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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. Vic

    Just quickly:

    This is pretty much expected; wait for the rest of the details to unfold!

    DOMA was partially struckdown! At any rate, the SCOTUS decision just cleared the way for the States to decide for themselves without being in opposition to the Federal Law but without National Recognition of Gay Marriage yet!

    June 26, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • Vic

      Clarification:

      For the new onlookers, this root comment is regarding earlier posts about SCOTUS decision today!

      June 26, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • Douglas

      Vic, Excessive use of html formatting tags is a waste of time and adds nothing to your already absurd posts.

      June 26, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • oOo

      True, but the impact of these rulings at a time when more and more states are rapidly warming up to gay marriage (even California going by latest polls) is severe.

      June 26, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • Akira

      The SCOTUS cleared the way for legally married gay couples to collect the same federal benefits as hetero couples do. Which is a huge victory. Don't minimalize it.

      June 26, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • oOo

      One way to look at the ruling on California is that between now and sometime soon when California does legalize gay marriage by ballot, gay will still be able to marry there based on the latest rulings prior to the SCOTUS case.

      June 26, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • oOo

      Yes, and on the one regarding DOMA, Akira is right. That will have a profound impact on equality regarding federal benefits.

      June 26, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • ME II

      Have I got this right that by dismissing the Prop 8 case same-se.x marriage is currently legal in CA because of the Federal Appeals Court struck down Prop 8 because it was unconsti.tutional?

      June 26, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • oOo

      That is my understanding, MEII.

      June 26, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • oOo

      Well, except I wonder if someone could appeal the earlier California decisions on some different grounds just to get those courts to enforce some temporary delays on marriages. But with the popular momentum toward acceptance of gay marriage in California, it seems highly unlikely, and what other grounds would they use?

      June 26, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • sam stone

      national recognition is coming, vic

      choke on it

      June 26, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • Russell

      Actually if you get married in one state, any state you move to has to recognize your marriage.
      That prety much is national recognition.

      June 26, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • WASP

      that's the problem RUSSEL; a lot of same gender couples have married in NYC and live in say...... north carolina, north carolina has fought against recognizing those "out of state" marriages. plenty of people have had to fight, one couple had to fight to get divorced because the state they lived in said they "were never married" yet the marrying state said they were. 😄

      June 27, 2013 at 7:18 am |
  2. bostontola

    What people want to do in their bedrooms is their business. Sentencing people to eternal fire for that is worse than making it illegal. Good thing it's all hokum, but the intent is there. Christianity the extreme opposite pole of Libertarian.

    June 26, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • Tom, Peeping

      I disagree.

      June 26, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Christian libertarians are opposed to using government as a tool to control or force the behavior of others. Most acts considered as sinful should stay within the domain of the church and family, and not be enforced by the state. Exceptions are made for "crimes against humanity" such as murder, ra pe, robbery, and the like. For example, a Christian libertarian may believe that adultery is immoral, but it should not be illegal.

      June 26, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • In Santa we trust

      Bill.
      Whereas christians are not opposed to using religion as a tool to control or force the behavior of others.

      June 26, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • bostontola

      Bill,
      Valid point, there are Christians that aren't flat earthers and luddites, I shouldn't have generalized. It doesn't change the fact that many Christians are though.

      June 26, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • ME II

      @Bill Deacon,
      So where do Christian libertarians land on the same-se.x marriage issue? illegal or not?

      June 26, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
    • lol??

      "2Cr 3:17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord [is], there [is] liberty."

      "Jhn 4:24 God [is] a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship [him] in spirit and in truth."

      June 26, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • lol??

      Churches, the false prophets, OR Gubmints, the Beasts, are not "in charge" of joining, unless of course, they are acting as usurpers.

      June 26, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • Chit

      Render unto Caesar, cupcake. Opps, sorry.

      June 26, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • lol??

      Yeah, chit chat, americutians made the same mistake as the Jews did in demanding a Caesar, "like all the other nations". They ain't as schmart as they like to brag.

      June 26, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • JMEF

      Bill Deacon
      Hit and run hypocrisy, what a fine record you and you church have. Exceptions are made when we can no longer cover up the crime, right Billy?

      June 26, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I don't know ME. You'd have to find one and ask them.

      June 26, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • Chit

      Aw. So bitter, lollypup. I guess it's because you've never learned how to correctly spell even the most basic words. Your mama should have taught you better, cupcake.
      Ha ha. Your side lost. Iran beckons, cupcake.

      June 26, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
  3. ME II

    @fred, (reply to comment on p58, at time of posting)
    "The reason I asked if you believe in causation or first cause without proof is because that would mean you have the trait that results in worship."

    Sorry, I'm still not clear, are you saying "causation or first cause" without proof of such, or are you saying "first cause without proof" as some kind of concept? Additionally, what trait does such belief entail that "results in worship?

    "Universe or multi-verse are the known results of causation..."

    Then you, apparently, know more than the best scientists do.

    "Everything we know has cause outside of itself for its existence which leads us to ask who made God. In short everything was created that we know."

    That is not evident. Everything we can detect seems to have resulted from a pre-Big Bang singularity, but how that sigularity, assuming it actually existed, formed is still unknown. We don't know how the singularity was formed, started, or created.

    June 26, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      Which is why saying "I don’t know" is the only reasonable answer to that question. Anything else is just disingenuous.

      June 26, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • bostontola

      Honey...,
      Of course nobody knows, no one was there.

      June 26, 2013 at 11:32 am |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      Which is the exact same reason that the stories of the bible should not be believed.

      June 26, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • bostontola

      Honey...,
      I don't care if people want to believe the bible stories, that's their choice. I gat annoyed when they want to declare them a fact and then want to impose laws that reflect those beliefs on the people that don't believe them.

      June 26, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      I think that we are in complete and violent agreement.

      June 26, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • The real Tom

      Laughing at "violent agreement."

      June 26, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      Its an army term.

      June 26, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
    • fred

      ME II
      Sorry, I'm still not clear, are you saying "causation or first cause" without proof of such, or are you saying "first cause without proof" as some kind of concept?
      =>causality as in classical (Newtonian) mechanics suggests a force caused the big bang. I see that as a philosophical foundational belief that there was a cause and we see the effect of that force being the universe. The question is why would a skeptic buy into causation when this lacks proof and is simply philosophical not scientific.

      " Additionally, what trait does such belief entail that "results in worship?"

      =>foundationalism. All known history shows mankind believes there is something behind the curtain. We can eliminate the easy ones like the Wizard of Oz etc. but continue to look for that something (98% of mankind today still believe there is more to life than what is before the curtain that science has fun with). Typically gods fill the space and the result is worship.

      "Universe or multi-verse are the known results of causation..."Then you, apparently, know more than the best scientists do.
      =>All the pre big bang theories and speculations to date establish boundaries which allow for testing. Testing involves application of abstract tensor calculus on a field. This Fock space is little more than summation of tensors which is causality. Thus science assumes causality in origin of the universe or multi-verse. Yes, even Stephen Hawking who hates anyone with a personal God must assume causality in his research.

      "We don't know how the singularity was formed, started, or created."
      =>but you know it was formed correct?

      On a side note guess what else A.V. Fock came up with........he developed the Hartree–Fock method in 1930 (it is not xxx just a way to approximate a wave function.)

      June 26, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
    • ME II

      @fred,
      "The question is why would a skeptic buy into causation when this lacks proof and is simply philosophical not scientific."

      I think your use of "causation" is rather confusing or equivocal. If you mean causation in general, as you said in classical Newtonian physics, then in general it is true and does apply. However, if by "causation" you mean 'first cause' then that has not been shown in the evidence. The difference is that in the extreme conditions, such as at the quantum level and/or in a singularity, Newtonian physics break down and don't necessarily apply.

      "foundationalism. All known history shows mankind believes there is something behind the curtain."

      I fail to see how popular opinion factors into this. There are many cases where the nearly universal beliefs of man fell victim to the evidence, e.g. flat-earth, geocentrism, humours, etc.

      "All the pre big bang theories and speculations to date establish boundaries which allow for testing. Testing involves application of abstract tensor calculus on a field. "

      I will admit that I don't know much about tensor calculus. Do you have a paper or article as a source for what you're saying?

      "Yes, even Stephen Hawking who hates anyone with a personal God must assume causality in his research."

      I think Hawking would disagree.

      "but you know [the singularity] was formed correct?"

      Not necessarily, no. However, if it was formed, there is no reason to think some supernatural intelligence did the forming.

      June 27, 2013 at 10:33 am |
  4. bostontola

    Love thy neighbor (small print...as long as they are Christian).

    June 26, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • Robert Brown

      Who's your neighbor?

      June 26, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • Reading along

      I loved my neighbor once..and so often he moved into my house.

      June 26, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
  5. The real Tom

    Where are Doogie and Bob?? HeavenSent must be imploding!

    June 26, 2013 at 11:01 am |
    • Doobs

      I thought I heard faint screams of "I'm melting!".

      June 26, 2013 at 11:03 am |
    • Science

      Do not forget freddy and .............

      June 26, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Akira

      Yes, old Douglas was convinced that legislated bigotry would prevail. Ha!

      June 26, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • oOo

      Someone still needs to lock the reptilian Scalia in a room with a copy of last December's Quarterly Review of Biology until it sinks in.

      June 26, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • Akira

      Scalia, that old reprobate. I had no doubt he would dissent on DOMA. Alito, too.

      June 26, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • sam stone

      With any luck, they are hanging from their pipes with a kicked over chair beneath them

      June 26, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
  6. bostontola

    "Why can't they ever just leave Christians alone?"

    Can you believe someone actually said this? Hello...Christians make up 3 out of 4 Americans. What a wuss.

    June 26, 2013 at 11:00 am |
    • Doobs

      Well, they do love feeling persecuted.

      June 26, 2013 at 11:02 am |
    • Really

      3 out of 4, and it surprises you that even some of us "nons" feel compelled to stand up for our friends and relatives sometimes?

      June 26, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
  7. Hitler did nothing wrong

    Just saw the surpreme court is taking it up the backside under pressure from the ho.mo liberals. Looks like I'll be moving out of this butt buddy circus.

    June 26, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • The real Tom

      Buh-bye.

      June 26, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • Doobs

      Don't let the door hit you in the ass you're so obsessed with.

      June 26, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The list of 1st world countries that ban gay marriage is shrinking all the time.
      Maybe you'd be more comfortable living in the middle east.

      June 26, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Hitler did nothing wrong: So you're off to an Islamic nation. I'm sure the good people in the USA won't miss you and your fellow bigots! 🙂

      June 26, 2013 at 11:00 am |
    • Akira

      I wonder why people forget that gay women exist, also? But then many men find two women together to be "hot" and not gay sex. Huh. Go figure.

      In any case, bye, Hitler.

      June 26, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Akira
      They also tend to ignore the fact that hetero couples have an/al intercourse too...

      June 26, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • Akira

      Doc: yes, they do. Good point.

      June 26, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • sam stone

      Better yet, Hitler...find yourself a bunker and eat your shotgun

      June 26, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • fintastic

      "Hitler"............. your screen name screams "I am a moron". you talk about the bible and god with a name like "Hitler did nothing wrong"??..... what a kukoo nut...

      June 26, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • One one

      "Looks like I'll be moving out of this butt buddy circus."

      Thank you.

      June 27, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
  8. Doobs

    Sanity prevails. DOMA struck down.

    Suck on it, bigots!

    June 26, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • Hitler did nothing wrong

      I bet you will be sucking on it now that it's legal

      June 26, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • Doobs

      LOL, Hitler. You're such a hoot. It's a ban same sex marriage in California that was struck down, not the legality of BJs. And I'm a woman, married to a man for over 30 years. But don't let facts get in the way of your bigotry and homophobia.

      June 26, 2013 at 11:00 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Hitler
      Whether hetero or ho/mo, BJs are illegal in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia and Washington D.C.
      Heck, in Virginia it is against the law to get jiggy with the lights on or in any position other than missionary.

      June 26, 2013 at 11:01 am |
    • Thinker...

      @Doc Vestibule

      Wait really?! At least we have a system in which idiotic laws can be ignored. I wonder when the last time anyone was fined or prosecuted on those laws was.

      June 26, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Thinker
      There are laws stranger than that when it comes to s.ex
      In Florida, you can be arrested for phukking a porcupine – though one would think that the act in and of itself would be punishment enough.
      In Minnesota, women can have s.ex with a live fish but a man can be jailed for it.
      Beastiophiles should move to Seattle where the only law concerning s.ex with animals is that the creature has to weigh less than 40 lbs.

      June 26, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • Akira

      Gives new meaning to the term "the bedroom police", doesn't it? How WOULD they enforce that??
      Lots of really stupid laws like that on the books.

      June 26, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      "But Your Honour, I swear that halibut was coming on to me!"

      June 26, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • Thinker...

      These laws make me want to know exactly what happened to cause them to even be brought before a legislature. I'm sure there are some interesting, and probably humorous, stories there.

      June 26, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • Akira

      "But, you Honor, the poodle is FRENCH!"

      I agree, Thinker...the backstory on these laws has to be a hoot!

      June 26, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
  9. I prefer iPhone to Android. But that's just my preference.

    Fantastic news!

    http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2013/06/26/supreme-court/

    June 26, 2013 at 10:33 am |
  10. oOo

    DOMA no longer operable. Thank you SCOTUS

    June 26, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • The real Tom

      YES!!

      June 26, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • lol??

      Getting a piece of the neighbors can only go so far, when the neighbors have been bankrupted by the Beast. It's a hollow "victory" for the zombies. That's why they're building FEMA camps. Free labor and they can sell the dead bodies to scientists like they did when building the Panama Canal.

      June 26, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      It's about time that religiously affiliated, bigoted law got what it deserves. The trash can.

      June 26, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • JMEF

      One step forward for equality.

      June 26, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • lol??

      Beastie bennies must be a bottomless pit! The inheritors will thank the wise latina mamas.

      BBbbbbwwwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahaha

      June 26, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      YEAH!

      June 26, 2013 at 10:49 am |
  11. WOW

    Really Doc? You live on this CNN comment page. You really want us to think you are not a CNN worker? LOL okay, whatever.. BTW here is a post you posted over a year ago. Yea, it has been noticed just who you are and what you are doing. You are a raging troll that no one takes seriously.. here is just one of MANY of your past comments:

    Doc Vestibule

    @justageek
    I too am agnostic when it comes to the origin of the universe, as well as abiogenesis.
    I am neither a theoretical physicist nor a biochemist, so I haven't the capacity to properly interpret the data.

    March 5, 2012 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |

    June 26, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • I prefer iPhone to Android. But that's just my preference.

      Yes it's true. Some of the commenters are always logged in. But, that doesn't mean they work for CNN. Quite the contrary. Are you a mole from Fox News? I bet you are. Tell your masters over at Fox News that your ilk are not welcome here.

      June 26, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • The real Tom

      WOW, get a life.

      June 26, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      I've a very restrictive firewall in my office, but CNN is not blocked.
      I do my job well enough that the people to whom I report don't mention anything – the time I spend here doens't impact my productivity to any noticeable degree.
      I seldom ever post after office hours because I've a real life in meat space.
      You can think me a troll all you like.
      I find this board entertaining and don't worry about who takes my musings seriously.
      It's just a website, after all and these words are just bits of digital flotsam in the great internet ocean.

      June 26, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • Doobs

      What's it to you? Are you signing his paycheck or something?

      June 26, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Hey CNN!
      If you'd like to pay me for writing here, I'll gladly accept!
      Drop me a line sometime – huey_vestibule@hotmail.com

      June 26, 2013 at 10:50 am |
  12. Cat

    Hello I am a cat. Someone is writing this on my behalf but my point is simple. Right now I am stuck in a four by eight cage at the local shelter near your house. I am going to die if someone doesn't spring me out of here. Please help me..I"m begging you..after that you can go back to your argument about religion. I don't care if it's a Christian or an Atheist who helps me, I really don't I just don't want to die...I don't want to be stuck in here.

    Thank you,

    A cat

    June 26, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • lol??

      Sorry kitty, but you only get three choices.

      1)skinhead white cat
      2)black muslim cat
      3)latino familia cat

      The socie scientists have decreed it to preserve disorder.

      June 26, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • tallulah13

      I wish you well, cat, but I cannot adopt another. I already adopted as many as my landlord allows. It is a shame that these people who let Christ take up their burdens lack the compassion to spay and neuter their pets so that cats like you wouldn't be left to pay for their sins.

      June 26, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • fintastic

      @tallulah13

      Ditto

      June 26, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
  13. Hitler did nothing wrong

    Why are these idiot atheist rats trying to destroy the sanct-i-ty of church with their worthless religion? Why can't they ever just leave Christians alone? Bunch of liberal pieces of trash always the most arrogant in the crowd. Want to spot an atheist? Just look for the greased up bottom waving a rainbow flag in the air and screaming with a lisp about how he wants attention. These types are all over the news and my kids see it. They stopped asking when I described how those types bang each other. Yeah kids, they stick it in the poop hole. No white picket fences with them folks in paradise. Just a flaming parade up brown town. And people wonder why God punishes them with aids. Can you honestly look at one without thinking to yourself that the dude takes shots in the face?

    Keep your fingers crossed and pray the Supreme Court makes the correct decision today. Say no to man on man marriage!

    Edit: Why do some words get blocked? No free speech?

    June 26, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • Joey

      What a strange person. What is your obsession with man on man s.ex?

      June 26, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • The real Tom

      Poor little troll. Did your mommy fail to pay attention to you?

      June 26, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • Doobs

      DOMA was struck down, bigot. Suck it.

      BTW, you seem pretty obsessed with "poop holes". Did mommy give you lots of enemas when you were a kid?

      June 26, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • Pete

      Seriously, just come out of the closet it will be fine.

      June 26, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • fintastic

      Poopy hole troll........

      June 26, 2013 at 11:02 am |
    • sam stone

      Sanc-t-i-ty of Church? Like the sanc-t-i-t-y of a snake pit

      June 26, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
  14. Brother Maynard

    Dangers of Belief
    I was born and raised Catholic.
    When I was a child, I remember the nuns in my school telling me about heaven and wanting to be with Jesus there.
    They told us that only good people were there, that only believers where there.
    I remember thinking "Well ... I'm Catholic! The first believers that ever were, the church that was built upon the rock, Peter. Surely that alone will convince god that I am worthy of heaven" The nuns basically reinforced this ideal as well.
    Knowing this I convinced myself that all I really had to do was to be a Catholic to go to heaven ... and that everything else was fluff. I went to mass on Sunday, I was an altar boy as well. I was a good Catholic.
    The only problem with this is that I resigned my life to a life of mediocrity. I never really studied in school ... got by with C's ... half heartedly played sports, half heartedly play piano and guitar. Even in the face of loving those things. Why? because I'm Catholic and already going to heaven. THIS life meant really nothing ... the REAL life was in heaven after this life with Jesus.
    The belief in heaven / hell/ god made me lazy.
    It took the secular world to show me that mediocrity is just that. When I got my first job ... I suddenly realized that lazy got you fired. Mediocrity got you nowhere.
    Realize there is no heaven/ hell, NO god and you will then start living life

    June 26, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • lol??

      Peter confined his ministry to the circ*umcision. Was the RCC 90% Jewish in the beginning?? Paul addressed the Gentiles with his letter to Rome. What the hey??

      June 26, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      So you were raised in the relative lap of luxury, in a free democracy where you and your family could exercise your choice of religion, given the benefit of a parochial education, entered a thriving economy with a basic skill set and you blame your mediocrity and lackluster performance on your childhood beliefs and your childish application of them? Let me guess, you're a Democrat?

      June 26, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • Brother Maynard

      So you were raised in the relative lap of luxury, YES
      in a free democracy where you and your family could exercise your choice of religion, YES
      given the benefit of a parochial education, YES
      entered a thriving economy with a basic skill set YES
      and you blame your mediocrity and lackluster performance on your childhood beliefs and your childish application of them?
      YES UNTIL I divorced myself ( as an adult ) of the child-like lessons of belief
      Let me guess, you're a Democrat? ( not sure what that has to do with belief but ... ) only on social issues; fiscal conservative

      June 26, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      How does social liberal fiscal conservative work? You believe the government should provide entiitlements but you don't want to pay for them?

      How does "I've absorbed all the benefits of my traditions and cashed in on them but I reject them now, I'm free" work?

      June 26, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Very good points, Maynard!

      June 26, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Well, Deacon, I guess we can always count on you to ignore the point and go straight for the red herring toss.

      June 26, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Doobs

      @ Bill Deacon

      How many fallacies can you pack into one sentence, hypocrite?

      June 26, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • Brother Maynard

      How does social liberal fiscal conservative work? You believe the government should provide entiitlements but you don't want to pay for them?
      Easy
      Gay marriage I'm for it VERY social liberal AND has NOTHING to do with fiscal anything.
      Legalization of marajuana – Tax it ... this will actually HELP with my fiscal conservatism
      Prosti tuiton – legalize it tax it this will actually HELP with my fiscal coservatism
      Cut the budget – for example cut 2% across the board. Defense/ Justice/ social programs ... everything.

      How does "I've absorbed all the benefits of my traditions and cashed in on them but I reject them now, I'm free" work?
      Duh because those traditions were/are WRONG ! They reinforce an idea that this life does not matter. That the after-life is our true life.

      June 26, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • John B.

      Some people are just lazy, and I don't think religion has anything to do with it. I share a very similar childhood, but I had motivation and drive to my best anyway.

      June 26, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • Happy Atheist

      I share a similar upbringing though not Catholic and struggled with being lazy because I felt saved though that quickly turned into a fervor to save others for about 15 years. In an attempt to keep proving it's truthiness I would talk to anyone and everyone around me about my faith. But in the back of my mind I knew it was more for me than it was for them. I needed the affirmation that what I read in the bible was truth so it made it feel more real when I got someone else to agree with me about it. After some serious soul searching (of which i discovered we don't have) I realized I could no longer try to convince others of something I myself was not truly convinced of. Then I read many other religious books in an effort to search for any real supernatural connection and found all of them to contain virtually the same things. A rich tapestry of historical fiction woven around the core principles of living well which is to be generous, kind and loving, to treat others as you wish to be treated and to hold the "super" (as in amazing and wonderful) natural world around us in reverence. But I also found that all the God's that have been invented are just that, inventions. In fact every Christian I know believes the same thing about every other religion in the world, they just stubbornly refuse to admit it of their own.

      June 26, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
  15. Gay marriage news

    Kevin Rudd has defeated Julia Gillard in a snap election of the Labor caucus to become new party leader and Australia’s prime minister. It comes just weeks after he announced his personal support for gay marriage equality in the country.

    Looks like Australia is now on the fast track for passing a gay marriage bill.

    June 26, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • lol??

      Zombies think they are "in charge" of marriage. Da woeman RULES!!

      BBBbbbbbwwwwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahaha

      June 26, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • lol??

      "Gen 4:1 And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD."

      Can I kill him, Lord?? You know what a creep he is!!

      BBbbbbwaaaaaaahahahahha

      June 26, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • Hitler did nothing wrong

      Looks like Australia is off my places to visit. That place is gonna turn into a giant BJ rainbow limp-wrist party just like San fransisco

      June 26, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • Doobs

      @ Hitler

      Come out of the frickin' closet. You'll feel better.

      June 26, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • The real Tom

      "Looks like Australia is off my places to visit." Aussies everywhere rejoice.

      June 26, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • Pete

      Not going to Australia? I highly doubt you have ever left your trailer park, apparently even to attend high school.

      June 26, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
  16. Doc Vestibule

    On Sunday morning, I groggily hauled my carcass into the bathroom where I showered, shaved and put a bit of ointment on my still healing "Leviticus 19:28" tattoo. I like to keep a bit of a shaggy look, so I didn't do much of anything with my hair, though.
    Then I stepped into the backyard where I picked absolutely all the freshly ripened tomatoes and lettuce from my garden and a couple of juicy apples from my young, 3 year old apple tree. I poured a nice, tall glass of milk and cooked up some bacon to make a BLT for breakfast.
    Then my Mom called and reminded me that she needed me to go over the paperwork with her to finalize the sale of her house. She's an old lady now, so her hearing isn't what it used to be. After repeating myself for the 5th time to no avail, I wound up almost yelling into the phone "dammit Mom, put in your hearing aid! I swear I'm gonna glue that thing to the side of your head one day!"

    Can you count how many ways I angered God on Sunday morning?

    June 26, 2013 at 8:55 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Why not examine your own conscience Doc and avoid the debate

      June 26, 2013 at 8:59 am |
    • The real Tom

      Why can't you answer the question, Dill?

      June 26, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Bill
      Think of it as a word problem from a junior high math class.
      In truth, I didn't even eat breakfast on Sunday.

      June 26, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • One Flew Over The Believer's Head

      Bill, I believe you just completely missed the point.

      June 26, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • sam stone

      Examining one's own conscience is good.

      Talk to god. Avoid churches

      June 26, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      I think you angered some god every time you used the word, "I", Doc. That's a common theme among gods and their relationships with us.

      June 26, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • lol??

      Zombie trap, " Please judge me Christians, so I can attack you for being judgmental."

      BBBbbbbbwwwwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahaha

      June 26, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • Science

      How about examining the ethics of the RCC Billy............. the god/se-x thingy

      June 26, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • WOW

      I see all the normal CNN workers are still doing the job to stir the pot to get more people to comment so CNN gets more internet traffic... Way to go Doc Vestibule. Yep ya got me! I came back to see if you all are still trolling and raging against God. BTW, we don't have to judge your problem, God will do that in his own time.

      June 26, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • oOo

      Stir whiskey, not pot.

      June 26, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • sam stone

      wow: "god will get you". such a fine example of christianity

      June 26, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      @Doc

      Try not to take it personally. God doesn't like sparrows either.

      June 26, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • PALADIN WIZARD NINJA WARRIOR OF THE HORDE

      World Of Warcraft? I expected a more biting quip from someone used to being destroyed daily over a video game.

      June 26, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      I don't work for CNN, but I am trying to stir the pot.
      I was careful to mostly use "sins" that angered God back in the old days when he was hanging with the Hebrews.
      God condemnded a whole lotta insignificant stuff before He became His own Dad.
      This is an exercise in critical thinking for those who cite OT passages as justification for condeming this and that from a fiery pulpit.

      June 26, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • sam stone

      doc: have you ever read "the year of living biblically"? pretty fun read

      June 26, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • lol??

      Sorry Doc, Christians already have a mediator. Your evangelism is in vain.

      June 26, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • JMEF

      Off topic but ... The Pope Francis effect might be working very well. He has announced a commission of inquiry to look into the activities of the troubled Vatican bank amid a fresh money-laundering investigation and questions about what goes on in the secretive insti.tution. Lets hope the next step will be releasing all the files on s8x abusing clergy held in the Vatican and all the docu.ments relating to the cover ups.
      PS: Bill Deacon if confession is good for the individuals soul, would it not be equally good for the RCC as an organization?

      June 26, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Sounds good on paper JMEF. Who would you recommend they make confession to? Will the seal of the confessional be intact? Are you seeking reconciliation or persecution? Do you think the leaders of the church have realistic concerns about those who would use anything they can to damage the church? What steps should a prudent steward then take?

      June 26, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • JMEF

      Bill Deacon
      What do I care about the seal of the confessional, that is your gig not mine. Turning over the information of CRIMES that have been committed to the authorities. You do know about being an accessory don't you or are you willing to ignore that to protect your unethical church. Pope Francis has started to get to the bottom of what has been going on at the Vatican for years, good on him, I just hope he holds those that may have committed crimes to the courts not just Canon law.

      June 26, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • JMEF

      Correction, those responsible...

      June 26, 2013 at 10:43 am |
  17. Vic

    Good morning folks,

    It just occurred to me to say this:

    If you ever consider believing in God at any point in time, DO IT, you don't have to tell anyone about it nor seek permission from anyone! When you believe, your relationship is direct with God!

    Do you know who Jesus Christ died for?! Look in the mirror!

    June 26, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • The real Tom

      Goshers, Vicky! Gee, if only someone had told me this before!

      Do you really think anyone takes advice from somebody who thinks bold and italics is novel?

      June 26, 2013 at 8:57 am |
    • sam stone

      "If you ever consider believing in God at any point in time, DO IT, you don't have to tell anyone about it nor seek permission from anyone! When you believe, your relationship is direct with God!"

      if it is a direct relationship, it doesn't matter which god, does it?

      June 26, 2013 at 8:59 am |
    • One Flew Over The Believer's Head

      If jesus ever actually existed, he didn't die for anyone. Hell, that wasn't even his name. Plus the guy lied according to his own book. Why would you trust the thing in the mirror when it is incapable of making rational decisions?

      June 26, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      How does one believe without a reason to believe, Vic? Belief is a natural response to evidence. I don't think one can come to believe something that doesn't even seem true.

      June 26, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • Vic

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/06/22/church-without-god-by-design/comment-page-49/#comment-2433000

      June 26, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • tallulah13

      Actually, Jesus Christ died because, like many other gods, the christian god is a thug who needed a human sacrifice to appease him. This is a story intended to instill guilt and a sense of debt for "sins" that with a better being, could be settled with a truly contrite "I'm sorry."

      Rather than turn to superstion to feel better about your life, you should take responsibility, own up to your problems and your offenses and deal with them yourself. Then something real will be accomplished.

      June 26, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • The real Tom

      Vicky, no matter how many times you post a link, you'll still be an idiot.

      June 26, 2013 at 10:05 am |
  18. lol??

    2Jo 1:10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into [your] house, neither bid him God speed:

    Don't ever say good-by to a zombie.

    June 26, 2013 at 8:21 am |
  19. lol??

    2Jo 1:7 For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.

    The zombies are everywhere.They are NOT friendlies.

    June 26, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • cooks

      Thats funny, the only zombie is the mytical jesus...hey santa isnt real either.

      June 26, 2013 at 8:27 am |
  20. donnie

    we all have our right to our god but god has a right to correct those that are out of his will god is not a debateor he is god he has the first and last word in the end we all shall see wait time will tell don't even try to put false words in and out of the bible it is and will always be right let it be said god and the lord and savior thank you god bless

    June 26, 2013 at 6:33 am |
    • sam stone

      what makes you think that the bible is god's word? because the bible says so? because you prayed on it after a bible study and the revelation came to you?

      June 26, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • sam stone

      interesting that you desire eternity with a being from whom you feel you have to be "saved"

      June 26, 2013 at 7:33 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Just one more interpretation of the crazies christardation creates.

      June 26, 2013 at 8:03 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      The god of your imagination has no rights at all except the imaginary ones you give it, donnie.

      June 26, 2013 at 8:07 am |
    • Doobs

      Punctuation is your friend. Learn it.

      June 26, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • fintastic

      He don't need no stinkin periods!

      June 26, 2013 at 11:09 am |
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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.