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January 25th, 2012
12:52 PM ET

My take: Reclaiming Jesus’ sense of humor

Editor’s note: James Martin, SJ, is a Jesuit priest, culture editor of America magazine and author of "Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life," from which this article is adapted.

By James Martin, Special to CNN

Here’s a serious question about levity: The Bible clearly paints a picture of Jesus of Nazareth as a clever guy, but he never seems to laugh, much less crack a smile. Did Jesus really have no sense of humor; didn't he ever laugh?

Well, one difficulty with finding humor in the New Testament is that what was seen as funny to those living in Jesus' time may not seem funny to us.

For someone in first-century Palestine, the premise (or “setup” as a comic would say) was probably more amusing than the punch line. "The parables were amusing in their exaggeration or hyperbole," Amy-Jill Levine, a New Testament scholar at Vanderbilt University, said in an interview. “The idea that a mustard seed would have sprouted into a big bush that birds would build their nests in would be humorous."

People in Jesus’ day would probably have laughed at many of his intentionally funny illustrations: for example, the idea that someone would have lit a lamp and put it under a basket, or that a person would have built a house on sand or that a father would give a child stones instead of bread.

But contemporary Christians may be missing the humor that Jesus intended and that his audience understood.

Father Daniel J. Harrington, SJ, professor of New Testament at Boston College, agrees. "Humor is very culture bound," he told me. "The Gospels have a lot of controversy stories and honor-shame situations. I suspect that the early readers found these stories hilarious, whereas we in a very different social setting miss the point entirely."

Let’s repeat that: hilarious.

Or maybe we just know the stories too well. Too many Gospel stories have become stale, like overly repeated jokes. "The words seem to us like old coins," wrote Elton Trueblood, a 20th-century Quaker scholar, "in which the edges have been worn smooth and the engravings have become almost indistinguishable."

In his book "The Humor of Christ," Trueblood recounts the tale of his 4-year-old son hearing the Gospel story of seeing the speck of dust in your neighbor's eye and ignoring the log in your own and laughing uproariously. His son recognized the humor that someone else, who might have heard the story dozens of times, might miss.

There are other indications in the Gospels that Jesus of Nazareth had a lively sense of humor. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is castigated for not being as serious as John the Baptist. "The Son of Man came eating and drinking," Jesus said, "and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard.’ ” In other words, the Gospels record criticism of Jesus for being too high-spirited.

"Jesus and his disciples," said the Rev. Richard J. Clifford, SJ, a biblical scholar at Boston College, "are criticized for living it up!"

After his time on Earth, some of this playfulness may have been downplayed by the Gospel writers, who, scholars say, may have felt pressured by the standards of their day to present a more serious Jesus.

"There were probably things that were compressed and shortened, and some of the humor may have been leached out," Clifford said. "But I see Jesus as a witty fellow, someone who is serious without being grim. When the disciples argue among themselves, Jesus brings wit into the discussion."

Jesus also embraces others with a sense of humor. In the beginning of the Gospel of John comes the remarkable story of Nathanael, who has been told by his friends that the Messiah is from Nazareth. Nathanael responds, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"

This is an obvious joke about how backwards the town was; Nazareth was seen as a backwater with only a few hundred people.

And what did Jesus say in response? Does he castigate Nathanael for mocking his hometown?

Jesus says nothing of the sort! Nathanael's humor seems to delight him.

"Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit," Jesus said. In other words, here’s someone I can trust.

Nathanael then became one of the apostles. Jesus’ welcoming of Nathanael into his inner circle may be the clearest indication that Jesus had a sense of humor.

Besides, what kind of a person has zero sense of humor? I asked Eileen Russell, a clinical psychologist based in New York who specializes in the role of resilience, how she would describe the psychological makeup of a person without a sense of humor.

“A person without a sense of humor would lead to that person having significant social problems,” she said. “He would most likely have difficulty making social connections, because he wouldn’t be able to read signals from other people, and would be missing cues.”

That’s the opposite of what we know about Jesus from the Gospels. Yet that's just the kind of one-sided image that many Christians have of Jesus. It shows up in Christian books, sermons and in artwork. It influences the way that Christians think about Jesus, and therefore influences their lives as Christians.

If part of being human includes having a sense of humor, and if Jesus was “fully human,” as Christians believe, he must have had a fully developed sense of humor. Indeed, his sense of humor may be one unexamined reason for his ability to draw so many disciples around him with ease.

It’s time to set aside the notion that Jesus was a humorless, grim-faced, dour, unsmiling prude. Let’s begin to recover his humor and, in the process, his humanity.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • TV

soundoff (1,367 Responses)
  1. urafkntool

    I have a joke:

    What do you call 1 million athiests chained together at the bottom of the ocean?

    A good start!

    BWAHAHAHAHA GOD I KILL ME HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    January 25, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • UhOh

      urafkntool is going to hell, urafkntool is going to hell, to be blotted out for all eternity.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      Perfect. A Christian trying to be funny, and it is about mass murder. Way to go.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • Stormfront

      Who said I'm xtian? I'm just here to troll athiests. I was told if I wanted a few hours of entertainment to come here and have fun. So here I am!

      January 25, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      I stand corrected. Have fun then!

      January 25, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Answer

      Religious tools can't argue with facts so they have to resort to anger and hate.. and always death.
      That's the way everyone sees them. So glad they can outright prove it to the rest of the world.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • urafkntool

      What do you call 100 athiests in a lion's den?

      LUNCH!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

      January 25, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • Answer

      Who fed the lions? Of course those filthy christians and their wacko sense of humor 🙂

      January 25, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
  2. Dr. Martin Von Winklemeyer, certified PhD

    I have an IQ of 135, anyone care to guess what my beliefs are?

    January 25, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • svann

      I think you believe you are smarter than most.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • S'truth

      If you believe your daddy could beat up my daddy you'd be wrong.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • wow

      Tooth Fairy....oh please let it be the Tooth Fairy...you're not of age yet.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Stormfront

      I have an IQ of 143. Point being?

      January 25, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Observer

      What is a certified PhD? I just have an ordinary PhD.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      You believe those Internet IQ tests are real?

      January 25, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • yeahalright

      A sanctimonious jerk with an inflated ego over not much of an "accomplishment"? Did I win?

      January 25, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • Ironicus

      You believe you are fooling us. That much is clear. What do I win?

      January 25, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  3. svann

    From reading these posts I think a better question would be "Do atheists have a sense of humor"?

    January 25, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      Why?

      January 25, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • svann

      Because as the article is about humor, but not one of them seems to say anything funny or relevant to humor.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      Now I am sad.

      January 25, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  4. LMAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Why do atheists not respond to the obvious fact?? C'mon guys, aren't you the intelligent smart ones? Pot calling the kettle black? Me thinks so 🙂 Hahahahaha you all are really a trip, truly are!

    To say again:
    "Holy vodka batman, I had no idea that the atheists were more zealous and interested in pushing their beliefs than the christians. Haha wow that was a surprise. These comments have about 80% atheists shoving their beliefs and 20% christians shoving their beliefs. Hahahah, that just made my day."

    January 25, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • wow

      Someone is slowly loosing it...you better watch out the demons have you....LMAO!

      January 25, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • LMAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      @wow – You didn't adress my claim. Hypocrisy much?

      January 25, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • wow

      And now you keep passing judgment....oh no Satan has his hold on you RUN!!!!

      January 25, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • Counting is fun

      @LMAO,

      You've managed to count and concluded that more posts are by non-believers than believers. Congratulations. Did you have to take your socks off to do that math?

      January 25, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  5. svann

    When they ran out of wine at a wedding, everyone thought the party was over, but someone saw Jesus there and said "Hey Jesus, help us out here"! So Jesus turned water into wine and the party continued. True story.

    January 25, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Answer

      We always wonder how many women Jesus can bang after doing that trick...

      January 25, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • svann

      That was john 2:1-11 btw. It was his own mother that asked him to perform a miracle for the sake of the party. And it was about 150 gallons of wine. Some party!

      January 25, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • Answer

      And like I said .. just how many women did Jesus bang afterwards? 🙂

      If there weren't any in that party – then Jesus himself was out flat gay.

      January 25, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      @Answer: Probably was. He wandered around the countryside with 12 other guys. Seems a little swishy to me.

      January 25, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  6. Jack Mackeral

    I'm half Christian and half Atheist so I can relate to both sides. What I don't get is Devil worshipers.

    January 25, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Answer

      They are akin to the "maybe".

      January 25, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      That is a Chistian superst.ition. Nothing to get, just more religious fantasy. Devil "worshipers" can't really exist since there is no manual to follow, therefore they are actually Christions, just following God's "yang" rather than his "yin".

      January 25, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      Yeah, there's a big sleeping lava man in our front yard, he is so hot...

      January 25, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • booboo

      "Devil "worshipers" can't really exist since there is no manual to follow"... i think a few million devil worshippers would disagree

      January 25, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      boo boo
      Why do you think a few million devil worshipers would disagree? Where would you even find said Devil worshipers. You can't believe in the Devil unless you believe in God. The Bible is the only source material on the matter. Please explain your position.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • booboo

      okay you win.. theres no such thing as devil worshippers.. theyre all fake like god and jesus..

      January 25, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • J.W

      You think there are no devil worshipers? Why would you think that there aren't? Just because you believe there is a God does not mean you must worship him. Some may choose to worship the devil instead

      January 25, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      Excellent boo boo.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      Dam it JW, I had boo boo all calmed down and falling asleep and you have to go bring up this Devil nonsense again!

      January 25, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  7. LMAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Holy vodka batman, I had no idea that the atheists were more zealous and interested in pushing their beliefs than the christians. Haha wow that was a surprise. These comments have about 80% atheists shoving their beliefs and 20% christians shoving their beliefs. Hahahah, that just made my day.

    January 25, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Who's shoving anything? Nobody's forced to be here.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      I bet Mr. Slave is shoving....oh....oh Christ.....oh jeethus Christ!

      January 25, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  8. Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

    I feel the most exciting thing about is that no possibilities are ruled out. One can revel in the cosmos and the joy of learning without the burden of guilt. Just as Einstein, Hawking and many other thinkers of our time and space, the universe still holds many secrets, and those secrets are far more enjoyable when you don't have a pre-disposition to a belief in any God; whatever shape that may take.

    How can we think freely and explore scientifically the theories of the multi-verse, string theory, intelligent life on other planets, space travel and what preceded the Big Bang when we are anchored to the Earth by a ball and chain called religion? It is enough to look up at the Milky Way and say, “here is my church”.

    I am not commanded to worship. I am COMPELLED to be astounded by its magnificence. And no matter what you believe or say, none of us has the slightest idea what will happen when we die.

    Anyone who says they have it all figured out (all religions) are liars. We are not capable of "figuring it out" The Universe / Multi Verse is far too bizarre and vast to pretend we can understand its true nature. What is fun is trying. Looking for truth wherever we can find it.

    Not lies and fantasy and nonsense from thousands of years ago. If there were a creator, what kind of thing is it? What shape does it take, if any, and what made it, etc. etc. Why would anyone give up the true weirdness of nature, the stuff that gives me goosebumps for a bunch of ancient superst.i.tions????

    Life is not an audition for a heaven that doesn’t exist. So live and learn, then die knowing you have embraced life. Be nice and fear not.

    January 25, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      Insert "an Athiest" or "an Agnostic" after "I feel the most exciting thing about" depending on how you identify yourself.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • yeahalright

      Repent now and seek his lord's forgiveness for your sins earnestly in your heart.

      Translation: Yur gonna burn in hell and I'm not! Nyah nyah nyah nya.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Saint Joshi

      I appreciate what you wrote; I 100% agree. As someone who was raised in a religious household and studied Theology in college, I am still always looking for "answers," and constantly questioning my beliefs. Folks of my same religion (Christian) find my questioning disturbing to them. I tell people I'm a spiritual person but not a religious person to avoid negative comments- but in actuality I consider myself as both. I know myself, what I don't know is what happens after death or the true meaning of life and I have been ridiculed for exploring the many possible answers to these questions.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      Fear not children. All are welcome. All are welcome. PRINCESS BUBBLEGUM'S IN TROUBLE!

      January 25, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • yeahalright

      I don't know, Marceline's dad is pretty scary!

      January 25, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      Yeah, but he is just a soul consuming demon. I'd fight him. I then I'd beat box with Marceline while she plays the "lute" axe!

      January 25, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  9. George

    Once again, we have atheists on a belief blog spewing their garbage.

    January 25, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Answer

      All garbage comes from the bible. Everything herein is related to pure facts and truth.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      Hi George.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Ironicus

      I don't have any garbage to spew. I threw my Bibles away years ago. *badoom tish*

      January 25, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • booboo

      if i was an athiest, i might change religions. i would think agnosticism would be healthier, as it truly frees you. All you athiests sit around these blogs fighting tooth and nail to make people believe like you. in a religious effort to conform people, you actually fight with other athiests as well. Not sure how you call that freedom when you are a slave and spend your free time talking about god.. wouldnt it be nice to have all that weight off your shoulders?

      January 25, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • Counting is fun

      atheism deals with belief (or lack thereof)
      agnosticism deals with knowledge (or lack thereof)

      One can easily be an agnostic (I cannot know) atheist (I lack belief).

      January 25, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • Answer

      @booboo

      What conformity? Do we force you to do anything but think? I like to hear what you think we 'atheists' are forcing you to do.
      We don't force you to hate anyone who is different in skin color or based on creed or lifestyle. We don't force you to subjugate women. Just tell me what do atheists do that bothers people other than knock down stupid fairytales?

      January 25, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  10. Kathy

    Honestly Colin, whos' going to read all that? really now. What a waste of time.

    January 25, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Colin

      You know Kathy, some people don't find it hard to read more that a soundbite. Perhaps the Fox News blog is better for you.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Answer

      Is that in the same line of thought as "look I have read the entire bible and yet 5 or more paragraphs bewilders me"?

      January 25, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  11. Illiterate Dude

    Ummm, what?

    January 25, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  12. Clueless in Cleveland

    “…I am quite conscious that my speculations run beyond the bounds of true science….It is a mere rag of an hypothesis with as many flaw[s] & holes as sound parts.” Charles Darwin to Asa Gray, cited by Adrian Desmond and James Moore, Darwin

    January 25, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Quotes are fun

      There are plenty of holes in the gravitational theory as well. Lots of 'missing links'. How much you wanna bet if you drop something, it doesn't fall up.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • booboo

      sorry quotes.. two different things. as in, completely different.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Quotes are fun

      @booboo – then, please, enlighten me. The only difference I see is that one doesn't conflict with your mythology. Or you don't understand modern gravitational theories.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Ironicus

      Clueless, you name yourself well.
      Christards who get hung up on thinking Darwin is some sort of godlike figure for atheists are all pretty clueless and stupid.
      Cleveland is as good as any other place to be stupid, I guess...

      January 25, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • booboo

      mm.. just because two things are commonly discussed as theories does not put them into the same class. you should know that, so stop playing games. We have a working model of gravity, but not sure what it is. we have no working model of evolution, only a broken pattern of archaelogical findings and suppositions. In ten years a new theory could completely disprove evolution. No theory could ever make gravity go away. i cant really explain it any further. if that doesnt make sense try google.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • Answer

      @booboo

      It isn't anybody's fault that you can not deal with the vast amount of data that you have to apply your hardest to understand – in science. You are merely complaining over the shear volume of science to understand it. So easy for fools to just creep at the bible for comfort.

      That is you. Looking out for the easiest route in life. Do nothing. Learn nothing. Just die with the false illusion of a eternal heaven.

      January 25, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Quotes are fun

      @booboo – ok, I'll go with 'it conflicts with my mythology' then.

      They are very much in the same class. It's the same model (the scientific method) that is the basis for both. I would actually say that evolution is a much more sound model since we can understand many of the underlying processes (e.g. gene mutation – here's a clue for you, since you need one: evolution is based on more than just fossil records) whereas we have a bunch of very disparate theories that try to explain how gravity works while essentially not understanding the 'mechanics' (if one could call it that) of gravity at all. While Darwin, being as that he didn't have all the facts, certainly got some things wrong, we see that Newton's models completely break down in certain conditions.

      I know you want the two theories to be fundamentally different, but that doesn't make it so

      January 25, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • svann

      The problem some have with calling evolution a true science is that it is not predictive. With gravity you have an equation that will predict how fast something falls. You can then test the science by timing a falling object. With evolution there is no way to test it. All you can do is see if it matches all evidence. Im not saying evolution is wrong. Just trying to clarify.

      January 25, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • Quotes are fun

      "With gravity you have an equation that will predict how fast something falls."

      Only in certain circu.mstances. Newton, like Darwin, was limited by the knowledge he had at the time. That's my point. Those equations (whatever equations you have, Newton's, Einstein's – doesn't matter) only work in a limited setting. What theory we have is very flawed, and we know it. But you don't see people going around and saying gravity isn't real. As with gravity, evolution is a phenomenon that is measurable and predictable. As with certain theories of gravity, not everything is measurable, however. This is a limitation in measurement, though, not in the theory.

      January 25, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • svann

      Evolution is NOT predictable. There has been not a single case where a prediction was made then seen to come true. Thats the point. The best you can say is there is no historic evidence that does not match it.

      January 25, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • Ironicus

      svann, you are so clueless I can't help but regret that I already gave away today's FuckTard Award.

      Every dog breeder knows evolution is not only true, but can be manipulated to produce special dog breeds.
      And you are proof that religious idiots can breed more stupid people. You prove yourself wrong by your very existence.

      January 25, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • HellBent

      @svann,

      You're confusing predictable with deterministic. Lots of very valid physics is based upon non-deterministic laws. It's what quantum mechanics is all about. This does not invalidate any theory. Try Again.

      January 26, 2012 at 1:46 am |
  13. Clueless in Cleveland

    “Evolutionism is a fairy tale for grown-ups. This theory has helped nothing in the progress of science. It is useless.” Louis Bounoure

    January 25, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Colin

      Clueless, to get a gauge of just how inane the belief in Adam and Eve is in the 21st Century, here are some areas fundamentalists must ignore, any one of which proves beyond rational argument that, not surprisingly, the World did not start about 6,000 years ago at the behest of the Judeo-Christian god, with one man, one woman and a talking snake.

      First and most obviously is the fossil record. The fossil record is much, much more than just dinosaurs. Indeed, dinosaurs only get the press because of their size, but they make up less than 1% of the entire fossil record. Life had been evolving on Earth for over 3 thousand million years before dinosaurs evolved and has gone on evolving for 65 million years after the Chicxulub meteor wiped them out.

      The fossil record includes the Stromatolites, colonies of prokaryotic bacteria, that range in age going back to about 3 billion years, the Ediacara fossils from South Australia, widely regarded as among the earliest multi-celled organisms, the Cambrian species of the Burgess shale in Canada (circa – 450 million years) the giant scorpions of the Silurian Period, the giant, wingless insects of the Devonian period, the insects, amphibians, reptiles; fishes, clams, crustaceans of the Carboniferous Period, the many precursors to the dinosaurs, the dinosaurs themselves, the subsequent dominant mammals, including the saber tooth tiger, the mammoths of North America and Asia, the fossils of early man in Africa and the Neanderthals of Europe.

      The fossil record shows a consistent and worldwide evolution of life on Earth dating back to about 3,500,000,000 years ago. There are literally millions of fossils that have been recovered, of thousands of different species and they are all located where they would be in the geological record if life evolved slowly over billions of years. None of them can be explained by a 6,000 year old Earth and Noah’s flood. Were they all on the ark? What happened to them when it docked?

      A Tyrannosaurus Rex ate a lot of food – meat- which means its food would itself have to have been fed, like the food of every other carnivore on the ark. A bit of “back of the envelope” math quickly shows that “Noah’s Ark” would actually have to have been an armada of ships bigger than the D Day invasion force, manned by thousands and thousands of people – and this is without including the World’s 300,000 current species of plants, none of which could walk merrily in twos onto the Ark.

      Secondly, there are those little things we call oil, natural gas and other fossil fuels. Their mere existence is another, independent and fatal blow to the creationists. Speak to any geologist who works for Exxon Mobil, Shell or any of the thousands of mining, oil or natural gas related companies that make a living finding fossil fuels. They will tell you these fossil fuels take millions of years to develop from the remains of large forests (in the case of coal) or tiny marine creatures (in the case of oil). That’s why they are called fossil fuels. Have a close look at coal, you can often see the fossilized leaves in it. The geologists know exactly what rocks to look for fossil fuels in, because they know how to date the rocks to millions of years ago. Creationists have no credible explanation for this (nor for why most of it was “given to the Muslims”).

      Thirdly, most of astronomy and cosmology would be wrong if the creationists were right. In short, as Einstein showed, light travels at a set speed. Space is so large that light from distant stars takes many years to reach the Earth. In some cases, this is millions or billions of years. The fact that we can see light from such far away stars means it began its journey billions of years ago. The Universe must be billions of years old. We can currently see galaxies whose light left home 13.7 billion years ago. Indeed, on a clear night, one can see many stars more than 6,000 light years away with the naked eye, shining down like tiny silent witnesses against the nonsense of creationism.

      Fourthly, we have not just carbon dating, but also all other methods used by scientists to date wood, rocks, fossils, and other artifacts. These comprehensively disprove the Bible’s claims. They include uranium-lead dating, potassium-argon dating as well as other non-radioactive methods such as pollen dating, dendrochronology and ice core dating. In order for any particular rock, fossil or other artifact to be aged, generally two or more samples are dated independently by two or more laboratories in order to ensure an accurate result. If results were random, as creationists claim, the two independent results would rarely agree. They generally do. They regularly reveal ages much older than Genesis. Indeed, the Earth is about 750,000 times older than the Bible claims.

      Fifthly, the relatively new field of DNA mapping not only convicts criminals, it shows in undeniable, full detail how we differ from other life forms on the planet. For example, about 98.4% of human DNA is identical to that of chimpanzees, about 97% of human DNA is identical to that of gorillas, and slightly less again of human DNA is identical to the DNA of monkeys. This gradual divergence in DNA can only be rationally explained by the two species diverging from a common ancestor, and coincides perfectly with the fossil record. Indeed, scientists can use the percentage of DNA that two animal share (such as humans and bears, or domestic dogs and wolves) to get an idea of how long ago the last common ancestor of both species lived. It perfectly corroborates the fossil record and is completely independently developed. It acts as yet another fatal blow to the “talking snake” theory.

      Sixthly, the entire field of historical linguistics would have to be rewritten to accommodate the Bible. This discipline studies how languages develop and diverge over time. For example, Spanish and Italian are very similar and have a recent common “ancestor” language, Latin, as most people know. However, Russian is quite different and therefore either did not share a common root, or branched off much earlier in time. No respected linguist anywhere in the World traces languages back to the Tower of Babel, the creationists’ explanation for different languages. Indeed, American Indians, Australian Aboriginals, “true” Indians, Chinese, Mongols, Ja.panese, Sub-Saharan Africans and the Celts and other tribes of ancient Europe were speaking thousands of different languages thousands of years before the date creationist say the Tower of Babel occurred – and even well before the date they claim for the Garden of Eden.

      Seventhly, lactose intolerance is also a clear vestige of human evolution. Most mammals only consume milk as infants. After infancy, they no longer produce the enzyme “lactase” that digests the lactose in milk and so become lactose intolerant. Humans are an exception and can drink milk as adults – but not all humans – some humans remain lactose intolerant. So which humans are no longer lactose intolerant? The answer is those who evolved over the past few thousand years raising cows. They evolved slightly to keep producing lactase as adults so as to allow the consumption of milk as adults. This includes most Europeans and some Africans, notably the Tutsi of Rwanda. On the other hand, most Chinese, native Americans and Aboriginal Australians, whose ancestors did not raise cattle, remain lactose intolerant.

      I could go on and elaborate on a number of other disciplines or facts that creationists have to pretend into oblivion to retain their faith, including the Ice Ages, cavemen and early hominids, much of microbiology, paleontology and archeology, continental drift and plate tectonics, even large parts of medical research (medical research on monkeys and mice only works because they share a common ancestor with us and therefore our fundamental cell biology and basic body architecture is identical to theirs).

      In short, and not surprisingly, the World’s most gifted evolutionary biologists, astronomers, cosmologists, geologists, archeologists, paleontologists, historians, modern medical researchers and linguists (and about 2,000 years of accu.mulated knowledge) are right and a handful of Iron Age Middle Eastern goat herders were wrong.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • yeahalright

      I can barely type through the irony and hypocrisy in this statement.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • Quotes are fun

      If you don't think evolution has any scientific benefit, then please don't get a flu shot or use anti-biotics.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • George

      The "fossil record" is just a mish-mash of sediment that means nothing. Everything was mixed up in the Great Flood.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Answer

      @George

      Laughable .. you said "Great flood". What are you a creationist? lol

      January 25, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • S'truth

      There's an idea at the intersection of thermodynamics and cosmology that the entire universe could, at some very low probability, come into being in an instant with exactly the properties it has now. Momentum and direction for every particle just as it is now. The fossil record, your memories of everything anyone ever said to you about Darwin, everything that ever happened to you period – all in an instant. It would be a real laugh if that is what actually happened just now – the ultimate joke on theists and non-theists alike.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • svann

      1. The bible does not say that all mankind descended from Adam and Eve. There were other humans in the earth at that time.
      2. @quotes are fun: flu-shots and antibiotics are not developed from evolutionary science – they are biology.
      3. Gregor Mendell, the father of biology, was a christian monk.

      January 25, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • yeahalright

      So Svann...why do we need new flu shots every year? Why do many viruses eventually beat the antibiotics?

      Because the flu and viruses...wait for it...EVOLVE

      January 25, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • Ironicus

      svann is really stupid. I just had to say that. It's like "god" was making me say that. Wow.

      January 25, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
  14. Colin

    Ten Ways You Know you are an Atheist.

    1. You were likely brought up a theist (probably a Christian if you live in the USA) and had to do your own thinking to rise above the beliefs that still occupy the mind of the believer. This usually involved being smart and working hard at school and college so as to get a good, accurate view of the natural Universe and overcoming significant social pressure to dumb yourself down and conform. In short, you had the guts to ask the hard questions and the brains to spot the weak answers. The more you came to understand the Universe, the less reason there was to believe in a god and the more you came to appreciate human nature, the more you understood why billions of us still do.

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

    3. You know a great deal more about the Bible than most believers. This is because you took the time to read it yourself and did not rely on the primary-color simple stories you learned in Sunday school. You have also probably done some research into the historical Jesus and have a good handle on where he REALLY fit in to the broader picture of the Middle East at the time. Needless to say, his miracles and other magic powers soon started to look pretty unlikely.

    4. Your knowledge of basic science and history is much stronger than that of your average believer. You likely have a basic working knowledge of physics, astronomy, evolutionary biology and cosmology and a good idea of the history of life on this planet. This acc.umulated knowledge puts you in a position to judge the claims of the Bible in a critical light and they are almost always found wanting. To the theist, this makes you “elitist” and ‘arrogant”.

    5. You relish your role as a religious minority in the USA, as this gives you an impetus to fight and you understand how others with unpopular, but doubtlessly correct views have felt throughout history. There is something altogether satisfying to you about having a deep conviction you are right and being viewed with disdain for your views by the errant majority. You feel a quiet confidence that future generations will look back on you as a member of a class of trailblazers, as religious supersti.tions go into inevitable decline in popularity.

    6. You are likely more environmentally aware than your theist friends and colleagues and unlikely to fall for claims of industry and wind-bag politicians concerning the impact of man’s activities on the environment. You could no more act in an environmentally irresponsible manner because “god will keep us safe” than you could jump off a ship, believing King Neptune will keep you safe.

    7. You generally have a live and let live atti.tude, but will fiercely defend any attempts by theists to thrust their views on you or your children, directly or through control of school boards, the legislature or the executive. While you are prepared to debate and argue passionately with the theist on an intellectual level, you would never wish them harm or ill will. You know you are likely to be smugly told you will “burn in hell for all eternity” for your healthy skepticism. This highlights what you despise about religion, as you would not wish a bad sunburn on another, simply because they have a different religious view to you. You have never heard of an evolutionary biologist strapping a bomb to himself and running into a church yelling “Darwin-u akbar, Darwin-u akbar”.

    8. You likely know more about other religions than your average theist. This makes you less fearful of them and enables you to see parallels. You realize that, if you were born in India, you would have been brought up with a totally different religion. You realize that every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. They cannot all exist and you see the error all faiths make of thinking only theirs exist(s). This “rising above” the regional nature of all religions was probably instrumental in your achieving atheism.

    9. You likely have a deep, genuine appreciation of the fathomless beauty and unbelievable complexity of our Universe, from the 4 nucleotides that orchestrate every aspect of you, through to the distant quasars, without having to think it was all made for you. You likely get more out of being the irrelevant ant staring up at the cosmos than you do in having to pretend that it was all made to turn in majestic black-and-white pirouette about you.

    10. While you have a survival instinct, you cannot fear death in the way the theist does. You know that the whole final judgment story, where you may be sent to hell if you fail, is Dark Ages nonsense meant to keep the Church’s authority. You also know that you were dead for 13,700,000,000 years before you were born. It is impossible for you to fear death, for the simple reason that you know the capacity to fear (or to feel pain or discomfort) itself dies. You will not even know you are dead. Fear of death is as meaningless to you as is the fear of a vacuum, the fear of not being born. You feel a lot more secure, and indeed a deep comfort, in this knowledge, than you would in trying to yoke yourself to some quasi-hope from Bronze Age Palestine that every part of your intellect tells you is untenable.

    January 25, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • booboo

      you forgot one: "if you are just as religious and zealous over pushing your message down other peoples throats, as the religious majority.. then you are an athiest"

      January 25, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Mitch

      11. You're smug, arrogant, intolerant, and just as fundamentalist in your beliefs.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Answer

      @booboo

      You've forgiven for ignoring the truth. 🙂 Seek atheism for truth.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • Colin

      Mitch, I covered (your perception of) that. See point 4.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Crisp

      @booboo

      Hahahah that is soooo true. Spot on!

      January 25, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • senoy

      Being more knowledgeable about something does not make one arrogant. Making a ten point statement informing everyone that you are more knowledgeable and better able to judge truth claims and more appreciative of beauty and more caring of the environment, going to be looked to by future generations as some sort of trailblazer, etc. etc. does. Of course, I am merely one of the unwashed masses, so I'm sure that you had already figured this out.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  15. Christopher Hitchens Is a Goner

    Poor bloke, what a meaningless life he lived. No wonder he drank and smoked so much. I'll take a p00 right on the guy.

    hahahahaha.

    January 25, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Answer

      What you wanted to say was "In real life I didn't have the courage to even challenge another man, so rather after the fact of his death.. I will now take the coward's route and insult him."

      January 25, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Answer

      I just love the religious coward's set of highly instilled morals. Don't you?

      January 25, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Colin

      100% of every person who has ever lived or will ever live will have one thing in common. They have or will all die. Grasping onto Bronze Age Palestinean mythology and unilaterlly declaring that some hokey sky-fairy will make you live forever won't help. You will die too. Get over it.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Eliot

      Colin: HURRY UP PLEASE IT"S TIME

      January 25, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • urafkntool

      Christopher Hitchens: "God doesn't exist!"

      God: "Christopher Hitchens doesn't exist" (hitchens dies.)

      lol nice sense of humor the Eternal Guy has there, huh?

      January 25, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • S'truth

      I'll believe he's gone when I can gnaw his skull with my very own teeth.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  16. Atheism = Delusion Due to Selfishness & Pride

    Yup.

    January 25, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Answer

      You got your foot stuck in your mouth?

      January 25, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • HellBent

      Right, atheistic pride. Because it's very humble to as.sume that the creator of the universe has daily personal conversations with you.

      And it's so very deluded to base one's outlook on actual verifiable evidence.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • booboo

      cant prove god doesnt exist. works on both sides of the coin.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Answer

      @booboo

      The old adage once again of whoever has a claim of the positive has to provide the proof. Your kind can never understand the basic logic of life.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • yeahalright

      booboo, you're the one making the incredible claim. The burden of proof is on you.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • booboo

      i never made any claims.. what are you talking about?

      January 25, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • yeahalright

      The claim that god exists...you are correct, you did not actually state that. I inferred it from your statement. My apologies if I lumped you in with people who can't tell fiction from reality.

      The point still stands though. There are gnomes in my back yard. Prove there aren't.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Ironicus

      booboo's claims: cant prove god doesnt exist. works on both sides of the coin.

      Two unsupported claims right there. (just shoving my way in here)

      January 25, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • booboo

      guess prejudices and assumptions happen whether you are religious or not. if you were wrong about me couldnt you be wrong about, say, some OTHER things?

      January 25, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • yeahalright

      And I admitted assumption was wrong. You dodged the point.

      January 25, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • Ironicus

      booboo, we CAN prove any "god" to be utter bullshlt. I've done it many times.
      And ignorance only works on the religious side of the "coin"...it doesn't work on the atheist side because we use facts, not ignorance, to support our position.

      Could you make more mistakes? I'm getting bored here...

      January 25, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  17. Colin

    Step 1. Choose a random positive personality trait.
    Step 2. Unilaterally decide that Jesus had it.
    Step 3. Scour the bible to find support.

    I have seen this done over and over to the point of being nauseating. I would like to see one on why Jesus was a n'eer-do-well or a thief or violent. There's just as much in the Bible to support any such view. Positive traits about the Christian sky-fairy are accepted uncritically and with perception-warping glee. Negative comments are discounted or regarded as taboo. It's all complete BS. We know virtually nothing about the guy.

    January 25, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Bless Your Heart

      Someone needs to research history and not listen to often repeated mumbo jumbo.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Colin

      BYH – don't just make blanket accusations and not back them up. What did I get wrong?

      January 25, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Christopher Hitchens Is a Goner

      http://www.provethebible.net/T2-Divin/D-0201.htm

      that would be a start about "we know virtually nothing," I doubt you'll read the whole article though. If you actually want truth then I'd suggest you try and do as much research on your own, not turn to anybody on a comments blog, for that would be rather ignorant and an unintelligent thing to do 😦

      January 25, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      @Bless your Heart – YOU certainly seem to need to do just that.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • Answer

      Pleading and begging for others to read a crappy ancient and out dated pile of manure. How very quaint.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • booboo

      hey, at least you acknowledge he existed. its embarrasing hearing people deny he even existed just to prove they are real athiests..

      January 25, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • fred

      Colin
      Step 1: Jesus I admit that I am a sinner
      Step 2: Jesus please help me.
      Setp 3: Go back to step 1, this time say it with a broken and contrite heart
      Setp 4: Now go read the same Bible you disrespect and see how different it looks

      January 25, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Wow

      "Go back to step 1, this time say it with a broken and contrite heart"

      Yeah that's the only way you can believe in a non-existent God, you allowed your life to become crap. No wonder Christians are so fuked up mentally.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • fred

      Colin
      Step 5: Get a freind put on a white shirts and ties, ride your bikes over to WOW he need to hear the truth fast

      January 25, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Answer

      @fred

      Your kind are always so pathetic.. not believing that everyone can live a just and better life without your fictional god.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Ironicus

      Hey booboo, Jesus probably never existed and there is no proof that he did. And if he did he was a fucktard.

      January 25, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  18. Christopher Hitchens Is a Goner

    Chris ya there ole buddy ole pal? Where ya at chris?

    Oh that's right, you drank and smoked yourself stupid, awwwwwwwwwwww

    January 25, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      What a cute little troll!

      January 25, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      YAY! Can't believe it took me 18 months to irritate someone to the point that they'd steal my handle!

      January 25, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Answer

      You poor religious fools don't even know if Christopher ended up in heaven instead of your lot.
      So can your kind give a definite answer as to where Christopher did go after his death?

      I can guess your kind's reply. The vast hollow words you'll be spewing of hell backed up by pure rage. 🙂
      It looks good on you with all that hate.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Christopher Hitchens Is a Goner

      @answer – What ya talking about ya old scallywag? Me thinks you think im someone im not. Cant a guy make fun of u along w religion? Youre dumber than a bag of bricks ya little SHlTHEAD!!!!

      GO EAT A DlCK BROOOOOOOOOOOOO. GET AT ME BROOOOOOOOOO

      January 25, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • πολεμικός

      Christopher Hitchens had himself waterboarded. I like to remember him that way.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Answer

      @Goner

      You can try 🙂 You can fail all day long.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • fred

      SeanNJ
      Answer
      The good is that you are still here with me! Hope springs eternal.
      Now rather than be unsure or rely on faith that we achieve the ultimate point in reincarnation that is nothingness upon death, let's become God fearing people today.
      Thank you Chris for encouraging Answer and SeanNJ to reevaluate their belief in that nothing happens in the afterlife.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • Answer

      @fred

      Still dou – che – ing with a bible? That's a good little moron. 🙂

      January 25, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • fred

      Answer
      I would give you moron that but I am trying to limit your intake of Good News

      January 25, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Answer

      @fred

      Always laughable. Good news on being a retard? That's something.

      January 25, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  19. He's the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IAhDGYlpqY&w=640&h=390]

    January 25, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  20. SeanNJ

    Five evangelicals in a pickup truck swerve off a cliff into a lake. The two in the cab survive, but the three in the back drowned.

    Why?

    January 25, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      They couldn't get the tailgate open.

      January 25, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Marilynn

      Not only was that one of the dumbest jokes i ever heard (i actually felt embarrased for you) but you replied to yourself which takes a few more points off. You guys should stick to telling fart jokes in class

      January 25, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      It used to be a Polish joke. I just swapped "Polack" for "Evangelical."

      I agree. I've done better.

      January 25, 2012 at 3:59 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.