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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.”

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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. keith a dewey, Chairman

    As a Unitarian: agnostic; one who can't prove there is a god or not. All of us are agnostics. A believer; one who asserts there is a god. An Atheists; one who asserts there is no god. A Humanist; doesn't believe there is a god and doesn't try to prove it one way or the other.
    Maybe the best way to acclaim non-believing in a positive way is to say my Religion is Science. "I am a Social Scientist."

    January 8, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Keeping with strict definitions gnosticism is "to have knowledge of" Therefore agnosticism is "to have no knowledge of". I suspect you could find plenty of people who, while not having complete knowledge of, have some comprehension.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • Eric

      Most atheists do not proclaim positive knowledge of there being no gods. They merely operate under the complete lack of evidence for any gods. It would be equally ignorant to claim to know there are no gods as it is to claim to know that there are.

      Lack of evidence is enough a reason not to believe.

      January 8, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • Tomes

      I think you've fallen into this trap re agnostic vs atheist: http://atheism.about.com/od/aboutagnosticism/a/atheism.htm.

      Belief is active. If you do not actively believe in god(s), the same way you do not actively believe in unicorns or dragons, then you are an atheist (whether or not you label yourself as one). An atheist is not necessarily someone who is actively saying "there is no way god can exist", it is someone saying "I do not (actively) believe in god." You can be agnostic and atheist at the same time, these are not mutually exclusive.

      That said, I understand that you are probably dealing with the stigma usually associated with atheism (like that all atheist are militantly atheist) so I can understand why you are rejecting that label, and I too have used "agnostic" as a way of labelling myself to religious folk in a less confrontational way. I no longer do that, however, because I believe that atheism can and should be taken back as a negative word to something that does not have to be feared as a label.

      January 8, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • Hilikus

      I have no problem with your religion, or whatever you want to believe...but I would not call any religion a science any more than I would call an orange a pencil.

      Faith...nothing wrong with it...it just isn't science.

      January 8, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
  2. Salero21

    No doubts about it. Atheism is nothing more than sophisticated stupidity.

    January 8, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      sigh, your hatred is going to get you a warm afterlife salero21

      January 8, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • ME II

      Obviously "doubt" means something different to you.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Observer

      I'm still waiting for you to tell us all about the stupidity of believing in unicorns.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Really??

      Troll much?

      January 8, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • Jesus

      You do realize that sentence makes no sense, right? I'm not sure if you don't know what those words mean, or you do & you're trying to be clever, but, uh, no.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
    • HairlessApeMan

      Koo koo

      January 8, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
  3. Live4Him

    @S-3B Viking: "Poof" Magic? Are you that ignorant of science that you would be so condescending?

    Okay, where do YOU say the singularity came from? If you claim that you don't know and you accept the Big Bang, then you have implictly accepted magic for its origins.

    January 8, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      How does "I don't know" equate to magic?

      January 8, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      dont be silly, no they havent. To claim uncertainty, or lack of knowledge, is not to therefore claim it was magic.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • S-3B Viking

      Live4Him....

      Magic is the equivalent of saying "God created."

      I don't know...but there are some interesting speculations made by theoretical theorists that don't require a "creation ex nihilo"

      The possibilities posed by string theory and M theory, for instance...but it doesn't necessarily mean that there is a creator who put it in motion.

      In my view, none of the Monotheistic descriptions of God are mature enough to have created something as complex as the universe we experience, considering the petty (human-like) expressions of those Gods in their respective scirptures and the petty lives of most of their followers.

      Was the universe created? could be...not by any incarnation of a God we've seen up to this point.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • Live4Him

      @Blessed are the Cheesemakers: How does "I don't know" equate to magic?

      A worldview is person's view of his/her world. Specifically, how this world came to be and functions. When the atheist posits the Big Bang, they must assume that something created the singularity (since God didn't do it). Since "I don't know" doesn't answer the question and the question has been answered (at least subconsciously), then magic (or it equivalent) must be assumed.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • little timmy

      I'll tell you who doesn't have a clue about the origins of the universe – that Craig dude who can do nothing but apologize all over the place.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • frank

      BeGullible4Him – " . . . they must assume that something created the singularity (since God didn't do it). Since "I don't know" doesn't answer the question and the question has been answered (at least subconsciously), then magic (or it equivalent) must be assumed."

      Rubbish. "they" do not need to be the object of YOUR assumptions. Some questions remain unanswered – tough – that's the way it is until we know more. Inventing our own gods doesn't change that.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • Live4Him

      @cedar rapids: To claim uncertainty, or lack of knowledge, is not to therefore claim it was magic.

      An atheist (by definition) KNOWS the answer in his/her mind. So "lack of knowledge" is not an acceptable answer for an atheist. An agnositic (by definition) doesn't know the answer and therefore views the Big Bang and God explainations equally.

      January 8, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'Since "I don't know" doesn't answer the question and the question has been answered (at least subconsciously), then magic (or it equivalent) must be assumed.'

      what the heck was that jumble of nonsense? .....'.and the question has been answered (at least subconsciously)'...do what now?
      does this pass for logic in your world?

      January 8, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      That has to be the biggest pile of cr@p I have read recently. That is akin to saying before we had an understanding of why rain falls that to say "I don't know why rain falls" is equal to "magic made rain fall". That is just dishonest, you are trying to bring science down to the level of religion as a way to make you feel better about your unsupported belief system.

      January 8, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'An atheist (by definition) KNOWS the answer in his/her mind. So "lack of knowledge" is not an acceptable answer for an atheist'

      huh? how does an atheist know the answer? they believe there is no god but how does that therefore mean they know the physics or science behind the big bang?

      January 8, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  4. John

    Now that atheism is socially acceptable it's becoming the new standard for lazy people, in other generation those people went to the Methodist church where they didn't have to ever think or talk about anything relating to God.I was raised Methodist and I used to be an atheist before having a born again experience years ago. Being an atheist was an honest thing for me though, I truely didn't believe there was a God. It's irritating to hear the army of smart a$$ed hipsters declare there is no God because it's obvious they haven't thought about it. This is like going to the Abercrombie and Fitch to them, which is what they all did as an army before renouncing that, buying a pair of horn rimmed glasses and going off to stink at the local Starbucks with their MacBook. Now these people want us to make public policy out their never thought out beliefs? And it's a big fat fvcking joke just like everything else the stupid millennial hipsters ever do or say. Just because you'd rather get drunk or smoke a joint and play your iPod on Sunday that doesn't make you an atheist, it makes you degenerate. Other generations could admit it when we were degenerate, sometimes we even took pride in it, but it truely takes a dou ch b ag hipster to try to turn it into a belief system.

    January 8, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      lol so not going to church and smoking a J while playing my ipod on my day off makes me a degenerate?

      LOL talk about IGNORANT

      January 8, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • Hilikus

      What a load of nonsense. That reads like you have a specific person in mind.

      Atheists consistently have a higher average knowledge in religion than theists. This is something that is tested, and has remained unchanged for a long time.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • Michael

      I was raised a Methodist yet, when four years old, I decided that religion made no sense to me. The only unknown in my belief system is the first Plank Second (1 x 10 -43 second) after the Bang. Everything thereafter can be described by physics and math. My atheism is a conscious decision, not running away or being lazy; quite the oppostie, in fact, for I spent years trying to rationalize what I read, heard and was taught against the natural order of things. Knowledge and understanding pushed the unknowns of religion into the dark realm of the fearful.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • Sarah

      I cannot say I have ever encountered someone who is a an atheist because it is cool, or because they are too lazy to follow a religion. I would agree with another commenter – it does sound like you have someone specfic in mind.

      But my own experience, is that atheists tend to be very knowledgeable about other religions. Personally, as someone raised within Christianity, when it started to feel like it didn't fit what I truly believed, I looked to other Christian denominations first. And when they didn't fit, I looked to other religions. In doing so, I learned a lot about religious studies in general. I cannot honestly say I considered every religion in existence of course. But there was a very long time gap between when I started to think I was an atheist, and the first time I told someone I was an atheist.

      January 8, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • Jesus

      What does someone being lazy have to be with being an atheist? It sounds like you were just picked on by the cool kids, John, and this post if your revenge!

      January 8, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
    • HairlessApeMan

      Koo koo!

      January 8, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
    • HairlessApeMan

      If the Christian god is real we should figure out how to capture and study it.

      January 8, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
    • Skeptic

      Bring an atheist was an honest thing for you but for everybody else that's an atheist, they are hipster stereotypes that get drunk and smoke pot? You are a delusional bigot.

      May 6, 2013 at 10:53 am |
  5. KLN

    I think it's telling that she doesn't want to publically claim athiesm. Morally she seems to see a problem with that label. If you aren't comfortable with who you actually are or what you actually believe, you have to ask yourself why? "Athiest" describes a belief system. You either agree with that belief system or you don't. If you disagree with it, then what do you believe in?

    January 8, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • ME II

      @KLN,
      "'Athiest' describes a belief system."
      Incorrect. There is no Atheist philosophy, doctrine, ritual, or dogma. There are philosophies that are atheistic, i.e. lacking a need to believe in god(s), but not an Atheist philosophy.
      Atheism is a single negative statement, a lack of belief in god(s).

      January 8, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
  6. Ravi Zacharias

    > Your religion stops discovery, "God did it" answers everything so there is no need to look futher and as a matter of fact religion would rather we stop asking questions....they like unquestioned answers.

    Well that is not true in my religion. I'm sure some religions are like that. But not all.

    January 8, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
  7. Salero21

    The Big Bang Facts: God Spoke it and BANG it happened!! :-)

    January 8, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Matt Sewell

      He also spoke tragedy and BAM, kids and teachers died. Good one.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • Salero21

      Your understanding of CRIME is one more among a billionth, like if we need one more. That atheism is nothing more than sophisticated stupidity.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Observer

      Salero21,

      So is believing UNSOPHISTICATED STUPIDITY?

      January 8, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
  8. EJ

    Actually reality, that comes out to around only 14% of the American population having no religious affiliation. At one point in time I was numbered among that group, even though I did believe in God. But the symptom of decreasing happiness with religious groups only points out that something is lacking within each religion. In Christianity it is the lack of teaching God's Word at all times and in all places. I do not infer that it is to be crammed down everyone's throats. I am simply stating that in the church body it must be taught on a regular basis so that people can learn about God and each other.

    January 8, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • Reality

      You forgot to factor in the number of adults. Doing that it is one in five adults/voters are in the "none" category i.e. 20%.

      January 8, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
  9. Salero21

    As sophisticated as atheists believe they are, nonetheless their atheism is proving to be the one thing that leads them to stupidity's ultimate form of sophistication, atheism.

    January 8, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • == o ==

      LMAO. The disgruntled ex Evangelical Fortune Cookie Co. "writer" is on a roll. lol.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Russell's Teapot

      What a maroon

      January 8, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • Matt Sewell

      What gives YOU the right to call anyone stupid? Sheep. Baaaahhhh.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • Salero21

      Well, Jesus did not call himself the Good Shepherd for nothing. You must remember that He called Herod a fox, those who oppose Him He called them vipers. Other unbelievers He called them dogs and swine. So what is so difficult to understand for the self-proclaimed atheists about that. Since anyways some of them BELIEVE they are descendants of some ape.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • Hey! You!

      Wow! You like to use the word 'sophisticated'. Somebody got a dictionary for xmas!

      January 8, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Michael

      Use of the Null Hypothesis proves nothing. Your statement consists of nothing but recursive denial. Fail.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Michael

      Reading your followng rebuttal, it is intuitively obvious even to the most casual observer that you know nothing of Evolution. Mankind DID NOT descend from apes. Man and ape evolved from a common ancestor. PERIOD. Educate yourself before posting further lunacy.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      i do not think those words mean what you think they mean salero

      January 8, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • RedskinsFan

      You turn on the spite and venom very fast for an "elightened" and "intelligent" Christian. I could cite a few Bible versus to refute you. But, I believe that the earth is 6 Billion years old, since science can be used to pretty much prove it, just like the universe is around 14 Billion years old. I can also use scientific principles to prove to myself and pretty much any other respectable scientist that we did in fact evolve from apes, and that we are technically a species of great ape.

      January 8, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • Reality

      John 10: 1-21, the story of the good shepherd, appears only once in the NT, making it a single attestation and therefore historically, non-authentic by rigorous historical review. See http://www.faithfutures.org/JDB/jdb357.html for added details.

      Also:

      With respect to John's Gospel from Professor/Father Raymond Brown in his book, An Introduction to the New Testament, (The book has both a Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur from the Catholic Church),

      John's Gospel, Date- 80-110 CE, Traditional Attribution, (2nd Century), St. John, one of the Twelve,
      Author Detectable from the Contents, One who regards himself in the tradition of the disciple.
      First Epistle of John, Authenticity- Certainly by a writer in the Johannine tradition, probably NOT by the one responsible for most of the Gospel.

      From Professor Bruce Chilton in his book, Rabbi Jesus,

      "Conventionally, scholarship has accorded priority to the first three gospels in historical work on Jesus, putting progressively less credence in works of late date. John's Gospel for example is routinely dismissed as a source......

      From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_of_John#Authorship

      "Since "the higher criticism" of the 19th century, some historians have largely rejected the gospel of John as a reliable source of information about the historical Jesus.[3][4] "[M]ost commentators regard the work as anonymous,"[5] and date it to 90-100."

      "The authorship has been disputed since at least the second century, with mainstream Christianity believing that the author is John the Apostle, son of Zebedee. Modern experts usually consider the author to be an unknown non-eyewitness, though many apologetic Christian scholars still hold to the conservative Johannine view that ascribes authorship to John the Apostle."

      And from Professor Gerd Ludemann, in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 416,

      "Anyone looking for the historical Jesus will not find him in the Gospel of John. "

      January 8, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • Jesus

      Salero21, you do realize your fancy quotes don't make any sense, right? YOu just heard some buzz words & tried to throw them altogether, but you obviously don't know the words you're typing

      January 8, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
  10. SixDegrees

    "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."

    No it doesn't. It states explicitly – not implicitly – that those terms don't describe the Congresswoman. Plain and simple.

    Thin skin, much?

    January 8, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
  11. Spacely

    I believe the congress woman is trying to say she's "spiritual", which is not athiest. She does not want to be a part of a rigid religious establishment, so adjusts her beliefs internally, as we all do, until they are acceptable. Heck, I'm only part Jewish, with a touch of spirituality and a pinch of Agnostic mixed in. Good recipe for me. Belief in flux is a good thing, rigid arrogance a bad thing :)

    January 8, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • lroy

      First time Buddhist and Hindu, while not in line with most of more common religions (including JW and Mormon/LDS) is still a faith-based belief whether you agree it or not. A "true" atheist has no such belief. Big difference.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Jesus

      Ok, I can explain this because I would also answer "none".

      It means you have more important things to think about than an afterlife, or if your good deeds will make people you don't know happy. Some people just don't think about things that have to do with religion. It's not a copout, or atheist, or anything negative the author of the article tries to make it out.

      It's like when someone says, whats your favorite baseball team? And I answer, none, I don't follow baseball... That's the same thing. Someone asks, what religion are you? And you say, no, I don't follow religion. It doesnt mean you're atheist, you just don't play the game

      January 8, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
  12. Salero21

    Sophisticated stupidity leads to atheism.

    January 8, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • == o ==

      See, Salero21, this is why they let you go from the Evangelical Fortune Cookie Co.. Your dribble is just too boring.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • Salero21

      === o === You should be instead -0 or at least 0.00

      January 8, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • ME II

      Not sure what "sophisticated stupidity" is, but simple ignorance does lead to supersti.tion.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Hey! You!

      You're doing a pretty crappy job of trying to sounding smart.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Reason

      Salero, your comments are offensive and untrue. Some people choose to observe the world through logic and science and believe only what can be proven. I don't know if there is a God, but there is no evidence that he exists, so until I see some evidence, I cannot believe in him. The fact is that most people believe in God because they were taught to do so by their parents, are afraid not to, or read the Bible (a wonderful work of mostly fiction). Believing something without supporting evidence is sophisticated stupidity. Religion was born out of man's inability to understand the universe and man's inability to deal with the knowledge of mortality.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Really??

      ignorance leads to creating gods and religion

      January 8, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
  13. Deitrich Bonhoeffer

    "A god who let us prove his existence would be an idol."

    "If we were to judge nature by common sense or likelihood, we wouldn't believe the world existed."
    – Annie Dillard

    January 8, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • ME II

      I must be slow this morning.

      Evidence of a god's existence does not mean she/he/it would have to be a thing, or idol, would it?

      Doesn't common sense and "likelihood" point to the world existing? Every measurement ever taken confirms its existence does it not?

      January 8, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      "A god who let us prove his existence would be an idol."

      Why? The god of Abraham proved his existence to many according to the bible, ect.....does that make him an idol?

      January 8, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • Deitrich Bonhoeffer

      >Why? The god of Abraham proved his existence to many according to the bible, ect.....does that make him an idol?

      No. God proved his existence to Abraham. Abraham couldn't prove his existence to others.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      That does nothing to explain your premise. Your god proved his existence so he is an idol according to your premise.

      January 8, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • Deitrich Bonhoeffer

      It is a quote. It is not an absolute. But I can't summon God and make him appear to you in order to satisfy your doubts of his existence. He is not a genie. He is not an idol. He is God.

      January 8, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
  14. Salero21

    Atheism is nothing more and nothing less than sophisticated stupidity.

    January 8, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • Matt Sewell

      You just committed a "sin". Better ask for "forgiveness" now.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • Astra Navigo

      Says a person who blindly follows a religion......

      January 8, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • Melanie

      You must be a sheep for sure!!!

      January 8, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
  15. Mike

    As a non religious agnostic bordering on being a deist I would find the atheist label an equally non befitting label as any religious one.

    Truly think you are taking offense where none was given, people take their religious/non-religious labels seriously and atheist does not fit every non religious person and I personally would stridently object to being labeled one.

    January 8, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      So what do you believe?

      January 8, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • Sarah

      Seriously, did you read the article? Chris Stedman is not criticizing her clarification that she does not consider her atheist. He even says that of course, not all nonreligious individuals are atheists (and as an atheist I agree in part with your comment – it actually takes some degree of religious belief or faith to believe that there is no God). His issue is that she does act as though "atheist" is a dirty word – saying that the term is unbefitting of her "life's work and personal character". She did not just say, "I don't consider myself an atheist". She basically said, "I am a good person so of course I am not an atheist". That is inarguably offensive to atheists. People act like atheists make a big deal over these things unnecessarily, but we are one of the least accepted groups in America, so I can understand why Chris Stedman feels a kind of moral obligation to stand up for our group as a whole. I do not know all atheists, obviously. But I can say that every atheist I do know is generous, intelligent and thoughtful, and devoted to living a highly moral life. But do you have any idea how often I hear that atheists are immoral? Do you have any idea how often people think that since I do not believe in God, I believe in nothing at all? As if I am just some shell of a human being with no values, no principles, and no views on moral issues. Sometimes in conversation, friends of mine will label me as "spiritual but not religious" because they apparently cannot bring themselves to just say I am an atheist. I would never use that phrase (spiritual but not religious) to describe myself, but like Rep. Sinema, most people I know still have a negative reaction to the word "atheist". And that is what Stedman's article is about – not one woman's religious classification.

      January 8, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
  16. dudeuloose

    and so our country heads down the moral cliff.

    January 8, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • Observer

      Great news flash from THOUSANDS of years ago.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • ME II

      Not sure one "heads down" a cliff. I think that's called falling.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
  17. Come on, guys

    An atheist just doesn't believe in a god. Christians are atheistic toward 99.9% of all gods, as are Jews and Muslims and Hindus (maybe 90% of all gods for Hindus, actually). Stop acting like atheism is making an assertion. Some atheists might feel that they can disprove (logically, historically, scientifically, whatever) the Christian god, but atheism itself ASSERTS nothing; it just asserts that the theist's assertion is flawed/incorrect.

    January 8, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Right, at least theoretically (some in practice claim more). But that's precisely why someone in politics wouldn't want this to be her main label. When someone asks what you believe in they want to know the principles by which you live. Atheism has little to say on that question. She will have a set of, apparently humanist, ethics which are more relevant.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • Come on, guys

      And with Christians who oppose or hate gay marriage, war, abortion, drugs, slavery, euthanasia, etc, I fail to see how being labeled a "Christian" says anything about your personal values/beliefs.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Come on, guys-"Christians are atheistic toward 99.9% of all gods,"

      I've seen similar comments like this and I don't agree. It's not like a Christian went through the whole of human religions and said, "nope none of those work but hey....this last one did." A Christian arrived to the conclusion that Christianity is what they believe in. They don't usually go through a check list of faiths to arrive to the one they believe in.
      No more than an atheist goes through every single faith to arrive at the conclusion that they don't belive in any faith.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Hillcrester

      I am a religion nonbeliever. I have no concern with what anyone else believes until that person claims that his/her beliefs should become the civil law that governs me. At that point, I will dispute the credibility of those beliefs. I will fight politically to remain free of them. I do not wish to interfere with others' beliefs, and ask that they not try to impose them on me. Fair enough?

      January 8, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • Akira

      I get the concept...there have been many other gods over the course of history; Christians rejected them in favor of their own God.
      If they reject other gods in favor of their own, they are atheistic towards the other gods they rejected.
      They don't believe in the other gods.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • Come on, guys

      Uncouth Swain,

      Right, exactly. No Christian considers every other religion. Nor does any atheist. Yet both are atheistic toward every single god, except that the Christian still thinks that the Christian god is correct. So the statement still stands, as it is simply saying that Christians and atheists came to the same conclusion about every single god other than the Christian one.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      "Yet both are atheistic toward every single god, except that the Christian still thinks that the Christian god is correct."

      I guess I'm just not for using the terminology. Obviously "atheistic" isn't proper use if one has any belief in the supernatural. No where does a pastor, rabbi...etc ever say to be a follower you must be atheistic to all other religions since the very term of atheism renounces anything of the supernatural.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Come on, guys

      "Atheism" means "without belief". So someone with an "atheistic belief" is "without belief" in regard to whatever that thing is. Because Christianity is treated as a monotheistic, a Christian MUST be "without belief" toward other gods.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • lol??

      Just use fewer words, like, "I'm antichrist."

      January 8, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
  18. Leo

    "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 not a true statement with regards to implication. You can take it that way, but that is because of your oversensitivity, not because of anything she has done.

    January 8, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • ME II

      I agree for the most part.
      Although, she probably could have chosen better wording.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • mike m

      It only seems overlysensitive if you are not part of the targeted group, i.e., if you are not atheist. If you put yourself in the shoes of an atheist, you will see how the author is on point and not overly sensitive.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • lol??

      Does she get her head chopped off in the end? Maybe a funeral like Senator Byrd where all the other servants were falling all over each other to get THEIR name before the public with windy speeches?

      January 8, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • Sarah

      mike m – as an atheist, I agree. The particular wording she used did not sit well with me. I am not hypersensitive and I would argue that to even be an atheist (especially in this country), you have to have pretty thick skin. So I am not going to go home and cry about it – and neither is Chris Stedman. But Rep. Sinema is reinforcing a very common (and completely incorrect) stereotype that atheists are immoral (or of poor personal character) – whether she means to or not. Now, I do not hold any ill-will towards the Congresswoman and still find it refreshing that she refused to do what I believe a number of politicians do, which is lie about their religious affiliation to appeal to our predominantly Christian electorate. And I find it even more refreshing that she was able to win. But I would also be willing to bet that atheists came out strong to support her election (since the 20% of the country that is religiously unaffiliated is ridiculously underrepresented in our government), so she could have chosen her words better.

      January 8, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
  19. Ravi Zacharias

    Akira

    False. I have meet an atheist that claimed to have infinite knowledge. Not all, but some do think that way.

    January 8, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • Leo

      Is there a group of people that doesn't have a person who acts as such?

      January 8, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • Come on, guys

      And I have met plenty more religious people than atheists who claim to have access to some sort of infinite knowledge. What's your point? There is absolutely no dogma in atheism. It has no dogma, no tenets, no rituals, nothing. All it means is that you disagree with theism. It claims nothing.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Would this person have been under treatment for schizophrenia? That's a sign of mental illness, not atheism.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • lol??

      Co, guys sayz about atheism, "..........It claims nothing........." Well then, why don't you tell your fellow atheists to shut up and stop being so verbal about nothing?

      January 8, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
  20. Russell

    Be an atheist if you want. It's a free country. Atheist does not equal bad or sinful or evil. Atheists are completely capable of being morale, caring, loving, etc. Now, on another subject, putting big holes in your earlobes is just pretty stupid.

    January 8, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Lol, yeah. I don't think the kids who do this realize that the rest of us look at them as simpletons who are so smug as to think they will know what they want in 20 years. Same with getting tattoos under 40. If you really don't plan on growing and changing as a person for the rest of your life, go for it.

      January 8, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Yeah, That one made me laugh

      January 8, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • Observer

      Atheists can believe in moral values like the concept of the Golden Rule without needing threats (hell) or rewards (heaven).

      January 8, 2013 at 12:48 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.