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Church without God - by design
Members of an atheist congregation at Harvard listen to music during a recent gathering.
June 22nd, 2013
11:25 AM ET

Church without God - by design

By Dan Merica, CNN

Boston (CNN)-– It’s Sunday in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a rapt congregation listens to a chaplain preach about the importance of building a community.

A few dozen people sit quietly for the hourlong service. Music is played, announcements are made and scholars wax poetic about the importance of compassion and community.

Outsiders could be forgiven for believing this service, with its homilies, its passing of the plate, its uplifting songs, belongs in a church.

If so, it’s a church without one big player: God.

Sunday’s congregation in Cambridge is a meeting of the Humanist Community at Harvard University and the brainchild of Greg Epstein, the school’s Humanist chaplain.

A longtime advocate for community building, Epstein and his group of atheists have begun to build their Cambridge community and solemnize its Sunday meetings to resemble a traditional religious service.

To Epstein, religion is not all bad, and there is no reason to reject its helpful aspects.

“My point to my fellow atheists is, why do we need to paint things with such a broad brush? We can learn from the positive while learning how to get rid of the negative," he said.

Godless congregations

For Epstein, who started community-building at Harvard nearly 10 years ago, the idea of a godless congregation is not an oxymoron.

“We decided recently that we want to use the word congregation more and more often because that is a word that strongly evokes a certain kind of community - a really close knit, strong community that can make strong change happen in the world,” he said.

“It doesn’t require and it doesn't even imply a specific set of beliefs about anything.”

Epstein is not alone in his endeavor. Jerry DeWitt, who became an atheist and left his job as an evangelical minister, is using his pastoral experience to building an atheist church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

This Sunday, DeWitt's congregation will hold its first meeting as a "Community Mission Chapel."

"When you become a part of this congregation, this community, you are going to become part of a family," DeWitt told CNN. "There is an infrastructure there for you to land in. There is going to be someone there to do weddings and to do, unfortunately, the funerals."

READ MORE: Unbelieving preachers get help to 'come out' as open atheists

Sunday school for atheists

As members of the Cambridge congregation file into a wood-paneled classroom at Harvard, singer Shelley Segal greets them with a few songs from her latest recording, called simply, “An Atheist Album.”

Taking a hint from the theme of the event, Segal strums on her guitar and belts her song, “Gratitude.”

“I don't believe in a great power to say thank you to,” Segal sings. “But that won’t take away from my gratitude.”

Harvard's humanist chaplain Greg Epstein leads an atheist gathering.

After the music, Epstein offers a few words of greeting before the meeting gets to its heart: a discussion about compassion.

A four academics and a journalist discuss the effects of religion on raising children and their ideas about compassion. Congregants listen intently, some even taking notes.

Each service has a message – compassion, evolution or acceptance - after which congregants engage in a lengthy discussion.

Before the main event, kids are invited to what some parents refer to as “Sunday school,” where Tony Debono, a biologist Massachusetts Institute of Technology, teaches the youngsters about evolution, DNA and cells.

There's little talk about organized religion, positive or negative.

Likewise, down in Louisiana, said his atheist services will not be anti-religion.

"What we are looking at doing is different," DeWitt said. "If you are a religionist and you come and sit in our pew, the only way you can leave offended is because of what you don’t hear and what you don’t see. We won’t be there to make a stance against religion or against God."

Coming out of the closet

In the last few years, the number of “nones” – those who don’t associate with any organized religion – has grown at a rate faster than any other group. Nones now represent one in five Americans, according to a 2012 Pew Research Center poll.

Although the number of atheists has grown, too, there are still a large number of “nones” that choose not to associate with the label “atheist.”

Some at Harvard’s Humanist congregation fall into this category.

“I don’t particularly have a religion,” said Anil Nyer, a neurologist who brought his daughter to Humanist Sunday school. But Nyer also said he didn’t want to label himself as an atheist.

One reason to shy away from the atheist label: Many Americans hold a negative impression of nonbelievers.

According to a recent Public Religion Research Institute poll, nearly 40 percent of Americans believe that atheists are changing American culture for the worse.

“Whenever we put atheists on a list like this and we compare them to other groups, atheists tend to come in towards the bottom of that list,” said Robert P. Jones is the CEO of Public Religion Research Institute.

“Americans tend to hold a lot of reservations about atheists.”

Epstein hopes his congregation can change that.

By formalizing meetings and building a strong community, the Harvard group hopes it can be a model for other atheist congregations forming around the country.

A group meets during an atheist gathering in Boston.

More atheists may come of the closet if they know a congregation will be there to support them, Epstein said,

“Being an atheist is something we want people to come out and be,” said the Humanist chaplain. “There are so many people, probably millions, who are humanists or atheists or nonreligious in private and nobody knows."

Epstein said he gets e-mails daily from people founding atheist meet-up groups.

“Tulsa, Oklahoma; North Carolina; London; Vancouver, Canada; Houston, Texas,” Epstein said, listing the sources of the most recent e-mails.

“One part of what we are saying is come on out and let your neighbors know” about your disbelief, he said. “It is not going to make you worse of a person, it is going to make you a better person to be more open about who you are.”

Rituals for the irreligious

For the last few years, the Humanist Community at Harvard has operated out of a small three-floor walk-up off the bustling streets of Harvard Square. The walls are littered with posters about atheism – tributes to famed atheists Eddie Izzard, Seth MacFarlane and Stephen Fry.

Because of the scattered furniture and the Harvard dorm feel, Epstein jokingly describes the space as “college broke chic.” That’s being generous – but it's also about to change.

Starting in the fall, the Humanist Community at Harvard will begin meeting in a nearly 3,000-square-foot community center with an event space for nearly 100 people.

Although the plan is to use the space at the group’s headquarters, it will also serve as a broader community center for the group that Epstein and others are trying to build in the Boston area.

“What we really would like to see is a community center where people can come by at anytime and to use it as a space to study or have a meeting for various committee,” said Chris Stedman, the assistant humanist chaplain at Harvard.

Stedman said he sees the new building as a place for people to gather, not only to become part of a humanist community, but to also become more engaged with the world.

When he talks about his plans for the future, Epstein appears to long for a time when the new community center could mimic aspects of church - a place for baby-naming ceremonies, weddings and funerals.

The success of an atheist church will depend on walking the thin line between too much and too little ritual, Epstein said.

Humanists boast a proud freethinking streak, and some at the Harvard event said they don’t want to be associated with any sort of dogma or belief system - or even a system based on disbelief.

Anyway, Esptein said his congregation will be less a group of people united by beliefs - or disbelief - and more like an opera, or a painting.

“Our community is like a work of art," he said. "Hopefully people will respond to that work of art and it will garner controversy and discussion like a work of art."

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Church • Houses of worship • United States

soundoff (6,897 Responses)
  1. Science

    Creationists are really stuck in LaLa land................stems cells ( your own) treat sports injuries !

    June 23, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
  2. Isaac

    Hunnn....I will answer all these questions in one sentence" It is better to believe that God Exists and get to heaven and found out that God does not Exists than Not belief and found out that He(God) Exists when you get to Heaven.....'

    June 23, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Isaac

      You said, "Hunnn....I will answer all these questions in one sentence" It is better to believe that God Exists and get to heaven and found out that God does not Exists than Not belief and found out that He(God) Exists when you get to Heaven.....'"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      If someone doesn't already believe there is a god, a threat of this non-existing gods judgment is very unlikely to yield any results.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • Annie

      Isaac, that is what i always say. But Athiests will have to wait to see.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      If the atheists are right, then you religious kooks will never know that you were wrong.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • The Other Abraham

      God lives in the good deeds of Men.....So if these atheists are indirectly following in the tennants God wants us all to follow how can these people be wrong? They are fostering community, caring for their neighbors and doing good works. Isn't that what "God asks of us". If he wanted us to believe why would there be so many contradictory evidence to what is in the Bible or the other Good Books. I choose to aspire to a better Humanity not because 20 or so Gods of this world tell me too but because I feel it is the only path a better World I CURRENTLY live in! If God if exists wouldn't he commend that or is because he is a vain God that he needs to be acknowledged for the world he promises after this one ends.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • tallulah13

      So Isaac, Annie: exactly how much time a day to you dedicate to the thousands of gods that have been worshiped throughout history? I hope you aren't leaving any out, since there is exactly the same proof of existence for all these gods, including the christian god.

      You're probably safe, since there isn't any actual evidence of gods, devils, or even afterlives. It is rather sad, though, that you are wasting this life worrying about the empty promise of the next.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
    • JD

      You're right, there's no reason not to believe in Odin. That's why I pray to him, just in case he's real.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
  3. Art

    When love beckons to you follow him,
    Though his ways are hard and steep.
    And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
    Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you believe in him,
    Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.
    For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
    Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
    So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth. Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
    He threshes you to make you naked.
    He sifts you to free you from your husks.
    He grinds you to whiteness.
    He kneads you until you are pliant;
    And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God's sacred feast.
    All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life's heart.

    June 23, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • Art

      Sorry . . . Wrong "Cut & Paste" . . . These words, btw, are from Kahlil Gibran's "On Love"

      June 23, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
  4. Reality

    Only for the new members of this blog:

    For this group's next meeting: A blast from the past–

    "The Two Universal Sects

    They all err—Moslems, Jews,
    Christians, and Zoroastrians:

    Humanity follows two world-wide sects:

    One, man intelligent without religion,
    The second, religious without intellect. "

    Al-Ma'arri
    , born AD 973 /, died AD 1058 / .

    Al-Ma’arri was a blind Arab philosopher, poet and writer.[1][2] He was a controversial rationalist of his time, attacking the dogmas of religion and rejecting the claim that Islam possessed any monopoly on truth."

    June 23, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • FLOYD

      Roman poet Lucretius in the first century BCE had a similar sentiment:

      Religion is wisdom to the foolish, foolishness to the wise, and useful for those in power.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
  5. Marie

    What matters is to do good to each other, try to walk in your friend's shoes for a day to see how that will completely change your view.
    The message is what matters.
    Whenever you create an environment with understanding and calm with each others you will find what you are looking for.... inside you.... around you....

    June 23, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  6. ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

    Ladies in picture do not look any jolly, regret is visible from their face and eyes, may be missing foremost function of a woman, to bear a child and and be above heaven. Empty of joy of mother hood.

    June 23, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • *

      Islam leads to hell it is a deception to a false god and an idolatrous wasteland. Find Christ find God, find Mohammed find death.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
  7. uye nye nye nye

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1bi8hmI5co&w=640&h=390]

    That was so melodious!

    June 23, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • Secular

      That song touched our hearts, we were transported to a whole new world.

      OK, that was an exaggeration, never mind , there is only one world. we were taken to another place in this earth that was full of meaning. Never heard a song more meaningful.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • OC

      really? that's the best you've got?

      June 23, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • sad to watch--

      –the sheep being led astray

      June 23, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      sad to watch–

      So what is that layabout Good Shepherd guy doing about it? Slacker.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
  8. Rebecca

    Well, having read the Bible umpteen times, I'll say for sure that it full of nonsense. Some good stuff in there too... but overall it is bogus. I goes a long way to prove there is no God, as far as I can tell, if it defines God. However, I do believe in God, just a bigger one. I have no problems with calling it God, Universe, or whatever... a good shorthand name for what we cannot understand or define.

    June 23, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
    • *

      when you know God the Bible will become clearer to you

      June 23, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • Dippy

      What happens when we do eventually understand and define those things?

      June 23, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      The problem with the word "god" is that it implies purpose and intelligence. The universe does not necessarily have a purpose and there is certainly no intelligence behind it.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • *

      You draw closer to God, as Job said when God revealed Himself to Job, "my ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you therefore i repent..."

      June 23, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
  9. TeeJ

    @Richard Cranium: Again you post with childish drivel... never addressing the original poster's comment with something more than an infantile "non-response", yet trying to appear as if you're somehow qualified to quantify your fecaI-minded retort.

    Only one word to describe you; FAIL.

    June 23, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • JayT

      Does the function of the reply button escape you, TeeJ? This post references nothing, and makes you look stupid. FAIL.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      The reply button is right next to the report abuse link. Calling me childish is just you projecting. Hopefully you will be able to operate your computer and not appear to be a complete fool with every post. You keep trying little fella.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
  10. Oluwasina Williams

    Please test all things and hold on to that which is true

    June 23, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      O.W.

      Truly are all truths lain and yet what do the true truly speak on and upon that which is to be said true of whose trueness to be truly availed as really being true? Be true to one's self foremost and stand above deceitful deceptions.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
  11. Bill

    Finally a place where people get together and talk about how they believe in Ta-Daa: nothing! While there, discuss nothingness as a way of life. Then spread nothing to others.

    June 23, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • Bryant Lister

      Believe nothing? Yes, but they probably know and understand more than you are capable of grasping.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • whoopsadaisy

      Wow, you totally to didn't read the article at all, did you? So you are one of those closed-minded people that hears "atheist" and decides they have heard all they need to know, and shuts out anything further, even if it could actually be useful or informative.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      Atheist do not believe "nothing". They simply do not believe in god.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
  12. Ryan

    Once you get over the silly delusion that there is a god who cares about you and has a plan for your life, you'll find that what's really missing is boring and pedantic speeches in a cold, sterile uncomfortable room full of people you don't really know that well, accompanied by mandatory singing of bad songs with crappy music. Thanks to these guys for filling that gap.

    June 23, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
  13. mason

    Blood sacrifice religions have always had a huge moral disconnect. Belief in the silly supernatural is dying among the educated. The masses will always be sheep.

    June 23, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
  14. S.R

    I believe in a creator but not religion. To me the proof is in science studies astronomy, biology, quantium mechanics etc... There is to much order in the construction of the universe to believe that it all just happened.

    June 23, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Incorrect.
      If you actually studied the sciences and comprehended them, you could see it quite easily.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
    • Zekes

      Thank You!

      June 23, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
    • Dippy

      It's "too", not "to". And what do you mean by "too much order"? How much is too much?

      June 23, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
    • ME II

      @S.R,
      And what amount of order is not too much?

      June 23, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
    • *

      Christ or God Himself was opposed to mans "religion". The grace of God through Jesus Christ is sufficient.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • Ryan

      Which other universes have you observed that led you to the conclusion that "order" is somehow unnatural and demands a supernatural explanation? And how exactly do you define "order" when everything we observe in the Universe tends to be completely arbitrary and random, without any obvious purpose or design? Adherence to laws of physics is not purpose. Probability is not design.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
    • Dippy

      Well said, Ryan. But it'll fall on a "deaf" mind.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
  15. TeeJ

    And yet the scientific community agrees that it is impossible to gain animate matter from inanimate matter – thereby admitting the FACT they have no idea how life began.

    Atheists... they're like the insect in the deep wood who has never seen anything else living but its own kind. It believes itself to be the greatest thing alive; until one day when a human happens upon it, and the insect sees the sole of a boot coming down on it.

    As that insect in the deep wood goes, so go atheists.

    June 23, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Saying we do not know is far better than saying, we don't know so goddidit.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
    • TeeJ

      @Richard Cranium: Is it? When you were a child, you thought as a child... and still do. I'm sorry, but you've the depth and clarity of thought the same as a nickel-deep mud-puddle, or you'd have replied differently, and not so childishly.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
    • ME II

      @TeeJ,
      "And yet the scientific community agrees that it is impossible to gain animate matter from inanimate matter..."

      What's your basis for this?

      June 23, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • Ryan

      The first line here shows that you don't know that much about science and are getting the small bits you think you know fed to you from Creationist sources. Scientists certainly do not agree on this at all and in fact those that have any relevant training or experience in the field of biology would overwhelmingly, almost universally, disagree with that statement. Way to show your ignorance.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
    • Ryan

      @TeeJ, you are an idiot and a hypocrite. A clever turn of phrase here and there does not hide this fact. But nice try.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • TeeJ

      Reply to "Me II": What is the basis? Simple... I've read their journals over years, and have repeated read this information from various scientific groups. You've only to get off your duff and do a bit of research to learn that I"m correct.

      Unless you care to tell us all how one obtains animated matter from inanimate matter... please do. We'll all be watching for your qualified reply.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • TeeJ

      @Ryan: Wow... did you use all three of your brain cells for that reply? So intelligent... and I truly love those three fingers pointing back at yourself. You're proof of "Got Stupid?" (a rhetorical question in your case)

      June 23, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      Wow, TeeJ knows what insects think!

      June 23, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • Randy

      @TeeJ you're like cow dung on the road that even insects would not come close.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • UncleM

      TeeJ – there are plenty of theories to explain bio-genesis – it appears to be an almost inevitable consequence of disorder.The least credible concept is that a god did it.Please educate yourself.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Teej
      I have not thought as a child in all my years. They tried their brainwashing on me when I was a child and it did not work, since they could not answer my questions when I was 6. They asked my parents not to bring me back to sunday school because the other children started to ask similar questions, and they had no answers. I was able to read when I hit kindergarten and was able to do algebra by 7.
      What exactly was childish in my post.?
      We do not know, but we are trying to find the answers. We do not jump to the illogical and unreasonable conlusion that any gods had any part in any of it, since there is not one shred of evidence to back up your claims.
      Since you are the one who clearly has a childs intellect maybe You will be able to understand this.

      The probability of a god being responsible for any part of the universe, or even its existance is actually less than the probability that our entire universe is inside of a giant dustball, on the end of a flower, being held by an elephant named Horton. The reason the probability is lower for a god is because we know dust, flowers and elephants actually exist, so the probability is higher than that of something there is no evidence what so ever for.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • TeeJ

      @Ryan: You attempt to counter my statement with nothing more than hearsay. Perhaps you yourself can explain how to obtain animated matter from inanimate matter. Mind you you cannot google this information; After all, you believe yourself to be so intelligent that you must know the answer on your own without outside help. So, please, back up your fecaI-brained statement... I dare you. As I said, you're a perfect example of "Got Stupid?"

      June 23, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • Patrish

      I don't see the point in worshiping some unprovening deity. To me it's a stupid waste of time. If 'your' God hated me because I don't believe in him, he sure hasn't shown it as my life has been pretty good.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • *

      Enjoy your life its all you got for eternity you will bear the responsibility for your sins alone.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • TeeJ

      @Richard Cranium: You attempt to qualify your non-belief, yet fail miserably to do so. If your parents, as Christians, couldn't answer your question, that doesn't mean there's no answer. It simply means they didn't have the answer. I wonder, what was that question? Or dare you ask it for fear of a meaningful answer? I'll wait ten minutes for a reply, then I have to leave.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      TeeJ,

      You speak of "hearsay". If you want hearsay, go get your primitive version of the tabloid magazine, "The Sun", aka, "The Bible", replete with aliens, ghostly beings and all manner of other-worldly visions.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • Dippy

      So, TeeJ. Suppose you tell us how you think life began. Give us some detail, now. Don't just say god did it and leave it at that. If god really did it, how did he do it? Did he have a microscope and very small tweezers? A complete deluxe chemistry set? A well-equipped laboratory? Where did he get these things? And where did god come from? Was he made in some super lab by a super god? Have at it, TeeJ, we're all waiting. (No doubt in vain.)

      June 23, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Actually the scientific community agrees on no such thing. Understanding complex things takes time and a lot of effort. Considering that the church actively discouraged such research until relatively recent times, it is patently dishonest to say "impossible".

      "God did it" is simply the lazy way of saying that you aren't interested in the truth and are unwilling to wait for honest answers.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • *

      @dippy
      I am not TeeJ but i can answer your question so you need not wait in vain.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • Bryant Lister

      What scientific community are you talking about? Do you have anything to back up that claim?

      June 23, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • TeeJ

      @UncleM: I can assure you I'm quite educated, but I won't flaunt or laud my education over others. That said, I know, beyond a doubt, that I'm right. How? Quite simple really – sometimes something inexplicable happens that is prayed for. Perhaps you can tell me how a 1978 Chevy HEI engine with three of the four coil wires broken off (only the ground wire remaining) can not only run, but run like a top? AKA there was no juice to the plugs. Yeah... I asked a "favor" of God, and that was my reply. Only I didn't know it for two weeks 'til I took my van to the mechanic. He opened the engine compartment, looked at it, called me over, and stated cleary, "I have NO clue why this engine is running right now, or why it's running so smooth." I knew... though it didn't register right away 'til I asked for something else, and that too was delivered. Yeah, I know it sounds like a crock – and I honestly don't expect anyone here to believe me. But MY point is that "I" know. I mean, unless some little alien was listening to me.

      Yes, it really happened as I said it. But again, I don't expect anyone here to believe me. No problem with that. Time will prove me right – there is a God, and no I can't explain him to anyone... still trying to figure Him out myself. But if ANYONE can tell me how that HEI engine ran, I'd sure like to know, and would like to try and duplicate it. Please, do tell.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Teej
      simple. Where is the evidence that the bible is correct?
      I have since found a great deal of information proving the bible is wrong, but that was the main qquestion when I was a child.
      Where is the evidence that the bible is correct, where is the evidence of any god?

      June 23, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • ME II

      @TeeJ,
      "Simple... I've read their journals over years, and have repeated read this information from various scientific groups. "

      Great! Please cite your source.

      "Unless you care to tell us all how one obtains animated matter from inanimate matter"

      Inability to reproduce does not mean it is impossible. I can't reproduce a black hole, are they impossible?

      June 23, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • TeeJ

      @Richard Cranium:

      Wow... this thread is getting long. Not the best format for discussion, that's for sure.

      You asked, "Where is the evidence that the bible is correct?". Actually, there are literally hundreds of prophecies in the Bible that have proven true, to the point if one tossed a coin into the universe, you'd have a better chance of finding that coin than you would of having those predictions come true, as they have. This is a known fact too – and you'll find references to what I'm saying by researching Biblical prophecies. Further, there are many historical texts which prove the Bible true, and some which counter the Bible. Of course... would you expect different. There will always be skeptics no matter what a discussion is about... hence those texts you've probably read.

      Is it so hard to believe that there is one greater than man, and beyond any man's comprehension? Does a bug in the woods understand humans? Or even an anteater? As the universe goes (and the Big Bang theory), mankind's existence is but a spec of time in late November (thereabouts)... we are infantile to this universe, and so is our understanding of ALL science, physics, and nature. Is that also too difficult to believe... or would you believe we're so intelligent we have all the answers?

      While you never told me the question you asked your parents when you were a child, someone else asked a question, which I'd like to address; "Where is God when children are dying and prayers go unanswered?" God didn't promise us all we wanted or that life itself would be without problem. The reward isn't here and now, and this world is not about "us", which is what most people would like to believe. Those children, for all the pain that LIFE metes out to them, will have a place in Heaven, as promised, by a God who has delivered time and again according to HIS will, not ours.

      I have terminal cancer. I don't know if I'll live or die... no clue. Nor do I know if my prayers and my wife's prayers will be answered here on Earth. But ya know, it really doesn't matter because this world isn't about little old me (or you). My wife knows if I kick the bucket – toss me in the oven, put a lil salt 'n' pepper, maybe some garlic powder on me, and fire it up. Spread my ashes wherever. That's life... and death. This isn't the first time I've faced death either. But at least I do know, from what I've seen and asked for, that there IS a God. And if, as you would believe, I'm wrong... what harm have I done by having faith? I do have to go... take care, along with the rest of you who replied.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
    • One one

      @*' "Enjoy your life its all you got for eternity you will bear the responsibility for your sins alone."

      Ahh yes, believe or burn. One of the cornerstones of an evil, immoral, and sadistic religion.

      As is preaching that punishing the innocent through horrific torture and death can absolve the "sins" of the guilty.

      Or that symbolically performing cannibalism and drinking his blood brings one closer to god. Oh, To be washed in the blood of Jesus!

      This is an ancient blood cult.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Teej
      so to boil down your answer, you have none. That's what I thought...and you claim I am childish. I ask for evidence, he gives me prophecy, which is speculative if they were actually any form of prophecy, you give anecdotal information, hardly proof.

      Du hast nicht. There is no evidence of any gods, and any of thousands of alternate explainations are just as plausible, and most are more probable.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • *

      Once again i offer to answer your question, it isn't that difficult. I am not tee j

      June 23, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
  16. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    June 23, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      God is not healthy for children and other living things.

      Why do you keep posting this lie over and over ad nausium....didn't your god tell you it is worng to bear false witness?

      June 23, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
    • mason

      Face it, information is death to religious myth and delusions. Welcome to the Information Age.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Evolution changes things.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
    • *

      I believe the post is"prayer changes things", the moniker is "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things" which is true but not the post, hope that clears it up for you.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
    • I ask...

      So this Information Age...has the answer???

      June 23, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
    • I ask...

      Soooooo "evolution changes things". Like biology, chemistry, the hearts of men and women???.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      *
      Both the name and the post are lies.
      Would you care to show your proof that atheism isn't healthy for chiklren and other living things. It is clearly in the bible that god is not healthy, but how exactly is not believing unhealthy. ( other than the proxy threat of eternal damnation to a place you will not be able to show is real).
      Start with this though. All life including children are born or starts life as an atheist. Religion must be taught.
      Show your work.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
    • Science

      Hey ass hat pray all you want it won't change evolution !

      evolution no god(s) needed !

      Snail Trail Reveals Ancient Human Migration

      June 20, 2013 — Geneticists from The University of Nottingham have used snails to uncover evidence of an ancient
      human migration from the Pyrenean region of France to Ireland.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130620084633.htm

      June 23, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
    • *

      The real Truth is that at this time evolution has never been proven.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      I kinda think that "evolution changes things" is a kick a$$ reply to "prayer changes things." I imagine I'll use it every time Atheism is not healthy for children and other things posts it. Feel free to adopt.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • One one

      Children die of disease every day despite their prayers for help.

      Their prayers are not answered.

      I believe it's because there is no god. Do you have a better explanation? Or will you reply with an answer that is a dodge? Or not answer at all.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  17. Namerike*

    Silly Christians. Talking to voices in their head to feel special. Begging for money to spread the word. Studying a silly book they can't figure out didn't Happen or it's history. Pathetic losers

    June 23, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • Dippy

      Its, not it's.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • One one

      @dippy, actually, I believe it's is correct assuming the writer was using the possessive form for the bible's history.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • lol??

      Your opinion counts?? Better check with yer facilitator.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • Dippy

      It's always means "it is". That makes no sense in this case.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      "It's" is a contraction. "Its" is a possessive.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
    • Dippy's Aide

      One one,

      Handy hint: The ONLY time an apostrophe is used with "it's" is when you mean "it is" or "it has".
      (it is not used for the possessive)

      June 23, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • Dippy

      Likewise true for other possessive pronouns, e.g., hers, yours, ours, theirs.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • Kenny

      Calling Christians silly and pathetic is inadvertent rambling. To think that all of the early Christian martyrs died for either a lie or ignorance, is to reject history. You need to read Foxes Book of Martyrs. You will learn what devotion, faith, bravery the martyrs displayed. They did not die being ignorant. They knew God and Jesus that you seem to not know. So, I ask, who is silly? Who is pathetic? If you don't believe in God, you are pathetic, silly, lost and ignorant. The fool has said in his heart that there is no God. That's in the Psalms. Look it up.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
    • Patrish

      Not sure I would call them loser, just not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • Dippy

      Well, hell, Kenny. If it's in the psalms that settles it. It has to be true. No question.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      Kenny,

      1. Many of the Christian martyrs' stories are unverified.

      2. Here are 23 pages of Muslim martyrs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Muslim_martyrs

      3. Lots of people have died over the eons for mistaken beliefs.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      Kenny,
      " The fool has said in his heart that there is no God."

      Again, just for you:

      A quite old and sometimes effective tactic – declaring that those who do not believe your story are 'fools'. Nobody wants to be considered 'dumb' for not seeing the Emperor's new clothes, or a 'bas.tard' for not seeing the Sultan's new turban, or a 'cuckold' for not being able to see the Miller's gold thumb.

      Even Joseph Smith used it when he gathered his 'witnesses' to his golden plates. He told them that only those with 'true faith' would be able to 'see' them.

      The ancient, primitive Hebrews who originated those Bible stories were quite adept at manipulative mind-games.

      June 23, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
  18. neo theskepticarena

    While I wish this group of Humanists the best of luck, I'll continue the battle in my own way. A quick look through the comments exposes the hate and ignorance that pervades the minds of Ghost Worshippers. Replies, as always, are encouraged. But instead of cowardly responding on this thread, let's see if any Ghost Worshippers can work up the courage to email me. Just replace the underscore with an 'at' sign and add .com. If your email is good enough, it might get featured in The Skeptic Arena.

    June 23, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
    • lol??

      Tryin' to contact the dead will lead you to daemons, as if the wurld needs more contact.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • TeeJ

      No point in replying to someone who thinks they're always right.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • Redoran

      Here is the #1 reason that makes this "congregation" so Great. They are into it as a comaraderie, helping each other come to grips with life. There is no "supernatural middleman guy in the sky" to deal with, at all. What they do is what they do together. They will not spend their daily lives worshipping a fantasy figure. This way they will accomplish so much more for themselves and community. This is a really great start to "stop bad religions"!

      June 23, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
    • lol??

      Yeah, like givin' the Masters prohibition.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • Ryan

      @TeeJ: a skeptic is someone who has the humility and wisdom to admit that there's a good chance they can be wrong. They apply the same critical rigor of thought to everything they see and all authority figures as well. There are no real skeptics who feel that they are always right, or that anyone is always right. This is actually the positions of theists who claim to have unshakeable faith, or claim that their own interpretation of ancient books is flawless and that that the book is inerrant and the perfect unchanging word of some deity. Or, were you talking about yourself? If that's the case, then you're probably right, no point responding to you.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
  19. Believe itorNot

    They're requesting that the congregation be present next week for the unveiling of a new statue of Richard Dawkins. Visitors should be warned though, the church of Baron d' Holbach is strongly opposed.

    June 23, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • Nonsense

      June 23, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
  20. Universe

    Quran says (Islamic Scripture)

    “We have honored the children of Adam, and provided them with rides on land and in the sea. We provided for them good provisions, and we gave them greater advantages than many of our creatures.” Quran [17:70]

    “They even attribute to Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims.” Quran [6:100]

    “The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]

    It does not befit God that He begets a son, be He glorified. To have anything done, He simply says to it, "Be," and it is. [19:35]

    “O children of Adam, we have provided you with garments to cover your bodies, as well as for luxury. But the best garment is the garment of righteousness. These are some of God's signs, that they may take heed.” Quran [7:26]

    “O children of Adam, do not let the devil dupe you as he did when he caused the eviction of your parents from Paradise, and the removal of their garments to expose their bodies. He and his tribe see you, while you do not see them. We appoint the devils as companions of those who do not believe.” Quran [7:27]

    “O children of Adam, when messengers come to you from among you, and recite My revelations to you, those who take heed and lead a righteous life, will have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.” Quran [7:35]

    “Did I not covenant with you, O Children of Adam, that you shall not worship the devil? That he is your most ardent enemy?” Quran [36:60

    Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to visit whyIslam org website.

    June 23, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • Chris

      Islam is man trying to reach God. Christianity is God reaching out to man.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • ME II

      Why the need to make up a god at all?

      June 23, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
    • lol??

      Why do you ask, ME II??

      June 23, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
    • I ask...

      So is this what two cowardly young men read in Boston one morning as they picked up their backpacks?????

      June 23, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • Charlie

      Chris's post is the reason why religion is so divisive.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
    • ME II

      @lol??,
      ... because they are discussing different views of a god. I thought that was apparent.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
    • Redoran

      As another blogger posted, why make up a god at all? One day, hopefully soon, you will awaken and finally realize that no 72 virgins await you in heaven if you so decide to suicide bomb us. You islams are one very, very, very, scarey crowd of fanatics.

      June 23, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.