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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. onemorehere

    how can one get logic out of chaos and yet we have mathemacal equation that bring order out of logical thinking – right.

    its like saying if emotion hadn't existed we'd be as dumb as a rock but since they exist and people become religious we have now science and mathematics logic and philosoby there for order within chaos....all thanks to relgion or the believe in god maybe even due to the existence of God itself is the reason we have emotion to beggin with...

    January 19, 2013 at 11:50 pm |
    • doris

      what?

      January 19, 2013 at 11:53 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      He types like this because Christ forbade proper punctuation and grammar in 3 Kings Chapter 90 Verse 2

      January 20, 2013 at 12:00 am |
    • octopeanut

      I agree – because logic and saying mathematics god is understand of science and logic so that we can all be under together of God and emotion.... without understanding of emotion God is understanding of mathematical equations of emotion for everyone otherwise we wouldnt believe in God without emotional science of God too...

      January 20, 2013 at 12:13 am |
  2. Noel

    Ultimately, it's up to the kid to believe in whatever he/she wants when they grow older. My mom is a devout catholic and I am more on the evolution side. I live off facts not hope. To those who say atheist are cheaters and have no morals: some of the greatest minds in history have been atheist! Religious people can have their beliefs. If you look back in history – religion has caused a great deal of tragedy. You can only hide behind "faith" for so long before kids grow up and demand facts to back it up.

    If religion is the way to go – then why are there so many different interpretations of "holy" books? If you ask me, the Demiurge has a hold of this world when you bow before someone.

    Yeah yeah yeah....I'm going to hell.....blah blah blah

    January 19, 2013 at 11:46 pm |
    • Toutle Mom

      Do you realize that the last 3 popes all said that the Catholic faith has no problem with evolution in any way and that their followers should not see it as a challenge to their belief in god or Christ?

      Why does it seem like Atheists know more about others religions than they do?

      January 19, 2013 at 11:54 pm |
    • onemorehere

      its a fact and true that emotions have cause a great deal of tragedy and suffering to as all...but with out emotions will be unaware of ourselves as human being we need religion cause it bring the best in us as well as painful emotional suffering when is not well undestood that when logic come in to bring order to emotional states of mind...where reason has to reason a better way to deal with all this pain emotions can create in all of us emotions are the most beuatiful feelings in the human mind yet they can too be painful to indure....Religion like emotions are part of what make us human and intime logic and reason bring the best of our discoveries with in science as imperical knowledge and proven fact at least for the time being just like math that show us the law of the universe and other things in our world...

      January 19, 2013 at 11:57 pm |
    • octopeanut

      a fact of emotion you missed is that without science we will be unaware of emotions because we need human religion cause it brings the worst of painful emotion as well as the best logical emotion of both states of emotion... where if reason has enough reason to be reason theres no reason that reason couldnt be emotion... and Religion like all emotion is therefore has enough reason to be reason... at least enough reason to be reasoning with the universe so new discoveries in reason can bring the univeral reasoning to math...

      January 20, 2013 at 12:16 am |
  3. Reality

    Some 21st century nitty-gritty:(only for the new members of this blog)-––>>

    Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, the "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants" are converging these religions into some simple rules of life without the need of some god or gods. No koran, bible, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired.

    Ditto for houses of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples and synagogues.
    ====================================================================================

    January 19, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      "for the new members of this blog." What a twit. Do you think people wander in here and need you to guide them around?

      January 19, 2013 at 11:46 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Would you like a special hat to wear, so everyone knows you're the leader? Or maybe an umbrella?

      January 19, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
    • octopeanut

      I agree, what a twit.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
    • Reality

      Only for the new members of this blog so that current members can simply scroll to the next commentary. Scrolling obviously is great computer tool.

      For all the kids out there:

      The Apostles'/Agnostics’ Creed 2013: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

      Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
      Jerusalem.

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
      and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

      Amen
      (references used are available upon request)

      January 20, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Dink.

      January 20, 2013 at 11:54 am |
  4. onemorehere

    isn't emotion chaos- it follows no logic- while logic is secuensual follows order. yet from chaos comes mathematics a very predictible equation.

    January 19, 2013 at 11:42 pm |
  5. SomeoneE

    "Many Will Seek to Enter Heaven, But FEW WILL ENTER" it shows that only little will enter heaven.. it shows with all those lost individuals .. it’s a pity , you have a chance to have a life after this SHORT one but still your hearts are hard and stubborn , if you won on earth you will lose after your dead , (what do u have to lose if u believe and win both ) it’s a win win situation :// ..

    January 19, 2013 at 11:40 pm |
    • geppone

      Keep on dreaming SomeoneE, you have nothing to loose, I agree with that.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:42 pm |
    • roike

      Obama is the only name that matters. Who makes sure you have food? water? a job? Obama!

      January 19, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No, it isn't a "win-win situation." Do you really think that one can force oneself to believe something? That if the only reason for that belief is the threat of eternal damnation it actually means anything?

      What are you, 5?

      January 19, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
    • Akira

      Progress. You took the caplock off.
      Well done.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:45 pm |
  6. geppone

    Here is how I see it. We are Christians and we have it right. Then how does our almighty and benevolent God let so many milllions of people (the Jews, the Muslims, the Buddhists, you name it) have it wrong and got to Hell? Of course then you have to ask the same from the Muslim and the Buddhist and the Hindu perspective. The Jews, they solved it by believing they are the chosen, so they are smarter than everybody...

    January 19, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
    • octopeanut

      The Mormons, that is the correct answer. Everyone else got it wrong.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
    • roike

      Atheism is the one true religion. We support our commander in chief. We believe he will soon be ruler of all. Until he rises to the god-state, there is no god. Soon there will be and Obama shall be his name.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:41 pm |
    • ProudAtheist

      Geppone. You guessed wrong. You're going to hell.

      Sorry.

      Signed.

      The other God.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:41 pm |
    • geppone

      @ProudAtheist: I know, right? But with me several millions will (are they going to be the Muslims? or the Christians? Maybe all of the Asian religious will go as well?

      January 19, 2013 at 11:47 pm |
    • ttechdallas

      Why so intolerant of others beliefs? I thought liberals were supposed to be the party of tolerance.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
    • geppone

      @ttech: wher is the intolerance? did we force anyone stop believing? Making my point is intolerance?

      January 19, 2013 at 11:52 pm |
    • octopeanut

      @geppone – no stop for a second, I think ttech is going somewhere. Maybe atheists Should begin to be more intolerant. Let's force evolution teachings in church. Let's infringe on priests right to marry. Let's infringe on the church's right to infringe on gays to marry.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:56 pm |
    • ProudAtheist

      Geppone – none of us are going to heaven. Heaven and hell, God and the Devil – they're all constructs of early man. Confronted with death, the concept of we're born, we live, we die and we're gone – that's it, game over, they invented stories of this wonderful afterlife. From that concept many stories were created, some written down, most passed from mouth to mouth. All the religions that exist today are stories based on earliy mans (and a lot of todays men & women) to accept, we're born, we live, we die. Game Over. We were not created by some all knowing god, we're an accident of biology.

      Hopefully we all (as a human race) will come to understand this sooner rather than later, and the genocides that have occured in the name of "my god kicks your gods butt" will end, the persecution, the sectarian violence will end...

      But I suspect hat it not going to happen in my lifetime, maybe in a few hundred (thousand?) years ?

      January 19, 2013 at 11:56 pm |
  7. Pooch Mom

    Congratulations, I have had people praying for me – it is very uncomfortable. It rather hard to believe that a God who was suppose to have created all of us would think of us as other than ants, or the microbes in the soil. I have not believed in anything other than real science but now I am letting people know.

    January 19, 2013 at 11:34 pm |
    • JeremyH6

      I say, let them do all of the work. It saves you some time during the day...

      January 19, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
    • ttechdallas

      Do you feel the same way when people wish you well? Or when people ask you to join their social groups or activities? What about when you were single and your married friends kept trying to set you up. Unless someone is just intolerant of religion, why wouldn't they appreciate the fact that someone cares enough about them to pray for them, regardless whether it made them uncomfortable or not.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:45 pm |
  8. SomeoneE

    CNN TAKE OFF THIS RELIGIOUS OFFENSIVE ARTICLE , YOU WILL HAVE A LAW SUITE FIRST THING IN THE MORNING, DO YOURSELF A FAVOR BEFORE YOU FACE BIG LAW SUIT ..

    January 19, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
    • JeremyH6

      Hahaha!

      January 19, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      A "law suite"?

      I'm sure CNN is getting the vapors just thinking about such an occurrence.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:34 pm |
    • Akira

      A law suite? Lovely. They wanted to expand, anyway.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
    • octopeanut

      Damn Straight!! To Hell with that whole Freedom of Speech! Let's be more like Iran!

      January 19, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      I just spit all over my monitor laughing at the TT and Akira. "Yay! We're expanding! It's got a fainting couch and everything......In case we get "the vay-puhs!"

      January 19, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
    • doris

      What's offensive about it? I shouldn't even ask. Only a dufus would type like that in all caps. I suppose it could be a frustrated tea-child.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
    • roike

      Atheism is the greatest religion there is. I love it that CNN "belief" blog is pro Athiesm and Anti-Christian as we all should be. There is only one God and he is now president. You have two choices, you can be a willing servant or unwilling. either way you WILL serve!!

      January 19, 2013 at 11:39 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      I guess it will have to be that way, roike, since I won't willingly serve a slave master.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:46 pm |
    • Toutle Mom

      You do realize that just because something is offensive to you doesn't mean it's illegal right? This country was founded on the right to freedom of speech, and that means nothing if you are not willing to allow people to make a point that you don't like. You need to accept that people have opinions that are different from yours and that they are allowed to express them in public.

      This woman said nothing hateful or profane about religion, only expressed her belief that there is no proof for god. And before you start yammering on about how this country was founded as a christian country, you should do a little research. The founding fathers were Deists, who are very lax in their beliefs, and the words under god were not added to the Pledge of Allegiance until the 50's. America was supposed to be a haven for anyone who wanted to come, no matter their race or religion, and we have forgotten that vision because, like it always does, religion clouded everything.

      Our right to Freedom of Speech is something that we MUST protect. If we give that up, we have lost our greatest freedom. Just because someone who is intolerant of other peoples views and beliefs threw a hissy fit is no reason to censor others.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:49 pm |
    • apstar

      Isn't that what lawyers wear... law suits?

      January 19, 2013 at 11:52 pm |
    • TheOnePercent

      SomeoneE – you post in all caps has assaulted my eyeballs and caused me vision discomfert – please take it down before I sue you for a trillion dollars in upsety feelings.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:30 am |
  9. Journey

    I read that article...typical online banter. She had the seductive profile pic and even dropped the "I'm a mom" plug in the first three sentences to get a little immunity from criticism. (#1) Based on the amount of time she invested in thinking about these things it is pretty obvious that she actually does believe in God, just doesn't like the moral requirements that go with that so (#2) she now spells God either M-O-M or on a really good day H-E-R. We aren't fooled. :/

    January 19, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Who's "we"? You have a gerbil hidden somewhere on your person?

      You'd just love to believe that this is a slacker mom who just can't be bothered, wouldn't you? That would make you feel all self-righteous and holy, wouldn't it?

      You're a sanctimonious turd.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
    • End Religion

      Journey you sound frightened of females...

      January 19, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Journey, you're just rationalizing it in the way that allows you to feel superior and maintain your smug belief in your imaginary friends. Grow up, get real, and stop b!tching.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
    • octopeanut

      When you can't attack the message, attack the person.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
    • Journey

      I could care less about the content of the article, I'm attacking the arguments (which, unfortunately, includes the one arguing and the delivery method)...all of which were full of logical holes, blatant assumptions, and cheap self promotion. Speaking thereof each and every one of you contradicted yourself.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:47 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Nice try. Fail.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      And my comment stands.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:51 pm |
    • octopeanut

      No – you were attacking HER. Don't be a coward.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:52 pm |
    • apstar

      I assume your degree in psychology allows you to make such a professional assessment. Or are you either psychic or a blood-relative of Sherlock Holmes?

      January 19, 2013 at 11:54 pm |
  10. Kim

    She said what I'd like to say: keep your religion in your home or church. I too feel surrounded by Christianity, and have had to be polite but firm in establishing that I do not want to attend or join a church. Their response? "I'll pray for you." Ok, whatever works for you, but I think they're insensitive. I have struggled since childhood, trying different churches, thinking it was what I had to do or should do. After a lifelong struggle of never finding a place that matches my beliefs, I am finally somewhat comfortable being non-religious. I have one grown non-religious child and another that probably struggles like I did. We are moral, nice people because we know the difference between right and wrong. Yet I had one religious person ask me "how do you know what is right to do?" as though religion is the only possible compass. People may be surprised if they knew I am not religious. The assumption even includes getting crosses for gifts. When people blame bad on "the devil" it just seems to me they're not taking responsibility for their own choices, literally "the devil made me do it." Thank you, CNN, for essays such as this and the one from the writer who doesn't like Christmas last month. There are a lot of us out here – hidden.

    January 19, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
  11. thesouthwestfinancialservices

    Does anyone here have jobs?

    Serious though, there is no evidence of a god... besides Eric Clapton.

    January 19, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Eric Clapton is a god? I mean, I know he's an incredible musician, but a god?

      January 19, 2013 at 11:15 pm |
    • JeremyH6

      You do know that it is far more difficult to prove that something does not exist than to prove that something does exist, correct?

      January 19, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
    • mikeyb

      lucky we have you here southwest to lead the way for all us unemployed hillbillies.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
    • End Religion

      [begin dueling banjos]

      January 19, 2013 at 11:34 pm |
  12. Pat

    CNN,
    You are being played by extreme left wing liberals. This is hateful speech and you know it. You will loose a lot of viewers including me.
    May God have mercy on your souls (if you have souls).
    Patrick

    January 19, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      There's no such thing as "souls," pat.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:15 pm |
    • JeremyH6

      There's no such thing as "liberals," pat.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
    • Billy Jack Gisher

      you could go back to fox where they outright lie to you.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
    • Fuel

      Pat, Would you care to point out one or two "hateful" statements from 'Godless Mom'? Somehow I totally missed that aspect.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Moby", but your assertion is incorrect. Here is a "soul":
      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0oFadjx-is&w=640&h=390]

      January 19, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
    • sybaris

      So long as it agrees with you it's OK, huh Pat?

      Take your Jesus and shove it

      January 19, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
    • octopeanut

      How DARE you print something that challenges my beliefs! I will now simultaneously use my Religion as a weapon and pretend to take the high ground by stating I shall PRAY for your SOULS (which I should remind you that you may not have, since you are obviously inferior to me due to your differing opinion).

      January 19, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
    • End Religion

      LOOSE THE KRAKEN!!!

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TH_Z86mTjFk&w=640&h=390]

      January 19, 2013 at 11:39 pm |
    • Tamra

      I remember traveling through an airport and glancing at a time magazine with the heading- "Scientist have discovered the area of the brain that houses the soul"

      January 19, 2013 at 11:40 pm |
    • End Religion

      Tamra, unfortunately it is a successful tactic of survival that when one cannot overcome an enemy one can instead absorb an enemy's ideals and twist them. Because religion can never successfully overcome science they have begun absorbing and twisting it.

      Creationists have "scientific insti<b<tutes" which have nothing to do with science but seek only to obfuscate the matter through pseudo-science. Anyone with any degree of any science can claim themselves a "scientist" even is that doctorate is derived from a creationist diploma mill. When you see "Scientist Proves [something wacky]", research that scientist's credentials. Find out about the school from which he received his degree. Look into the actual experiments. Over and over you will find "creation science" is a complete fraud. While wikipedia is not perfect, it is considered a reasonably neutral source – "creation science" is kindly called a pseudoscience.

      Practicing scientists actively seek to disprove each others' work.
      Christian scientists seek to promote their religion, whatever the science says.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:06 am |
    • Montanajay

      When my mother disagreed with someone - all of "them old Cathlics" and "them Jews," for example - she called them "hateful." That was in North Carolina many years ago. There are many more like her in the South, and everywhere in America, I'm sure. While Mama finally accepted that n****** were something close to as good as white people, she didn't live long enough to accept the possibility that her religion might not be correct. Still, as she lay dying, she thanked her family and told us she loved us but never mentioned God, Jesus or Heaven. Such things might have come up if her pastor had been willing to come to the hospital that night, but he was busy.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:07 am |
  13. Moby Schtick

    The very moment any person who doesn't believe in unicorns can show me undeniable proof unicorns do not exist, that's that moment I'll gladly show you undeniable proof that they do…

    And unless you've got genuine proof to show me, don't waste my time...

    January 19, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
    • dmvcitizen

      Hitlers god told him to kill all unicorns.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:15 pm |
    • End Religion

      Don't forget Mao and Stalin killed lots of unicorns. See? Proof that atheists have something against horns!

      January 19, 2013 at 11:41 pm |
  14. Timmymac

    I don't know what to believe. I WANT to, but when you get diagnosed with a disease for which there is no cure, you start to question things.

    IF there was a god, why would he want to shorten our already short time on this planet?

    and IF god only gives burdens to people whom he knows can handle them, why do people commit suicide? Shouldn't they have been able to handle it? IF suicide is an automatic trip to hell, and IF god is omnipotent, then wouldn't he be practically sentencing people to a firey hell until the end of time? Why would he do that?

    But then again, theres the very fact that I'm alive that keeps the hope alive that there might be something more. Until the day scientists can take a bunch of "dead" ingredients and give them life, I'll hold onto my hope.

    What religion am I apart of? I would LOVE to say I'm Christian, but how can I if I have all these doubts?

    January 19, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
    • dmvcitizen

      Religion is a crutch. God gives you comfort when you need it.
      At the same time, religion teaches good morals (usually)
      Hitler and..9-11..religion isn't that good.
      The bible today had books taken out of it because they didn't "agree" with other parts of the bible.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
    • The Rev. Marcus Goodswell

      I have MS... the thing about diseases, they affect believer and non believer at the same rate, given similar exposure rates.
      You d expect believers to have a better survival rate...they even say here, that prayer in school would have stopped all of our violence. Just hold on..do the treatments they offer...hold on as long as you can, medical research is rolling faster and faster:)

      January 19, 2013 at 11:34 pm |
    • Mobius077

      "Until the day scientists can take a bunch of "dead" ingredients and give them life, I'll hold onto my hope."

      Fully synthetic and self-replicating life has be created in the laboratory.

      Google "Venter synthetic life" for a biology lesson.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:01 am |
  15. Chad

    @Blessed are the Cheesemakers "Scientists do not join hands every Saturday or Sunday and sing…”Yes gravity is real! I know gravity is real! I will have Faith! I will be strong! I believe in my heart that what goes up, up, up, must come down, down, down! Amen!”."

    =>Actually, they do...

    A little over 2 years ago Paul Davies wrote an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times, Taking Science on Faith, which produced quite a strong negative reaction from some theoretical physicists. Here are a few quotes from Davies article:
    science has its own faith-based belief system. All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way....

    The most refined expression of the rational intelligibility of the cosmos is found in the laws of physics, the fundamental rules on which nature runs..... But where do these laws come from? And why do they have the form that they do?

    ....to be a scientist, you had to have faith that the universe is governed by dependable, immutable, absolute, universal, mathematical laws of an unspecified origin.....

    Clearly, then, both religion and science are founded on faith — namely, on belief in the existence of something outside the universe, like an unexplained God or an unexplained set of physical laws, maybe even a huge ensemble of unseen universes, too. For that reason, both monotheistic religion and orthodox science fail to provide a complete account of physical existence....

    This shared failing is no surprise, because the very notion of physical law is a theological one in the first place, a fact that makes many scientists squirm. Isaac Newton first got the idea of absolute, universal, perfect, immutable laws from the Christian doctrine that God created the world and ordered it in a rational way....

    ....until science comes up with a testable theory of the laws of the universe, its claim to be free of faith is manifestly bogus
    - Paul Davies as quoted by Ross Mckenzie

    January 19, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Did you somehow miss the fact that this is an opinion, Chard? Funny how you do that so often.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      LOL, I wonder why Chad keeps on using arguments that have never worked. "I've not become a millionaire yet by selling my belly button lint on ebay, but I'm trying again today!! Wheeeeeee!"

      January 19, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I don't wonder. It's because he's a self-aggrandizing azz wipe.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Chad,

      This guy is wrong, so are you. It is not religiousfaith, it is obsevation, testing and replicability, all the things missing in religion. Isaac Newton was a very smart scientist, but he was wrong about many things. He is famous because of his observation, testing, not because of his faith. You are a dishonest twit.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:22 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      The laws of physics don't require faith, they require observation. They exist, obviously. As to why they exist, we don't know........I mean, it might be some invisible sky wizard with magic spellz, but it seems more likely that it's some larger, more complex function than we could ever begin to understand. But who knows?

      Now as to believing in invisible sky wizards with strange magic. Yeah, that takes faith, because there's nothing else that will work.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:22 pm |
    • rafael

      Actually, they don't, because they don't need to. Science assumes that material causality exists and then provides a process for understanding phenomena based on that assumption of causality. As a method for predicting further causality, it works better than any other method. On the other hand, if you choose to live and believe in a world where causality does not exist, science is of no use to you. A person to whom that description applies would be considered insane.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      I'd agree that scientists subscribe to a kind of faith, Chad. But, really, at least when we are healthy, we don't have so much invested in our ideas that our feelings about them descend to the level of faith. After all, we have to abandon our most cherished ideas often enough. Have you considered abandoning the God of Israel?

      January 19, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
    • Akira

      “I’ve not become a millionaire yet by selling my belly button lint on ebay, but I’m trying again today!! Wheeeeeee!”

      This line has me giggling madly...

      January 19, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      @rafael

      I think I understand and agree with you, but could you clarify what the "they" is of your first sentence what it is that they don't need to (require?). thanks

      January 19, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
    • Chad

      fantastic when atheists are so wedded to a belief system, that they simply can not acknowledge what our leading physicists do..

      Taking science on faith: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/24/opinion/24davies.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
      Leonard Mlodinow(co-author with Stephen Hawking) says the same thing in an interview with Tom Ashbrook of NPR.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:38 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Chad, atheists aren't "wedded to a belief system" and it's pretty fvcking obvious by how much we disagree with each other on various points. All your god has to do is be as obvious as gravity, as sensible as math, and as predictable as chemistry, but instead he's so invisible and undetectable that his existence is irrelevant. What a pathetic imagination you believers have.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:41 pm |
    • octopeanut

      Religious faith, and non-religious acceptance of proven theories are completely different. As your opinion article from NYTimes states, scientists at some point have to take for granted earlier discoveries as given in order to progress. If a scientist has ever found evidence to disprove the given theory, the theory would be thrown out. Alternatively, if religions found that same evidence, they throw out the evidence.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
    • End Religion

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7VcLCwnpt4&w=640&h=390]

      January 19, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
    • The Rev. Marcus Goodswell

      Chad,

      Ever look at exposed hill side after a road crew cuts through it? next time you get the chance ,do so....
      Look at the soil layers... I would be willing to guess you will be looking at 10s of thousands years of geological history....right there will put your bible on the rocks.... events like the Missoula Ice Dam left unique clues that the timeline far exceeds any holy books.... the oil you use in your car.... proof is all around you- in the case of the hillside, sitting right infront of you..

      January 19, 2013 at 11:52 pm |
    • End Religion

      "Others play down those results. They note that when Dr. Larson put part of the same survey to "leading scientists" – in this case, members of the National Academy of Sciences, perhaps the nation's most eminent scientific organization – fewer than 10 percent professed belief in a personal God or human immortality."

      http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/23/national/23believers.html?pagewanted=2&sq=scientists%20believe%20in%20god%20atheists&st=nyt&scp=1

      January 19, 2013 at 11:53 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      CHad,

      As has been pointed out to you this is an opinion piece. And as you point out many scientist disagree with him. He is doing the same thing you like to do, conflate the multiple meanings of words to support an opinion. It is the very thing that makes you a dishonest twit. Faith that the earth revolves around the sun due to gravity is VERY different than the faith that your prayers to a personal god are effective.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:53 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Actually guys, there are little things, like induction (necessary to have laws) as a working principle and the existence of the external world that you do take on faith. These issues are well established and accepted in the philosophy of science...it is what it is. For many reasons I've discussed, I think Chad's very wrong about Christianity. And within what is accepted on faith by both theists and atheists, I think Chad's god vision is internally contradictory. But he is right in claiming that all sides take at least some things on faith.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:54 pm |
    • octopeanut

      @Saraswati – I think you and I have very different definitions of the word Faith. I do not consider taking for granted something that is observable but not yet provable as faith – any more than an Ancient Greek would consider the fact that lightning can strike as faith. The difference in the analogy is that the Greek who *knew* the thunder came from Zeus was taking that on faith – just like the Christian who *knows* scientific observation is from god is basing that on faith. Scientific acceptance of observable phenomena is definitely not faith – unless you cheapen the word by broadening it.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:04 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Sara,

      Chad is arguing science has presuppositions just like religion. While that is true, it is dishonest to claim religious belief is therefore every bit as "true" as scientific knowledge. This kind of thing sounds like it interests you. You might like to read an on-line debate between a presuppositional apologist and an atheist. You can find it here. It is in 5 parts and is long but I think it is right up your alley.

      http://sovereignway.blogspot.com/2012/07/debating-atheist.html

      January 20, 2013 at 12:19 am |
    • Saraswati

      @Cheese. I agree withyou that many of Chad's conclusions are incorrect. Howver, the foundational point he is making here is relevent and something that many atheists posting here don't appear to understand. What I'm not comfortable with is the assumption many seem to make that everything Chad says is wrong. While it doesn't impact the validity of anyone's arguments, it speaks to the credibility and is something on a practice level people might want to consider.

      Chad certainly has a number of blinders on about what he'll accept as evidence or argument. I'm pretty sure most of those blinders will stay firmly in place. Howver, he's not an ideiot and, contrary to what a lot of atheist will want to admit, presents a better than average argument for this site. Same goes for Bill Deacon. Of course same goes for yourself, Akira, SImran and a few other atheists. But everyone we all have some blinders on and its valid for him to make that point. Not everything he says has to be wrong. Really read what some ... probably most ... of the atheist here are saying and I think you can get the idea as to why he might think he has to say these things.

      Somethings funky on the iPad and I couldn't open that link...will look later.

      January 20, 2013 at 6:26 am |
    • Saraswati

      @octopeanut, you can't observe induction. It's just a premise.

      January 20, 2013 at 6:34 am |
    • Chad

      @Marcus Goodswell “Ever look at exposed hill side after a road crew cuts through it?.. right there will put your bible on the rocks..”
      @Chad “how so?
      The bible doesn’t say anywhere how old the earth is. I believe it is billions of years old.
      BTW, as a theistic evolutionist, I believe in common ancestry, for as the bible says “For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return Genesis 3

      ================
      @End Religion “fewer than 10 percent professed belief in a personal God or human immortality”
      @Chad “Paul Davies is no theist.. He is just correctly observing that science is based on something that it cannot explain, and as such requires faith.”

      ================
      @Cheese “dishonest to claim religious belief is therefore every bit as "true" as scientific knowledge”
      @Chad “I made that claim?? Where??
      You were saying something about dishonesty? :-)

      ==========
      @Saraswati,
      Thanks!
      Here’s the book I would like you to read if you are willing.
      N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God.
      You’ll appreciate his thoroughness.

      http://books.google.com/books?id=RoD5_bN-WxUC&printsec=frontcover&dq=resurrection+of+the+son+of+god&hl=en&sa=X&ei=mTr8UNOgIIKE8AT0joD4CA&ved=0CDgQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=resurrection%20of%20the%20son%20of%20god&f=false

      January 20, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Sara,

      I agree that Chad is not stupid and is in fact very intelligent, that is part of what makes him frustrating. He accused me once of being closed minded. I responded by saying I have already changed my mind once and am always open to better information. I then asked him if there could ever be information to change his mind. His response was that our mere existence is all the proof he needs of god. That is being hypocritical. William Layne Craig is a very intelligent person, but I think he is dishonest as well. I agree that atheists and all people should be constantly reviewing their positions and the reasons for their positions, and that is why I appreciate your opinion so much even when we don't agree. I do not believe I or other atheists, have absolute truth, Chad DOES think he has absolute truth, and he is smart, that is what makes his belief dangerous and dishonest, and then he accuses others of doing the same thing in an effort to justify his position. Anyone who starts with the suppostion that their holy book is correct and evidence to the contrary is to be rejected should be called out. Science gets things wrong of course, it is run by humans and is therefore flawed, but it has a built mechanism to eventually overcome errors. Religion has nothing to fix any errors, or even have the ability to identify errors. Chad knows this and yet contiues to falsely equate religion and science. I truly believe it is CHad's goal (and apologists like him) to elevate religion to the level of science or bring science down to religions level (or a combination of both). I think that does a disservice to humanities search for truth. I respect anyone who searches for truth and understanding, I have no respect for those claim to have already found it.

      January 20, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • Chad

      @Cheese "His response was that our mere existence is all the proof he needs of god."
      @Chad "you tend to "paraphrase" like that a lot.. What ever I did say, it bore no resemblance to your paraphrase."

      @Cheese "That is being hypocritical"
      @Chad "hunh?
      A. I never said that
      B. What you are claiming I said isnt hypocritical at all. I dont think you are familiar with the definition of the word..
      hypocritical a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not; especially : the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion

      ======
      @Cheese "Anyone who starts with the supposition that their holy book is correct and evidence to the contrary is to be rejected should be called out."
      @Chad "unh.. you do remember that I actually started out NOT believing the bible, making fun of Christians, raised in an agnostic home..
      right?

      ========
      @cheese "Religion has nothing to fix any errors, or even have the ability to identify errors"
      @Chat "that may be true of "religion" that is solely rooted in individual revelation (mormonism, Islam), however that is not true of Judeo/Christianity, which is rooted in and dependent upon historical fact.

      January 20, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • Chad

      @Cheese "I have no respect for those claim to have already found it."

      =>well, if that is true, why are you claiming that my belief is false?

      January 20, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @Chad, thanks for the book ref. I checked and it is at my local library so I'll try to pick it up next time I'm there.

      January 20, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      @Chad "you tend to "paraphrase" like that a lot.. What ever I did say, it bore no resemblance to your paraphrase."

      Well then Chad I will ask the question again. Is it possible that you are wrong and could you change your mind about the existence of god? If so what would it take to change your mind?

      "B. What you are claiming I said isnt hypocritical at all. I dont think you are familiar with the definition of the word.."

      Another definition "deceitful, pretending". As in I feel you deceitfully accuse others of being closed minded when I think you have conveyed your mind is made up. I will wait to see how you answer the above question though since you say now that is not your position.

      @Chad "unh.. you do remember that I actually started out NOT believing the bible, making fun of Christians, raised in an agnostic home..
      right?

      So, do you remember when you accuse me of having little to no understanding of Christianity or the Bible that I was raised in a Christian home and spent 12 years in a Christian school? This feeds into your next statement.

      @Chat "that may be true of "religion" that is solely rooted in individual revelation (mormonism, Islam), however that is not true of Judeo/Christianity, which is rooted in and dependent upon historical fact.

      How does being rooted in SOME FLAWED history help the religion identify errors and correct them? Basing the "truth" of Jesus being god on hearsay of hearsay passed down and then at the same time making illogical conclusions about what Jesus himself said about his return. Your interpretation of scripture is just as valid as any other conflicting interpretation with no definitive way to resolve the issue. It just comes down to opinion. All christianity is rooted in the same historicity and yet christians can't agree on basic points of theology and have no way of overcoming those conflicts. The facts in the bible that can be verified have nothing to do with the underlying dogma, they are essentially irrellevant.

      =>well, if that is true, why are you claiming that my belief is false?

      There are many many reasons why I think Christianity is false, but it is the inability to prove its claims is the reason why I don't believe it. Truth is not so convoluted.

      January 20, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • Chad

      -nothing could convince me that the God of Israel doesn’t exist, I believe because I have seen. Could you be convinced that San Francisco doesn’t exist? That doesn’t mean the holder of the belief is closed minded, it merely means the object of the belief is actual.

      – I don’t accuse people of being closed minded, I accuse people of not having done their homework. I point out that “God doesn’t exist until you prove He does” is entirely fallacious.

      – If Christian history is “flawed” then where is the flaw? :-)

      – All Christian’s agree on the death, resurrection and atoning sacrifice. What they differ on is finer points of theology, NOT history. Not knowing that is yet another indication that you simply aren’t familiar with the bible.

      – If have no respect for those claim to have already found the truth, then why do you claim to have found it? :-)

      January 20, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Look at all the purty little smiley faces! Chard's getting rattled.

      January 20, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
    • Saraswati

      “I agree that Chad is not stupid and is in fact very intelligent, that is part of what makes him frustrating.”

      Yeah, it’s kind of weird when someone who it seems should “get it” doesn’t. But I feel I kind of know what Chad is likely to be open to and what he is not. I don’t look at it like he’s ever going to convince me to be a Christian or I’m ever going to convince him to be…well, whatever you want to call my brand of agnosticism. For me the interaction is a play for a very limited set of middle ground. And to tell the truth for me it is as important to work on improving the entire debate structure and form as the facts themselves. Because when it does matter, at least we’ll know what one another are talking about. And somewhere down the line, parts (even small) of what we believe might change. Chad will always be a Christian, but he may someday as a result of every conversation he’s ever been in think the earth is more than 6000 years old (I know he doesn’t think this likely right now…) and hey, I’ll never be a Christian, but I might someday conceivably be convinced of the existence something that could be called a “god”.

      “He accused me once of being closed minded. I responded by saying I have already changed my mind once and am always open to better information. I then asked him if there could ever be information to change his mind. His response was that our mere existence is all the proof he needs of god. That is being hypocritical.”

      I agree it feels initially hypocritical to me. But I’m also open to the idea that there are interpretations under which it might not be. If Chad’s principle is “Everyone should be open minded” then, yeah, it would be hypocritical. But really is that what he’s saying or believes? He’s also told me outright that he’s not interested in learning more about free will issues because it won’t change his mind. So it seems possible that his principle is something more like “All non-Christians who haven’t felt the light of god should be open minded”. Annoying? Oh yeah. But hypocritical? Depends.

      OED:
      behaving in a way that suggests one has higher standards or more noble beliefs than is the case

      Webster:
      1: a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion
      2: a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings

      Webster #2 is the one I hear people use most often (though I do see it is 2nd here) and if his principle is “All non-Christians who haven’t felt the light of god should be open minded” he’s not contradicting himself, so not hypocritical.

      As for the other two definitions, then we’re really talking about a matter of opinion. If we are to rate him on his own belief system, as is normally how evaluation of hypocrisy is done, I don’t think he’d be hypocritical either.

      Then again, I may be misinterpreting his principle here, or even falsely assuming he has one.

      “William Layne Craig is a very intelligent person, but I think he is dishonest as well.”

      When you say “as well” here are you referencing Chad being dishonest? Above you just said hypocritical. I have seen him use a slightly disingenuous debate technique a couple of times, but I’ve seen almost everyone (including I’d assume myself) do that, and he readily withdrew the statement the one time I pointed it out. Really, I see atheists here use all sorts of unfair arguments, and I don’t see Chad as any worse than most, and better than quite a few.

      “I do not believe I or other atheists, have absolute truth, Chad DOES think he has absolute truth,”
      Agreed here.

      “and he is smart, that is what makes his belief dangerous and dishonest”

      I agree that the conclusion that his belief is dangerous could follow here with a few other premises, including of course that he is wrong and that his inaccurate and absolutist beliefs have negative impacts. But I don’t see how it follows that he’s dishonest?

      “and then he accuses others of doing the same thing in an effort to justify his position.”

      Yes, I’ve seen that. But I’ve also seen almost every atheist here do the same thing, so again I can’t call him out on it specifically.

      “Anyone who starts with the suppostion that their holy book is correct and evidence to the contrary is to be rejected should be called out.”

      I agree. But I don’t think Chad has an explicit supposition that “evidence to the contrary is to be rejected”. Rather I suspect his bias is so strong that, in some cases, it prevents him from objectively weighing the evidence. It’s not a conscious decision.

      “Science gets things wrong of course, it is run by humans and is therefore flawed, but it has a built mechanism to eventually overcome errors. Religion has nothing to fix any errors, or even have the ability to identify errors.”

      I’m not sure I have such a faith in this built-in mechanism as you do (a bit like Adam Smith’s invisible hand, but definitely better), though I agree science at least provides a pretty good tendency to improvement. And I certainly agree it is more likely to rapidly improve in its perspectives than is most religion. I do think however that religion can and does evolve as well.
      But while I agree that religions generally create a larger prohibition to questioning than scientific theory, I don’t think that distinction is clear cut (egos, funding and tenure-ships count for a lot in stagnating progress). And there are sacred cows even in some sciences, ranging from thoughts about determinism in physics to free will in psychology (now largely overcome).

      I also think that while a lot of what Chad argues is straight fundamentalist Christian stuff a lot is just existence-of-god talk which is in a much different category. The fact that he’s inflexible doesn’t impact the truth value of his arguments (which, yeas, I agree are often incorrect from where I stand).

      “Chad knows this and yet contiues to falsely equate religion and science.”

      If Chad genuinely recognized the ideas were in conflict I don’t know that he would tolerate the cognitive dissonance. Does he falsely equate religion and science? I would say partially falsely, partially accurately…but where false it isn’t intentional. But I’d go further and say a lot of atheists are rather simplistic materialists who have rather naïve ideas about how we observe and understand our world. That’s a bit of what Chad is getting at…and if you’re reading Chad, try starting the debate with Berkeley’s observations and working your way up. Well maybe not online, because hard core philosophy doesn’t go over that well in an online forum.

      “I truly believe it is CHad's goal (and apologists like him) to elevate religion to the level of science or bring science down to religions level (or a combination of both).”

      Yes, probably.

      “I think that does a disservice to humanities search for truth.”

      Hmmm…just not so sure I have quite the same strength of “faith” in the value of the search for truth that you do. Yes, I personally love the search for truth. Yes, I mostly kind of think it’s a good thing or I wouldn’t be promoting it. Yes, I think on a range of things it’s more effective and current than religion. But I think there are limits to what science can bring us and, in contrast to what I once believed, I’m not at all convinced that knowledge is an absolute route to happiness. And here I’m really understating my true beliefs because they would seem too radical without a lot more background on what I believe.
      And that’s one of the main reasons I don’t feel driven to show religious folk everywhere that I think they are wrong. Without being sure that knowledge brings happiness, I don’t have the moral drive to enforce it on others. If anything I suspect there are things I know too much about…knowledge about how reality ties together (or fails to) that I don’t think most people could handle. So I do feel pretty sure the Christian god isn’t real and is outdated and a drag on society. But do I know for sure that pure secularism can maximize happiness? Not enough to start stealing someone’s crutches without having something better (for them) in the wings.

      “I respect anyone who searches for truth and understanding, I have no respect for those claim to have already found it.”

      I agree with the first part of this statement, but the second part I hesitate on for two reasons. First I don’t know if you mean you don’t respect that one error or the person as a whole. And it really is only one error of which we all have a lot with regard to knowledge. I have found that most atheist outside psychology and philosophy still believe in libertarian free will! I mean wow. That’s as nutty as god. In fact it’s the main reason I think the Christian for IS nutty. Fortunately this is ever diminishing too, but the fact remains that I see atheists here arguing for all sorts of concepts as crazy as god.
      Second, I don’t know what each person needs with regard to certainty. I suspect that people differ dramatically, and if someone needs more certainty than I do who am I to keep that from them anymore than I should keep food from someone who needs more calories than I do to survive. The psychological evidence on how many untruths humans tell themselves to survive is stunning. One more “lie”…I guess I just don’t mind as much as long as it isn’t in immediate danger of hurting more people than it helps.

      January 20, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
    • Saraswati

      "Could you be convinced that San Francisco doesn’t exist?"

      Yep, but it'd have to be a pretty good argument.

      January 20, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
    • Chad

      @Saraswati “And to tell the truth for me it is as important to work on improving the entire debate structure and form as the facts themselves. Because when it does matter, at least we’ll know what one another are talking about”
      @Chad “VERY TRUE”

      =====
      @Saraswati “try starting the debate with Berkeley’s observations and working your way up”
      @Chad “I’ll give it a try.”

      ==========
      For the record:
      1. I don’t see Christianity and science in any kind of conflict, it simply isn’t possible. God created the universe, science is the examination of it. The examination of the creation can not possibly be in conflict with the creator.
      2. I am a theistic evolutionist, I believe the earth is billions of years old, and humans share a common ancestry with apes (see Francis Collins “The language of God”) and Genesis 3:19

      Excellent post!
      Although, I would point out that underlying your entire post is the assumption that Christianity is false and cant be a valid goal in a search for truth. Which isn’t true in either respect.
      Did you know that Dawkins argues for free will?

      You have never been to San Francisco? Nice place.

      January 20, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @Chad, sorry, I got mixed up with a discussion with Bill on the evolution thing.

      January 20, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Chad,

      First like I have said I don't claim absolute truth. I say the claimed "truth" of christianity isn't true. I don't even claim that as an absolute, but I put it in the same realm as the probability that Zues is real. The very fact that you believe the god of Isreal is as real as San Francisco tells me either

      a) you are wrong, the god of Isreal is not as apparent in reality as a city. After all, large segments of the population do not deny the existence of San Francisco so I think you are on the fringe with that level of belief. Many many believing, practicing christians would not even agree with that. Books are not written dealing with the doubt of the existence of San Francisco for the believers of San Francisco to help them with their doubt.

      b) The god of isreal has actually made his presence to you as real as a city. But the fact that he has not given the same level of information to others, even believers, and yet judges people based on their belief and non-belief makes him rather immoral. Quite frankly even if you could prove his existence was as real as a city he would still be immoral for judging on belief. Which leads into another problem with your statement that Christians don't argue about major parts of theology. Christians argue about what is required to attain salvation, I would say that is a major part of theology don't you?

      – If Christian history is “flawed” then where is the flaw?

      The lack of corroberating contemporary evidence not only of the existence of Jesus, but the claims of Jesus, regardless how you break it down the stories of the resurrection are hearsay of the worst kind, evidence that would not be allowed in a court of law in this country. Even the gospels are contradictory, you may say those are meaning less details but you would be wrong. Confirming details is a major way we can ascertain the veracity of a claim. A god who was intent on making himself known would do better.

      January 20, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @Chad, I've no doubt Dawkins would support something like free will – he's considered pop philosophy in real phil circles. He's not the sharpest mind out there...while most philosophers aren't theists, they hardly waste their time on the subject of arguing against god.

      I've been to San francisco several times, but you could still convince me is was an illusion or an implanted memory with the right evidence.

      January 20, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Sara,

      "When you say “as well” here are you referencing Chad being dishonest?"

      Yes, of course I can't say for sure whither he is actually being dishonest or just unconsciously wrong, at some point we have to make a judgement. I guess I would equate it to a lawyer arguing his case, he may not be actually lying in his mind but he knows he is stretching the truth to the limit and maybe a bit past.

      "I’m not sure I have such a faith in this built-in mechanism as you do"

      That's why I used "eventually". I know anything humans have a hand in is flawed for a lot of the reasons you go into later.
      Religion has no mechanism because it can't demonstrat anything.

      "If Chad genuinely recognized the ideas were in conflict I don’t know that he would tolerate the cognitive dissonance. Does he falsely equate religion and science? I would say partially falsely, partially accurately…but where false it isn’t intentional."

      And I think it is intentional in an effort to avoid the cognitive dissonance.

      "I don’t have the moral drive to enforce it on others."

      I absolutely agree. Beliefs cannot and should not be enforced and it would be immoral to do so. I would fight against any effort to outlaw religious belief of any kind. I want religion to go away, but it can't be forced and it wouldn't work anyway.

      " I have found that most atheist outside psychology and philosophy still believe in libertarian free will!"

      I know, it is rediculous.

      "Second, I don’t know what each person needs with regard to certainty. I suspect that people differ dramatically, and if someone needs more certainty than I do who am I to keep that from them anymore than I should keep food from someone who needs more calories than I do to survive. The psychological evidence on how many untruths humans tell themselves to survive is stunning."

      I agree, it is one of the main reason I find the Christian god unbelievable.

      Thanks again for the discussion.

      January 20, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
    • Chad

      Just so that I understand,

      Libertarian free will means that our choices are free from the determination or constraints of human nature and free from any predetermination by God. All "free will theists" hold that libertarian freedom is essential for moral responsibility, for if our choice is determined or caused by anything, including our own desires, they reason, it cannot properly be called a free choice. Libertarian freedom is, therefore, the freedom to act contrary to one's nature, predisposition and greatest desires. Responsibility, in this view, always means that one could have done otherwise.

      You do NOT believe in Libertarian free will, therefor you do not believe in moral responsibility, you do not believe in freedom of choice.. our brains are just executing based on a deterministic interaction of the particles that comprise them, all of which was set in motion during the extremely low entropy state at the origin of the universe?

      January 21, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @Chad, That's a theologically based description of libertarian free will and not one I would have chosen. But since I don't think any of the concepts make any sense I suppose it's good enough...just be aware that atheists who believe in free will define it very differently.

      "You do NOT believe in Libertarian free will"

      Correct

      "therefor you do not believe in moral responsibility"

      Depends what you mean by "responsibility". I believe it is appropriate for society to assign responsibility around certain actions (even if determined) to influence behavior. And before you ask, yes, all of those behaviors, including constraints and reactions, could be seen as "determined" (an oversimplification, but for argument lets use the term).

      "you do not believe in freedom of choice"

      Again it depends on what you mean by "freedom of choice". I agree that it is best for society to provide a wide range of options from which a person can select. I also believe the options that person will select are "determined" by biology, culture and the physical world (again determined is a simplification but for practical purposes works).

      "our brains are just executing based on a deterministic interaction of the particles that comprise them, all of which was set in motion during the extremely low entropy state at the origin of the universe?"

      Yes and no. There are certain physical interpretations which would make us use a probablistic rather than determinist language, but the end result is the same...there is no room for absolute praise or condemnation and no action that is independent of causes or in any way influenced by something acting outside of physical laws that could be called "will".

      January 21, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
    • Chad

      Cant imagine what that view would label consciousness/self awareness as... I'll have a look at what Berkeley has to say on the subject before I jump to conclusions and call the whole thing a load of bollocks :-)

      this is the guy? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Berkeley

      January 21, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
    • Chad

      I am an engineer, not a philosopher.. can you recommend a starting point for this guy? Is this a good one?

      http://www.acgrayling.com/berkeleys-argument-for-immaterialism

      I take it that you are an "immaterialist"?

      January 21, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @Chad, Berkeley was writing a while ago and I'm by no means promoting him as having the correct view of the universe...like all the old philosophers, he's outdated. But he was the first of any significance to point out that we can't really meaningfully talk about an external, material world because we only know it through our senses. The description becomes circular. Kant (who is way off on lots of stuff but had one good point) took this farther and pointed out that the structures of extension had to be first structures available in our minds. (both massive paraphrases)

      None of this says anything about what reality is, but it at least says that it is not simple naive materialism. And again, these are old philosophers and mostly outdated, but the kernels of insight they had on which both modern philosophy and theoretical physics are built are kernels that still today most people have missed.
      On a functional level I am mostly a monist, but I don't have a strong belief that that perspective is true.

      January 22, 2013 at 11:55 pm |
    • Chad

      well, before I say "that's obviously all nonsense", I would like to better understand it a bit.. recommendation on starting point?

      January 23, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • Saraswati

      @Chad, I think the simplest answer is "Read Berekeley." I'm not sure what about it you are reacting to as "nonsense". If you let me know what part bothers you I might be able to direct you better – these are all completely mainstream Christian philosophers.

      January 23, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • Science

      @Chad take it up with Supreme court, about MONEY !
      One way to move it out of the way

      Supreme Court to Decide if Human Genes Can Be ... – Reason Online

      reason.com/24-7/2012/.../supreme-court-to-decide-if-human-genes-c

      Nov 30, 2012 – The justices' decision will likely resolve an ongoing battle between scientists who believe that genes carrying the secrets of life should not be exploited for commercial gain and companies that argue that a patent is a reward ...

      January 23, 2013 at 9:52 am |
  16. chedar888

    Even silver back Apes have morality and emphaty. It is how you practice compassion without greed and attachment to your fellowmen is the best religion. May all sentient being be free from suffering.

    January 19, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
  17. mikeyb

    Much talk about God (therefore religion) not being measurable in scientific terms. Scientific proof is not necessary as what was written in the holy bible validates religious claims.

    Yet religious adherents claim a measure of historicity and validity for the events contained in the bible (particularly the new testament). "They must have happened," they claim, "for here they are written in scripture".

    The variable burden of proof stops with the semi-historical 'facts' as related in the gospels, but does not quite extend to phenomena such as evolution, genetics, geology and basic psychology.

    January 19, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
    • dmvcitizen

      So why did the holocaust happen? Was it in the bible too

      January 19, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
    • mikeyb

      overwhelming burden of proof- just as that for evolution

      January 19, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
  18. justanotherguy

    so many riducule Christ as never being here to begin with; denying that God created this whole universe; indeed denying anything involving God. I tell you this that Christ Jesus is the only way and He offers it freely to all who will listen and His simple teachings. He DOES WORK MIRICLES in this life...I am proof of it.

    January 19, 2013 at 11:06 pm |
    • rafael

      Asserting that a god exists is not terribly convincing.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
    • tallulah13

      You are proof of nothing beyond your own existence.

      January 20, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
  19. Temperance

    I believe in God and that is my right to do so. I've never been one to push my beliefs on others, nor do I want them pushed on me. If this woman does not want to believe, that is also her right. It is not my place to judge her for what she does, although I may not personally agree. What irks me is the amount of "Christians" who want to condemn this woman. Conversely, the amount of non-believers who want to call God "a fairy tale" or "illogical". As long as the actions of one person are not directly affecting another person, what difference does it make? To put it in a different perspective, is any of this really going to matter 100 years from now?

    January 19, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
    • Akira

      I agree! Good post.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Beliefs matter, beliefs inform our actions, they do not exist ina vacu um.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Great post Temperence. I also agree with Cheese, though his point does not necessarily conflict with yours...it depends what standards you hold a belief to.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
    • rafael

      It matters whenever one group of people is subjugated or marginalized based on another's set of beliefs.

      January 19, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I'm sorry if I offend you. Truly, I don't care what people privately believe. But as long as religion is used as an excuse to harm or discriminate against others, I feel a responsibility to point out that there is no evidence to support the existence of any god.

      January 20, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
  20. Chris

    Just because the woman was non-religious doesn't mean shes evil . There's always devoted Christians doing tha same!!

    January 19, 2013 at 10:57 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.