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April 18th, 2013
10:45 AM ET

My Take: Godless in Boston mourn, too

Editor’s note: Greg M. Epstein is the Humanist chaplain at Harvard University and author of the New York Times best-seller "Good Without God." He directs the Humanist Community Project, a national think tank helping to study and build communities for the nonreligious.

By Greg M. Epstein, Special to CNN

Cambridge, Massachusetts (CNN) — After two days of holding back my own feelings to focus on the needs of a community in mourning, what finally split my heart in two was scrolling through the list of donations to the fund-raising page for Celeste and Sydney Corcoran, a mother and daughter among the tragically injured at the Boston Marathon.

Celeste, the mother, has volunteered for my congregation. She’s basically an aunt to a senior member of our staff. So I cried for the two-sidedness: A member of our community lost her legs below the knees, and nearly lost her daughter. And, in one day, nearly 4,000 people donated more than $250,000 to support them. They seemed to be saying, through their gifts, “Please do this for me too if anything should ever happen to me or my family.”

AC360: Mother lost legs, daughter nearly died in bombing

As a chaplain, I’m struggling to make sense of this tragedy just like any other member of the clergy. And like faith communities across the country, the thousands of people I work with are doing what needs to be done when tragedy strikes close to home. We’re offering one another comfort. We’re calling around to the point of exhaustion, trying to figure out who needs help and how we can provide it.

The only difference is, we are a community of atheists — a congregation of Humanists.

You’ve probably read the statistics: With 18% of the nation’s population now nonreligious, America is less religious today than ever before. This especially applies to young Americans, up to a third of whom now have no religion. That number may be closer to half on many of the college campuses throughout Boston, like the one where I work.

What you may not have noticed, however, is that in addition to the religiously unaffiliated, or “nones” as sociologists have taken to calling them, a new and very significant group of Americans has been emerging — the nonreligiously affiliated. Relatively quietly, many thousands of mostly young Americans who identify as atheists and agnostics have been coming together to form civically active, thoughtful secular community groups that now dot nearly our whole nation.

Sometimes you hear about the debates these groups hold with religious leaders. But while Richard Dawkins and the like are eloquent and controversial speakers on behalf of atheism, most such debates are actually organized by religious organizations. The vast majority of what Humanist and secular communities do is positive, uncontroversial and entirely American. We serve. We meet throughout the year. We help one another raise good kids. We celebrate life, and we grieve death.

So I don’t relish the opportunity — or the need — to say that right now, our community is grieving too, just like any other Boston-area congregation. Boston, in fact, is home to one of the biggest secular/Humanist/atheist/nonreligious communities in the world. (Sure, we don’t know what to call ourselves. But then again neither does the LGBT — or is it GLBT? — or LGBTQ? — community, and that hasn’t stopped them from thriving.) We meet every week. We’re getting ready to open up a large community center. We sponsor service programs where we invite interfaith groups to help us package thousands of meals for hungry kids. You can even join us this Sunday: We’ll be marking our losses together in a memorial gathering.

What is so disappointing to see people do, then, is blame the horrific and traumatizing events of this Monday on the godless, or on godlessness, as way too many on Twitter and elsewhere have been doing. As one young woman in our community said to me, “It’s hard enough to deal with senseless grief, but when people write things like 'Why do people have to be so godless to want to kill innocent people?' it makes me feel like I’m not safe either, like we’re being singled out for prejudice.”

Obviously when people say “I’ll pray for you” or “May God grant you strength,” they’re only expressing their own sincere convictions. But while not everyone holds those same beliefs, we all want to be acknowledged in a way that feels right to us.

And when political leaders like Gov. Deval Patrick or President Obama try to make sense of these moments by assembling interfaith services, it is admirable — far better for a politician to bring different religions together than to only recognize one religion’s view of loss as valid. But for goodness' sake, must the nonreligious continue to be excluded from such gatherings? I’ve seen Humanists knock on the door recently at the interfaith celebrations of political conventions, or after tragedies like Hurricane Sandy or Newtown. We wanted to help and were turned away. I hope this is where people realize: We are part of the community too. We care and want to offer our support just as much as anyone. We, too, are in shock and grief.

Secular people place our faith in the human ability to value life over death. We believe in committing ourselves to love and care and help as indiscriminately as possible, because that is what makes our lives worthwhile. We try our best, despite our doubt, to ensure that the good will that comes from tragedy will ultimately exceed the bad.

All that said, I don’t have a clue what Celeste’s beliefs are, and I don’t care. I just hope she and Sydney and everyone else injured get well. After all, would you believe for a second that every Christian pastor knows whether or not every visitor to his or her congregation truly believes in the Ascension? Nor should they. The point of a congregation, to me, is just to care about the people in it, and better yet, to help bring people together to care about one another. Our community is including everyone, religious or not, in our thoughts and hopes at this tough time. It would mean a lot to us if others do the same.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Uncategorized

soundoff (3,411 Responses)
  1. Glen Munro

    As usual notjing but hateful and/or negative remarks from the oh so loving christians.

    April 18, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Kenneth

      At least we aren't getting the "atheists shouldn't post on the Belief Blog" schtick the freedom-of-speech quashers usually drag out.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • CGAW

      You might want to check out your brilliant athiests who comment on these forums as well – trolls abound regardless of belief or intent.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • JPopNC

      atheism is a faith too...just a belief that there is no God. Unfortunately when you meet your Holy Maker your faith won't save you.

      April 18, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
  2. mmay

    These comments (or, the majority of them) are nothing if not ironic. I'm sorry for your community's tragedy, Chaplain Epstein. May they heal soon~

    April 18, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
  3. CGAW

    Interesting take and article. I would say that we need to be sure to embrace all who want to be a positive support for the community regardless of belief. However, as a Humanist, you do not believe in God or practice a religion so if a group decided to have an interfaith service, why would your group be a part of that? I think you are complaining about not being invited or involved in something that you have no interest in being a part of anyway. I agree with you equality statements but don't whine about not being a part of something that is opposite to your belief system.

    April 18, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • Tim

      You've missed the point completely. The purpose of the gathering is to mourn, not to be *interfaith*. The author is suggesting that excluding those with no religious affiliation from what should be an opportunity for the whole community to grieve together is wrong. I don't think that exclusion is really intentional – its just the fact that many people seem to forget that there are many amongst you who don't share the beliefs of any religion – hardly 'whining'.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • mk

      How is coming together to express grief "opposite a belief system"?

      April 18, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • Saraswati

      The point is that these groups don't sit around talking about the metaphysical issues of being a Buddhist vs. a Christian. They talk about shared values and what they can do to help out their neighbors and bring peace between different groups. As such, they do nothing that should inherently exclude humanists or non-theistic Unitarians but simply have a name that they use to keep out certain people.

      If you want to see exactly how people intentionally use "interfaith" to keep out anyone who doesn't have a traditional "religion" read here:

      http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/interfaith-leaders-dialogue-helps-overcome-secularism/

      It is, in fact, a conscious effort to discriminate.

      April 18, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
  4. Have a Great Life

    I don't waste my time trying to explain to close minded people-life is too short. Whatever your faith-great for you; just don't
    impose your chit on me. Labels can be so inadequate. So you're a devout ... ( fill in the blanks, Christian, Buddhist, Voo Doo
    Priest) in jail for murder, etc. That makes a lot of sense.

    April 18, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
  5. Bob

    Is it really necessary to "throw rocks" at one another? I am a Christian, and I do not condemn anyone – regardless of their beliefs. Like most people of different faiths, no one hears (or listens) to me. They only hear the extreme views, which our mainstream media love to propagate – it helps the ratings! Certainly senseless tragedies like what happened in Boston should bring us together...not push us apart.

    April 18, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • Dash Riprock

      Did you vote or take any stand against gay marriage? If you, then you certainly condemn.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • CGAW

      Nice try Dash troll – voting against somehting does not translate into condemning people. Look up what condemn and judge means. I can disagree with your behavior or views and not condemn or judge you.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @CGAW,

      enacting something like DOMA is an 'aggressive' act of voting that did include judgment and condemnation. Why was it enacted? It wasn't there before.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
  6. Jim

    As a practicing atheist I could care less what the people of faith believe or how they spend their time. What I do care about is the presumption that anyone who joins one of these clubs is somehow better than anyone else. Each of you have for the sake of tradition chosen to carry on the practices of your parents - that is your right as free men and women. But each of those belief systems are terribly antiquated and flawed and come with a whole set of baggage that I have chosen not to carry forward. Now, I don't think that makes me any worse of a person than anyone else. In fact, I grieve greatly for the people who have lost their lives because I believe that this life is the only one you get. And to have that stolen from you without any hope of experiencing life in its complete form is truly tragic. I think people of faith get offended if you don't share in their belief that a person's death is rewarded and is part of some master plan by a god. Conversely, an atheist might get offended by having their child blown to bits and hearing someone say that this was part of god's plan. The important thing is to put aside how each side views the event in the context of philosophical differences - and just comfort each other. Be a human and comfort each other.

    April 18, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • lol??

      Jim sayz,
      "As a practicing atheist I could care less..........."

      You A&A's have been lyin' to me. You practice sumpin' 'sides haras*sment on these threads! Secret songs, handshakes, decoder rings, rings in the ears nose and throats?? Maypole dancin' around the evilution poles?

      April 18, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • .

      More platitudes from the dimmest troll on the BB: lol??. What I haven't seen is this idiot expressing one ounce of sympathy for the victims. I guess snarky never takes time out of her busy day to think of anyone except herself.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Jerry

      I could care less..........."

      So you do care some?

      April 18, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • mikey

      Jim, Atheist often complain about being slamed by main stream religions and then you write somrthing like this slaming them. Everyone is in morning for the people of Boston and now Texas and have the right to do it their own way so no one should say theirs is better than others or criticize their beliefs. Just morn the lose and injury of these humans that did nothing to deserve such a disaster!!

      April 18, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • Jim

      Please re-read post Mickey. I think your reading into a 'slam' that doesn't exist.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
  7. Johnny Guitar

    As an atheist, the last thing I need, much less want, is a chaplain, secular or not. Don't want any self-appointed leaders, either.

    I can think and act for myself, thank you very much.

    April 18, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • Ann

      Good thing you're not being forced to?

      April 18, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • Johnny Guitar

      Forced to? What are you talking about?

      April 18, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • Seth

      Do you play guitar?

      April 18, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Tonya

      I play the balalaika.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
  8. Kevin

    Nice article. Depressing to see the amount of hatred in the comments.

    Atheists are people too, kids. And most people – religious or no – are decent people.

    April 18, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
  9. Melissa

    So, all types of innocent people just got blown up – some killed, so many severely injured – and an article that starts off sounding like it might be discussing how atheists are grieving too – ends up being about atheists grieving the fact that they feel they are being singled out for prejudice? This is ridiculous. Right now is NOT the time. The bombing isn't about atheists – it's about an act of terrorism that harmed, maimed, killed innocents. Stop focusing on YOURSELVES. If you're really looking for ways you can offer comfort, help of some kind, financial assistance to victims, then do that and put your agenda aside!

    April 18, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • ACH

      To me the article was discussing how some people would like to help, but may be unable to because of their lack of religious affiliation. It's a discussion topic, not a "woe is me" article.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • Jesus feaker

      'Right now is NOT the time.'

      So when is the proper time? Never? It's relevant now.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Melissa

      Now is not the time for this non-religious "chaplain" and his "congregation" to be whining about themselves. Now is the time to focus on ACTUAL vicitims – victims of a bombing. Now is the time for anyone, religious or not, who feels moved by the bombing to shut up and help. This whining helps NO ONE. It's interesting to me that although this group claims no religious belief, they identify themselves using religious terms – Christian religious terms.

      April 19, 2013 at 8:49 am |
  10. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    The notion of a humanist congregation and even what a humanist chaplin might do is a curious one.

    I understand the concept of a group of like-minded individuals forming and organization and meeting together to share experiences, create a sense of belonging and find common cause to try and make the world a better place. Clearly that is what this group is trying to do – and it is a role that churches have played in societies for a very long time.

    To be nonreligiously affiliated is a curious concept. It's almost like wanting to own a label.

    I do have to object to this statement made by Mr. Epstein:

    "With 18% of the nation’s population now nonreligious"

    It is willfully misleading. 18% of Americans are unaffiliated, which is quite different to 'nonreligious'. Many of the 18% are religious (and conversely I believe that many of the people who report a religions affiliation are irreligious).

    April 18, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • The Dark Frenchman

      Hello, Mark from Middle River.

      Your name change is obvious.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @The Dark Frenchman,

      you are delusional, paranoid or possibly both.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
  11. palintwit

    A growing number of us are convinced that Sarah Palin is the only one who can heal and re-unify our country. But first she must return to her motorhome and resume her cross country tour. She will have to visit cities both large and small, being careful to speak only to real Americans, dispensing her sage advice and folksy, homespun common sense solutions. We can be a great nation again if we all follow the "Palin Path".

    April 18, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • ColoIndependent

      Palin, a unifier - seriously? Seems to me the queen of vitriolic rhetoric had much to do with the mass exodus of sane, peace-loving, moderates from the Republican party.

      While running for VP, her ignorance of our government was more than appalling. Among her myriad silly comments - when asked if she were president, how she'd avoid investigations such as the investigation of her conduct as governor of Alaska, she noted that at the federal level, the Department of Law would investigate, and then throw out the charges. Too bad there is no federal department of law. Then again, why bother with facts when your objective is to make big money by doing little more than pushing emotional buttons to stir up extremists' anger. Thankfully, Palin's days in the spotlight are waning.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • mikey

      I guess this rest of US NON-AMERICANS wil vote to keep this knuckle head in her bus and tell her to keep driving!!!

      April 18, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
  12. qularknoo

    what do the "godless" put their hope in? material wealth? governments? humanity? themselves? ... all of those are fleeting vanities and return to dust/rust eventually. God is the creator and the sustainer of life and He makes the rules. We as creatures owe everything to Him.

    April 18, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • EvinAR

      So basically, you're afraid of death and want everything to mean something. Join the club, man... doesn't mean our common human nature is the result of truth – any more than running from a rustle in the grass means there's something in the grass that's deadly.

      As for what do we put our hopes in? We put our hopes in the enlightenment of humanity to REALITY. How things work, how we can live with them and in them... we don't put our hopes in human corruption, no. We put our hopes in real education and objective thinking – and if you don't think objectivity has morality, then by that assumption, morality has no objectivity and how can you objectify it? Objectivity DOES inherently include morality, though.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • Felix Sinclair

      This is called a straw man argument, boys and girls.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • An American

      Not believing in a big man in the sky who says "boo" does not mean that people cannot be spiritual, as opposed to religious, but this would be too complex of an idea for your extremely tiny brain to understand. Frankly, I'm amazed you manage to muster up the brain power to even to turn your computer on in the morning

      April 18, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • nilla

      If you had a dream in which God told you to jump out a 7th-story window, what would win out – your faith in God, or your faith in the science of dreams and gravity?

      April 18, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Brian Kendig

      "For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And along the way, lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you." – Neil deGrasse Tyson

      April 18, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • Tommy.Nugent

      Your words are empty. Why would humanity be a "fleeting vanity?" Humanity is exactly what the non-religious put our hope in. We have beliefs based in science and community, we don't have faith in the un-proven. We teach our children to help and accept other people even if their beliefs do not match our own... This article may be a little self serving in the way that it draws attention away from the victims, but it also raises the point that the non-religious want to be a part of the healing process and be excepted in the same way faith based organizations/communities are...

      April 18, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • Herzog

      "Godless" people live for the now with eyes open. We don't hate people because they believe in another deity. Hope and faith are a human created belief and can be given to anyone to use as they need to live day to day.
      As for hope, I hope my teenage boys have listened to me and formed their own opinion about what is good and bad.
      They know hurting others is bad. God was not needed to instill this in them. Active parenting did that.

      The greatest thing about being a non believer is my opinion about other people are not formed on something someone in a church has taught me about their belief. Believe what you want. But don't push it on me. That's not freedom.

      If God does exist, then when my 'judgement' comes, it will be based on how I lived my life, how I raised my boys, how they in turn treat other people and consideration will be given for my lifes' beliefs in the absence of proof in 'his' existence.

      The same values as religion, but without a daily dose of God. Just fair, honest morality and ethics.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • Michael

      We put our faith in ourselves and our community. Prayer is wasted breath, it's self-gratification. It allows you to pretend you've done something, when you've really done nothing at all. We put our faith in our actions; in the actual measurable effect that raising money, volunteering, and spending time doing real, constructive things.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
  13. Andrew Vrba

    Keep your lack of religious belief to yourself!

    April 18, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • Doobs

      Stop trying to encode your beliefs into civil law.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      I have a lack of religious belief. Why should I keep it to myself?

      April 18, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      We will keep it to ourselves when you do the same.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • Angry Atheist

      We did that for thousands of years.

      So, no!

      April 18, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • An American

      Religion is for people who are too stupid to have a thought for themselves and have to be told how to live their lives

      April 18, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      christians should stop trying to dictate how others live and keep their belief to themselves.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
  14. wordsmith321

    The fact that atheists are forming their own quasi-religious organizations reaffirms my belief that the instinct to create such groups goes beyond belief in God. It's an expression of our instinct to form tribes centered around a common identifier, for purposes of mutual defense and help. The dark side of this instinct is that it inspires us to take a club or a gun and do violence to those outside the tribe. "Religion" is not so much a set of beliefs as it is a sociological activity. Eliminate all faith in God and it will continue to thrive, both for humanity's good and ill.

    April 18, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • Angry Atheist

      The need for social interaction is definitely an evolutionary need. However, it becomes considerably harder to justify taking a club or a gun to a member of a different social group when you don't have a diety to command it.

      You think the Westboro Baptist Church would try to justify their actions if not for the ravings of a bronze/iron age madman?

      April 18, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
  15. mike

    wow, atheists have chaplains. sounds like they're trying to become the very thing they despise.

    April 18, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      I don't despise forming social groups for support purposes. If that was all religions did I don't think it would be opposed.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Matt

      How exactly do you know what millions of atheists despise? I can't speak for others, but I certainly don't despise religion. I just don't believe the same things.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • Saraswati

      What Cheesemaker said.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
  16. mckinney_man

    Its a dangerous thing to declare yourself "good" Self-righteous is the term, only God will declare goodness.

    April 18, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • darknesscrown

      You saying God is real and that He/It determines such things doesn't make it true.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Who's god?

      Yours right?

      April 18, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • Michael

      So which god will say what is right? Your Yaweh? Which version, the Christion one, the Muslim one, or the Hebrew one? Maybe Father Odin will judge us all according to how well we smash the Jotun during Ragnarok? Perhaps it will be Kali, according to how much chaos we sow? Maybe the Flying Spaghetti Monster if we help increase the number of pirates, the decrease in which can surely be correlated to the increase in global warming? Personally, I am a Dudeist priest, and I believe that I will be judged by how well I take 'er easy for all you sinners.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
  17. Jackie

    I'm Agnostic on my best day. I live in the South and only recently gained the courage to speak my mind. I've kept quite long enough. I believe that if you want to believe in a God or any other Deity, that is your right. It is also mine to not believe the same. It seems as if there is a thought around me that I don't hurt the same, and I can feel the sense of wonder about even telling me something bad has happened. It's almost as if they think because I do not pray to 'God' that I apparently have no sense of pain and suffering that goes on. There is already backward thought processes around me daily. This ignorance and lack of progressive thought on any level has seemed to only stronger instill in me that we have a ways to go for change. And, yes, I was raised in the South. I love it here; however, there are days that I really wish that we would 'catch up'!

    April 18, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
    • marinela

      Jackie, so nice to read your comen,t I also live in the south I use to be catholic, and like you until I have the courage to speak my mind and to use the reason and finish all the non sense, so glad I find people like you!!! iI hope religius people realize that just because you dont belive in god does not make us insensitive,that we still have the same feelings of sadeness, empaty, like any body else,!

      April 18, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • Jackie

      Thank you! I do appreciate that. Just hang in there. It does get easier. While I don't pray, many of those around me do. I don't initiate the conversations but have learned that I can speak my mind w/out anyone getting too up in arms. I have had several question how I think, and what made me change my mind because I was always taught to believe in God. I went to church on a very regular basis. I've been honest when answering the questions but not in a brutal way, which some have done to me. I hear a lot that I'm being 'prayed for'. To be honest, I do appreciate that. Whether I believe or choose to follow, the fact that someone has taken the time to think of me in a hard time or tough situation means a lot to me. The part I do not appreciate are those that tell me they are going to pray God will change my mind by testing me. That wasn't a nice experience I have to say; however, that was only a couple of people out of several that know how I feel.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • fintastic

      I am an atheist and I also live in the south. Many times when I mention that I don't believe in god, I get the response "Oh... I feel sorry for you!" to which I reply.. "the feeling is mutual"

      April 18, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @fintastic,

      atheist: "I don't believe in God."
      southerner: "Oh, bless yer heart."

      April 18, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @fantastic,

      I remember hearing the vomiticiously silly "Oh that's so sad" when I lived in North Carolina. Never heard it anywhere else – any state, any country. An interesting few years of southern living, but very glad I got out of there.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • fintastic

      @GOP......... "southerner: "Oh, bless yer heart."

      I learned very quickly what that really means down here....

      April 18, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • fintastic

      @Saraswati................. I can't imagine it's any different say in Alabama or Mississippi....

      Since I moved here, I've had the chance to travel around the state (NC) and it's not the same everywhere, at least that's been my experience. I'll give credit where credit is due, for example, Asheville.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @fantastic,

      There are better and worse places all right. But I spent most of my time in the triangle area which was supposedly one of the "better" ones and their idea of what made them liberal progressives was pretty funny. At least at that time even the "radicals" looked like moderate, church going democrats anywhere else. My favorite stories are about students and faculty who used the word "Marxist" (yes, in an academic context) to refer to any writing that was roughly left of center on the US political spectrum. Really funny stuff.

      A friend of mine recently announced he was moving to Texas and after a pause someone in the room asked "Does your family belong to a church?" Like most people around here he said "No. Why?" There was a silence and a few chuckles until someone said "You'll find out". More laughter and a concerned looking fellow.

      I still laugh thinking about it all. And folks in these places really don't know that the rest of the country isn't like this. A recent discussion on elected NC officials trying to declare that state Christian had North Carolinians defending the state saying "But don't you realize, we're just like you! Most people here don't support that!" But what they don't realize is that in the rest of the sane United States no one would ever have voted those people in in the first place. It's not even imaginable!

      The south is just so insular they really don't get that the rest of the world is different. Even basketball...when I first moved there the NC natives couldn't believe I didn't follow all their little teams or know who was who or how the silly game was played. They just had blank stares with no understanding that there was a world outside their own. Twilight zone.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
  18. NorthVanCan

    Isn't the genital mutulation community entirely faith based?

    April 18, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
    • John Howard Henry

      Holy Crap, Hitchens is alive again!

      April 18, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • timmy

      Are you talking about your buck toothed mother?
      I don't remember her being too faithful.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
  19. Mark

    Oh lord. This reminds me of the early church trying to set themselves up as the heads of science back in the day and trying to force people like Galileo to acknowledge their input on things they knew nothing about.
    It's purely a power play and nothing more.
    Know your place atheists!!. Nobody wants to hear from you when they've lost a loved one. They want to hear from you when they're in college feeling h0rny and immortal!

    April 18, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Another...."We religious folks can say what we want, but you guys should just shut up" post.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • ACH

      I would much rather speak with someone who would share my grief and understand the profound loss that comes with the death of a loved one than someone who will try to explain it away as an act of a higher power or being part of some plan.

      So get out of here with your nonsense.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • Mark

      I don't care what religious officials have to say either but the truth is that many people do and they actually come to them for help in a religious venue. The reason is because they claim to have answers about an afterlife and about a purpose to life. Whether you believe it or not is up to you.
      The chuch of Atheism is sitting off in the corner waiting to be asked to dance and it has yet to happen. So articles like this are meant to create a buzz in hopes that they might get a little action while the time is right. Not going to happen sorry! Go comfort each other!

      April 18, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • Which God?

      Hey Mark? Two words, Fukk You!

      April 18, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • Mark

      Which God?,
      Wow,
      Do you comfort bereaving parents with that mouth? Be careful, you might get excommunicated for making atheists look bad.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • mk

      Right, because saying "It was god's will" makes everyone feel better.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      "The reason is because they claim to have answers about an afterlife and about a purpose to life."

      Mark,

      Their claims are no better than anyone elses and yet they claim they ARE better than anyone elses....hence the opposition. If religious claims were framed as opinion rather than fact I might agree with you.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • Fred

      mk are you aware that there are a million differen't religions in the world? One might say it's "gods will" or that "good took your son because he wanted him for himself" while another might say "god killed your son because he played a girl in his 4th grade play.
      ANother might say it was just a random evil thing that happened and God for whatever reason can not prevent evil from ocurring at this time but that will change one day and you will see your son again.

      Don't trivialize things by pointing out one ridiculous sounding belief and painting everyone with the same brush.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • Mark

      "If religious claims were framed as opinion rather than fact I might agree with you."

      Ya right! Your reasoning needs to be pegged down to something because it seems rather temporary and weak.
      Why would anyone believe in something if they couldn't claim their answers were better then everyone elses? What kind of world do you live in?

      April 18, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
  20. sly

    Yawn ... who really cares what other folks believe anyway? Believers and non-believers are just expressing personal opinions – everyone's opinions are their own, and neither right nor wrong.

    Believing in, or not-believing in God, is just the same as believing the Yankees are the greatest baseball team. If you say that to a Yankee's fan, they'll agree. If you say it to a Red Sox fan, they won't agree.

    So folks – believe in your God's, you can believe in multiple God's if you wish, or don't believe in any God's. Who cares. Keep it to yourself. No one else should care.

    April 18, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • Apply Bush

      sly said, "everyone's opinions are their own, and neither right nor wrong"

      Wrong Sly. Believers are definately wrong. Atheists just don't know and admit it.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • Matt

      Do you see the irony in posting your (sly's) opinion saying that nobody cares about the author's opinion, so "keep it to yourself"??? Perhaps you should follow your own advice.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.