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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. pg2013

    I live in Ireland and there is a similar debate happening in Ireland at the moment. I think everybody has the right to a freedom of beliefs and expression, as long as it is not overtly pushed on others. I Believe in god, i wont push that on anybody. It is my belief and i hold it sacred because it is mine. The basic doctrine of this church is nothing, wrapped around the guise of community and togetherness. Maybe such educated people as these that went to Harvard would extend their attention to the phenomological works of martin Heidegger where he argues about the term being and nothing. Nothing cannot be nothing because there will always be something that we cannot capture in its meaning that cannot be expressed. I can understand thus a gathering of people around the idea of togetherness. But this cannot be a church because it is a church for nothingness, pointless because it stills workshops something. The only thing I see this thing as being is contrary to the millions of people who have faith in america....

    June 23, 2013 at 8:43 am |
  2. CARLinAC

    Speaking as a theist, this is actually a welcome development. For a very long time, atheists have argued that the 'crutch of the church' was less about an encounter with the divine and more about the need for affirmation in community. If atheist churches catch on they will have been proved right. I'm willing to bet that they won't, however: whereas theism must constantly affirm its Belief In Something in order to succeed, the whole trick of atheism is to constantly avoid its Belief in Nothing in order succeed by distracting itself from the fundamental nihilistic belief as its center. People aren't going to want to get together every week to remind themselves that nothing means anything.

    June 23, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • akis vassilleiou

      lack of belief in god is not lack of faith. what you say just prove your theistic stance and not that atheists are nihilists.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • pg2013

      I don't agree with the atheist but you have a definite right to your view. But I agree a church based on actual nothingness is actually quite silly. Its based on the principle of a deconstructed faith, a bit like deconstructivism in art and architecture it is interesting the first few times you experience the thing but it doesn't exist as something interesting after a while. A better solution iis, is that maybe if people who believed were respected by the people who don't, and vice versa and just give other people the basic common courtesy in life. Then this world would be a better place rather than the divide that exists...

      June 23, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • Jarno

      But atheists don't "believe in nothing". That's a tired stereotype of what atheists are like, and it is patently absurd. I know of no atheist that would "believe in nothing". Atheists believe in many things – what defines atheists is that we don't believe in a particular thing: namely the existence of a god, or gods.

      I believe in humanity, I believe in the value of ethics, compassion, community and family. I believe that science is the best way we know of of arriving at an understanding of the world we live in. I believe in admitting when you are wrong, if shown wrong with good evidence. I believe in the importance of a skeptical approach to remarkable claims. I believe in open-minded inquiry, unhampered by fear. I believe there are no thought crimes. I believe in the importance of freedom of expression, and the pursuit of a society free of tyranny; any kind of tyranny, whether that of dictators, or stifling dogmas that don't brook dissent.

      It is an utterly bizarre notion that atheism would mean "believing in nothing". It just means not believing in the existence of a god, or gods. That's it. It's really simple.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:57 am |
    • akis vassilleiou

      @pg2013
      actually it is a matter of power and not faith. what history teaches us is that whenever people gain much power they imposed their will to others. same happened with christianity both in western europe and in byzantium but same happened with atheists with power too (stalin and mao). so for me the problem lies with power and not faith.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:58 am |
  3. Carol

    Wow the so called religious people are sure filled with a lot of hate? Is that part of Christianity?

    June 23, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • Good ol boy

      Are you hating on Christians again, Carol? It's ok for people like you who have no moral foundation, I guess.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Good ol' boy
      Carol asked two questions and you accuse her of hate. Why is askinig a question hate? (oops there I go hating by question)

      June 23, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • Good ol boy

      It's no different than what you and she do...

      June 23, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • bajadelmar

      @Good ol boy No, she's just pointing out the facts. People like you hate facts they get in the way of your controlling agenda.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      ol boy
      So is that you confirming that asking questions is now hating? I am beginning to wonder if you can have a rational thought or if you just keep making up stuff, and then project it on other people and call it true.

      June 23, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • Moochie

      Nah pretty everybody hates you personally carol, but you already knew this.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
  4. Angry Atheist

    Atheist Church!? Sunday School!? LOL! Let the Game of Thrones backstabbing begin, and I'll be preachin to my minions before you know it. Go forth my minions and bring me lots of money! I can see it now...selling courses in how to be a good Little Atheist and give to the Atheist Church. Where do I sign up?

    June 23, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • I Am God

      Funny. I should ask you church fools as well. I was in a city not long ago and I saw a strange thing. I work in the construction business most of my life and I noticed a church that definitely at a price tag of $900,000-$1,200,000 dollars to create. It made me wonder where they got all that money if they were so charitable.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • dao

      As someone said previously. If not a religion, it will be something else that the powerful will choose to manipulate the masses. Collective atheism gives up a deity, but maintains group thought.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • Cheeves

      Yeah a construction industry "genius" calling people fools. Now that is funny.

      June 23, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
  5. Servant

    Whether you love or deny the Lord is trivial to His authority. He shall judge you regardless; and if you fall short you will pay. Love it or hate it or print a million books against it: The truth eventually tramples on all things.
    As much as it hurts us to see our fellow humans on a sure path of destruction; your arrogance relieves my pain and reminds me of why you shall be deserving of your destruction. Repent and be saved. No soul is too messed up for God to repair. Jesus Christ paid the price, you just have to accept the deal that He offers.

    June 23, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • I Am God

      If God created us then he gave us one gift out of all else. That gift was free-will. I am not going to be punished for expressing my free will to not believe in him. Also children eventually have to grow up and that includes those that follow religion in the name of some fatherly God.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      So you have been taught that allowing someone else to take your punishment is somehow moral?
      If I am to answer for any transgressions, I will stand proud of the kindnesses I have done, which far outweigh my transgressions.
      You on the other hand would let another stand for you. No moral high ground from you to be sure.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • Saraswati

      I've got to agree with Richard. An ethical system in which you suffer for the sins of others or benefit because another let himself be tortured for you is not something I'd want a part of.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • bajadelmar

      My what a miserable life you must lead. Stooping so low as to threaten others that have not harmed you in any way whatsoever. Simply because we don't BELIEVE in your silly fables. Get a life.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • Good ol boy

      Bwahaha! Richard, I hope yo "kindness" shows better outside this forum!

      June 23, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • topcat

      Blind faith must trample under foot. all reason, sense and understanding. – Martin Luther

      June 23, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      ol boy
      Where do you have any examples of me not being kind? Words have great power and I can leave scars if I choose, but rarely do. You seem to be just trolling trying to get an emotional response, which you won't. SO do you have a point or are you just going to continue to try to throw stones at me personally?

      June 23, 2013 at 9:19 am |
  6. bigmicmusicmachine

    Please join the Church of the Cosmic Huh?

    (..other religions promise a tedious life-after-death, an eternal wait in an endless DMV line. We instead, promise peaceful oblivion.

    http://buildingabettergod.blogspot.dk/2010/05/church-of-cosmic-huh.html

    June 23, 2013 at 8:38 am |
  7. Godless churches

    Going to a church without God is like going to a hospital and hanging out in the lobby for the fun of it.

    June 23, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      You clearly do not get the point.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:41 am |
  8. Kris

    "When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That's my religion."

    Abraham Lincoln

    June 23, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • Mary

      Like this. Thanks.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • Mark

      When I do good I feel good...therefore I am a self gratifier. When I do bad I feel good there for I am a happy sinner.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • The real Tom

      Do you give anonymously to your church, Mark? Do you claim your charitable contributions on your income tax?

      June 23, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • Saraswati

      Mark, I think the idea is that this is the ideal. It is the societal good when you feel good for doing good and feel bad for doing bad. This is what we should strive for. This is why we praise good deeds and try not to have unwanted children raised in abusive homes. This is why we reward companies, cultures and people who do good for society.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • Mark

      Hey Tom yes. I have an egg ministry where my son and I have a list of needy families. We knock on their door and leave two cartons of eggs for them as we leave without recognition. Since you don't know me I can't tell you this nobody else knows it except the person who gives me the eggs.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:59 am |
    • Mark

      Do something 100% altruistically like Paul did. It is different.

      June 23, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • The real Tom

      So you're patting yourself on the back for giving away eggs you got for free?

      Ahahahahahhahhahhhahaaaa!

      June 23, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • Mark

      Little tommy boy..A farmer produces too many eggs, he gives them away, I give them to the needy. My fault!

      June 23, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • The real Tom

      You didn't produce them, someone else did. You didn't bear the cost of producing them, someone else did. You didn't "give" anything because passing on a gift cost you nothing, Mark. And I notice you have yet to answer my question about your monetary donations to charity. Do you give them anonymously? Do you declare your charitable contributions on your tax return?

      If you are giving out of love in god, then you should be doing it without any benefit and at a cost to yourself.

      What a hypocrite.

      June 23, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • Mark

      Yes I put my money in the collection plate. And your analysis of my egg giving is about as ignorant as your name calling.

      June 23, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • Mark

      FYI Tommy Boy. The other day I bought the person behind me their Subway sandwich without their knowledge. I do it because Christ died for me and you, you just don't get it, but you will.

      June 23, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • Mark

      FYI Tommy Boy. The other day I bought the person behind me their Subway sandwich without their knowledge. I do it because Christ died for me and you, you just don't get it, but you will someday.

      June 23, 2013 at 10:18 am |
  9. Peter Bishop

    More humanist crap. At least the veil is off, they are worshiping themselves.

    June 23, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • I Am God

      Wow. Fail troll fail.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • just one dering

      There aren't enough of them to make a pimple on a warts ass.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • bajadelmar

      @Peter Bishop Well at least they're not figments of some misguided attempt at eternal self-preservation. These people actually exist unlike your magic sky fairy.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:45 am |
  10. Mary

    Religions are the way to control people, nothing more. If you are simply good to other people and do what you can do to leave more than you took while you were alive, you've done it all. No one can say for a fact whether there is or is not any type of god. It is presumptuous and arrogant to say yes there is or no there is not. That's why agnosticism is my choice. There may or may not be anything out there, but as long as we live a good, compassionate, and giving life, it doesn't really matter, does it?

    June 23, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • I Am God

      Just watch. Someone will go after you now about not having any morals.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • staci

      Well stated!

      June 23, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • dao

      If not a religion, it would be another ethic set that the powerful might choose to manipulate.

      When going to college for an education, it is important for the students to know that they do not have all the answers. Agnosticism is fine, but you might admit that services rather impugn the point of disbelief.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • Neil

      The question is, though, who defines what is 'good' and 'compassionate' or even 'charitable' in an atheist, or agnostic, 'system', if there is even a system? Are there cases where being harmless is preferable to being helpful? What do we do if in trying to help others we may put our own lives in danger? For me, spirituality is synthetic-community, tradition, history, the mystical, and the ethical. Religions are not perfect systems. They are inspired reactions to a revealed message that is itself refracted through the human mind. Let's continue to keep this discussion open with the hope that we can all move toward more harmony, respect, dignity, and peace in our world.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • Mary

      We can spend a lifetime giving esoterical, rhetorical, devil's advocate viewpoints. My point is simply to leave things better when you die, whether your goal is worldwide or in your community or on your street. Everyone knows what "better" is. How about making at least one person's life happier, healthier, more comfortable, freer, or safer (to name a few "betters.") How about cleaning up the environment, saving animals, preserving forests? No one needs a religious or athiest or agnostic belief system in order to do this. A basic understanding of the words better and worse will guide you., and you can very easily do a lot of it on your own. There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling good about yourself when you do good because you are accomplishing a personal goal.

      June 23, 2013 at 9:46 am |
  11. I Am God

    I've seen these things before. Now not many people around here who are religious don't like the fact that many Atheist groups congregate with each other. I am glad that this is happening due to the fact that we are supporting a community.

    June 23, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • just one dering

      The photo shows half a dozen soul dead losers in an extreme close up. How do those few self deceived contribute to anything of value? Easy answer they don't. All atheism has ever brought to this world is suffering and death.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • I Am God

      justonedering. I recommend you pick up a history book for once and not that Bible. Remember the Crusades? Inquisition? World War II/Nazis? The Dark Ages? Religion, including Christianity, have killed more people then any Atheist groups. Also if you studied your history you would know that Russia and China committed their atrocities in the name of Communism, which is a political ideology, not Atheism. You people really hate the history of the world because it tells the truth.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • The real Tom

      Oh, baloney. There are many believers who do nothing to contribute and many atheists who contribute much. There's nothing about belief that makes one a good person. There are plenty of sh!ts who go to church every Sunday and wouldn't lift a finger to help anyone else.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • Reality

      Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are atheists and are the largest supporters of the Gates Foundation, one of the world's largest private charities.

      "Established by the chairman of Microsoft Corporation and his wife, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works in developing countries to improve health and reduce poverty, and in the US to support education and libraries nationwide and children and families in the Pacific Northwest. With an endowment of about $33.5 billion, the foundation is the largest in the US, distributing more than $26 billion in total grants since 1994. Investor Warren Buffett plans to give the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation about $30 billion worth of Berkshire Hathaway stock in installments. "

      Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/bill-and-melinda-gates-foundation#ixzz2X2hYYibI

      June 23, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • HOPE,LOVE,FAITH

      WE NEED TO SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGE ALL COMMUNITIES, AS THIS WILL ONLY LIFT UP OUR WORLD TODAY, GODS WONDERFUL BLESSINGS, P.S. SORRY THAT THE BODY OF CHRIST HAS NOT SHOWN THE TRUE HEART OF GOD TO PEOPLE

      June 23, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • Reality

      o WHERE WAS YOUR GOD(S) WHEN THE FOLLOWING TOOK PLACE:
      The Twenty (or so) Worst Things GOD'S CREATURES Have Done to Each Other:

      M. White, http://necrometrics.com/warstatz.htm#u (required reading)

      The Muslim Conquest of India

      "The likely death toll is somewhere between 2 million and 80 million. The geometric mean of those two limits is 12.7 million. "

      Rank …..Death Toll ..Cause …..Centuries……..(Religions/Groups involved)*

      1. 63 million Second World War 20C (Christians et al and Communists/atheists vs. Christians et al, Nazi-Pagan and "Shintoists")

      2. 40 million Mao Zedong (mostly famine) 20C (Communism)

      3. 40 million Genghis Khan 13C (Shamanism or Tengriism)

      4. 27 million British India (mostly famine) 19C (Anglican)

      5. 25 million Fall of the Ming Dynasty 17C (Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Chinese folk religion)

      6. 20 million Taiping Rebellion 19C ( Confucianism, Buddhism and Chinese folk religion vs. a form of Christianity)

      7. 20 million Joseph Stalin 20C (Communism)

      8. 19 million Mideast Slave Trade 7C-19C (Islam)

      9. 17 million Timur Lenk 14C-15C

      10. 16 million Atlantic Slave Trade 15C-19C (Christianity)

      11. 15 million First World War 20C (Christians vs. Christians)

      12. 15 million Conquest of the Americas 15C-19C (Christians vs. Pagans)

      13. 13 million Muslim Conquest of India 11C-18C

      14. 10 million An Lushan Revolt 8C

      15. 10 million Xin Dynasty 1C

      16. 9 million Russian Civil War 20C (Christians vs Communists)

      17. 8 million Fall of Rome 5C (Pagans vs. Christians)

      18. 8 million Congo Free State 19C-20C (Christians)

      19. 7½ million Thirty Years War 17C (Christians vs Christians)

      20. 7½ million Fall of the Yuan Dynasty 14C

      June 23, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • Reality

      And the number of god's creations who died horrible deaths from the following diseases:

      1. 300,000,000 approx.
      Smallpox

      2. 200,000,000 ?
      Measles

      3. 100,000,000 approx.
      Black Death

      4. 80,000,000–250,000,000
      Malaria

      5. 50,000,000–100,000,000
      Spanish Flu

      6. 40,000,000–100,000,000
      Plague of Justinian

      7. 40,000,000–100,000,000
      Tuberculosis

      8. 30,000,000[13]
      AIDS pandemic

      9. 12,000,000 ?
      Third Pandemic of Bubonic Plague

      10. 5,000,000
      Antonine Plague

      11. 4,000,000
      Asian Flu

      12. 250,000 or more annually Seasonal influenza

      June 23, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • Mark

      Hey REALITY...the first will be last and the last will be first. I wonder if the way Gates made his money was so loving. Easier to give when you have much than be humble when you are stomping on your brothers back to get much.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:48 am |
    • The real Tom

      Hey Mark, got any evidence that Gates "stomped" on his "brothers' backs"? Any proof that believers who contribute didn't do so?

      June 23, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • Mark

      Lots of accounts of his notorious behavior. I actually knew a person who worked with him, so yes.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:55 am |
    • The real Tom

      Cite your sources. Anyone can claim anything on here, doofus. If you have no proof, then you have no argument. Do you have any proof that all believers are good people? That none of them harmed others on their way to the top? Produce it.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • Mark

      Little Tommy the name caller quit acting like a third grade atheist you are.

      June 23, 2013 at 9:03 am |
  12. bigmicmusicmachine

    ..everyone believes what they prefer to believe.

    I prefer to believe there is no sadistic prudish J. Edgar Hoover in the sky who has outfitted me with a sizable amount of hormones and who will burn me forever if I utilize them.

    The problem is not God.. but all the idiotic and shameful claims for "His" nature and preferences.

    June 23, 2013 at 8:26 am |
  13. Science

    where is jboom evolution wins ass hat !

    Bridge Species Drive Tropical Engine of Biodiversity

    June 10, 2013

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130610192550.htm

    June 23, 2013 at 8:24 am |
  14. Mark

    Soon. Soon the end of the age. Soon the victory shall be won. Our great foe shall meet his end—this is assured! Nevermore shall we be assailed. We shall at last be at rest. It is promised. Alleluia!

    June 23, 2013 at 8:22 am |
    • Hate Based Religion

      Yawn....

      June 23, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • Mark

      Love you Hate, get some rest!

      June 23, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • The real Tom

      People have been claiming the end is near for 2000 years.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • The end

      And for the last 2000 years the end came for almost all of them I bet.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • JMEF

      Why wait, put a little ars.enic in the kool aid. Bye now.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • Mark

      I don't drink Kool-aid that has no substance, not unlike...

      June 23, 2013 at 8:51 am |
    • Mark

      Soon is a relative term.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • The real Tom

      If it's relative, then why are you using it to threaten?

      June 23, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • Mark

      Not a threat Tommy Boy a promise.

      June 23, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • G to the T

      "Soon is a relative term" – so apparenlty is "this generation" and "not one tiddle". For every christian, there's yet another interpretation of the "absolute" truth of the bible...

      June 24, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
  15. Berrakuda

    Having been a pastor for many years in a traditional christian church this is an idea whose time has come. I have often thought of starting an organization like this myself and now I think I shall. Gone are the days of listening to a mean spirited message that promotes division, where everyone else is going to hell, or everyone else is a sinner and death is God's way of fixing everything. Gone are the days of believing in a book that is full of errors and lies. Gone are the days of supporting mega churches and mega pastors who only care about their mega pockets. WE need more congregations like this everywhere.

    June 23, 2013 at 8:13 am |
    • Hate Based Religion

      Well said.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:22 am |
    • PC

      And you, my friend, have learned what the REAL truth is. Congratulations on becoming enlightened.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:37 am |
  16. bigmicmusicmachine

    Praying is like a rocking chair - it'll give you something to do, but it won't get you anywhere.
    - Gypsy Rose Lee

    Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?.
    - Douglas Adams

    For the religious the holy is truth, for the philosophic the truth is holy
    -Feuerbach

    People are crazy. They can’t create a fly, but they create gods by the dozen!
    -Michel de Montaigne

    God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.
    -Voltaire

    June 23, 2013 at 8:11 am |
    • Life of PI

      “You might think I lost all hope at that point. I did. And as a result I perked up and felt much better.”
      ― Yann Martel, Life of Pi

      To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.” -Yann Martel, Life of Pi

      June 23, 2013 at 8:26 am |
  17. ElmerGantry

    Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things stated,

    Prayer changes things .

    June 23, 2013 at 7:05 am | Report abuse | Reply

    _________________________________________________________________
    Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things stated once again and again and again Ad Nauseum,
    "Prayer changes things"

    Earlier I challenged you to do something positive for humanity by praying to stop the international forced sëx trafficking of an estimatated 800,000 people.

    To wit,

    I see your prayers to stop the estimated 800,000 people who are forced into sëx traficking across international borders have not worked.
    Wait since prayer changes things that means you have not been praying to stop this scourge on humanity.

    Why won't you pray to stop this repulsive human abuse?

    Matthew 21:21:
    I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt,not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.
    _______________________________________________________________________
    [A true believer can ask a mountain to throw itself into the sea, and it will be done. LOL!]
    _______________________________________________________________________

    Mark 9:23
    All things are possible to him who believes.

    Luke 1:37:
    For with God nothing will be impossible.

    John 14:12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

    John 14:13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

    John 14:14 If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.

    Nothing could be simpler or clearer than Jesus' promises about prayer in the Bible.
    So there you have it, straight from Jesus in the New Testament in clear, simple, and unequivocal terms.

    You are a sincere believer are you not?

    June 23, 2013 at 8:07 am |
    • jason

      Prayer changed the slave trade in England but it took a lifetime, prayer is not McDonalds, sometimes God acts in an instant but more likely substantive change occurs over a long period of time. You want instant gratification get fast food you want life changing results partner with God in prayer.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • I Am God

      Jason god had nothing to do with Abraham Lincoln putting the 13th Amendment in play during the Civil War. That was a group of people that were going against a group of fools who believed God allowed them to have slaves.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Jason
      According to the bible, slavery is OK. There are even instructions on how you are to treat your slaves.
      The biggest push to end slavery came from economic reasons, not humanitarian reasons. The north did not like the huge free labor pool that the south had, and wanted to abolish slavery so that they could stabilize the cost of cotton and other goods. Study REAL history before posting next time.
      And by the way, where is your evidence that any gods had anything to do with it, from either side?

      June 23, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • PC

      Religious nuttery is so boring.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Elmer
      Mark 9:23
      All things are possible to him who believes.
      That is a lie...here is your proof the bible is wrong on that one. Kiss your elbow without injuring yourself. It is not possible, therefore your bible is wrong.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:39 am |
  18. bigmicmusicmachine

    "Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones. One is often told that it is a very wrong thing to attack religion, because religion makes men virtuous. So I am told; I have not noticed it."

    – Bertrand Russell

    We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.

    – H. L. Mencken

    June 23, 2013 at 8:04 am |
  19. Mike

    If a person wants to deny God, that is their business and their right. I spent eight years in the uniform defending their right to have that opinion. I only require that they respect my right to believe God does exist. And I can only borrow from an old cliche ... If - repeat, IF - atheists are wrong, it will be Hell to pay.

    June 23, 2013 at 8:01 am |
    • The real Tom

      I don't believe in hell or heaven. If you had any evidence that either existed, you'd be able to post it. All you have done thus far is post slogans and platitudes that have about as much substance as "Coke is the real thing."

      June 23, 2013 at 8:03 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Atheists do not deny god. That a$$umes there is something to deny. We believe there is nothing to deny. By the way, which god do you mean, men have created thousands of them.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:04 am |
    • JMEF

      Mike
      Pascal's wager does not work for two thirds of the people on earth, including those you were sent out to war against.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:06 am |
    • topcat

      If atheists are wrong, then which religion is right? they all have equal claims.
      of the thousands of religions, you better pick the right one or you will have hell to pay also.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • fyre

      Thanks for your service. And yes, as long as it does not impact progress and is not harmful to other people, then I agree with you 100% that everyone has the right to believe as they choose, as religion should be a private, deeply personal affair anyway. I take issue with your last cliche though – I don't think Christians comprehend that there have literally been thousands of religions on the planet, with many being far older than Christianity. If religion A is wrong about worship and the path to heaven, will they go to hell? What about religion B? I can't live my life in fear over something that may or may not exist. I can only make my life matter and be a good person now. If there is hell to pay over being a good person, then I would rather not go to heaven in the first place.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:21 am |
  20. drumbeg

    God is not amused...

    June 23, 2013 at 7:52 am |
    • rick

      hard to be amused when you are mak believe

      June 23, 2013 at 7:58 am |
    • science

      drumbeg

      Here is what is comedy gold...................chad is all over Bing with his nasty bible.

      June 23, 2013 at 8:01 am |
    • Science

      When Christians become a 'hated minority' – CNN Belief Blog ...

      religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/05/when-christians-become-a-hated...

      May 05, 2013 · Go splat chad/Austin and lol?? Science wins over ... not the nasty bible. and Adam and his ... Current search on Bing chadie .....bookmark update chad ...

      1,210,000 resultsAny time

      Including results for chad is all over being with his nasty bible..

      Do you want results only for chad is all over Bing with his nasty bible.?

      June 23, 2013 at 8:06 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.