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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. don't do crazy things

    Atheists are hard to control. That makes them unpopular with gangs and churches.

    January 8, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
    • Edweird69

      What are you smoking? That post makes no sense.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
    • MIKEY

      Really? I did not know that.

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

      So are you saying that religious folk are easy sheeple to control? I won't disagree.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:48 pm |
    • MIKEY

      OK...question...if all religious people are so easily controlled then why do atheists have problems with them. Why not just control them?

      January 8, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
    • don't do crazy things

      Why not just control them?

      Some do! Televangelists for example.

      January 9, 2013 at 12:57 am |
    • don't do crazy things

      religious folk are easy sheeple to control?

      I don't often encounter exceptions to that rule.

      January 9, 2013 at 12:59 am |
  2. Woody

    Christianity is 2000 years old , Islam about 1600 . The human mammal has been on the planet for about 1,000.000 years so that means the God we supposedly know today was not around for 800,000 years ! So where was this heaven and hell for 800,000 years ? Take the money out of religion and we will go right back to that 800,000 years . Athiest is only a bad word because it removes money from peoples pockets . And no god can be a he because you have to have the organ to be a he and it does not come in size invisible !

    January 8, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
    • LouAZ

      1,000,000 minus 2,000 (Hell let's include the religions of Abeaham 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 ?) . . . minus 5,000 equals 995,000.
      Let's not cheat the god(s) with aritmetic. They have very good accountants and bankers, including those men in dresses.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:39 pm |
    • vj

      Humans have been around for a million years? Whats your source for this? Dont say mainstream media, or you lose. Notice how world history only goes back about 6,000 years bc, how ironic that matches perfectly with the biblical account! Stick to whats observed, that is science.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
    • vj

      Sorry not even 6,000 bc, 4,000 bc!

      January 8, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
    • Edweird69

      @vj – yes, the earth is only 6,000 years old. Fred Flintstone was a real person with real dinosaur pets. Gee whiz...did you just crawl out of the rock quarry or what? You don't find dinosaur bones evidence? You think a book written by goat herders 2,000 years ago has more validity than dinosaur bones?

      January 8, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
    • vj

      Edweird, just because I dont believe the lies in the public science books, doesnt mean im wrong. World history that was recorded only goes back to about 4,000 BC..Not millions of years.. If the earth was millions or billions of years old, the ozone and atmosphere wouldve deteriorated and we'd be long gone. Theres a little law called the second law of thermodynamics which evolutionists can never explain, because they think things just magically came into existence from nothing.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
    • Veritas

      @vj: Are you for real or just a troll? I can't believe that there are real people that ignorant. Do you believe in gravity?

      January 8, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
    • Gadflie

      VJ, you mistake written history for history as a whole. How do you know that the Bible itself is that old? If you say "historians or preachers say so" you lose.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
    • Gadflie

      VJ, the second law of thermodynamics doesn't apply to the Earth. It only applies to closed systems and the Earth is far from a closed system. Among other things, it continuously gets a very large influx of energy. See, that wasn't that hard.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:54 pm |
    • vj

      @Edweird again: Regarding dinosaur bones, who ever said they dont mesh with the Bible? The book of Job talks about a behemoth with a tail like a cedar. Do you see the magic geologic column found completely anywhere in nature? Are there any transitional fossils?

      January 8, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
    • MIKEY

      Hmmmmm. Woody, I did not know that! Now, evolutionarily speaking, at what point did humans arrive? I mean, one day they were one thing and then the next there was a mutation and they were here? What if you were God of the terrarium and somehow you put something in the water and a human was created and saw you and started worshipping you? Did you exist before that time? Then again, what if you did not exist and in that terrarium a woman with and invisible organ evolved and determined you must be standing there watching over her with your invisible organ in hand? What would she call you and did you create her or she you? So many questions. Can't wait for my state to legalize pot so I can get to the answers to such questions. :)

      January 8, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
    • Gadflie

      vj, there are hundreds of transitional fossils. I'm about to call Poe's law on you, nobody is truly that ignorant.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
    • vj

      Gadflie: Of course the second law of thermodynamics applies to earth, the whole universe is the closed system. Everything we see exhibits the second law.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
    • vj

      Gadflie: 'hundreds of transitional fossils'?? Please, you mean like Lucy, piltdown man, or archaeopteryx? There have been hundreds of proven hoaxes, thats for sure.

      January 8, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
    • Gadflie

      VJ, are you actually trying to pretend that if entropy increases on average throughout the entire universe, this means that it has to increase everywhere? If so, then you are saying that you cannot make a salt crystal from dissolved salt. Are you truly that ignorant?

      January 8, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
    • Gadflie

      Ok vj, let's set some rules for this discussion. I've learned that Creationists will just keep dodging if you don't.
      If I can show you every single step between two different species (species defined by the fact that they do not interbreed if given opportunity, the strictest scientific definition) and allow you to verify each step by using whatever criteria you see fit, would you then admit that evolution, including macro evolution (speciation) is indeed a fact? And, that the steps between were indeed transitional? If not, then why not?

      January 8, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • vj

      Gadflie, lets not be hasty in calling each other ignorant just yet. Regarding the second law, we see it everywhere. Everything breaks down or deteriorates over time. Look at what the sun does to everything on earth (except chlorophyll, which is extremely complex))- it destroys it. Look at the sun itself, it burns off about 5 feet in diameter every second, if i recall right. We also see novas and supernovas, but strangely zero star formations.

      January 8, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • Gadflie

      No star formations? While forming a star takes a LONG time (much longer than our entire civilization has been around), we have found a LOT of areas of new star formation. A fine example of this is LH 95 stellar nursery in Large Magellanic Cloud.

      January 8, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
    • Gadflie

      And, while UV is very destructive, it also DECREASES entropy in some cases. For a fine example, if you have any sea salt in your home, look at it.

      January 8, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
    • vj

      Sorry to flood your inbox Woody, but to Gadflie again: regarding speciation and natural selection, nobody denies this. Of course you can trace the steps between SPECIES. Try tracing steps between KINDS. Like a dog/wolf to a horse, that should be easy.

      January 8, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
    • Gadflie

      Also, in the distant galaxy MS1358arc, using gravitational lensing, we have observed that approx 50 stars per year are being formed there.

      January 8, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
    • Gadflie

      It should be easy? Do you have any idea how rare fossilization is? So, since it is obvious and you have admitted that species can diverge through evolution, what is your evidence that this stops at the species level?

      January 8, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
    • Gadflie

      And, for transitional species between kinds, you should look at the ancestors of modern whales. There is a very good record of the legs/feet to flippers transition. And, pretending that isn't between "kinds" is just that, pretending.

      January 8, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
    • Gadflie

      And, if you took a napkin and drew an "intermediate" step between a land animal and a sea animal, then it would look a LOT like Ambulocetus, but, well, that's a real fossil.

      January 8, 2013 at 11:19 pm |
    • vj

      Gadflie, you are reaching for the stars here! I dont believe we can observe 50 star formations per whatever in any galaxy. It could be that things are simply getting clearer there, this happens when we use better telescopes and dust/gas clears in some distant spot also. However this lensing method banks on the assumption that the speed of light has been and still is constant, which we've proven to be false. Apologies to Albert Einstein.

      January 8, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
    • vj

      Ambulocetus was a land mammal with hooves..Did the hooves become fins?

      January 8, 2013 at 11:22 pm |
    • vj

      There are billions and billions of fossils to look through for evolutionists to find a missing link or two. Dont tell me they cant find any now..I dont want to wait until the next flood.

      January 8, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
    • MIKEY

      Gadflie...transitional fossils...uhhuh...I would expect so. Lucy was a pretty good one and if I remember correctly,she was an austaliopithicus but there were numerous lines and I could not say which it was she belonged to off the top of my head. With that said, we only find large differences in bone structure, mastication formation, skull variation over time that we say, ahh...the hominid as not been found and now we see the sapien has arrived and carbon dating finds no overlap so now we have the human. But, there had to be an overlap unless all the older model dropped dead at the same time a few offsrping developed and procreated. If one were alive during that time, would we have been able to say which was human and which was not? Have you ever wondered how one would have disappeared and another erupted. I think of the puzzle of ocean missing a number of pieces only to find some single blue peices under the couch that are blue too but do not fit any of the missing holes of the one I am working on. Hmmm. I do like your answer though, simple, concise, talks of the holes and claim intelligence over ignorance even when you cannot be sure of the answer you give as there is no final answer yet to be had. Still, I wonder what it would have been like at that time and knowing if one would have been able to decipher between human and not and yes, that is silly because that would be impossible and only the passage of time allows us that simplistic view of human development as large developmental stages.

      January 8, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
    • Gadflie

      VJ, every single bone in Ambulocetus legs and feet (it was not hooved, don't know where you got that from), can still be found in the fins of every whale.

      January 8, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
    • Gadflie

      VJ, gravitational lensing in no way relies on the speed of light being constant. Only that light is affected by gravity which is easily shown. And, your belief doesn't affect reality, sorry kid.

      January 8, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
    • vj

      Gadflie: You need to resort to ambulocetus and gravitational lensing to explain your beliefs, while I can rely on my beliefs (based on observation). Mine would be scientific. Assuming that a star takes millions of years to form is not science. Neither is assuming that nothing can explode into everything. Also, millions of years of rain on rocks forming a primordial soup has never been observed. Good luck to you.

      January 8, 2013 at 11:39 pm |
    • Gadflie

      VJ, you asked for transitional species between "kinds", I gave you an obvious one. Then you spouted some nonsense about it being a hooved land animal.
      You stated there was no star formation, I correctly pointed out that it was observed fairly often, then you spouted some nonsense about gravitational lensing being invalid because the speed of light wasn't constant.
      I'm seeing a pattern here. Willful ignorance is an ugly thing VJ. And you reek of it.

      January 8, 2013 at 11:50 pm |
    • vj

      You want to believe that whales evolved from a land mammal, and that their fins are somehow remnants of legs we see today on elephants or cows or whatever? The ambulocetus had 'toes terminated by a short phalanx carrying a convex hoof'. Also, the 'feet were enormous, and the femur short and stout'- doesnt sound like a whale to me (quote from icr whenwhalewhale article).

      January 9, 2013 at 12:00 am |
    • vj

      Gravitational lensing relies on objects on space to bend light, in order for us to see this light from distant places. I simply said if the speed of light isnt constant, how can you use it to measure distance? Or redshift for that matter? Both are theories, and you are assuming we can even know something is billions of lightyears away in the first place. We can only measure within a few hundred lightyears with parallax trigonometry (actual observation), let alone millions. This still all supports the Bible, which repeats that God 'stretched out the heavens'.

      January 9, 2013 at 12:08 am |
    • vj

      Regarding lensing even wiki (not always reliable) states that 'Since light always moves at a constant speed, lensing changes the direction of the magnitude of the light, but not the velocity'. That is the basic faulty assumption i was talking about.

      January 9, 2013 at 12:13 am |
    • Gadflie

      VJ, so, if you look at that single species you can make excuses like that, but if you look at the entire line from Mesonychids to modern whales, your arguments look silly.
      And, my point about star birth obviously did not rely on the distance at all. It only relied on the fact that we OBSERVE it. The only reason you are whining about the distance is that you think that an obvious strawman argument is your best chance of saving face.

      January 9, 2013 at 12:34 am |
  3. Paul Karch

    I am beginning to wonder at the sanity of aethiests, especially this guy. A REAL chaplain, priest, pastor, represents GOD and GOD's teaching. Who, exactly, do 'humanists' represent? They certainly don't represent humans... as the majority of us are smart enough to believe in the Supreme Being.

    January 8, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
    • Edweird69

      Sanity? So believing in invisible, magical beings in the sky is sane? You are warped!

      January 8, 2013 at 10:34 pm |
    • Veritas

      Multiple studies have shown, no surprise, that there is a clear inverse relation between the level of education and the level of religiosity. Elementary, my dear Watson.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:36 pm |
    • vj

      For edweird: According to you evolutionists/atheists, 'nothing' exploded into 'everything'. That is completely theoretical and unscientific (not observed). Just bc God can be outside our continuum (time/space/matter), doesnt mean God doesnt exist.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:47 pm |
    • Edweird69

      @vj – it makes as much sense as you saying your god created everything from nothing. That theory is so obsurd, it hardly dignifies a response. A magic being? Really?

      January 8, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
    • MIKEY

      Edweird69 and VJ- so, you two finally agree on substance but name it something different. cool.

      January 8, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
  4. Andy Christensen

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

    As a theist, Christian and believer (take your pick), I find this statement deeply problematic.

    It is perfectly fine, of course, if Sinema isn’t a theist, 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 theists or believers.

    January 8, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
  5. DJW

    No it isn't a dirty word. Just a sad lonely word.

    January 8, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
    • Edweird69

      NOPE...I'm neither sad nor lonely. Just not part of a cult. I don't feel left out at all, I promise you.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
    • Veritas

      What is sad is having to justify everything you do here on Earth, with the only life you have, as things you do to please and not anger your invisible skydaddy. I know that this is the only life I have and am thus living it to its fullest, loving the near and dear I have around me.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:39 pm |
  6. Paul Karch

    I am beginning to wonder at the sanity of aethiests, especially this guy. A REAL chaplain, priest, pastor, represents GOD and GOD's teaching. Who, exactly, do 'humanists' represent? They certainly don't represent humans... as the majority of us are smart enough to believe in the Supreme Being.

    January 8, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
    • Follix

      You mean a majority are stupid enough to believe they detain the truth in an Universe that contain at least 10^22 planets. Pretty arrogant to me.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
    • dreamer96

      Can you tell me what a pure Capitalist believes in?... other then making more money...at any cost to humans, the enviorment, our future...too many believe in the Religion of Pure Capitalism...

      January 8, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
    • Bryant Lister

      "Smart enough to believe?" That's a hilarious bit of nonsense. Belief is the adherence to something as fact for which you have no evidence or logical basis for. So,belief requires a suspension of intelligence, not a utilization of it.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
    • alex

      "as the majority of us are smart enough to believe in the Supreme Being."

      Interesting choice words. Which Supreme being is that again? You may find some disagreement there, and some of those "smart" people may even kill you over it.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:34 pm |
    • vj

      I would hope the majority believes in a supreme being, but due to whats being indoctrinated in public schoolbooks, there are more and more evolutionists being created by the school system.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:34 pm |
    • Jeff

      Which Supreme Being? Buddha? Jesus? Allah? Which one is the correct Supreme Being? Being smart enough to believe in the Supreme Being is important, but it is equally important to believe in the correct one, otherwise that would be stupid....

      January 8, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
    • vj

      For Follix: Sure, the universe has billions of planets, too bad Genesis said God made the stars also. Your only escape is believing in a big bang and primordial soup, which are the most unscientific ideas anyone could come up with. Its pretty sad.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
    • Veritas

      Multiple studies have shown, no surprise, that there is a clear inverse relation between the level of education and the level of religiosity. Elementary, my dear Watson.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:40 pm |
    • Edweird69

      @VJ – so, who created your creator? If it takes a god to make something from nothing, who made your god? Nutjob!

      January 8, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
    • pazke

      That's okay, we've been doubting your sanity for years.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
  7. steve jans

    Good thing gauged ears isn't a bad word too? How did an insignificant article make it to the front page of CNN.

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

      So you're judging the article based upon the man's earrings? That's about typical for your kind.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
  8. Shane

    People like Dawkins give Atheists a bad name, and honestly being a politician, it probably isn't in her best interest to lump herself in with Dawkins.

    That, and many religious people (not all) are unwilling to vote for someone who isn't of their religion.

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

      Not at all! Dr. Dawkins shows that atheists are typically well-educated people who have put considerable time and thought into their philosophical and epistemological opinions. In my experience, the vast majority of religious believers have put little of either into their beliefs, revel in circular reasoning, and can't be bothered to get an education that includes any evidence-based knowledge.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
  9. CJ in Cali

    So maybe her 'none' just means she has some nonspecific belief, and is in fact not an atheist (or a nontheist, whatever that means, I've never heard the word before). Plenty of people, both past and present, believe that God exists but don't affiliate themselves with any particular religious group or set of beliefs and doctines. One of them was even President. (Thomas Jefferson.)

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

    Do our nation have Common Sense still? Without common source that gives Common Knowledge....we do not have Common Sense.............

    January 8, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
    • don't do crazy things

      Common source sounds like single source to me.
      Common sense dictates considering multiple sources. As many as you can handle.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
    • pazke

      Your point?

      January 8, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
  11. LouAZ

    Someone said, “Saying atheism is a religion is like saying not collecting stamps is a hobby”.

    January 8, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
    • Foodpimp

      yeah.....but ya don't see people that don't collect stamps telling everyone how they don't collect stamps....and how superior they are for not collecting stamps.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
    • MIKEY

      Interesting thing, if I decide NOT collecting stamps is my hobby...then it is my hobby. I think that is up to me.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
    • Jeff

      If you militantly go around and preach to people the dangers of collecting stamps, you have a hobby of not collecting stamps. People who get all wrapped up in atheism to the point that they are "practicing" the art of going around telling people there is no God and hanging out with others who share the same beliefs, wind up having many of the same characteristics of organized religion and thus I would argue, brings atheism into the realm of a religion..

      January 8, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
  12. Jebusa

    How can you take anyone with those things in their ears seriously?

    January 8, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
    • Jack

      Irrelevant to this article.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
  13. paganguy

    Religion and Western Democracy are divisive: you are either with me or against me. But there are some improvements from the middle ages: now they don't kill the pagans.

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

      Too many christians, too few lions.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
  14. Chris

    LOL, so like what is the purpose of a "humanist chaplain"..to help people who don't believe in anything to like help them along the way of not believing? So you help them be a better non-believer.

    January 8, 2013 at 10:21 pm |
    • Not Likely

      The purpose is to be a good person that others can turn to when they want advice.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
    • vj

      Her purpose is to brainwash people into believing that big bang and primordial soup joke. Its pretty pathetic.

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

      Chaplains are guidance counselors in the military, first and foremost. Advocates of non-Christian chaplains would like to receive guidance without a Christian agenda. I was in the military, as an atheist, and it really bugged me that chaplains were not very neutral.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:34 pm |
  15. Thomas

    Yeah, too bad "Christianity" and "religion" are dirty words with me atheists. Must be a pathetically sad life not believe in something, then concern yourself so much with what others believe, as many atheist groups actively and openly do.

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

      How is that more pathetic than believing in something but spending your time worrying about what others believe, like you are obviously doing?

      January 8, 2013 at 10:22 pm |
    • Christian

      Yes atheist is a dirty word but the atheist made it a dirty word. They made this issue out of their spite and ignorance. No one did it for them.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
    • Alicia

      Agreed!!!

      January 8, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
    • vj

      Completely agree. The atheists will do anything to not live by God's rules and judgment. It is indeed pathetic, the atheists dont even realize where their current laws come from (Old Testament).

      January 8, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
    • Scott

      I'm an atheist, and I concern myself with what religious people believe because their belief is dangerous. From parents praying instead of getting their diabetic child insulin, to people flying planes into buildings, to people aiming to place bigoted biblical laws over all Americans, including the non-Christian ones. Besides, since when does belief in an imaginary friend command respect?

      January 8, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
    • pazke

      All of you need to stop with 'the atheists this' and 'the atheists that'. We can't be lumped all together anymore than all Christians can be lumped into the same category.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
    • Veritas

      "Not believe in anything"? How absurd! Why would believing in science to explain the universe and life be any less fulfilling and inspiring that believing in an omnipotent sky ghost? I instead find it sad that so many people waste the only lives they have on nonsensical religious rituals and lining the pockets of industrious megachurch pastors. Life is wonderful as it is and understanding the world through science is a whole lot more inspiring than tired bronze age fairy tales.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
  16. Paul Dick

    Jesus loves you-everyone else thinks you're an a'hole.

    January 8, 2013 at 10:20 pm |
  17. Roberto

    It's inevitable that all of us atheists will eventually be murdered in a giant witch hunt. We may be smarter, but smarter people tend to have fewer children–idiocracy, my friends.

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

      Let's see. It is you smarter atheists who created the world and climate of Communism. You atheists in the 20th century killed more people than religion ever did. Your great societies of the Soviet Union, China, North Korea and Eastern Europe put millions to death, starvation, prison and ignorance. I have yet to meet an atheist glory in any of this.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
    • End Religion

      Debunked and refuted about 10 times a day... we know you wanted to add Hitler, but it isn't just Hitler that makes you look silly. Hitler was a Christian who felt his actions honoured god.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reductio_ad_Hitlerum
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law

      The actions of Mao and Stalin (who attended seminary) were totalitarian. They sought total authority, which means getting rid of religions which would compete with that authority. The pursuit of atheism was not the cause for the bloodshed; it was the pursuit of control over a people.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_of_Adolf_Hitler

      Hitler was raised Catholic. In his book Mein Kampf and in public speeches he made statements affirming a belief in Christianity. He called the purge of Jews "positive Christianity." While there is debate over his actual private feelings about the faith, he was a publicly practicing Christian. There exists no known evidence that Hitler was an atheist or agnostic. Again: evidence he was Christian; no evidence he was otherwise.

      Hitler said: "Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord."

      The Reichskonkordat was a treaty signed on 20 July 1933 between the Holy See (Catholic Church) and Nazi Germany, that guaranteed the rights of the Roman Catholic Church in Germany, giving moral legitimacy to the Nazi regime soon after Hitler had acquired dictatorial powers, and placing constraints on Catholic critics of the regime, leading to a muted response by the Church to Nazi policies.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
    • Veritas

      @Chris: You clearly don't understand the concepts of logic and causality.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:48 pm |
    • Roberto

      For the last time, Atheism and Communism are not the same thing. I'm sick of ignorant people on here assuming that I'm automatically a communist because I'm an atheist. Communism would be a good system if all people were naturally selfless and hardworking. But they're not. Atheism simply means I don't believe in a silly magic man who lives in the clouds and makes women out of rib bones.

      January 8, 2013 at 11:08 pm |
  18. wrm

    Scraping the bottom of the barrel for front and center pieces aren't you, CNN?

    January 8, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
    • drsin

      I'm guessing the irony of this statement is lost on you.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
    • wrm

      Yes of course oh mighty internet warrior, it is. But I will sleep well tonight knowing that there are wise and perceptive people like you to police the boards and keep the evil-doers and f00ls straight.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
  19. lsuguy

    So...by the same token as Colin Powell's argument, what if she isn't actually an atheist, or a nontheist? What if she hasn't made the conscious decision to believe there is NO god? What if it just isn't a part of her life – and she's just not attempted religion in her life? Why does "none" have to mean she is something? That's my biggest problem with this column, and with the author's interpretation of the Congresswoman's statement. If I said the same thing the author hypothesizes – "Being called a Muslim isn't befitting my ife's work" – it'd be for the same reason Powell mentioned about Obama – it's not true. I'm not a Muslim. It'd be meant for that sole purpose, not because of positive or negative points. Perhaps Sinema just is not an atheist.

    January 8, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      "Atheist" is not "something." Atheist is a word connoting someone who does not believe in a god, not someone who is sure there is no god. An atheist finds no evidence to support belief in a god and therefore does not believe... an atheist also understands that they cannot prove there is no god. Anyone who asserts absolutely that there is no possibility of a god is no better than one who asserts absolutely that there is a specific god...both do so sans evidence.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
    • hello

      You nailed it. I don't identify with any religion, but am not an atheist, as I'm sure is the case with Sinema.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
    • ReligionIsTheCancer

      @sqeptiq: Almost correct; an atheist, or anyone else, can 'prove' that there is no god on just as secure of a basis as he/she can 'prove' that there is no pink elephant in the room – there is no evidence. There is no higher standard of proof or disproof. Read up on epistemology. BTW, any atheist I've ever known is perfectly willing to look at any testable and falsifiable evidence for the existence of any god(s) that anyone can provide. To date, no one has been able to provide any. Belief based on revealed 'knowledge', on the other hand, does not have this willingness. It holds that the 'truth' of the belief is untestable and must simply be accepted. That's a leap I and many others are unwilling to make. Why allow a belief to rule the culture when it has no more validity than any other fantasy?

      January 8, 2013 at 11:39 pm |
  20. Paul Dick

    Freedom of choice. Freedom of religion and freedom from religion. Why is everyone so hung up on religion? It's the character of the individual that matters. Whether that is expressed with or without religion implications is irrelevant. That's the end of my sernon. I'm a creationist. Man created god in his own image.

    January 8, 2013 at 10:16 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.