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Godless mom strikes a chord with parents
A CNN iReport essay on raising kids without God draws record-breaking number of comments.
January 18th, 2013
06:32 PM ET

Godless mom strikes a chord with parents

By Daphne Sashin, CNN

Deborah Mitchell remembers the time, when her boys were younger, and another mom asked her about her religious beliefs.

Mitchell was raised Catholic but moved away from religion in her early 20s. She told the other mother that she didn’t go to church and didn’t even really believe in God.

Then, she says, the recruiting started.

“She used to call my house and tell me she was praying for me. She’d leave me messages and leave cards in my mailbox with scripture,” Mitchell says. “I do realize that she meant well, but at the same time, I know my views were seen as wrong. I needed to be ‘saved.’”

Mitchell, a mother of two teenagers in Texas who feels “immersed in Christianity,” started a blog about raising her children without religion because she felt frustrated and marginalized. She didn’t want to feel so alone, she says.

This week, she gained a whole new audience and the reassurance that she's not alone. Her essay on CNN iReport, “Why I Raise My Children Without God,” drew 650,000 page views, the second highest for an iReport, and the most comments of any submission on the citizen journalism platform.

It starts:

When my son was around 3 years old, he used to ask me a lot of questions about heaven. Where is it? How do people walk without a body? How will I find you? You know the questions that kids ask.

For over a year, I lied to him and made up stories that I didn’t believe about heaven. Like most parents, I love my child so much that I didn’t want him to be scared. I wanted him to feel safe and loved and full of hope. But the trade-off was that I would have to make stuff up, and I would have to brainwash him into believing stories that didn’t make sense, stories that I didn’t believe either.

Mitchell posted the essay detailing her seven reasons for raising her children without God on CNN iReport because she felt there wasn’t anyone else speaking for women or moms like her. As she sees it, children should learn to do the right things because they will feel better about themselves, not because God is watching. She asks questions like: If there was a good, all-knowing, all-powerful God, why would he allow murders, child abuse and torture?

Lots of people disagreed with her. Tons. They flagged her iReport as inappropriate and criticized CNN for linking to her essay on the CNN.com homepage. But there were plenty of others who wrote thoughtful rebuttals, respectfully disagreeing with Mitchell while not foisting their own beliefs on her. Take, for instance, a Methodist dad, who said faith can be hard to nail down, but “not to avail ourselves of the power of something we don't completely understand is silly.”

Others said Mitchell presented a simplistic view of religion.

“Presentations such as these seem to ignore a substantial percentage of believers - well-educated, compassionate, liberal folk, Christian and non-Christian alike - who, I feel, are able to worship without being blind to the realities of the world, or without lying to their children about their understanding of these complexities,” wrote commenter RMooradian. “I'll be raising my children with God, but I understand those who cannot!”

But Mitchell’s essay also struck a chord with hundreds of like-minded parents raising children in a world where lack of belief puts them in the minority, often even in their own family.

“Thank you for writing this. I agree with everything you say, but I’m not brave enough to tell everyone I know this is how I feel,” a woman who called herself an “agnostic mommy of two in Alabama” posted in the comments. “Thank you for your bravery and letting me know I’m not alone.”

It’s a growing group. One in five Americans is not affiliated with any religion, and that number has grown by 25% in the past five years, according to a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Of that group, 88% said they were not looking for religion, although 68% of the unaffiliated said they believe in God. 

Brittany Branyon, an American graduate student and substitute teacher living in Germany, was also compelled to express her thanks to Mitchell. Branyon was raised Southern Baptist in Georgia and Alabama. In high school, when she began to question the theory of creation and befriended gay and lesbian students, she says her mother tried to perform an exorcism.

“She opened all the windows and doors in the house, brought me to the door, held my shoulders and shook me while screaming, ‘Satan, get out of this child!’, ‘Satan, leave this child alone!’.”

After moving away from the South, she and her husband “became more comfortable in our secular ways,” but still take criticism from family members. They are now expecting their first child.

“Though we are elated to welcome our child into the world, we can’t help but dread the religious uproar that is to come from our families,” she wrote in an e-mail.

Such an uproar is familiar to Carol Phillips, a stay-at-home mother in northern Virginia. When she gave birth to her first child, she said her family was shocked that the baby wasn’t baptized. She said her mother-in-law cried and told her the little girl’s soul would not go to heaven.

Then there are the comments from strangers. Last year, Phillips said she and her daughter were at a birthday party when a tornado warning sounded.

“We were all in the basement keeping safe. A little girl was saying baby Jesus will keep us safe. My daughter asked who Jesus was. The rest of the time was spent hearing ‘I'll pray for you sweetie, we can take you to church with us if you want,’” Phillips told CNN.

Commenting on Mitchell’s iReport, Phillips said, “To live out loud and to speak freely about my beliefs brings many clucking tongues. I would think it’s easier to come out as gay than atheist.”

Mitchell said she spent years studying the history of religion and does believe it has “an important place in our community.” She has told her children that she’ll be fine if they decide to join a church when they are older.

She ended her essay:

I understand why people need God. I understand why people need heaven. It is terrifying to think that we are all alone in this universe, that one day we—along with the children we love so much—will cease to exist. The idea of God and an afterlife gives many of us structure, community and hope.

I do not want religion to go away. I only want religion to be kept at home or in church where it belongs. It’s a personal effect, like a toothbrush or a pair of shoes. It’s not something to be used or worn by strangers. I want my children to be free not to believe and to know that our schools and our government will make decisions based on what is logical, just and fair—not on what they believe an imaginary God wants.

After her post ran on CNN, Mitchell said she was encouraged by the number of people who agreed with her, or who disagreed but wanted to have a respectful discussion.

“I’m not saying that everybody should think how I do. I’m saying the people that do should have a place in our society and have acceptance and respect,” she said. “I just want to have children grow up and be able to not be afraid to say ‘I don’t believe that,’ or ‘I’m not part of that.’” 

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Christianity • iReport

soundoff (15,081 Responses)
  1. Jen

    The seeds are sown – despite the birds.

    January 22, 2013 at 10:34 am |
    • Damocles

      What kinds of seeds? Corn? Cabbage? Radish? Mmmm I could go for some radishes.

      January 22, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • dale

      Ravens!!!

      January 22, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • PJ

      Birds and seeds go together like flowers and bees. If the seeds spite the birds, they bring upon their own demise and will in fact, NOT be sown. Particularly those seeds that require a digestive system to enable their ability to actualize.

      January 22, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
  2. lol??

    story:"...............But Mitchell’s essay also struck a chord with hundreds of like-minded parents raising children in a world....." The vegetable raisers are BIG on striking in their unions of all stripes. This was illustrated in the story about demobocracy a long time ago with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

    January 22, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • dale

      Ya but they dont admith that those places, like babylon and nineveh ever exhisted, dispite fact that they have been found!

      January 22, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • Billy

      lol?? thinks a lot about S&G. I think he likes the part where Lot goes into the cave right after he is spared and fornicates with his two daughters.

      January 22, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • lol??

      Right billy, his daughters, like most leaders in churches are tryin' to hep God. Those women are always coming up with bright ideas.

      January 22, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • Bet

      @ dale

      Ya but they dont admith that those places, like babylon and nineveh ever exhisted, dispite fact that they have been found!

      The city of Atlanta exists right now, so by your logic, Rhett Butler was a real person.

      January 22, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • OTOH

      dale
      "Ya but they dont admith that those places, like babylon and nineveh ever exhisted, dispite fact that they have been found!"

      Yeah, and Troy has been found too, and Mount Olympus truly exists. Does that mean that Hercules was real, and Zeus and the other gods who lived on the Mountain were/are real?!

      January 22, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
  3. sam

    Everyone has a godless mom.It is only the brainwashed,supertisious delusional ones that have an iminaginary friend god.

    January 22, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • dale

      You should find a church and talk to those people about the things that God does for people on a regular basis. im not sure that an athiest is going to be able to tell you about what the Lord did for him/her. The synchronicity of the Holy Spirit is something I observe frequently between believers, and I have been a witness to my own revelations for the Holy Spirit. No greater joy than to know the testimony of the Holy Spirit. it gives me all the courage I will ever need to live for Christ.

      January 22, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "dale", but "God", "the Lord", "the synchronicity of the Holy Spirit, "the Holy Spirit", and "Christ" are all elements of mythology, therefore your assertions are unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your unfounded assertions may represent truths is: "EPIC FAIL".

      January 22, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • ReligionIsBS

      Dale,

      You should find a synagouge or a hindu temple and talk to those people about their gods and what they think he does for them on a regular basis. You should also talke to some starving christians in Africa about what your god isnt doing for them.

      January 22, 2013 at 10:43 am |
  4. lol??

    story:"..............Mitchell posted the essay detailing her seven reasons for raising her children ................" Americult's doctrines have infected the whole society. You raise VEGETABLES and train children. FAIL........"Pro 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."............Vegetable bwained A&A's are the result.

    January 22, 2013 at 10:25 am |
    • dale

      I was headed down the road of shaming Christians and throwing eggs in their face, after I went to collage. Well when the Lord decided to open someones eyes, like Paul on the road to demascus, it doesnt matter who you are, the Holy Spirit is an irresistable genius who sustuains His own ministry. I thank God for His mercy. Is Truth is available for all.

      January 22, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • Damocles

      @dale

      Call me all sorts of whacky, but I think you should have stayed in.... ummm... collage... a bit longer.

      January 22, 2013 at 10:34 am |
    • Billy

      lol?? is an infamous train wreck in these blogs. dale evidently went to collage, where he must have avoided English to practice painting collages.

      January 22, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • lol??

      Tryin' to stir up some peer pressure, billy? Ya gotta admit, your goose is cooked much quicker in ye ol' pressure cooker.

      January 22, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • Nathan

      You people do know it's collEge, right?

      Collage is a form of art.

      I hope you are just really bad at trolling and not insulting people's lack of education while misspelling the word college.

      January 22, 2013 at 11:53 am |
    • I wonder

      Nathan,

      You are really bad at understanding the comments. They were teasing him for his misspelling.

      January 22, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
  5. Non believers .....

    Apparently non believers do not understand the difference in "religion" and "christian". There are thousands of religions. God never asked you to be a "religion". He simply asked that you believe in Him. Most of the non-believer posts (with a few exceptions) are filled with anger and bitterness, and try to cover their ignornace with cynicism. It's a choice. Believe or not. But don't ridicule something just because you can't comprehend it.

    January 22, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Please note than many DO comprehend it as they were practicing Christians before embracing atheism.
      And your interpretation of what Jahweh wants it just that – your interpretation.
      As you pointed out, there are thousands of sects of Christianity – each one of them smugly self-assured that they know the true wishes of the Divine and have the secret handshakes needed to get into Heaven.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • truth be told

      All so called atheists are liars. It is impossible for a person delivered by God to return and wallow in excrement. The fool never knew God in the first place. There is no such thing as an atheist that "used" to be a practicing Christian.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "truth be told", but your repeated assertions regarding atheism are unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your repeated unfounded assertions may represent truths is: "CHRONIC TOTAL FAIL". Perhaps the following book can help you cope with the problem of repeating unfounded assertions:

      I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...

      January 22, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • captain america

      doc vestipuke pretend American. There's your sign.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • rational63

      Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun.

      This is the god you believe in?

      January 22, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • Len

      You worship a god. That's religion. End of story.

      January 22, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • Len

      truth be told
      So, C.S. Lewis, who was a Christian before he supposedly lost faith for a while, was never really an atheist then?

      January 22, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • dale

      angels that fell out of heaven , who knew Christ creator (Johns gospel) was messiah, civilized the earth with false religions, all designed to pollute the truth.. thus we have genius scholars stating that Christianity is a bunch of borrowed myths. actually the fallen angels were given medicine as well . anyway the devil is craft and full of deceit..

      January 22, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • Tod

      C.S. Lewis was an Anglican, and not born again. Despite all of his books that evangelicals keep referring to they would never call him a real Christian.

      January 22, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • tallulah13

      There is no evidence that any one of the thousands of gods ever worshiped by humanity has ever existed. Therefore, "believing in god" is an illogical and rather empty action.

      January 22, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • Which God?

      capitan america is a wanna be super hero, who trips over his own feet, farts in public, and can't get a date, unless it's with Lassie. A true dipschitt of a beliver.

      January 22, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
  6. PJ

    I repeat, how can one claim to be an American in a republic/democracy society, yet fervently believe in a monarchy? This is why this topic is so important. IMO, you cannot allow anyone that ultimately believes in a monarchy effect the laws of a country based on a replublic and democracy. Many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Consitution were Free Masons, and it was the Masons that forwarded the idea of the separation of church and state. If you want theocracy, go to Iran.

    January 22, 2013 at 7:46 am |
    • PJ

      I must say, I'm not surprised to see the lack of responses from bible thumpers. It's because it is a contradiction, and undermines the very structure this country was founded upon.

      January 22, 2013 at 8:00 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Or it could be because the assumptions are wrong in the question. Christian's comprehend that the kingdom of God lies within. Within the heart and soul of the individual as well as within the community of believers one ascribes to. The worldly government is a power extent of that. The Bible is replete with admonitions to honor and serve the political power one is subject to while, at the same time, fulfilling the kingdom of God within and amongst the flock. The fact that you can't understand this duality has led you into the conundrum you perceive but it doesn't actually exist as a conflict for believers.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • Saraswati

      I think you aren't getting any responses because you haven't clarified what you mean by a monarchy. I assume you are referring to God as. monarch? But I don't think Christians consider the ruling system of the earthly world and spiritual world to have to be the same, so they probably aren't making that connection (if this is, in fact, what you mean).

      January 22, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • truth be told

      America is one nation under God, always has been always will be. Created by Christians for Christians.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • To PJ

      Bible Thumpers? Really? That is just comical. Sadly, you have no concept of what Christianity is. And by the way, the reason there are fewer responses from believers is because we are all laughing at the irrevelance and absurdity of posts like yours.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "truth be told", but the United States of America was not founded on Christianity and is not a theocracy, therefore your assertions are unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your unfounded assertions may represent truths is: "EPIC FAIL". Perhaps the following book can help you cope with the problem of repeating unfounded assertions:

      I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...

      January 22, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • dale

      Jesus didnt battle the Romans. PJ i think as a christian that government will always be within Gods will for earth, and I personally have never held the view that this country has ever been christian, I would hate to attatch the name Christ to anything secular. I also agree about the masons, and still think this is the best country.

      January 22, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • Tod

      Bill Deacon
      Don't many Christians believe, and eagerly await the day when King Jesus will come down and rule the whole earth as monarch? That is a wish for an end of democracy, right? King Jesus won't be having any elections, and free speech will be out the window too, right? Will he allow 2nd Amendment rights to have guns under his reign? Think, actually think about it for a second, OK? America ends if Jesus appears to rule.

      January 22, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • PJ

      Everyone understands what I meant, and it's this "Duality" that is the problem and the crux of the issue. You cannot have a republic country based on democracy and at the same time believe in a mono-theistic religion that is essentially a monarchy where all the rules of such a mono-theistic religioin were ultimately written by men (not women mind you) and whose logic and judgement of others is self-referencing. This inconsistency is the problem and it cannot be dismissed or argued away. If it were up to the christian right, we would be living a theocracy in these United States of America and we'd be no different than a country like Iran. And the final irony is that supposedly god gave man free will; yeah, free will to limit the free will of others by forcing their morals from a book of dubious orgin that's thousands of years old that predicts nothing useful to surviving and thriving as a species on a planet we call Earth. BTW, i was raised catholic, in a parochial school with religion taught every day. I was an alter-boy and "confirmed" a catholic supposedly of my own choosing at the wise old age of 13. All it was, was an attempt at indoctrination. Thank god i was given this wonderful brain to realize none of what they were forcing upon me made any sense. Pun intended, btw.

      January 22, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • PJ

      More concisely, and by definition, it's this very duality that you admit that's the conumdrum and therefore the problem we face in this country.

      January 22, 2013 at 11:01 am |
    • Which God?

      tbt, you are just a lying sack of schiit. Lying for jeebus. We shall now ignore your specious rants and excuses you call truth. Troll on trollboy, as every word you utter form now on we will know it's more lies and trolling.

      January 22, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
  7. Reality

    For all the kids and parents out there, one more time:

    As good students, you have read the reiterations of the "fems" (flaws, errors, muck and stench) of religion. Therefore the seeds have been planted in rich soil. Go therefore and preach the truth to all nations, reiterating as you go amongst the lost, bred, born and brainwashed souls of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism as Rational Thinking makes its triumphant return all because of you!!!!

    January 22, 2013 at 7:34 am |
    • Patricia

      I was raised a catholic and now I'm ashamed to say I was sooo stupid. I threw all those teachings out the door and never felt so FREE

      January 22, 2013 at 8:03 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Intoxicating isn't it Patricia?

      January 22, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • .

      Bill Deacon = Lycidas = Uncouth Swain = End Beginnings

      January 22, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • *

      @. Lycidas is also Uncouth Swain and some others (and admits it), but he/she is not Bill Deacon... and I don't know who you are talking about with @End Beginnings.

      (as in other matters, it is best not to make claims without concrete evidence, and unless you work for CNN or have some other kind of access to posters' ISPs or something, you are just making hunches)

      January 22, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
  8. Douglas

    By rejecting and neglecting her duty to raise her children to know, love and fear God, this mother is not a hero
    to be praised and emulated.

    She is in need of prayer and support.

    God is not the person who failed her in life.

    Her own lack of faith and the lack of faith she sees in others are the root cause of her affliction

    Pray for this mother's faith to be renewed. It is the key to her salvation

    January 22, 2013 at 7:18 am |
    • Brother Maynard

      So basically you want us to inact a ritual that does not work ( prayer )
      to give a person the ability to accept an unverafiable premis ( god exists )
      as unconditional truth with out proof ( faith )?!?

      Oh and by the way ... NO where in the article did I see anything about her complaining that her life is a failure.

      January 22, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • sam stone

      Doogie: Do you fear god?

      Interesting that you wish eternity with a being whom you fear.

      Sort of like a spiritual Stockholm Syndrome, it seems

      January 22, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • Saraswati

      You're saying that your god will favor this woman based on prayers of total strangers that have nothing at all to do with her own actions? See, that's. the kind of thing that makes your religion look silly to the rest of us. Either your god is an easily swayed simpleton or someone driven by his need for attention and adoration. Either way, it doesn't fit with the rest of the image Christianity tries to portray.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • Nathan

      Funny, I just said the EXACT same thing about you, but with regards to Odin.

      January 22, 2013 at 11:56 am |
  9. Jesse

    What's sad is that it is us atheists that are considered strange or morally on edge while believing in a giant bearded omnipotent man in the sky who is responsible for literally everything is the norm. Hopefully one day we can turn away from religion and progress as humans without being held back by these ridiculous unfounded ideas.

    January 22, 2013 at 3:18 am |
  10. burt

    thats innapropriate. im disgusted.

    January 22, 2013 at 2:06 am |
  11. Stan

    hey what is your social security number please?

    January 22, 2013 at 2:04 am |
  12. Burt

    are there aliens?

    January 22, 2013 at 1:51 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      yes and they are sharks.

      January 22, 2013 at 1:53 am |
    • Burt

      i dont get it but i still am laughing.

      January 22, 2013 at 2:00 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Svroll down....there is a guy posting under the name "Alien Shark". I just found your question funny in that context.

      January 22, 2013 at 2:20 am |
    • The Truth

      Our their aliens?

      January 22, 2013 at 3:21 am |
    • The Truth

      hour they're aliens?

      January 22, 2013 at 3:22 am |
    • End Religion

      “I’m going to tell you what happened to me last night, but first I want you to presuppose that there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, and that some of that intelligent life is hovering in a cloaked ship above the atmosphere at this very moment, and also it is desperately in love with me.” – Russell Glasser

      January 22, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      ER,

      Russell is hilarious. That show put me over the edge. It was the straw that broke the Camels back

      January 22, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • End Religion

      I love the fact he's so dry about it. He and the gang are performing a great service to the world.

      January 22, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
  13. Yah Yah

    Before anti-anxiety drugs, people were afraid, afraid, afraid ( of everything). They needed religion. Then came Science and
    that helped. People are still afraid in different ways and with sometimes good reason. But for Gawd Sakes, man keep up with the ever loving news that wreaks of religious insanity around the world!

    January 22, 2013 at 1:27 am |
    • Burt

      ya thank goodness for anti anxiety drugs now God isnt needed. even though His Holy spirit testifies within the heart of men, .and you hate Jesus but not Santa.? im a christain but i dont hate mahommud

      January 22, 2013 at 1:41 am |
    • sam stone

      burt: what makes you think that atheists hate jesus?

      January 22, 2013 at 3:39 am |
    • Saraswati

      Most of the people I know are not Christians, and as far as I know none of them, to my knowledge, made that decision based on the Jesus persona.

      January 22, 2013 at 8:58 am |
  14. fpga

    Groups of people were dismissing super-naturalism hundreds of years before this particular little western version of the super-ghost had been concocted. Even in the domain of dying and rising gods, jesus isn't the least bit unique or interesting. If people have to believe in this garbage, maybe they should try Mani or Mithra or something else. The Abrahamic religions are just too heavy on the killing and torture.

    January 22, 2013 at 1:19 am |
    • Burt

      na its like cutting off your arm with ganggreen. the angels got kicked out of heaven and came down here and civilized the cursed canaanites and, they were created by the savior christ, and started their little deception with your grandfather the day cain killed abel. but you still have the rest of your life to make the decision not to condemn yourself

      January 22, 2013 at 1:29 am |
    • Dippy

      Ganggreen?

      January 22, 2013 at 1:52 am |
    • Burt

      try a differrent religion? i am a successor to the apostle paul of the Lord jesus christ through the ordaining Holy spirit. never well i cower at the death that spews from the mouth of a helpless unbelieving child of god.

      January 22, 2013 at 1:55 am |
    • Burt

      dont know how to spell ganggreen.

      January 22, 2013 at 1:58 am |
    • sam stone

      gangrene

      January 22, 2013 at 3:43 am |
  15. AlienShark

    You would probably like to know that American Atheists, which is a powerful lobby, along with many others, pay big money for boiler room-type operations around the country to troll forums like CNN and basically have the employees get into character and argue their agendas on the scripts they provide. The second half of their job is to write down the names and whatever personal information they can get about the people who disagree with the agenda of the lobby that is paying them. Now that the political season is over, American Atheists and the Pro Israel lobby are the biggest spenders. Do a quick internet search and you will find a ton of information about this little known but thriving business. I don't care about their politics either way, but I dislike business that is built off deceit and these guys will have you debating them for hours so they can use you as a springboard to get their agenda out onto the forum and make it look mainstream, and at the same time send your name and whatever personal info you divulge about yourself to the lobby their boss is answering to. Pretty grimy.

    http://consciouslifenews.com/paid-internet-shill-shadowy-groups-manipulate-internet-opinion-debate/1147073/

    January 22, 2013 at 1:19 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Great scam of a website you have going there. I bet you will suck in a lot of gullible people that will believe anything. Are you the one running the "How to start a holistic healing business" scam? Did you run out of healing water Mr. Carpetbagger?

      January 22, 2013 at 1:29 am |
    • fpga

      Excuse me for stating the obvious, but the money trail leads back to the pulpit. The tax-exempt status of the church at the parish exemptions of charlatans like Rick Warren dwarfs the "big money" you seem to think backs the people that would like an explanation for why jesus cleansed the temple at the beginning of John and the end of the other three.

      The money is on your side, but the facts are not.

      January 22, 2013 at 1:31 am |
    • the AnViL

      *evil laughter all the way to the bank*

      January 22, 2013 at 1:36 am |
    • AlienShark

      Anyone that is involved in the lobbying industry or works in marketing research knows exactly what I am talking about. It is a huge business and an internet search will provide ample information about the ins and out and how to avoid falling prey to these poeple. I have no opinion on your politics whatsoever...nor do I have control over what ads are on an article page. However, I would like the CNN forum users to learn how to spot shills while they are here.

      January 22, 2013 at 1:37 am |
    • Fuel

      Biggest spenders? How can that be? Sounds like a typical Christan fabrication, they lie constanly and shamelessly and plant all sorts of BS. (what else would one expect from an religion built on boldface lies) Surely Christians, not to mention coal, oil, auto, banking.....on and on–out spend a disorganized minority like atheists who only agree on ONE topic.

      January 22, 2013 at 1:39 am |
    • HotAirAce

      So AzzShark, who are the shills here?

      January 22, 2013 at 1:47 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Alien,

      The article has no verifiable references and in fact starts with this statement.

      "It is simply an illustration of the mechanics of how online debate can be manipulated. As this is an anonymous post, we have no way of verifying the information contained herein, and it is presented only for your consideration."

      Which translates to "we don't know if this is true or not but this is how it COULD happen". How much more dishonest are you going to get? Wow are you an asshat

      January 22, 2013 at 1:51 am |
    • Seyedibar

      They have a great 401k plan, and we get long lunches!

      January 22, 2013 at 2:05 am |
    • The Truth

      I'd like to get in on that money train!! Where do I sign up? Oh, wait, when you follow the money there is none, because all the good money is in religion, atheists don't pay you squat since they need no soul saving.

      January 22, 2013 at 3:26 am |
    • End Religion

      AlienShart is back, pimping his web site while warning us against the evils of people who have opinions.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • Nathan

      Any evidence to this effect from actual accredited, independent, unbiased news sources as opposed to a site explicitly dedicated to "spiritual development, consciousness & soul evolution?"

      January 22, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
  16. Fuel

    WTG MOM!
    It's not always easy to do the right thing, often it takes exceptional courage to be so honest. I know it is the right thing to do. You won't ever regret it. Hat's off–there are a LOT of similar thinking ppl around and growing more every day. 'Comming out' makes it easier for the next to also be as candid.

    January 22, 2013 at 1:17 am |
  17. Me

    The fact that people flagged this story as inappropriate is laughable.

    January 22, 2013 at 1:16 am |
    • Fuel

      Me,
      It sure is–but does that actually serve to promote the story?

      January 22, 2013 at 1:19 am |
  18. Joe

    I'm not so sure that God ever intended for religion. I believe HE wants us to utilize faith, but religion is man made and for the most part, gets in the way of faith.

    January 22, 2013 at 1:14 am |
    • Burt

      yep, people hereLOVE to act like Jesus was the commando for the crusades and use "religion" as a bad word and "christianity" as a way to evasivly deceptively assault the character of Jesus.

      January 22, 2013 at 1:18 am |
    • Athy

      There is no god. That makes the most sense.

      January 22, 2013 at 1:19 am |
    • sam stone

      if you want faith without religion, ignore religious texts

      January 22, 2013 at 3:48 am |
    • UncleBenny

      Someone once said, "Jesus came preaching the Kingdom of God. What we got was the Church."

      January 22, 2013 at 6:03 am |
  19. yaro

    what is "good" without God? Go on do what feels good? come on people..
    what do you base your moral on? Our Country is based and built on values of the bible.

    January 22, 2013 at 1:10 am |
    • Athy

      No, it is not.

      January 22, 2013 at 1:22 am |
    • Burt

      im not so sure that is going to go over well with this group. I think our founders were more mason that Christian, but we do have a very moral origin which is a very good thing, however these people were slave drivers and also had other ignorant ways of taking Christs name in vain. I am a believer though and I think the world is to the point of nearing the return of Christ. dont get into politics, more of a gospel passion. Love Jesus!

      January 22, 2013 at 1:22 am |
    • ams

      Common sense?!? Do people really need the bible to know it is wrong to steal? Kill?

      January 22, 2013 at 1:27 am |
    • strad

      The whole "no morals without God" thing is an interesting topic/discussion. I remember talking quite a bit about this in my philosophy classes in college. The question was, "Are things good or bad merely because God says so?" We have a decent set of morals, but if God were to say that it was okay or good to kill babies, would that make it good? Or would we recognize that it is a terrible thing?

      I like to give us humans a little more credit, personally. Regardless of whether or not God exists, I think that we recognize good vs. bad on our own. Not because God said so.

      January 22, 2013 at 1:39 am |
    • sam stone

      yaro: like slavery?

      January 22, 2013 at 3:41 am |
    • Saraswati

      The greatest conscious happiness of the earth's sentient beings. That's the whole goal for me.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • Huh?

      "what is "good" without God? Go on do what feels good? come on people.."

      Religious people find it very annoying that people don't need God to be good, as science has now incontestably proved.

      For millennia, we've been brainwashed into believing that we needed the Almighty to redeem us from an essentially corrupt nature. Left to our own devices, people would quickly devolve into beasts, more violent, tactless, aggressive, and selfish, than we already are.

      Today, we know that this isn't true. With the discovery of mirror neurons by Italian neuroscientist Giaccomo Rizzolatti in the 1990s, we now have physiological proof of why - and how - our species became hard-wired for goodness. Mirror neurons are miraculous cells in the brain whose sole purpose is to harmonize us with our environments. By reflecting the outside world inward, we actually become each other - a little bit; neurologically changed by what is happening around us. Mirror neurons are the reason that we have empathy and can feel each other's pain. It is because of mirror neurons that you blush when you see someone else humiliated, flinch when someone else is struck, and can't resist the urge to laugh when seeing a group struck with the giggles. (Indeed, people who test for "contagious yawning" tend to be more empathic.) These tiny mirrors are the key to most things noble and good inside us.

      It is through mirror neurons - not God - that we redeem ourselves, achieve salvation, and are "reborn" in virtuous ways once co-opted by religions. Evolution knew what she was doing. A group of successful cooperators has a much higher chance of thriving than a population of selfish liars. In spite of what we read in the headlines, the ratio of bad to good deeds done on any given day across our planet holds at close to zero any day of the year. Although we are ethical works-in-progress, the vast majority of us are naturally positive creatures - meaning not harmful to our environments - most of the time in most of the ways that matter. And God has nothing to do with it.

      Spirituality does but God doesn't. Evolutionary psychologists tell us that our brains are hard-wired with a five-toned moral organ that focuses on a quintet of ethical values - one of which is purity, or sacredness. In a world that can sometimes be disgusting, we evolved an upper tier of emotional longing - the aspiration for purity - to keep us balanced in this satyricon of carnal delights (where animality beckons and frequently wins). Our need for sacredness is part of our ancient survival apparatus, and manifests in what we call faith, the need to connect with that sacred dimension. This has been the primary purpose of religion, of course - to congregate people for the Greater Good - but God has been, in fact, the divine carrot. The important part was communion, a context in which to transcend ourselves, if only for an hour on Sundays. Without this ability "to turn off the Me and turn on the We," moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt tells us, our species would still be wandering around as groups of nomads, unable to create a civilization.

      Aside from mirror neurons, there's oxytocin, the molecule of connection (also known as the molecule of love). It's fascinating to learn that the vagus nerve produces more oxytocin when we witness virtuous behavior in others that makes us want to be better people ourselves. We are wired by nature to be elevated at the sight of other people's goodness, mirror neurons and oxytocin conspiring to improve the species. Miraculous though it is, this natural human phenomenon has nothing to do with theology.

      January 22, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • End Religion

      When morality is based on religious text, its OK to:
      • behead one's daughter to restore a family's honor
      • deny emergency medical aid to a child
      • kill gays, children who misbehave, anyone who works on a particular day of the week, entire groups and races of peoples, and many others for equally capricious reasons
      • buy and sell humans as chattel, including one's own family members
      • kill anyone who visually depicts Muhammad

      January 22, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • cjeddie8

      bravo Huh, well done. I've said similar things but have never known the science behind it.

      January 22, 2013 at 10:49 am |
  20. Burt

    Hooligan, you asked for two things nicely, and then freaked out on me for mentioning God. what you are saying is that in this conversation, we shouldnt mention God? am I correct?

    January 22, 2013 at 1:10 am |
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About this blog

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.