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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. skb8721

    It seems to me that, alas, many of the negative replies - even the less negative replies - to the author's essay fall into the ad hominem category - in other words, they are mere personal attacks. For example:

    "not to avail ourselves of the power of something we don't completely understand is silly."

    Shorthand: The author is silly, or her beliefs are silly.

    “Presentations such as these seem to ignore a substantial percentage of believers . . . who, I feel, are able to worship without being blind to the realities of the world. . . ."

    Shorthand: The author is blind to reality.

    It is sad that those who believe differently - whether theist, atheist, or agnostic - must be attacked personally. It is one thing to respond with a counterpoint that is purely theological or philosophical, another to merely call your opponent a name.

    January 21, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • Steppan

      What a dope! Moron.

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

      "Shorthand: The author is silly, or her beliefs are silly."

      There's a huge difference between the first item in this statement and the second. If the speaker is, in fact, referencing beliefs or arguments it is not an ad hominem argument....that's the whole point of the distinction. Certainly calling someones ideas, beliefs or arguments "silly" is lazy and. very poor debate, but it isn't ad hominem, and neither is attacking someone, even as a person, for holding those beliefs. If is only ad hominem if the argument against the other persons argument is rooted in a personal characteristic unrelated to the argument itself, such as "Christians/atheists are immoral/have low IQs so their arguments are invalid."

      January 21, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • skb8721

      >There's a huge difference between the first item in this statement and the second.

      Yes, you are right. I should not have included the second item, though, as you point out, the second item does not make for good debating.

      In any event, it is unfortunate that many cannot discuss ideas without resorting to insult.

      January 21, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
  2. Irene

    I am going to abstain from reading the idiotic, misinformed posts that I find on this CNN website. Not worthy of my time.

    January 21, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • Steppan

      Go light a candle for us.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • sam stone

      yet, you took the time to comment

      January 21, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • LinCA

      @Irene

      You said, "I am going to abstain from reading the idiotic, misinformed posts that I find on this CNN website. Not worthy of my time."
      Not being open to questioning of your faith is probably the best way to remain blissfully ignorant. It is also the best way to preserve the faith.

      Exposure to other points of view, and the free flow of information, may someday be the death of religion as a major influence.

      January 21, 2013 at 10:28 am |
  3. bwebb

    I read the first article when it came out and was very saddened by it. I first want to say as a believer in Jesus Christ that I do not believe that baptism or good works get you to heaven-only a one time belief that the Lord of all cration sent his son Jesus to die for the sins of the world so that we are no longer separated from God but can become righteous in his eyes and live eternally with Him.
    With that said, it saddens me to read about those who do not get to experience the everyday joys that come with this truth.
    Although I respect the opposite belief and enjoy talking with atheists and other non-believers I will say that it is very difficult for me as a believer to not speak out. It is difficult not because I am trying to change you, but because I want everyone to have what I have and experience what life can be life with God in it.
    Ultimately I want people to understand this: Let's say I'm wrong, and I've lived my life for a God that doesn't exist. What do I have to loose? I lived a joyful and happy life and there I die and that's it. Nothing else – I therefore really lost nothing.
    On the other hand let's say I'm right. There is a God and Jesus and eternal life. What do those who choose not to believe loose? They loose a daily relationship with God, the joys and peace that comes with knowing that my sins are forgiven and that I will never be separated from the one who created me. They ultimately loose forgiveness and the life that comes after we die. The eternal life in a perfect place with God. They have everything to loose. This is definitely something to think about..to really think about and consider...
    Praying for all those non-believers out there. I know you question your beliefs and know you can really feel God and that some part of you really does know that God is real. He died for YOU and has planned every single second of your life perfectly for you. His love will never leave you and his thoughts are always about you. When people fail you, He will always be there for you. I can't imagine a life without these truths and without my Lord and savior Jesus.

    January 21, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • JWT

      I have never questions my knowledge of the non-existence of god – I feel sorry for you that you believe in a fairy tale.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • Dallas

      I am with you all the way. These people would be wise to read Heaven is for Real, Colton Burpo's story. Great read!

      January 21, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • Uncle Jetski

      Loose?

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

      Another example of "my belief is right, so yours is wrong". Your demographic isn't shrinking nearly fast enough for my taste.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • bwebb

      JWT: Thanks for your comment and I'm glad you got to read what I wrote. I will be praying for you. Please consider what I said about life after death – just think about it. One day your eyes will really be opened.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • UofM

      Two things...your logic is hardly as profound as you probably think. It is known as Pascal's Wager and has several holes in it, not the least is that if there is a god, how exactly would he feel about someone choosing to believe simply as an insurance policy against some negative afterlife? Do you want your children to believe as you do BECAUSE you WANT it or because they actually believe something?

      And two, how condescending of you to assert that we REALLY believe and we really KNOW there is a god. How about this? you claim to be a follower of Jesus, but in your heart you REALLY know that Zeus is the king of the gods. I truly hope you come to accept the Truth that you know deep down inside of you...Zeus is our Lord and Protector

      January 21, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • sam stone

      "Ultimately I want people to understand this: Let's say I'm wrong, and I've lived my life for a God that doesn't exist. What do I have to loose? I lived a joyful and happy life and there I die and that's it. Nothing else – I therefore really lost nothing.
      On the other hand let's say I'm right. There is a God and Jesus and eternal life. What do those who choose not to believe loose? They loose a daily relationship with God, the joys and peace that comes with knowing that my sins are forgiven and that I will never be separated from the one who created me. They ultimately loose forgiveness and the life that comes after we die."

      Ultimately, we want you to know that this is a flawed argument. It assumes only two possibilities, either the god of the bible or no god.

      January 21, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • JWT

      My are open. I see reality just fine. Life after death is not worth thinking about.

      January 21, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • Shawn

      I neither chose nor question my non-belief, for believers to make an assumption otherwise is ignorant and rude. I do not presume to question your belief and to tell you that you secretly don't believe, I expect the same respect. To profess a non-existent belief "just in case" would be both futile and dishonest.

      January 21, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • Primewonk

      Pascal's Gambit was refuted as soon as he postulated it. Yet you folks still keep throwing it out there.

      January 21, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • bwebb

      UofM: I am familiar with Pascal's Wager and would like for you to know that this was not my intent, nor was I trying to be condescending or profound. My goals in writing my thoughts was not in a battle of knowledge or who knows more, nor was it to accomplish an "I'm right your wrong" statement. It was merely to verbally state my beliefs and let those who believe differently to see mine in a new light. You can be as rude as you like but I will continue to be respectful of your beliefs.

      Also, I absolutely do not believe in God for an insurance policy. I believe in God because I believe the Bible as truth and because I have a desire for a relationship with the God who created me, the God who cares for me and loves me regardless of anything that I might do or say, the God who loved me enough to give his one and only son to die for me.

      Again, I am not trying to change you. I will not attack your beliefs but merely state my own. I will also be praying for you.

      January 21, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • bwebb

      I would also like to ask a question, merely out of curiosity. I do not mean to be rude and hope it is not taken this way.

      If you don't believe it God, then why are you here? What is the purpose of life? Do you believe that we are all just people here to live and die and that's it? What do we live for or why do we live?

      January 21, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • UofM

      Before I give you an answer to that question, I'd like to pose this one to you: Do you not consider making a statement that atheists really know deep down inside that there is a god a bit rude, condescending, and arrogant? At minimum it implies that we don't really know why we don't believe or what we actually think.

      As to why we live...same as you for the most part I imagine. For love of family and humanity...to make the world a little better than when we came into it. Because we are curious by nature and want to know more. When there is nothing but this life then this life becomes all the more important...so I try to live it well.

      January 21, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
  4. MMP

    I too have raised my children without any set religion. I have always been of the belief that you should be kind and good to people, help those in need and love each other because it's the right thing to do, not out of the fear of burning in hell. If they want to go to church someday, I'm happy to take them and let them explore religion but if not, that's okay too. I think the most important thing we can instill in our children is that right and wrong begins with them, not with some outside force.

    January 21, 2013 at 9:45 am |
  5. Lobelia

    It's sad that this is somehow controversial. Everyone should be left alone to do and think as they wish. That is a foundation of American thinking.

    January 21, 2013 at 9:44 am |
  6. Paige

    My brother married a girl who doesn't believe in God – and now, he has turned his back on all religion to make her happy. I asked him, "Why do you celebrate Christmas and Easter if you don't believe, since they are religious holidays?" His answer, we want to. If you don't believe in God, don't celebrate the religious holidays. At least be grown up enough to explain to your children that "we don't celebrate because we don't believe." But, I believe that not allowing your children to make their own choices when they are older is also very wrong. I have found that my religion is very beneficial and I do have Faith – a ton of Faith.

    January 21, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Steppan

      My hunch is that you weigh a ton and have very little faith.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • snowboarder

      we celebrate all holidays as secular. religion is not the only reason to celebrate.

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

      What is a religious holiday to you is not to someone else so what ?

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

      You don't celebrate Halloween? Interesting.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • Moon

      Do you believe in Santa Clause, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy. Tradition, fun, joy in a young child's face, giggling, laughter – that's what it's about. Close your eyes and remember sharing those wonderful times with your kids. You didn't believe in Santa Clause did you? – Enjoy your grandkids – stop being mean and start showing more love to your son who loves you.

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

      I assume you celebrate Christmas and Easter without all the added pagan/pre-Christian embellishments? I hope the Easter bunny and eggs do not intrude on your remembrance of Christ's resurrection or Santa Claus and reindeer and a tree make an appearance in your home. After all, as you said, these are religious holidays.

      Some of us don't see them as religious holidays. We enjoy Santa Claus and the tree and Easter egg hunts and all of that stuff that has nothing to do with the Bible.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • JustTheFacts

      That is precisely why the bible teaches us – "be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers" – meaning, a person who is saved and a believer should NOT marry someone who is unsaved and a non-believer. That's why you run into these kinds of problems. If the believing husband or wife is not careful, that unbelieving husband or wife will cause you to be lost and will drag your soul to hell with them...

      2 Corinthians 6:14 – Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

      That is also why Jesus said, If any man love husband, wife, sister, brother, etc more than me, he is not worthy of me...

      January 21, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • Santa Clause

      As far as you know, my existence is just as likely as Mr. GOD.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • lia

      I assume you don't celebrate Christmas with a tree, a wreath, or visits from Santa Claus since the first two are parts of pagan celebrations and none of the three have anything to do with the birth of Jesus?

      January 21, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • JustTheSkinny

      Early Christianity: "hey let's make up some stuff! We can control some people with it thru fear; maybe it'll even scare some of the Romans; it might even be profitable! Cool, yeh? we'll start with current folklore as a basis, otherwise we'll look too much like a cult."

      Luther, Henry VIII, et al: "these Catholics have too much control; plus the rules are too strict – to hell with my religion, we'll just make our own. It looks to be close enough so as not to look like a cult"

      Joseph Smith: "I'm having some legal and financial problems, so I need to create something mind-shattering quickly. I can get my family to believe me. It'll be based on Christianity so as not to look too much like a cult." [ed. oops, someone went a little too far with the added pieces]

      Folklore is folklore.

      January 21, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • texastexastexas

      Paige, It is not YOUR business how ANY family chooses or chooses not to recognize or celebrate anything. Your brother probably got "outside the frame" and married an honest woman who opened his eyes to his families' belief in fairytales. I did the exact same thing. My husband is a scientist and we are raising two precious, well-spoken, intelligent children who respect EVERYONE'S "belief". My family are still religious hypocritical zealots, who cares. To each their own. I got away and got truthful. We celebrate Christmas as a time to give and enjoy each other. We celebrate Easter as a time to decorate eggs and get candy and be with people we love. We also celebrate birthdays, Thanksgiving, etc. THIS COUNTRY WAS FOUNDED ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM!!!! Quit judging your brother, he is laughing at your ignorance.

      January 21, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • Saraswati

      Easter is a pagan holiday named for the goddess Easter who was represented by rabbits and eggs (and bulls...). Why would you think it more valid for Christians to celebrate this holiday than for atheists, agnostics or Buddhists?

      January 21, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • Michael

      Christmas is actually based on a pagon holiday I am pretty sure Christ was born in the summer time. Can't tell others what to do and not do....

      January 21, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Jimmy

      January 21, 2013 at 10:14 am |
  7. lesliedevereaux

    Not sure why many atheists are so busy trying to prove He doesn't exist. If He doesn't, nothing matters; therefore, you're wasting your time trying to prove it.

    January 21, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • Steppan

      If god does exist, he doesn't need you to stick up for him or explain him. After all he is god? So why are you here?

      January 21, 2013 at 9:39 am |
    • DrewNumberTwo

      Why would everything suddenly not matter if there was no god? Because I know that I only get one shot at life, I have to make sure that I do it right. The idea that things don't matter because there's no heaven and hell is ridiculous.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • snowboarder

      leslie, i never understand why the religionists always seem to make the same false assumption that without their particular god nothing matters. what utter hogwash.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • Colin

      Yes, Leslie, we are wasting our time trying to make the world a stronger, more intelligent place. *facepalm*. I know your brand of religious bigotry and please just go away. When you try to invalidate someone else for invalidating your hocus pocus views, you just aren't being fair to anyone, yourself especially. Come back when you are ready to discuss this like an adult. I for one am not stupid enough to fall for your tactic of telling us to just stop talking about the issue. You just want to suppress truth and that is why atheists like myself revile religion, because of people like you who say such things constantly and in our faces. How about you take your own advice and just stop talking, k :)

      January 21, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • Colin

      CNN please keep posting things from strong atheist voices. We are increasingly becoming relevant in politics, our numbers are growing, and most importantly, we are people who educate ourselves and follow the news. We are good customers for you, so please represent us well.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • Lobelia

      By "He" are you referring to the Flying Spaghetti Monster? Or maybe God is female. Nobody knows. Count me as an atheist who indeed does not care and does not spend any time trying to prove anything.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • ReasonableAtheist

      @ lesliedevereaux

      I do understand that some atheists go out of their way to disprove the existence of a god. I hope you don't see all of us in such a negative light. A lot of us just want to live our lives and when it comes to children, some of us tell them what each group of people believe and let them chose what they want to follow. That is the path that I have chosen when my children are old enough and start to ask questions.

      I feel that a lot of atheists are growing tired of having other religions pushed on them where they don't belong ie: public schools, people coming to our doorsteps on the weekends, and are starting to become more vocal about it and therefore might appear to be a little agressive. A lot of people I know take it as a personal insult because I don't believe. I don't go about insulting them or saying rude things. When I'm asked what I believe I tell them I don't and all of a sudden I'm the bad guy. I think a lot of us are just fed up with that sort of judgement.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • Fisherjim

      You've missed the point. Atheists aren't busy trying to prove that there's no God, they're just defending their right to not believe in any God. It's pretty simple. Just like someone who bleieves in Jesus, Allah, Buddah, etc. Just view them as another sect/denomination that doesn't believe in your particular God.

      January 21, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Saraswati

      "Not sure why many atheists are so busy trying to prove He doesn't exist. If He doesn't, nothing matters"

      Do you mean to say if it turned out no god existed that the smile of a child, the pain of slaver, the love of a young couple and the misery of loneliness would no longer matter? If you do charitable work to better people's lives, would you stop if you discovered there were no god?

      January 21, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • JustTheFacts

      Actually Leslie, the atheists doesn't have a single shred of proof or evidence that God doesn't exist. None whatsoever. Nor have they ever had any. Instead, all they can do is spend all of their time trying to get us to "prove to them" that he DOES exist (which is easy enough to do if we wanted to do it, and Jesus Christ is all the proof we need). But my main point is that, if you ask an atheist for proof first (for proof that God doesn't exist) they'll only evade the question, switch the topic, or give you some rambling excuse as to why they can't provide you with proof (they'll say the burden of proof is on you, or you can't prove a negative, etc), when all the time, their carefully crafted answers are nothing more than "excuses" and "evasive tactics" to cover up the fact that they actually don't even have any proof, nothing whatsoever, to back up their claims. Instead, they rely on the ignorance of others to not even realize that fact. Their overall tactic is to keep changing the subject and to keep switching the topic (especially when cornered) to keep you from even realizing they don't have any proof. Yet, they expect you to provide some. And if they can only keep you focused on that and arguing about that (on you providing proof), and not on them (proving proof), they feel they'll win the argument…

      And that is how all atheists think and work, and that is the truth about atheists…

      January 21, 2013 at 10:47 am |
  8. Brad

    "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."

    I was fine with this woman's beliefs until I read that last line. Just because SHE believes God is imaginary doesn't mean her kids have to, yet she says it like that's it, that's the final word. I wonder if her kids ever decided for themselves to believe in God, how would she react? Perhaps the same as a mother whose child says "I choose to no longer believe in God"?

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

      Just because you believe in god doesnt mean you should brainwash your children in the same manner. It goes both ways buddy

      January 21, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • roadrunner321

      Kids should be educated so when they want to make a decision between a religion or none at all it will be an informed one.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Nathan

      Her point was that public, civil, secular, governmental policy should ONLY be set by public, civil, secular, empirical means and not by what different people's different interpretations of a what a god that may or may not even exists may or may not want. It was not about what her kids think.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Katherine27

      I think it is best to support your children and to educate them with the possibilities. When my four-year-old was three, he also had the same questions. I was raised in a religious community. I personally questioned how any religion could be completely right if there are so many different religions. In life I hate it when people say things like "I'm right and your wrong" without backing it up with logical and educated responses. There is always wiggle room. So, I took tons of religion and philosophy classes to try to thoughtfully respond to my child's questions. In the end I agree with this author in that it is important to question. Religion is make believe. There are stories that are valuable in acting correctly but to take it as fact seems a little misguided.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • normal educated human being

      God doesn't exist. Church was is and will always be all about the money. You people are brainwashed.

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

      She, like almost everyone on the planet, has made a decision based on what she thinks is most probable. Of course she wants her children to benefit from this understanding, just as a Christian wants his or her Children to benefit from the understanding that they believe is correct. The trick is in being open to the idea that your children still might choose another path, and she has expressed a willingness to accept this possibility.

      January 21, 2013 at 10:30 am |
  9. nonhypocrite

    I I totally understand her position. Being forced or shamed into believing or going to church never seemed like a "christian" value I wanted to have. I was allowed to choose, I attended church for several years, read the bible, etc but never felt Christ or God or the calling. I allow my children to do so and have a son that it agnostic, a daughter that goes to church & believes in God. She doe NOT force or shame anyone into going, nor berate them. She values personal choice. I on the other hand have come to practice Buddhism, a philosophy, not a religion. One that I have discovered I have been partially practicing my whole life. Interestingly enough, Buddha said (paraphrase) "all religions should be allowed to exist, none are wrong. we (Buddhists and humanity) can learn from them". I have asked people who take offense that i do not believe in God and constantly try to get me to come to their church: where does it say Jesus bugged or shamed people into following him and believing in God. I also ask: where did it say Jesus berated and hated those that did not believe? I live in the bible belt and it is hard sometimes trying not to upset someone, as that is not our way, nor is putting fliers on cars, billboards,etc. Those that feel/hear the calling for Buddhism will come of their own accord, there is no need to drag people to it out of shame.

    January 21, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • Buddha

      Get in my belly!!

      January 21, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • ensense

      You know nothing about Buddhism, yet you are here saying it is not a religion. If you know Buddhism so much just tell us what is dhamma.

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

      Dhamma, my friend, is the truth taught by the Buddha. It is that simple. Learning the truth is a whole subject and journey in itself.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • nonhypocrite

      To clarify: Buddhism is not a religion in the traditional definition of "following the words and commandments of a higher being (God)". It can and has been used as a religion, but for many it is a philosophy.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • coyote 123

      I always cringe when someone claims to be Buddhist and then totally misrepresents the teaching. The quote you gave, claiming it to be from the Buddha, is totally bogus. A little knowledge does not go a long way.

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

      Atleast the Buddists are truthful on this blog unlike the Hindus who disguise themselves as atheists. liars et al!

      January 21, 2013 at 9:56 am |
  10. realityspeaks1

    In response to Nietodarwin's mindless comparison of terrorists and people of faith, I think your thoughts are ill concieved and maniacal. First, if you are a believer in God, taking another's life is the biggest sin one can commit. Your connection between Charles Mason and people of faith is just plain hate spewing. My God is a loving god so your worry of Him telling me to go kill anyone because I believe in my heart that it was His desire is unfounded. You are referring to mentally ill peopel. To cite cult leaders and fanatics as run of the mill religions is inaccurate. Typically, when one cannot form the basis for an argument they resort to mud slinging and foolish remarks........but I offer you this.....not to be confused with "jamming my religion down your throat". Take the time to find a church where you feel comfortable, when and if you find one, try interacting with it's members. If you get uncomfortable and feel it is too "cult like" then leave and find another. Being part of a specific house of worship is not as important as developing an understanding of God, however, I have heard some excellent sermons at several different houses of worship. May your venom spewing cease and you find inner peace....your beginning to sound like a zealot.

    January 21, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • Roger that

      'My God is a loving god so your worry of Him telling me to go kill anyone because I believe in my heart that it was His desire is unfounded. '

      Really? That's not what your Bible says. You might want to pick it up sometime and do a little reading.

      If your own full brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife, or you intimate friend, entices you secretly to serve other gods, whom you and your fathers have not known, gods of any other nations, near at hand or far away, from one end of the earth to the other: do not yield to him or listen to him, nor look with pity upon him, to spare or shield him, but kill him. (Deuteronomy 13:7-12

      Suppose you hear in one of the towns the LORD your God is giving you that some worthless rabble among you have led their fellow citizens astray by encouraging them to worship foreign gods. In such cases, you must examine the facts carefully. If you find it is true and can prove that such a detestable act has occurred among you, you must attack that town and completely destroy all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock. (Deuteronomy 13:13-19

      They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. (2 Chronicles 15:12-13

      January 21, 2013 at 9:59 am |
  11. Kregg

    Another victimized special interest group wack job who uses their so called victim card as an invitation to assault the world with their whiny views that no one gives 2 s**ts about in the first place

    January 21, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • ldavid69

      I care , so you do not speak for me. Why are religious so arrogant and hateful???? You are just another that reinforces my logic.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • SB1790

      Evidently you seem to mind or you wouldn't have made such a comment.

      January 21, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • LinCA

      @Kregg

      You said, "Another victimized special interest group wack job who uses their so called victim card as an invitation to assault the world with their whiny views that no one gives 2 s**ts about in the first place"
      You must have given enough shit about it to follow the link and even take the time and effort to comment on it. That sounds like at least 2 shits to me.

      Over 8000 comments on this piece shows that others give plenty of shits, too.

      In all, it goes to show that you are fucking clueless.

      January 21, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • sam stone

      "Another victimized special interest group wack job who uses their so called victim card as an invitation to assault the world with their whiny views that no one gives 2 s**ts about in the first place"

      Congratulations, Kregg, you've just described Christianity

      January 21, 2013 at 10:13 am |
  12. Steppan

    If there is a god, he is disgusted with his ignorant followers. Probably embarrassed. The other gods must be point and laughing.

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

      iinteresting that you said "other Gods". most followers of a religion vehemently denounce other religions and/or Gods.

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

      Well why limit the unknown to just one being? One is as good as 1,000. We're talking about fantasy here.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:35 am |
  13. Bonnie

    Very sad to me is the fact that, when it is once and for all too late, you will know......and then you will believe! :-(

    January 21, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • bradalexander719

      Stand in line and let the fear of the apocalypse take hold. For without, you will be full of regrets when the time of reckoning comes. Yes sheep, and don't forget to cough up a few dollars at the end of service, this church don't pay for itself!

      January 21, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • snowboarder

      except for the fact, bonnie, that there is no reason to believe that whatsoever.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • JWT

      There is nothing to be sad about – we are here for this one life – make the best of it. If you believe there is an after life – fine enjoy that thought. I won't waste my time on it.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • LinCA

      @Bonnie

      You said, "Very sad to me is the fact that, when it is once and for all too late, you will know......and then you will believe!"
      That sounds an awful lot like Pascal's Wager.

      Pascal's Wager:
      In effect, Pascal's wager states that while we can't know with absolute certainty whether the christian god exists, a rational evaluation should lead to a belief. If having to choose between believing (in the christian god), or not believing, the reward for being correct, and the price for being wrong, tips the balance in favor of believing.

      It says, if you believe and are correct, you will gain heaven, while the price for being wrong is nothing. On the other hand, if you don't believe, it says you will gain nothing for being right, yet lose everything if you are wrong. So, belief results in a win/neutral, and non-belief in a neutral/lose position, tipping the balance clearly in favor of the "belief" position.

      Why Pascal's Wager is a fallacy:
      a) Pascal's Wager assumes that there are only two options.
      b) Pascal's Wager assumes the christian god doesn't care whether someone actually believes, or simply goes through the motions.
      c) Pascal's Wager discounts the price paid for belief before death.
      d) Pascal's Wager vastly overestimates the odds for the reward and the risk of punishment.

      Positing only two options is ridiculous. There are, of course, thousands of possibilities when it comes to gods. Based on the evidence available for these gods, it is not reasonable to assume one is more likely than any of the others. To increase the odds of a positive outcome of this wager, the believer would have to believe in, and worship, every possible god. Including the ones that haven't been invented yet. Aside from the drain on the available time, it presents the problem that quite a few of these gods are pretty selfish. They frown upon believers believing in other gods. In some religions that is enough to not be eligible for the reward (making the belief position a lose/neutral one).

      Also, just going through the motions and pretending to believe may fool your community, but it can't fool an all-knowing god. It is very unlikely that anyone would gain the ultimate reward for simply faking belief (making the belief position a lose/neutral one).

      The price paid for the belief position isn't nothing. It involves going through the rituals, day after day, week after week. It may have severe side effects on physical and mental health. Sex life suffers, too.

      In estimating whether the cost of any given action is worth it, an evaluation of risk versus reward is in order.

      Risk is (simplistically) the chance that a negative event occurs, multiplied by the cost of that event. As an example, being hit by a meteorite carries a very high cost (probably death), but since the odds are extremely low, the risk associated with it is low. Similarly, the chance of getting rained on is pretty high, but the cost is very low, representing also a low risk. On the other hand the cost and chances of, and therefore the risk associated with, a traffic accident are high.

      The choice whether to mitigate a risk depends on, among other things, the severity of the risk, the cost of the mitigation and the tolerance of that risk. In the above examples, the cost to mitigate each risk are; exorbitant, low and high, respectively. Methods to reduce or eliminate the risk of meteorite impacts are cost prohibitive and far exceed the risk. An umbrella and a check of the weather forecast effectively mitigate the risk of getting rained on, and is easily worth the cost. Car crashes, and their after-effects are mitigated to various degrees by expensive technology (from street surface technology to driver training, airbags and traction control). People bear those costs to their financial ability and tolerance for the risk.

      A similar reasoning applies to reward. The choice whether to pursue a reward is guided by the perception value of the reward, the perception of the odds of gaining the reward and the cost to pursue it.

      In the belief versus non-belief question, believers tend to irrationally overestimate both the reward for belief, and the risk associated with non-belief.

      January 21, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • sam stone

      bonnie: you seem to have a real issue confusing fact with opinion

      January 21, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • summersky

      See, this was my tipping point with the whole Christianity thing. I could not believe that an all-knowing, all-loving God would send anyone to eternal torment for any reason (maybe a brief stay, or a do-over, or some sort of learning experience to deter wayward souls, that I would understand). I wouldn't do that to my dogs, much less my kids...yet this supreme being is supposed to be more loving than me? Nope. Couldn't see it, can't believe it. I haven't shed my belief in some sort of omnipotent being, but it's not that old testament guy who allows children to be torn apart by bears for teasing a bald guy.

      January 21, 2013 at 10:30 am |
  14. youknowwhatyouknow

    it will be what you make it; if you want the full membership to Six Flags over Jesus, you can have it. or you can just live under the mantra that I do. – Religion is binding, Faith will free you.
    I was born into a devout Roman Catholic home, when I was 12 I started attending the youth group activities of my neighbors Baptist Church. I had plenty of time to break it down – Catholicism is guilt-based and Christianity (Baptist) is force fed. Neither work for me – at all. But I have faith because I'm open to the idea of God and his Love so I live my life to best of my ability to honor him. Not because I get a dose of it every Sunday, and not because my friends are always in my hair about it. Because I choose it myself. Am I an atheist? No. But I don't buy all the hype that religion has become, its garbage.

    January 21, 2013 at 9:25 am |
  15. Guido

    More people have been killed in the name of God than were ever killed for any other reason than greed for power, land and money.

    I just tell people that I tend to follow Eastern religion beliefs and that I hope for them they they are right in their choice of religious practices, otherwise, they have wasted a lot of time, money and effort.

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

      Prove you statement. I believe most people were killed for greed.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • nonhypocrite

      Guido, if you follow Eastern Religion, then why do you shame people as the majority of Religious folk do here in the US. It is not their way.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • ldavid69

      Guido I will prove your statement.. Crusades, 911, Palestine-Israel, every abortion doctor murderer, Holocaust, and every nutjob that does a mass murder and says he was led by god. I am sure I left major religous murders out as well.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:34 am |
  16. alli

    Hello all. I just read an amazing book by Dr Mary Neal, From here to Heaven. A doctor who was a skeptic about heaven and God until she died and now knows that God exists. Jesus tells us that He is the way, the truth and the life!

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

      Read it. It's a personal anecdote with absolutely no supporting empirical evidence. Just like ALL other such claims. Nothing to write home about and certainly not life-changing in any way.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • roadrunner321

      Wow, she died and wrote a book? Or did you mean she almost died and wrote a book? Why do we trust the hallucinations caused by a brain close to death? And why is her story any more credible than other NDEs in which the person saw nothing at all?

      January 21, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • JJ

      Books like these are written because they know the gullible will buy them to re-enforce their delusion and line the pockets for the author who must get quite a chuckle.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:55 am |
  17. Bruce

    If faith happens without any proof, it if just IS, then how is it that faith doesn't equally well get vested in, say, a rock, instead of a deity. Why must belief in God require people to give up their "God-given" reason? And why can't I have "faith" in Man, or in Natural Law–things I can see and sense, and which don't require some random assignment of faith.

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

      Or a Flying Spaghetti Monster. Exactly.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:59 am |
  18. BOb the Prairie Dog

    Religious Zealots take note: unless you want to meet your god today, STAY AWAY from my daughter.

    January 21, 2013 at 9:22 am |
  19. Affable Agnostic

    I actually have the same views as this mother.

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

      Many of us do. :)

      January 21, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • JustTheFacts

      Yes, many many people are going to hell. Even mothers...

      January 21, 2013 at 10:57 am |
  20. JMichelle

    "That which we cannot explain we call God". It really is that simple,

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

      JMichelle: Why do we have to call it God? Why can't it be "the way it is", science, magic, voodoo, alien intervention? There is no absolutes, no definites until proven one way or the other. Things that were once thought the acts of God have been proven over time to be cause by bacteria, viruses, molds, chemicals, etc. Nothing wrong with believing in God and that "this is all his doing", another to say so as an absolute when things have been proven otherwise over time. A flexible mind, an open mind is one that can grow and adapt, one that can accept things for what they are, not how one wants them to be.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:39 am |
    • JustTheFacts

      nonhypocrite… You stated… "Things that were once though the acts of God have been proven over time to be caused by bacteria, viruses, molds, chemicals, etc."…

      Please tell me how you are able to identify and tell whether a specific event is or is not an act of God? How can you tell if God was not involved? I'd certainly like to know…

      January 21, 2013 at 10:56 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.