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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. Ibrahim bin al-Islam

    Oh sorry dude, just noticed they are Life Savers.

    January 8, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
  2. Ibrabhim bin al-Islam

    Luv those earring dude, where did you get them?

    January 8, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
  3. Thomas A. Martinet

    It's simple ! I don't believe in a god, santa klaus, tooth fairy, or a "good" politician ! We are all star stuff just like everything else on this planet & when our star explodes everything will go back into the building blocks of another world. In the mean time, just do the best you can for yourself & this planet & all the creatures here. We share this neck of the solar woods together so we might as well act in the best and most practical manner for all living things. The future demands that we take care of the only home that we have so that we might be able to pass on a truly livable place to all of nature's progeny.

    January 8, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
  4. Sky Cake!

    SKY CAKE!

    January 8, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
    • sam

      Are you a Poke'mon?

      January 8, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • Travis

      Why are you so delicious?

      January 8, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
  5. Southern Humanist

    When I'm elected to Congress, I'm going to swear in with my hand on a box of noodles. Ramen.

    January 8, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • ME II

      I liked the Congresswoman's choice of swearing on the US Consti.tution. Most appropriate swearing in ever.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
  6. Kenman

    Wow, just visiting, but amazed at how hostile CNN regulars are to Christianity! And yet, even in this time, these same people would never dare say the same hateful things about Islam, who's fundamental followers are terrorizing the world today by murdering and rioting at every opportunity!

    Hypocrites...

    January 8, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
    • Hey! You!

      Pot, kettle.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • I Am God

      Wow how many times are you going to create a new profile troll to spread your islamophobia.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
    • ellid

      Wrong in every way, but feel free to wallow in your faux martyrdom.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • Confused

      So, should I be less hostile or just more islamophobic?

      January 8, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
    • Observer

      Kenman,

      Muslims are not claiming that this is their country and trying to make laws here to deny others equal rights.

      The most radical Muslims today are following many of the commands in the Bible when God set up things the way he wanted the world to be run. Ooops.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
    • Rynomite

      Muslims are identically as deluded as Xtians.

      There you go. You must not hang around here much to make such a silly statement.

      The only reason you see more comments about Xtianity on this site is because the U.S. is primarily inhabited by Xtians and we atheists are surrounded by them and have to deal with the laws they want to pass/enforce every day. Many of us have little to no contact with muslims and as such have less to say about them.

      This should be pretty obvious to anyone.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
    • Ummmm

      "who's fundamental followers are terrorizing the world today by murdering and rioting at every opportunity!

      Hypocrites..."

      George W lied about Iraq and said that "God" told him to invade, we have since killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. Time to wake up and look in the mirror. Oh and don't forget your kind also kidnapped and enslaved African Americans and slaughter innocent Native Americans while stealing their land. Next.....

      January 8, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • Barbara Hartley MD

      Not singling out Christianity, and you are correct about the behavoir of some Muslims. No doubt there are some violent atheists, too. But don't get too defensive about Christianity without considering wods like "pogrom" and "Crusades. As a devout atheist (the guy who said earlier that atheism is lack of belief is wrong: I believe there is no god), I am convinced there have been few forces in human history as destructive as orgnized religion in any form

      January 8, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      really? ok.......i think islam is as much bunk as any other religion.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • sam

      Where did you come up with this idea?

      January 8, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • Joe B

      Islam is a bunch of garbage too. In fact, I think Islam is even worse than Christianity. The big difference is that Islam isn't shoved in my face all the time.

      Happy now?

      January 8, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • Jeff Williams

      Kenman, I am an equal opportunity skeptic. I will argue – and have on many occasions – against any mystical mythology passing itself off as a religion, including Islam.

      Like many atheists, though, I have more problem with the Abraham-based religions than with the eastern philosophies, for various fundamental reasons.

      Christianity is our regional mythology, and that's the one we're usually confronted with, so it gets the lion share (pun intended) of scorn heaped upon it.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • Kenman

      Thanks for all the replies, you just demonstrated my point. It's one thing to be a non-believer and quite another to be so hostile as to mock and ridicule believers and that in which they believe; so, have at it!

      January 8, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
    • Bob

      "It's one thing to be a non-believer and quite another to be so hostile as to mock and ridicule believers and that in which they believe; so, have at it!"

      Wow are you blinded by your hate, and you just did the very thing you're claiming about atheists. Hypocrite.

      January 8, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • Kenman

      Poor Bob, sees "hate" in every comment, well it doesn't cripple me like those that use it freely would hope. Enjoy the debate.

      January 8, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
  7. Live4Him

    What is GOOD? What's the difference between a man who lives a good life and a man who is living the good life?

    January 8, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
    • Apatheist

      I live both...

      January 8, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
    • == o ==

      I see they let you go from the Evangelical Fortune Cookie Co.. I would have to guess it was the big lay-off that included Salero21.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
    • Thoth

      "Good" has several definitions depending on context. In the sense you are speaking of it is born of man's need to see things as negative and positive; or good and evil. But even in that realm "good" comes down to perspective. Much of what I would see as good, you would probably view differently.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • Live4Him

      @Apatheist

      So, you claim that you NEVER did anything wrong in your life?

      January 8, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
    • Ummmm

      What's your definition of wrong?

      January 8, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
    • Apatheist

      I think @Ummm covered my response for me.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
  8. Apatheist

    How is atheism a bad thing? It is simply the lack of belief in a god/gods. It is just as impossible for me to believe in a god as it is for me to believe in unicorns and the tooth fairy. If I wanted to believe in god and The Jesus, I couldn't. Sure, I could lie about it, but I couldn't actually believe. How is it that Christians label me as a 'bad' person when I have no choice in the matter. It's not like I'm gay or anything...

    January 8, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
    • Live4Him

      @cedar rapids: "do i condemn my child to be tortured and in agony for the rest of time"

      You appear to misunderstand the concept of hades. To understand it, you first need to define God. What is God? He is Love. While on earth, a person has to make the choice between following God and rejecting God. How loving is God if He were to FORCE a person who doesn't want anything to do with Him to spend eternity with Him? So, He doesn't. Instead, that person is free to spend eternity separated from all love. IMO – this would be like being in a lake of fire.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
    • sam

      'Love' knocked up a virgin with a copy of himself, then sacrificed himself to himself to save humanity from rules he set up. Now, if you don't buy in, he will totally not love you.

      YEAH SIGN ME UP

      January 8, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'How loving is God if He were to FORCE a person who doesn't want anything to do with Him to spend eternity with Him?'

      oh poor argument that removes the condemning from god and yet at the same time claims we all have to be judged when we die.
      Atheists do not REJECT god, we do not believe he exists in the first place to be rejected.

      and why eternity of punishment? why wouldnt god just not bother doing anything when we died? those that believed go to heaven, those that dont......nothing, nada, zip, we wouldnt know any different, we would be gone, but no apparently its eternal torment.
      yeah, sorry, the whole thing makes no sense at all.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
    • Matt in KY

      @sam

      Hilarious. Christianity: the basics

      January 8, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
    • Apatheist

      @cedar rapids... I'm not asking for force, I'm asking for evidence.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • Apatheist

      sorry, previous post is for @Live4Him, not @cedar rapids

      January 8, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
  9. I Am God

    The worst thing I hear from religious extremists is trying to compare Atheism to Communists and such. They may have believed Atheism, but their motives in killing millions were clearly political communism, not atheism.

    January 8, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
    • alex

      Atheism is not a belief, my friend. Its the lack there of.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
    • I Am God

      Whatever it is defined as shouldn't matter Alex. I'm just stating where religious extremists are wrong in trying to compare Atheism to Communism.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
  10. Nodack

    So if I was to pick a religion out of the thousands created by man, which one should I choose? Which one does god like best?

    January 8, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
    • I Am God

      Goa'uld

      January 8, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
    • End Religion

      Please worship my god Elephus, the purple polka-dotted elephant god who pinched her trunk and farted us into existence. She is the one true god, and the path to her exists only through obeying my word, her right hand man and appointed prophet. We celebrate her appropriately on St. Elephus Day by wearing wrinkly grey boots and an elephant mask while prancing through the streets showering with pink and brown confetti those gathered to bear witness to her godliness.

      There are also Cat and Proxy Cat, Flying Spaghetti Monster and some other good choices. All of whom created the universe themselves but seem to allow others the same claim without warring.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Nodak
      For $30, the Church of the Subgenius offers eternal salvation or triple your money back.
      Praise "Bob" !

      January 8, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
  11. Matt in KY

    It only makes sense that a country founded in religious persecution and freedom....be governed by people without it. Nothing worse than modern civilizations slaughtering in the name of age old tales.

    January 8, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • Thoth

      Natives might have a slightly different perspective.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
    • Matt in KY

      I don't know what you mean by "Natives". My point, if you have no religion, you have no reason to persecute any religion ....or "Natives"....

      January 8, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
    • sam stone

      "My point, if you have no religion, you have no reason to persecute any religion "

      So, if you have no religion, you should just give in to others trying to codify theirs into our secular laws?

      January 8, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • Matt in KY

      @Sam Stone....heck no.....precisely the opposite.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • Akira

      Native Americans.
      You know, those people who were indigenous to the United States before it was the United States?
      Who the Christians, in their freedom, slaughtered?
      Those Natives.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • Matt in KY

      Without a god, there is no "my god is better than your god" issue. Then the Liberty of all religions can be kept in balance, instead of what we see all around the world....and right here....religion induced derision and hostilities.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • Matt in KY

      And the people that slaughtered "Natives" were extremely religious men. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, they left for the "New World" because of religion ....then persecuted the locals. Had an Atheist arrived on the Mayflower..."Natives" wouldn't have such a terrible history.

      January 8, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
    • Matt in KY

      Oh, I see where the confusion is. It's my very first premise. When I'm saying "be governed by people without it".....I mean RELIGION.....not freedom or persecution.

      January 8, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
  12. millivanilli

    As far as I see it, atheists have it over and above any of the cultists because their good behavior is due to a true understanding of what impact their behavior has on others. Cultists only behave well to save their butts in the afterlife. Its all very self-serving.

    January 8, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • just wondering

      Does the "good" behavior of atheists include the millions of innocent people atheists have brutally tortured and murdered over the last century?

      January 8, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      The do-gooder atheists you speak of are cult members too, according to your definition, they are humanists.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • Robert

      "Does the "good" behavior of atheists include the millions of innocent people atheists have brutally tortured and murdered over the last century?"

      Since religion has done the same thing it means believing in a God doesn't change behavior.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      If by cultists you are referring to Christians, then I disagree. They obey God as best they can in submission and appreciation, they cannot work their way to heaven.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • Answer

      @Robert Brown

      What's your heaven like? You even mentioned and know of "work"... care to tell everyone what will you work on at in heaven?

      January 8, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      Robert,
      “Since religion has done the same thing it means believing in a God doesn't change behavior.”

      All humans are clothed in flesh and are capable of doing bad things, believers or not. God looks at the intent of the heart.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • sam stone

      "They obey God as best they can in submission and appreciation"

      No, they obey (in theory) a manmade book.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • Pete

      "God looks at the intent of the heart."

      Atheists can do that too by talking with people, you still don't need a god for that. We are all capable of changing our behavior by choice but unlike Christians, Atheists can hold themselves more accountable because they don't need a babysitter watching over them.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      Answer,
      We only have a few passages that describe what is in heaven, what interests me most is that it says there won’t be any sin in heaven. No sickness, no pain, no sadness, no grief, no death. So, I don’t care what job I have, because it will be eternal joy.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'So, I don’t care what job I have, because it will be eternal joy'

      why?

      January 8, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
    • Answer

      @Robert Brown

      Care to elaborate then on what will bring you that eternal joy?

      Is it watching movies? (You'll need a TV. Eyes. Ears..many other things)

      Will you be chatting with your religious friends? Certainly no atheists.

      What will you do when one activity ends? Care to define what other activities will await you?

      Will you have feet or transportation to get you about?

      These fantasies sure are hard on your mind aren't they? XD

      January 8, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • Answer

      @Robert Brown

      Another item.. will you bear any kids (procreate them) in heaven?

      You know what that implies – surely.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • The Truth

      " include the millions of innocent people atheists have brutally tortured and murdered over the last century?" No, because "atheists" did none of those things, violent selfish dictators and sick socialist regimes did. None of those things were done in the name of atheism regardless of whether or not any of the perpetrators declared themselves atheist or other. There have been many atrocities committed in the name of religion however with members calling for the death of infidels and blasphemers or entire races based on what some zealots claim their God wants...

      January 8, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
    • actually....

      @Robert

      God is beyond 'sin' .....all the barbarism in the Bible ...his doing. IF something is horribly wrong and all of us aernt rotting were we fell when the final days of humanity are upon us, then I think you, me and everyone else will find that Heaven will be a hell beyond description..and ever changing with whatever mood the Great Overlord is in...and there will be no escape...ever....think about that for a second.. Trust me, you do not want you God to be real.....

      Ill take the permanent dirt nap thank you.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      Answer & cedar rapids,
      Just look at the natural beauty of creation. Think about all the things that bring you happiness and joy. Now imagine those multiplied to infinity and never ending. What would a God that could create and provide those things, provide in what he calls paradise? That is as close to imagining heaven as a nonbeliever can get.
      For a believer it is all of that, plus, we can remember our personal experiences with God and imagine those without end.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • Answer

      "Just look at the natural beauty of creation."

      Ya I'm doing just that. You aren't. XD

      You're waiting and wasting it. Look at your words there Rober Brown.. this is the natural world. get it.
      You're waiting for the world that is not natural – the dead heaven – a thin lie, premise of a reward.

      Do you just repeat that natural world bit to confuse yourself that your heaven will be the natural world?
      Do you understand that a heaven in it's natural state will equate to a physical world that will exist in another universe?

      Do you understand that relationship? If you're going to think that the natural world is the un-natural world of your delusion then you're waiting for another universe to live on. If you're going to comprehend this logic then you'll have to think. Or keep waiting til the next big bang. XD

      January 8, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      no robert, i am asking why is there heaven? whats the point of it? whats the point of somehow living forever in heaven? why would a god create such a system, what is it to a god to do so?
      The thought that a god would create a system whereby you have to live a life to apparently determine where you go when you die, and you would spend an eternity there, seems a bit pointless. what could possibly be the purpose?
      come to think ot if what on earth would be the purpose to create mankind in the first place?

      Its nonsense, the whole lot of it.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • snowboarder

      robert, those wonderful things multiplied by infinity? and you tell me that doesn't sound like a fairy tale to you? unbelievable!

      January 8, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • sam stone

      "God looks at the intent of the heart."

      So, if someone has good "intent of the heart", then they do not need a savior?

      January 8, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
    • sam stone

      i wonder why people would want to live forever

      January 8, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • Answer

      @Robert Brown

      Here is what I can really logically figure out for you Robert – about your heaven.

      It is a place of "magic". You'll have everything catered to you magically. Just like with the foods you'll eat. The stuff you want. All of it.

      Let's take a look at that TV. If not magic then it has to have a source of energy. Get it? Electricity.

      Where's that outlet? If not for magic running it.

      You say your heaven will be pristine and clean? How? Where is the garbage? Who tends to it? The angels?
      Then the angels are the slaves while you are being taken care of. You don't work. Why should you – this is heaven after all.

      You run any questions upon your logical mind and you'll have to justify it all to using magic. You really don't like "to think" is what I will tell you.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      Actually, if you think about it christians hope to become communists when they die.
      They hope to go to a place where there are no wants or needs, everything is provided for you. No possessions or wealth, no rich or poor. A place where everyone is equal......except for the eternal authorities in charge, whom they will spend their days worshipping and praising.
      sounds like a communist utopia.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • sam stone

      "What would a God that could create and provide those things, provide in what he calls paradise?"

      You mean in what man calls paradise?

      January 8, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  13. Ollie Oxenfree

    Most real American's would prefer an athiest over a muzzie, as POTUS, but yeah, they are both as appealing as sweaty taint.

    January 8, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • millivanilli

      Most Americans give atheists a higher approval rating than GOP members of congress.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
    • sam

      And now that the prepubescent section has spoken...

      January 8, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • Bet

      Gawd blezz Murrica!

      January 8, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
    • sam stone

      not to mention a mormon

      January 8, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • sam stone

      Also, Ollie, no apostrophe in the plural of American

      January 8, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
  14. free man

    I find athieism just as repulsive as religion. It's all faith, you can't prove or disprove God. Agnostic is the better term. I am a militant agnostic, I don't know and neither do you, and I will fight to the end to keep either from ramming thier "faith" up my back door. If the fear of eternal damnation is the only thing keeping you from sinning then you are a sinner and will burn. My prayer is that every single person throughout history who has ever killed another human in the name of God, even more specifically in the name of the Prince of Peace, swims in the sea of fire for all eternity. If it exists.

    Real socialism (not the BS 20th century totalitarian liars posing as Comunists/Socialists)) drastically reduces abortion- every child fully supported regardless of parental incompetence. Which is more important to the religious; capitalism or ending abortion? They will always choose capitalism because they are greedy. So again I ask, which is more important in the eyes of God, your freedom to buy a 60" flat screen plasma TV or ending abortion? To me it is reducing abortion, and I am willing to help as money is really a filthy excuse for the brutality,

    January 8, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • ME II

      @free man,
      For a person who firmly sits on the fence of knowing, you sure can draw some harsh dichotomies, 60" flat screens or abortions. Is there really no middle position here?

      January 8, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • LinCA

      @free man

      You said, "I find athieism just as repulsive as religion. It's all faith, you can't prove or disprove God. Agnostic is the better term."
      Atheism and agnosticism are not mutually exclusive. It is possible to be both.
            Gnosticism is about knowledge about gods, or the lack thereof (agnosticism).
            Theism is about belief in gods, or the lack thereof (atheism).

      January 8, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • Answer

      You're lying to yourself.

      –>> " It's all faith, you can't prove or disprove God."

      You apparently don't even understand what it means to have confidences in the evidence. You're utterly pathetic.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
    • Geogal

      Do you not realize that atheism and agnosticism are not mutually exclusive? You can be both....

      Atheism is not necessarily the assertion that "there is no god." It is the lack of god belief.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • JohnC

      Most atheists aren't the militant in your face type. If quizzed you will find more are agnostics that feel the likelyhood there is a god is less than those that call themselves agnostic. If you don't believe (for sure) does it make sense to TRY to artificially believe against your better instincts and knowledge? If you do try which religion should you try for? Are those that don't believe aliens have abducted earthlings wrong for not trying to believe - after all, like religion, there are many that have witnessed to such abductions (though you may understandably doubt their accounts) and it's reasonable given the size of the universe that there may be aliens.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • Bob Steve

      Sigh. The "you can't disprove God" argument is so boring and cliche.

      Technically, atheism is not "I know there is no God." Atheism is "God's existence is highly unlikely, so I don't believe in it." Yes, God could exist. There could also be an invisible unicorn in my pocket who desires your worship. Are you going to actually act like said unicorn could exist? Of course not.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
  15. Doc Vestibule

    There are examples of societal ideals based on principles other than Gods. One need look no further than the Declaration of Independence for such an example.
    People are inherently selfish. We instinctively do that which is least painful. Children do that which is least painful to themselves. Maturity comes when we are able to put aside our own immediate comfort and do that which is least painful for the group. Were it not for our ability to reason this out and cooperate, our species would not survive. As individuals, we are prey animals – soft, squidgy, slow and bereft of in-built offensive capabilities. As a cooperative group, we have become the dominant species in nearly every eco-system on Earth.
    But it takes a mighty big stick to beat the selfishness out of us! Historically, it has been a God sized stick capable to inflicting unimaginable devastation in this life and the hereafter.
    Look at the arguments on this board and see how many people cite Pascal's Wager as their reason for faith.
    People are not good to one another by default. Effective cooperation is a learned skill and the successful religions recognize this. Christianity reveals this truth about ourselves most poignantly in the character of Jesus Christ. His message is one of peace, charity, modesty and forgiveness – the traits most important to develop when living in a society. Yet these seemingly obvious truths, given as God's Word in the New Testament, are met with fear and hatred by the ruling powers. Yet Christ knew that to be the case from the beginning because He was perfectly self-aware – the embodiment of what it is to be a human.
    But the character of Jesus is not unique – He is an example of an archetype in mythology.
    I hope that sociological evolution is leading us away from religion. Not because Christianity, Islam, Hinduism etc are negative in and of themselves, but because they are necessarily divisive.
    The Old Testament, for example, is a rule book for ancient Jews – but many of those once common sense rules no longer apply to the modern world. We can safely sow two crops in one field or cook pork thoroughly enough to avoid trichinosis.
    Religion, like people, has evolved based on the laws of Darwinian evolution in that different environments have brought about different religions. That the 4000 year old mythology of displaced desert people and it's various offshoots has become the predominant religion of "developed" world is too long a history to recount here, but other faiths survive too.
    Islam and Christianity supplanted a great number of old world religions in the past, but nobody has been able to build a truly universal God based consensus.
    What it will take is democracy. True, participatory democracy based on what is the greatest good for the greatest number – globally.
    In the 21st century we have numerous examples of irreligious governments running successful societies, like Ja/pan, Switzerland and my home, Canada.
    Some of our elected officials may be religious, but we expect them to act as Humanists, not religionists.
    Ultimately, to survive we must reject tribalism.
    That will only come under the iron fist of a global dictator or through universal cooperation.

    January 8, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
    • QS

      Great comment, thanks!

      Far too many religious people actually think they chose those beliefs themselves when in fact they were simply indoctrinated into those beliefs at such a young age that they didn't know at the time they were able to question those beliefs.

      Sadly, by the time most people are adults the indoctrination has taken such hold that they are unable to extricate themselves from it, and it is clearly illustrated in their behavior just how irrational that indoctrination has made them.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
    • reader

      great comment, enjoyed it very much!

      January 8, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • Lion Head

      If it were all about childhood indoctrination why were you not indoctrinated as a child QS, or maybe you were unreachable still is?

      January 8, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
    • JohnC

      not sure I would totally say humans are inherantly selfish. We have a tendancy to become selfish but we are social animals that instinctually know that we are better with each other than alone. Religion has two main purposes. The first is sort of like science in that we want to understand the world around us and religion is a way of doing that (whether understood correctly or not). The second purpose is to codify what we instictually know which is we need to get along because we are stronger together than separate - so rules about families, belongings, rights, etc. are a big part of religion. There are many difference among the world religions but they all target the above concepts.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Lion Head
      Taboos are all about early indoctrination – some are more reinforced than others.
      Our culture has a very strong cannibalism taboo, but it cannot be "human nature" to feel repulsed by it as virtually every branch of the human species has praticed it at some point in their development.
      The Aztecs believed in transubstantiation. They consumed their human sacrifices in the belief that the dead literally became a part of the God to whom they were given.
      Binerwurs in India ate the sick amongst them to please Kali.
      The Karankawa, an indigenous Texan tribe, ritualistically consumed their enemies to gain their strength.

      Had you been born in any of those societies, you'd have no issues eating long pig sandwiches for lunch.
      Moral relativism is a truism.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Not bad Doc. Tell me how do you supplant the Gospel of Jesus in that while we were sinners (killed him), he loved us still? In your hope of a democratic utopia supporting all mankind as valuable doesn't the Crucifixion of a blameless man have something to teach us that we have learned no where else?

      January 8, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • JohnC

      Bill Deacon, I think many and maybe Doc Vestibule too will agree that the religious stories often have a basic truth as to the human conditiion and how to live a better life. As I said above they are basically codifying that which we as social animals already know which is we need each other to survive. Part of that universal lesson is that others will do wrong at times and while we cannot condone that (it hurts our social structure) we also should love (i.e. accept back) that person. Being social we do still fight each other. One reason is that we need to be part of a someone large, strong, accepting group but we don't quite as much need to be part of all the other groups around the world that are very different from us. But as the world fills up and travel is quick we learn that the old rule of separate social groups doesn't work as well and so now the social group is the whole planet. This is a big reason why religion often harms more now than in the past. In the past any one region was likely all the same religion but we now press tight against each other and don't feel comfortable with the differences.

      January 8, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
  16. truth be told

    Atheists have tortured and murdered more people in the past 100 years than were killed in every previous century.

    January 8, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
    • millivanilli

      Source please?

      January 8, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
    • Eric G

      90% of statistics are made up on the spot to support a loosing argument.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • truth be told

      History. Perhaps you've heard of it?

      January 8, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      interesting claim. not sure how you would prove that.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • Robert

      No group kills for atheism, they kill for totalitarianism and power. Now to be fair religion has killed just as many.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
    • snowboarder

      atheists have killed and tortured almost no one. they are a tiny subset of the population.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
    • Pete

      Hey TBT I thought the bible says lying is a sin and yet you continue to do it over and over again. Why is that?

      January 8, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @tbt,

      just couldn't help yourself could you?

      Different day, same old crap.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @tbt and his/her compulsion for number eight on my top thirteen most irritatingly stupid arguments used here by religionists:

      8. Absurd attempts to conflate atheism with despotic dictators
      eg: ”Atheists have tortured and murdered more people in the last 100 years than were killed in all previous centuries” or slightly less inaccurately: “Atheists killed more than 100,000,000 people in the 20th century”
      The syllogism:
      – Communist despots ordered or failed to prevent the deaths of millions in the 20th century
      – Not believing in God is a tenet of communism
      – Therefore, atheists killed millions in the 20th century
      deliberately misrepresents atheism. It’s a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • Nodack

      Just make up whatever you want and present it as facts. FOX does it all the time, so why shouldn't you?

      January 8, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
    • Kathleen M Isabell

      Um... you must have forgotten Iraq, Iran-Kuwait, Afghanistan, Israel-Palestine, the Inquisition and the Crusades. "Holy" war is perhaps the primary reason nations fight each other, certainly in ancient times although perhaps less so in modern times. Still, religion figures large in reasons that people want to kill each other or drive populations out of various regions. So no, atheists have not killed more people than believers. Though, atheists like Stalin and Mao did indeed kill many people, it pales in contrast to how many died at the hands of Catholic and other religious crusaders.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "truth be told", but your assertion regarding atheists is unfounded. For instance one can just as easily say Hitler murdered in the name of Christianity as one can say that some other dictator murdered in the name of atheism. Neither of these notions are true and would not be good indicators in describing atheists nor Christians. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), your truth value for your repeated assertions equate to: "CHRONIC EPIC FAIL".

      January 8, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • frank

      So TBT, when did you just throw up your hands and say to heck with getting an education?

      January 8, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • Really??

      TBT is a troll who continues to post outlandish and rediculous statement trying to get a rise out of people. Ignore him,( although he posts by many other names)

      January 8, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • ProveIt

      What a ridiculous unfounded statement. Did you minister tell you that or did that little voice in your head you call god?

      January 8, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
    • Rynomite

      Your god supposedly wiped out all of humanity. So from a pure body count perspective he is much less moral than any communist dictator.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • Ryan

      Too bad this little thing called facts proves you wrong, more people have been killed in holy wars than all other wars combined. Hitler was a Christian, hundreds of thousands dies in the crusades, terror attacks take place all over the world in the name of one god or another.

      I don't care what you believe and therefore wouldn't kill you to try and change your mind yet theists have been on holy wards for thousands of years. All in the name of controlling the people.

      January 8, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
  17. Live4Him

    @Thoth "So you have modified the christian (omnipresent) god to fit your needs"

    This concept is understood by Christians. The heart is not a physical area, but a spiritual area. Omnipresence applies to a physical location. When a child is taught that 2+2=4, they learn to trust math. When a child is taught about God, they realize there are consequences for every action they take. When a child is taught that there is no God, they believe that they can avoid consequences killing themselves after they finish.

    January 8, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
    • I Am God

      Learning 2+2=4 isn't about trust, its about life. They don't learn to trust the numbers, they learn that it is a basic way of life in this world.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • Robert

      One problem with your argument, many Christians live as if there are no consequences and do kill themselves, which means it has nothing to do with a God.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • Eric G

      Thank you for giving a vivid example of why your belief is a threat to the rest of humanity.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
    • millivanilli

      That is truly a load of bunk. One teaches one's child to treat others as he would like to be treated. No God baby, because in the end there isn't one. Most of the worst monsters in history have committed their deeds in the name of God.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
    • Hey! You!

      You're an idiot, shoot yourself in the head.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • Answer

      You religious freaks need to learn what it really means to add 2 and 2 together.

      It a placeholder added to another same placeholder to represent an idea to draw out the logical conclusion of reality.

      Look at the word reality in that statement. It articulates mankind's search for truth that is grounded in the universe. In essence – a test for the 'confidences' that we can rely on. You religious freaks have nothing to rely upon and certainly have none of the developed rationale of evidence.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • snowboarder

      live, nonsense. everyone learns through experience that there are consequences in this world.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
    • Live4Him

      @Robert : "many Christians live as if there are no consequences and do kill themselves"

      Christians are not perfect. However, if they are really Christians, they will STILL understand that there are consequences to their actions.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • Thoth

      @Live – ok, sorry...had to read that several times to remove the deer-in-headlight look from my face. You make a grossly inaccurate assertion. My children absolutely know that there are consequences for their actions – real consequences, not "god is mad at you", or you are going to burn. IMO the religious are more apt to commit "sins" because they have a very nifty way of forgiving themselves....they just have to ask the imagined diety and it is so. Quite convenient.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • Robert

      "Christians are not perfect. However, if they are really Christians, they will STILL understand that there are consequences to their actions."

      Atheists know there are consequences to their actions you don't have to believe in a God for that.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • Dennis

      Excepting of course that little consequence of not existing anymore.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • Live4Him

      @snowboarder : "everyone learns through experience that there are consequences in this world"

      What are the consequences once you're dead?

      January 8, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'When a child is taught that there is no God, they believe that they can avoid consequences killing themselves after they finish.'

      so to get this straight, you think that telling kids there is no god means they can grow up doing whatever they like because they can kill themselves whenever they like to avoid the results of their actions?
      did you really just claim that or did i misunderstand?

      January 8, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • Live4Him

      @Thoth : "My children absolutely know that there are consequences ... have a very nifty way of forgiving themselves"

      Do you always punish your children when they've been bad? What if they are truly contrite?

      January 8, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
    • snowboarder

      live, consequences once you are dead? why would you think there are consequences after you are dead? no one has ever experienced them. there is no reliable information that there is anything after you are dead.

      eternal life is from the imagination of primitive men afraid of death.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
    • Answer

      ===quote===

      Live4Him

      @snowboarder : "everyone learns through experience that there are consequences in this world"

      What are the consequences once you're dead?
      ====end quote====

      Absolutely HILARIOUS!

      Failure to Evaluate: –> consequences in THIS world

      to : DEAD

      -A person so desperate for the heaven they fear that they will not get. WANT it so bad. Need that heaven. Funny as hell.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'Do you always punish your children when they've been bad?'

      depends what you mean by punish. if you are asking do i condemn my child to be tortured and in agony for the rest of time, while at the same time telling my other child just how full of love and mercy i am, then no.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • Thoth

      @Live – well for starters you made a claim and I was simply refuting it. And I never used the word punish. My children know there are consequences – for example – if they fall below a certain mark academically then all other activities cease until there is a change. Of course they make mistakes for which they are remorseful. That's why the consequence should be reasonable. That's part of parenting....no god required.

      btw, if your previous post's last sentence is referring to recent or past mass shootings, you might want to research a bit. Most were indeed affliated to Christianity.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
    • ProveIt

      I don't need a god to tell me that there are consequences in life. I know touching a hot stove will burn. It is called reality. Some people think they need a 1000 year old tribal belief to understand that? Please.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
  18. Lion Head

    It's only a fool that says in his heart there is no GOD.

    January 8, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
    • Answer

      Hey bible boy.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
    • Sarah

      Only a fool would quote a book written by men claiming it's from a God.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
    • I Am God

      I would rather follow my own path then follow a path that has been traveled by thousands before.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
    • Thoth

      Seems to me it is more foolish to believe something simply because others claim it is true, and based on man's comprehension of his environment, in one tiny region of the world several thousand years ago without the benefit of modern understanding.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • millivanilli

      Its only a fool that believes in a cult.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • ME II

      "...anyone who says, 'You fool" will be in danger of the fire of hell." (Matthew 5:22)

      January 8, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
    • Wrathbrow

      The label of fool could easily be pointed back at those who believe in an invisible man that grants some wishes.
      But tossing an offensive label on or at people really only reflects that the person doing so would rather label people than to talk in any constructive way.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • Hey! You!

      The heart is a mass of muscle whose function is to pump blood.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
    • Dennis

      Everyone knows in their heart, the Flying Spaghetti Monster created everything there is. To deny this, is to deny the existence of a floating pile of blessed noodles, and who could do that?

      January 8, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
    • sam stone

      No, Lion Head, the fools are the ones who think they speak for god.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
    • Jeff Williams

      """It's only a fool that says in his heart there is no GOD."""

      Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

      January 8, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
  19. pATRICK

    oKAY let us talk about the true people above? Aliens.

    January 8, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
    • Sarah

      I know right. They are announcing they just found another 461 planets that look similar to earth and could support life. Awesome that we aren't alone in this universe!

      January 8, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
    • just wondering

      Sarah
      could you name us just one person found on any of those supposed planets?

      January 8, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • Dennis

      LOL. Funny. Like we suddenly managed to get past the speed of light and establish two way communication with people in other solar systems.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Just Wondering
      We only just now have learned how to look for Earth-like planets. We haven't yet developed means of communication with them.
      But just as the earliest telescopes destroyed the Christian conceit of Geocentrism, these newly discovered planets will destroy the idea of an anthropocentric God.
      And what do you think the Believer response will be if and when it is discovered that Mankind is NOT the predilect object of creation?

      January 8, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • Bet

      @ Doc Vestibule

      If history is any indication, they will find something in the bible that they can twist around and make it sound like one of their prophets foretold of it in the OT.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
  20. pATRICK

    wOW I wAS sIGNED iN THe wH0lE TIME

    January 8, 2013 at 3:31 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.