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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. rick

    most so called churches of false religion dont do anything but blame, remeber 2 world wars,racism,killing of native americans,jim crow laws etc. all stem from a country full of so called christians! most christains r corrupted

    July 9, 2013 at 11:08 pm |
    • Jim

      Rick spewed that, "most so called churches of false religion dont do anything but blame, remeber 2 world wars,racism,killing of native americans,jim crow laws etc. all stem from a country full of so called christians! most christains r corrupted."
      This demonstrates appalling understanding of history, rampant generalization, and gross stereotyping.
      WWI had nothing to do with religion - it had to do with enduring legacies of past wars and conflict over the Balkans.
      WWII was based on imperialistic expansion of largely godless regimes.
      Jim Crowe laws came from southern Democrats who wanted to maintain their peaceful Southern society.
      Killing of Native Americans stemmed from expansionism and from fear (based on scattered episodes of Native Americans killing settlers).
      Some of the people involved in the above may have been nominally Christian, but none of those things stemmed from Christian teachings.

      July 14, 2013 at 10:03 am |
  2. von

    Since when are people too intelligent to believe in God?

    July 9, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • ANCampbell

      Since the intelligent use their reason-filled, logical brains.

      July 16, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
  3. Ted

    "If there were no God, there would be no Atheists."
    G. K. Chesterton

    July 9, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Chesterton himself was atheist for all gods but the christian one, so does that mean he thought they existed?

      July 9, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
    • roger temp

      wrong...if there were no gods, those who believed there were no gods would indeed be atheists, and those who wrongly believed there were gods would still be theists.

      July 9, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
  4. Mona Octavri

    It's impossible for a human man to teach holy instructions without the Lord Jesus (Mark 7:7)

    July 9, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
    • roger temp

      hmmm, the average mullah/imam.rabbi/buddhist monk/ etc. most certainly disagree with you, and quoting from the bible to make your point is...pointless. It results in circular arguments.

      July 9, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • mzh

      3:45 – [And mention] when the angels said, "O Mary, indeed Allah gives you good tidings of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary – distinguished in this world and the Hereafter and among those brought near [to Allah ].

      3:46 – He will speak to the people in the cradle and in maturity and will be of the righteous."

      3:47 – She said, "My Lord, how will I have a child when no man has touched me?" [The angel] said, "Such is Allah ; He creates what He wills. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, 'Be,' and it is.

      3:48 – And He will teach him writing and wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel

      3:48 – And [make him] a messenger to the Children of Israel, [who will say], 'Indeed I have come to you with a sign from your Lord in that I design for you from clay [that which is] like the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird by permission of Allah . And I cure the blind and the leper, and I give life to the dead – by permission of Allah . And I inform you of what you eat and what you store in your houses. Indeed in that is a sign for you, if you are believers.

      3:49 – And [make him Jesus] a messenger to the Children of Israel, [who will say], 'Indeed I have come to you with a sign from your Lord in that I design for you from clay [that which is] like the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird by permission of Allah . And I cure the blind and the leper, and I give life to the dead – by permission of Allah . And I inform you of what you eat and what you store in your houses. Indeed in that is a sign for you, if you are believers.

      3:50 – And [I (Jesus) have come] confirming what was before me of the Torah and to make lawful for you some of what was forbidden to you. And I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, so fear Allah and obey me (Jesus).

      3:51 – Indeed, Allah is my (Jesus) Lord and your (companions) Lord, so worship Him. That is the straight path."

      3:52 – Then when Isa (Jesus) came to know of their disbelief, he said: "Who will be my helpers in Allah's Cause?" Al-Hawariun (the disciples and the companions) said: "We are the helpers of Allah; we believe in Allah, and bear witness that we are Muslims (i.e. we submit to Allah)."

      3:53 – Our Lord! We believe in what You have sent down, and we follow the Messenger ['Iesa (Jesus)]; so write us down among those who bear witness (to the truth i.e. La ilaha ill-Allah – none has the right to be worshipped but Allah).

      3:54 – And they (disbelievers) plotted [to kill 'Iesa (Jesus) ], and Allah planned too. And Allah is the Best of the planners.

      3:55 – And (remember) when Allah said: "O 'Iesa (Jesus)! I will take you and raise you to Myself and clear you [of the forged statement that 'Iesa (Jesus) is Allah's son] of those who disbelieve, and I will make those who follow you (Monotheists, who worship none but Allah) superior to those who disbelieve [in the Oneness of Allah, or disbelieve in some of His Messengers, e.g. Muhammad SAW, 'Iesa (Jesus), Musa (Moses), etc., or in His Holy Books, e.g. the Taurat (Torah), the Injeel (Gospel), the Quran] till the Day ofResurrection. Then you will return to Me and I will judge between you in the matters in which you used to dispute."

      3:56 – "As to those who disbelieve, I will punish them with a severe torment in this world and in the Hereafter, and they will have no helpers."

      3:57 – And as for those who believe (in the Oneness of Allah) and do righteous good deeds, Allah will pay them their reward in full. And Allah does not like the Zalimun (polytheists and wrong-doers).

      3:58 – This is what We recite to you (O Muhammad SAW) of the Verses and the Wise Reminder (i.e. the Quran).

      3:59 – Verily, the likeness of 'Iesa (Jesus) before Allah is the likeness of Adam. He created him from dust, then (He) said to him: "Be!" – and he was.

      3:60 – (This is) the truth from your Lord, so be not of those who doubt.

      3:61 – Then whoever argues with you about it after [this] knowledge has come to you – say, "Come, let us call our sons and your sons, our women and your women, ourselves and yourselves, then supplicate earnestly [together] and invoke the curse of Allah upon the liars [among us]."

      3:62 – Indeed, this is the true story. And there is no deity except Allah. And indeed, Allah is the Exalted in Might, the Wise.

      July 10, 2013 at 9:37 am |
  5. Stan

    Famous scientists who believed in God:

    http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/sciencefaith.html

    July 8, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
  6. Roger

    Look! Half naked Asian chicks! I'm joining the Raelians!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ra%C3%ABlians

    July 8, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
  7. Mary

    Why do atheists expect Christians to practice Christianity when they don't even practice it themselves?
    Why does this seem hypocritical?

    July 8, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • Doobs

      Are you asking why atheists don't practice christianity? I would think the answer would be obvious. Atheists do not believe in deities.

      Expecting someone who believes in christianity to practice christianity is, well, expected. Duh.

      July 8, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • Observer

      Mary,

      Christians should be expected to practice what they preach. That's the source of their world-class hypocrisy.

      Do you answer any questions or just ask them?

      Why do Christians tell others they will go to hell for not believing everything in the Bible when the Christians themselves don't believe everything in the Bible.

      Let's see if you can answer questions or just run away.

      July 8, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • Mary

      Why are you asking me that?

      July 8, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • bostontola

      Mary,
      I'm an atheist and I don't expect Christians to practice Christianity. That would be foolish. I watch many Christians most days not practicing their religion, factually it would be silly to expect that which doesn't happen.

      July 8, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
    • Athy

      Mary doesn't seem to be the sharpest knife in the drawer, does she?

      July 8, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • Ted

      Bostontola, Christians (like myself) practice religion. But, like everything that requires pratice – thereafter – we must put into play. We are human, we have faults, and God will forgive if we have the truth in our heart.

      July 9, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
  8. Mary

    Why can't people take what they dish out?

    July 8, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
  9. tallulah13

    Mary is a genius.
    She makes so many good, brilliant, interesting points.
    I will make a statue of Mary in her honor and place it in my front yard.

    July 8, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • Really-O?

      You shall not make for yourself an idol...

      July 8, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
  10. Athy

    Mary has shown me the light. Thank you, Mary.

    July 8, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Observer

      It's called the sun. It happens everyday.

      July 8, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
  11. Mary

    It's my day on the rota to make new drive-by postings without responding to previous ones.

    July 8, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
  12. Mary

    Why would matter exist for no good reason?

    July 8, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Who says that there's not a good reason? Perhaps there is. We don't know.

      Are you stupid and annoying or just one or the other?

      July 8, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Observer

      There's plenty of matter that is useless. There's no good reason to have billions and billions of stars, unless you can find one.

      July 8, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • fred

      Cpt. Obvious
      Actually we do know why matter exists. If there is a creator a creator creates and that result is many things some of which are the matter we can see and measure with scientific methods limited to that same matter. This is why you do not know and continue to use the I don't know excuse. You are limited in your knowledge by matter.
      Christians on the other hand are not limited to matter giving them capacity to see the full reality of our existence which is more than just matter.
      It is not reasonable to discard all observation that points to fact matter is self limiting. It is not reasonable to ignore the evidence that life is more than physical matter and energy.

      July 8, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      fred, There is no evidence that there is a creator, so how can christians know of any purpose?

      July 8, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • fred

      In Santa we Trust
      Evidence of a creator is in everything we observe. It is the old Intelligent Design argument. I understand the atheist argument that evolution accounts for the complexity of organic structures but it does not and there is no evidence to support it. Evolution only supports the notion that natural selection via an external environmental forces brings about gradual change which is not the case. Evidence is actually contrary to that. Mutation caused by external force actually brings about cancer and loss of life not enhancement. DNA contains the information necessary for an organism to adapt to environments we can not even imagine not vice versa. It is the information in the DNA that put hair on the wooly mammoth when the Ice age approached not gradual evolution which never had the time or opportunity for random mutation.
      The presence of a creator is obvious in that information contained in the DNA. I am not speaking about the chemical chains in the DNA as that is the observable material elements comprised of known matter. I am speaking about the information contained within the DNA which has no mass yet contains all the information necessary for adaptation.

      Why? Because God said be fruitful and multiply. God spoke existence into being just as he spoke the information into the source of our individuality. The Bible says in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was life. Life is more than organic reaction to chemical stimuli it is of the same substance as information.

      July 8, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
    • fred

      In Santa we Trust
      As to the second part of your reply if there is no creator there is no knowable purpose. Without a creator or eternal record keeper (observer) all existence is non existence at some point in time. In short if our universe vaporized it never existed and will never be found to have existed.

      July 8, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • Huh?

      "As to the second part of your reply if there is no creator there is no knowable purpose. Without a creator or eternal record keeper (observer) all existence is non existence at some point in time. In short if our universe vaporized it never existed and will never be found to have existed."

      So what. The existence of life is NOT proof of a god.

      July 8, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
    • fred

      Huh?
      Proof of God is in your base knowledge that you do exist. That single point of self awareness points to the innate understanding there is a source outside of self. Without such an eternal reference point you do not exist and thus have no purpose.
      This is why atheists must embrace an accidental life without purpose or design because any other thought conflicts with existence which is self evident and points towards an external source for verification.

      July 8, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
    • Huh?

      "Proof of God is in your base knowledge that you do exist. That single point of self awareness points to the innate understanding there is a source outside of self. Without such an eternal reference point you do not exist and thus have no purpose."

      No, it's called your brain and your garbage is NOT proof of a god.

      July 8, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
    • fred

      Huh?
      Not my garbage alone as 98% of the worlds population express this innate knowledge in various ways. The majority express it through religious worship while the minority duck and cover under the blanket of "I don't know". You can the forget the 2% because statistically you can expect neurological and psychological disorders.

      July 8, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
    • Pete

      "Not my garbage alone as 98% of the worlds population express this innate knowledge in various ways."

      Oh look fred is still lying about the numbers again. 16% of people on this planet don't believe in a god so the number can't be 98%. Only 33% actually believe in a xtian god. Fred is a well known liar on this blog and a deceptive poster.

      July 8, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
    • ME II

      @fred,
      "I understand the atheist argument that evolution accounts for the complexity of organic structures but it does not and there is no evidence to support it."

      This is incorrect; there is plenty of evidence to support evolution. References have been posted before, but I can provide some examples if you would like.

      "Evidence is actually contrary to that."

      There is no evidence that I'm aware of that contradicts evolution, if that is what you're trying to say.

      "Mutation caused by external force actually brings about cancer and loss of life not enhancement."

      Much genetic mutation does cause detrimental changes, although not all are fatal, however some mutations are beneficial, accu.mulate, and increase survival chances.

      July 8, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
    • fred

      Pete
      There are 200-240 million atheists in the world the vast majority in countries where religion was crushed by communist leaders. This translates into perhaps 3% of the world population. My numbers are not misleading.
      You refer to 16% which is a Wiki number that includes 8% theists so please do your homework. The other 5% are unknown responses which includes agnostics. They do not deny their own existence thus are not in denial as you are.

      July 8, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
    • Pete

      "There are 200-240 million atheists in the world the vast majority in countries where religion was crushed by communist leaders. This translates into perhaps 3% of the world population. My numbers are not misleading.
      You refer to 16% which is a Wiki number that includes 8% theists so please do your homework. The other 5% are unknown responses which includes agnostics. They do not deny their own existence thus are not in denial as you are."

      I am not quoting Wiki, wiki is garbage. I am quoting a pew study done in 2010. You can't lump all religions into one category and they try to sell your version of religion which only makes up 33% of people. You are being deceptive and you are a liar.

      July 8, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
    • Dave

      I think the numbers vary depending on the study done because WIN-Gallup International in 2012 have 59% of the world said that they think of themselves as religious person, 23% think of themselves as not religious whereas 13% think of themselves as convinced atheists.

      July 8, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • fred

      ME II
      Evolution as a World View (i.e. man evolved from base elements gradually over time thus no god needed) is without any evidence. There exists no proof that natural selection was the causal agent in evolutionary change. The evolution occurred as a result of information contained within the DNA that allowed survival under the new external forces. This is different than a chicken or egg discussion. Man adapted to the given environment as a result of information available within not external input.
      All the various biological constructs related to evolution are not what I question. I question the source or potential to evolve. Within the DNA is the information for certain species to alter their organic structure for survival. Even trees begin to respond to infestation not gradually over millions of years but in short order geologically speaking. That response originates within not outside the DNA.

      July 8, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • Pete

      "Not my garbage alone as 98% of the worlds population express this innate knowledge in various ways."

      The point is that fred is trying to make the claim of 98% and it's just not true, which is why I am stating fred is a liar.

      July 8, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
    • ME II

      While 16% of the world are "unaffiliated" (http://www.pewforum.org/global-religious-landscape-exec.aspx) that does not mean that they don't believe in god, necessarily.
      On the other hand, "atheists" are not the only group that 'lack a belief' in god (68%+ of the world, if referring to the Christian God in particular) and I would be interested to know the source for the mere 200- 240 million number stated.

      Ultimately, however, neither figure matters as it is not a popularity contest, at least not for existence.

      July 8, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • fred

      Pete
      Dave
      My numbers are from 2005 and Pete you are in 2010 so Dave you have some new numbers from 2013. There are problems with the most recent poll. For example: "One anomaly that the pollsters have themselves questioned is in Turkey, where those who say they are religious is only 23% while those defining themselves as non-religious is 73%"

      Can we trust the numbers out of China

      July 8, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • Pete

      "Ultimately, however, neither figure matters as it is not a popularity contest, at least not for existence."

      fred's trying to use the "98%" to try and sell their proof of a god when in fact that number is not accurate. We've had this discussion with this poster over and over about this number and they keep posing it regardless of the facts. Atheism is on the rise and fred can't handle that fact while believers in xtianity has been stagnant throughout human history staying around 33% when compared to the population growth. fred tries to be deceptive in the numbers to make it seem like their god is so great when in fact that is NOT the case.

      July 8, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • Pete

      "My numbers are from 2005 and Pete you are in 2010 so Dave you have some new numbers from 2013."

      Oh look fred's trying to be deceptive again to try and prove they are right. By the way thanks for demonstrating your poor reading comprehension skills.

      July 8, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
    • ME II

      @fred,
      "Evolution as a World View (i.e. man evolved from base elements gradually over time thus no god needed)..."

      That is not the modern theory of evolution. It does not address abiogenesis.

      "There exists no proof that natural selection was the causal agent in evolutionary change."

      1) Science doesn't deal in "proof".
      2) Natural selection is not the cause of change, it is a name for the process by which natural conditions like the environment, competi.tion, predation, etc. determine which traits are more successful than others.

      "The evolution occurred as a result of information contained within the DNA that allowed survival under the new external forces."

      If by, "information contained within the DNA," you mean the nucleobases (guanine, adenine, thymine, and cytosine) that make up the DNA structure, then you are correct. However, if you mean that there is no new genetic information then you are incorrect. See Lenski's Long term e.coli experiment as an example. (http://myxo.css.msu.edu/ecoli/)

      "Within the DNA is the information for certain species to alter their organic structure for survival."

      That depends on what you mean by "organic structures". Certainly, physical changes can occur without genetic changes, such as healing wounds, growing branches, regrowing tails in some cases. I'm not aware of any species that is capable of directing changes in its own DNA structure. (Although, some bacteria I think exchange DNA.)

      "Even trees begin to respond to infestation not gradually over millions of years but in short order geologically speaking. That response originates within not outside the DNA."

      Certainly, some adaptations are not genetic. For example, height may very well be due to, or in reaction to, the environment such as limited availability of resources.

      July 8, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      I agree with fred that our existence gives rise to certain truths like math and chemistry. They emerge from our world around us, and as we use them, we prove the rules more and more and understand more and more. If our existence gave rise to a truth about an ultimate creator, we should be able to prove the rules about that creator more and more and understand more and more; across the globe, our experience should point to one, determined, defined idea. The concept of a particular god does NOT emerge from nature like math and chemistry, and instead, it looks exactly like people believing old stories from ancestors.

      If a SOLID god concept emerged from the universe like math or chemistry, there would be no argument. Because there can be argument (because no god belief has any tool or ability another god belief doe not have-–they all use "faith") then we do not know. If we don't know, then we shouldn't believe. Thus, thinking individuals are agnostic atheists, neither believing nor claiming that "god knowledge" can be gained right now.

      July 8, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • fred

      ME II
      I attended a lecture by Randy J. Guliuzza, P.E., M.D who had an interesting view on Natural Selection.
      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuaaYSX8bsI&w=640&h=390]

      The above is a slow moving You Tube. In short it hinges on the "information" contained within the DNA not the chemical structure. Adaptation comes from the information already present within the species that allows for creation of necessary traits (i.e. it is innate not from the outside -natural selection). The organism produced the trait to survive not nature. The ability to overcome is in the organism it is innate. Thus the trait is by design in the organism not the environment.

      It is implied that information was imparted to the given species

      July 8, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
    • fred

      Cpt. Obvious
      "If we don't know, then we shouldn't believe"
      => I could not agree more.
      => can two people know completely opposite things? I know God created yet an atheist knows God did not. Faith is the constant which both posses and exercise. The Bible says to each is given a measure of faith so the Bible is true on this point. Dare I say your orientation is to believe? You can be born in China, Iran or the Bible belt and that orientation to believe will produce fruit. The fruit could be godlessness as with Dawkins or the Christian Church as with Saul of Tarsus. The universal truth is that this is how we were designed or as you believe accidently evolved. Those who know the way and seek it will find it.
      This is not unfair it is the way it is. Just as millions of sperm die resulting in nothing one finds the way. The process is not random or accidental just part of the process.

      July 8, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • WASP

      @MARY: "Why would matter exist for no good reason?"

      to answer your question; matter exsists because energy exsists.
      ENERGY can not be created nor destroyed; thus energy is ETERNAL, it simply cycles as all things in the universe.
      protons are naturally drawn to electrons due to their opposing forces, this creates balance which inturn creates matter.

      one electron,one neutron and one proton create what?............................... a single atom of HYDROGEN. if you take two hydrogen atoms and combine them with a single OXYGEN atom you get what?...............a single molecule of water.
      this universe doesn't exsist because it has to, it is here because it can be. it's that simple.

      @ FRED: " Just as millions of sperm die resulting in nothing one finds the way. The process is not random or accidental just part of the process."

      ok obviously you believe sperm have "a mind of their own", the reason men produce and discharge millions of sperm is due to the fact that when you release it literally fills the females insides. they don't "choose" left or right? they simply fill every chamber inside the female. now seeing some have defects due to genetic opps during mytosis, they don't move anywhere or simply in circles.
      here is an EXPERIMENT for you to understand the process:
      pour milk into a cup................there experiment done fluids regardless of the container naturally conform to the shape of the container.

      July 8, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
    • fred

      WASP
      The thought of a container and milk does not have mass or matter. Your thought exists and has power without substance.

      July 8, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
    • WASP

      @fred: "The thought of a container and milk does not have mass or matter. Your thought exists and has power without substance."

      thoughts are discharges of chemical energy; thus they do have not only mass, but power and by that means they have substance.

      🙂 i love how ignorant you truly are, it makes me look sooooooooo much more intelligent than you will ever be. 😄

      July 8, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
    • fred

      WASP
      Wishful thinking is worth it's weight in Gold.

      July 8, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
    • Pete

      "Wishful thinking is worth it's weight in Gold."

      That's why you've been proven a liar and a deceptive poster who doesn't understand the facts.

      July 9, 2013 at 10:34 am |
    • fred

      Pete
      No, you would be the liar as you have no evidence to support your atheism. I state my positions as reasons to believe which is where both atheists and believers end up simply because the things of God do not fit into an area that allows for scientific method to work.

      July 9, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • ME II

      @fred,
      "Thus the trait is by design in the organism not the environment.
      It is implied that information was imparted to the given species"

      I haven't watched the video, but what exactly indicates that a trait is "by design"?

      July 9, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • Pete

      "No, you would be the liar as you have no evidence to support your atheism. I state my positions as reasons to believe which is where both atheists and believers end up simply because the things of God do not fit into an area that allows for scientific method to work."

      Actually we do fred but you reject it all the time. The bible has been proven NOT to be an historical document, it's a religion stolen from other religions. You have not present one ounce of proof your god actually exists. We can present evidence of what part of your brain gets stimulated when you meditate or think of a god that secretes a chemical reaction that makes you feel at peace with yourself, you don't need a god to get that feeling. Plus we reject your version of religion for the same reason you reject all the other thousands of religions man has come up with throughout human history.

      July 9, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
      • Cameron

        Pete,

        The NT is the most certain work from antiquity. The assertion that it was borrowed from other religions is only something that floats around on the internet by keyboard atheists. Watch the debate on youtube by Dan Barker and James White to hear the truth. I simply point this out because most atheists aren't aware of this and don't have the will power to look into it themselves. But many religions, even ancient pagan religions, have certain common points, but correlation doesn't not necessarily equal causation. And as Christians we would even expect that if we are all created by one God that many points of religion would overlap, no differently than other other fields of study overlap to some degree.

        Lastly, the assertion that religious people have a stimulus in the brain thus believe in God could be applied to anything. Atheists have a stimulus in the brain thus are atheists. People have a stimulus in the brain thus eat ice cream, etc, etc. If you really believe that all beliefs are merely a byproduct of random neuron firings in the brain then you can't believe in free will and are really only mad at nature for making people religious because it determines their physiology. Yet, you aren't arguing on here like that is the case. You are arguing like religious people have free will.

        July 17, 2013 at 2:21 am |
    • fred

      ME II
      That is the big hole, no evidence was presented that it was by design within the DNA. A lot of good reason for there being design but no support. The best reason is that mutation to the cell or DNA as a result of an external or environmental source tends to cause cancer or death not change and certainly not gradual change.

      The information on how to change (which on off switches to trigger in the DNA) is not in the chemical structure but already exists within the DNA -my problem is the doctor now switches to Biblical reference as to source of information so it is without support. I am aware that it is the sequence not the "rungs" of the helix that contain the information. The argument is the sequence is the design. Here is a better summary of that argument to avoid the video:
      http://philo-logos.blogspot.com/2012/11/16-reasons-why-i-believe-in-god-5.html

      July 9, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • fred

      Pete
      "The bible has been proven NOT to be an historical docu ment"
      =>no, there is no proof that it is not the history of a chosen people. I agree there is very little evidence to support many parts of the Bible yet it is the only account of these chosen ones that we have.

      "it's a religion stolen from other religions."
      =>this is pure speculation as the oral traditions predate other accounts of gods. We cannot say which came first.

      "You have not present one ounce of proof your god actually exists"
      =>correct there are reasons to believe or reasons to be an atheist no "proof" actually exists.

      "We can present evidence of what part of your brain gets stimulated when you meditate or think of a god that secretes a chemical reaction that makes you feel at peace with yourself, you don't need a god to get that feeling."
      =>we were created to experience more than the physical and that may be the organ that facilitates it.

      "Plus we reject your version of religion for the same reason you reject all the other thousands of religions man has come up with throughout human history."
      =>no, you limit life to the physical whereas life is far more than physical. Reality is that which exists regardless of your perception or my perception yet they are two very different realities. I see an orchestration towards ever expanding horizons throughout creation and you see an end to horizons when your chemical stimuli cease.

      July 9, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
    • Pete

      " I see an orchestration towards ever expanding horizons throughout creation and you see an end to horizons when your chemical stimuli cease."

      Chad you're making more assumptions that just aren't true. I plan on being created and my ashes put into my favorite garden, so when my loved ones eat a pepper from the garden, part of me created it. LMAO!

      July 11, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • Pete

      " I see an orchestration towards ever expanding horizons throughout creation and you see an end to horizons when your chemical stimuli cease."

      Chad you're making more assumptions that just aren't true. I plan on being created and my ashes put into my favorite garden, so when my loved ones eat a pepper from the garden, part of me created it. LMAO!

      July 11, 2013 at 10:52 am |
  13. Mary

    Why does matter exist?

    July 8, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Nobody knows, despite any claims that they do know.

      July 8, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • Athy

      Why shouldn't it exist? Why should there be nothing rather than something?

      July 8, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
  14. Mary

    Why can't a response come without an attack?

    July 8, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • Saraswati

      Was Mary the same name this annoying person used to use a few months ago? I've already forgotten.

      July 8, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
  15. Mary

    My question makes perfect sense.
    You're just baffled by its brilliance.

    July 8, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • In Santa we trust

      Curiosity about, and research into, a subject does not mean that a higher purpose exists or that a god did it.

      July 8, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
  16. GOOD NEWS

    GOD created the Science,

    in the Language of Mathematics!

    http://www.holy-19-harvest.com
    UNIVERSAL MAGNIFICENT MIRACLES

    July 8, 2013 at 5:21 am |
  17. Kenneth J. Bielak

    God.....the ultimate scientist.

    July 8, 2013 at 1:20 am |
    • Athy

      What did he discover? What were his credentials? What were his peer-reviewed publications? What degrees does he hold?

      July 8, 2013 at 1:54 am |
    • notraitors

      Hey Athy, where are YOUR credentials, which of YOUR publications have been peer reviewed, and what degrees do YOU hold? (We could also apply the same questions to Darwin)

      July 8, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • Athy

      And we could apply that same question to you?

      July 8, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
  18. cd

    To bad CNN but your lies won't work they can't find any members for YOUR CNN ATHEISTS GROUP. They jus finished a report saying they can!t rid members,as you notice only young mush heads are in this group.

    July 7, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
  19. cd

    I think a news Report WITHOUT CNN WILL HAPPEN MUCH SOONER.

    July 7, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
  20. shawbrooke

    Humanism is a belief system like any other. This proves it. Bet my high school guidance teacher is rolling over in his retirement. At least I hope that where ever he is, it's not in teaching!

    July 7, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Humanism is a belief system – no one has ever disputed that. Atheism, on the other hand, is not a system, but a single belief, or lack thereof. I suspect that is what you are talking about?

      July 7, 2013 at 8:59 pm |
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About this blog

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