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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. Chris

    Good without God. Then you have just made yourself god, which is the biggest lie in the universe.

    April 18, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      That would be "autotheism" or maybe solipsism, not humanism.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'Then you have just made yourself god'

      er, no, not really. not sure how you are going to justify that claim.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
    • My Dog is a jealous Dog

      OK – lets run with that.

      I am a god – and far more powerful than yours, because I can do things that your god cannot (or will not). For example, I am confident that I can prove my existence to a reasonable person.

      PS – please realize that I am being facetious to make a point.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
  2. Chris

    The problem is they have no one to thank.

    April 18, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • JJ

      Thanks for what, blowing the legs off numerous innocent people?

      April 18, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • EuphoriCrest

      On the contrary, we give thanks where thanks is deserved:
      Thank you, doctors, nurses and all medical personnel
      Thank you, Boston police
      Thank you, volunteers
      Thank you, EMS
      Thank you, people of Boston who extended aid and hospitality
      And a big Thank You to all who gave assistance to the injured.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
    • Russ

      @ JJ: that knife cuts both ways. what comfort do you offer them, then?

      "hey, i know your 8 yr old kid died, but... ya know... it's cleaning out the gene pool for the propagation of the species. it's part of what Stephen Hawking calls the "Grand Design." sure, there's nothing out there & no one cares about insignificant ants like us, but hey... just think, in a few million years, we'll be part of creating a species that can better survive... maybe even make it to other planets... ya know... before the universe dies an eventual heat death. so, yeah, that deep attachment you feel for your lost child is just evolution at work. get over it."

      no one to thank. no one to blame. no one to be mad at. just the facts. right, JJ?
      that's the problem with atheistic humanism: ultimately we are lying to ourselves. any supposed sense of self-significance is merely imagined as a tool for evolution. even grief.

      what comfort can *you* offer the bereaved? none. because – as you see it – it's just the way it is.
      sure, mock religion. call it "fairy tales." but at least Sartre, Camus & Nietzsche rightly understood the implications. you have nothing to say in the face of evil... because – after all – you don't believe it exists.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
    • .

      "what comfort can *you* offer the bereaved? none. because – as you see it – it's just the way it is.
      sure, mock religion. call it "fairy tales." but at least Sartre, Camus & Nietzsche rightly understood the implications. you have nothing to say in the face of evil... because – after all – you don't believe it exists."

      Russ you have got to be the most pathetic poster on this blog. Just because someone doesn't believe in your imaginary friend doesn't mean they don't have compassion for others or understand that there are some mentally sick people out there. What's so hypocritical about your posts is the cold heartiness of it or should I say in your world how evil of you.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • wei xin

      @Chris,

      Your post does nothing to prove or disprove the existence of God. Your argument seems to be "Be religious, because it is comforting. Without religion, all we have are facts. Which are cold, hard and devoid of any comfort." Religion is a crutch for us to lean on in times of hardship. Death of a loved one? Don't worry, you will see him/her again. It feels good. And it is cruel to kick away that crutch.

      At the same time, nobody is convinced to become religious by being told that it is practically useful. "Be religious, otherwise you are going to feel *really* bad when something bad happens to you." It just doesn't work that way. Religion only works when a person really believes in it. Bribery/threats are not a good way to go about that.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
    • Russ

      @ .
      think about what you just said. is it "cold hearted" to tell a sick man that he is sick & needs treatment? or would it be cold hearted to tell him "keep it up! you'll be fine if you just keep going like you are."

      yes, i laid the bald reality out there – because i think it's that important. if i didn't care, then yes, certainly... i should keep my mouth shut.

      a purely emotional response to the truth is just that. i'm sorry it offends you, but recognize what really is offending you: the practical implications of your own beliefs. it's only offensive if that's actually what you think. point being: *why* would you think that?

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

      "a purely emotional response to the truth is just that. i'm sorry it offends you, but recognize what really is offending you: the practical implications of your own beliefs. it's only offensive if that's actually what you think. point being: *why* would you think that?"

      You're the one having the emotional response and by you're reply you have reading comprehension issues too. Atheists are not the cold hearted people you are trying to make them out too be. You've been brainwashed by your religion to see evil in those that don't agree with your limited view point. That's your problem and which is why you're the one that has become cold hearted and are nothing like Christ.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
    • .

      "by you're"

      by your

      wish there was an edit button.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
    • CosmicC

      That reminds me of a funeral I attended. It was for the father of a close friend. The minister was a Methodist and I enjoyed most of what he said up until the part where he started talking about resurrection and said something to the effect of "we believe in the resurrection because without it what's the point?" That's belief out of fear... believing in something because the alternative scares you. Sorry, I see that as an easy way out. (and, no, I didn't share my thoughts with any one there, I shared my grief at the loss of a kind, gentle man).

      April 18, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
    • Russ

      @.
      1) yes. on the one hand, i certainly am nothing like Christ. He's God. He's perfect. He died for me & all the mess that you might rightly criticize.
      2) on the other hand, your criticisms include things that He stood for. if you read the Gospels, he's not some docile / "always nice to everybody" kind of guy. he was blunt... even with the Sadducees (a group of liberals who didn't really believe in God). Read Mt.23 – he's even HARSH. but his goal is that they would see the truth. his goal is actually love. and yet, consider his varying methods to get others to see: gentle with prosti.tutes/ "sinners"... harsh with people who think they don't need help...
      3) again, i merely stated bluntly what – if you are (as the position you seem to be defending) an evolutionary atheist – you believe. if you insist on talking about compassion when your underlying belief structure tells you that's merely a fabrication for your survival... sure, we can talk about that. but let's not be under the delusion that we mean the same things by it.
      4) i do have a hope that Christ is working on a loser like me. and that i am changing by his grace. but that's exactly what motivates me to say the things i do. if he is willing & able to change a loser like me, there's hope for everyone...
      5) you say i missed something in reading comprehension. i welcome your clarification.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
    • Russ

      @ CosmicC: sounds like you missed his point because you heard him through your own grid.

      When Paul makes that very point (1 Cor.15:19), it is not out of 'fear of the alternative' (hell). it is rather recognizing that if Jesus didn't really rise from the dead, the rest of his teachings are false (because they all point to who he claimed he was). to follow him would be to follow a liar.

      again, Christianity is not "do good or you don't get in." most other religions are some formulation of that.
      Christianity is: "Jesus did what you could not. live in the grace of that love."
      or to put it differently: others say "be good, get accepted/loved." Christ alone says "you are loved. live in that."

      so, if Jesus didn't really do what we couldn't, then yes – nothing else matters.
      as I've said elsewhere: Camus, Sartre & Nietzsche all understood this. this sanitized form of commercial nihilism that speaks of "compassionate atheism" fails to understand its own foundational assertions. it's self-contradictory. which should make you ask: why do i insist on things my beliefs tell me aren't real or true?

      April 18, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
    • .

      “2) on the other hand, your criticisms include things that He stood for. if you read the Gospels, he's not some docile / "always nice to everybody" kind of guy. he was blunt... even with the Sadducees (a group of liberals who didn't really believe in God). Read Mt.23 – he's even HARSH. but his goal is that they would see the truth. his goal is actually love. and yet, consider his varying methods to get others to see: gentle with prosti.tutes/ "sinners"... harsh with people who think they don't need help...”

      Dude, atheists don’t need your help. You’re the one who needs help by believing in an imaginary friend and on top of that you actually believe that if people don’t believe as you do that they are losers, lack compassion, which is completely untrue. By the way, if you really understood the bible correctly you would know Jesus could make those harsh comments because he was the son of a god, YOU are no such thing and are actually sinning by passing your own harsh judgments on others. That is why you are a hypocrite and evil by the very definitions with in the bible.

      “ if you insist on talking about compassion when your underlying belief structure tells you that's merely a fabrication for your survival... sure, we can talk about that. but let's not be under the delusion that we mean the same things by it.”

      NO dude that is your assumptions and not based on any real facts, this has to do with the brainwashing you have received by your religion, it doesn’t make it true.

      “5) you say i missed something in reading comprehension. i welcome your clarification.”

      You added things into the discussion that weren't there or did you not notice the quote marks.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • Russ

      @.
      1) Jesus was direct & sometimes harsh.

      a) that's not merely because he was the Son of God. read the rest of the Bible. it's a hallmark of speaking the truth in love – which involves BOTH compassionate concern and directly calling people out. sometimes compassionate concern is the very thing that leads one to speak hard, difficult truths. other times, the only truth needed is to be compassionate.

      b) thinking you don't need help IS the qualification for direct, hard speech.

      think about a doctor with a stubborn patient – especially if that patient is facing terminal consequences for an unchanged view of his current disposition/way of life. the doctor must speak directly and pointedly.

      c) you seem to think i consider you a loser & myself quite the opposite – despite the fact that i stated the contrary above.

      d) it certainly sounds like you are appealing to Mt.7:2 (don't judge, lest ye be judged). i'd encourage you to read the the surrounding verses where Jesus goes on to detail how you help a brother get a speck out of his eye. the clear intent of the passage is not "never judge anybody else" but rather "judge the way you need to be judged, with the same level of compassion & truth".

      the way you seem to be interpreting Jesus' words there, no one would ever help anyone else get junk out of their eyes. everyone would just remain blind.

      2) my portrayal of nihilism has nothing to do with my religion. for ample proof, just read other atheists on the subject. as I said before, Camus, Sartre, & Nietzsche all come to the same conclusion.

      for example, read Nietzsche's "the parable of the Mad Man"... [it'll take 90 seconds]
      http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/nietzsche-madman.asp

      if the experts in this line of belief can't teach you, who can?

      3) why are you being coy? you're willing to state bluntly what your objections are elsewhere. do you have an example of my failed reading comprehension or not? i don't mind being called out for mistakenly attributing something to you, but to bluff that there is such a thing when there's not (as a distraction from the discussion?) is rather asinine. so come right out & say it if there is an example so the conversation can move forward.

      April 18, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
    • .

      “ which involves BOTH compassionate concern and directly calling people out. sometimes compassionate concern is the very thing that leads one to speak hard, difficult truths. other times, the only truth needed is to be compassionate.”

      It would only be true if the bible is actually true, which it is NOT. The bible is NOT an historical document and yes that is the harsh truth you are not capable of dealing with.

      b) thinking you don't need help IS the qualification for direct, hard speech.

      Ok then you’re the one that needs help for believing in an imaginary friend that doesn’t exist, not me.
      “ it certainly sounds like you are appealing to Mt.7:2 (don't judge, lest ye be judged). i'd encourage you to read the the surrounding verses where Jesus goes on to detail how you help a brother get a speck out of his eye. the clear intent of the passage is not "never judge anybody else" but rather "judge the way you need to be judged, with the same level of compassion & truth". “
      That is not what that is about at all, you are twisting the scriptures to try and justify yourself, but that scripture is about not looking at the spec in other peoples eye when you have a log in your blinding you to the real truth.

      “the way you seem to be interpreting Jesus' words there, no one would ever help anyone else get junk out of their eyes. everyone would just remain blind.”

      No that is not all, wow you really don’t know the bible very well. The meaning is, that "YOU are much more quick and acute to judge of small offences in others, than of much larger offences in YOURSELF. Even a very "small" object in the eye of another YOU discern much more quickly than a much larger one in our own; a small fault in your neighbor you see much more readily than a large one in yourself.

      “ why are you being coy? you're willing to state bluntly what your objections are elsewhere. do you have an example of my failed reading comprehension or not? i don't mind being called out for mistakenly attributing something to you, but to bluff that there is such a thing when there's not (as a distraction from the discussion?) is rather asinine. so come right out & say it if there is an example so the conversation can move forward.”

      NO you are judging all atheists by your limited religious view point and it simply isn’t true. Your continued assumptions and jumping to conclusions while adding things I didn’t say proves your poor reading comprehension.

      April 18, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
    • Russ

      @.

      1) speaking the truth in love...

      a) no, whether or not you believe the bible is a historical doc.ument, 'speaking the truth in love' IS demonstrably apparent throughout as a topic. it's a literary fact that does not require belief in Christianity to admit.

      b) claiming the bible is a-historic is unfounded on the basis of both biblical scholarship & historians. you may disagree with the Jesus presented there and even whether or not the accounts are 'reliable', but you cannot discount the most-attested, most read book in history as though no historian or scholar had already done volumes of work on this. it's preposterous.

      a quick perusal of the available scholarship (even among the most liberal scholars) should disaffect you of that untenable position. but if you really want to engage the historical claims the Gospel accounts are making (which is the most germane in a discussion with Christians), read Richard Bauckham's "Jesus & the Eyewitnesses." This rather exhaustive scholarly look at the Gospel accounts leaves you without a basis for such claims.

      the real issue: are you willing to check out the evidence?

      2) "your imaginary friend"...

      Jack & Jill walk into a room. Jack sees 25 people. Jill sees 50 people. Jill thinks Jack is blind. Jack thinks Jill is crazy.

      so you think I'm crazy. i think you're blind. but what we think is not the real debate, the question is what is objectively the case?

      3) Matthew 7
      you rightly assert the passage calls out hypocrisy, but you falsely assume that means no action is taken. am i willing to be called out BOTH for the log in my own eye as well as being hypocritical about the speck in someone else's? yes.

      you, on the other hand, are attempting to avoid the implications of the teaching by constraining it to hypocrites. ironically, Jesus point was not that "this only applies to hypocrites", but is that everyone needs help. or to put it even more bluntly: everyone is a hypocrite.

      if you really believe in Mt.7 Jesus is teaching 'only be concerned about your own eye', then you are the one with reading comprehension problems. (And note: i used singular quotation marks around that. i'm beginning to think you missed that above. i am not quoting you when i do that, but paraphrasing and/or giving an example.) one problem with much of what passes as postmodern and politically correct is that it assumes it's all about the individual, at the expense of the community. Jesus' point largely is calling for a better community – including better communication. you yet again seem to think that once someone is found to be a hypocrite, now they are utterly disproved and/or shunned. quite the contrary. he's calling his hypocritical disciples BOTH out of their own hypocrisy AND to hold one another's feet to the fire. again, you seem to read the passage as singularly about the former.

      to the main point: what do you think the cross is saying? it's ok to be how you are? no, the cross simultaneously tells us two things clearly...
      i) it's worse than we want to admit (we all deserve that kind of death)
      ii) it's better than we ever dared hope (he was willing to die in my place)

      but again, since you think that's a fairy tale, you seem to miss how ALL of Jesus' teaching points to the cross. even if you disagree with a religion, it's helpful to actually understand its teachings in context of that faith.

      4) i am judging all atheists – on the basis of the term itself.

      a) but you seem unaware that you are doing the same to theists. there is no middle hazy ground here. if you were an agnostic, you would not be so assertive in claiming the opposite. you are guilty of the very thing to which you object here: you believe you have superior knowledge and that everyone who believes differently is utterly mistaken. how is that any less narrow than what you ascribe to me?

      b) again you give no examples of my failed reading comprehension. feel free to give examples. what mistaken assumptions have i made about your position? my goal is not to falsely ascribe things to you, so correct my false assumptions. otherwise, it's sounding increasingly like a foil.

      per 4a...
      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOJImh3QNZ8&w=640&h=360]

      April 18, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
  3. Dennis

    It must be tough being a Chaplain for Humanists. I don't have any faith in humans. The fact that humans can do this thing shows me that there has to be something bigger or better than me and the horrific humans that placed these bombs. I like Tim's comment about Westboro. If ever a Christian or should I say an "allegedly Christian" group ever brought true disgrace to a religion, this one falls into that category.

    April 18, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
  4. Noah Fense

    I don't believe in atheism. Although, I've never been too sure about agnosticism.

    April 18, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • Dennis

      You, Noah, are cracking me up. In times like these... Oh my God do we need God!

      April 18, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • Magooser

      You do however believe in doofy screen names.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • Jim
      April 18, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
  5. Bob

    I do think it is pretty great regardless of my thoughts on atheism that they go out of the way to help others. That is what religion should lead people to do (or non-religion in this case....still a belief system of helping humanity).

    April 18, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • Guest

      Religion does do things like what is described, but the capacity to do good is inherent in humans. You do not need a particular way of thinking or faith or religion to do good. All that is required is kindness and a helpful nature. These need to be taught in families, in schools, in summer camps – not in church. religion is not required for a person to do good.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
  6. Beth

    Right on! Everyone should be comforted when they are grieved or shaken, not just the religious.

    April 18, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
  7. Bob

    I find it sad that anybody would live life without faith. Seeing horrors like the other day or my own personal affair of cancer recently just seems pointless without faith. What is the point of life, which is nothing but an endless stream of pain and nightmare, unless you have faith in God and know it has purpose and will lead to good later?

    April 18, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      So you are saying that the reality of life is no longer a reality provided you pretend it is something else. Good argument.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • Maksim

      Good point! Your trust in God is your strength as you battle cancer. God bless!

      April 18, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      I am equally saddened by that outlook on life.
      'What is the point of life, which is nothing but an endless stream of pain and nightmare' – for you maybe but not for others.
      You are saying in effect that you need your faith to help you cope with life because you cant cope without it?

      April 18, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • JJ

      I find it sad that one must not see any value in life unless they are superstitious.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • mk

      You have faith in god to make your cancer go away but you must not have had enough faith that your god would not have given you cancer to begin with?

      April 18, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • Guest

      Faith does provide solace to those who are grieving – it is human nature to find comfort in the thought that there is a higher being looking out for you. The only problem is, if you remove all emotion and so called personal experiences, and look at the hard facts, there simply is no evidence of such a being existing. The faith based appeal is an emotional appeal, it is a comforting appeal, but false nevertheless. It is also selective application of faith, because the same being who you imagine will support you in tough times, should also be responsible for the tough times themselves. – you cannot ignore that fact by saying he wants to put you through a trial. What kind of being would allow the death of a 8 year old boy ?was that done to put his family through a trial and test their faith?
      Faith based arguments make no sense.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      Problem is, Bob, no one actually knows what happens after death. There's nothing concrete. And the 'truth' on what happens after death simply depends on what teaching you accept. I can say I believe in 'God', but that seems to not be good enough for most people. I gotta take the entire back-story of that particular 'God'. I gotta accept some prophet that 'God' supposedly sent to tell us the gospel.
      I'm agnostic, which is lamens for 'I don't know'. Seriously. When you hear people speak about 'what God wants from us'. Doesn't it surprise you that a mortal knows ANYTHING about the creator of reality?!? I mean, they probably can't get close to their favorite celebrity, but they know the Creator of Reality - and personally at that. The absurdity of actually knowing (on a personal basis) a being that created the Earth, let alone everything there is -- one word: arrogance.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
    • dasmandrake

      Bob, the purpose and meaning of life is what you make of it. I've never been religious and I've never been a believer, yet somehow I'm managing to live a happy and fulfilled life. If you need a fairy tale to give your life meaning, then you're doing it wrong.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • Dan

      You may not understand since it is how you have chosen, or have been taught to, deal with life. But many still find comfort and strength outside the confines of religion or belief in the supernatural.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      I find it sad that God knocked down the Tower of Babel and then scattered the humans that were working well together, but also scrambled their language simply because, "if they can do this, they'll believe nothing is impossible to them".

      Like, Hellllllooooooooooo........ "created in your image"..... should mean that we'll be smart enough to work together and build towers an' junk.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
    • mk

      And how do you explain someone who is cured of something like cancer, but doesn't pray to a god?

      April 18, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
  8. Beam49

    Good article. As a Christians I would be surprised if no one there was affected by what happened. It shook me up and I don't even live close to there! I was very concerned this was going to be another 911...:(

    Nothing in the article surprised me except one thing. I am truly surprised that going to a faith based group to volunteer to help that they would even bother asking you what your beliefs are. That seems pretty odd actually. I have never had that experience even when I have asked to help and knew no one at all. No one asked me what my beliefs were, they were just glad to have the help. Maybe things are different in different communities...? I would say they are in the wrong then, a helping hand is a helping hand regardless of that person's beliefs...

    April 18, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • lol??

      It can be worse. Think Obama Oath, similar to the Hitler Oath.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'Think Obama Oath, similar to the Hitler Oath'

      do what now?

      April 18, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
    • .

      Pay no attention to the BB village idiot "lol??". It always stands ready to squash the next "socie" uprising.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      They probably identified themsevles as "humanists", I have seen some religious people demonize humanism.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • lol??

      cheesie, humans that are demonized did it to themselves. It's a personal responsibility type of thing.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
    • lol??

      CRapids, military officers are sworn to not violate US citizen's const rights. The Big O is to the left of even the ACLU on this with his drone policy. OBEY ME, not the const. It's the Obama Oath in action.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      okaaay then. so which part is the oath part then?

      April 18, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
  9. Russ139

    I don't know what I am. But it seems silly to worry about something totally out of one's control – like the afterlife. I know, I know...devout Christians will insist that it is in my control, that there is the thing called Faith, which I either accept (and go to heaven) or reject (the other place...) Again, there are enough challenges here in my mortal life to worry about – that I find my myself most concerned with that.

    I do think the teachings of Jesus (credited to Jesus, anyway) are an incredible guide to conducting one's own life.

    April 18, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Russ139: just *try* to follow the teachings of Jesus... for a day... even just an hour... it's impossible.

      I believe it was Madalyn Murray O'Hair who most honestly assessed the Golden Rule when she said (basically): it's preposterous! who can move toward other people with all the concern & preoccupation you have for yourself? you think about yourself all day every day. how could you ever think that much about everyone or anyone else?

      seriously: if you think the point of Jesus' teaching was "just try harder to be good", then you've entirely missed what he was saying. Read Luke 15 & the famous story of the Prodigal Son. Pay close attention to the older brother at the end. Ask yourself: why is he outside the house at the end while his younger brother (who didn't follow the rules) gets the party?

      remember, Jesus said to the *good people* – the pimps & prosti.tutes are getting into heaven before you. why? certainly not because they're following the rules better or trying harder.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
  10. lol??

    If the A&A's ever want to achieve some respect they are gonna have to face facts and write, "Antichrists for Dummies".

    April 18, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • Andy

      LOL – you don't seem to get it – the Devil, God, Christ, Angels, and any Anti-Christs that you want to dream up are on your side of the fence. Atheists have no need of such to "help" them. By the way, who is the Anti-Christ of the month for Xtians right now – the Pope, Obama??

      April 18, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      We will face "facts" when you can present one....still waiting.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • lol??

      "1Jo 2:18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time."

      April 18, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • .

      Wow – the lol?? idjiot responds with scripture – from a book of unknown authorship. Convincing! LOL

      April 18, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
  11. John Sharp

    Of course the people that are intelligent enough to see through the sham of religion mourn as well. We all suffer from the human condition. Some of us believe in far fetched fairy tales created by primitive man to explain the world around us.
    And some of us see the truth.....

    April 18, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      An atheist, self centered has no capacity to recognize truth, because he denies truth absolute God, essence of existence, proven by science.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'proven by science'

      dont be silly. that my friend was a lie, and i think you are strictly instructed that lying is wrong.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
  12. ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

    DO NOT TOUCH HOLY COW OF THE DAY, AN ATHEIST. SELF CENTERED. SON OF GOD IS PROTECTING THEIR ATHEISM, SELF CENTER ISM.

    April 18, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • It's a Shame

      Of course we all don't need to be painfully reminded of the Islamic foundation of the American Constitution. We'd rather just sweep it under the rug....

      April 18, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • JJC

      If god is protecting our atheism, then who are you to go against god and say that our atheism is bad. After all, god protects our atheism as you say. The fact that atheists are no more likely to have tragedy means that in your gods eyes we must be equal to you.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
  13. freedom liker

    i am on a bowling team. We all feel bad when things like this happen. Does this matter?

    April 18, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      That is acceptable, provided you DO NOT roll on Shabbos!

      April 18, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
  14. The Doctor

    I have news for all of you worshipers: we are all godless. You're just too blind to realize it.

    April 18, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • rnep

      Just because you are not a believer in God, why do you feel the need to make yourself sound superior to those that are?

      April 18, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
  15. tim

    "Atheism is a zealot belief in a negative....since negatives of the supernatural are impossible to prove, atheists have operate purely on faith with no support whatsoever.....they have much more faith than any theist"

    What? "Negatives of the supernatural are impossible to prove." Seriously? The concept here is it is not an Atheist making the claim of the existence of the supernatural. The burden of proof is on the one making the claim, not the person not buying the story.

    April 18, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
    • The Doctor

      Amazing, isn't it? The twisted logic of the blind faith believer is nothing more than mental illness.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • Jim

      I don't believe in any of this religious stuff, so why do I need to give it a name. Atheist, humanist, whatever. I don't care to group myself into one of these categories because then others will be asking me to explain the behavior of other Atheists or Humanists etc. Then, you end up with the same conundrum. Some rich Atheist puts up a billboard on your street and I have to explain it? Please! For lack of anything better I do describe myself as atheist - but don't ask me what "we" believe in!

      April 18, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
  16. Mark

    Ever since God banished Adam and Eve for eating fruit from
    the Tree of Knowledge he's washed his hands of what goes
    on on Earth. He's passed all responsibility over to humans
    and doesn't intervene in anything. That's why you can have
    Julius Caesar, Ghengis Khan, Alexander the Great, Napoleon,
    Hitler, John Wilkes Booth, Jack the Ripper, Lee Harvey Oswald,
    Saddham Hussein, bin Laden, 9-11 and the like happen and
    nothing is going to be done about it by God. It's all up to humans.
    Even I as an atheist know that.

    April 18, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • Troglodytes Entertaining All

      Hard to believe you could be so hypocritical... Or are you a troll??

      April 18, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • doughnuts

      If you think God, Adam, Eve, or Eden existed, then you are a pretty bad atheist.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • lol??

      Lee Harvey Oswald?? He was the fall guy for that great socie, LBJ and his Great Society. Talk about bein' betrayed by his own countrymen!

      April 18, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • WhenCowsAttack

      You are not an atheist if you believe God banished adam and eve and has washed his hands of us.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • EuphoriCrest

      You are not an atheist. The belief system you describe is called "Deism."

      April 18, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
  17. Shaggy

    Personally, as a non-religious rational being, I find it insulting when a tragedy happens and someone tells me they are praying for me, or for a group that includes me. That means that they believe an omnipotent being either caused something awful to happen, or through inaction allowed it to happen. But since this other person is so vastly important because they are a member of that special being's chosen few, they're going to put in a good word for me and things should be good from here on out. That's just appalling to me. If someone at your Church, synagogue or Mosque gets sick, please do pray for them. Please stop praying for people who don't share your religion, or if you do, keep it to yourself. It's insulting to do so for people who don't share your particular form of delusion about reality.

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

      "Personally, as a non-religious rational being, I find it insulting when a tragedy happens and someone tells me they are praying for me, or for a group that includes me. That means that they believe an omnipotent being either caused something awful to happen, or through inaction allowed it to happen. But since this other person is so vastly important because they are a member of that special being's chosen few, they're going to put in a good word for me and things should be good from here on out. That's just appalling to me. If someone at your Church, synagogue or Mosque gets sick, please do pray for them. Please stop praying for people who don't share your religion, or if you do, keep it to yourself. It's insulting to do so for people who don't share your particular form of delusion about reality." this is exactly how I feel, very well said, hearing someone say they are praying for me has started to feel like a slap in the face. Nicely done..

      April 18, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • L

      What isn't insulting now days? I refuse to walk on eggshells because I offend someone. So what, get over it. I'm offended by lots of behaviors and you don't hear me complaining. The is a free country and if everyone wants to live here happily, then people need to stop being so flipping sensitive.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • John

      That's what you believe about the beliefs and intentions of people offering you sympathy....do you think it is possible that you misconstrued their intentions?

      April 18, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • Lmerr

      One reason you find it appalling is because of your misunderstanding of religion and why people would pray for you. Your oversimplification of how religious people view a situation similar to one you describe only shows your arrogance to speak candidly about subject matter you have not taken the time to learn. Also, it seems you think that only non religious people are rational and religious people are delusional. Another statement that speaks more about you than anyone else you may be trying to insult. Do you ever think that what you have said is intentionally offensive?

      April 18, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • Leslie

      Shaggy, I'm sorry, truly, that you are offended by a sincere expression of sympathy. I am religious, and when I tell someone I will say a prayer for them it is simply my way of saying that I care about them. It is not meant in any way to show disrespect for their personal belief system, which I may not know, or to say that my own personal belief system is superior. It's also not indicating an expectation that God is going to solve their problem. Anyone with a sophisticated knowledge of religion knows that prayer doesn't work that way.

      The fact that you are so hostile to people who don't share your beliefs, or lack thereof, seems to indicate that you have something to fear.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • Shaggy

      L, I'm just trying to let you know that if you're trying to comfort someone, telling them you are praying for them could have the opposite effect if they don't share your specific religious affiliation. In fact many will find it insulting. A lot of people just blather it out because they don't know what else to say or do. Please stop that if you want to have the desired effect. But if you are approaching someone and telling them you are praying for them because you feel religiously compelled to do so and don't care for the person and don't actually want to comfort them at all, and don't care how they react, which is what you just implied, then feel free to continue to do that.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • Steve

      Shaggy:

      As a Roman Catholic, your insult of calling me "delusional" will be ignored.

      God did not cause the tragedy in Boston to happen, nor did he allow it to happen; unfortunately, a human being - with free will - caused it to happen.

      God made all of us with free will. God wants us to love him, and to live holy lives, because we want to, not because he makes or forces us to. He intentionally did not create us as robots or automatons to do his will - which is reflected in the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. We must seek to know God's will, and to do his will, each day. Only then will each of us experience true peace. And it was most certainly NOT God's will that the bombings in Boston - or any other tragedy for that matter - occurred.

      If every human being would seek and do God's will - instead of their own misguided will and desires - tragedies like that which occurred in Boston would never happen. But, unfortunately, people choose to follow their own misguided desires and will, without seeking and doing the will of God.

      I will continue to pray for the victims and do what I can to help them, just as Catholic Charities help to feed, clothe, and provide medical care and other critical services to many thousands of people in need each year.

      Peace to you.

      Steve

      April 18, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • Mr. N.

      If you're insulted, that's just because you're bigoted, and you're so full of yourself as to make assumptions about what an omnipotent being did or did not, or his/her intentions.

      Those telling you that they will pray mean you no harm, nor insult. Usually, that is a very heartfelt and humbling thing to say. You should be honored that someone thinks so highly of you to share such a remark. Whether you believe in God or not, the fact that you take such a well meaning act as an insult means the problem is with you, not them. In short, you're insulted out of choice, and that's a miserable way to live.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • Bob

      I will pray for you. Sorry, but I don't care if you find it offensive. Most atheists I know aren't offended. I am not offended if you say you are in my thoughts instead of prayers or something as a Christian knowing you are atheist.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      If you want to tell someone you care for them, all you need to do is say just that. There's absolutely no need, except in your own delusional head, to expose anyone else, especially a stranger, to your personal variety of childish beliefs and voodoo.

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

      As for the idea that praying means everything will be okay after, you really do not get the point of prayer. That is not what it means. It's a way of saying you will ask God to help you, but a life of no pain is promised to nobody.

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

      Steve, by definition as an Omnipotent being the Roman Catholic God had the power to either cause the event, or had the power to prevent the event. He either caused it as part of a greater plan, or allowed it to happen as part of a greater plan. Take your pick. In my understanding of it, God or any other higher power doesn't exist so I don't have to rationalize the simultaneous existence of a compassionate omnipotent being and the existence of gross tragedies. But for you to say omnipotence can only exert itself through action and not inaction is logically inconsistent. Inaction is the same as action for a being of both omniscience and omnipotence.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • Steve

      Shaggy:

      You fundamentally misunderstand the theology of Christianity and the Roman Catholic faith. You assume that "omnipotence" is synonymous with "control" over the will of human beings; not true and entirely inconsistent with Christian beliefs. Please read again my comment above.

      God did not create us to be robots that are forced to love him. He gave us free will to do as we please. We can exalt our own will, or seek God's will. We can choose to love God, or we can reject him. The choice is ours. While God may be omnipotent, he does not control the will of any human being, or otherwise force his will upon any human being.

      God loves us, and God wants us to love him because we want to, not because we are forced to or programmed to. He wants us to seek to do his will because we want to, not because we are forced to or programmed to.

      Whoever bombed Boston exercised his own misguided human will to commit an evil act. As I said above, if everyone sought God's will and acted according to his will - in accordance with the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ - the world would live in complete peace. Unfortunately, most humans have chosen to pursue their own will and ignore God. Hence, and sadly, tragedies like that in Boston occur.

      I don't expect to change your mind, and you certainly won't change mine.

      I wish you well.

      Peace,

      Steve

      April 18, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
  18. BunnyPumper

    It's very sad when those that have chosen reason over religion as a path to understanding, have to try to defend themselves in this way. The simple truth is, you can be good with God and you can be good without God.

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

      Well said.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • Mr. N.

      It's sad that some are so confused that they think Religion and reason are mutually exclusive.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • Bob

      Certainly you may do good works for humanity. But, nobody is good but God in my Christian system. I don't believe I am good, only Christ who covers me with his good.

      But, everybody certainly may do "good works." That does not require faith.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
    • Lmerr

      Fair enough. However, what is he defending himself from? Is he persecuted because of his non belief? Are his civil rights somehow violated? No. This story isn't about defending non belief, it is about inserting it into a tragic situation in order to promote an agenda.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • Red Dwarf

      " The simple truth is, you can be good with God and you can be good without God."

      Which just proves how utterly powerless their God is.

      It's like saying "Hey, only those with a ticket will be let inside the concert so have your tickets ready. Also those without tickets can come in." Kind of makes you feel stupid to be the guy who bought a stack of tickets to scalp or use...

      April 18, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
  19. Cjasp

    I agree with you Greg 100% and I'm a Christian. It's sad that religion gets in the way. You are professing what I whole heatedly believe and I feel the same as you. It's sad that you would be turned away from helping a fellow human based on what you believe. Yes the motivations for helping fellow humans are different, but that should not effect the outcome. Who cares what I believe, I prefer to keep that to myself. I don't care what you believe, I'll love you just the same.

    April 18, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
  20. John

    – Refusing to acknowledge God doesn't make you Godless.
    – Humanism is a philosophy...much like absolutism or materialism or occasionalism....all of which are independent of where you are Christian, Muslim or Buddhist.
    – Atheism is a zealot belief in a negative....since negatives of the supernatural are impossible to prove, atheists have operate purely on faith with no support whatsoever.....they have much more faith than any theist

    April 18, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      John, please clearly explain what support believers have for the silliness they believe. The Babble? How about some objective, independent, factual and verifiable evidence? You would be the first to provide any.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • Beans are the leading cause of flatulence.

      Faith does not exist in a void. Your comment is dismissed as completely irrelevant.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • John

      I have been trying to find support for the belief of Atheism but I admit that I have not found any....I will continue to look but thank you for understanding. Later.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'Atheism is a zealot belief in a negative'
      Huh? using that logic you have a zealot belief in not believing in purple pixies called nigel that lives under the president's desk.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • doughnuts

      Bald is a hair color.
      Not collecting stamps is a hobby.
      Atheism is a faith.

      Get over it, dude. You're 99% atheist and desparately clinging to the last 1%

      April 18, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      John, are you really so stupid that you do not understand that zero evidence for theism strongly suggests that atheism is the more realistic view? You seem to believe gods exist because there is no evidence that they do not. Do you believe unicorns exist because there is no evidence that they do not? Is this the underlying basis for your membership in the dead jew zombie death cult?

      April 18, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • Jim

      "since negatives of the supernatural are impossible to prove...."

      This quote made my day. The definition of 'Supernatural' according to Merriam-Webster is as follows: "of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe"

      The idea that you can't prove a the non-existence of something you can't observe is absurd. Up next, the invisible pink unicorn and the flying spaghetti monster.....

      April 18, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • John

      Building the strawman of a atheism religion to provide a foundation for a lack of belief has proven to be unsustainable repeatedly. You must be willing to admit that you exist in a vacuum with only your arrogant belief that you have the sum of all things and knowledge within your own head. I'm out kids, play amongst yourselves.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Of all the mysteries man has unravelled throughout the ages, never once has the answer to been "supernatural magic".

      April 18, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'Building the strawman of a atheism religion to provide a foundation for a lack of belief has proven to be unsustainable repeatedly. You must be willing to admit that you exist in a vacuum with only your arrogant belief that you have the sum of all things and knowledge within your own head. I'm out kids, play amongst yourselves.'

      yes you are out....out of your mind.
      was that rambling nonsense meant to be some kind of deep meaningful statement or something?

      April 18, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      See Johnny making silly statements. See Johnny run away from simple questions.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:01 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.