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Photos: Nation mourns Boston bomb victims
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. John

    Way to turn this tragedy into a "whoa is me" issue. Ok guy, you do stuff and youre not a Christian. Congrats. Lets get back to focusing on the victims and not your idiotic idea of "lets make everything about me and my views".

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

      Way to completely miss the point.

      My invisible pink unicorn will pray for you.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • Grammar Police

      Way to learn how to spell "woe".

      April 18, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • lol??

      Right on. They can always join Narcissists Anonymous to get their supply of feel guds.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • lol??

      Whoa does actually fit for that part of the horse's anatomy they stole.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
  2. Vince

    "When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours." Stephen F. Roberts

    April 18, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
  3. us_1776

    The humanist non-religious more than anyone recognize the severity of this tragedy to the victims and their families.

    .

    April 18, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  4. Roger

    Nice to use this tragedy to promote your atheism ...

    April 18, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • us_1776

      Religion has been responsible for more death and suffering to the human race than anything else.

      .

      April 18, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • sam stone

      And theists use others to promote their theism

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

      As opposed to the religious who use the most violent book in all of history to justify their crimes.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • Topher

      us_1776

      Close, but no cigar. Religion is second on the list.

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

      Lol...always disgusting to watch bully Christians knock anyone down, who is not like them, who dare raises their bloodied heads and request same liberties.

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

      How many times have you heard the phrase "thoughts and prayers" in association with a tragedy?

      Double standard?

      April 18, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • MagicPanties

      All he asks is for equal time & equal respect.
      If your religion was excluded, you likely would be livid.

      Promoting atheism? Maybe, but nothing wrong with that. There is more than enough religious evangelizing going on.

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

      MagicPanties

      "Promoting atheism? Maybe, but nothing wrong with that. There is more than enough religious evangelizing going on."

      Maybe. The problem is that the Atheists, for the most part, keep saying their beliefs aren't a religion.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • sam stone

      Topher: And theist claim that their beliefs are not. "We don't have a religion, we have a personal relationship with jesus" is their rallying cry

      April 18, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
    • Dyslexic Agnostic (Is there a Dog?)

      ....except for mosquitos.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
  5. Gbe

    Christian here.
    I believe we should all help each other... regardless of belief in God or belief in no god(s). True Christians are to love other people...yes, even their enemies. Do we always? Nope. But that's the goal.
    While Christians (and many others) have a religion of belief, a religion of non-belief is becoming commonplace in America.
    We don't have all answers. But one of them is certainly to love your neighor. Therefore, Christains should take care of victims, regardless of the victims' beliefs (or unbelief).

    April 18, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • Nii

      Great comment except that non-belief is not a religion.

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

      There is no "religion of non-belief". Claiming atheism is a religion is like saying not playing chess is a hobby.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  6. chiefofnoone

    Being married to someone like the writer of this article, I can honestly say that believing in God is not necessary for being a decent & caring human being. My husband is very involved in community service, receiving nothing for the time & efforts he invests tirelessly, all done while holding a regular day job that is by no means one that provides for a luxury lifestyle. Me? I'm a Catholic "light" since I go to Mass once or twice a month. I have Jewish friends, Muslim friends, etc., & they are all great people. Which one of us is right? Who knows, but what is very right is the respect we have for each other, & the desire to work towards a community where everyone is valued as a human is, truly, the most noble goal we can have.

    April 18, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • lol??

      Tip:don't treat the scriptures flippantly.

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

      True, lol?? – best to just toss them out.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
  7. Patti

    Well said, Greg.

    April 18, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
  8. Topher

    Seems like CNN is bound and determined to declare atheism a religion.

    April 18, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • sam stone

      No, Tophjer, it is theists who seek to do that

      April 18, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Even thought it's not of course.

      I will say that the notion of a 'humanist chaplin' blurs the line a bit.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
  9. Doctor Mxyzptlk

    "I find your lack of faith disturbing?" – Confused Darth Vader

    April 18, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
  10. Jamazz

    What the faithful believe is irrelevant. What the faithless believe is irrelevant. What I believe is irrelevant. The God-full, the God-less, those in the middle... none of that matters. What truly matters is, someone took the lives of the innocent. Whatever you believe, blowing up innocent people is evil. Those involved in doing so are defective. It is our responsibility as humans to do whatever is necessary to try and rid ourselves of such evil. I understand it can be more complicated than that, but how the Godless mourn has nothing to do with it. It's nice to know that some would strive to respect that the Godless mourn in their own ways, but shouldn't we, as humans, be past the point where an epiphany allows us to see beyond the centrism of our own beliefs?

    April 18, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • Matt

      How the religious and the godless mourn isn't irrelevant. Mourning is part of the healing process.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • Jamazz

      I never said it was irrelevant. The healing process is necessary no matter what you believe or what method you choose to reach that end. My point is, the article tells a story we should already know... we should have already accepted. We have the freedom to do as such, anyway, so why draw attention to it? In my opinion, the article comes across as narcissistic... as if the author glanced away from the mirror for one second and notices there's a whole world of people out there besides him.

      April 18, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
  11. James R Hoffa

    It's like Sleepless in Seattle, except it's Godless in Boston.

    April 18, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
  12. Victor

    Wow, a lot of you people have gotten way off the track here. Greg's column wasn't a "plug" or anything like it. He merely said that pain and suffering cross all national, ethnic, and religious boundaries. And that compassion and the desire to help cross all national, ethnic, and religious boundaries, too. Local churches do a lot of good in their communities, and I think it's wonderful that his goal is to bring non-believers together in the same way. These 'churches', if you will, can be a powerful force for good, but not if they are met with resistance at every turn.

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

      I, too, found the reactions odd. This guy essentially just said "don't leave out a large group of several million people when you are supporting people in mourning and looking to build coalitions." That is all I read in this and there's just not much to object to.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • lol??

      saraswateam, so are you one of the millions or a persecuted minority in your confused bwain?

      April 18, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • lol??

      victor quotes the author, "He merely said that pain and suffering cross all national, ethnic, and religious boundaries."

      Why do the empty headed have to pa*ss along plati*tudes, anyway?

      April 18, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
  13. there'shope

    There's no such thing as an atheist.

    April 18, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • Mike

      Not too bright, are we sonny?

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

      There's no such thing as a Christian.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • jennyc

      Does this make you an a-atheist-ist?

      April 18, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      "I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."
      ...Stephen F Roberts

      April 18, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • Topher

      there'shope

      I agree.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • sam stone

      topher: why do you feel that there is no such thing as an atheist?

      April 18, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • sam stone

      topher: are you going to go against your history and support your opinion, or are you going to run?

      April 18, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • Mr. Flibble

      Yeah, actually there are. We're everywhere in fact. However, unlike you, we've evolved past worshiping a medieval invisible immortal wish granting zombie in the sky. I mean, Come on; Do you have any idea how ridiculous that sounds? *rolls eyes* What's really sad is, Atheists know your book better than Christians.

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

      sam stone

      "topher: why do you feel that there is no such thing as an atheist?"

      Couple reasons. One, the statement "there is NO god" requires all knowledge. Second, God has given us all a conscience, so that "we are without excuse." You might reject what your conscience tells you, but you know He exists.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • Grammar Police

      Dear Mr Flibble, please get your mythology correct. He's a cosmic _lich_, not a zombie.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • Topher

      Mr. Flibble

      "What's really sad is, Atheists know your book better than Christians."

      Why do Atheists keep using this? Even if it were true (which it very well might be) it means nothing. It doesn't disprove God. If anything, it just means you spend a LOT of time reading sometyhing you don't believe and clearly hate.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • sam stone

      "Couple reasons. One, the statement "there is NO god" requires all knowledge."

      As does "there IS a god"

      Secondly, not all atheists make the definitive statement that "there is NO god". Most make the statement that they see no reason to believe that there is.

      "Second, God has given us all a conscience, so that "we are without excuse." You might reject what your conscience tells you, but you know He exists."

      So, you equate conscience with god? What of those in other societies? Are they consciousless, or do they have theirs from their own god(s)?

      I know conscience exists. I do not know that "god" exists

      So, we are without excuse? Looking for an excuse to punish us, is "he"?

      April 18, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
    • sam stone

      "It doesn't disprove God."

      Nor does your believing it prove god. We are still waiting on that proof you have been bloviating on for months. Do you have it or are you bluffing?

      "If anything, it just means you spend a LOT of time reading sometyhing you don't believe and clearly hate."

      No, it just proves that people see it as history and mythology.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • Topher

      sam stone

      "As does "there IS a god""

      No. It doesn't. I can find an answer in the affirmative without observing all the evidence. You can't in the negative without doing so.

      "Secondly, not all atheists make the definitive statement that "there is NO god". Most make the statement that they see no reason to believe that there is."

      That makes you an agnostic at best.

      "So, you equate conscience with god? What of those in other societies? Are they consciousless, or do they have theirs from their own god(s)"

      Of course I equate conscience with God. He gave it to us. He even say so in His Word. As far as "other societies" ... has there ever been a godless society? I know there have been governments that were humanist/atheist, but has the society overall been godless?

      I know conscience exists. I do not know that "god" exists

      So, we are without excuse? Looking for an excuse to punish us, is "he"?

      April 18, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • Topher

      Sam Stone

      Sorry, I missed this...

      "So, we are without excuse? Looking for an excuse to punish us, is "he"?"

      No. He doesn't want to punish you at all. He doesn't will that any should perish. And considering what He did for you so you don't have to be punished, what your conscience tells you is for your own good. When you die and stand before God and He finds you guilty of breaking His laws, you won't be able to say, "I didn't know!" God's laws are written on your heart and you have Creation and your conscience to tell you He exists. You will have no excuse.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • sam stone

      "No. It doesn't. I can find an answer in the affirmative without observing all the evidence. You can't in the negative without doing so"

      You would have to have all knowledge to know that your observences are valid..

      "That makes you an agnostic at best. "

      No, Gnosticism (and Agnositicism) have to do with knowledge, rather than belief. One can be an agnostic theist, or a gnostic atheist, or a agnostic atheist or a gnostic theist

      "Of course I equate conscience with God. He gave it to us."

      More conjecture

      "He even say so in His Word"

      The Iron Age hearsay that has been translatred and fvcked with more than a San Diego streetwalker when the fleet is in?

      Godless societies? I don't know. Buddhists seem pretty godless

      April 18, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • sam stone

      "No. He doesn't want to punish you at all."

      Nonsense: If god is omniscient, he knows from the beginning that man would "fall" and he knows who will accept jesus as a savior. As you have stated before, he would either be glorified for his mercy or for his justice. So, we are pawns in a game so god can feel himself glorified.

      "And considering what He did for you so you don't have to be punished"

      Entrapment?

      "When you die and stand before God and He finds you guilty of breaking His laws, you won't be able to say, "I didn't know!" "

      I don't think it is going to happen. I think "judgement" is a empty proxy threat used by people to scare others into belief, or at least submission.

      "You will have no excuse"

      No, I will not. I will say I stood on my feet rather than grovelling on my knees.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • Topher

      sam stone

      "You would have to have all knowledge to know that your observences are valid.."

      Not so. If I'm a detective and have 10 suspects and I start looking into each person and find that the third person I look at is the guilty party I don't need to look at No.s 4-10. I've already found the answer. Now, I could look at those to officially rule them out, but I've already found the truth.

      "No, Gnosticism (and Agnositicism) have to do with knowledge, rather than belief. One can be an agnostic theist, or a gnostic atheist, or a agnostic atheist or a gnostic theist"

      Gnostic means "knowledge." So agnostic mean without knowledge. Essentially, they are saying they just don't know one way or the other. And if you don't know (which I think is a completely fair stance) you can say I don't think there is a god, but in the end I can't be sure.

      ""The Iron Age hearsay that has been translatred and -- with more than a San Diego streetwalker when the fleet is in?"

      Childish language aside, you're either unaware or lying about this. We have extremely early copies of the Bible, so we know what the early church fathers' book looked like in comparison with ours. Are there differences? Yes. There are now chapter and verse numbers. Some books were split into two. There are even known copy and spelling errors. But none of that changes the meaning of anything. If you are worried about translations, I suggest you do your research. Good translations are translated from the original language ... not from one language to another to another. There are also nowadays some very liberal "translations" that have an agenda and thus change stuff. But a quick web search will reveal several translation reviews. It's not difficult to find a good one.

      "Godless societies? I don't know. Buddhists seem pretty godless"

      Isn't Buddhism a religion? If so I don't think you can classify it as a society. As far as I know, there has never been a godless society. And that's just more evidence of what God says about the conscience is true. We all know He exists.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • .

      "If so I don't think you can classify it as a society. As far as I know, there has never been a godless society. And that's just more evidence of what God says about the conscience is true. We all know He exists."

      There are societies that are becoming less and less religious and the more they become less religious the happier, healthier and smarter they become. Atheism is on the rise, religions have been declining just give it time.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
    • Topher

      sam stone

      "Nonsense: If god is omniscient, he knows from the beginning that man would "fall" and he knows who will accept jesus as a savior. As you have stated before, he would either be glorified for his mercy or for his justice. So, we are pawns in a game so god can feel himself glorified."

      True, God will be glorified either way. And true He knew man would fall and who would accept His offer. But it is your choice which you choose. Just like it was my choice a meer 7 years ago.

      "I don't think it is going to happen. I think "judgement" is a empty proxy threat used by people to scare others into belief, or at least submission."

      Fair enough. It's your decision. You should be scared of the judgment, but that's not why we tell you about it. We tell you about it because you should understand it's what you deserve and how incredibly kind and wonderful Christ's offer of redemption is. You should not become a Christian because it's fire insurance. You should become a Christian because you love Him for taking your punishment and defeating death. We love Him because He first loved us.

      "No, I will not. I will say I stood on my feet rather than grovelling on my knees."

      That's not going to be of any help. Your standing "on my feet" just reveals you refuse to be humble. You will still have a debt to pay. And that debt is for all eternity.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • Topher

      "Atheism is on the rise, religions have been declining just give it time."

      True. How horrible these people are perishing!

      April 18, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      So Topher, how do you *know* there is a god and how do you *know* that your god is the right god to worship. No screwing around this time – give us your independent, objective, factual and veifiable evidence or admit that you do not *know*, and that you are a liar or mentally ill, or more likely, both.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
    • sam stone

      "That's not going to be of any help. Your standing "on my feet" just reveals you refuse to be humble. You will still have a debt to pay. And that debt is for all eternity"

      Your empty proxy threats just show you to be a snivelling sycophant.

      Your god is a vindictive pretty pr1ck

      Go fvck yourself, GOPHER

      April 18, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
    • sam stone

      Come on, Hot Air Ace: We all know that Gopher has this proof. He has told us dozens of times. He just refuses to supply it. He is a coward.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • sam stone

      "It's what you deserve "

      Self loathing slave

      April 18, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
    • Paul

      Topher, the gospels were added to and had things taken out of them, long before the bible was even compiled. For example the famous tale in John’s Gospel in which Jesus challenges a mob about to stone a woman accused of adultery — “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” — is a variant that copyists began inserting into John at least 300 years after that Gospel first appeared. So to say they haven't been changed is a flat out lie. They may not have changed since the bible was compiled, but they have certainly changed since they were first written.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
    • sam stone

      Topher? Lie? Perish the thought. He doesn't want to break any of god's laws....after all, he seeks to spend eternity with the pr1ck from whom he has to be saved

      April 18, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
    • sam stone

      Gopher has blathered on and on about his "evidence" for not only A god, but the god of the bible. He has said he will provide it. He has not provided it. This makes GOPHER a liar, and a coward. Good thing that he can beg for forgiveness in front of the celetial pr1ck

      April 18, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • there'shope

      You are right Maybrick, there is no such thing as a Christian, i don't know anyone who is CHRIST LIKE. I myself have just been spiritually BORN AGAIN. No disrespect, but i know you don't understand that.

      April 19, 2013 at 10:24 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Well, aren't YOU special?

      April 19, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
  14. Geoff Cunningham

    I would rather know than believe
    Carl Sagan

    April 18, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
  15. JS

    Isn't affiliated non-believers exactly like religion? Who cares what anyone is or is not, it should not matter. We are all humans, celebrate diversity, maybe not kill over it is the one big distinction I see between religion and non-religion. Religion is all about believe or else – Crusades, Bomb vests, name it, all religion is baptized in blood and lot's of it.

    Hopefully atheists don't start traversing the same ground then you are pretty much a religion as well and no better than what you supposedly do not believe. Needing to have your beliefs re-enforced through others is also called weak mindedness.

    The sheeple continue to astound...

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

      "Isn't affiliated non-believers exactly like religion?"

      No more than a group of football fans is a religion. Or do you want to redefine 'religion' into meaninglessness?

      April 18, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
  16. michael

    What Atheists dont realize is Atheism is a religion, and in order to NOT believe in GOD takes faith as well. We are far from explaining the Universe and "Laws" of before or common belief keeps changing. Academia is fighting back against new findings in archeology, physics and so on because what is newly discovered violates our "laws". So even though what made absolute sense (because they say so) yesterday, doesnt make sense at all today, Atheists maintain their faith that there is no supreme being who created the Universe (GOD).....even though out of the hundreds of thousands of galexies in the universe we are barely able to touch our own moon. If you ask why enough times, even the smartest person on earth will say..I dont know. We cant even explain what matter is but somehow we are experts on the creation of the Universe. hahahaha!

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

      Fantastic. Well put.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • Mike

      Nice one, michael. You just defined your god as an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance. If that's what you're okay with believing in, fine, but know that it will eventually disappear into insignificance.

      "We don't know what caused the universe, therefore I know what caused the universe and it was God!" Right... that's totally rational.

      It takes no faith at all to disbelieve things which are not supported by evidence. Or are you saying you have a faith in the nonexistence of leprechauns?

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

      Uh, no it isn't. It takes no faith to not believe in nothing. It takes faith to believe in something that can't be known...ever. "Faith" is a word for "I don't know". You're confusing religion with organizations. Using your very simple and broad definition of the word religion, anything can be a religion. Patriotism–some people BELIEVE strongly in a country. Economics–some people BELIEVE capitalism is great. Et cetera. Unfortunately, the aforementioned things are not religions because RELIGION specifically has to do with the BELIEF IN GOD. If it isn't, in one way or another, endorsing/affirming the existence of God then it is, by definition, NOT a religion. I'm assuming you're from someplace like Texas or Georgia. People in the southeast quadrant of the country tend to have more than their fair share of heavily armed, poorly educated humans.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Do you believe in fairies and unicorns?
      Faith is defined as belief without evidence, thus there is no faith involved in not believing.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • Patti

      We are all agnostics, as the literal definition is "a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality is unknown...". NO ONE knows exactly how everything in the universe works, or exactly what happens after death, it's just that some of use are willing to admit it.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • Steven

      You are so wrong in your assumptions here. Deductive reasoning doesn't seem to be your strongest suit. Please, read books. For the love of everything, read some books on science.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • Maya

      No more than I have faith in the nonexistence of Santa Claus.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • doug

      Did you hear the one about the little girl who, when asked if she believed in god said, "I'm not sure." The questioner told her that if she wasn't sure that was the same thing as not believing and that made her an Atheist. She said, "ok, then I do."

      Your comment that Atheism is a religion is nonsense. The word means No Diesm, or NO Diety. Relegion is by definition the opposite. Agnosticism, which you claim is what Atheists really "believe" is a completely different thing. Not believing in a "Supreme Being" is not Agnostic. In fact, Agnostics are just Atheists hedging their bets in case there is a supreme being. Monotheists and Polytheists alike should get off their high horse and accept Atheists as full members of society. I can tolerate theists if they can tolerate me. Otherwise they can go to that place I don't believe exists.

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

      Just to be perfectly clear, atheist is most definitely NOT a religion. If you don't understand that, you're a long way from being able to intelligently discuss the subject.

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

      @Patti:

      I know what happens after death. Nothing.

      All suggestions to the contrary are wishful thinking. Deep down inside, you know I'm right.

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

      @Jake,

      Atheism is of course no more a religion than a-unicornism. However there are some atheists who treat it that way and that minority is, in part, responsible for this misunderstanding. The atheists who go around making pronouncements about science or their superiority or anything else that isn't strictly atheism are as much guilty of this impression as the theists who leap to conclusions from small data samples.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • sam stone

      michael: you certainly have a distorted view of aheism

      April 18, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • hee hee

      @Saraswati:

      I think you're wrong. The idea "atheism is a religion" seems pretty magnetic. People will repeat this idea no matter what anyone says or does.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • uos_spo6

      Michael, so out of the infinite unexplainable universe, you still consider a 2,000yr old book to have something worth while and resembling truth to invest time and consideration in to?

      Your'e wrong about your selective definitions. Atheism is a singular notion on a singular subject, being the consideration of the existence of Divinity in the universe. There is no extensive doctrine, no hierarchy, no system of beliefs, it's not a set of numerical values where a negative holds tangible worth. Atheism means nothing more than rejecting the notion of Divinity. There is nothing else specifically attached to the label of being an Atheist. An Atheist is not necessarily devoid of "spirituality". There are spiritual schools of thought that don't involve a "Higher Being" so to speak.

      This is what Believers fail to recognize. There's plenty of Spirituality out there besides what someone had to program you with and present in a twisted flawed (il)logic(al) pattern. The entire lynchpin of organized Religion hinges on the carrot on the stick. If there wasn't something in it for you guys, you wouldn't have signed up. I've yet to hear a philosophical argument from a Believer in which they consider the merits of "Goodness" without factoring in what God's take on it is. Pretty shallow when your ever waking motivations are gaining the favor of a divine being.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • “somehow we are experts on the creation of the Universe”

      I’ve never heard a scientist say anything like that. But now that you mention it, when compared to a 2000 year old book of gory fairytales written by barely literate sheep herders, modern science is likely to be a bit closer to the truth

      April 18, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
  17. TJ

    "Who cares?" "Keep it to yourself?" Mr. Epstein has an interesting way to end an article about mourning! There is an important difference between, say, humanists like Mr. Epstein and Christians. While both care for all people (although Mr. Epstein doesn’t appear to be too keen on those who believe in God), want bring people together, celebrate community and grieve death; the Christian knows the greater purpose is not the short amount of time we spend on this earth, but the comfort and hope of eternity that comes after life here. Coming together as a community, as Mr. Epstein pointed out, is important... but it's only half the story.

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

      "the Christian knows the greater purpose is not the short amount of time we spend on this earth, but the comfort and hope of eternity that comes after life here."

      There is no such thing. When you die, that's it. Sorry to burst your happy-clappy bubble. Reality does not care what comforts you.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
  18. bible thumper

    My God comfort all those who don't believe in God

    April 18, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • JS

      I'm good.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      We are not so weak that we require the comfort of something as vindictive as the christian god. You may not have found solace in life without but we have.
      Good without god, thank you! :)

      April 18, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • JJ

      May Santa bring gifts to those of you who don't believe in Santa.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • My Dog is a jealous Dog

      Don't worry – the percentage of psychopaths in our population is quite small.

      There I just provided more comfort to all those atheists than your god will ever achieve.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  19. lol??

    To quote a famous "wegodian", ""We are all Keynesians now" is a famous phrase coined by Milton Friedman and attributed to U.S. president Richard Nixon. It is popularly as*sociated with the reluctant embrace in a time of financial crisis of Keynesian economics by individuals such as Nixon who had formerly favored less interventionist policies." wiki

    Seeee, the we's know how to fry everybody at once.

    April 18, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • .

      You Christians did that just fine when you goosestepped your way into shoving people into the ovens, didn't you?
      Your hands are just as bloody.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • lol??

      Still tryin' to defend a socie tyrant gone bad?? Blame it on the Christians? You da man, err tied up rant.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
  20. Ron

    To Greg, I was particularly taken back by your position "They seemed to be saying, through their gifts, “Please do this for me too if anything should ever happen to me or my family.” This is a very selfish view of humanity. I don't know if this is because of you humanist-centric position or you just don't believe people will step forward to help and will NEVER expect anything in return. People usually expect and see in other what they see in themselves. I view these donors as people who want to help someone who needs it – no matter what and don't expect anything back. You paint them as people helping because they want to be helped in return. Must be lonely in your world.

    April 18, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Ron,

      I agree that it was worded poorly – but I don't think you can draw the conclusion you expressed. I think Mr. Epstein intended to convey the notion of a community that takes care of each other.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • pauleky

      Seriously, Ron? You got that from this article? I think you were looking for a reason to be offended. Get over yourself.

      April 18, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • Mike

      "This is a very selfish view of humanity."

      What complete nonsense, Ron. It's a view that says "we're all in this together, and I think of you as the kind of person who would be willing to help me out, too, if I needed help." It's a view of humanity as FAMILY.

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

      There's no such thing as a selfless good deed. Of course people want the help they offer to be reciprocated if it's ever needed.

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

      Everyone that was injured by that bomb was helped by a person, and all of the helpers asked for nothing in return. Now, if they needed help, should they not hope that another person would do for them what they were now doing? I can't understand your complaint with that. If you were injured and I picked you up or put a tourniquet on you, I would hope you would do the same for me, but I wouldn't ask you first. And if you didn't, I'd hope somebody else would. I see nothing wrong with that.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • uos_spo6

      People LOVE to deny the fact that all we are is simply highly evolved animals with incredibly complex social structures. A pack of a given species of animal has EVERY of the EXACT considerations a community of human beings has, it's just stripped down and simplified.

      Kelli's point is spot on. The subconcious motivation for Doing Good is the reciprocity, the value of a smooth functioning mutual beneficial society, not to mention the chemical fulfillment. Smiling is contagious, quite literally, for a physiological reason. It's are argument that Empathy has internal biological origins within our survival instincts as opposed to Morality being a requisite of Divinity, which supposedly handed it down to us.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • Matt

      Ron, you might want to re-read the Bible. Matthew 7:12 – So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
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About this blog

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