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My Faith: Returning to church, despite my doubts
Andrea Palpant Dilley as a child with her missionary family Kenya.
May 5th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

My Faith: Returning to church, despite my doubts

Editor's note: Andrea Palpant Dilley is the author of “Faith and Other Flat Tires.”

By Andrea Palpant Dilley, Special to CNN

During my junior year in college, I took a butter knife from my mother’s kitchen  and scraped the Christian fish decal off the back bumper of the Plymouth hatchback I’d inherited from my older brother. Stripping off that sticker foreshadowed the day, a few years later, that I would walk out of church.

The reasons for my discontent were complicated. By most standards, I had a healthy childhood.  I grew up the daughter of Quaker missionaries in a rural Kenyan community that laid the foundation for my faith. I spent the rest of my childhood in the Pacific Northwest, raised in a stable Presbyterian church that gave me hymns and mission trips and potluck dinners.

I was surrounded by smart, conscientious Christians, the kind of people who read 19th century Russian novels and took meatloaf to firefighters when much of eastern Washington state went up in flames in the fall of 1991.

When I started into my skeptic phase, my Christian community gave me space to struggle. They listened to my doubts about faith. They took my questions seriously.

And yet when I turned 23 I left the church.

Listening to a sermon at my older brother’s church one Sunday, I stood up, leaned over to my father and said, “This is bulls**t.” I made my way to the end of the pew and marched out of the sanctuary. The sermon didn’t sit right with me. The pastor was preaching about Psalm 91, saying in so many words that a person just needed to pray and have faith in order to be protected from suffering.

More than just that sermon, I was sick of church. I was sick, too, of all the spiritual questions plaguing me: Why does the church seem so culturally insulated and dysfunctional? Why does God seem distant and uninvolved? And most of all, why does God allow suffering?

These questions didn’t come out of nowhere. I’d spent time in high school volunteering in refugee camps in Kenya and in college working with families on welfare in central Washington. I saw hungry babies. I walked into homes that were piled with garbage and dirty laundry.

In an orphanage in the slums of Nairobi, I held AIDS babies and worked with disabled kids who’d been left at the front gates of the orphanage by parents who couldn’t afford to feed them. I saw things that I couldn’t make sense of as a Christian.

Walking out of church was a way of saying “To hell with it; I’m done.”

For two years, I skipped church. My Bible gathered dust on the shelf. The local bars became my temples. I indulged in the cliché rebellions of a Christian girl, smoking cigarettes and drinking hard alcohol. I got involved with men twice my age without thinking twice about it.  I wanted a break from being “good.”

And then, strangely, I woke up one morning at age 25, climbed into my car, and drove downtown to attend a 10 a.m. church service. I won’t relate here the whole story of how I came back to the church. But if I had to follow the standard testimonial narrative for Christians, the script for my life story would go something like this:

Step 1: Grow up in a Christian church.

Step 2: Go off to college away from said church.

Step 3: Be exposed to the enticements of secular life.

Step 4: Try drugs and cigarettes and Pearl Jam.

Step 5: Leave the church because of aforementioned enticements.

Step 6: Experience epiphany; realize vapidness of secular enticements.

Step 7: Return to church with penitent heart.

Step 8: Reestablish faith, discover good living.

In reality, I left the church more because of my own internal discontent than the lure of so-called secular life. When I came back, I still carried that same discontent. I was confused, and still bothered by questions and doubts. I stayed in the back row and didn’t sing or pray. I wasn’t really sure I wanted to be there.

And yet I sat there, Sunday after Sunday, listening to the pastor and the organ pipes and trying to figure out what was going on in my dark, conflicted heart.

Although I never experienced that dramatic reconversion moment, I did come to peace with two slow-growing realizations.

First: My doubt belonged in church.

People who know my story ask what I would have changed about my spiritual journey. Nothing. I had to leave the church to find the church. And when I came back, the return wasn’t clean or conclusive. Since then, I’ve come to believe that my doubts belong inside the space of the sanctuary. My questions belong on the altar as my only offering to God.

With all its faults, I still associate the church with the pursuit of truth and justice, with community and shared humanity. It’s a place to ask the unanswerable questions and a place to be on sojourn. No other institution has given me what the church has: a space to search for God.

Second: My doubt is actually part of my faith.

In Mark 9:24, a man says to Jesus, “I believe, help my unbelief.” The Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor called this the foundation prayer of faith. I pray that prayer often and believe that God honors my honesty.

I also believe God honors my longing. The writer and theologian Frederick Buechner said “Faith is homesickness.” C.S. Lewis called it “Sehnsucht,” a longing for a far-off country. I feel that sense of unshakable yearning. It comes from the deepest part of my heart, a spiritual desire that’s strangely, mysteriously connected to my doubt.

Sitting in church every Sunday, my doubt is my desire – to touch the untouchable, to possess the presence of God.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Andrea Palpant Dilley.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Church • Opinion

soundoff (3,753 Responses)
  1. Steven

    http://www.garyhabermas.com/books/dealing_with_doubt/dealing_with_doubt.htm

    May 6, 2012 at 8:50 am |
  2. sybaris

    We are all born agnostic and she was simply brainwashed as a child. Now she feels remorse for leaving the church as if she betrayed it.

    Religion is a filthy disgusting disease of the miond

    May 6, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • Mat

      Fortunately my religion teaches me not to think of you like that. I pray you find your way to GOD. Dont look at humans , because they are not perfect.

      May 6, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • Searching for Hope

      Christianity and other religions provide hope that can be found nowhere else. It's a hope in something far bigger than me and a hope that God...who is "that something bigger"...can use all my mess ups and hurt and trauma for something good. There is no greater hope than that. So even if it is all made up, there is great good in it. By the way, I don't believe its all made up.

      May 6, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • edwardo

      I was not born agnostic. I was born athiest. It wasn't until someone's religion tried to take over my brain, did I even have a concept of a god. If a drug addicts sees a pink elephant, then that is their reality. The pink elephant exists. I do not see a god, feel a god, hear a god, or taste a god. Therefore, god does not exist.

      May 6, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Rob

      Please provide your data that supports your theory that all are born agnostic.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:50 am |
    • Dude

      Babies are not agnostic. Agnostic: A person who is unwilling to commit to an opinion of god. You can't be unwilling to commit to knowledge if you haven't been presented with the knowledge about which you are expected to commit.

      In other words, babies are NON-theistic. They have no concept of god, until they are introduced to it by someone. Children often believe that they, themselves, are responsible for things happening around them. It is not until someone teaches them something else that they begin to realize that they are not the center of the universe.

      May 7, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • Dude

      Searching: False hope is worse than no hope.

      May 7, 2012 at 11:20 am |
  3. vinobianco

    wake up. your doubt is legitimate because religion is what people turn to when they can't accept the truth that life is exactly as it seems and there is no heaven, there is no hell, there is no god. learn to be okay with that and live your life for today and be a good person because you want to.

    May 6, 2012 at 8:47 am |
  4. church

    god does not exist
    christ did not exist

    nothing you fools believe in ever happened or exists

    I exist, but not because of any god. Two monkies banged and a couple million years later....here we are.

    Get over yourselves you fools and braggarts about religion! You are weak!

    May 6, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • Searching for Hope

      Christ is actually a historical figure, check it out. It takes far more faith to believe that we with all our complexities, just happened by chance than believing in a master creator. There isn't a shred of scientific proof or observation that monkeys became human...its a theory or an assumption. There is no proof that one species evolves into another species. Of course we have similarities... we were created by the same artist.

      May 6, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Rob

      Perhaps you should study more of your theory. Since can not make the critical leap to link humans to apes.
      There are also many archeological sites the support the bible, more than many will accept. Many more will be discovred. However, if you don't believe now, it is likely that no evidence will change your mind. If Ark of Noah were found, or the Ark of the Covenent. You would probably dismiss them as something made to support the bible and not real artifacts. If Jesus existed would that make it harder for you to believe the bible is false. Would you then say, "There may have been a great teacher named Jesus but he was not the Son of God?" Which is just a idea beyond silliness. Can you imagine you would like the same way about Albert Einstine if he told he you he was born of Aliens? Unless he did something to prove to you it was true. If not, you would think it was amazing that someone so gifted was crazy.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:59 am |
    • doug

      Rob, I have some basic questions. Let's start with the idea of an ark built to save all of "Gods creatures". With the millions of different species of animals in the world, let's ponder how large this vehicle would have to be to accomodate the entire land dwelling population. 300 cubits long wouldn't do it! Let me guess that one of our modern super tankers would still not do the job to hold all the animals, not to mention 40 days worth of provisions. How would Noah not only navigate his vehicle with nautical understanding to, lets say the Galopagos Islands, and how was the vehicle powered to get to every corner of the world to drop off those animals that are only found in, again for instance, the Galopagos Islands. What map of the time displayed the Galopagos and the new world of the Americas? Now, I believe the rest of the story is that we all decended from Noah's 3 sons? Well, which one had the asian epicantic fold and why did they decide to exclusively live in the East untill they were able to travel and inter breed with the other decendants of Noah?

      May 7, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • StandupforTruth

      Then why are monkeys still around if they evolved from a species that demanded it to change?

      June 4, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
  5. genebrady

    Any religion that doesn't put the Planet/Ecology first is false. It is the Planet that sustains us all and by raping it for profit is against common sense, let alone against HE/SHE who created it.

    May 6, 2012 at 8:45 am |
  6. The church is for losers

    religion is for pathetic an weak losers!

    May 6, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • voxx

      Yep I would gladly lose the world.. sorry you have not..

      May 7, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  7. MRKUSN

    I like the authenticity of the article. As a former agnostic/atheist I can relate to several of the posts here but in most cases I don't agree with the tenor of the debate. Calm down people. "Belief in God" does not make a person a Christian. Going to church doesn't either. Belief in God is not the issue. It is atonement. It is relationship with God. God plucked me out of my unbelief; pursued me – not the other way around. Humanity is a mass of god-seekers. It just depends on who the "god" is that one seeks.

    May 6, 2012 at 8:40 am |
    • vinobianco

      the jargon christians use is so nonsensical. "a realtionship with god"? really? think about exactly what you're trying to say when you say things like that. it's rediculous.

      May 6, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • sybaris

      What a bunch of tripe. "Humanity is a mass of god seekers."

      A child does not "seek god" until it is brainwashed into thinking it needs one.

      May 6, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • Rob

      vinobianco it only seems ridiculous becuase you do not believe it is possible, or God is possible. You can prove Christians wrong by being open to the possibilty and attempting to develope such a relationship.

      May 7, 2012 at 1:04 am |
  8. Docboy

    I think you're caught between religion and faith. Between being a Christian and being a follower of Christ. When you can understand the differences you will find peace.

    May 6, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • sybaris

      That's utter BS and just another way of moving the goal posts.

      May 6, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • DOCKBOY

      Holy crap...what a pile of crap!
      SHUT UP!

      May 6, 2012 at 8:48 am |
  9. JesusChristLordGodAlmighty

    Yea, I've got doubts. Doubt that anyone that believes in god is a mindless sheep needing to be told there is a purpose in life.

    May 6, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • vinobianco

      why does purpose have to be god or an aferlife? can't you find purpose and beauty and happiness without beliving in santa clause in the sky? if not, i pity you.

      May 6, 2012 at 8:51 am |
  10. AtheistSteve

    So this article is a clear example of those who claim the "I was once an atheist and rediscovered my faith" line. In it we can see that her reasons for abandoning her faith were not skeptical reasoned ones. She was upset with doubts seemingly due to the presence of evil.(the I hate God for being so thoughtless and uncaring lame argument). She assigns blame for her personal excesses to her secular viewpoint (implying that without faith one's moral compass goes out the window). In this context this woman never truly left the church...merely rebelled against it which invariably led her into conflict with her deep seated beliefs.
    In contrast my atheism has nothing to do with anger toward an uncaring deity. That's because evil in the biblical sense doesn't exist. The world is simply a dangerous place and bad stuff happens...also some people are just jerks whether they are religious or not. Being good for goodness sake is all that's required to live according to decent ethical and moral standards. I'm a non-believer because I haven't been convinced otherwise. No compelling evidence for a god or gods exist so I suspend belief until such evidence is provided. Mushy plat.tudes and feel-good sentiments are not evidence. Ancient tribal stories are definitely not evidence and catch-all, fill-in-the-blanks, god-of-the-gaps arguments are not evidence. Comments from women such as this speak not at all for true atheism but merely toe the line for believers perceptions of what being without a faith-based worldview actually is. Believers will cheer the vindication they get from her story while we dismiss her just as we would any theists position.

    May 6, 2012 at 8:37 am |
  11. martog

    I’ll start this by saying that I definitely don’t presume to speak for all atheists, this is just my opinion.
    Atheism is a continuum – just like you can’t lump in all theists together, neither can you lump all atheists together.
    I know quite a few atheists, and none of them would make the claim that there is no god. If you make the claim that there is no god, you must know more about the universe than Einstein, who specifically did not make that claim. I do not claim that there is no god; there is no way that I could *know* if a creator exists or does not exist. However, what I do in fact claim is this: I don’t believe that any god or gods – as we are familiar with them in conventional religions – exist. I contend that we are all atheists; I just take it one god further. When you think about the reason why you most likely dismiss the existence of Zeus or Vishnu, you will understand why I dismiss the existence of Jehovah. There is no evidence for the existence of a god or gods. None. We can continue discussing this point (and I am totally willing to) but I expect that it is pointless, so for now, that is as much as I will say about that.
    He’s wrong about Hitler; he was German Catholic, and Lutheran teachings helped form his worldview (look it up if you don’t want to take my word for it). The “Hitler was an atheist” assertion is very common but historically inaccurate. That’s missing the larger point; these tyrants didn’t do evil things because they believed god didn’t exist – they did them because they were evil human beings. If you argue that had they known the grace of Christ they would not have done such things, look at all of the violence committed in the name of Christianity. That doesn’t work for me.
    He’s right about our axe to grind, but let’s be specific. We (I) don’t have a problem with religious folks. I don’t care what you believe. If believing in a god makes you a happier person, that’s your prerogative. Most atheists (that I know) would agree with that. What we have a problem with is when your beliefs spill over into secular decision-making. When people turn their brains off and vote based on their religious beliefs. This whole WASP-GOP hive mentality. Not believing that anthropogenic global warming is happening despite a mountain of empirical evidence to the contrary because of what was written in a book a very long time ago. Wanting a federal ban on gay marriage because your Christian sensibilities are offended when you think of it – even though once you take religion out of the equation you would have no good reason to oppose it as it literally does not affect you at all. Wanting a federal ban on abortion – same thing. None of us whom are pro choice are saying that abortion is a good thing, only that *I* don’t believe that I have the right to tell someone else what to do with their body. And not wanting to pay for someone else’s healthcare. What would Jesus want you to do? I’m pretty sure he’d want you to sell your possessions and give your money to the poor.
    Religious folk often act as if the world would be filled with depravity if religion didn’t exist, but the most important moral truths are universal – that’s why they are found in the teachings of classical antiquity, Confucianism, Buddhism, etc. These truths would exist independent of religion, and I don’t believe for a second that religion has done the world any favors in that respect.
    With regards to the existence of a multiverse, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Until we have proof, I’m not buying it. Neither are those who can actually talk about the concept and know what they are talking about; Brian Greene (a prominent physicist/author) made this exact point on Colbert the other evening.
    America has gone insane, and Biblical literalism, fundamentalist Christianity, call it whatever you like, IMO, has a lot to do with it. FOX News/the Right are just feeding the machine while making tons of money, and right-wingers are too stupid to see what’s happening.
    If you are a moderate, I have no issue with you; do whatever you like. It’s the fundies that make you guys look bad and get us upset. There’s plenty of reasons why I am a non-theist, but we aren’t mad and starting to be more vocal in our opinions because you choose to believe; we’re mad because 1) we’re tired of having God rammed down our throats and 2) we’re seeing the world go in an unhealthy, unsustainable direction with fundamentalist religion serving as an ever-increasing catalyst.[/quote]

    May 6, 2012 at 8:13 am |
    • Docboy

      It's called Agnostic

      May 6, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Correct on all counts. Theists of course will argue against many of your points simply because they run counter to the doctrines they hold true within their worldview. Those who are entrenched within their bubble of dogma will never agree or relent. I do agree that moderates pose no direct threat to secular views but they do lend credibility to the fundies by association. If the core beliefs are similar then extreme fundamentalism is shielded by the voice of moderate consensus.Like you I have no issue with a persons right to believe as they wish until they encroach on secular rights and freedoms.

      May 6, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • Say it ain't so

      I believe in God tho I don't believe in religions so as a result don't belong to any organization. Despite my faith I must say that I respect your opinion furthermore I'd defend your point of view even as it contradicts mine. why? Because you speak with clarity, integrity & most of all respect. You're also a person with inteligence which atheist or theist is very important. Peace...

      May 6, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • fortruth47

      Thank you for your thoughtful discussion in expressing your views. I would like to ask you to consider just one thought about your view of Christians of which I am one. Just because one claims to be Christian does not make him one. Jesus clearly taught there will be many false teachers in his name. Mt 7: 22 Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy [preach] in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23 Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' (NIV) The New Testament is full of warning about false Christians and Christians teachers. Jesus said the road to his way is narrow and only a few find its genuine truth. Mt 7:13 "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.
      Mt 7:14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Its true that many use Christianity wrongly but Jesus & the New Testament said that would be the case. But if you look closely there are those who genuinely sacrifice self and serve others in the name of Jesus and do great good. My only point is to try to encourage you and the many others who think deep like yourself to not to use the evils of false Christians as a basis to reject totally the possibility of God and Christian truth. In fact the evils of false Christians are very biblical and actually prove that the bible is an accurate teaching of the truth of life.

      May 6, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      @fortruth47

      As you may not have noticed we don't reject God because of non-Christian Christians(how convenient for you to use that distinction to distance yourself from that which you personally don't adhere to) but on the overall concept. Quotes from your Bible do nothing to sway or vindicate your stance. The Bible is utterly self-serving and it goes without saying that it would also provide excuses for doubt and false prophesy. That's what it was written to address in the first place considering the panoply of different ideologies that were present when Christianity was in it's formative state. Do you honestly believe that early Christian writers were unaware of competing ideas and didn't take them into account when forming their doctrines? The Bible is too biased to stand as a dispassionate source of reliable information.

      May 6, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • chefdugan

      You're right and the only think I have to add is an amen to those Christians that feel they have a right to run the Country according to their archaic rules. However, I seem to sense that we, the non-believers, are winning.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  12. Reality

    Dear Andrea Palpant Dilley,

    As noted previously, you need to get a 21st century perspective of religion: The Short Version (see p. 1 for more details)

    • There was probably no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • There was probably no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    prob•a•bly
    Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "

    May 6, 2012 at 7:27 am |
    • Observer

      You have the problem, Andrea has the solution
      You are still stuck on step 3 to 5 on her list, while Andrea has moved on wisely to step 6...

      Reality you are sadly deluding yourself by denying the creator. Seek him and you will surely find him. Go to a local church today and discover life!!!

      May 6, 2012 at 7:35 am |
    • martog

      Observer:
      Ten Reasons 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 of 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”.
      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 that every part of your intellect tells you is untenable.

      May 6, 2012 at 7:50 am |
  13. martog

    Rather than inculcating our children with the primary-color simple Sunday school legends and myths most people do, might I suggest the following ten comandments to enable them to think for themselves.
    1. DO NOT automatically believe something just because a parent, priest, rabbi or minister tells you that you must.
    2. DO NOT think that claims about magic and the supernatural are more likely true because they are written in old books. That makes them less likely true.
    3. DO analyze claims about religion with the same critical eye that you would claims about money, political positions or social issues.
    4. DO NOT accept it when religious leaders tell you it is wrong to question, doubt or think for yourself. It never is. Only those selling junk cars get frightened when you want to "look under the hood".
    5. DO decouple morality from a belief in the supernatural, in any of its formulations (Christianity, Judaism, Islam etc.). One can be moral without believing in gods, ghosts and goblins and believing in any of them does not make one moral.
    6. DO a bit of independent research into whatever book you were brought up to believe in. Who are its authors and why should I believe them in what they say? How many translations has it gone through? Do we have originals, or only edited copies of copies of copies– the latter is certainly true for every single book in the Bible.
    7. DO realize that you are only a Christian (or Hindu or Jew) because of where you were born. Were you lucky enough to be born in the one part of the World that “got it right”?
    8. DO NOT be an apologist or accept the explanation “your mind is too small to understand the greatness of god” or “god moves in mysterious ways” when you come upon logical inconsistencies in your belief. A retreat to mysticism is the first refuge of the cornered wrong.
    9. DO understand where your religion came from and how it evolved from earlier beliefs to the point you were taught it. Are you lucky enough to be living at that one point in history where we “got it right”?
    10. DO educate yourself on the natural Universe, human history and the history of life on Earth, so as to be able to properly evaluate claims that a benevolent, mind-reading god is behind the whole thing.
    I sometimes think that, if we first taught our children these simple guidelines, any religion or other supernatural belief would be quickly dismissed by them as quaint nostalgia from a bygone era. I hope we get there as a species.

    May 6, 2012 at 7:25 am |
  14. WWJD

    Few 100% true Reasons why Atheism is TERRIBLE and unhealthy for our children and living things:

    † Atheism is a religion that makes you stupid, ignorant & blind.
    † Atheism is a disease that needs to be treated.
    † Atheism makes you post stupid things (90% of silly comments here on CNN blogs are posted by closet Atheists)
    † Atheist are satanic and have gothic lifestyle.
    † Atheists causes problem in our religious society.
    † Atheists are mentally ill, that's why they have no faith.
    † Atheism won't take you to kingdom of heaven and paradise.
    † Atheism making you agree with Stalin, Hitler (Denied his faith later), Mao, Pol Pot & other terrible mass murder leaders.
    † No traditional family lifestyle, no holidays, no culture, boring and feeling 'outsider'
    † Atheists are angry, drug additcted and committ the most crime.
    † Atheist try to convert people over internet because they feel "safer" behind closet.
    † Atheists do not really exist, they just pretend that they don't believe in God and argue with religious people.
    † Atheists have had terrible life experience, bad childhood and not being loved.
    † Most Atheists are uneducated... No Atheists could run for presidency.
    † Atheism brought upon the French Revolution, one of the most evil events of all of history.
    † Atheism cannot explain the origins of the universe, therefore God exists.
    † All atheists believe in evolution, which means they don't believe in morality and think we should all act like animals.
    † The Bible says atheism is wrong, and the Bible is always right (see: Genesis 1:1, Psalms 14:1, Psalms 19:1, Romans 1:19-20)
    † Countries where Atheism is prevalent has the highest Suicide rate & Communist countries = Atheism!
    **Only 2-3% of the U.S. are Atheists/Agnostics VS. over 90% who believe in God (80% Christians) in the U.S.**

    † † Our Prayers goes to Atheists to be mentally healthy and seek their creator † †

    ATHEISTS WILL BURN IN HELLFIRE AND BRIMSTONE WHERE THEY BELONG AND THEY ALL DESERVE IT AND I CAN'T WAIT TO WATCH FROM ABOVE IN HEAVEN WITH A SMILE WHILE I DANCE ON STREETS OF GOLD WHILE ATHEISTS SKIN BOILS OFF AND THEY CRY LIKE BABIES AND THEIR CHILDREN WILL JOIN THEM

    May 6, 2012 at 7:19 am |
    • martog

      Top Ten Signs You're a Christian
      10 – You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.
      9 – You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.
      8 – You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.
      7 – Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!
      6 – You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.
      5 – You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.
      4 – You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs – though excluding those in all rival sects – will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."
      3 – While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.
      2 – You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.
      1 – You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history – but still call yourself a Christian.

      May 6, 2012 at 7:27 am |
    • Reality

      http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html

      Religion………………………… Adherents

      Christianity ……………………..2.1 billion

      Islam…………………………… 1.5 billion

      Irreligious/agnostic/atheism..... 1.1 billion (and growing)

      Hinduism 900 million
      Chinese traditional religion 394 million
      Buddhism 376 million
      Animist religions 300 million
      African traditional/diasporic religions 100 million
      Sikhism 23 million
      Juche 19 million
      Spiritism 15 million

      Judaism…………………………………….. 14 million

      Baha'i 7 million
      Jainism 4.2 million
      Shinto 4 million
      Cao Dai 4 million
      Zoroastrianism 2.6 million
      Tenrikyo 2 million
      Neo-Paganism 1 million
      Unitarian Universalism 800,000
      Rastafari Movement 600,000

      May 6, 2012 at 7:30 am |
    • Mirosal

      Atheism is NOT a religion. Nor is it a disease by any means. YOUR post is past stupid, it's asinine. How can Atheists be "satanic" when we don't believe in "satan"? The cross is a very common peice of jewelry in a goth wardrobe. How many Atheists do you see wearing a cross? Your religious society causes the problems when you encroach upon other people who don't want to hear your message, but you never give up. I am an Atheist, my mental helath is fine and dandy. Please provide YOUR statistics for your accusation. There is no heaven or paradise. It is akin to the Greek word "utopia", whch means "no place". Apparently you confuse political power and paranoia with Atheism. Take a poli-sci class or two and you'll see the difference. We only get angry when you won't leave us alone. Please provide your sources that say Atheists commit the most crime. 90% of felons in the prison system claim they are Christians, now why is that, hmmm? We don't convert anybody. We do not make them lose faith, Atheists reach their conclusions by doing the research and making up their minds, which is something that religions NEVER want you to do. I do exist, this is not a random computer just spitting out words. I had a very stable childhood. Atheists question things, a sure sign of intellect. While I do not have a college degree, I do have 21 years in the US military, and if you don't think THAT is an education, grow a pair of balls and put on a uniform, then talk to me. I think you need to look at the royal French family and see just WHY they were beheaded. There have been much worse things carried out that the French Revolution. It is true that we cannot explain the origin of the universe, but we are looking and researching. Just because we don't have an answer YET does not mean there has to be a "god", your logic is severly flawed there. Please correlate evolution and morality. You are comparing apples to automobiles. The bible is not always right, the events in Gen 1 are out of order. It's flawed from the start. Just because a book says it's true does not make it so. The Scandinavian countries are at the top of the list when it comes to happeist contries on Earth, so try again there. We won't go to "hell" because there is no such place. And while you're "happy to see us burn" while dancing for joy on streets made of gold, whatever happened to "love thy neighbor"? Sounds pretty hypocritical to most. Yep, typical X-tian.

      May 6, 2012 at 7:42 am |
    • Chris

      Posted by an atheist, as it is stupid (according to WWJD)

      May 6, 2012 at 8:31 am |
    • Docboy

      Way to show the love of Christ. You're the kind of person who gives the rest of us a bad name.

      May 6, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • Rationalintn

      WWJD – Jesus certainly wouldn't wish for anyone to burn in Hell –and if you knew anything about him, you'd know He wouldn't take pleasure in watching people burn. Jesus kept the company of sinners, without judging them. He would prefer to spend time with an atheist, rather than someone who claims to know Him, yet completely ignores His actual teachings. That's the really scary part –when the so-called Christians don't know what it means to behave in a Christ-like fashion.

      May 6, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • BigRed

      It shows how ignorant and pathetic people are when they call atheism a religion. Break down the word atheist and you get 'a' and 'theist'. 'A' ;whose Greek rook word is without,and 'theist'; whose Greek root word is God. So if an atheist is without God, how can atheism be a religion?

      May 6, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • BigRed

      So he will dance in Heaven on streets of gold and smile while watching the torment of people in Hell. I think the writer has demonstrated that he is a psychopath and probably has hidden urges that will cast him into the fiery pit alongside the rest of us. God, if he exists, would never want the likes of such evil in the kingdom of Heaven. Your God has a place for you and you will burn for all eternity though you call yourself a Christian.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • Jesusjustaman

      @WWJD
      LOL! This guy HAS to be a troll. I can't imagine there are Christians stupid enough to post this nonsense. I seriously hope there aren't Christians that stupid. Cause if there are, we need to start being a lot less tolerant of them.

      May 7, 2012 at 2:57 am |
    • culuriel

      Thanks- you make me so glad I left religion- I no longer have to spend any of my free time with people like you!

      May 14, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • considerate

      Its comments like these that give Christians a bad name. Instead of bashing atheists, try to take a look at their viewpoints and put their ideas into consideration. Don't be so ignorant like so many other Christians.

      October 4, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
  15. The Phist

    The church of the Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has been in league with the Vatican for three decades and has been responsible for the AIDs epidemic that has plagued the world recently. Before the Vatican became involved, Michael Jackson was targeted by the Mormon church and is known to be responsible for his skin color change. People close to Mr. Jackson who were known members of the church were poisoning his food with skin bleaching products that were later responsible for his demise. The Vatican and the Mormon church murdered Freddie Mercury with AIDs. They have been targeting gays and blacks in order to cleanse the human gene pool of all liberalism. They are in bed with the world government illuminati and this is the reason why Bohemian Grove exists. http://www.infowars.com/bg1.html Information has recently been unearthed that proves that the Masonic faith was founded by the Catholics and later incorporated the Mormon church.

    There is a wealth of information on the subject here:

    http://mormonconspiracy.com/

    May 6, 2012 at 7:02 am |
    • Loose Dollars

      This information is the TRUTH and has been confirmed by research conducted by dozens of scientists who have managed to infiltrate the Bohemian Grove complex while former Presidents and other world leaders have attended. Mitt Romney is one of the most prominent leaders known to be overseeing these terrible, dark, secret meetings.

      May 6, 2012 at 7:05 am |
    • The Phist

      Hey fuckface. Don't soil my good name with this bullshit.

      May 6, 2012 at 7:07 am |
    • Mirosal

      What's next .. the CIA killed Kennedy? The moon landing never happpened? No such thing as the holocaust? The aliens in the National Enquirer are real? The movie "Matix" is a real-life docu'mentary? Let me guess ... you're a faithful listener of A.M. Coast to Coast aren't you?

      May 6, 2012 at 7:10 am |
    • The Phist

      The original post was from "Nii." It posted this same retarded, mongrel idiot shit on the bible reading marathon article as well. And for the record, the Matrix is closer to reality than christianity will ever be.

      May 6, 2012 at 7:14 am |
    • danielwalldammit

      Yeah, I'm gonna get right on that there link, I am.

      May 6, 2012 at 8:08 am |
  16. The Phist

    Smart christians? Hahahahahaha

    Thanks for the laugh.

    May 6, 2012 at 6:40 am |
    • Mat

      Do you think Albert Einstein was dumb? You have much more silent "smart" Christians doing good for world that the other way around.

      May 6, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Searching for Hope

      There are many smart Christians. We would argue that it is more intelligent to believe that there is a master creator and that we are here for a purpose than to believe that this world, our bodies with all the complexities, the ability to reproduce replicas, etc all happened by chance. Theres about as much chance of that as a book factory blowing up and all the pages of the bible falling from the sky perfectly back into order into another bible.

      May 6, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • The Phist

      So, because it's too complex for you to understand, it must be the work of a magical sky fairy. You sound an awful lot like primitive cavemen that thought that human sacrifice would prevent volcano eruptions. Instead of bothering to understand it, let's just pretend that humans are too stupid to ever figure anything out and let's just all give credit to an imaginary being. Great idea, retard.

      May 6, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
  17. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    May 6, 2012 at 6:18 am |
  18. doctore0

    You just don't want to die.. but we will all die; No matter what.Taking the Pascals wager is like falling for that email from Nigeria

    May 6, 2012 at 5:00 am |
  19. mpottsp

    SEHNSUCHT (say: SANE-ZOOKT) combo of two german words for YEARNING and ADDICTION. no english equivalent

    May 6, 2012 at 4:44 am |
  20. mpottsp

    I like this article..i don't know the term "SEHNSUCHT" but i feel it alot. Contrasting passages throughout our lives help us define who and what we are, one passage's unsettled question for me is how can the 12 steps show such good fruit in the lives of suffering (yet openminded) people yet completely omit the accepted christian axiom that the is but one way to the Father (God) that being Jesus Christ as written in the bible.

    May 6, 2012 at 4:04 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.