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My Take: When Bedford Falls Becomes Pottersville
December 24th, 2011
03:00 AM ET

My Take: When Bedford Falls Becomes Pottersville

Editor's note: Larry Alex Taunton is the founder and executive director of the Fixed Point Foundation. This article is adapted from his book “The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief.”

By Larry Alex Taunton, Special to CNN

(CNN) - My favorite Christmas movie is, unquestionably, Frank Capra’s 1946 feel-good flick "It’s a Wonderful Life." Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed play George and Mary Bailey, a happy couple living a life of genteel poverty in the small American town of Bedford Falls.

George is a kind and generous man. He is active in his community and in the war effort. Most importantly, George is all that stands between the town’s mean old man, Mr. Potter, and the demise of all that is good in Bedford Falls.

As financial pressures crowd in on poor George, he begins to question his value to the community. So much so, that he wishes he had never been born. To demonstrate to George the folly of his wish, an angel is sent to give him a glimpse of what Bedford Falls would look like if that wish were granted. In Dickensian fashion, the angel takes him from one scene in that small town to another. The difference is stark. Indeed, Bedford Falls isn’t even Bedford Falls anymore, but a place called Pottersville. The town’s main street is a red-light district, crime is rampant, and life there is coarsened.

When George, in desperation, turns to the angel, seeking an explanation for these drastic changes, the angel says, “Why, George, it’s because you were never born!”

According to a recent poll conducted by The Hill, 69% of voters think America is in decline, and 83% say they are worried about the country’s future. And that has generated a lot of finger-pointing: Republicans blame President Obama; Obama blames Republicans; environmentalists blame industrialization; the “Occupy” people blame everybody who isn’t occupying something - most of us agree that there is a problem, but efforts to identify the source of it are incomplete, misguided or downright evil.

CNN's Belief Blog – all the faith angles to the day's top stories

The problems of human society are the problems of human nature, wrote "Lord of the Flies" author William Golding. Indeed. This was the discovery of the monastics. Seeking to escape the evil of the world, they found instead a doctrine central to Christianity: that evil is innate to us all. History tells us that a given philosophy, creed or religion will either restrain our darker impulses or exacerbate them, but escape them we cannot. Not in this life, anyway.

So what will save us from ourselves and preserve human dignity and life in the societies we create? Democracy? Socialism? Stitching up the ozone?

These days, there is a lot of talk about religion - Christianity in particular - and its role in public life. Whether it is protesting Nativities, the debate over “In God We Trust” as our country’s motto or the controversy surrounding the public faith of Tim Tebow, a national discussion is taking place on what the present and future role of Christianity in America should be. The consensus among the secular elites seems to be that it is a bit like smoking: It is harmful, but if you must do it, do it in the designated areas only. Richard Dawkins, the Oxford scientist and atheist provocateur, calls Christianity a “mental virus” that should be eradicated.

The professor should be more careful in what he wishes for. Like many others, he grossly underestimates the degree to which his own moral and intellectual sensibilities have been informed by the Judeo-Christian worldview.

"It’s a Wonderful Life" is a fitting metaphor for a nation absent Christian belief. Jesus Christ said that his followers were to be like “salt”; that is, a people whose presence is felt for the good that they do. As a man or woman’s evil nature is gentled and restrained by the grace of God, there is a corresponding outward transformation of society. The data bears this out. According to the research of The Barna Group, Christians are the most charitable segment of the population by a substantial margin. Hence, any society that is liberally sprinkled with them has a greater concern for the poor, sick, orphaned and widowed - “the least of these,” as Jesus called them. (This is precisely what Nietzsche, and Hitler after him, hated about Christianity.)

But Christian influence goes well beyond benevolence: Our laws, art, literature and institutions find meaning in a rich Christian heritage. In his new book "Civilization: The West and the Rest," Harvard historian Niall Ferguson argues that the decline of the West can, in part, be attributed to the decline of a robust Christian presence in Western culture. Ferguson’s point is largely an economic one, but the inference that Christianity has served to strengthen the fabric of life in the West as we have known it is unmistakable. T.S. Eliot made a similar observation: “If Christianity goes, the whole of our culture goes.”

That is just another way of saying that the difference between a nation with meaningful Christian influence and a nation without it is the difference between Bedford Falls and Pottersville.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Larry Alex Taunton.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Christmas • Church and state

soundoff (3,025 Responses)
  1. American Citizen

    While I agree with many arguments presented within this article, I would also point out that there is a "Potterfication" profit being made at Fixed Point Foundation. Caution is advised.

    December 24, 2011 at 4:30 am |
    • story55

      Harry Potter, at its core, is a very Christian-based text that draws on the same core moral foundations. Don't let naive people distract you with fear of fantasy elements.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:34 am |
    • Tom

      I could sit here for hours kicking everyone's butts about how little they respect other people's points of view, and understand the value of Freedom, which they all take for granted. They want to enable that one kid that doesn't get to celebrate Christmas or whatever, and give that kid power, and this is what has completely screwed up Western society up royally. That isn't what this country was entirely based on, or what they wanted for the future of this country. It is being maniupated into some kind of social engineering experiment instead based on what the State can provide us, and not the other way around. Sad, indeed.

      December 24, 2011 at 5:02 am |
    • Sherman

      to get away from the clamor of the bells. This is a city phenomenon. Don't look at me. You moved there. I saw how dangerous and precarious the city was. But critically speaking, goodness is not a linear progression, its a geometric one. Its a Wonderful Life has some resonating lines, "only us explorers can have one of those."

      December 25, 2011 at 9:56 am |
  2. Peter

    Nazi German was "liberally sprinkeled" with Christians too, but they killed the handicapped and the mentally retarded, not to mention their hatred of Jews. Or is the Author saying that only "American" Christians are more superior morally?

    December 24, 2011 at 4:30 am |
    • Tom

      You don't really care about those people anymore than they did. Look around you in your society.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:32 am |
    • jkgrasshopper

      I'm not sure where the author got his facts, but according to personal written accounts and reports by his closest aides, Hitler was a practicing Catholic for the majority of his life. I believe it...

      December 24, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • Jesus

      The twisted cross which became the symbol of the Nazis was replicated by Hitler from the adorned entry of the Catholic Church he attended as a youth in Austria. Hitler eventually wanted to modify Catholic dogma to dovetail with Germanic myths. In essence he wanted to devise a new Bible.

      December 24, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • just sayin

      bottom line hitler was an atheist.

      December 24, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • Kafir

      "We were convinced that the people need and require this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out." – Adolf Hitler, Speech in Berlin, Oct. 24, 1933

      December 25, 2011 at 4:44 am |
  3. fidel

    Hey there. I wanted to mention that i have met good people who were atheists, christians, and other religions. However, the only ignorant people were christians. I have never been insulted by atheists, muslims, jews, or hindus, but christians, yes.

    December 24, 2011 at 4:27 am |
    • David

      LIAR! You're going to have plenty of time to think about your lies–in hell!

      December 24, 2011 at 4:36 am |
    • Margaret

      @ David I think you just proved his point.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:47 am |
    • Jim

      Really? The ONLY ignorant, insulting people where Christians? You need to get out more. There's a whole world of them waiting to give you a tour of their stupidity.

      December 24, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Sherman

      They started as "Elvis" people. This is I guess an understandable human trait when the absolutely unthinkable occurs. Yet you must take into account that in the case of Jesus that he must have been way good to get a following like that. talk about a cult of personality. Hi this is my family. That's my dad, he's God.

      December 25, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  4. Conservaturd

    Christians...charitable...care for the poor, elderly, sick, orphaned...HAHAHAHAHAHHAhAHAHAHA

    That must be why 'Christian' conservatives want to banish social security and welfare, and every other state and federal program that helps those barely above/below subsistence levels.

    December 24, 2011 at 4:27 am |
    • Tom

      Too many people play the system to get paid; and give zero back... Nobody wants to pay for anything, which also explains the housing issues, bad mortgages, and just about everything else wrong with this society. Blaming everything on politics is stupid and naive.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:30 am |
    • Conservaturd

      Well there you have it. The poor aren't really poor and are actually con artists trying to get over on the rich.

      lol This stuff is golden Tom. Please type more.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:34 am |
    • Tom

      Only idiots like you bring up Nazis and then on the otherhand talk about PURE absolutes... BLACK AND WHITE... BLAH BLAH..

      F U

      December 24, 2011 at 4:36 am |
    • Aaron

      @ Tom, Does it hurt to be that retarded?

      December 24, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  5. story55

    It's disturbing that the author speaks of caring for the "least of these", yet those who proclaim themselves the loudest to be followers of Christ (defying the Biblical claim to be wary of those who pray in public) also fought the hardest to prevent providing health care to the least of these. Obama had to fight for that. Only a barbaric society forces its poor to compete for their very survival.

    December 24, 2011 at 4:26 am |
    • counter

      You are talking two different things- charity and taking money from others for an inefficient means of delivering healthcare , namely our inept federal government.

      Please stop your nonsense.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:32 am |
    • Tom

      Emphasis on Society, and not freedom. Tyranny begins the day you forget why your ancestors came to America. If you want freedom then you can't have a structured society that does everything for them like a babysitter for stupid adults who make very poor decisions.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:35 am |
    • story55

      @Tom – Am I to understand that when Christ encountered sick and poor people, he told them "I ain't yo' babysitter. Take care of yourself." Last I checked, Christ condemned people like you and demonstrated caring for such people without question or judgment. You are not a Christian, my young friend.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:41 am |
    • Tom

      I never said I was. I was talking about respecting other people's points of view. Mine happens to be about Freedom. Real Freedom. Not some communist totalitarian state that only exists as a perpetual welfare system to keep its sheep in check and balances for no other reason but to promote itself as the Best society.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:47 am |
    • HereYeHereYe

      Celestial farts shall rain down upon thee!

      December 24, 2011 at 4:48 am |
    • Tom

      I'm sure you must be a hit with all the ladies where you are from too, idiot.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:58 am |
    • story55

      @Tom – Actually, my intelligence is in the top 1% and I have many women interested in me, so I'm not an idiot but I am quite popular with the women. When you understand that none are free when any are oppressed, you will understand the need for universal health care and you will understand true freedom.

      December 24, 2011 at 5:03 am |
    • Tom

      You are not as oppressed as the dystopian nightmare you are about to unleash on the world in the name of equality and the New World Order. If we let people like you have your way, there would be no real freedom anymore anywhere on earth. It would be a gigantic nanny state, where everything would have to done for everyone else, and it is too idealogical fallacious to begin to attain. i.e. The Soviet Union.

      December 24, 2011 at 5:06 am |
    • John W

      @Counter

      Actually Medicare has been proven time and time again to be much more efficient and cost effective than the private health insurance system. If we could expand Medicare to every citizen it would cut the cost health care in the U.S by almost 50%. The private insurance companies, which 50,000,000 of your neighbors can not even afford, have to make obscene profits each year just to keep wall street happy. I know it has been popular since Reagan to blame all the troubles on the government but at least in this instance that is simply false.

      December 24, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • Jim

      @story55 – The difference between your idea of caring for the poor, and a Christian idea of caring for the poor, is that based on your comment, you think charity BEGINS with government. That the agency of charity is supposed to be the State. A Christian idea of charity is that it begins with YOU, as a personal responsible agent. When you abdicate YOUR responsibility for charity to the State, then you absolve yourself of the responsibility to "be your brother's keeper", which is exactly what Jesus wanted people to be. Which is more effective in delivering the best kind of charity: the State, with multiple layers of bureaucracy and absolutely no connection the local communities or individuals that it represents, or YOU helping out your neighbor, or your community? The answer is YOU. Consolidation of charity into one big governmental agency isn't going to be better for people, in the same way Wal-Mart isn't better for people. It might be cheaper in some cases, but it's impersonal, limits choice (actually DEFINES choice), and adds nothing to the local sense of community. Is that what the Occupy movement is all about? The loss of community, in favor of impersonal corporate financial policy?

      Why do liberals want local farmers markets, local artisanal products, local businesses, local schools, local communities, and all that goes with the idea of small groups of people coming together and being a "community", but when it comes to health care, they want HEALTH-MART – one giant big-box solution to healthcare. I know why – because they don't really want to be "their brother's keeper". It's too messy, takes too much energy, and they want to do other things. They want a fictional utopia of perfect communitarian harmony, but since people are generally a pain in the keester, it never works out that way, and so they'd rather hold on to their theory, and pass the buck to government. Real charity is difficult – ask any congregant of any small church across America what it's like to have community – it's a never-ending pain. But that's the point – it's supposed to be.

      December 24, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  6. woodrow

    Our ills are not so much caused by the decline of Christianity as it is by the decline of morality and the missing sense of personal responsibility for society. It's the 'me generation' gone awry.

    December 24, 2011 at 4:26 am |
    • Tom

      The British PM said it best this year, "Multiculturalism has utterly failed."

      December 24, 2011 at 4:37 am |
    • story55

      @Tom – I have lived my life amongst Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Atheists, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, and others as my peers, friends, and family. I have seen no fundamental difference in the compassion of any single group for the larger whole. Frankly, people who hold the view you express here tend to be the most corrupted by greed and self-centeredness.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:44 am |
    • Tom

      I have lived with plenty more than you have, and I found some cultural universal traits that do not exist in some cultures yet. And that some cultural groups are not developed enough yet as human beings or have evolved enough to even begin to understand concepts like Freedom of Religion, or Freedom of Speech. You have exactly the wrong faith in people that you blame for those that have faith in religion.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:51 am |
    • Jesus

      What ills are you speaking about? The two major ills of our species are religion and nationalism. The concept that "we" are correct (i.e. God's favorite) and you are NOT and accordingly must die or rot in Hell are basic foundations of most major religions and so-called "patriotic" nations.. I often see that bumper sticker that says "COEXIST"....Co-existence flies in the face of most religions which condemn nonbelievers to doom and give believers a "right" to kill nonbelievers.

      December 24, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • John W

      @Tom

      Where have you lived with these people? The group I have seen that has the largest problem understanding the various freedoms have been christians. Christians always seem to think those freedoms only apply to them. If any other group tries to get the same freedoms then Christians start crying about being persecuted!

      December 24, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Relictus

      The "decline of society" occurs at the moment of inception and pursues a society throughout its existence until the end. The idea that society reaches some magical "zenith" of culture is entertaining until you realize that the target moves! Change is the nature of culture. Bemoaning the "fall of civil standards" implies that the standards were higher at some point. Maybe they were just different.

      December 24, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Sherman

      Blank – you guys were discussing good and evil and I missed it...

      December 25, 2011 at 9:49 am |
  7. Joshua

    What a lousy ploy to get readers, using Its a Wonderful Life in the most tangential of metaphors in order to con people into reading these illogical ramblings. Capra doesn't deserve this. Stewart doesn't deserve this. I don't deserve this.

    December 24, 2011 at 4:26 am |
    • David

      What a lousy ploy to get people to read your stupic post!

      December 24, 2011 at 4:39 am |
    • Relictus

      @Joshua: It's entertaining in a sick way – like a train wreck – so they do it to get readers.

      December 24, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • Mr. Potter

      You said it brother.

      December 25, 2011 at 1:41 am |
  8. ChristianBoy

    I'm 8 and what is this?

    December 24, 2011 at 4:22 am |
    • Steve

      @Christian Boy, you are 8 years old ? What are you doing up at 4:22 AM ?

      December 24, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • Mr. Potter

      No....I think he means he wants an 8 year old christian boy.

      December 25, 2011 at 1:43 am |
  9. racer x

    Another silly essay written by an empty-headed godtard. "Gosh heck, guys, why don't you believe in a superghost being so you can do really good things? Sure beats being some reality-based party pooper who never does anything nice!"

    December 24, 2011 at 4:21 am |
    • Tom

      You lack of respect for other people's points of view shows exactly how unintelligent you truly are. I wouldn't care if you had the answers for everything, that they may lack, you still sound like a stuck up know-it-all ass_ole.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:42 am |
    • Jesus

      Tom, there is no mid-ground! Either I believe in your offspring of God's affair with a married woman or I go to Hell.That's the problem with your Christianity--no compromise accepted! Accordingly, I will vigorously oppose your trying to inject that 1st century insanity into our political debate at every opportunity.

      December 24, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  10. fidel

    The problem is that Christianity (like other religions) is based on a mythology. Mythology is a nice word for a lie. The scientific worldview explains much more than the religious worldview. It just doesn't provide comfort to those who seek reassurance. You know, religious people may be (or maybe not) more generous to charity. But a huge portion of those donations go to the fundraisers (wasted money). Keep the christian heritage if you must, but please don't pretend that human beings really have souls becuase there is no science to back to claim. So, without souls we really are just another primate (just more self-abosrbed and violent than the others).

    December 24, 2011 at 4:20 am |
    • Tom

      Well leave to the people posting here, and they might have you even believe Santa was a communist like themselves. Nobody really is listening your post-modernistic bull_hit theories and historical revisionism about Christians or God. It might have helped you graduate from some public University, diddling yourselves over discursive paradigms, but in the real world, you sound like know-it-all ass_oles that have scales for eyelids, and hearts of stone, and lack respect for anyone or even yourselves. The more you know; the more unknown their is, and best you manage with it is greater cynicism for all.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:27 am |
    • fidel

      Science is truth and Jesus was a fraud. Plain honesty here, buddy

      December 24, 2011 at 4:33 am |
    • Tom

      You are a shoddy cynical burned out husk of a human being. A scurvy little spider.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:44 am |
    • smitty

      Christian brother tom – Why do you have to make fun of people you disagree with? Are you not able to see how destructive and rude that is to your cause? can you respond to this statement w/o listing me as a liberal/athetist/communist what part of the Jesus teachings instructed us to belittle those ones we are supposed to be sharing the good news with....

      December 24, 2011 at 5:48 am |
    • Fizzylift

      Tom, you sound like you are very angry. And you misspelled "their" on your post which doesn't bode well for your intellectual offerings. Go to bed, pet the dog and smile. You still believe in fantasy and that makes you happy.

      December 25, 2011 at 3:48 am |
  11. Russ

    This guy misses the point. Does it matter if someone is Christian, Scientologist, Jewish or Atheist – if they are still lawful citizens, take part in their communities, and raise their children to be good people? This guy makes the general assumption that all non-Christians are people in moral decline that are soon to end up as child molesting murderers. He makes another assumption that these common themes or human nature and morality are only in Christianity when they are evident in many religions and moral systems throughout human history, many of which pre-date Christianity. We live in a pluralistic society and must get beyond the notion that to be a good society, we must all believe, well basically, whatever the writer believes, or what you believe, or what I believe.

    December 24, 2011 at 4:13 am |
    • joto

      Like. LIKELIKELIKELIKE.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:16 am |
    • NClaw441

      Well said. And if we don't believe or agree with others write, we don't have to dismiss them as idiots or, worse, evil. We can simply let what they say stand on its own, and acknowledge their right to say it, even if all do not agree.

      December 24, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
  12. AdmrlAckbar

    Ahh a nice polarized belief story-a-day here at CNN.. Let the Web Traffic Ca$h flow!

    December 24, 2011 at 4:12 am |
  13. PAJoe

    I really liked it, kinda gave me a little more faith than i had before reading it. Thank you. and to all those who want to turn an opinion of one person into a battleground over insecurities over others beliefs christian or non christian, you only succeed in mediocre banter and ignorant masked rhetoric once again. The world is tired of self righteous atheists and Christians alike. get over yourselves. God and life are bigger than you, which may come as a surprise to most. 🙂

    December 24, 2011 at 4:10 am |
    • Godfrey

      It's true! The tribal war-god of the ancient Hebrews, Yahweh, is VERY big, and if you slaughter a lamb for him he will bring a mighty harvest.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:16 am |
    • nigel

      There's a sucker born every minute...

      December 24, 2011 at 4:17 am |
    • fidel

      But who's god? I personally don't think there is one out there...certainly not one that fits the biblical story.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:22 am |
    • Andrew

      I'm confused how you can read
      "As a man or woman’s evil nature is gentled and restrained by the grace of God, there is a corresponding outward transformation of society. The data bears this out. According to the research of The Barna Group, Christians are the most charitable segment of the population by a substantial margin. Hence, any society that is liberally sprinkled with them has a greater concern for the poor, sick, orphaned and widowed – “the least of these,” as Jesus called them. (This is precisely what Nietzsche, and Hitler after him, hated about Christianity.)"

      And not consider that at all self-righteous. I mean, he's citing an actual evangelical organisation as his 'data' for why Christians are better than non-christians, because Christians can be 'restrained by god' as though non-Christians aren't. Isn't that the very definition of self-righteous, in that it is "confident of one's own righteousness, especially when smugly moralistic and intolerant of the opinions and behavior of others."

      Hell, even if you don't consider it self-righteous, I'd certainly have to think that you'd understand why a non-believer might. You should understand why we'd be complaining about this article.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:23 am |
    • Mirosal

      Life may be pretty big. I'll grant you that. But your 'god' certainly isn't. Your 'god' is just as effective as Zeus, Apollo, Hera, Isis, Osiris, Thor and thousands of others throughout time. Those I mentioned are all gone. In time yours shall be as well. Although... Bacchus had a pretty good realm in his domain lol

      December 24, 2011 at 4:27 am |
  14. antichrist i am

    christians in usa need to stop terrorizing others with their "god".christians are not the only taxpayers in this country.the author can go to hell with his advice.

    December 24, 2011 at 4:06 am |
    • AdmrlAckbar

      Aww dd someone kill your level 20 elf? there there lame attempt at trolling

      December 24, 2011 at 4:09 am |
    • Sam

      'Aww dd someone kill your level 20 elf? there there lame attempt at trolling'

      So says the person commenting all all other posts with a screen name based on an obscure Star Wars character.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:20 am |
    • Andrew

      It's a trap!

      Which incidental, Akbar is hardly obscure 😛

      December 24, 2011 at 4:29 am |
  15. StopTheLies

    "...Christians are the most charitable segment of the population by a substantial margin. Hence, any society that is liberally sprinkled with them has a greater concern for the poor, sick, orphaned and widowed..."
    _______________________________

    Thanks, I needed a good laugh author!

    December 24, 2011 at 4:04 am |
    • dirkdiggler

      yeah, someone needs to introduce Mr. Taunton to Christian conservative ideology lol

      December 24, 2011 at 4:10 am |
    • AdmrlAckbar

      And you have solid empirical evidence stating otherwise?

      December 24, 2011 at 4:10 am |
    • nigel

      "solid empirical evidence"

      Empirical evidence is not typically solid.

      I think the burden of proof is on the author. Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism all place at least a great an emphasis on charity as Christianity.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:26 am |
    • Nicholas

      I have worked with christian charities before. They are mostly concerned with helping other christians, or trying to win people over to their religion by taking advantage of people in need, instead of caring for their fellow man out of a sense of humanity. I stopped supporting their religious agenda and now only work with secular charities.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:37 am |
    • Nicholas

      Also, people who thing christians have a monopoly on charity have never lived in a Buddhist nation. They are far more giving than any christians.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:38 am |
  16. smitty

    I feel like im in Star Wars and the sith lords have taken over my faith. It is beyond disgusting how bad christianity has been hijacked by these hypochristians. Keep judging, condescening, belittleing, confusing people thats certainly the way Jesus taught us to act, NO? You will never EVER convince someone about there faith with speech, but show action. Show caring, love, acceptance, and giving when others see this they will want to have what you have and join your side. Simply judging away over and over is DOING NOTHING TO BRING PEOPLE TO JESUS. It's depressing me to have to take the side of the athetist in this argument because the Hypochristians(siths) have cheapened my faith!

    December 24, 2011 at 4:04 am |
    • AdmrlAckbar

      Ha hypochristians ! I like it

      December 24, 2011 at 4:10 am |
  17. Emily

    A poll conducted by Barna group, a notoriously biased evangelical Christian organization, suggests that Christians are the most charitable segment of our society, and you extrapolate from this already suspect premise that ALL societies with Christians in them have more people concerned about those less fortunate than those which do not. Do we see any flaws in this line of "reasoning"?

    Why does CNN keep publishing this dreck? Mr. Staunton really is the least intellectually rigorous columnist they regularly feature.

    December 24, 2011 at 4:02 am |
    • Relictus

      He is an intellectual train wreck, which is great for readership. He could not be more of a clown, it's hilarious!

      December 24, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  18. Cat MacLeod

    We must believe in the good that humans can accomplish and be actively part of it. Talking to an invisible man in the sky asking him get us there seems rather counter productive.

    December 24, 2011 at 4:01 am |
    • Jesus

      I've flown way up in the sky. Didn't see a guy wih lots of Angels around him or pearely gates....just clouds. I wonder what those simpletons in the 1st century would have said after going up 30,000 feet and seeing nothing?

      December 24, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  19. Dana Chilton

    So, none of the civilizations of the world history that have not have a 'meaningful christian influence' (this would effectively exclude every civilization before 33AD) have 'preserved human dignity' or 'recognized evil'? You wax poetic about the 'robust christian presence' in western civilization yet you ignore the very real evil that the domination of church over state brought to Europe for thousands of years. "the dark ages" wasn't referred to as such because there was a candle shortage. Your article should be offensive to anyone with a second grade knowledge of history and civics.

    December 24, 2011 at 4:00 am |
    • Jim

      That would be true, until you compare Europe to the rest of the world during the same period. Incessant slaughter and oppression of peoples. Who do you think preserved Greek knowledge so that the Renaissance could happen? The church. There is a reason Europe flourished so well in comparison to the rest of the world's societies, and it isn't just the availability of resources. There are plenty of countries which have had incredible resources, who couldn't get their stuff together, because they were enslaved to inferior modes of thinking. It was true then, and it is true now.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:25 am |
    • Soylent

      Seriously Jim? Who do I think preserved knowledge to help bring Europe out of the dark age? How about the Arab world. Like it or not, during the European medieval period they were at the forefront of scientific and cultural development. Unfortunately, their social development stopped around there and then backslid for the next 800 years, but there was a time when they were THE centre of learning in the world.

      Also, serious historians no longer like to use the term Dark Age. There actually was a lot going on, but most of it isn't very interesting on the micro level.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:37 am |
    • Jim

      Yes, the Arabs were excellent at Math, had a great calendar, and knew the stars. They didn't preserve Greek knowledge, which is what I was talking about. Also, as Islam rose during the 9-13th centuries, and became the geopolitical movement that it actually is, it started that backslide you referred to. Religious origins of culture matter. Same time period, Islam rose and intellectually backslid, and Christianity continued to push forward intellectually, all the way through the 19th century, until it split with culture and became the anti-intellectual farce it is today.

      December 24, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  20. yo yo

    There's an old name given to this type of article, it's agitprop, which stands for agitation propaganda. See how many people have responded to it? Still works beautifuly. By the way, it's a ridiculously lopsided argument if I ever read one, then again, it wouldn't be as effective if it weren't.

    December 24, 2011 at 3:59 am |
    • Jim

      No, this isn't agitprop. The point of propaganda is to get people to DO something, not merely make an argument. There is no distinct or even implied "call to action" here. Read Jaques Ellul's "Propaganda".

      December 24, 2011 at 4:28 am |
    • Soylent

      The "do something" is click on the article, read it, and post comments, which in turn drives further traffic and gets more people to do the same thing, thus leading to click-through advertising profit for CNN.

      December 24, 2011 at 4:38 am |
    • Jim

      @Soylent – agitprop might be the point of CNN (which I would agree with), but it's not the point of the article.

      December 24, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
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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.