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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. Katie

    Trying to explain God to someone who doesn't want to listen is like trying to explain the benefits of self control to a three-year old who is begging for candy. They are just not interested in the truth, no matter how solid and good for them it may be.

    I am a born-again Christian, who used to be an atheist, who has made a ton of mistakes in my life. I am the and have seen other proof that God exists, through changes in my life, lives of others, going on mission trips and seeing people healed miraculously and many other things that no science or people could possibly explain. You ask for proof, I have it, but you won't be able to see it until you have faith first. You have to trust God first, it's like any other relationship out there. Religion and religious people have hurt the case of Christianity for a long time, for that I'm truly sad. However, the truth is still there for the taking.

    One favor though, if you're an atheist and have NOT read the Bible in its entirety, please do not attempt to quote or tractate it, I have made the same mistake in the past and it just makes you sound silly and uneducated. No one would ask you for your critical opinion of Count Monte Cristo novel if you haven't read it either, even though we all know the storyline.

    January 21, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • DJ

      Very well said. Thank you for sharing.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • JWT

      Your god is your personal truth and not anyone else's. My truth is I have no god.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:55 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Most of us opened our minds to other possibilities in this world and do not accept that the buybull has all the answer's.
      You state you were once an Atheist, so what tragic event lead you to give up on thinking rationally and for yourself? I say this because religion plays on traumatic events in so many cases and giving up living in reality takes something major to happen.
      We have read the buybull and we have done our research and we understand that the book is full of immoral things and tells of occurrences that have no evidence to back them and thus have been debunked over and over again.
      You can spew that it's the truth all you want but saying it doesn't make it fact. Back it with some peer-reviewed evidence.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • Primewonk

      "seeing people healed miraculously and many other things that no science or people could possibly explain"

      And yet, for some bizarre reason, there are never full medical records docûmenting these "miracles".

      And why the hell won't your god cure an amputee? Hell, even newts and starfish can grow new limbs. I guess they have, ore faith in your god than every amputee in the history of the world?

      January 21, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • AverageJoe76

      Well you're proof that an uneducated athiest could very well turn to religion. Your atheism was based in ignorance, you read the Bible, and realized you didn't know what you were against. Now you believe in it. Me, on the other hand, who is agnostic, not atheist, read that Bible as well and saw fallacy. Not just that, I wondered how could man actually believe he's grasped the ultimate truth when we're ALWAYS growing. Always evolving. Then to cling to details around a being so powerful, it created all of reality. How arrogant to believe you know detail of this being's wants. The 'God' concept is man's imagination – full blast. If the human brain is the most powerful computer on Earth, this is our virus. A constant pop-up. BUT.... a nessessary one. I don't say 'I KNOW there's no God'. But instead, "and if He does exsist, now what?" I've recieved no singing telegram. If God wants to be found and worshipped, we'd all get the same message. It's God after all, there's no limit. And that's religions's problem – it limits God's possibilities. He has to be good.

      January 21, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • Tony

      Good for you, Katie.

      Now may I point out how insulting someone (comparing us to a three year old throwing a tantrum) and speaking down to them (insisting we don't know the "truth") does nothing to help your argument. How do you know that a god exists (or, if he does, what he is, what he believes or if he even cares about you)? You may believe it's true, but that's all it is: a belief. I know kids who believe in Santa Claus, but it's the parents that buy the presents. There was a time when people thought the Earth was flat and the center of our universe, but we'd look someone who still believed that as if there was something wrong him.

      If you can offer concrete evidence that a god does indeed exist, I'll listen. Until then I would ask that you respect my choice to not believe.

      January 21, 2013 at 10:37 am |
  2. Dyslexic doG

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88GTUXvp-50&w=640&h=390]

    January 21, 2013 at 8:43 am |
  3. BlackCoffee

    The use of code words when reviewing her illogic in the non-existence of God abounds. Statements like she understands people “need” God because they fear death, completely misses the point. People believe in God because they believe there is evidence that he exists, not just because they have things that are not explained. People should do well, because it makes them feel good. What a myth, there are a lot of people that are out for themselves and the only thing that keeps them honest and good is the fear of getting caught. Women especially like to hide behind the myth of empathy and goodness, but this has been debunked by Jersey Shores. God is not the ultimate judge, traffic cop, or explanation for things unknown. Faith has a definition and people believe they feel and have experienced God. Her feelings of not being accepted result in pity for the rest of us ignorant folk that live in fairytale land. She takes comfort in being in the 6% that see through all this and believe there is no God. Ultimately it appears that she wants the rest of us to change so that her belief in no God is validated. It sounds like she is the one with uncertainty. Some could say she has faith that there is no God. After all, how does she prove it?

    January 21, 2013 at 8:42 am |
  4. FDR

    There will always be believers and there will always be people that don't. Religion is needed to keep a civil society. The human brain works in strange ways. Some need hard facts like a math problem solved and others just need a pretty picture to move forward. We need both the believers and the non believers to survive in this world. While some will be huddled together praying the rest will be building a strong shelter.

    January 21, 2013 at 8:41 am |
  5. laurab68

    I am also an agnostic athiest. My children have never been baptised. I was born and raised in a divided household in regards to religion. My mother is a believer in God and the church while my father believes in the big bang theory. I went to Sunday school growing up and I do occassionally go to church (normally Christmas eve) but it's mostly just for the music. I've been exposed to both theories and I consider myself a very open minded logical person. While I cannot say that there is a God or not, but I do believe in the big bang theory. I do believe in evolution as I can see it with my own two eyes. I do not believe in some mystical invisible being with omnipetent powers and poof in a matter of a week created all the planets (including this one) and the universe. There have been too many atrocities for me to believe and I don't believe in fairy tales. We are who we are and we do what we do. I cannot say that there is an afterlife as I've never been there. The wierd part is I do believe in ghosts as I have personally experienced them....
    My children are free as they age if they want to persue a religious belief but I will not indocrinate them into one specific religion. That is the choice I am giving them. I am also giving them the right to believe in the big bang theory if that is what they choose. This does not make me a bad parent. I love my children dearly and they know they are loved. They are happy confident children and as a single mom, I am doing the best that I can with what I have.
    This woman has a right to believe what she wants without being made to feel as though she is doing something wrong because she's an athiest.

    January 21, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • DJ

      You see, belivers in God are crazy because we can't "prove" him but people who don't believe in God think they have proof in the Big Bang THEORY. That is not proof, it is a THEORY.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • laurab68

      You are correct, it is a theory, but then again, so is believing in God. You pray that God is real, but in the end no one really knows for sure. As no one comes back from the dead to verify, it's also just a theory. Look we could debate this until one or both of us is dead, but i believe what I can see with my own eyes. I have studied science and I have studied the Bible. I prefer what is more logical over faith. I will not shove my beliefs down your throat and I prefer not to have someone else's beliefs crammed down mine.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:57 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      DJ: Theory in the sense you are speaking does not apply to the Big Bang. A Scientific Theory refers to a comprehensive explanation of some aspect of nature that is supported by a vast body of evidence. Many scientific theories are so well established that no new evidence is likely to alter them substantially. So while it is incomplete, it is the most accurate answer as to how the universe began. Stating "I don't know" is more honest than stating 'God did it" and then not being able to substantiate your claim. (if god created the universe, who created god? after all, nothing comes from nothing-right?)

      January 21, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • Primewonk

      DJ and Laura – in science we do not prove things, we explain things. Proofs are for maths, ethanol, and yeast doughs. In science, a theory is as high as it gets. Theories exist to explain sets of facts and laws.

      Religion and belief are not theories in a scientific usage. The are opinions not supported by facts or evidence.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:22 am |
  6. The Tooth Fairy

    "Religion" cannot be taken so literally. The story of Jesus Christ is nothing more than a fable to teach morality and how we should treat our fellow man. Some need this story and a congregation to fulfill them, others do not. The problem arises when one side tries to push their beliefs on the other. If we are all so convinced in our beliefs, either for God or against, then why to we find it necessary to incessantly defend them on an anonymous blog such as this? If we are so convinced, why are we so threatened by the opposition? It seems like an oxymoron to me. I'm OK with whatever helps you get through the day and steers you to being a better person. As for the "story" of Jesus Christ, it is just that, a story. There is not tangible evidence that Jesus Christ or God exists, and we all need to acknowledge that fact for now.

    January 21, 2013 at 8:40 am |
  7. Dyslexic doG

    "The most ridiculous concept ever perpetrated by H.Sapiens is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of the Universes, wants the sacharrine adoration of his creations, that he can be persuaded by their prayers, and becomes petulant if he does not recieve this flattery. Yet this ridiculous notion, without one real shred of evidence to bolster it, has gone on to found one of the oldest, largest and least productive industries in history."

    Robert Heinlein

    January 21, 2013 at 8:37 am |
  8. kdeel2011

    I cry for her children and for the children of those who share her views. There is a loving and merciful God and if you do not know Him for yourself you should get busy seeking Him.

    January 21, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      so where was your loving and merciful God for the children in Newtown?

      what a crock!

      January 21, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • JWT

      Why should people be seeking your version of a god ?

      January 21, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • Brian

      You are wasting a lot of time crying.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • Primewonk

      "There is a loving and merciful God and if you do not know Him for yourself you should get busy seeking Him."

      And he demands that you love and worship him unconditionally, or he'll kill you and torture you for all eternity.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:51 am |
    • sam stone

      there is a loving and mercifull god, and he will torture you forever if you don't believe in him?

      gotcha

      January 21, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • laurab68

      Loving and full of mercy? Tell that to the 6 million men, women and children rounded up in the era of Hitler and brought to concentration camps whom were either gassed a few hours within arrival or starved to death..... Your precious God who is so loving and full of mercy when it came to a few thousand people in the middle of the desert in the time of his son and parted the red sea bla bla bla, but 6 million of his precious children died a horrible end and where was he then??? Lets not forget all the events before and after that all over the world. Your Bible claims that God was talking to him, her and everyone 2000 years ago when this book was written, so why is he so silent now? There is a reason for that. The Bible is a story book and that is all my friend.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:32 am |
  9. Goose66

    Again, I am always astounded by the conceit of most atheists in these forums. How can you be so smug and spew so much hatred and derision towards 90% of the population. What part of being an atheist makes you think you are so superior to everyone else? That doesn't appear to be the enlightened position at all, to me.

    January 21, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • Jamie

      Please do not judge all atheists by the trolls that attack people on the internet. Just as there are Christian trolls, so are their atheist ones.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • sam stone

      conceit? we are not the ones who are claiming to know the mind of "god". pot, meet kettle

      January 21, 2013 at 9:16 am |
    • ??

      ..and telling non-beleivers they will burn for eternity is not hate ?Give me a break !

      January 21, 2013 at 10:28 am |
  10. Dyslexic doG

    Without Honey BooBoo or the Kardashians to watch 2,000 years ago, people had to make stuff up to entertain themselves. The Bible is just a collection of the best of those stories. It's like America's Funniest Home Videos from the bronze age. :-)

    January 21, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • John

      Given that Einstien is now not visible day to day, I can claim he was a fairy tale personality and one of his students, a woman, wrote everything he did. As people that knew him personally die off year after year, and films and videos vanish over the centuries, eventually he will become a myth. Right? No, and similarly the apostles who knew Jesus, saw what they saw and heard what they heard, and they wrote it down the best they could as a rememberance of that time. Your denial of the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob, does not stop God from doing all he does each day, through all history, recorded or not, and all the while showing patience at a level I can't even imagine.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:48 am |
    • Daniel

      John...first of all you cannot deny the existence of Einstein as there were numerous texts, articles, newspaper clippings, research (aka various sources) surrounding the man. How many texts or sources of information describe a "Christ" coming down from the heavens and performing miracles? Even in those times, many historians would have writen about this. Your argument is null...

      January 21, 2013 at 9:29 am |
  11. B

    It was nice to read this article. I do not believe in God. Living in the South, it is hard to not just give in and lie to others (especially coworkers). I was raised Baptist. Luckily, my parents respect my choices and do not worry about me and my lack of religion. They want me to be a good person and most importantly a good parent. I do not lie to my children about Jesus or Santa Claus. So far it has been fine. When they get older, if they want to attend church with a friend, I will let them. I came to my current state by exploring religions and my children should ultimately decide based on their experiences, not mine.

    January 21, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • iamachristian

      "I do not lie to my children about Jesus or Santa Claus."

      What if telling them there is no Jesus is a lie? You can not say for 100% certainty that there is not God, no Jesus, No Heaven, or Hell.

      Personally, I would rather live my life like there is a God, and find out there isn't, than live my life like there is no God, and find out there is.

      Best of luck to you.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:48 am |
    • sam stone

      iamachristian: pascal's wager is a flawed argument in that it supposes only two possibilities....the christian god or no god. you reject all the other gods man has come up with, but get all huffy when people reject yours

      January 21, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • ??

      @ lamechristian...Pascal's wager is a cowardly and deceitful world-veiw.But if it makes you feel better...

      January 21, 2013 at 10:33 am |
  12. Peaceful Person

    I totally agree with her view. First of all, what or whom I do or don't believe in is no ones business. I also resent people trying to convince me of THEIR beliefs. We all see the world differently and find our own way. My way is without a formal religion. I feel spiritual without belonging to a "religion". The existence or non-existence of God is not a topic of conversation I get into with others. There are too many zealots who think you are a murderer or worse because of your beliefs. I am just a person trying to get by in this world like everybody else. Organized religion is not part of my life. If it is part of yours, GREAT! Keep it to yourself as I do not IMPOSE my beliefs on you, nor do I judge you. Keep an open mind and be mindful of others. PLEASE.

    January 21, 2013 at 8:25 am |
    • DJ

      If you saw someone you loved about to stick a knife in a toaster or had a loved one who was addicted to heroin or any other destructive thing that could kill them wouldn't you out of love talk to them, try to stop them, help them?? That is what sharing Christ's love is about. It is love not condemnation. His love is a gift and because it is so great I want to share it,

      January 21, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      DJ: if you saw someone talking to their imaginary friend all day, wouldn't you get them psychiatric help? That is what Atheism is about. We want to help you delusional folk back to mental health.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:41 am |
  13. jim

    Religious nut jobs what don't you understand, we could care not care less about your stupid baby Jesus, it's your imaginary friend.

    January 21, 2013 at 8:19 am |
    • DJ

      Very telling to scroll her and see by the replies who the real "haters" are. While there are inappropriate comments from believers, and that is not what Christ is about, there are far more non-belivers spewing hatred.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:25 am |
    • jon

      Jim, I bet you love Christmas time and even get gifts for you kids.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • uhuh

      That's convenient. Believers that hate don't count, but non-believers that hate do.

      Should I be surprised at the failure in logic?

      January 21, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • PevanB

      jim, I really do understand that some people do not want to share in what we as Christians are doing and how we believe. II am sorry about that but I do understand. What I don't understand is the anger.
      You, I hope are a reasonable person. Your statement about our imaginary friend Jesus, I see that as just a mean spirited swing at another person. Is that really how want to be? If as a Christian I attacked your believe about say evolution would you see me as fair and level headed?
      As a "born again" believer I want you to know that I do not hate anyone, yes even gays. WOW! I was called by my friend Jesus (who has been proven to be a real person by the way) to love everyone and to let them speak their mind and not attack them. Why do you not give me the same respect that you want?

      January 21, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • DJ

      No one said that believers who "hate" don't count. The fact is that as humans we are not perfect. You can't judge God by the actions of man. You also can't assume that just because someone says they believe in God that they truly are in the word and know what it says and acting accordingly. Believers are not perfect, only God is.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • Daniel

      Hey Pevan, you were called by your friend Jesus? Was it a cell number or a land-line? My theory is that he lives somewhere in Calabasas California and plays in a jazz-fusion trio. Christ has returned...and he is bringing the funk!

      January 21, 2013 at 9:37 am |
  14. Moon

    It's shocking as child in Catholic school , mother friendly with nuns at church twice a week, studying the bible on a weekend – then it hits you like brick wall when you find out what a virgin is! What! she got pregnant and ran off with her boyfriend? is that is – and I believed it was an angel and when grandad died and I knew people could never have lived hundreds of years and could not walk on water and come back from the dead, etc., etc. WOW what a Matrix unplugged world I was now in on my own in the family – not through choice through realization – and then I knew what they were doing, why they scared us high up from the pulpit in their long robes and the stone gargoyles screaming down above our heads and stories of terrifying fires and devils in their massive old church with eerie organ playing and they didn't talk much about evil evolution. So yes mommy write your stories because we are out there with you and our children don't have to be scared of those gargoyles and demons and fires they talk about because we are with you and we see that the emperor is naked as the day he was born.

    January 21, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • Goose66

      That Catholic school education didn't help you much with grammar or punctuation, did it?

      January 21, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • Moon

      Touche Goose!

      January 21, 2013 at 9:03 am |
  15. Fran

    If God didn't exist how was this earth created? Have you ever sat there and thought about who created the universe? All the planets all the stars? How were you created? (Besides by your mom and dad) I mean your soul...you? How many times can we say this is just science? We came from somewhere and when we die our souls return to that place. We are surrounded by miracles everyday and those miracles come from God. When we pray sometimes our prayers get answered sometimes not because somethings are part of our destiny's some are not. God cannot interfere with our free will. Free will was put in place so we may learn from our mistakes. I'm a parent and like other parents we know that no matter how many times we teach our children right or wrong we can't make them make good choices its impossible because our children have free will and they will do what they want to do whether we try to stop it or not. God is our parent and it works the same way. He has to stand back and watch us make our mistakes whether he likes it or not. Just like us we would give anything just to stop our kids from making bad choices but in the long run we know they will learn a valuable lesson if that make that mistake. We often say "If there is a God how can He allow bad things to happen?" First of all he doesn't cause the bad things to happen. We do and he can't stop the choices we make because its our learning experience. You may say "Well how can you be sure God exists, did you see him? That's what faith is, believing in something you can't see. We don't see God in the physical but we do see and feel him all around us, he's in the wind, he's in the tree's, in all living creatures. There seems to be this big fight religion and no religion, Catholics, Muslims. For those who believe they know where they are going after their physical deaths for those who don't they will know the truth after they die. Its as simple as that. I think we should give our children the freedoms to think and believe for themselves instead of putting our beliefs upon they. Let them decide for themselves. Beyond the bible or what schools, parents, priests, pastors tell us, I suggest we all take a moment and sit in silence and pray for a moment and listen to our souls, cause in that silence we will hear God, we will feel God, your soul will remember that he really does exist and not because the bible tells us so. The one reason why we were put on this earth was to learn how to live in peace. No matter our religious beliefs, no matter our creeds, no matter all our differences, we must learn to leave in peace and love one another because we are all connected to one God. We must see that our differences is what makes us special. We have to all stop this fighting, we as a people should stop all this fighting and start to work together in peace. You are not better than me and I'm not better than you we are all HUMAN this is why Jesus came to us to teach us this lesson, "Love one another." I can't make you believe what I believe, just like you can't make me believe what you believe. This is what makes us different and its okay. In the end we will all know the truth won't we? and even then it won't matter who was right and who was wrong.

    January 21, 2013 at 8:11 am |
    • ldavid69

      How did god get here??? End of story. Now take a seat.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:15 am |
    • Bart

      "If God didn't exist how was this earth created?"

      Actually, no on knows. Let's be honest.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:16 am |
    • Bart

      Correction – no *one* knows.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • Mirosal

      Can you show us that a "soul" actually exists, without using any unverifiable religious texts, verses, or ideas? I don't think you can. If you can, your post might pull some weight. But, since the "soul" is purely a religious context, your post means practically nothing.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:19 am |
    • Goose66

      So you are basically admitting that your faith is based on your lack of understanding of the world around you. IMO, that's a very weak defense of God and religion. Faith should be based on what you hold in your heart - what you know to be true, not as an explanation of what you don't understand or fear of the unknown.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:23 am |
    • modernman

      That's a lot of words man

      January 21, 2013 at 8:25 am |
    • Brother Maynard

      Fran sez:
      "We often say "If there is a God how can He allow bad things to happen?" First of all he doesn't cause the bad things to happen. We do and he can't stop the choices we make because its our learning experience. "
      Oh Fran ... so many questions so little time.
      – Please tell me what the children in CT and the movie goers in Aurora, Co 'learned' by being killed by their respective gunman?
      – If god cannot stop choices ... then he is not omnipotent and therefore not god
      – Many people that 'SURVIVED' these massacres said that it was a miricle that they did. Was it ? if it WAS then god CAN stop these so called 'learning experiences' ... but just does and exceedingly poor job of it.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • DukeAJuke

      That core of your argument for a diety just doesn't hold water. You keep saying it's impossible for something (the universe) to exist without a creator. So tell me if this is true, then who created your god? If you tell me that your god has always existed then you admit it's possible for something to exist without a creator.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • curious

      Not to start an argument but if God created all these things then who or what created God? How did he get here? If creation is the proof of a creator, doesnt the creator have to have a creator? This has always perplexed me.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      who created God?
      if you say God has always been, then why can't the Universe always have been?
      if you say the Universe must have been created then God must have been created. So by what or whom?

      January 21, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • SoulBusters

      There is one type of "soul" that exists, Mirosal. Here is an example:
      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0oFadjx-is&w=640&h=390]

      January 21, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • citizenUSA

      TLC and the History channels have many scientific explanations, (yes some are only theory), of the process on how planets are created. In the absence of another verifiable process, the most logical is likely correct. Don't concentrate on how the Earth was created but rather on how the Universe was created. Once the ball is rolling, all the other events could happen with or without a god.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • Moon

      Yes we are better than you ~ because you're stupid :)

      January 21, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • John

      Bart, the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob, created the universe and everything in it. I'm fine with his explaination of what he did. He's proven himself so many times that it's hard to keep track anymore. Ask and you shall be overwhelmed is more like it.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:01 am |
  16. JACKET22

    I am a Christian and proud of it, you people will regret your comments and decisions one day. You all say you don't believe however I am willing to bet that if any of you so called God less people were to ever be involved in something such as the Newtown shooting or the theater attack you sure as hell wont be calling on your neighbor or co-worker to protect and save your ass. All non-believers find out the truth in the end.

    January 21, 2013 at 8:10 am |
    • HarryJ

      Why do you presume that the neighbor with a gun willing to save your ass from a shooter wouldn't be a nonbeliever like us?

      January 21, 2013 at 8:15 am |
    • ldavid69

      So your insecure god will sent me to hell , because I do everthing with love , except kneel to him . Please give me a break. I am smart enough not to believe in anything unproven.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:16 am |
    • JWT

      Non-believers already know the truth.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • The Real Tom Paine

      Ah, just filled with the love of our Lord and Savior, aren't we? Nothing like pointing a theological gun to a person's head to convince them of the " truth" you are peddling, right?

      January 21, 2013 at 8:23 am |
    • ZachG

      Threatening people with trips to hell is nothing more than christian terrorism, and an educated person will not fall for your petty threats. You cant sustain a real debate so you go back to your scare tactics. How do you know heaven and hell are real? Have you been there? Do you know someone who has? of course not....

      January 21, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • Swimmer

      Jacket, are you for real? You're giving Christians a bad name. Why are you so aggressive and hostile? You sound very ignorant and uneducated.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:44 am |
  17. DJ

    Acting on faith in God, the one true God in the Bible would never permit you to do anything like the 9/11 bombers because that is contray to who God is. You can't justify any action that would oppose the nature of God as doing his will. I find it interesting that her article ended with wanting to be able to not be affraid to say they "don't believe" so that they can basicly be accepted. Really, to not have your veiw seen as wrong? What about the preacher in Iran now who is going to be hung for being a Christian, the believers of Christ all over the world who have to worship in secret for fear of their lives. This is only getting worse. Actual death but somehow the importance of acceptance is what is being focused on here. So sad to me that Christians are the real ones prosectued in this world when they speak up but those who don't believe in Christ seem to ignore that.

    January 21, 2013 at 8:10 am |
    • HarryJ

      Both sides of the Irish "Troubles", for just one example, were Christian and look at all the murder, kidnapping and bombings that they did with a clear conscience. Look at all the things that the KKK, a Christian terrorist group, did in this country. I can't imagine how oppressive our government would be if it ever became an actual, full-out Evangelical theocracy like many of you Christians want it to be. Would Imams, rabbis and other clergy be safe then?

      January 21, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • ana

      ....not to mention the Crusades...oh wait, those were totally righteous missions of salvation....

      January 21, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • ??

      Christian are beginning to feel sorry for themselves as they see their power diminish.They are no longer free to push their agenda at the end of a whip.Boo too !

      January 21, 2013 at 10:45 am |
  18. Reality

    Summarizing for the new members of this blog:

    The Apostles' / Agnostics’ Creed 2013 (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT 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 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 21, 2013 at 8:03 am |
    • baelknight

      Let's also not forget that the Jesus story lifts heavily from other myths of the time. The virgin birth had been done as had the execution and rising from the dead three days later.

      The Niacene council had to make a decision when formalizing their bible. It was either going to be a historical telling of the figure Jesus, complete with the scrolls containing stories of him marrying and having children, or it was to be the god-like Jesus competing against the other theological myths. They chose the latter and copied the myths and replaced some names (research the egyptian Horus story for example and you will see it is basically the Jesus story, except the Horus story came first)

      Then to complete their myth, they ended up taking over pagan holidays and renamnig them and giving them new meanings. Yule became Christmas. Imbolc became candlemas. Ostara became Easter. So on and so on.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • Jason

      I think even that overstates the evidence of a historical 'Jesus'. There is no record of either Jesus's parentage or of his execution until at least a century after his death when the Jesus cult mythology was first being written.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • Reality

      From Professors Crossan and Watts' book, Who is Jesus.

      "That Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate, as the Creed states, is as certain as anything historical can ever be.

      “ The Jewish historian, Josephus and the pagan historian Tacitus both agree that Jesus was executed by order of the Roman governor of Judea. And is very hard to imagine that Jesus' followers would have invented such a story unless it indeed happened.

      “While the brute fact that of Jesus' death by crucifixion is historically certain, however, those detailed narratives in our present gospels are much more problematic. "

      “My best historical reconstruction would be something like this. Jesus was arrested during the Passover festival, most likely in response to his action in the Temple. Those who were closest to him ran away for their own safety.

      I do not presume that there were any high-level confrontations between Caiaphas and Pilate and Herod Antipas either about Jesus or with Jesus. No doubt they would have agreed before the festival that fast action was to be taken against any disturbance and that a few examples by crucifixion might be especially useful at the outset. And I doubt very much if Jewish police or Roman soldiers needed to go too far up the chain of command in handling a Galilean peasant like Jesus. It is hard for us to imagine the casual brutality with which Jesus was probably taken and executed. All those "last week" details in our gospels, as distinct from the brute facts just mentioned, are prophecy turned into history, rather than history remembered."

      See also Professor Crossan's reviews of the existence of Jesus in his other books especially, The Historical Jesus and also Excavating Jesus (with Professor Jonathan Reed doing the archeology discussion) .

      Other NT exegetes to include members of the Jesus Seminar have published similar books with appropriate supporting references.

      Part of Crossan's The Historical Jesus has been published online at books.google.com/books.

      There is also a search engine for this book on the right hand side of the opening page. e.g. Search Josephus

      See also Wikipedia's review on the historical Jesus to include the Tacitus' reference to the crucifixion of Jesus.

      From ask.com,

      "One of the greatest historians of ancient Rome, Cornelius Tacitus is a primary source for much of what is known about life the first and second centuries after the life of Jesus. His most famous works, Histories and Annals, exist in fragmentary form, though many of his earlier writings were lost to time. Tacitus is known for being generally reliable (if somewhat biased toward what he saw as Roman immorality) and for having a uniquely direct (if not blunt) writing style.

      Then there are these scriptural references:

      Crucifixion of Jesus:(1) 1 Cor 15:3b; (2a) Gos. Pet. 4:10-5:16,18-20; 6:22; (2b) Mark 15:22-38 = Matt 27:33-51a = Luke 23:32-46; (2c) John 19:17b-25a,28-36; (3) Barn. 7:3-5; (4a) 1 Clem. 16:3-4 (=Isaiah 53:1-12); (4b) 1 Clem. 16.15-16 (=Psalm 22:6-8); (5a) Ign. Mag. 11; (5b) Ign. Trall. 9:1b; (5c) Ign. Smyrn. 1.2.- (read them all at wiki.faithfutures. Crucifixion org/index.php/005_Crucifixion_Of_Jesus )

      Added suggested readings:

      o 1. Historical Jesus Theories, earlychristianwritings.com/theories.htm – the names of many of the contemporary historical Jesus scholars and the ti-tles of their over 100 books on the subject.
      o
      2. Early Christian Writings, earlychristianwritings.com/
      – a list of early Christian doc-uments to include the year of publication–

      30-60 CE Passion Narrative
      40-80 Lost Sayings Gospel Q
      50-60 1 Thessalonians
      50-60 Philippians
      50-60 Galatians
      50-60 1 Corinthians
      50-60 2 Corinthians
      50-60 Romans
      50-60 Philemon
      50-80 Colossians
      50-90 Signs Gospel
      50-95 Book of Hebrews
      50-120 Didache
      50-140 Gospel of Thomas
      50-140 Oxyrhynchus 1224 Gospel
      50-200 Sophia of Jesus Christ
      65-80 Gospel of Mark
      70-100 Epistle of James
      70-120 Egerton Gospel
      70-160 Gospel of Peter
      70-160 Secret Mark
      70-200 Fayyum Fragment
      70-200 Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
      73-200 Mara Bar Serapion
      80-100 2 Thessalonians
      80-100 Ephesians
      80-100 Gospel of Matthew
      80-110 1 Peter
      80-120 Epistle of Barnabas
      80-130 Gospel of Luke
      80-130 Acts of the Apostles
      80-140 1 Clement
      80-150 Gospel of the Egyptians
      80-150 Gospel of the Hebrews
      80-250 Christian Sibyllines
      90-95 Apocalypse of John
      90-120 Gospel of John
      90-120 1 John
      90-120 2 John
      90-120 3 John
      90-120 Epistle of Jude
      93 Flavius Josephus
      100-150 1 Timothy
      100-150 2 Timothy
      100-150 T-itus
      100-150 Apocalypse of Peter
      100-150 Secret Book of James
      100-150 Preaching of Peter
      100-160 Gospel of the Ebionites
      100-160 Gospel of the Nazoreans
      100-160 Shepherd of Hermas
      100-160 2 Peter

      3. Historical Jesus Studies, faithfutures.org/HJstudies.html,
      – "an extensive and constantly expanding literature on historical research into the person and cultural context of Jesus of Nazareth"
      4. Jesus Database, faithfutures.org/JDB/intro.html–"The JESUS DATABASE is an online annotated inventory of the traditions concerning the life and teachings of Jesus that have survived from the first three centuries of the Common Era. It includes both canonical and extra-canonical materials, and is not limited to the traditions found within the Christian New Testament."
      5. Josephus on Jesus mtio.com/articles/bissar24.htm
      6. The Jesus Seminar, mystae.com/restricted/reflections/messiah/seminar.html#Criteria
      7. Writing the New Testament- mystae.com/restricted/reflections/messiah/testament.html
      8. Health and Healing in the Land of Israel By Joe Zias
      joezias.com/HealthHealingLandIsrael.htm
      9. Economics in First Century Palestine, K.C. Hanson and D. E. Oakman, Palestine in the Time of Jesus, Fortress Press, 1998.

      Additional references are available upon written request.

      January 21, 2013 at 10:59 am |
  19. Nietodarwin

    “What I have a problem with is not so much religion or god, but faith. When you say you believe something in your heart and therefore you can act on it, you have completely justified the 9/11 bombers. You have justified Charlie Manson. If it's true for you, why isn't it true for them? Why are you different? If you say "I believe there's an all-powerful force of love in the universe that connects us all, and I have no evidence of that but I believe it in my heart," then it's perfectly okay to believe in your heart that Sharon Tate deserves to die. It's perfectly okay to believe in your heart that you need to fly planes into buildings for Allah.”
    _ Penn Jillette

    January 21, 2013 at 7:58 am |
    • Goose66

      "When you say you believe something in your heart and therefore you can act on it..." Who's saying that? Are you (through the words of a magician) implying that all believers would fly planes into buildings? That's not only factually inaccurate, but very narrow-minded.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:33 am |
  20. Jenny

    I thank her for her bravery. It takes a lot and I know it is difficult – THANK YOU!!!

    January 21, 2013 at 7:56 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.