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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 • Faith Now • iReport

soundoff (15,081 Responses)
  1. David

    Regardless of what one believes about God or an afterlife, it is true that we are all going to die one day. These is no disagreement about eventual death. What people can't agree upon is what happens after death. Do we simply cease to exist? Or, is there an afterlife? How does anyone know? If there is a good place to be in the afterlife, then does everyone get to enter? If not, how is it decided who enters and who doesn't. What is our purpose in life, if any? I don't have the answers, and smarter people than me have many educated viewpoints. Just seems to me that how each person views death, an afterlife, and his/her purpose - these things shape how they choose to live.

    January 19, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Of course you cease to exist with death, David. You cease to exist during deep anesthesia. Death certainly does more to shut your brain down than that.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
    • Josh

      Saying life continues after death is just wishful thinking. It makes people feel good to believe that they will see their old relatives and friends again when they die.

      Wishful thinking doesn't make it, for me, even remotely convincing. I'v gotten over this a long time ago.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
    • David

      @Tom and @Josh - you both seem to state your views with certainty, as if you have no doubt. On these forums, I see Christians will state their view with certainty, with no doubt, based on their faith in the Bible. Respectfully, how can anyone really know? Both believers and non-believers pose their "proofs" to one another on these forums. But how do you really know there is no afterlife?

      January 19, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      January 19, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • David

      @AtheistSteve. Thanks for video. It provides insights in the perspective of the atheist who did the video. But it lacks "scientific" proof (which I see in these forums that atheists demand of Christians for the existence of God, etc.). How does an atheist prove there is no afterlife?

      January 20, 2013 at 3:01 am |
  2. Fuel

    WTG 'Godless Mom'!
    You not only display courage, and your children will benefit immensly, but also society as a whole gains from the erossion of the vile, barbaric dogmas of big religion. Church attendance in America is at historic lows and so to is the crime rate.

    January 19, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
  3. Aaron

    Here is what I do not understand from anybodys comments. Why is there so much intolerance on both sides, either you are a believer or you are not a believer. First, this article states NOTHING about Jesus Christ, who mind you, without him we really would not have life. Think about it, if God did not send his Sonto die in our place then how could we of know if we would of gone on but since the Word of God says He did than that is what we have to have the faith in. Also, in the Bible when one of Jesus' diciples asked him what the greatest commandment was, he replied with: " Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and with all your strength. Also, love your neighbor as yourself" The bible teaches nothing but love, whether you choose to accecot Chirst as savior or not or whether you choose to see the God in the old testiment or the God in the new testiment....bottom line is He is still a loving God. So many christians get off course on what our actual goal is on earth, it is to glorify God the Father by glorifying the Son.....it is not our place to point out sin in another persons life (That's the job of the Holy Spirit). We glorify the Son/Father by reaching out to others with His word and with pure Christ-like love in our hearts. We have lost track America! Are atheists and non-belivers wrong: Yes. Are we to judge and point out mistakes and sin in their lives: No. Again, we are taking the job of the Holy Spirit when WE convict people. I choose to live my life as a God-fearing human who believes that one day our Saviour will return and take us from a sin filled world. Its easy to lose hope, its easy to be lost but just remember whatever path you take that a loving-soverign perfect God still loves you and you can always run to Him.

    January 19, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
    • toad

      Atheists are filth, but you are a God-fearing little rodent.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
    • Whoa

      "the bible teaches nothing but love"

      ROFLMMFAO – easily one of the most ignorant comments in this blog!

      January 19, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
    • "The bible teaches nothing but love,"

      And Moses said unto them “Have ye saved all the women alive?... Now therefore Kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known a man by lying with him, but all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves” Num 31:1-2, 9-11, 14-18

      January 19, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
  4. Louis Zivic

    There is a story about the Hasidic rabbi, Reb Levi Yizhak of Berditchev; Reb Levi Yitzhak had an atheist in his town who said that he did not believe in God. After ruminating and meditating Levi Yitzhak replied: "the God that you don't believe in, I don't beleive in either."

    January 19, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
  5. logicalfallacy

    religion should not be forced on people. anyone who says that it's a good thing to force their religion on someone else is wrong. they are doing harm and should be stopped. there is no way that anyone can argue successfully against my statements.

    January 19, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
    • F. Bacon

      up your hole

      January 19, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
    • raised Agnostic

      I was just reading a blog by a Native American spiritual leader, and a Christian who was stating how much he believes in not forcing religion on people..if people want it, they'll find it on their own.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
    • Jack McDonald

      I wonder if she let her kids believe in Santa. And how you would feel about that!!!!

      January 19, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
    • logicalfallacy

      @f.bacon
      your logical fallacy is called: ad hominem

      your personal attacks do not prove that jesus is god.

      your personal attacks prove that you are not worthy of god, if god truly exists.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
    • logicalfallacy

      @jack mcdonald
      i do not believe in santa either. i believe she expressed regret.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
    • Fuel

      F. Bacon,
      Great argument! Typical Christian/Muslim possition and very convincing. ((However–if we literally want it 'up our hole', then we will attend your church and get aquainted with you or the preist))

      January 19, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
    • ???????

      The RCC is good at that. Priest are in jail over that.

      January 19, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
  6. CaringPerson

    Want all believers to know that I am praying hard for them... to Cthulhu. Please deliver us, oh Cthulhu, from these overly-sensitive bigots...by eating them.

    January 19, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
    • Shawn

      Your paganism will damn your soul! Repent under the eyes of the Flying Spaghetti Monster now, or forever burn in the Eternal Saucepan!

      January 19, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
  7. sarah

    I like the bit where deists live less than a century but somehow think they will continue to exist for well beyond centuries, millennia, billions, trillions of years......LOL, all at a happy little party just for them that they can never leave. Or the other side, where they believe that all the little unbaptized babies burn in fire and pain for trillions of years. But just trying telling even an atheist that the notion of having a soul is deeply flawed...what soul? (enter bible thumpers left and right to "pray" for me :)

    January 19, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
  8. malik

    God exists, whether you like it or not. Life, which can never be created from dead matter, is the best proof. The wonders of the universe and the rhythmic laws of nature are other compelling proofs. Don't let your small brain deceive you, atheists.

    January 19, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Your personal ignorance is not proof of god.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
    • Josh

      "God exists [citation needed], whether you like it or not. Life, which can never be created from dead matter [citation needed], is the best proof. The wonders of the universe and the rhythmic laws of nature are other compelling proofs [citation needed]. Don't let your small brain deceive you, atheists [citation needed].

      January 19, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
    • F. Bacon

      Malik – never mind "dead matter" They believe that matter came from non-matter, or the complete absence of matter. A scientific impossibility, of course.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
    • Josh

      @F.Bacon –
      "Malik – never mind "dead matter" They believe that matter came from non-matter [citation needed], or the complete absence of matter [citation needed]. A scientific impossibility [citation needed], of course.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
    • F. Bacon

      Hey Josh – please tell me why you think my handle offends God?

      January 19, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
    • Shawn

      It's always hilarious when a theist thinks they are more intelligent because they believe in the adult version of santa clause.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
    • Josh

      @F.Bacon [error] your statement is a non-sequitur. In order for your handle to offend god, there must first be a god to offend. I didn't actually mean what I said, I think you missed the sarcasm.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
    • F. Bacon

      OK Josh, I'll take your silence as a big "I dunno"

      Sure you think it sounds anti-semitic or anti-muslim

      January 19, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
    • Shawn

      If something cannot come from nothing, as you theists seem to think is proof of your god, then where did god come from? Can't be from nothing! Who created god?

      January 19, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
    • F. Bacon

      But of course, Josh, as scientific as you want us all to believe you are, you missed the fact that my handle is for Francis Bacon – as in Father Francis Bacon, Catholic priest, and FATHER of the scientific method.

      Fool!

      January 19, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      I think that F. Bacon is a wonderful example of a christian. Keep up the great (horrible) witness! As an atheist, I really appreciate it.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
    • F. Bacon

      Here's some more hard to decipher handles for you:

      A. Einstein
      T. Aquinas
      N. Copernicus

      January 19, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
    • F. Bacon

      L. Pastuer
      G. Mendel
      G. Marconi

      January 19, 2013 at 8:59 pm |
    • Josh

      @F.Bacon – Your handle offends god.

      January 19, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
    • Fuel

      F. Bacon,
      Don't pretend to understand that which you know nothing. God IS a scietific impossibility.

      January 19, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
    • Nathan

      "Life, which can never be created from dead matter, is the best proof."
      This is an unproven statement. In fact, MANY basic organic chemicals, and self-replicating ones, exist in nature. That man kind cannot yet create life from non-life does not mean that such a thing cannot happen any more than it meant that heavier-than-air human flight could "never" be done the last day before we did it.

      "The wonders of the universe and the rhythmic laws of nature are other compelling proofs."
      Again, this is pure supposition and personal incredulity, not actual proof. Many see the universe as rather chaotic, and order as little more than the inevitable end result of the interaction of natural laws.

      Don't mistake coincidence and your inability to conceive of another answer as support for the answer you've chosen.

      January 20, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
  9. logan5

    It never ceases to amaze me how terrified, angry, and defensive Christians become when people like Deborah speak out. If Christians are right and their god does exist then why would they have anything to fear? What power could a tiny minority of mere mortal human non believers have over an ALL powerful supernatural being?? If Christians really do believe this god of theirs does exist, then they sure have a funny way of showing it.

    January 19, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
    • Hugh Moore

      It's just like in sports and your team is behind on the scoreboard!!!!

      January 19, 2013 at 8:40 pm |
    • lol??

      You have funny projections of grandeur.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
    • Josh

      Maybe because when they read things Atheists say, it tickles that little piece of doubt in the back of their mind – the logical part that is trying desperately to tell them that they are just fooling themselves.

      The obvious response to this is over-compensation.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
    • Lines

      Most Christians aren't getting defensive about this lady. She is respectful. She actually understands belief in God as being helpful to people.

      When someone gets on here and stereotypes all Christians as being the same, that's when I try to correct people.

      But I really can't speak for all Christians any more than you can. I am foolish for trying to do so.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
  10. Nick Z

    Scientists from around the world have found the shroud to be real. Christ did resurrect and defeat death.

    January 19, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
    • Hugh Moore

      Yeah, and scientist have been wrong haven't they. What was that skull that found a while back that seemed to bridge the Evolution theory gap. Oh yeah, they discovered they were wrong and it was actually a hoax!!!

      January 19, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
    • No religion thank you

      Yeah, right....

      January 19, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
    • lol??

      It's a fake. God doesn't work that way.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
    • R. Parker

      Please provide your sources. I have yet to see where it has been anything but questions about it.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
    • Hrm

      Despite what you think, the shroud that you speak of has hardly been concluded to be real 'the world over'.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
  11. Cabunny

    My husband and I raised our two children without God and religion, but told them that they were free to believe or not and we would accept whatever they chose. They are now caring, compassionate, non-judgmental, productve young adults who learned kindness, acceptance and forgiveness toward others; not because a God was watching and to do otherwise would send them to Hell, but because it's the right thing to do. They make us proud each and every day.

    January 19, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • Hugh Moore

      I'd be VERY CAREFUL!! I think God monitors the CNN blogs!!!! Take a look at my name and read it real fast. Funny isn't it!!

      January 19, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
    • Fuel

      Cabunny,
      Yeah well I hope your kids enjoy hell, cuz that's what the Christians say happens to good ppl and Christians know they're right cuzThe Perforated Bable says so...and The Bable is right, it says so inside.

      January 19, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
  12. scottundra

    My wife's daughter used to be a member of Wicca for many years. Later she became a Christian. Didn't make a darn been of difference!! She's just as messed up now as she was back then!!!!!!!

    January 19, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • lol??

      Women need to be taught how to love their hubbies and children. That'll keep em busy and outa trouble.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
  13. The Deepening

    I don't blame people for not believing in the definition of God that has evolved over time. I still don't believe in that definition but I couldn't shake the feeling that something greater than me existed. I found it. Google New Message from God. It's not like any existing religion. To me it's the way it should have been all along.

    January 19, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
    • lol??

      Evolved? Man, you got a bad case of it.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
    • tallulah13

      A lot of things exist that are greater than me. That is no reason to believe in supernatural beings.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
  14. Bill

    The biggest factor in shaping your religious beliefs is where you were born. Has little to do with logic, experience or choice. Born in Italy, catholic, born in Alabama, Baptist, born in Iran, Muslim, born in Israel, Jewish. The idea of one religion being the one true message is nonesense. There are somethng like 2400 established religions; each one with dedicated believers. It's just so much easier to believe in a convenient myth and go long with the crowd around you than to accept reality. Religion truely is the opiate of the masses along with television...

    January 19, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
    • F. Bacon

      Religion. Opiate of the masses? A true opiate of the masses is a belief in nothingness after death. The huge solace of thinking that for our lies, betrayals, greed, and murders, we are not going to be judged.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • Josh

      @F.bacon – I wonder how god is going to judge you for that ridiculous handle.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      It seems as though F Bacon views life through the lens of bitterness.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
    • F. Bacon

      What's wrong with my handle. I think it's perfectly fitting.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
    • Sleuth

      And that's just what Christians do, Bacon...except they think they get a free pass by asking Jesus for forgiveness, as if that nullifies theoir bad actions.
      Rubbish.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
    • F. Bacon

      Good point Sleuth. Another convincing argument.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @Bacon, My own life is not made up of "lies, betrayals, greed, and murders". I'm sorry to hear your is.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
    • Ian

      Amen Brother

      January 19, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
    • lol??

      Bill sayz, "...........so much easier to believe in a convenient myth ..........". How convenient. That being said, dirtball dustballs can be very lazy.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
    • Bill

      Santa Clause, The Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Jesus, Moroni, Convenient myths. Not that long ago if you said the world was round instead of flat, you would have been branded a Heretic and stoned to death by believers. Say the Sun is the center of the universe instead of the Earth, locked up in an asylum. Question the authourity of the Pope and be burned at the stake. How can you believe in a religion that has been so wrong, for so long, about so many things? It seems almost the definition of insanity.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Well, Bacon, responsible adults believe that " lies, betrayals, greed, and murders" should be accounted for while the miscreant is alive, rather than pretending that some supernatural being will take care of it after death.

      And " lies, betrayals, greed, and murders" aren't things I'm guilty of. What is my punishment for being a responsible, honest, hard-working person who simply doesn't happen to believe in a god for which there is no evidence?

      January 19, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
  15. Mark in Atlanta

    People need to back off and respect her right to have and teach her own beliefs. She's not teaching them to brack laws. She's not abusing them.

    January 19, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
    • lol??

      Back off? Tell her to go back in the closet.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
  16. Just Me

    Wow... A lot of Responses. Religion tends to do that. My children know about religion but also know that I don't believe in it. Scaring a child and telling them that they will go to hell if they don't do what you want them to, is sad. Like the author, I want my children to do the right thing because it is the right thing. Shame on anyone who thinks that her children should be taken away. We have freedom of religion in our country for a reason. How very sad!!

    January 19, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
    • F. Bacon

      When your children ask you, "How, or why do you know it's the right thing?" What will you tell them?

      January 19, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
    • Sleuth

      Bacon, if you have to answer "because God said so", you need to look up the definions of the very qualities you think are due to God.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • F. Bacon

      @Sleuth, yeah – telling them "Because I said so" is so much more convincing.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      You can never know if an action is or is not "the right thing," you can only use your best judgement according to your ability to reason with as many facts as you can assemble. What's right in one situation is wrong in another, so we should teach children to reason with sound logic and attempt to always cause as little harm as possible.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
    • tallulah13

      My parents taught me that my actions had consequences, so I should think before acting. No god needed. Just responsible parents.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      Theists are trying to argue what OUGHT be moral. Moral oughts don’t exist. Every example we can point to, theistic included, states or describes what IS moral. Secular moral conclusions, I hesitate to use the term absolutes, are arrived at using facts, reason, empathy, compassion, ameliorating harm and an evaluation of costs/benefits to society and the individual. What IS moral is predicated on the analysis and determination of what we ought or ought not do, not the other way around.
      The Bible tries somewhat unsuccessfully to describe what IS moral. The problem for theists is that they can’t come up with a coherent explanation for why a biblical moral OUGHT must be. “God wishes it” is an appeal to (absent)authority and totally ignores doing a situational evaluation of the possible consequences. Thus God can decree that something is morally “good” despite it being demonstrably harmful or deleterious to general well-being. In fact the Bible has numerous examples of God doing exactly that
      Theists might argue that history shows whole societies have held standards of morality that are appalling to us today. The practice of cannabalism for instance has been raised. Did people who partook in cannabalism believe their actions were morally good? Possibly although I would lay odds that many were just going along with the rest out of fear of ending up as lunch. In any case the reasoning behind their actions were clearly not based on the examination and evaluation of consequences to general well being. Absorbing the power of their victims or appeasing some deity remains, just like with the biblical God, divorced from providing an ought or ought not explanation based on facts, reason, empathy, compassion, ameliorating harm or an evaluation of costs/benefits to society and the individual.
      This is just one example of how secular morality is superior. Using the above mentioned evaluation methodology ensures that we can justify and have quantifiable reasons for labelling something as moral or immoral. Under the worldview held by theists the justification for what we ought or ought not do is ambiguous and arbitrary. Gods’ whim as it were. The secular method of determining what is or isn’t moral provides a path of clarity and specificity to what is actually true and that is a very reassuring foundation for my worldview. My moral center is determined by tangible, predictable causes and effects based in reality. Something that my Catholic upbringing failed utterly at providing.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
    • Jen

      Just Me, you wouldn't know what's righteous or unrighteous if it weren't for Jesus.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
    • Jen

      Same applies to AtheistSteve, you would even have this debate if it weren't for Jesus.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
    • Sleuth

      Sayting "God says so" is any more convincing? Relying on that instead of trying to educate your children in all aspects of the consequences of bad behavior is laziness at its finest.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      Jen

      Your Jesus, God and soul are manifestations of your imagination. Useless and powerless outside your faith. And my note above tells you why.

      January 19, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @jen, secular ethics don't use the concept of "righteousness", but most forms do use the concept of "right". I can't speak for others, but I operate under a form of rule utilitarianism. I work to maximize the greatest conscious happiness of known sentient beings. This means maximizing the wellbeing of all creatures, but weighting those more conscious (for instance, with more neurons) more highly. It also means maximizing consciousness of humans, promoting more thoughtful or consciousness mental states. Rules or laws come into play as a shorthand, to simplify calculations in a world where realistically, we cannot calculate every scenario in life individually.

      January 19, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • Jen

      AtheistSteve, Jesus didn't fail you. You did this all on your own. Morally, you failed on this argument. Why? Because you are blaming others (specifically pointing at Catholics) for not teaching you when it was you that refused to learn.

      January 19, 2013 at 9:03 pm |
    • Open-Mind

      Religion does tend to create a stir for many different people. As the gentleman said we have to respect her right to raise her children the way she sees fit. And it's important to remember that although Mrs Mitchell does not believe in a God does not mean an All-mighty does not exsist. The reason it is such a hot topic in our age is due to conflicting experiences. You can not confess what you have not experienced, therefore it is perfectly understandable why Mrs Mitchell's views are what they are. She is just making the best decicion that she can based on the information she has She, like the rest of us, use our experiences to make sense of the world what we do see and what we can't see(most of us). Just like people try to rationalize or explain things in the physical world that don't make sense: the inhumane slaughter of millions in the name of religion or not, the stealing of employee pensions by multimillionnaries, etc, people are trying to make sense of the non-physical world/spiritual world. They do so based on their experience. To each person, based on the experience, they are correct. To tell someone that has not had an authentic conversion experience that God does in fact exsist seems noting more than fantasy. To them it makes perfect sense that God does not exist because they have not had an experience to validate His existence. It is important to remember that you can not prove that God exist you can only experience it. We have to accept Mrs Mitchell's views, and millions more like hers, just like we have to accept the billions of believers who do believe in God. Although, there is an ultimate Truth the experiencing of this truth is personal. As each experiences new things new realities become real. Love is like this. Millions go through their lives trying to fit the mold of how a relationship should go. They try to create a loving relationship by having multiple relationship and marriages trying to imitate love only to believe that it must not exist. Then, in some mysterious way for countless different reasons they finally experience that love they have been searching for when the right person or conditions appear. The reason so many people agree that love exist is because they have experienced it. People say are in love all the time and then fall out of love because they do not know what love truly is and when they find it it becomes clear. What is needed is an OPEN MIND on both sides of the equation. Christians, and other people of faith, and non believers have to keep an OPEN MIND that if a higher reality is out there than we will find it. And if they will continue to seek the TRUTH instead of advocating that they have already find it the truth will one day appear, like that love relationship that escapes many people. The truth is, it does exist you just have to experience it to believe it.

      January 19, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      No Jen

      Perhaps your reading comprehension skills are lacking. I'm telling you that the Bible doesn't teach morality. It dictates laws. Many that are false. Secular morality is superior because it provides a clear path to determining what is and isn't moral without an appeal to authority. An authority many of us don't believe exists.

      January 19, 2013 at 9:10 pm |
  17. petooi

    People who cling to religion might as well just tattoo "I'M STUPID" on their forehead.

    January 19, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
    • roadrunner321

      From inside it can seem like the epitome of human potential. To purposefully step outside is a brave thing. You risk, from your perspective, everything. It is not an easy thing to give up.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:25 pm |
    • Freethinker Seeking Reason

      In the modern world, you're right; few things make someone look more stupid than babbling on about religious nonsense. Unfortunately, however, the masses still gullibly consume bronze age mythologies as being literal and thus have not yet entered the 21st century.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
    • Jen

      Freethinker Seeking Reason, the reason you posts insults is you're clueless to what Jesus teaches.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
    • lol??

      HHHHHmmmm, where was that brilliant thought expressed before? Oooh, now I remember, the mobster from Chitown, "They cling to Bibles and guns cuz we offer no free protection. You wanna play, you pay." When a pol starts talkin' protection money, look out.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
  18. Lemaitre

    Again, Tammy. Not fooled. Try harder.

    January 19, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Who the fvck is Tammy, and why can't you manage to use the "reply" function, oh brilliant scholar?

      January 19, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
  19. #1Jesus_Fan

    These shildren should be taken away from her and out of her custady.She is damaging the youths with her GOD-lessness.

    I hope she learns the Truth,and abother kind SOUL helps her chidren

    January 19, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
    • PWR

      Nice try, troll.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
    • Sleuth

      Nonsense.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
    • John

      I'm assuming by your terrible writing skills that you're probably not too suited to raise children as well.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
    • Freethinker Seeking Reason

      What a horrid thing to say. Please never become a parent.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
    • antisaint30

      ...how cliche that such an ignorant comment comes from an individual that lacks proper language skills which leads me to question what other acedemics you lack in.

      The people with the most closed of minds seem to always have the biggest mouths.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
    • Tom

      Well, well #1J_F, you sound just like all those other totalitarian societies that take children from their parents so they can be raised (i.e. indoctrinated) to conform blindly to the wishes of their societal masters. That's some religion you've got there but it doesn't sound the least bit Christian.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • Athy

      Jesusfan is barely literate. Nothing serious to consider here.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • Atheist

      Yeah but God loves Bigots like you... WWJD?

      January 19, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
    • Ian

      My family isn't graded on your paper, just as your's will not be graded on mine. Maybe you should just keep your beliefs to yourself. Live and let live – It's not that difficult.

      January 19, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • Still_Okay

      My mother raised me without religion and I'm still a kind and respectful person not because that is what God wants or it's the "christian way", but because my mother taught me that I don't need religion to be happy nor do I need it to be an example of a good person.
      The TRUTH is that you use Christianity and God to put fear into others and are only showing others your lack of knowledge that other people in this country are free minded citizens that are allowed to not accept religion and express what they believe just as much as you do.
      Everyone has different lifestyles and we just have to learn to accept it and move on.

      January 19, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
  20. cave man

    People tend to feel small in light of mortality. It is hard to deal with. Religion provides relief from this by giving people an escape clause. It allows them to have a reason to stop fearing death. The people who need this want to assume, be it out of pride or shame, that everyone else needs it too. Conveniently, the religion they believe in will often support this idea. It's like an alcoholic claiming that everyone needs AA. Not everyone needs a religion to help them deal with the big questions. Not everyone needs religion to understand morality. This is just the truth. Some have trouble accepting it, usually because their religion tells them not to.

    January 19, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
    • kevmom05

      Exactly.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
    • John

      1 Corinthians 15:33

      Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”

      Matthew 7:21-23

      “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

      Don't live with a mask Cave Man... Release your shield from your soul and rejoice in the Lord... He is holy and will make you holy in his light... -John

      January 19, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      Death isn't scary. It's exactly like the state we were all in before we were born...utterly insensate. Dying on the other hand is fought with vigor. We have an instinctual desire to survive at all costs. No surprise that we have concocted the notion of souls to sidestep our inevitable demise.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • Jen

      Atheists are the people who fear death. Christians never mention it, but, you atheists sure do. Get new materials to prove that you are a stick. The old ones are really old, not to mention not factual.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:40 pm |
    • cave man

      John, you must remember that religious text means very little to those who do not believe. You should start with logic to convert the intelligent non-believer, if you are capable of that (I don't know you capabilities). That being said, how about this one: "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou be like unto him." Proverbs 26:4.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
    • cave man

      Jen, you are incorrect. Even Jesus feared his own death. Remember when he prayed to God and asked if there was any other way other than crucifixion? Every time a Christian mentions heaven or hell, which I hear them mention all the time, they are referring to their own death and what they expect or fear from it.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Atheists are not the ones that desperately cling to a myth that after they die they will live forever in paradise if only they obey a few rules written in a 2000 year old book of mythology. Perhaps you would seem rational if there were any proof at all of heaven, hell, god or satan. But as there is no proof, your belief seems to correspond exactly to what cave man said.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:53 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.