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January 8th, 2013
07:00 AM ET

My take: 'Atheist' isn’t a dirty word, congresswoman

Editor’s note: Chris Stedman is the author of "Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious" and the assistant humanist chaplain at Harvard. You can follow him on Twitter at @ChrisDStedman.

By Chris Stedman, Special to CNN

(CNN)—This year, Congress welcomed the first Buddhist senator and first Hindu elected to either chamber of Congress, and the Pew Forum noted that this “gradual increase in religious diversity … mirrors trends in the country as a whole.”

But Pew also noted one glaring deficiency: Religious “nones” were largely left outside the halls of Congress, despite one in five Americans now saying they don’t affiliate with a religion.

There is, however, one newly elected “none” — but she seems to think "atheist" is a dirty word.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, was sworn in a few days ago without a Bible, and she is the first member of Congress to openly describe her religious affiliation as “none.” Although 10 other members don’t specify a religious affiliation — up from six members in the previous Congress — Sinema is the only to officially declare “none.”

This has gotten Sinema a fair amount of attention from the media. Many identified her as an atheist during her congressional campaign, and after she won, sources touted her as a nontheist. Even this past weekend, Politico declared in a headline: “Non-believers on rise in Congress.”

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

But there’s a slight issue: Sinema doesn’t actually appears to be a nonbeliever. In response to news stories identifying her as an atheist, her campaign released this statement shortly after her victory: “(Rep. Sinema) believes the terms non-theist, atheist or non-believer are not befitting of her life’s work or personal character.”

As a nontheist, atheist and nonbeliever (take your pick), I find this statement deeply problematic.

It is perfectly fine, of course, if Sinema isn’t a nontheist, and it is understandable that she would want to clarify misinformation about her personal beliefs. But to say that these terms are “not befitting of her life’s work or personal character” is offensive because it implies there is something unbefitting about the lives and characters of atheists or nonbelievers.

Christmas exposes atheist divide on dealing with religion

Try substituting a religious group of your choice in place of atheist if you don’t agree: “[Rep. Sinema] believes the term Muslim is not befitting of her life’s work or personal character.” Does that sound right? It shouldn’t.

Of course, many do view Muslims as unfit for political office. In that respect, political opponents have regularly misidentified President Obama as a Muslim. Many have defended the president from such attacks by noting that Obama is a Christian.

But former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell rightly pointed out the pernicious underlying message such a defense sends:

The correct answer is: He is not a Muslim; he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, ‘What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?’ The answer is ‘No, that’s not America.’ Is there something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?

Just as Muslim is used as a political smear, politicians seem to avoid "atheist."

This is probably because the American electorate views both Muslims and atheists more unfavorably than they do other groups: According to a Gallup poll released in June, only 58% of Americans would vote for a “generally well-qualified” Muslim candidate, and only 54% would vote for an atheist. (This is the first time that number has been above 50% for an atheist candidate.)  By contrast, 91% would vote for a Jewish candidate, 94% for a Catholic and 80% for a Mormon.

There seems to be a greater general tolerance for, or blindness to, comments that marginalize or diminish atheists than those aimed at other groups.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

Prominent individuals like Powell rightfully decry anti-Muslim fear-mongering in politics, but few speak out against those who wield accusations of atheism as a political weapon.

Whether people don’t see it or simply aren’t bothered isn’t clear, but it remains a problem.

I respect Sinema’s right to self-identify as she chooses, and I don’t wish to speculate about her religious beliefs. But while I celebrate that she is comfortable enough to openly identify as bisexual, I find her response to being labeled an atheist troubling.

Why not instead say that she’s not an atheist, but so what if she was?

The 113th Congress is rich with diversity. As an interfaith activist, I am glad to see the religious composition of Congress more closely reflect the diversity of America. As a queer person, I’m glad that LGBT Americans are seeing greater representation in Washington.

But as a proud atheist and humanist, I’m disheartened that the only member of Congress who openly identifies as nonreligious has forcefully distanced herself from atheism in a way that puts down those of us who do not believe in God.

We are Americans of good character, too.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Chris Stedman.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Politics

soundoff (3,637 Responses)
  1. ameeeehol

    neither is Christian but they make it so.

    January 8, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
  2. Carl, Secaucus, NJ

    As Douglas Adams said, "Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful, without having to believe there are faeries living in it too?" Insisting that the universe needs to have a "meaning" is to miss how amazing it already is, meaning or no meaning. It's the same thing with life–be grateful for the life you have.

    January 8, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Carl, Secaucus, NJ wrote, "It's the same thing with life–be grateful for the life you have."

      Being grateful for the life one has where the poor ones and the d e s t I t u t e, brings one to realize the truth of differences in a world strewn with beleaguered societies having little means for being grateful. Yes, be grateful for all life's woes.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
  3. lionlylamb

    The paranoia of demented verboseness runs thru the courses of each and all socialisms. Fearing of other socialists to do one harm is a commonality of any individualist who holds their views in sarcastic cynicisms. For any individual to say sarcastic commentaries in any adversarial way when confronted by alleged mean spirited social congregations dare goes against the decencies of well mannered socialized behaviorism.

    January 8, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
    • MC

      What a freak.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:11 pm |
    • Steve Kaz

      Ohh wow how very Christian of you to the atheist you hypocrite bigot. The bible says love thy neighbor.....no where does it say unless they are an atheist. This is why religion is dangerous. It breeds hate and categorizes people. It tears people apart more than bring them together.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:22 pm |
    • psych ward staff

      Oh no. He threw up his word salad again. Clean-up on page 11.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Steve Kaz,

      Where in my post did I even mention Christian or atheist? Your wordage dare I say, accuses you and not me,

      January 8, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
  4. truth be told

    All atheists are all liars all the time. Yes atheism is a dirty word and a filthy life denying way to live.

    January 8, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
    • mama k

      Do you read what your write at all before posting?? My goodness.

      January 8, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @tbt,

      is that the best you can do? Or are you going to try to tell me that Mao killed 800 million again?

      January 8, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
    • Tremor Christ

      You were born an atheist, just like everyone else!

      January 8, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • Observer

      truth be told,

      Your statement shows you don't have any idea what "truth" is "to be told".

      January 8, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
    • Akira

      All trolls, like "truth be told", are all liars all the time. Yes trollism is a dirty word and a filthy life denying way to live.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:08 pm |
    • small 'c' christian

      Wow, TBT. without knowing any if them, you just condemmed nearly 30% of the world. Feel better, now??

      January 8, 2013 at 10:08 pm |
    • MC

      Get psychiatric help, you sad little piece of garbage.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
    • Ed

      Atheists make claims based upon significant, observable evidence, whereas the believer labels evidence as false and makes claims based upon no evidence whatsoever. Who are the liars again?

      Perhaps the reason why you believe that your preacher is correct is because they believe the lie, too. Furthermore, perhaps the reason why you believe that your Bible is correct is because the Bible says that every word of it is true.

      Believers are sheeple, and I feel sorry that you're blinded by faith and looking to other blind zealots for leadership. It truly sickens me that you are so blinded by your faith that you cannot use reason and logic to discern truth from fiction.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
  5. bopdad

    ive always wondered ....the first book of the bible 1 ; 11

    and god created the world... well if he did .. who was his mom and dad?

    January 8, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
    • Bhumsoo

      On day 0 men created God

      January 8, 2013 at 10:20 pm |
    • Mike

      Where does it say God is a man? human? was born? had a father and a mother?

      January 8, 2013 at 10:21 pm |
    • Athy

      Exists?

      January 8, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
  6. Robert Brown

    Chuck asks, “Preacher do you think there will be s.e.x. in heaven?”

    Preacher says, “I don’t think so Chuck.”

    Chuck says, “Sounds like h.e.l.l. to me!”

    January 8, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Robert Brown,

      you are permitted to say "hell" here.

      January 8, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
    • small 'c' christian

      Chuck isn't.. esp in front of the preacher.

      January 8, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
    • Athy

      Actually, you're permitted to say sex if you know how to pronounce it.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:47 pm |
  7. DJ

    I am an Atheist. I am now 66 years old and have been one since about age 12, when I gained a mind of reason.
    I have no problem with my friends and acquaintances who are religious. I just figure that they have a need that I don't.
    Since we are all different, why must we all think alike. I applaud Congresswoman Sinema for her stand on this matter.

    January 8, 2013 at 9:11 pm |
    • Russ

      Our Country would be in better shape if atheism was a requirement to be in Congress. That way we'd know they were of sound mind.

      January 8, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
    • hee hee

      I agree with you, it's nice to accept others as they are, and heck, I like variety too. (Of course, there is no reason that I can't openly disagree with anyone's opinions). No person (or politician) is obligated to be an adamant advocate of X (where X=Christianity, atheism, environmental regulation) even if they believe X is best.

      But, please consider this: the author draws attention to the fact that it is not yet possible to say that you are atheist, and be a politician in the united states (maybe there are one or two who have tried it). Why can't "acceptance of other beliefs" extend to atheism, in the united states?

      January 8, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Because acceptance starts with yourself. The author rightly points out that the Congresswoman is the one who fails to embrace the description of herself as atheist

      January 8, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
    • Alpa Chino

      Hey Bill...it's possible she isn't even atheist anyway, but agnostic. Doesn't matter.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
    • Akira

      Bill, she chose not to describe herself with those three terms...and if she doesn't consider herself to fit that description, why should that be a problem for anyone?
      This author is off base.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:19 pm |
  8. Ed

    Atheism = reason, logic, education derived from scientific research and hard work, freedom. Faith = belief without proof or evidence; nonsense; fantasy of an imaginary paradise called Heaven; fear of an imaginary torture chamber called Hell; slave to an invisible, magical, mythical, jealous, vindictive, sadistic, smiteful, coercive, punishing god.

    Give me atheism please.

    January 8, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
    • Athy

      I've never considered any other option.

      January 8, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
    • Believer

      You want Atheism, you can have it.... Be careful what you wish for.....

      January 8, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
    • Ed

      @Believer: If there is no evidence to support that Heaven, Hell, God, the Devil exists, then why do you believe in it?

      Faith is gullibility, because you're believing in something for which there is no evidence or proof. Based upon that logic, if your doctor told you that you had a tumor in your brain that required expensive surgery to remove, then would you believe him without him first showing your the MRI results? No, you wouldn't.

      What if you're wrong, and you chose the wrong god to believe in and worship, and it turns out that Allah is the one true god? The answer is that you will be sent to Hell by Allah for being an infidel.

      Don't be so convinced that your beliefs are the undeniable truth. You may be wrong as well.

      Food for thought.

      January 8, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
    • jackson ebner

      Religious people believe in god, atheists believe in no god. Neither is scientific or rational. Both are beliefs about something no one has a way of knowing.

      January 8, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
    • Apatheist

      @jackson ebner... The lack of proof is proof in and of itself. Think unicorns and fairies.

      January 8, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
    • small 'c' christian

      Agnostism: belief or disbelief, yet without feeling the need to claim God either does or does not exist. One can be an agnostic atheist or an agnostic theist.

      Agnosticism is compatible with both theism and atheism. A person can believe in a god (theism) without claiming to know for sure if that god exists; the result is agnostic theism. On the other hand, a person can disbelieve in gods (atheism) without claiming to know for sure that no gods can or do exist; the result is agnostic atheism.

      And that would be me.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
    • IndyMike

      Go for it Ed. But be prepared for the consequences.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
    • Steve

      @Apatheist: Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Logic 101. I thought atheists were smart?

      January 8, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
    • Oldprof

      If you make the best of the life you've been given, and the time you have to make things better while on earth, you will find no need to seek another life in another world. Those who look to the mystic, invisible, silent, unresponsive, specific myth among the many specific myths for comfort, need the comfort – non-theists can feel sorry for their weakness, but cannot forgive their attempts to foist this blind pursuit on others. Bowing one's knee to the unseen corrupts other pursuits such as science, math, observation, and experimentation, and leaves one open to seriously flawed dogma.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:43 pm |
    • Believertoo

      U.S. Christians 78.4%
      U.S. Atheists 1.6%

      So the 78% percent of us who believe are just foolish idiots and the the 1.6% of you who don't are the only ones who know the truth? Not likely. I hear it's a dry heat though!!

      http://religions.pewforum.org/reports

      January 8, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
  9. cosmicsnoop

    This guy needs a dictionary. Just because you're not religious does not mean you're an atheist. I'm not religious, I think they are all silly and simply a power play for your mind. I do, however, believe in God. I simply don't think you have to follow some specific dogma or you will be doomed. That is such childish thinking. Ironically, it minimizes the very "all-powerful" being you're worshiping.

    January 8, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • Athy

      Keep thinking, Snoop. You're halfway there.

      January 8, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
    • Max

      I agree with you 'cosmicsnoop'.

      If you are a good person and don't go out of your way to hurt people God should be please with you.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:24 pm |
    • Dan

      If you believe in god, you are religious

      January 8, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
  10. kathleenrobinson425

    Why can't she be neither an atheist or a religionist? Maybe she's agnostic, forever the questioner of belief and reality. Most of the time I believe in something nebulous, like the spirit consciousness of the Earth, the Universe. Sometimes I believe people and animals and planets have Souls. Sometimes I believe Nothing. What I don't believe are people who have the Answers.

    January 8, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
    • mama k

      I understand your point very well, kathleen.

      January 8, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @kathleen,

      she can believe or not belive anything she wants. The intent of this article is misplaced.

      January 8, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
    • mama k

      I understand your points below this, not a GOP'er, but why is the article misplaced?

      January 8, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @mama k

      In the article, Chris Stedmen takes Rep. Sinema to task:

      "Sinema doesn’t actually appears to be a nonbeliever. In response to news stories identifying her as an atheist, her campaign released this statement shortly after her victory: “(Rep. Sinema) believes the terms non-theist, atheist or non-believer are not befitting of her life’s work or personal character.”

      As a nontheist, atheist and nonbeliever (take your pick), I find this statement deeply problematic.

      It is perfectly fine, of course, if Sinema isn’t a nontheist, and it is understandable that she would want to clarify misinformation about her personal beliefs. But to say that these terms are “not befitting of her life’s work or personal character” is offensive because it implies there is something unbefitting about the lives and characters of atheists or nonbelievers."

      This is what I see as misplaced. Rep. Sinema was sent to congress to represent the legislative needs of her Const!tuents in Arizona. She doesn't have to be the congressional 'standard bearer' for non-believers. What she actually believes is none of our business – she has the Const!tional right not only to believe, or not believe, as she sees fit, but also the right that 'no religious test' will be applied.

      I think it could be construed that forcing her to declare as a non-believer, or criticizing her for not doing so (as the author does) is essentially a 'religious test'.

      January 8, 2013 at 9:15 pm |
    • mama k

      Yes and thanks for organizing that thought for me, not a GOP'er. I didn't have a good feeling about the author's point of view and that might just sum up why I wasn't feeling good about it. Representation and pride. And of course pride is more often than not, a trouble-maker.

      January 8, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
  11. Dan

    I don't get it... Seriously now, how is being an atheist any different than being a member of any religion? An atheist has a belief. A person from ANY religion has a belief. What makes the atheist's view any less meaningful? The point I'm attempting to make is... Why can't someone just come right out and say it like I would? I'm a "Lutheran". I feel no need to add anything else to that statement.

    January 8, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Dan

      "An atheist has a belief."

      Tell me please, what do atheists believe?

      How is "I don't believe in God" a belief?

      January 8, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
    • Dan

      Btw... What possesses all of you who feel a need to belittle ones faith or lack thereof? Isn't your belief enough of a comfort for you?

      January 8, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
    • Dan

      I can't speak with authority but my understanding is atheist belief is, there is no God.

      January 8, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Dan,

      Atheists don't believe in God. This is different from a positive belief in the non-existence of God. The distinction might be subtle, but it is important.

      January 8, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Atheism is not a belief. It is the absence of belief / faith.

      Here's how it is defined by the OED:

      atheism, n
      Disbelief in, or denial of, the existence of a God. Also, Disregard of duty to God, godlessness (practical atheism).

      The operative word is 'disbelief'. Nothing in there about 'belief that there is no God'.

      Theist: "I believe in God"
      Atheist: "I don't believe in God" ... as distinct from "I believe in the non-existence of God".

      January 8, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
    • J.W

      Yes the belief that there is no god is a belief, therefore atheists do have a belief.

      January 8, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @J.W.

      How is "I don't believe in God" a belief?

      January 8, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
    • heliocracy

      A lot of religious people say this. From their point of view, God is real. To deny it means to have a belief in something that is untrue. However, when you frame it in different ways, the absurdity of this point of view presents itself. I believe that a giant spaghetti monster made the world out of one of its meatballs. If you disagree, it's because you have a belief that this is not true. At some point, you have to admit that belief in something that doesn't exist is not belief at all. If you had never heard of something in your entire life, can you say you have a belief that it doesn't exist? No, you have no belief at all in that situation.

      January 8, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
    • J.W

      I still think that if you have an opinion that is not verifiable then it is still a belief

      January 8, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
    • J.W

      Having no belief would be as if you just had no opinion at all, or that you were undecided. Since I cannot prove there isn't a planet far away inhabited by unicorns, my opinion that there is not is still a belief.

      January 8, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • Dan

      LOL Semantics... Here is what I found. But first I say, I didn't comment just to argue the merits of "belief" vs. "don't believe".

      Atheism | Define Atheism at Dictionary.com
      http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/atheism
      noun 1. the doctrine or "belief that there is no God". 2. disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings. Origin: 1580–90; Greek áthe ( os ) godless + -ism .. (quotation marks added)

      My OP was simply to point out, why is there a need to "justify" or better yet "qualify"?

      January 8, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @J.W.

      the argument is expressed quite eloquently a couple of pages ago. I am copying it verbatim here:
      -------------

      imsomadbro
      Atheism is not a belief system. Atheism is a null stance, not a hypothesis. The burden of proof is on the shoulders of the one positing a claim; in this case, that there is a God. When lack of evidence, or evidence for the contrary, comes (and you ARE correct in asserting that in this case it does), we can drop the hypothesis, or modify it. Sadly, theists aren't so keen on modifying their theories to match evidence. Of every religion I can see their evidence is not convincing or is sorely lacking. So I will not believe it. I have tested their hypothesis and am now back at my null stance, left a God they claimed to be there. It's not that they showed me their evidence, it failed, and now I believe that there is no God because no evidence is forthcoming.

      When someone tells me they believe in pink unicorns, it's not that I believe they don't exist. I simply wait for their evidence. They posited this outlandish claim. They provide the evidence. I don't have to provide evidence for the contrary. What I DO then use are my critical thinking skills and compare their claims with the reality I have inhabited thus far, in which I have never seen or heard of pink unicorns. I don't then decide to not believe them. I don't even have to entertain the theory to not believe in until evidence is brought to the contrary. The claim is simply too outlandish and unsupported by evidence.

      What I DO believe, is that you are misconstruing the label of atheism for there having to be something you need to 'do.' In this sense, "atheism" is a very strange word. Is there a word for a not-skier? Is there a word for a non-stamp-collector? We call ourselves atheists, sadly, because we have to define ourselves against what is, sadly, the norm; a belief in a higher power. I am a person who thinks that the claims set forth by theists is ludicrous, and I choose not to believe them. To save time, and these delusional people's feelings, I'll call myself an "a-theist." I am without-god. I am not a person who believes there is no god. Just without.

      January 8, 2013 at 5:57 pm

      January 8, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
    • QDV

      "When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours." – Stephen F Roberts

      January 8, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Dan,

      Definition 2 is the one for me:

      2. disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings

      January 8, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
    • mama k

      J.W- "I still think that if you have an opinion that is not verifiable then it is still a belief"
      "Having no belief would be as if you just had no opinion at all, or that you were undecided."

      I see your points, J.W, but for what I call the agnostic atheist, it's closer to your second statement – but not being wishy-washy – just being firm that someone has to show you something that you can claim as knowledge rather than any belief (faith that something unknowable is true).

      January 8, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
    • Ed

      If smoking is a habbit, then is NOT smoking a habbit as well? If hiking is a hobby, then is NOT hiking a hobby as well? Of course not.

      With that said, how can choosing NOT to believe in a god be considered a belief? Answer: it can't be.

      January 8, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @J.W.

      "Having no belief would be as if you just had no opinion at all, or that you were undecided."

      No. Not at all. Disbelief is the null answer. We are talking about non-binary outcomes here.

      Atheism is a belief like not collecting stamps is a hobby,
      Atheism is a belief like health is a disease,
      Atheism is a belief like bald is a hair color,
      Atheism is a belief like off is a television channel,
      Atheism is a belief like abstinence is a sex act,

      Atheism has no sacred text, no orthodoxy, no rites or rituals, no houses of worship … it is not a religion or a faith. It is the absence of faith in God.

      January 8, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
    • J.W

      When you describe a claim as outlandish or a delusion or however you may put it, what does that mean if if you do not believe the claims to be untrue. Atheists often say gods are a delusion, or a silly supersti tion, or imaginary. They would not use these terms if they were simply waiting for evidence.

      January 8, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
    • J.W

      You are confusing the word belief with the word religion.

      January 8, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
    • mama k

      Yes, and the most difficult part for believers and even atheists alike (even wikipedia), is to try to not start off a sentence describing atheists with: "atheists believe . . ." because that right away makes no sense.

      January 8, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Why wouldn't they use those terms? They see no evidence that there is a god. They also see people who continue to insist there is one, despite the fact that they have no evidence. What else would a sane person call belief in a being for which there's no evidence but "superst it ion" or "delusion"?

      January 8, 2013 at 9:41 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @J.W.

      Some "Atheists often say gods are a delusion, or a silly supersti tion, or imaginary."

      Those that do that, clearly do express a belief. They are a subset of people who use the label 'atheist'. It is not a requirement.

      I put myself in the 'agnostic atheist' category. I don't believe in God but can't know fore sure there isn't one. This accurately reflects my thoughts on the matter. I am still however an atheist.

      January 8, 2013 at 9:41 pm |
    • mama k

      I don't think so, J.W, because belief requires faith for something that is either unknowable or not currently known. Atheists do not have faith in unknown things.

      January 8, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @J.W.

      "You are confusing the word belief with the word religion."

      No. I deliberately conflated belief with religion for a purpose, but I take your point.

      January 8, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
    • J.W

      GOP, but if you say you are agnostic atheist, isn't that separate from just atheism. Wouldn't people who are just atheists say that they definitely know there is no god?
      Mama, but if you say that then you are saying that atheists know that there is no god. But in that case a Christian may say that they know God does exist and so it is not a belief. Or any religion could make that claim.

      January 8, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @J.W.

      "but if you say you are agnostic atheist, isn't that separate from just atheism. Wouldn't people who are just atheists say that they definitely know there is no god?"

      No. That's the whole point. Atheism just means "I don't believe in God."

      While some atheists will extend this by definitively saying "There is no God" others (the agnostic atheists) will not insist on this.

      Their thoughts on the matter are different from the traditional definition of agnostic, which is someone who doesn't know whether there is or isn't a God.

      January 8, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • hee hee

      @Dan's original comment

      "how is being an atheist any different than being a member of any religion"

      How is not-bungee-jumping any different than playing a sport :)?

      But anyway, I agree with what you're trying to say. Why can't someone just come out and say it? (If by that you mean, why shouldn't someone be able to). The problem is that a politician can't in the US.

      January 8, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • the AnViL

      atheism is simply a lack of belief in god.

      let's go over "belief" and "knowledge"

      beliefs are based on knowledge.

      the knowledge people base their beliefs on could be empirical or substantiated "good" knowledge (science)...or beliefs can be based on faulty, unsubstantiated knowledge (religion) – and that isn't really knowledge, now is it?

      religious belief is literally predicate on ignorance. there is no religious theory. there are no testable models... it eschews proof and discourages testing.

      religion is constructed on very poor unsubstantiated, unverifiable, erroneous data, and is completely non-supported. there is no evidence to back up or substantiate any of the extraordinary claims made by religion. fortunately for those of you who hold the delusional belief in an imaginary man in the sky – you have this thing called "faith". faith is defined as holding a strong belief in something for which you have no evidence and/or contradictory evidence.

      so it's a good thing you have faith – because there's no substantiated evidence of your imaginary man in the sky... and plenty of contradictory evidence.

      you can literally believe anything you like or choose... but what evidence do you have to support your belief? how much knowledge do you possess in order to fuel your beliefs?

      you can know that there are no gods. it does, however – require a suspension of belief, and demands the use of critical thinking skills. all it requires is gathering a small sum of knowledge – and then making the only possible conclusive declaration: there's no gods.

      ch'ch'zing!

      January 8, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
    • mama k

      Yes, J.W, there are atheists that will claim that there are no deities, but I think that is the minority. So, I think, if you just say the word atheist, that means a someone who disbelieves God. (in the same way that an assumption is made that it's the Abrahamic God that is the object of disbelief when just the word God is used).

      January 8, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Theism and gnosticism are about belief and knowledge.

      Theist: I believe in God
      Atheist: I don't believe in God

      Gnostic: I have knowledge
      Agnostic: I don't have knowlege

      January 8, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
    • mama k

      oh dear – i guess AnViL isn't in the mood to dance tonight – he's moved straight on to the "ch'ch'zing!" lol.

      January 8, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
    • Apatheist

      First of all, this argument is idiotic. One of the definitions of belief is 'an acceptance that a statement is true'. If I make the statement, "atheism is true", that is my belief.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
    • J.W

      Looks like for Anvil atheism is a belief.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:08 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @J.W.

      for some, it clearly is indistinguishable from belief. Some can be just as zealous. I do like this quote:

      "“The bigotry of the nonbeliever is for me nearly as funny as the bigotry of the believer.” – Albert Einstein

      January 8, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
    • the AnViL

      sorry moma k....

      no dancing tonight – i'm wearing my boots.

      HAPPY NEW YEAR!

      January 8, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
    • J.W

      I can understand that in the way you explain it it could be considered to not be a belief. It seems like most of the atheists on here (not necessarily all atheists) are not willing to say that God(s) is a possibility. You could argue that many religious people do not have a belief in the same way. Some religious do at time doubt that God is there, or whether he cares, whether they admit it or not, and they do search for answers to their questions. Maybe those are less prominent, but they are out there as well.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:20 pm |
    • the AnViL

      I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV:

      i wonder how many believers would suggest uncle al was a bigot based on his words:

      "The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this."

      ~

      January 8, 2013 at 10:24 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @J.W.

      further up this page you can find another good post on this topic:
      -------------------–
      small 'c' christian
      Agnostism: belief or disbelief, yet without feeling the need to claim God either does or does not exist. One can be an agnostic atheist or an agnostic theist.

      Agnosticism is compatible with both theism and atheism. A person can believe in a god (theism) without claiming to know for sure if that god exists; the result is agnostic theism. On the other hand, a person can disbelieve in gods (atheism) without claiming to know for sure that no gods can or do exist; the result is agnostic atheism.

      And that would be me.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:13 pm
      -------------------–
      Anyway – nice chatting with you – I've got to run.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @the AnViL

      Indeed!

      A very nice thing about Abert Einstein is that he challenges almost every mindset.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
  12. us_1776

    Atheist and Proud.

    Stand Tall.

    .

    January 8, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • mulehead

      Here, here! I'm an atheist and dang proud of it.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
  13. Ed

    Atheism = free thinking, truth, progression. Faith = gullibility, fallacy, division.

    January 8, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
    • us_1776

      Bingo !

      .

      January 8, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • Carolyn

      Atheism = going to hell, plain and simple. It is what it is. Faith = eternal life, plain and simple. It is what it is. I would rather choose faith, and go with the way that I am going to win, rather than choose atheism, the way to lose.

      January 8, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Number two on the top thirteen most irritatingly stupid arguments made here by religionists:

      2. Proselytizing, particularly of the hit and run kind:
      eg: “Believe or burn”
      eg: ”You’ll find out when you die!”
      A special case of this is copy/paste of trite, meaningless aphorisms
      eg: “Prayer changes things” – Ummm, we all know it doesn’t.

      January 8, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
    • Ed

      What a choice to make using our "free will" that God has given us: believe and worship me or burn for eternity. Sorry, but that's not what a god of love would allow to happen. Therefore, your god is lacking in the fairness and love department.

      If you're wrong, and Allah is the one true god, then you'll be burning with me. Do you feel better about your eternal destination now that you are given the thought that Islam may perhaps be the one true religion, worshipping the one true god?

      You're an atheist, too, by the way. You choose to laugh at people who are Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, or Muslims, because you believe that they've chosen, or were indoctrinated, into the wrong religion. Atheists merely go one god further in their disbelief.

      You don't believe in all of the Hindu, Buddhist, or Greek gods, but out of the 3,000+ gods from which to choose, you have chosen the Abrahamic god of the Holy Bible. When you realize why you dismiss all of the other gods which are worshipped within this world today, then perhaps you will understand why I dismiss yours.

      January 8, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
    • Observer

      Carolyn,

      Hell is going to be terribly crowded with Christians. You know, like all those hypocrites who trash gays, but commit adultery by divorcing and remarrying (unless the previous spouse was already an adulterer). There's FAR FAR more of those hypocrites than there are gays. Hell will be packed.

      January 8, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
    • Brooker

      Not even close. Agnostic = free thinking. Atheism is just another set of beliefs masquerading and unassailable truth when no one really knows anything. That said all belief systems are fine with me as long as we're not talking about requiring others to validate them for you and/or behave in accordance with them.

      January 8, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
    • heliocracy

      @carolyn When you misbehaved as a child, did your parents throw you into a burning fireplace? No. Doesn't that mean that your parents (and you) are actually more moral than your god? Why would you worship an immoral god?

      January 8, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
  14. marks320

    @HM8432

    Unicorns in the bible. Job 39:9-12. King James Version.

    January 8, 2013 at 8:21 pm |
    • JJ

      The fact that there is a "version" of god's word should rattle even the most fanatict's heads.

      January 8, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
  15. niknak

    OK, you have wasted enough of my time Belief Blog!!!

    Begone with thee, thou art an evil and wastefull scurge that surely shall for all eternity burn!

    Niknak out.

    January 8, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
  16. granny

    I am a nice little old lady whom everyone respects and trusts. I have been a secret atheist all my life and I do wish that secret was not necessary, but it is.

    January 8, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @granny,

      I suspect there are many people who are just like you.

      I wish you health and happiness, to you and your family.

      January 8, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
    • JJ

      Hi Granny, I know that your Christian friends demonize those who do not believe in their particular sky god but you hang in there because reason always trumps delusion.

      January 8, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
    • mama k

      I would call poe, but then I stopped and realized that's what I'm like. lol.

      January 8, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
    • mama k

      (Well except that my close friends and relatives actually do know that about me.)

      January 8, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @mama k,

      too funny! (I decided that the benefit of the doubt was appropriate here.)

      January 8, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
    • hee hee

      I feel for you. I'm sure that you're not alone. But I'm sure you're right about the difficulties and pain that it would cause if you "came out".

      Who could imagine that you don't love your grandchildren as much as your Christian friends love theirs? What a world we live in.

      I wish you all the best.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
  17. YouGottaPretendtobeReligious

    If I was a congress person,I would swear on a bible,even though I have no beliefe in anything.It's easier to do that then not do it,and have everything about you be about the stupid religion you arent part of.

    Thats just the way things are,and will always be.Just swear on the bible.Pretend to be a christian,it isnt so bad.

    and DONT be a cynical athesist,those are THE WORST!!!!!

    January 8, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      I gotta call Poe on this one.

      January 8, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
    • Spence

      Swearing on the Bible is an interesting thing. For one, many have done so, as politicians, and say they at the very least believe in God, or are Christians. This is certainly a good place to start if you want to profess something, but professing and living from what you truly are may in fact be entirely two different things. For instance, one man may have the flu, his fever is 104. Another man has been in the sauna for an hour, he went into the hot tub, and then back into the sauna. His temperature is 104. Both have the outward appearance of having the flu, but only one truly has it. A lot of people can claim to be Christian, or what not, but there is an inward truth that may or may not be there. In other words, love is NOT defined by action.

      Can you imagine a man who wakes up early in the morning that goes to say, a men's breakfast after a Bible study. Then he goes to a habitat for humanity event. Later he serves the homeless a lunch. His day continues to be filled with charitable actives, he supports the protection of a wild life wetlands, etc, until the sun goes down and he returns home. Can you imagine that same man getting home, losing his temper easily, and yelling at his wife? I can. His actions have the appearance of love, but the inward reality is that he simply doesn't have it.

      It may seem holy or honorable to swear on the Bible for instance. Its tradition, right? It means what you are about to do is important. However the very Christ they align themselves said this:

      33“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ 34But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Matthew 5)

      So if men are admonished to not make oaths, nor abuse sacred objects in order to make what they are doing SEEM more important, and abuse others into thinking they are trustworthy because they are doing what SEEMs to be a good gesture, why do so many "Christians" swear on the Bible? Why are there no honorable men or women saying something apart from "I swear to tell the whole truth," but simply stating, "I WILL tell the whole truth"?

      January 8, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
  18. Lord

    Instead of blabbing about gods and congress and earings,the bigger question is:

    Why is Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona not in a kitchen making sandwitches?

    January 8, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
    • Answer

      Probably because you haven't made any order.

      January 8, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
  19. Answer

    These are the a-s-s-u-r-a-n-c-e-s that the bible clowns always need to put down as a comment:

    1) "these atheists have no meaning"
    2) "atheists have no joy in their life"
    3) "because they reject my fairy tale they are doomed"
    4) "their opinions don't matter because they're against me"

    Ya that's you – the religious t-w-a-t... you always want to express those dogmatic lines. Your preacher a-s-s-u-r-e-s you, and then you crawl back to church and you give the same a-s-s-u-r-a-n-c-e back to your preacher. Like clockwork every week. Like you referencing your bible as truth and your bible telling you.

    That is your life. You'll never break it and I'm glad because I get so much laughter. XD

    January 8, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      I like your list. I had composed a similar (but longer) list some time ago.

      January 8, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
    • Answer

      @GOP

      I've read yours and it's far more in-depth than my own frankly. These are just my developed insights of the fundies that make their posts.

      January 8, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • Susan

      Nice laughing at God! Sad world we live in today!

      January 8, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
  20. babeuf

    Why this need to justify yourself, if you're an atheist? The ones who need to justify themselves are the people who not only profess bizarre beliefs but want to impose them on the others. And the weirder their beliefs, the more violent their behavior. Some atheists have killed, but the numbers are peanuts compared to the number of people massacred in the name of this or that god.

    January 8, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
    • JJ

      Our prison system is mostly made up of Christian inmates.

      January 8, 2013 at 8:40 pm |
    • Athy

      True. Atheists in prison are rare. Either they are too smart to get caught or they are too smart to do stupid acts. Either way, they are smarter than religies.

      January 8, 2013 at 9:04 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.