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Mourn on the Fourth of July: Inside the Christian anti-patriot movement
Mark Van Steenwyk leads his Mennonite Worker Community in Minneapolis.
July 5th, 2013
05:40 PM ET

Mourn on the Fourth of July: Inside the Christian anti-patriot movement

By David R. Wheeler, special to CNN

(CNN) - Like many congregations, The Mennonite Worker Community of Minneapolis held a worship service and picnic this Fourth of July - but instead of extolling the virtues of America, they called attention to its faults.

The annual service is “a sort of anti-patriotic holiday,” says Mark Van Steenwyk, whose community focuses on simplicity, prayer and peacemaking. Singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” is out. Reflecting on the contradictions between the gospel and the American Dream are in.

“We thank you, O God, for the good things we enjoy in our lives," reads a prayer the Mennonite community recites each year, "but lament that our abundance has brought destitution to sisters and brothers throughout the Earth.”

Anti-patriots like Van Steenwyk say their movement, which has grown more vocal in recent years, is simply an honest way to read – and live out – Jesus' teachings on nonviolence. But it's hard to look at groups like The Mennonite Community and not see an implicit criticism of God-and-country cheerleading by mainstream Christians and ripples of centuries-old church-state tensions.

Some anti-patriots come from pacifist Anabaptist traditions, such as the Mennonite Church. Others come from evangelical backgrounds but have rejected their counterparts' often unreserved patriotism and embraced liberal-leaning communities like Red Letter Christians and JesusRadicals.com.

They may differ on theological details, but they hold at least one belief in common: You cannot serve both God and country.

A Suspicion of the State

Anabaptists such as Mennonites and the Amish were persecuted by state churches in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries, and their descendants bear a lasting suspicion of human authorities.

Many an Amish and Mennonite home keeps a copy of "The Martyr's Mirror," a book thick with testimonies of Anabaptists burned at the stake of orthodoxy. The book's subtitle refers to the martys as "defenseless Christians," a nod to Anabaptists' belief that when Jesus called on Christians to turn the other cheek, he was quite serious.

For that reason, Anabaptists historically do not participate in warfare — or celebrate military victories.

American Anabaptists have been fined or jailed for their pacifist beliefs during wartime. Four Hutterites died from harsh treatment while imprisoned as conscientious objectors during World War I, Bach says. Anabaptists didn’t receive official permission to perform alternative service until World War II.

READ MORE: Bolivia’s isolated Mennonite community

“Some members of Anabaptist groups today are more acculturated and celebrate patriotic holidays just like the rest of the nation,” says Jeff Bach, director of Elizabethtown College's Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies. “None of the Anabaptist groups are anti-American. They are typically grateful for the religious freedom permitted in the United States.”

Still, in 2011, Goshen College, a Mennonite school in Indiana, banned the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at sporting events because, according to the college’s president, the lyrics were too violent.

Serving `the King' 

It may be difficult for some Americans to understand why their countrymen would disassociate themselves from patriotism. What’s the harm in celebrating Independence Day, anyway?

But nonpatriotic Christians believe the burden of proof should fall on the other side: Why should peace-loving believers celebrate a bloody revolution? And American history after 1776 isn’t exactly pacifistic either, Van Steenwyk says.

“It is easy to judge Islam for the actions of a relative few militants. Yet when millions of Americans — a vast majority of them claiming the Christian faith — were complicit with slavery, indigenous genocide, and continued economic exploitation, we suddenly see them as separate from our faith,” says Van Steenwyk.

Jesus called his followers to Christian service and humility, which are the opposite of nationalistic rituals performed on the Fourth of July, says David Swartz, author of “Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism.”

“A heightened devotion to the nation can cause a lot of confusion abroad when people see claims of a Christian America alongside a long American history of slavery, economic inequality and overheated Hollywood sexuality and violence,” says Swartz.

Kurt Willems, who runs the progressive Christian blog Pangea, has also joined the rising nonpatriotic chorus. The Anabaptist from Seattle writes an annual post explaining why he no longer celebrates Independence Day.

“Each year I receive comments about how I should leave this country if I ‘hate’ it so much,” he says. “I love Americans, but I’m not willing to compromise my values as a servant of my only King, the nonviolent revolutionary — Jesus.”

Making Toby Keith Proud

Many Christians trace the latest wave of evangelical interest in pacifism to author and activist Shane Claiborne, who worked with Mother Teresa in the slums of Calcutta, ministered to Iraqis during the war in Iraq and now leads a Philadelphia community called The Simple Way.

“My philosophy on patriotic things would be: A love for the people of our country is not a bad thing, but why should love stop at the border?” says Claiborne.

There have been some nonpatriotic gatherings in major cities, such as the Los Angeles Catholic Worker’s “Mourn on the Fourth of July” peace march in 2008.

Still the nonpatriot movement remains small, and finding local communities can be challenging, Van Steenwyk says.

“Everyone knows that other folks think like them, but it isn’t like there are a lot of congregations that self-identify as being nonpatriotic.”

That’s especially true for evangelicals, who lead the country in patriotic fervor.

More than 80% of white evangelicals believe that God has granted the United States a "special role" in history, according to a survey released June 27 by the Public Religion Research Institute.

In a stat that would make Toby Keith proud, more than two-thirds of white evangelicals say they are "very proud" to be an American, outstripping every other religious group polled.

So it's not surprising that some conservative Christians find the nonpatriotic alliance of progressive evangelicals and Anabaptists troubling — even dangerous.

“All Christians everywhere are called to love and serve their nations,” says Mark Tooley, a president of the Institute on Religion & Democracy and a United Methodist.

READ MORE: Celebrating the Fourth of July

“The stance of some evangelical elites influenced by neo-Anabaptist beliefs is often one of ingratitude, and whining, while ignoring the teaching of the universal Church, which has always recognized the God-ordained vocation of the state, and the Christian’s calling to serve as responsible citizens,” he says.

Tooley also disagrees with the nonpatriotic Christians on about military force, which he says is required to maintain order worldwide. Nonpatriot Christians are naïve not to consider the ill effects should the United States abdicate military power, he says

“What would the alternatives be if the USA didn’t exist or withdrew from the world stage? Almost certainly a more dangerous, more anarchic, more repressive, less prosperous world with less opportunity for the poor to escape poverty,” Tooley argues.

No Middle Ground? 

Some patriotic pastors argue for a middle way: honoring America without succumbing to chauvinism or ignoring the country's wrongs.

“Do I agree with every major policy of our government? No way,” says Kyle Vanover, pastor of Cyrus Chapel United Methodist Church in Catlettsburg, Kentucky. “But I’m proud to be an American, and I believe God has truly blessed this land.”

Van Steenwyk, however, says there is no middle ground.

Jesus’ identification with the poor, love of enemies, and refusal to take power are incompatible with the “entire political and economic system” of the United States, he says.

“Let’s face it — the Sermon on the Mount makes for lousy foreign or public policy. We can’t have it both ways.”

David R. Wheeler is a journalism professor and freelance writer living in Lexington, Kentucky. You can follow him on Twitter at: @David_R_Wheeler

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Amish • Belief • Christianity • Church • Church and state • Faith • Foreign policy • Mennonite • Military • Politics

soundoff (1,599 Responses)
  1. James M.

    This is a fairly interesting article (it comes as a surprise only because it's in the CNN Religion blog section)

    There's also a rich and complicated history between Catholicism and the State. Going back to Christ's statement regarding rendering to Caesar, to St. Augustine in his City of God, and even to the modern Popes, the message is clear that Christians can't be completely patriotic. Christians can't serve more than one god- Caesar loses out. But, as Augustine offered in City of God, Christians make the best citizens because they genuinely want the good of the state, the good of Caesar. This is shown through Christian prayers offered for our country's leaders, the understanding that service in government is in fact a duty from God to rightly serve his people, and, in a very practical way, every Christians' duty to serve his brothers and sisters in Christ by tending to their corporeal needs. Hence, the Catholic Church has established hospitals, orphanages, schools and universities (and actually creating the scientific method- for those who think the Church is anti-science (I encourage you to try to read history without bias against the Church). It is the largest charitable organization on the planet.

    For all of our mistakes as Christians, we have made the world a better place. We are pilgrims passing through this life, this country, and our final home is elsewhere. But, we are obliged to be exemplary citizens and serve our fellow citizens. I encourage, again, those who doubt the aims of Christianity to honestly consider the contributions of the Church before talking about taxation and other pointed attacks against the Church. Also, I suggest distinguishing between intellectual Christianity (of course I champion Catholicism) and a Christianity that's driven by untamed and immature emotions. I've done that the Atheists.

    July 7, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      I would not say that Christianity has had a positive effect overall. Do you know how many millions of native americans were killed with smallpox infested blankets given to them by the Christians because the Indians were not of the "elect" and could not be saved and so were like animals? Do you know how many hundreds of thousands were brutally slaughtered in religious skirmishes and during the inquisition?

      I'm sure there's worse things than Christianity, and I'm sure that had Christianity not been around, people would have found other reasons to kill and torture, but I'm not sure that those numbers would be higher. I stand with Hatuey of Caobana.

      July 7, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
    • just one dering

      Your priest represents the extreme minority in the priesthood. Did a few ho mose xuals lie their way into the priesthood to ply their evils on innocents?Sadly, yes. But to blame the church or accuse ALL priests would be like blaming a bank because there are bank robberies.

      July 7, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      I no more blame the Catholic church for employing some pederasts than I blame the United States because some of its citizens are murderers. The difference is that the US deplores, prosecutes, and imprisons ITS miscreants, whereas the Catholic Church covers for them. THAT'S a fault that can be laid directly on the inst¡tutional doorstep.
       
      Don't even get me started on the baby sellers of Spain, the convent peonage in Ireland, the glorification of suffering promoted by Mother Teresa, the Catholic-inspired overpopulated favelas of Latin America, or the millions of horrible deaths from AIDS in Africa because the pope thinks it's better to die a lingering, miserable death than use condoms.

      And that's just in TODAY'S world. I trust I don't need to go into grisly detail about the Crusades, the Inquisition, the witch hunts, the pogroms, the holy wars, and the Holocaust.

      And there's the continuing anti-intellectualism and promotion of mindless sheephood for which Catholicism is justly notorious.

      So, again, yes, it's nice that some churches inspire good works. It's even possible that some of the PEOPLE doing those good works wouldn't have done them without religious motivation. But, on balance, would the world have been better off or worse off without Catholicism in particular or Christianity in general?

      Well, the answer may surprise you, because it's based on the completely unanswerable question of what we might have had instead. Islam would have clearly been worse. Judaism would probably have just repeated the atrocities of Christianity in a somewhat different order, with a different set of victims. Hinduism, with its multiple gods, would have generally been more accepting of a wide variety of beliefs. And Buddhism would in general have been more benign and less doctrinaire. Mormonism and Scientology would have been great for fans of science fiction and D&D.

      I think it's abundantly clear, tho, that in any face-off between ANY religion and, say, humanism, religion comes off looking wretchedly bad.

      July 7, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
  2. Todd Anderson J.r.

    Blessed is our might God, Jesus who died for the sins of us all.

    July 7, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
    • Doobs

      Why would I bless a deity that I need to be saved from?

      July 7, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Hell is an interesting litmus test. It'd be interesting if when a person dies they go to god and he looks as them and calmly asks, "Do you think never ending torture is a good thing for people who don't meet my approval?" Then, when the fundie says it is, god says, "Oh, well, the only people who don't meet my approval are those who think never ending torture is a good thing for anybody."

      I would still think that god is evil, because even people who think hell is a good idea shouldn't have to suffer torture forever, but it would at least be more sensible than what the Christians suppose.

      July 7, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
    • incoblack1

      People are responsible for their own sins. Nobody can (or should) take upon himself the sins of another! This is simple justice!

      July 7, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
    • Samara

      your god is a myth and your beliefs all false 🙂 sorry, but...

      July 8, 2013 at 12:02 am |
  3. RichardSRussell

    "Now don't go stomping thru mud puddles, because that's where the trolls live, and they'll grab you and eat you."

    So it's certainly possible to end up believing the right thing for entirely wacko reasons.

    July 7, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
    • janey33

      I thought they lived under bridges. Didn't your mother read you "Three Billy Goats Gruff"?

      July 7, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
  4. Redoran

    They were persecuted. Why did they not go England? They are pacificists so they are willing to bow to al Queda, Taliban and North Korea who would enslave their butts for all eternity. Somehow, Mennonites do NOT make sense. They wish enslavements from Commies and crazy Islam? What is wrong with these people?

    July 7, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
    • Deever

      They are insane.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
  5. Padre

    In the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition we pray for the civil authorities and the armed forces during services but the prayer is not so much an endorsement as it is a reflection of our desire to live a Christian life in reasonable peace and safety. As a general rule it would be good for Christians not to go "all in", as it were, for any government because governments are always temporary but the community that is the Kingdom of God is eternal. Be a good citizen, follow the laws to the extent that conscience allows, and as far as it is possible do good to everyone. Be balanced in your view of patriotism. Neither completely hate or completely and unconditionally love your nation. Seek its betterment as you can knowing that your true home is not here.

    July 7, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Try being a good person by not allowing someone else to take your just punishment. Accepting Jesus shows you have no problem with someone taking your punishment, and therefore shows your lack of morality in the first place.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
    • janey33

      Richard Cranium...You have no concept of what accepting Jesus means. Jesus willingly offered Himself in our place. Because of our sins, if He had not done so, we would all go to Hell. Being a good person does not get one to Heaven. To get to Heaven you must ask Jesus for forgiveness and accept Him as your Savior. Being a Christian means putting Jesus first in your life above all else. He has overcome our sins by dying on the cross, but it is up to us to come to Him for forgiveness. It is our choice to accept Him or reject Him. Since you have rejected Him, you have no understanding of what it means to accept Him and live for Him.

      Try being a good person by not allowing someone else to take your just punishment. Accepting Jesus shows you have no problem with someone taking your punishment, and therefore shows your lack of morality in the first place.

      July 7, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      I reject jesus on the grounds that any being who will allow a place of eternal torture to exist when he could just as easily destroy it is far too evil to be trustworthy. In short, I cannot trust someone who has the power to destroy hell but allows it to go on.

      July 7, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Janey33
      I know full well your Jeses' story.
      And I also know it is immoral to allow someone else to take your just punishment. We do not allow it in our society.
      It is part of the writers intent that this Jesus character be all of the qualities of men that are most admired. We all appreciate the scarifices of men for the good of others, such as our veterans. The big difference is that you CHOOSE to allow someone else to take your punishment. It is in the choice that lies the immorality. You accept this Christ character, knowing that he is going to take your punishment...How is that even slightly moral?

      Christianity is based on this very immorality. Sure we admire the man who makes this sacrifice, but you are given a choice, and your choice is to allow someone else to take the punishment.

      If Christ appeared before me, I might then acknowledge that he may in fact be a representation of a god, but I would NEVER allow him to stand in my place if I have any punishment due me for any transgression.

      It is a fear tactic.( used in brainwashing quite a bit)..you love Jesus, right? So any time you do anything bad, even when no one else knows it, Jesus is being tortured for it, so little Mary, you have to make sure you don't do anything bad because Jesus will be tortured for it.
      It is one of the tenets of Christianity that is analogous to any other form of terrorism...
      Another, believe or you will be tortured for all of eternity...another terrorist threat from the religion that allegedly professes love.
      Growing up an atheist in America, I have never seen first hand the love of any christian when you question their beliefs. I freely welcome it because I know the difference between belief and truth. Christians never seem to be able to admit that.

      July 7, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
  6. Rede Batcheller

    Out of a fast read, it seems to me that something old is being beaten like a dead horse. There has always been a pacific stream in Christianity, and there have been many rivulets of what this author chooses to call "anti-patriotic" sentiment. For the former, members of certain sects (orthodox Mennonite among them) used to get an almost automatic pass on the draft. For the latter, this mind set isn't limited to Christians and has always been tolerated in the USA - and not necessarily to the net benefit of same. I believe this thinking comes from trying to shoehorn Mennonites, Amish, or anyone else into some category of folks that stayed home (i.e., didn't vote) in the 2012 election resulting in the re-election of Obama, rather than looking at what is as obvious as the emperor's new clothes: the election was stolen. Probably electronically, probably just enough diddling to get the win without making the theft obvious. Please, dear author, stop blaming the good folks who are among us for the evil that others are perpetrating, and use your good time and energy to take a long, close, and calculating look at reality..

    July 7, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • Deever

      The GOP LOST by having a total sleazeball running against Obama. Obama won. Get over it already.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
  7. are122

    I always wonder which came first, the male gob or the female gob. And how would gobs come up with two different designs (male and female) if it took billions of years just to evolve the one gob...how would it know to evolve to fit the other gob? And being gobs without brains how did they know any of this? And did it just rain dog gobs, cat gobs, elephant gobs and plant gobs and millions of other species gobs?

    July 7, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      are122
      You are clearly someone who cannot comprehend complex science. Trying to then make fun of the science, only shows you making fun of yourself, not the science.

      Evolution happened, and happens continuously. Just because you cannot comprehend the science does not invalidate it.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      gob (noun)
      1. A lump or clot of a slimy or viscous substance: "a gob of phlegm".
      2. An American sailor.
      3. A person's mouth: "shut your big gob".

      July 7, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
    • I'm a Realist

      think of it this way, are122.. Given enough time and tries, we are a poor excuse to evolution. We could have ended up as a much better species. However in a positive light, we are still evolving.

      Not bad though,, there sure were enough possibilities.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
    • Doobs

      Science is hard, huh? It's so much easier to make fun of the brainy kids and just believe whatever you're told in church.

      July 7, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
    • janey33

      Doobs...science and Christianity are perfectly compatible The Bible has several references to science. Most of the first scientists were Christians. God created science and gave us the knowledge of it. I have taken several science courses and most of the teachers were Christians. We used the same books as non-believers. The only difference was our belief in how the universe was created. That was left up to us to believe as we wished. Everything else was the same. Science is easy. I got A's.

      July 7, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Janey
      Science and the bible are NOT compatible. Science has destroyed the nearly all of the book of Genesis.
      Noah's flood, never happened.
      Genetics has proven beyond doubt that humans did not come from one set of DNA...impossible.
      After Noahs flood ( and there is so much wrong with that story that belief in it is absurd), there were 6 sets of DNA that were still of mating age...this also is shown false by DNA.
      We also know that at no time after life began, was the world ever covered in water to 15 cubits above the highest mountian...we now it never happened.

      You really must have blinders on. Science disproves much of the bible, you are just allowing your faith to cloud reality.

      July 7, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
  8. I'm a Realist

    religion is an insult to a god who gave these people brains, as they claim.

    July 7, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
  9. I'm a Realist

    a good organization would pay its fair share in taxes and not leach off others. Its not right to be tax free, chose what you think is a good service and force everyone to pay your share.

    July 7, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      "Leach" and "leech", tho similar, are not identical. You want the latter.

      July 7, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
    • janey33

      And it's "choose", not "chose".

      July 7, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
  10. I'm a Realist

    god hasn't been around since he discovered he has a pen-is too.

    July 7, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
    • Elliott Carlin

      I see Anderson Cooper is posting again.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
  11. RichardSRussell

    The interesting thing about Christians is that, no matter WHAT they believe (and they believe a wide variety of different things), Jesus always agrees with them.

    July 7, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
  12. annehess

    Dear CNN,
    This comment stream should be monitored. I am interested in real dialogue about this issue and it is so unpleasant having to sift through a ridiculous field of non-comments from blog trolls in order to find a few useful comments. Comments on any side of an issue should move dialogue forward. Period.

    July 7, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
    • CNN's response

      Please grow up then..

      July 7, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      In order to have real dialogue you need a real issue.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
    • Larry

      People are supposed to discuss things intelligently in the comments area? Wow. I bet you still believe in the Easter Bunny.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
    • I'm a Realist

      eve and the talking snake,, too funny

      July 7, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
    • Dear Anne

      CNN does not care if you do not like the format. Perhaps FOX News would be better equipped to handle you.

      July 7, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
  13. I'm a Realist

    rather disgusting to see a guy on a cross all over this country. It'd be even more embarrassing if aliens saw it. My guess is they'll just leave and wait for us to complete evolving.

    July 7, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
    • janey33

      That "guy on the cross" died for our sins so we can go to Heaven if we accept Him and live for Him. It doesn't matter if you believe that or not. You WILL meet Him one day. I pity you if you haven't accepted Him, as you will go to Hell. Christians don't believe in God...they KNOW He exists because they have a personal relationship with Him. You know nothing of this so you poke fun out of it. Very intolerant and foolish.

      July 7, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      janey
      Stop lying. You do not know he exists...you have faith he exists. Note the difference. Your faith is important, and you have faith he exists. You do not know because you cannot know...that is why the need for faith in the first place.
      That is one of the biggest problems with the religious...often proclaiming their belief is truth, and it most certainly is not.
      If it were truth or you KNOW as you say, where is your proof. Anecdotal evidence is not evidence...the bible is not evidence.

      July 7, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • One one

      I shall now pray. Dear heavenly father, I give thanks for torturing and killing yourself, i mean your son to end the eternal curse of your wrath & vengeance you put upon all of humanity because, in the beginning, two people wanted knowledge. Unlike the unsaved godless trash who deserve to burn forever, I do not seek knowledge. I seek only your approval by submitting to your absurd and egotistical demands so that I may live forever in heaven. And though you never show yourself, I believe in you, for if I have thoughts of doubt, you will send me to hell to be tortured forever… because, although you love me, you hate my thoughts. Amen.

      July 7, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
  14. Mike

    My church service today started with a 10-minute video of a Ronald Reagan speech, then we all Pledged Allegiance to the Flag, the chorus sang all five songs of the Armed Services, and we applauded a Marine in full Battle Gear (including an M-16 rifle). The preacher exhorted us to pray that God will remove the Liberals and make this country great again. Jesus may have been mentioned, but mostly I heard applause for each plank of the Republican Platform.

    It was an interesting "church" service.

    July 7, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
    • I'm a Realist

      all religious services are interesting. Hope we save some video clips to help future generations understand our primitive behavior.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
    • annehess

      Wow. That's a little frightening. You put "church" in quotations. It seems like you feel that what was going on was more representative of a political or military rally and less a worship service. Is that a fair assessment?

      July 7, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
    • Akira

      And this is why we have the separation of church and state in this country. Because people like your preacher cannot help but try to insert politics into theology. Our wise FF knew this.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
    • Elliott Carlin

      yeah, sort of reminds me of Hillary doing her 'black cadence' speech in a black church down South a few years back.
      Happens on both sides sorry to say.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
    • logan5

      "Interesting" is hardly the word I would choose to describe your church service. Typical, frightening, and even a bit dangerous is more like it.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
  15. I'm a Realist

    religions are the biggest tax che-ats. Time they pay their fair share. Separation does NOT mean a free ride. They use our roads, water system, police,... They are lea-ches and we all have to pay their share. They acc-umulate property wealth in prime real estate areas.

    It's not separation when we have to pay their share. It's also not separation when they receive billions in grant money,, our tax dollar. They now get to promote their religion with tax payer dollars.

    July 7, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
    • counter

      My church does not receive any tax payer funds. The founders saw churches as a positive influence on society, and they MAKE NO PROFIT.

      Sorry, don't buy your nonsense. Churches help people, more than you know, and care to admit.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
    • I'm a Realist

      pay property tax, leach.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
    • Deever

      counter, that was the lamest counter I've seen yet today. Pay your taxes like the rest of us, slimeball.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Counter writes: "The founders saw churches as a positive influence on society, and they MAKE NO PROFIT."

      You mean AMERICA'S founders? Including James Madison, who wrote "What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, inst¡tuted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not."

      Or Thomas Jefferson, who wrote "Question with boldness even the existence of God, because if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear."

      As to making no profit, that's because they have no shareholders to whom to distribute any profits. But keeping all the money for yourself is hardly a model of social benevolence, is it?

      July 7, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
    • James

      I couldn't agree more. If your church catches on fire you better pray for rain. Especially if your catholic.

      July 7, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
  16. Mickey Weedon

    GOP PARTY OF STUPID NOW EXTINCT...

    July 7, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • lol??

      Are you a mouse or a man?? No difference in dizzyland.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
    • Ned

      Why am I not surprised that lol?? is a Teajhadist?

      July 7, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Save yourself from the appearance of utter incompetence. See that key just to the left of the "A"? Use it. ONCE!

      July 7, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
  17. Mickey Weedon

    WE NEED TO KEEP CHRISTIAN RIGHT WING TOOTHLESS T BABBLERS OUT OF THE WHITE HOUSE AND CONGRESS 2014 DEMS ARE GOING TO ROCK AND IN 2016 HILLARY WILL BE PRESIDENT AND I GET MY BILLY BACK!

    July 7, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • Elliott Carlin

      your CAPS is stuck.
      put down the bull-horn

      July 7, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
  18. Mickey Weedon

    CHRISITANS THE SARA PALINS OF THIS WORLD DRILL BABY DRILL, CUT DOWN ALL THE TREES SHOOT ALL THE ANIMALS YOU DO NOT WORSHIP MOTHER NATURE OUR TRUE GOD SO GET BEAMED UP ALL READY!

    July 7, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
    • Athy

      Turn off your caps lock, Mickey. It makes you look like a fifth grader.

      July 7, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
  19. Mickey Weedon

    JESUS FREAK ALERT HANG ON TO YOUR MAGIC UNDERWEAR!

    July 7, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
  20. Theseus

    "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"
    – Epicurus

    July 7, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • j

      Amazing how those that hate God go to such effort to discredit God, when it is so much better to know God.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      It's god.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • j

      You follow god i'll follow God and we'll see where we end up.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      And there is no need to discredit something that never existed. It would be like me trying to discredit Santa Claus.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      We will end up in the same place.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
    • j

      Good luck on judgement day. Do us a favor please don't scream when you are thrown into the lake of fire.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
    • Theseus

      J, let me guess, you know "God" from the Bible? So you know he's a self proclaimed hateful, wrathful, jealous, envious and murderous God. You sure you're not worshiping the devil by mistake? As Isaac Asimov once wrote, “Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.”

      July 7, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      aaaaahhhhh. I am so afraid. I can't swim.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      Get it. I can't swim. I thought that was pretty funny.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
    • j

      Weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth on day one, forever to go and you'll know it's your own fault. You're right you can't swim.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
    • Colin

      Ya gotta love it when a Christian like "J" scorns you with the admonition that you will "go to hell" or burn in Revelation's Lake of Fire.

      Out of all the silly superst.itious beliefs of the Christians, I think the myth of hell is my favorite. Think it through. I don't have to kill, I don't have to steal, hell, I don't even have to litter. All I have to do is have a reasonable, honest and rational disbelief in the Christian god and he will inflict a grotesque penalty upon me an infinite times worse than the death penalty. And he loves me.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      J you can huddle in the dark affraid of your lake. If it gives you a reason to do as your told and make you more comfortable. But try for a second to step into the shoes of someone who doesn't beleive. If you can manage that for a split second you will realize how ridiculous you sound.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
    • Colin

      Let's subject J's theology to the probing light of say.......fifth grade mathematics.

      Approximately one hundred and ten thousand million (110,000,000,000) people have lived on Earth. Given all those who have, over the centuries, rejected a belief in the Christian god, or who have otherwise committed adultery or other mortal sins, there must be literally thousands of millions of people burning for all eternity in the cosmic oven of hell set up by the all-loving Christian god. Some must have been burning for thousands of years by now.

      About 100,000 people die every day. There must be a constant stream of thousands of forlorn souls every day into the one way pit of hell the “all-merciful” god set up and maintains.

      But, far, far worse than sheer overwhelming numbers is the extent of the punishment. There is no way out, no parole, no time off for good behavior. You don’t just burn, you burn for all eternity. Billions of people and thousands of daily new arrivals burning for all eternity!

      No criminal justice system in the history of the Human race, even those established by the most despotic of tyrants, comes close to matching the unfathomable barbarity of the “infinitely benevolent” god.

      Hitler murdered six million Jews in his concentration camps, but compared to the Judeo-Christian god, Hitler was a bleeding-hearted wimp. A goose-stepping girlie-man. This “all-caring” god not only burns billions more than Hitler, Pol Pot and all other dictators and tyrants added up, he keeps doing so to them for all eternity! I would not wish a bad sunburn on a person simply because they have a different religion to me, let alone fry them for all eternity.

      It is also odd that the all-loving god is also all-knowing and knows which souls will go to hell before they do. He even knows it before they are born, and yet he still creates them. He is worse than a psychopathic teenager than breeds litter after litter of kittens so he can slowly roast them in ovens.

      That is the problem with using the same deity to be both the carrot and the stick. It gets really silly really quickly.

      How any educated person believes this childish garbage in the 21st century completely eludes me.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      Be affraid. TERRIBLE FIRE. Gnashing, Screaming, Crying. And no koolaid. AHHHHHH
      Come on J.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
    • Colin

      True love for your fellow man warns them of the judgement to come. Christ warned of the dangers of hell. Being warned absolves the Christian of any guilt associated with the loss the unrepentant sinner will suffer. Hell was not created for human beings but rather as eternal punishment for rebellious spiritual beings. Spiritual beings will not be able to stand the torments of hell, mankind will have no chance.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
    • Colin

      To (other) Colin. What you just wrote makes absolutely no sense. It is so convoluted that one cannot even respond to it.

      July 7, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
    • vortex1964

      I appreciate the post. I can see that a lot of thought went into this. The answer is simple. Free will. God has given men free will in order to chose what is right or wrong. Its not like we don't know that stealing, killing, raping, lying ect are wrong. So, God allows man to choose his path. There are those that will seek to do good and live good lives and fulfilled lives, but those that chose to do whats wrong have a different end. Man knows in his heart what is right. God is long suffering not dispensing judgement on humanity in the hopes that they will turn from their ways.

      We as parents discipline our children, we do it out of love not malice. We know that if we don't correct the child he will in the end harm himself. A willful child can be instructed but if he chooses to ignore the parent he suffers the consequences. Why wouldn't God care about his creation as such.

      The love of God is demonstrated in that he provided for a way to reconnect with him through the death of his son. He atoned for all men but they must first believe that he is and that what he says about his father and himself is true. There must be repentance and all that means is a U-turn in behavior.

      Epicurus a finite mind attempting to understand an infinite God.

      "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
      Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
      Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
      Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"
      – Epicurus

      July 7, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
    • Keeping It Real

      Vortex,
      "We as parents discipline our children, we do it out of love not malice. We know that if we don't correct the child he will in the end harm himself. A willful child can be instructed but if he chooses to ignore the parent he suffers the consequences. Why wouldn't God care about his creation as such."

      When one of my sons was around 4 yrs. old he took a little plastic squirt gun from a store. I discovered it on the way home. We turned right around and went back to the store. After explaining to him that we are not allowed to take things that belong to others without paying, I asked for the manager and had my son give him the toy and apologize for taking it. (I suppose I could have just paid the 69 cents, but I chose not to let him have the toy).

      My explanation was clear, firm and direct - I did not scatter a few scraps of paper around the town with supposed rules on them and presume that the kid would find them and put them together. I did not throw my son into the fireplace (or threaten to) for not being able to figure out the rules.

      Your "God" character from the ancient Middle Eastern Hebrew Bible cannot communicate as well as even this simple human - clearly, unambiguously and effectively.

      July 7, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.