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

Godless mom strikes a chord with parents

By Daphne Sashin, CNN

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

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

Then, she says, the recruiting started.

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

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

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

It starts:

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

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

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

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

Others said Mitchell presented a simplistic view of religion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She ended her essay:

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

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

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

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

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Christianity • Faith Now • iReport

soundoff (15,081 Responses)
  1. G L Bohaty

    Most religions have reference guides ... such as the bible....it's all spelled out .....the whys, etc. I think that in the next few years, we'll see "Godless Mom" back on CNN or another post recanting her non-religious beliefs -she'll probably even have her own reality show.

    January 21, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • Steppan

      Yeah but her beliefs will be on fact and reason, not ancient fables. Difference.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • It is Called

      It is Called

      Principles are the only way.

      Principles of Evolution, Ecology and Behavior (EEB 122)

      Geology and climate have shaped the development of life tremendously. This has occurred in the form of processes such as the oxygenation of the atmosphere, mass extinctions, tectonic drift, and disasters such as floods and volcanic eruptions. Life, particularly bacteria, has also been able to impact the geological makeup of the planet through metabolic processes.

      00:00 – Chapter 1. Introduction
      02:16 – Chapter 2. The Oxygenation of the Atmosphere
      09:08 – Chapter 3. Evidence of Climate Change
      17:36 – Chapter 4. Geological Impact on Life
      29:37 – Chapter 5. Mass Extinctions
      42:19 – Chapter 6. Earthquakes, Eruptions, and Floods
      46:38 – Chapter 7. Conclusion

      Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://open.yale.edu/courses
      Education works best.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:57 am |
  2. Steppan

    Glad this mother has the guts to raise her children not to believe in unproven myths

    January 21, 2013 at 9:20 am |
  3. Jim T

    There are no atheists in hell.

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

      How do you know?

      January 21, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • dnsbubba

      It's a fair comment, given that hell can not be shown to exist, so atheists can't actually be there. Way to go, you've stated the obvious.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • Stephen

      Your're right Jim because there is no hell. It only exists in the infinitesimal minds of religiois people.

      This planet is heaven or hell, depends on what you make of it, not some mythical pedophilic deity.

      This Planet gave me life & will take me in death & is the ONLY god I'm ever going to know, same for you pal.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • Jim T

      Everyone in hell believes in God. Darwin, Hitchens. How can you believe in Hell and not believe in God? Two thieves. One believes in Judges, and the other doesn't. Makes no difference does it? They will both stand before the judge in time. It's not about believing, believe in God or don't. It's about obeying his commandments. People instinctively know God exists and go to great lengths and invent fantastic ideas to avoid Him. Doesn't matter, it's still rejection of Him and there's no excuse. That makes sense. I agree. But I'm honest.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • dnsbubba

      The one thing you absolutely are not is honest when you assume that you know what others know or think. It betrays your lack of rational thought, but it certainty doesn't make you honest.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • Jim T

      As a born again Christian I'll say this. I do not relish the thought of anyone going to hell. I don't rub my hands in glee and think oh yeah they go theirs. It is a place so terrible so unimaginably horrible it defies description. Regardless of who you are or what you say here, I would rather you came to know Jesus Christ as your Savior. Smugly label me a religious zealot to comfort your pride filled arrogant minds. You must do this because God is knocking at your door and you hear Him. We don't live forever, choose wisely.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • sam stone

      jimbo: it is because there is no hell

      January 21, 2013 at 10:21 am |
  4. Matthew

    She wants people to keep their beliefs at home or at church but she has no problem displaying her disbelief publicly. That is hypocrisy!

    January 21, 2013 at 9:18 am |
    • Steppan

      Every heard of freedom of speech and freedom of the press?

      January 21, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • Matthew

      Of course! That also applies to people of all religions too. She wants those people to remain silent unless at home or at church.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • Steppan

      No, she wants people to stop knocking on her door, and leaving tracts and mocking her children. Is that too much to ask. Bonehead

      January 21, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • MagicPanties

      @Matthew – my invisible pink unicorn is praying that you get a clue.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • Matthew

      That's not what her quote says. "I only want religion to be kept at home or in church where it belongs." In addition, I didn't realize it was illegal to knock on a door or hand out a tract.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • DavidH

      She doesn't try to force her beliefs on others - that is the difference. I doubt that she has any problems with people proclaiming their various religious beliefs, so long as they don't try to push her into the same beliefs. There is not hypocrisy evident here.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • Matthew

      People share their beliefs on various things all of the time. Society has just placed different labels on them. When someone says we should give money to a school or to hungry kids in Africa, it's called "fundraising", when politicians want support, it's called "campaigning", and when it's matters of faith, it's called "pushing beliefs on someone."

      January 21, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • DavidH

      Matthew, there is a difference between fundraising and the recruiting ("You need to be saved.") to which the authors refer. You need to understand that.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • Jim T

      And a good point Matthew, nice biblical name there I like it. Many well meaning Christians feel it's their appointed duty to evangelize the world. I don't. Anyone arguing against God has rejected Him, they've made their decision, move on. As far as religion? That's your frame or reference or world view, paradigm if you will. Your philosophy of life. Football, Atheism, hedonism, which religion is she talking about? God is real, I think she's religious actually and should keep it locked up.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:44 am |
  5. BOb the Prairie Dog

    NO ONE knows what happens when we die, and ANYONE claiming such knowledge is a LIAR who probably wants your money, or in this case the SOUL of your children.

    Anyone who "recruits" for a church gets a First Class ticket to the underworld of their beliefs.

    January 21, 2013 at 9:18 am |
  6. josie MO

    If God is so powerful and loving, why does he play with the world like an 8 year old boy plays with ants and a magnifying glass?

    January 21, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • Jim T

      He doesn't. Satan does. God is like morpheus offering us a red pill. The truth. The world is like it is because we're slaves to an unseen master. Get it?

      January 21, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Daniel

      Totally get it Jim, your absolutely right. How blind I have been. Slaves to an unseen master! Generally people call that insanity here on Terra Firma. Its actually so entertaining reading your posts; your misguided logic has absolutely NO roots in rationality. While it is amusing here in a forum, it is quite dangerous when applied to the masses.

      January 21, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  7. Interested48

    Join a Unitarian Universalist Church. We welcome and encourage all beliefs and all different spiritual journeys without having to believe in a creed. But we do have principles by which we live. Check it out.

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

      UU is firmly rooted in judeo-christian traditions, so... no thanks. I've no need to go to "church".

      Yes, I know they accept atheists but the basis is still that there is some god/force/mystical something.

      There are secular humanist and atheist groups in all major cities now.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:23 am |
  8. BlackCoffee

    How you represent you side in this debate is telling? All right, a lot of the religious folk want to evangelize in hopes that they are “saving’ the non-believers. OK, probably not going to happen but they have good intentions. A lot of the atheists however go beyond explaining their faith in no God by attacking those with religion. Sometimes viciously. These are the people that claim we do good because being good is our nature. They also claim to want to be accepted, but go beyond promoting their position and demand any contrary opinion be excluded from sight. So, the only public opinion that can be expressed is their belief in no God. At best, if treated equally, atheism is just a minority religion for 5% of the population. Attempting to make it the only acceptable environment for public discourse is no different than a government aligned religion. Since no one has proven the Big Bang Theory yet, and even if they do, it still doesn’t explain all conflicting scientific tenets, atheists are accepting there is no God on faith.

    January 21, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • the AnViL

      you obviously haven't read all the comments, sport.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:13 am |
    • EvidenceBased4

      No. Hard to know where to begin. The Big Bang theory is not a required belief for atheism. Atheism is not a religion. Scientific understanding of the Big Bang is based on evidence, not on faith. You are tangling up some very different things.

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

      Atheism is a religion in the same way not collecting stamps is a hobby.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • Sane Person

      Most of us do not assert that "god doesn't exist". We simply realize there is no evidence for god, and that all religious writings about god are obviously myth, so we don't buy into it. We do not want political or social issues being decided based on ancient scripture or invisible gods. This is a completely rational stance to take.

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

      You finally get to your point at the end of the rambling rant. But no, atheists do not have "faith" that there is no god.
      Atheism is a lack of faith, or belief, in god. There is a difference.

      Your "logic" is like me saying if you don't believe in invisible pink unicorns, then your disbelief is a religion and you are displaying "faith" in not believing in unicorns.

      P.S. This is not angry, just stating "fact", which is not the same as "faith"

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

      Perhaps many atheists, agnostic and otherwise, get strident because many theists create straw-man versions of them to argue against. You know, like you just did.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • BlackCoffee

      Athiests all draw a distinction between belief in what you can not prove and a religous belief in what you can prove. They seem to claim there is a logical difference. That somehow there is a universal truth. Since they believe there is no God, and we can't prove there is a God they are correct. This does not explain how, if they lived during Plato's time, the only acceptable position was four elements: earth, wind, fire, and water. According to them, the current periodic table of elements is religous heresy. Science and knowledge continually evolve. Non-existence and existence are equivelent views. Since you cannot prove no God exists, athiesm is a faith.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • some schmuck

      Remember 9/11? Yeah, that was religion.
      Remember the attack on the Sikh Temple in Milwakee? Yeah, that was religion.
      Remember the attack on the USS Cole? Religion again.
      Remember the Crusades? You guess it. Religion.
      Remember the Inquisition? Religion
      Witch hunts? Religion.
      Opposition to treating gays like humans? Religion.
      The Holocaust? Religion. (yes, Hitler WAS a Christian, no matter what David Barton tells you)
      Bombing of abortion clinics? Religion.

      Religion has been responsible for more death and destruction than all other reasons combined.

      That's on top of the fact that its opposition to science has set us back for millenia. Ever hear of Galileo? Yeah, they made an example out of him didn't they? Even today, in the 21st century, religion opposes the teaching science to school children.

      You want to know why I'm such a pain in the rear? It's because I'm actually interested in the betterment of human society instead of the furthering of the agenda of a bronze age warrior.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • ange8

      i hate to whole heartedly disagree w/ you but i do. i am an atheist that does not usually reply or get involved in these discussions but i had to disupute you of the fact you seem to think that we are the ones that take it to the next level and spew hatred all over the place. most of the time it is the pious, self righteous who spew to us and have no tolerance. it's really sad when you think about it...wouldn't god want you to be tolerant and patient of others and their beliefs? no?? then why would you want him as your role model for your children and then to eventually save your soul???

      January 21, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • dnsbubba

      Black Coffee said, "Since you cannot prove no God exists, athiesm is a faith." This is known as shifting the burden of proof. I have no need, or responsibility to prove that a god exists anymore than you have a responsibility to prove that I don't have a large invisible dragon named Clyde in my garage.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • the AnViL

      "Non-existence and existence are equivelent views. Since you cannot prove no God exists, athiesm is a faith."

      non-existence and existence are not equivalent views except in the minds of confused delusional people.

      atheism isn't a faith – it's merely a lack of belief in imaginary men in the sky. we do not have to prove the non-existence of flatly fictional, non-existent beings.

      i know this is a complicated issue for you... but i don't mind going over it again.

      keep trying, champ.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • DavidH

      @BlackCoffee: As others have said, science and atheism are two separate things. There are theists and non-theists among scientists, and there are atheists and agnostics who reject scientific findings. Science is built on testing its own assumptions, while religion requires faith. There is a difference. There are also various forms of non-theism. What most people accept as being atheism (sometimes called strict atheism) is a belief that there are no gods, and I would agree with you that it requires faith to adopt this position. There are others of us that are agnostics: We simply feel that there is not enough evidence as to whether there are any gods or not. (Please note that I use "gods" rather than "God" because it is not about being anti-Judeo-Christian, but rather a lack of belief in any religious position.)

      January 21, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • It Is Called

      Principles are not theory !

      Principles of Evolution, Ecology and Behavior (EEB 122)

      Geology and climate have shaped the development of life tremendously. This has occurred in the form of processes such as the oxygenation of the atmosphere, mass extinctions, tectonic drift, and disasters such as floods and volcanic eruptions. Life, particularly bacteria, has also been able to impact the geological makeup of the planet through metabolic processes.

      00:00 – Chapter 1. Introduction
      02:16 – Chapter 2. The Oxygenation of the Atmosphere
      09:08 – Chapter 3. Evidence of Climate Change
      17:36 – Chapter 4. Geological Impact on Life
      29:37 – Chapter 5. Mass Extinctions
      42:19 – Chapter 6. Earthquakes, Eruptions, and Floods
      46:38 – Chapter 7. Conclusion

      Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://open.yale.edu/courses
      Education works best.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • BlackCoffee

      So, the AnVil, I guess you believe today’s scientific knowledge is all that exists. Time constantly informs knowledge, things that didn't exist and people didn't believe in years ago are now facts. There is a strong claim among atheists that since we cannot prove there is a God, it is different than saying there is no God. All through science, people attempt to prove things that were unknown or just theories. I accept the fact that some people don't believe. I have no need to make them believers. However, I should be allowed to live my life with my beliefs. When atheists stop putting up Billboards insulting the religious, and stop trying to restrict my freedom of speech, I will be more forgiving towards their rebukes. Like it or not, beyond government, culture is the collective conscious of the people. Today, 90% of that collective conscious believes in a God. Demanding it remain out of public discourse is a minority view. When that minority view imposes on the behavior of the majority, it appears like bullying.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • BlackCoffee

      Trying to understand those that separate scientific belief in the Big Bang from atheism, how do those that do not believe in the Big Bang explain existence? If everything requires an explanation, how did the world come to be if not through the scientific explanation?

      January 21, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • Jim T

      You're right Coffee. The bible talks about throwing pearls to swine. As a christian, I don't push my beliefs on anyone. I am always available to assist and God anyone who is truly seeking God. But those who are hostile and antagonistic towards God have hatred and enmity towards Him. They've rejected Him. they've made their decision. That's between them and God. As Christians we should love others and forgive and seek to guide others to a knowledge of Christ and salvation. But the gospel is precious and not to be trampled on. If someone has rejected God then that's on them. As a christian I don't bother with them. At that point is throwing pearls to swine.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • Jim T

      You're right Coffee. The bible talks about throwing pearls to swine. As a christian, I don't push my beliefs on anyone. I am always available to assist and guide anyone who is truly seeking God. But those who are hostile and antagonistic towards God have hatred and enmity towards Him. They've rejected Him. they've made their decision. That's between them and God. As Christians we should love others and forgive and seek to guide others to a knowledge of Christ and salvation. But the gospel is precious and not to be trampled on. If someone has rejected God then that's on them. As a christian I don't bother with them. At that point its throwing pearls to swine.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:56 am |
  9. Science

    Creates a hornets nest if you think about it. Mom/Dad why does the Pres. say so help me god, what or who is that MOM/DAD ???

    Who do we trust Mom/Dad ???

    January 21, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • BOb the Prairie Dog

      Don't forget: Daddy, what does "pederast" mean?

      January 21, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • It is Called

      Principles are the only way.

      Principles of Evolution, Ecology and Behavior (EEB 122)

      Geology and climate have shaped the development of life tremendously. This has occurred in the form of processes such as the oxygenation of the atmosphere, mass extinctions, tectonic drift, and disasters such as floods and volcanic eruptions. Life, particularly bacteria, has also been able to impact the geological makeup of the planet through metabolic processes.

      00:00 – Chapter 1. Introduction
      02:16 – Chapter 2. The Oxygenation of the Atmosphere
      09:08 – Chapter 3. Evidence of Climate Change
      17:36 – Chapter 4. Geological Impact on Life
      29:37 – Chapter 5. Mass Extinctions
      42:19 – Chapter 6. Earthquakes, Eruptions, and Floods
      46:38 – Chapter 7. Conclusion

      Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://open.yale.edu/courses
      Education works best.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • Science

      Looking up

      January 21, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • Science

      You for got the y
      Pederasty
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pederasty_in_ancient_Greece

      January 21, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • Saraswati

      You do realize that millions of US children, from Buddhists to Unitarians to materialists have been raised without a belief in god and it hasn't caused any major issues? Normally if a kid does ask this before the parents tell them, the answer starts with "Well, Jenny, some people believe..." But parents read stories to kids with nonexistent creatures all the time, from faeries to Santa to goblins. Most kids will have heard stories with gods as wel by the time they're watching the news...which, btw, generally refers to Santa Claus as if he's real.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:50 am |
  10. non-beleiver

    Festivus for the rest of us!

    January 21, 2013 at 8:59 am |
  11. Sane Person

    Good on her for not indoctrinating her child into a religion before the child is old enough to make up his own mind (aka brainwashing). We need more parents like her, and atheists need to stop being treated like we are "wrong" and need to be "saved"

    January 21, 2013 at 8:55 am |
    • EvidenceBased4

      It has been said that if all children grew up learning about the natural world and were not presented with religious ideas until they were old enough to think critically, that religion would nearly disappear. I suspect this is true. Most religion requires thorough indoctrination during the formative years (hence, sunday school, vacation bible school, children's bible stories, and on and on).

      January 21, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • kube1989

      maybe we shouldn't teach kids that stoves are hot or running in the street is dangerous, too...

      brainwashing involves programming a mind into a way of thinking that causes harm....

      January 21, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • EvidenceBased4

      kube, those are all aspects of the natural world. See the difference?

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

      EB4, no you are wrong, because while deep within a society of Torah believers, and further out mythological religions, Jesus showed up, gathered 12 followers, and like he said, started out small like a mustard seed and he's now known in one religion or another, over a large portion of the population of the 7 billion in the world today, billions more in past history. Instead of dying off, it grew as he said it would. There has been some falling away, but God will change that soon enough, I'm sure.

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

      No, he doesn't see the difference. That's what's so frightening about these nut jobs.

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

      Ridiculous. Don't start teaching your children until they understand everything. I guess we shouldn't teach science until they understand physics. Children shouldn't draw until they can paint? Parents are the first teachers of their children and if they want to pass on their religion-fine.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • Daniel

      Black Coffee, your remark about not teaching science until kids learn physics is pretty funny as physics IS science. Again, your argument is null by that wonderful thing called rationality.

      January 21, 2013 at 10:21 am |
  12. Sandy Mattos

    *whew* what a refreshing piece of writing. She's right, you know.

    January 21, 2013 at 8:55 am |
  13. Forrest Erickson

    To “agnostic mommy of two in Alabama” who posted in the comments. “Thank you for your bravery and letting me know I’m not alone.” and others feeling alone. Please watch and participate in the call in show Freethought Forum TV most every Tuesdays from 5:00 to 6:00 PM Eastern Time streaming on CTVKNOX.ORG. Scroll down for the streaming window.

    Faithless Forrest

    January 21, 2013 at 8:53 am |
  14. Caz in BOS

    I am one of those people who was raised as atheist. I never had a god in my life, ever. When comparing myself to religious friends, I notice that my ethics have far fewer exceptions, and fewer people take advantage of my good intentions. Meanwhile, I never killed or hurt anyone, never stole, never even a pain to neighbors.

    January 21, 2013 at 8:52 am |
  15. Nietodarwin

    “I am now convinced that children should not be subjected to the frightfulness of the Christian religion [...]. If the concept of a father who plots to have his own son put to death is presented to children as beautiful and as worthy of society's admiration, what types of human behavior can be presented to them as reprehensible?”
    _ Ruth Hurmence Green, The Born Again Skeptic's Guide to the Bible

    January 21, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • jonnylynchy

      Again and again I see quotes like this that on the surface seem logical but seem to lack a child's understanding of the narrative of Christ's "death" on the cross. As children on Easter Sunday proclaim around the world, "He is Risen!" – not dead.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:22 am |
  16. GreggEsq

    As someone who is not religious, and who is a parent, I can relate. I can understand not wanting to make up things, but then again isn't that what parents do when they tell their kids about Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny? Not to mention quelling fears about the Boogeyman or the monster under their bed. I let my children believe what they want to, and if my wife wants to take them to church or Sunday school, I don't necessarily have a problem with that as they can decide for themselves what they want to believe. I don't believe my kids are getting brainwashed by being in church, as I went to church and/or sunday school every week when I was a kid through high school and I came to my own conclusions about religion along the way.

    January 21, 2013 at 8:51 am |
  17. Nietodarwin

    Religious faith not only lacks evidence, its independence from evidence is its pride and joy, shouted from the rooftops.
    Richard Dawkins

    January 21, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Has he ever made reparations for inheriting the wealth of slave holders?

      January 21, 2013 at 9:25 am |
  18. Balance

    It's all in your approach or perspective. For me, I am inspired to do good things by having God in my life. When I need that extra burst of energy or patience, I turn to God. Doing so provides a sense of peace and clarity, so much so, for instance that it allows me to understand others views. I think it is not appropriate to remove God from public life, as belief in God provides a frame of reference at the very least. Until there is a deeper communal framework to hang our collective hats on, dont remove them. Be adaptable, and dont hang on too tightly to the minutia in your positions. Doing so only serves to close the doors needed for mutual agreement and rational thought. So it's okay to draw inspiration from God or not. Believe what you want.

    January 21, 2013 at 8:49 am |
  19. Dana

    Did you ever stop to wonder why our world is the way it is today? Violence in every day life? Because we LACK a moral compass. I disagree completely with this article and with CNN for putting it out there.

    January 21, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Any "moral compass" that relies on faith can and will be twisted by unscrupulous individuals for their own gain.
      Its just far too easy to manipulate those who are willing to suspend critical thinking and accept something without evidence.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:51 am |
    • Caz in BOS

      The Taliban feels the same way.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • EvidenceBased4

      If you are implying that increased religion results in a decrease in violence, you are demonstrably wrong. Some of the least violent countries on earth are the least religious (e.g. Norway) and the most violent are the most religious (e.g. Somalia). Your presumed "moral compass" seems to provide pretty poor directions.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • HitchensFan

      The amount of injustice and death caused directly by religion, far exceeds the perceived benefits of that specific moral code. Moreover, if you examine the bible and the christian belief system, there is plenty of injustice codified the system itself, without the need for corrupt leaders to tamper with it in order for it to propagate immoral behavior.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • JJ

      You disagree with CNN for publishing a blog about someone who believes different than you? How dare they!

      January 21, 2013 at 8:59 am |
    • longtooth

      You disagree with CNN for putting this article out there? Would you restrict free speech when it comes to religion? How are things back there in the twelfth century?

      January 21, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • JWT

      Your god is not needed for a moral compass and never has been. Of course there are plenty of believers whose moral compass doesn't exist anyway.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • Forrest Erickson

      Dana,
      Please read half a dozen verses of Leviticus chapter 25 starting at verse 45. I must tell you that there is no reliable moral compass in the Bible. The reader is forced to pick and choose. I am guessing that you will not choose to defend slavery and I would agree with you on it but yet the bible proscribes how the practice can be conducted. The Bible is a poor reference for morality as it is only the echo of a written record of people less civilized than we are today. Leave it behind and try Humanism. You will be better off for it.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • sam stone

      why do you feel we are any less moral than previous generations?

      when was this moral utopia you speak of?

      when we could own other human beings?

      when lynchings were common?

      tell us of this nostalgia you envision

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

      Lack a moral compass? or because at every turn in life, someone fanatic is telling us to worship their god and kill, hate, protest, and persecute anyone who differs in their belief? I mean after all, the entire thing is nothing more than "My God can beat up your God."

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

      Lack a moral compass? or because at every turn in life, some fanatic is telling us to worship their god and kill, hate, protest, and persecute anyone who differs in their belief? I mean after all, the entire thing is nothing more than "My God can beat up your God."

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

      Seems to me that more conflict comes from religion than non religion. Non believers make up a much smaller percentage of the population, and likely an even smaller percentage of criminals. It is sad when religious folks blame the state of the world on non believers. There is no logic in that.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:32 am |
  20. Doc Vestibule

    People are inherently selfish. We instinctively do that which is least painful. Children do that which is least painful to themselves. Maturity comes when we are able to put aside our own immediate comfort and do that which is least painful for the group. Were it not for our ability to reason this out and cooperate, our species would not survive. As individuals, we are prey animals – soft, squidgy, slow and bereft of in-built offensive capabilities. As a cooperative group, we have become the dominant species in nearly every eco-system on Earth.
    But it takes a mighty big stick to beat the selfishness out of us! Historically, it has been a God sized stick capable to inflicting unimaginable devastation in this life and the hereafter.
    Look at the arguments on this board and see how many people cite Pascal's Wager as their reason for faith.
    I hope that sociological evolution is leading us away from religion. Not because Christianity, Islam, Hinduism etc are negative in and of themselves, but because they are necessarily divisive.
    Religion, like people, has evolved based on the laws of Darwinian evolution in that different environments have brought about different religions. That the 4000 year old mythology of displaced desert people and it's various offshoots has become the predominant religion of "developed" world is too long a history to recount here, but other faiths survive too.
    But the fact is that nobody has ever been able to build a truly universal God based consensus – and they never will due to sectarian squabbling and disdain for non-believers that goes hand in hand with owning "The Truth".
    What it will take is democracy. True, participatory democracy based on what is the greatest good for the greatest number – globally.
    In the 21st century we have numerous examples of irreligious governments running successful societies, like Ja/pan, Switzerland and my home, Canada.
    Some of our elected officials may be religious, but we expect them to act as Humanists, not religionists.
    Ultimately, to survive we must reject tribalism.

    January 21, 2013 at 8:47 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.