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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. George

    Atheists continue to extoll their virtues on this belief blog and put down people of faith. Let me tell you how Christians see atheists. We see atheists as people who are completely lost and lacking in morals. We see that atheists want to put the theory of evolution and the big bang theory in our schools even though they are mere theories that fly in the face of reality and Biblical truth. We see atheists as wanting to turn this into a completely secular country and remove all religion. And we see atheists bringing God's disfavor on our beloved America.

    January 25, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      And yet all of this is merely the opinion of an organization.

      January 25, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • George

      Also we see atheists as arrogant because they think that they know more than thousands of years of scholars who studied these matters. And the atheists on this belief blog are rude and crude, thus displaying their lack of morals.

      January 25, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • Colin

      Why is it so many people link morality with a belief in the supernatural? I accept that George and Fred are essentially simpletons, but a lot of otherwise thinking people hold the same view. I have never understood it.

      January 25, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • George

      Colin right on cue begins name-calling thus proving my point.

      January 25, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      Moral recti-tude is COMPLETELY independent of belief in an imaginary sky fairy. The Native Americans had morals before EVER being influenced by any brand of Judeo-Christo-Fasci-sm, for example. Morals are a learned trait, based on life experiences. For example a child is not born knowing that s/he shouldn't be rude to another person (especially if that other person is bigger) because the likely outcome is that the other person will beat the $h|+ out of the rude child. If the obtuse child continues being rude, the violence will tend to escalate. One can then extrapolate the idea that murder or even war could ensue following such offensive behavior toward others. Voila, a moral lesson learned, and without one reference to an imaginary "god." Grow up, dolt!

      January 25, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • The Phist

      Irrational George,

      If you have any balls, please go here:

      http://ebonmusings.org/atheism/index.html

      I bet you won't do it. I bet you won't read any of it. That site destroys the bible. You know how? By quoting the bible. Pretty sad actually. Even more sad is that you actually believe in the bible even though it's been proven to be false. We don't need biblical stupidity to be moral, George. All we need is common sense. You know what I do? I live life. I'm married, I go to work, and I occasionally spend time with friends and family. I like to go hiking, and I love photography. I also play guitar, and I enjoy modifying one of my cars.

      So, please tell me, where am I being immoral? And why do I need some arab guy to die for my "sins?" What sins am I committing? Please, tell me why I need jesus in my life so bad.

      January 25, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • George

      Ok, Colin, I will answer your question with a question that I hope will help you see the answer to your question:

      What is the source of your morality?

      January 25, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      And in typical fashion George does not answer me directly. All those thoughts you posted are merely the opinions of those who feel they have some type of "right" to tell others how they should live. How is this any different than the "arrogance" you so readily attribute to only atheists?

      January 25, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • The Phist

      George, what "scholars?" Please, tell me what scholar has proven that the bible is the one and only book of god and that because of the bible, we suddenly can say without doubt that jesus is god and that god exists.

      January 25, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • George

      @The Phist

      I don't read atheistic propaganda.

      January 25, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • Inconvenient George

      Please give us a few names..."thousands of years of scholars who have studies these things".
      Be sure to include the Flat Earthers, and the scholars who were discussing the Big Bang in the year 1356.

      January 25, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • EH

      Native Americans, across tribes and federations, had their own religious traditions, creation stories, good-evil conflict stories, and understandings of an over-arching God. Part of their frustration with invading whites was that they claimed to understand an overarching God, yet didn't act like they understood his nature. Remarkably, if you look at their stories of faith and those around the world, you see some striking similarities. Stories of floods and extinction events are pretty widely spread. So, be an atheist if you want, but don't deploy other peoples and civilizations as exoticized proxy groups for what you believe. People can be of faith and still be cruel and crass and hypocritical and imperialist. That is just the nature of humans. That does not mean that they cannot also believe in a faith tradition and fail terribly at living out its precepts.

      January 25, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      George W. Dolt: I've given you your answer. Morals come from living life. One day in your adult life you realized...."Oh, if I expect others to treat me well, then I guess I had better treat them well in the first place....because every action causes an equal and opposite reaction.....and what comes around goes around...." It is intuitive and does not require ludicrous belief in an imaginary sky fairy (which you only believe in because you have been spo-on-fed that crap since you were born and humans are just too d@mn SUGGESTIBLE most of the time....which is why advertising works, by the way).

      January 25, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • George

      @The Phist

      For thousands of years people have been studying the Bible. First, Jewish scolars then Christian scholars. In fact, most of what came to be universities were founded in Europe by the Church. Even Harvard and Yale began as religious schools. And yet atheists think they know more than all of these learned men.

      January 25, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
    • Colin

      George, to answer your question, becuase, we feel it is inherently wrong to cause harm to others. We don't need the threat of punishment nor the promise of reward, we just act morally because it is part of our nature. I obviously speak very generally, but you asked a general question.

      January 25, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      You really are a coward when it comes to responding to certain things aren't you George. Seems if you can't immediately think of something that you just ignore that part of the post. Shows how cowardly you are, and how little you think for yourself.

      January 25, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      George: So what about how (or even WHETHER Harvard/Yale) started out a long time ago? You realize that "witches" were tried and executed in Salem, MA in the 1690's? Witches are not real (like your "god"). Nowadays people know better (except maybe you).

      January 25, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • The Phist

      Didn't think you had the balls to read it, George. Figures.

      As for your claims of scholarly proof, give me a name of someone that has proven that the bible is in fact from god and that god exists, and that jesus is god. Name. Now.

      January 25, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • George

      @ReligionIs4Dolts

      So we should excuse child molesters who were themselves molested because their morals came from living life? Should we excuse hom.os.exuals because their morals came from living life? Everyone's life experience is different. You can't base a morality on it.

      January 25, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • Colin

      George, your average well educated 10th grader knows more than "these learned men" simply becuase they are the beneficiaries of hundreds or thousands of years of ac.umulated knowledge. Move on George, give up the Iron Age mythology and join the 21st Century

      January 25, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • George

      @HawaiiGuest

      You see, you have no right to demand that I answer your questions any more than I have a right to demand that you answer my questions. You think that bullying me will get me to answer you, but I don't respond well to being coerced.

      January 25, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • The Phist

      George, name that scholar already.

      Busy avoiding questions?

      Say George, were you aware that many scholars have found glaring contradictions all over the bible? This is an actual fact, unlike your ridiculous claim.

      : D

      I like facts!

      January 25, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • George

      @Colin

      How much do they pay atheists to work "Iron Age" or "Bronze Age" or "mythology" into your posts? You're just spouting atheistic propaganda.

      January 25, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      Morals aren't absolute. Murder is not 100% wrong (self defense is one example). Also morals are merely SUBJECTIVE. You think h0mose-xuality is wrong (because of your brainwashing) but how do you know it isn't Nature's birth control mechanism? I don't perceive it as necessarily wrong even though I am unequivocally hetero. To each his/her own as long as it doesn't hurt someone else (which addresses your child molester example).

      January 25, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      George: Propaganda? What do you call the crap you're spouting? Mind control, idiot!

      January 25, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • George

      Talk about me avoiding. No one has responded (except perhaps Colin) to the main points of my post. Typical. Atheists always try to derail and distract believers.

      January 25, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • Colin

      Really George. And in what historical period, do you think the Jewish and Christian mythology developed? The Middle Ages? Yahwey/Jehova/God goes back to about 500 BC (late Bronze, early Iron Age in Palestine) and the Jesus myth arose around 50 AD (Iron Age).

      January 25, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @George
      You asked me no questions, you merely ignored the question i posed. Either way I have work soon so I'll repost it for your benefit

      All those thoughts you posted are merely the opinions of those who feel they have some type of "right" to tell others how they should live. How is this any different than the "arrogance" you so readily attribute to only atheists?

      January 25, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      George I answered your moral questions. How can you say that people don't address the topics in your original post?

      January 25, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
    • The Phist

      George, have you ever read the bible? You'd be amazed at how many contradictions are in it.

      January 25, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
    • The Phist

      George, I addressed your original post, and I asked a question in that address. You chose to ignore it, as you do everything else : D

      You're such a predictable christian hypocrite : )

      January 25, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      And to expound on what Colin just said about when the Jewish folklore was finally written down....George, please look up Gilgamesh and note that the earliest version of the "Great Flood" were written down in 2150 B.C. by Babylonians! Now you still believe the Jewish version that wasn't written down until at least 1000-1500 years LATER?

      January 25, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • The Phist

      George, keep avoiding.

      January 25, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
    • George

      @ReligionIs4Dolts

      Yeah, right, as long as it hurts no one else. So I guess that we should get rid of all the laws against drug use in one's own home, against for.nication, etc.? What you suggest is no morality at all.

      January 25, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
    • George

      @The Phist

      Yes, I read the Bible at least twice. It is the most wonderful and awsome book in all of history.

      January 25, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      George: "I don't respond well to being coerced."

      How do you think people feel who don't believe the same fairy tales you do? In a country where historically your ilk have been dominant for so long, but in which nowadays people are becoming more and more diverse (whether they believe in ANOTHER "god" or in NO fairy tale whatsoever).

      January 25, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
    • George

      @The PHist

      You asked what scholars. You're not honestly trying to say that the Bible was not studied for centuries, are you? Try Martin Luther for one.

      January 25, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      George: What do you have to complain about if someone wants to bang a warm apple pie in the privacy of his own home? It doesn't hurt you....you don't have to know anything about it.....so S T F U!

      January 25, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      George: Also drug use by others is none of your business. It, like private s&xual practices, has NO EFFECT on you...does not HURT you.....so again.....S T F U!

      January 25, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      George: Also funny that you would mention DRUGS....Alcohol is a DRUG.....Jesus is said to have made WINE......HYPOCRITE!

      January 25, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • The Phist

      George, you still missed it. Keep reading. Look for the post that I made that addressed your original comments.

      By the way, Martin Luther didn't prove that god exists, nor did he prove that the bible actually came from god. In fact, all he did was make false claims, translate and rant about how Jews' homes and temples should be destroyed and how they should have all their money taken away. Sounds like a loving christian to me.

      January 25, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
  2. TG

    When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the fall of 29 C.E., he was deeply aware that upon his shoulders rested the responsibility for the ransom for all obedient mankind. Jesus told his apostles, that "just as the Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.”(Matt 20:28) Thus, he set the pattern of showing humility in ministering to others and being sinless in providing the ransom, corresponding equally to the perfect man Adam before his rebellion in the Garden of Eden.(1 Tim 2:5)

    When Peter suggested that Jesus "be kind to yourself " regarding his approaching ignominious death on a torture stake, Jesus immediately responded: "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, because you think, not God’s thoughts, but those of men.”(Matt 16:22, 23) Jesus realized the need to not allow a casual look on life or it be funny, but was seriously focused on doing his Father's will, dying upon a torture stake as a condemned criminal.(Deut 21:22, 23)

    For 3 1/2 years, Jesus was entirely focused on completing his assigned task of being a ransom for mankind, as well as establishing the Christian congregation before his death. On the night before his death, Jesus said in prayer to his Father: "I have glorified you on the earth, having finished the work you have given me to do."(John 17:4)

    In fact, so intense was his desire to not fail in fulfilling the work assigned to him by his Father, Jehovah God, that when praying to him, the physician Luke records that "getting into an agony he continued praying more earnestly; and his sweat became as drops of blood falling to the ground."(Luke 22:44)

    Jesus knew that his failure to maintain his loyalty to God, with Satan wanting him to fail, would cost mankind the only hope of breaking free from sin and death. His prayer was so intense to keep his integrity, that he perhaps sweated blood, which is extremely rare. This was a most serious time and he knew it. No time for laughter or humor, for as Ecclesiastes 3:4 says that there is "a time to weep and a time to laugh."

    January 25, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Sean

      Well stated, his purpose and mission was to save mankind. This mission was critical, to take this light is blasphemous.

      January 25, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • Also,

      Sauron tried to destroy the Shire, but Gandalf and the hobbits foiled his mischievous schemes.

      January 25, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • Inconvenient George

      Those words were "placed in his mouth" by the editors, and appear in ONLY one version. The salvation paradigm was invented by Paul. It would not have been necessary if the angry "god of the armies", (Yahweh Sabaoth), was not a complete grudge-holding jerk.

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

      January 25, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
  3. Barrington

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

    January 25, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
  4. ReligionIs4Dolts

    "Atheism is not healthy" never explains what other "living things" even care whether or not there is an invisible "god".

    January 25, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  5. ReligionIs4Dolts

    Notice how "Atheism is not healthy" never responds but merely keeps on saying the exact same BS! This is a computer program.

    January 25, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
  6. ReligionIs4Dolts

    "Atheism is not healthy" is a BOT programmed to spam all CNN religion blogs with the same old crap!

    January 25, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
  7. André

    God is imaginary.

    January 25, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
  8. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things
    Heaven is all joy
    Laughter is the language of joy
    Life is full in Christ
    Prayer changes things

    January 25, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • thatrix

      Atheism is enlightenment that religious fanatics will never know.
      I have a true understanding of existence. You rely on a bedtime story.
      The bible and all other so called "holy" books were created by man.... how arrogant.

      January 25, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • thatrix

      I forgot to mention.. I have a few pet rabbits. They're all atheists and doing just fine.

      January 25, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
  9. toadears

    Jesuit huh? Probably really yucking it up while sticking it to little boys and pillaging treasuries in under developed countries.

    January 25, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
  10. J

    Just wait. In 2,000 years or so, once Rastafarianism has become the major world religion, people will forget that Bob Marley was a pretty cool dude.

    January 25, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      Not likely with the affluence of recorded music that proves his Coolness!

      January 25, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
  11. Bo

    Of course Jesus had a sense of humor, only a boring critical person lacking any good reason would think other wise. Remember, Matthew, Mark and Luke all record that the little kids wanted to see Jesus and His disciples tried to shoo them off, but Jesus rebuked them and said to let the little kids to come to Him. Little kids don’t like grumpy ‘ole men, they like someone who is cheerful, especial someone who can make them laugh. Jesus’ humor isn’t recorded in the Bible any more than humor is recorded in a history book or a book of wisdom or newspaper. John said in the last verse of his gospel that if everything about Jesus were recorded it would fill a lot of books. For instance: the sermon on the mount, the people were there all day long, yet we only have a little of what Jesus said, the same with His conversation with Nicodemus and the woman at the well and others, we only have the high lights of what was said.
    What I wonder is: did Jesus ever stub His toe or get a sliver in His finger or hand while doing carpentry work? The Bible doesn’t record these sort of things.

    January 25, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • The Phist

      Oh yes, he loved kids. What the bible doesn't tell you is that jesus asked to be left alone with the children. Those activities were not allowed into the bible by the vatican. Let's just say all those kids walked out of there, but real funny-like, and catholic priests have written testimony that authorizes them to partake in playground fun.

      January 25, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • @Bo

      "of course Jesus had a sense of humor"
      You gave zero evidence of this, and nothing we know of him indicates this. AT ALL. In other words, sorry, but no.

      January 25, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
  12. longtooth

    It was the men who interpreted and recorded his words that were humorless. I don't think Jeseus was the only son of God, but I do think he was a great man, one of the greatest of all time. Just look at how seriously all the men of all religions take themselves. The universe is full of joy, and powered by love.

    January 25, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
  13. AreAtheistReasonable?

    Without getting theological, I am just curious of how Atheist people claim to be so "rational" yet, as a computer programmer, I would be thought daft if I purposed that I found a computer program that designed itself. And even if a program had designed itself, wouldn't it be because it was designed to do that? Instead of saying "there is no proof of a creator" a better question is "do we have any verifiable proof of anything that exist without a creator?" To believe in non-creation means you either have to believe in infinite matter or randomity and possibly both. I can tell you from my own computer simulations that randomity only produces useful results when it is within certain controlled parameters. Therefore pure chaos style randomity is useless. Look at particle theory and you will realize this fact.

    January 25, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • no.

      no.

      January 25, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • catholic engineer

      How about a hypothetical dialog between some bioligists and a CNN interviewer:
      CNN: Mr.Biologist, we understand you've created life in the lab.
      Bio: Artificial life, actually.
      CNN: How did you accomplish this?
      Bio: Well, under very precise conditions of temperature, pressure, light, and time, we gathered together some aminor acids, proteins, and so on. Then we applied some DNA for encoding. And the result was artifical life. It was a very daunting experiment requiring all of our patience.
      CNN: Why was it necessary to expend such effort in doing this?
      Bio: What? Did you think this stuff was just going to come together on its own and produce real life?

      January 25, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • The Maurey Povich Bible Show

      You don't know enough about either particle theory, or physics. Your question about the program is the teleological argument, which Quantum Physics, and Chaos Theory have debunked.

      January 25, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • ItIsSo

      Read a little Christopher Hitchens... specifically God is not Great pages 70-71.

      January 25, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • J

      @Cath.Eng.

      Actually, yeah, it probably would. It might no't come together exactly how he wanted (I'm guessing the artificial life was part of some greater experiment) and it might have taken a few billion years... but it would have happened eventually.

      January 25, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • gorn by any other name

      First we need to be clear about the issue at hand. Generally speaking, atheists do not believe in specific gods such as Yahweh or Jesus, the reason being that the evidence presented is demonstrably absurd. But, this is an entirely different issue from the question of why there is existence rather than non-existence. This is something that nobody can answer and is difficult to even elaborate given the context of our mental development (3D creatures whose frame of space reference is small and slow, and whose frame of time reference is short and finite). For example, perhaps there was no "beginning", but only a continuous infinite loop, just as there is no edge to the Earth. However for the sake of argument if you propose that the universe was created by a sentient being, then it must follow that this sentient being is/was even more complex than the thing it created, which only begs the question of who created the creator. As an atheist, I have no problem entertaining various concepts and hypotheses of creation, however as a rational being I must forcefully dismiss any specific proposal such as the one presented in the Bible because it is nonsense on its face. As a manmade construct, to believe in written scripture is to put your faith in man, not god.

      January 25, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • subtleobserver

      As a computer programmer myself, I recognize this very same question, and have come to be convinced that the Laws of Nature in this universe are like a giant operating system. It almost seems like an operating system with very specific rules, boundary conditions and so forth, almost as if it has been designed by a "programmer". Of course, since we are, ourselves, the subroutines within this computer program, how do we write a program that enables us to view the operating system "from the outside". Wouldn't that be fun... Anyway, I appreciate your point very much!

      January 25, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • The Phist

      Wait, wait............ wait.

      Who said any of this was designed? This is a common argument. People say that the Universe was created, therefore there must be a god. But we never said it was created. Creation implies a creator. Existence is merely existence.

      As for random outcomes, the Universe is billions of years old. A few years, give or take, than the average human lifespan. I do believe time itself has the advantage over a couple of years in a lab working on experiments. It's depressing to think that believers would actually argue that because a couple guys in lab coats have difficulty with something in a controlled environment over the course of a couple years, the Universe couldn't possibly have generated life over the course of billions of years.

      Let's be clear. The guys in lab coats are working in a controlled environment. Hint hint. The Universe isn't a controlled environment. Just a little nugget of perspective to chew on for a while. Don't break your jaw.

      January 25, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
    • DBLA

      You say:
      "To believe in non-creation means you either have to believe in infinite matter or randomity and possibly both. I can tell you from my own computer simulations that randomity only produces useful results when it is within certain controlled parameters."
      This argument only makes sense if your analogy assumes that we are "useful". We aren't. We are only "useful" as glitches capable of surviving the swinging variables in our environment. Once those parameters change we will go extinct and something else will be more "useful". By "useful", do you mean complex? I can build a variety of simulations with controlled earthlike parameters that yield "complex" results... such as crystals, fractals, etc. Unfortunately like most creationists you are begging the question that God exists by assuming that we are useful to his end.

      January 25, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Inconvenient George

      And aliens made the pyramids. Uh huh.

      January 25, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • TR6

      Typical Christian pseudo intellectual, your grasp of the obvious is remarkable. Yes all manmade objects like programs have been created however this does not apply to non manmade objects

      January 25, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • AreAtheistReasonable?

      I find it interesting that I tried to post a respectful question to atheist with my own viewpoint and I receive rude retorts such as "pseudo intellectual" as though your personal viewpoint is iron clad and undisputed. That would be akin to me calling you "another foolish heathen that will be firewood for the Divine one day" but I did not do that. And to the other that asked, I didnt mean there was evidence of man being "significant" in the sense of importance. I was referring to the concept of life vs no-life. And man is more than simple life, man is a life that has sapience. We take for granted all of this but I have yet to see proof that our environment is common in the grand scale of the cosmos.

      January 25, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • Inconvenient George

      Bonobo apes and dolphins have "sapience". An Aboriginal in Australia, coming upon a robot in the desert, would think it was "alive", and think it was made by a "god", because it appeared complex. Just because you can't instantly see how it happened, does not mean "god did it".

      January 25, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
  14. dan

    Did Dana Carvey join the priesthood and lose some hair?

    January 25, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  15. Fuyuko

    Why argue about something that can never be proven. Jesus didn't seem ovelry funny to me, if he was, he would've cast those money lenders out in a humorous way, and laughed at satan and his wiles.

    January 25, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
  16. Leucadia Bob

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9E3eY94Gu0k&w=640&h=390]

    January 25, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      Yeah! Newt's head is back and yummy!!

      January 25, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
  17. Katie K

    blah, blah, blah, blah. got any good stories about santa claus?

    January 25, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • Scott

      Why are atheists the most bitter people you will ever meet?

      January 25, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • J

      Atheists are just the extreme wing of agnosticism. Kinda like the Sarah Palin is to the Republican party, or suicide bombers to Islam.

      The fringes are generally less civilized that the rational thinkers in the middle.

      January 25, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • The Phist

      Why are believers so bent on converting everyone to irrational ideals and belief systems that are full of holes and in some cases blatantly wrong? Hmmmmmmm. Why do believers continue to believe in doctrines that have been proven false by their own writings? Hmmmmmmmm.

      Who says atheists are bitter? I know I'm not.

      January 25, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
  18. Dramatical

    Amazing that the talk of God still inspires arguments from all sides. Ergo, proof that all sides must at the very least postulate existence whether empirical or phenomenal. Language therefore offers, regardless of logic or reason, proof that God exists in an identifiable form. Belief or faith or the lack thereof does not dismiss the idea that ones linguistics and/or language creates the existence of God. Congrats to all sides for stating facts that God exists and therefore my possess humor.

    January 25, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • troll fail

      troll fail.

      January 25, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • Inconvenient George

      The moon is made of green cheese.

      January 25, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • Inconvenient George

      The moon is made of green cheese

      January 25, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
  19. Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

    Jesus had a sense of humor according to the Bible:

    Matt. 6:2,5,16
    Luke Mark 6:34 7:12+
    Luke 6:37 7:34 6:41 7:6 7:16 6:44 8:22 9:60 11:16-19 7:31-35 12:27 11:19 15:5
    Mark 7:9-13 15:14 15:26 7:27 16:18 16:23 8:33 18:28 19:24 18:25 10:25 10:25 23:3,5 23:13 11:52 23:24 23:25 11:39 23:27 24:28 17:37 24:43 12:39 4:21 5:39 11:8 18:5 16:1-9 22:27

    January 25, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
  20. On the sense of humor scale

    Jesus comes in right between a man in a coma and Adolf Eichmann.

    January 25, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • Lesieie

      Well....so do you.

      January 25, 2012 at 8:35 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.