterlife." I'm entirely satisfied the way things are. In any case, I don't have a choice.

      sanjosemike

      September 4, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Free

      T
      If you believe in Jesus and that he was "the Christ", meaning the son of God, then you do hold religious beliefs, right?

      September 4, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  20. Lee

    Where is the Jesus all ye believers? Why as he been away for over 2000 years without any sign? Why cannot you produce him? When he was here, why did he focus on petty miracles that could easily be faked, like making the "random" blind person in the audience see? Why didn't he pursue the worst evils of the day, for example slavery? Why did he not speak of the evils of slavery?

    September 4, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Scott

      Why is there real proof that King's of the age actually gave a rat's you know what about what was happening on that topic?

      The closed-minded man always asks for proof of black holes, proof of the world being round, proof that you can make fire, proof that plate tectonics move land, proof that dimensions exist, proof that time can be bent, proof that special relativity is possible, proof that spirits exist, proof that God and power exists, etc.

      Those who saw the Television for the first time often thought it a miracle too.

      September 4, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • Yaright

      you both are right. Slavery back then was the norm, would you say that southern people during to civil war were not religious. Jesus probably never thought of such a righteous ideal as freeing slaves. He was preoccupied with the tyranny of the Romans. Kinda like Martin Luther.... Strange

      September 4, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • Chad

      Because Jesus came to save a lost people, not to make a bad people better.

      September 4, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Fred1

      He is a bit late

      For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. (Matt. 16:27–28)

      September 5, 2011 at 12:24 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.