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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. Fact

    Just read the comments and look how angry all the atheists are. I'd feel sad for you all if you weren't such arrogant and compndescending a.ssholes.

    January 20, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • Fact

      Condescending*

      January 20, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • Edweird69

      ahahahha...No angry statement there. Makes me desire to join you and your religion...NOT.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No, dear, you wouldn't. You don't know what "empathy" means.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Really??

      Which ones are the angry ones?

      January 20, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • Wow

      All the atheists I know in real life are extremely angry and unhappy people, yet they all claim otherwise. I came to the comments and what do I find? 99% of the atheists on here are angry, full of hate, and belittle anyone who believes in a higher power. Shocking and so unpredictable.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • ipadcowboy

      You seem to be the one setting conditions, telling us that god is, who god is, what we feel, how we react, what we better do, think, how to act. If we do not comply with YOUR conditions we're angry. Hmmm, I don't feel, recognize, or submit to your words or attempts to control me. You've not done a thing to prove anything you say is even close to real or true.

      You live in a fantasy world. I don't care, but I'm not going to join you.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      "All the atheists" you know? And how many would that be, Wow? One?

      I don't know anyone else in real life who professes to be an atheist, but you know more than one? Not a chance.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • sam stone

      Arrogant? As opposed to the inbred fvcks who purport to speak for god?

      January 20, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      You mean angry like telling people they deserve eternal punishment because they don't agree with you?

      January 20, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Check

      @Wow:
      "99% of the atheists on here... belittle anyone who believes in a higher power."

      Sometimes, when reason and logic fail to have an impact...

      “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus.” - Thomas Jefferson

      January 20, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You don't have a clue, Wow. I have nothing against those who believe and live their faith. I have nothing but loathing for those who get on here to pat themselves on the back, judge everyone else, and insist that they are the authorities on truth, god, life, the earth, and everything else.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Yup

      @fact. Atheists aren't angry. You mistake disputation and contradiction of your beliefs with something more. However, since the mythology is something you hold dearly you have a visceral reaction, hence the very non-Christian name calling on your part. As far as appearing condescending. Imagine someone telling you that they believe in aliens, Bigfoot and unicorns and that they take their orders from an invisible alien general. Would it not be difficult to appear slightly condescending to that person when you tell them you don't buy it?

      January 20, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • Saraswati

      And in contrast we all feel the love and acceptance radiating from your own post.

      January 20, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
  2. John

    There were 12 apostles with Jesus, if you don't believe them, that is your problem. God exists.

    January 20, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • Kevin

      And what gives these 12 people such credibility?

      January 20, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • Really??

      That's what your storybook says anyway. Men told you god exists, it is your problem if you believe these men. After all, the religion and the book were created to control you. Enjoy them having control.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      Prove it.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      even if all these characters existed, how do you know that what you read about them is true?
      in many occasions they don't even agree on facts about your Jesus

      January 20, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • Edweird69

      John – extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof? A book is hardly proof. Have any other proof?

      January 20, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Every true believer of every one of the thousands of gods humanity has worshiped has felt the same conviction you do, John. And all of them had the same amount of evidence to support the existence of their god as you do: None whatsoever.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • Check

      John,

      The fates and even the ident-ities of most of those "Apostles" are unknown and undoc-umented. Legends (often conflicting) about them abound, however.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • ipadcowboy

      Prove it. Oh, I forgot. You read a book. Sorry, not good enough.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • sam stone

      wow...you can reference a story. good job, johnnie

      January 20, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • John

      I told Yahweh I would post a simple factual statement, and I got back prior to this post and saw 8 replies saying to prove it. How do people like you get through each day, if you can't even believe simple factual statements in a comment section of a blog?

      January 20, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
  3. tonya

    I am going to raise my kids without lightening bolts or moonlight.

    January 20, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • Really??

      That's going to be tough considering lightning bolts and moonlight actually exist.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • lol??

      You gonna get the gubmint god to pass a law against rain?

      January 20, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
  4. doodleboog

    I am really glad a person can believe what they want.
    I don't think any of us would like being forced to believe what the rest believe just because everyone believed.
    Think tyranny, think Taliban, think crazy family or husband.
    A person has the right to believe what they want in this country. Thank goodness and thank those who fought and fight for democracy, not kings, not dictators, that we can decide for ourselves. Yeah!

    January 20, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      Don't get so happy there. Beliefs can have and do have legs in government.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • lol??

      Exactly right VA. You progressives corrupted the gubmint beyond measure. Now it's the Pale Horse.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • Edweird69

      Not so sure if belief is a choice. I'd like to believe I'm rich, but my bank account keeps telling me otherwise. Like religion, I tried to believe, but the evidence told me otherwise.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
  5. joe

    i pass along my support for mrs mitchell. I have never felt comfortable in religous events nor have my children.

    i can never understand the 'recruters' anger when they finally accept the reality that i am just being frendly when i listen to their jesus stories.

    like you i have no problems with religon; so why does religon have a problem with non-religous beliefs?

    January 20, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      These people are not being polite to you, why are you polite to them. I'd tell them to f-off.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • lol??

      What kind of religious events do you attend? Feeding Christians to lions?

      January 20, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
  6. lol??

    The A&A's have severe problems. Jesus said so........."Mat 5:8 Blessed [are] the pure in heart: for they shall see God."

    January 20, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • g2-4b93b2c4f53d09a9fc9480bfc35748c8

      A condescending judgmental Christian. Shocking.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • Really??

      Jesus was alleged to have said so. In your fictional story book.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • Spaz

      Imagine a world without religion. It's easy if you try.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Yup

      "Lol??" Looks like you weren't sure if your comment was worth laughing at. Not to worry. It was LOLworthy. No one takes people who quote scripture seriously. Nor should they.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • lol??

      Maybe you can take a shortcut and try the ol' peering thru a keyhole trick. Let me know if it works.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      cult logic

      January 20, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
  7. gpforreal

    You can't prove it and it doesn't sense check. Our concept of justice is societally far more accepted than in that day. Our common morals have been greatly enhanced. Yes there have been errors within religion itself, and horrible wars in our modern day. But cultures forwarding the concept of justice have thus far, defeated the fascists and those driven by evil.

    January 20, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
  8. gpforreal

    I am proud to have successfully raised our children as thoughtful Christians. They are blossoming into wonderful, balanced, intelligent adults and definitely have the ability to think for themselves, even to consider agnostic points of view. I feel our regular church attendance has enabled them to link to and feel the spiritual side of our wonderful world, to see beyond mere materialism. Also, many within modern 'ascendant atheism' fail to recognize what Christianity has really contributed to our modern world. Don't reject the Christian values that have become part, even of secular humanism. Think of the evils of the Greek and Roman worlds from which Christianity sprung. Teaching the world of the horrible, unjust death of Christ, in a huge way, TAUGHT the world the concept of Justice!

    January 20, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • Really??

      Is it justice to allow someone else to take your just punishment. Our courts would not allow this because it is the definition of injustice and we feel morally wrong. Yet your entire religion is based on this immorality.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      " Think of the evils of the Greek and Roman worlds from which Christianity sprung. Teaching the world of the horrible, unjust death of Christ, in a huge way, TAUGHT the world the concept of Justice!"

      Sorry to break your religious bubble but so-called justice is an evolved psycho-social trait that was here long before your world of Jesus, it is called morality and, no, it didn't come from a God, it came from man and the social structure in order to survive.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
    • tallulah13

      You mean the evil of democracy that originated in ancient Greece? Or the goodness of christian genocide in the Americas or more recently Bosnia? I think your views of history are distorted by what you have chosen to believe. Real history does not support your claims.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      if you indeed have proof that the supernatural exists, you're welcome to present it, but you shouldn't talk as though your assumptions are facts, because they are not
      "Christianity has really contributed to our modern world" yes, let us think of that for a second... the middle ages were indeed pretty awesome and, of course, Galileo would agree with you, along with all the other intellectuals throughout the ages that have been (and, in many cases, even so today) persecuted because they wanted to show how reason, even when it defies religious dogma, is more important
      " Think of the evils of the Greek and Roman worlds from which Christianity sprung" yes, see above

      January 20, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • OOO

      All that was done in christianity was to put moral humanism (a HUMAN concept) on top of a bad idea. It's called sugar coating a turd. Just read the bible and the turds become very visable.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • lol??

      "tallulah13 sayz
      You mean the evil of democracy that originated in ancient Greece?....."You must be thinkin' of Sodom and Gomorrah. Their ward bosses apProved of recreational R*A*P*E*.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      "Don't reject the Christian values that have become part, even of secular humanism. "

      Name a Christian value that is original to chrisitanity that is embraced by by the secular world?

      As far as the "evil" in the Roman empire, I think you need to read up on the history of the christian religion in the time of Rome. They did not act any better once they gained some power.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Silly lol. Don't you ever get tired of trolling?

      January 20, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      lol??

      After Sodom and Gomorrah Lot, "the rightous man" got drunk and screwed his daughters, twice. What a great guy.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • visitor

      While I do think regular church attendance is a good thing, I really do, Christianity did NOT invent morality. Moral views were in existence for thousands of years before any Bible books were written. The Babylonians had moral views, the Egyptians had moral views, the Chinese had moral views, the Hindus had moral views, and the Greeks and Romans. All of them had their moral failings, just like Christians. Nevertheless, it is arrogant and ignorant to think Christians invented morality.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
  9. HaveFaith

    Science tells us that something can't be created from nothing yet it had to happen once or none of us would be here. How could you not believe in a higher being? Everything has good and bad in it and without the freedom to choose how would anyone know the difference? This woman ought to be thinking about free will and what the absence of God would be like.

    January 20, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • tallulah13

      Your scientific ignorance is not proof of god. Your desire for a god does not make one magically manifest. Humans have created literally thousands of gods throughout history, and there isn't a single shred of evidence to support the existence of any of them (including the christian god).

      January 20, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • End Religion

      Nothingness isn't empty. It weighs something. It is the dominant "stuff" of the universe. It is a roiling mass of virtual particles popping in and out of existence. It is unstable. If given enough time it will, and did, burp out a universe so amazing that one no longer need be awed by imaginary gods. Stand in awe of the universe that birthed you.

      http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/415708/june-21-2012/sign-off–a-universe-from-nothing-

      Lawrence Krauss explains Something From Nothing
      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjaGktVQdNg&w=640&h=390]

      January 20, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • Really??

      Why are you making the a$$umption that there was once nothing?

      January 20, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • JoeJohnson

      People like you can't function without the idea of "God." The idea of everything being solely in YOUR control and realm of responsibility scares all of you so badly. You think that you can refer blame to some magical being for events that occur, or attribute progress to that same magical being. Hard work makes things happen. Science saves kids dying of cancer, not Santa Claus. What a bunch of ignorant fools. You can't pray away your problems or create opportunities by talking to the air. This type of nonsense is the very reason this world is at war. All of you believe in different magical gods who oppose eachother and eachother's way of living. What is life without a "God?" PEACEFUL.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • Kevin

      Why not tell us what the absence of God would be like?

      January 20, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
  10. JoeJohnson

    All of you sad people who can't live without an imaginary person to worship and DREAM will "save you..."

    It's ridiculous. pray to Santa Claus all you want. Go to an imaginary place that coincidentally has earth metals like gold and silver, where people have wings and also play earthly instruments as well.

    You people who believe this nonsense are afraid of death and of being irrelevant. Grow up so your kids won't sound like complete idiots when they are adults.

    January 20, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • Geo

      Hey, you seem very angry that people believe in what you believe to be a non-existent God. First off science cannot explain everything "yet" and, you should probably care more about yourself. Then you probably won't despise religion so bad, not that religion hasn't been the catalyst of terrible things in the past. But Spirituality is also a very good thing.

      January 20, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • tallulah13

      Why is spirituality a good thing? What exactly is the benefit of believing in something for which there is no evidence? Science has gotten a lot closer to explaining the hows and the whys of the universe than any religion. Just saying "god did it" is nothing more than closing your mind to the truth.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
    • ashlynn

      Hi, This is my view. Believing and accepting the Lord into your life is a very personal decision. It is not an easy life to live when trying your best to follow his word on a daily basis .Following his commandments is challenging and I for one fall short each day.God forgives and loves us. You have a choice to get to know him personally which comes from reading and studying the scriptures with an open heart and letting him guide you. God does not force us to accept him, it is our choice and at the end of life we all will learn the impact of our personal choice. Accept or Reject has eternal consequences for all of us. Just read and study the Bible in depth for yourself. It is totally your decision .

      January 20, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  11. End Religion

    The Christian god has the same traits as an abusive partner:
    • you have to fear him to receive his love
    • you are unworthy of his love
    • you are nothing without him
    • if you do not love him he will hurt you
    • he doesn't want to punish you – it's really your fault
    • he threatens you if he thinks you might break things off
    • at all times he needs to know where you are, what you're doing and thinking so he can control your thoughts and behavior
    • doesn't want you to get an education because you'll realize you don't need him anymore and break up
    • worst of all, you have to bring him beer and a sammich

    January 20, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • visitor

      Smart women leave husbands like this.

      January 20, 2013 at 11:51 am |
    • HaveFaith

      You're thinking about the other guy...the one that made you feel this way about an all loving, understanding and forgiving God.

      January 20, 2013 at 11:56 am |
    • End Religion

      HaveFaith, can we get you into a halfway home for the religiously abused?

      January 20, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
    • musicoxygensl

      Atheists are the most hypocritical people on the face of the planet. They despise our Father in Heaven, and all the while do to their children what they despise God for. In your atheist philosophy, you shouldn't endeavor to tell your children how to live; you should make no rules for them, and shouldn't care if they run after what you would consider dangerous or "evil" , you should just birth them, and let them go off on their own. That's how you think that the God of creation should be, that he shouldn't care for us; and the fact that He does care for us enough to lay down some ground rules for our protection, displeases you, so you say you don't believe in him and then, hypocritically shove YOUR theories down the throats of believers. Christians are hypocrites? No, not true Christians, but everything that you say is very judgmental and hypocritical, yet you say that it is your wish that Humans would just be good to one another; let's see YOU lead by example and stop slandering your fellow man because of HIS beliefs then.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      music, your post is so full of nonsense you've got to be a poe. Atheists don't ALL do anything; it's not like there's a rule-book, you dolt. You asinine statement that atheists make no rules for their children is beyond idiotic. Of course they do. They're no different from other parents in that regard, unless you're of the ilk that tell your kids that if they do wrong God's going to roast them in hell.

      Is that what you do?

      January 20, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • Yup

      @music. You know absolutely nothing about atheists. You mistake disbelief in mythology for despise. The fact that an atheist would refuse to brainwash his or her child into believing your preferred fiction is clearly frustrating and upsetting to you, but I am so pleased to see this. People have been (and still are) trying to force people into believing their mythologies for power and control. Look at the concealment of child abuse by the catholic priests whose ruler sits in a palace literally covered in gold. Look at the zealots in the middle east (or USA for that matter) who want to force people to obey their religious based laws.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
  12. Big Bird Johnson

    Dumb progressive liberal. Why don't you be consistent and tell your little children there is no santa clause? As evident from your own existence, people can discover the truth without the help of their mother. dumb dumb dumb.

    January 20, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • End Religion

      We allow children to be children. When they begin growing up we tell them Santa doesn't exist, just like god.

      January 20, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      No, you would be the big dumb person.

      January 20, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • Jiubreyn

      Your comparison of Santa Claus and religion isn't quite the same as the argument she's making above. Santa Claus doesn't tell you how to live your life yet religion does. This woman is doing exactly what you say: telling her kid what is and isn't true according to her views. Who are you to say she should live her life one way or the other much less call her dumb for making an informed decision. You should take time to look at your own character.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • thinker

      Big Bird....you don't sound very Christian.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • Kevin

      Uh there is nothing in the article that says the woman told her children about Santa Claus.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • sam stone

      wow, what an effective argument, big bird.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Are you saying that even if there is no god, and you knew that to be true, you would recommend telling kids?

      January 20, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  13. mike

    Secular humanism is nothing more than a church of self-worship. This is a religion too (whether atheists acknowlege it or not), and the disciplse of it are just as fervent as theists. But, if history has taught us anything, it is that man cannot save himself. We need a savior.

    January 20, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • End Religion

      where "god" is defined as some non-specific creator...
      theist: believes in a god(s)
      atheist: believes in no god(s)
      gnostic: feels certain a god(s) exist(s)
      agnostic: is not certain if a god(s) exist(s)

      One may be an agnostic atheist. No religion needed.

      January 20, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • One one

      Religion makes people feel good to think they have a personal relationship with THE all powerful creator of the universe.

      God takes a personal interest in ME, loves ME, and will protect ME when life gets scary.

      I have all the answers to all the big questions.

      God is exactly what I want him to be.

      MY beliefs and values are aligned with god, therefore I must be 100% right, 100% of the time.

      When I die, I get to go to heaven for eternal bliss.

      Finally, I have the satisfaction of believing all those who did not agree with ME will suffer god's eternal wrath.

      In the end, religious belief is really all about ME, ME, and, ME.

      January 20, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      "Secular humanism is nothing more than a church of self-worship. This is a religion too (whether atheists acknowlege it or not),"

      So, who made you the expert on humanism and atheism? You are misinformed and need to educate yourself before stating ridiculous claims.

      January 20, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • Theist

      Well said mike!

      If you choose not to worship God, then self becomes your god – and history has certainly shown that that doesn't go well.

      January 20, 2013 at 11:51 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Theist,

      You create god in your own image.

      Mike,

      Humanism,

      1. any system or mode of thought or action in which human interests, values, and dignity predominate.
      2. devotion to or study of the humanities.
      3. ( sometimes initial capital letter ) the studies, principles, or culture of the humanists.
      4. Philosophy . a variety of ethical theory and practice that emphasizes reason, scientific inquiry, and human fulfillment in the natural world and often rejects the importance of belief in God.

      Only a religious nutter could claim this is a negative and use it as a derogatory term.

      January 20, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • visitor

      Just like not everyone needs to smoke, or needs to drink, or needs to seek power over others, or needs to work, or needs to feel superior to others, or needs to join certain clubs, or needs to drink coffee, or needs to lower their eyes when speaking to a man, or needs to believe that a woman named Eve ate an apple leading to the the evil in the world as well as menstrual pain and second-class citizenship.....not everyone needs to worship. I know some with addiction tendencies can't wrap their heads around the fact that not everyone needs something to get high with some sort of substance. It is the same with those that can't wrap their heads around the fact that not everyone needs to worship. Your addiction to your need to worship is limiting your ability to see past your own need.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
    • End Religion

      Supposedly Jesus was a Humanist, and yet nutters use it as a slur. Interesting to see how they really feel about their Jeebus.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • HaveFaith

      What I don't understand is why everyone wants to blame God for everything wrong that happens in the world when it's obvious that Satan is at work every day attempting to take us father away from him. Sometimes life happens to put us in front of the devil to test our faith...it doesn't matter if you accept God or not he still loves you.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I find it hysterical that christians call atheists self-centered. We're not the ones who are vain enough to think that an all-powerful being has created a universe just for us, and is watching us 24/7 just to make sure that we are obeying a set of arbitrary rules written 2000 years ago. We are not the ones who are vain enough to think we deserve to live forever in paradise.

      I get why you embrace that delusion, Mike. A lot of people are afraid of their own mortality, and a lot of people hate to think that they really aren't terribly important in the grand scheme of things.

      But once you can get past that, once you realize that it's okay to be just a small piece of a big, complex universe, once you realize that death is just the natural conclusion of life, then you will realize that your belief in a pretty myth is a childish thing that you can put away.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      @HaveFaith

      I have to say it; you're just plain nuts.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • Yup

      @mike. You seem to have a very poor understanding of what the words "religion" and "worship" mean. It obviously gives you comfort to mistakenly attempt to write off the rational thoughts of unindoctrinated thinkers by slandering them, but the only people you hurt are yourself and your children by continuing to believe in a mythology that rewards this world enslavement with a nonexistent next world utopia.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • Yup

      @havefaith. Atheists don't blame god for anything. That would be Ike blaming bad things on evil gremlins. Those who need to worry about your comment are the god-believers who have to reconcile an omnipotent, omniscient god who knows the past, present and future and has created all of it and knows exactly how everything will unfold, yet sits idly by while children are slaughtered at school, despite having the supreme power to change that outcome with just thought alone. A being who could eliminate evil (the devil even) in the blink of an eye yet refuses to do so. Somehow this same god is all good and loving. Ya,right..

      January 20, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
  14. carl evans

    When my 5 year-old son asked me what happens to us when we die, I decided to be honest with him; I told him that I did not know. I also told him that there was something that I did know – that when you know someone you become a part of one another. I told him that I don't know what happened to my deceased mother, but that her love is a part of me and that I can still feel that love. I told him that my love for him would always be inside him for him to turn to if he needed me. Other than this, I practice "don't know mind." It's honest.

    January 20, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • Buckwheat Zydeco

      that is the best answer i have ever heard about that question

      January 20, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • tallulah13

      That's a perfect, honest answer.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
  15. A nonjudging person

    I don't think we all should judge her. If she wants to raise her kids without a religion that is her choice. Who are we to pronounce judgement on this woman. I am a very religious Mormon and will definitely raise my future kids as Mormon. She is an atheist I respect that and she can raise her kids in a way that she believes even if I do not agree with it.

    January 20, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • End Religion

      While raising your kids be sure to let them know about the outside world, which fully understand Mormonism as a cult, and the bible as a complete fraud.

      January 20, 2013 at 11:51 am |
    • Yup

      It's nice that Mormons are so comfortable with letting others believe what they wish to believe. At least you don't do stuff like brainwash children into your belief system then send them out on two-year missions to go door-to-door and convince people of how wrong their beliefs are inorder to convert them to mormonism. Oh, wait...

      January 20, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
  16. gpforreal

    Sorry, but you numerous atheists, especially on these blog pages, are just as proselytizing as the worst religious zealot. You condemn moderate Christian views with the same brush as you use for the blind fundamentalists. For one thing, in much of our USA and the Western world, true Christian views are becoming the minority. The common, secular culture and it's overwhelming love of material gain are the 'god' followed by the overwhelming majority. So quit tilting at windmills and being so self righteous in your intellectual 'minority'.

    January 20, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • OOO

      You have no idea what you are spouting about! Athiests and agnostics no more worship material things than any of you religious people. Got it?

      January 20, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • One one

      What could be a stronger condemnation than to preach those who do not believe as you do are bound and deserving to suffer eternal torture in hell ?

      January 20, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • gpforreal

      I agree somewhat, that was part of my point. But my main point was that so many modern atheists have found their religion (!!) and are very aggressively proselytizing their views.

      January 20, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • End Religion

      the bible commands proselytizing and finds it virtuous. Why would it be naughty for atheists to proselytize?

      January 20, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • One one

      That's like saying African Americans were proselytizing their views during the American civil rights movement. Nonbelievers are fed up with believers judging and condemning them and are now aggressively seeking to put an end to it.

      January 20, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • Russells Teapot

      Someone is clearly oblivious to the booming popularity of Properity Theology....

      January 20, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
    • tallulah13

      That was a fine, self-righteous comment, gpforreal. Perhaps you should practice what you preach.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • Yup

      Since when did offering a contradicting opinion become prostelizing? Basically what you are suggesting is that you only want god-believers to be able to express their opinions. That's just garbage. Maybe it seems like prostelizing to you because you find it so convincing.

      January 20, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
  17. bekahjj

    "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."

    I'm not sure what person wrote this, but it is very disappointing that it would be phrased this way. The problem is right there. LACK OF BELIEF. There is not just one possibility for belief. God or you have nothing. It's an unfortunate way to characterize people who chose a different path. Just because I don't believe in god doesn't mean I don't believe in anything. I beleive in the power of people to do good things in this world. I beleive that service and kindness are values that change lives. I believe in tolerance and equality and the golden rule. I believe that people don't exist in a bubble and we all effect each other, for good or for ill.

    January 20, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • Saraswati

      Yes, it probably should have saud "lack of belief in a god".

      January 20, 2013 at 11:37 am |
  18. Good Luck

    when your godless- snot nosed brat starts abusing the family dog- good luck trying to explain why when he gets to be a teenager good luck teaching him, about not getting involved with the wrong people- and when he grows up and has his own kids, good luck explaining to him why he should take care, love and nuture his kids. Good Luck

    January 20, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • Really??

      So you are assumiing that because someone is raised without your god, they are going to be morrally corrupt.
      Just like a christian to think like that.
      I have been a strong atheist since I was 6 and I am kind, generous and caring person. Religion does not equal morality.

      January 20, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • DEAN

      Good luck....I feel sad for you!! That the only thing that is keeping you or your children from doing the right thing or what is decent etc, is your belief in god! Very sad day indeed.

      January 20, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • John

      Had that conversation with a catholic priest pedophile lately?

      January 20, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • S. Indigo

      If that's a Christian response, then its no wonder that so many people are embracing secular thought. Just because a person doesn't agree with you now, doesn't mean that they won't agree with you in the future. People who respond as you do drive more people away from Christianity then atheist proselytizers. If that doesn't mean anything to you, please think about the golden rule.

      January 20, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • visitor

      Highest divorce rates of any ethnic or religious/non religious group in this country are Evangelical Christians. Look it up, bucko. Failed marriages and a lot of kids who hate their parents.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • eorzean

      So your god is the only thing that keeps you from doing those things?

      January 20, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • Trevor Laird-Watson

      you're a sanctimonious git.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
    • sam stone

      if you need "god" to behave in a moral fashion, you are not really moral, you are just another snivelling slave. back on your knees, cvnt

      January 20, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • loadnabox

      Your argument doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

      The most under represented population segment in prisons are atheists.

      If you were right the prisons would instead be full of atheists.

      It makes more sense in light of this, that those who can internalize and create empathy are more moral. People who don't have to accept blame for their actions, and are certain of their righteousness and salvation regardless of their actions (not responsible remember?) are more likely to commit atrocities.

      January 20, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • SkyyRavyn

      I was raised in the church was baptized and went through confirmation, yet I never felt I belonged there. I then found out that there were other paths in life. I found that I come from a long line of Traditional Witches....not Wicca....Witches....the old style. It isn't a religion rather a lifestyle and one that is kind, loving, helpful, and peaceful. My son, husband, and I rescue neglected and disabled animals....many of them from "Christian" homes. A life without the Christian god doesn't make you a bad person. Bad people are everywhere and in all religions and nonreligious lifestyles. Our lives do not lack morals or manners. I will be the first to hold a door open for the person behind me, dig in my pockets to help pay the grocery bill of the single mom or senior citizen who has to choose between food and soap. My lifestyle and it's roots go back to pre-Christian days...we were the healers and peacemakers before large organized cities existed. People like me exist everywhere. My son is being raised to be knowledgeable about all religions and none....we educate him on their holidays and have friends from most lifestyles. It is not right to brainwash a child to believe in something before they know who they are. It is his choice as an adult. If he wants to follow in my families footsteps....written records going proudly back to 1324 with an oral account going earlier printed in the front of our book or he decides to follow a different path....it is up to him as a man and I will love him no different. In our lifestyle we Harm None. It is a lesson that humanity should learn....there is too much cruelty in this world. Too much hate. Too much violence. And....too much ignorance. And for all you uneducated haters of Witches....the Devil is your diety (not a god but one of power)....he does not exist in our world....you can keep him. Love and Light to you all! Blessed Be

      January 20, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
  19. Reality

    Only for the new members of this blog so that current members can simply scroll to the next commentary.

    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 11:33 am |
  20. Heinz 57

    If it helps anyone with this whole "death" thing...it helps me to look at it like the opposite of birth.

    When you are having a baby your feet swell, your back hurts, you can't move ...pretty soon you wet yourself and are groaning in agony and blinding pain..then voila someone is in this world just ready for adventure.

    When you die your feet swell, your back hurts, you can't move...pretty soon you wet yourself and are groaning in agony and blinding pain..then voila.

    I hope there is "something" rather than nothing. I'd like to think so. At any rate the rate at wich we all grieve the deceased and show revulsion at passing shows there are more non believers than believers and that even those who believe don't have alot of confidence in their answer.

    If we had confidence in life after death there wouldn't be so many tears...and we'd probably treat the dying with a little more respect.

    January 20, 2013 at 11:28 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.