July 18th, 2013
03:14 PM ET

`Six Types of Atheists' study wakes a sleeping giant

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - They were trying to prove a simple point: That nonbelievers are a bigger and more diverse group than previously imagined.

"We sort of woke a sleeping giant," says Christopher F. Silver, a researcher at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. "We're a bit overwhelmed actually."

Silver and his project manager, Thomas Coleman, recently released a study proposing six different types of nonbelievers - from strident atheists to people who observe religious rituals while doubting the divine.

The study clearly struck a chord, particularly among triumphal atheists and uneasy believers. Articles appeared in in Polish, German, Russian and Portuguese, Silver said.

Here on CNN.com, our story "Behold, the Six Types of Atheists" garnered about 3.14 gazillion hits and thousands of comments.

Half the fun seemed to lie in atheists applying the categories to themselves, kind of like a personality test.

"I guess I'm a 1-2-4 atheist," ran a typical comment.

Other commenters questioned the study's categories, methods, and even the religious beliefs of its authors.

Silver and Coleman agreed to answer our readers' questions via email from Tennessee. Some of their answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Several readers asked how you came up with your six categories of atheists? 

A: In a sense we let the participants inform our theory.

The categories were devised from a series of 59 interviews conducted with people nationwide who don’t believe in God. Participants were asked to define various terms of nonbelief as well as their own religious views.

We also asked participants to tell us their stories and how their religious views have changed over time. We found the most commonly repeated stories and descriptions and formed them into types.

We then used those types in the survey portion of the project. Each of the six categories proved to be statistically unique in a wide array of psychological measures.

Q: @PaulTK asks: Are atheists limited to the six categories your study proposes?

A:  We suspect that further research exploring people who don't believe in God will certainly expand the number of categories and fill in more details about the six we've named.

For example, we found that the Intellectual Academic Atheist type may produce a 7th type reflecting those who are more "philosophically orientated" versus those who are more "scientifically orientated."

Our study also gives some evidence that individuals may not believe in God but still identify with religion or spirituality in some way.

Q: @JessBertapelle asks: Can people fit into more than one category? 

A: The typology of nonbelief is fluid. Based on our interviews, we suspect people transverse the various types over the course of their lives. Since we did not conduct a longitudinal design (a study conducted over time tracking the same people) we are unable to validate this assumption.

For those of you who found yourselves agreeing with multiple positions, you may find characteristics that you identify with in all types but there is likely one type which is your preference.

Q: @Melissa asks: Why isn't there a category for "closet atheists"? 

A: This is an excellent question. Many of our interviews were done in strict confidence where the participant’s own parents, spouses, or children had no idea they were participating in the study. One participant hid in the back of her closet because she did not want her parents to discover she is an atheist.

But while there were plenty of “closeted” participants, they didn't agree in how they describe their religious views. That is, they ranged across a variety of our six types.

Q: stew4248 asks: How is this any different than religious divisiveness?

A:  There is vast diversity among religious believers, but it's unclear if such diversity exists within nonbelief.

We do know that the Antitheist category has much in common with religious fundamentalism. Likewise the Intellectual atheism/Agnosticism type has a lot in common with intellectual theology, although they are clearly not the same.

Q: How did you find the participants for the study?

Participants were recruited through nonbelief communities across the country. They were recruited face-to-face, through snowball sampling (participants sharing the study with friends), and through the Internet.

Project manager Thomas J. Coleman III is well known in the atheist community because he is suing the Hamilton County (Tennessee) Commission for their involvement in divisive sectarian prayer at meetings. His reputation helped locate “closeted” atheists to participate.

The regional breakdown of participants is presented on the project website.

Q:  A number of readers have also asked about your own religious affiliations, if you don't mind. 

Christopher F. Silver answers:

I was born and raised in the rural South to a deeply religious Methodist family. In my hometown everyone was Christian.  As was the case for many in our study, during college I was introduced to people from different cultures and ideologies. I was interested in studying different faith traditions and why people believe.

In many respects, research for this was a selfish enterprise for me. There is nothing more transformative than sitting with someone as they share their life story with you. Today I consider myself an agnostic in the real philosophical sense. The more I learn, the more I recognize the extensiveness of my ignorance.

Thomas J Coleman III answers:

My mother has been active in the Methodist church as a choir member and pianist for most of her life. My grandparents were very active in the church and went every Sunday. Growing up, I would often go as well.

But for me, “religion” was always something that other people did. I prefer to identify as a secular humanist.

Silver and Coleman would like to point out that their study was supported and conducted in collaboration with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Department of Psychology and the Doctorate in Learning and Leadership

- CNN Belief Blog Editor

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Faith • Nones

soundoff (4,594 Responses)
  1. Aimee

    I just want to say that, Yes God does work in mysterious way to be cliche. But everything leads up to something.and there is a purpose for those things it may not have anything to do with you but maybe it does for the next person. And don't forget the devil is on your back telling you. Oh you have no proof of God therefore Hes not real. I would love to give more on this matter but I am leaving work now and i do not have a computer at home. But i will leave with this. All you people, Im sorry most of you people who do not believe seem to be cold and like to poke fun at people who believe and almost hate people who believe. Lighten up. I love you all believers, non believers sinners and saints. May God come in to all of your hearts and bless you. GN ; )

    July 24, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
    • jazzguitarman

      The people that need to lighten up are those that tell people that unless you worship the same so called god as them, you're going to a place they call hell to be tortured.

      July 24, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
      • Mark from Middle River

        The people that need to lighten up are those that tell people that unless you worship the same so called god as them, you're going to a place they call hell to be tortured.

        Always did not understand that. As a African American, I have been told a bunch of times in my life this or that from some White Supremacist group. Oddly, being a African American and a Republican, I have been told of much worst happening to me by other African Americans. After a while being called names such as Uncle Tom, I remember something from the movie Ghost of Mississippi.

        When you hate, the only one that suffers is you because most of the people you hate don't know it and the rest don't care.

        As a adult, why should you care what one of the Faithful say to you? When Atheist say negative things about Christians here, it does not effect the Faithful.

        Heck, even the new Pope says yall might make it. :)

        July 24, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
        • skytag

          What people say is a foretelling of what they might do. It might not bother you if members of a white supremacist group insult or denigrate you, but if they drag you to death behind a pickup truck you might have a problem with that.

          What Christians say doesn't bother me that much until they use it to pass laws limiting the rights of others thinking they're forcing everyone to please God. As an African-American you of all people should understand how thoughts can lead to actions.

          July 24, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
        • Mark from Middle River

          What people say is a foretelling of what they might do.

          The thing is that you did not say that they were saying that "they" would cast you into a burning lake of fire. You failed to mention even a Salem Witch trials threat of burning you at the stake. What you are seeking sympathy is that they are threatening your existance in a afterlife....which you do not believe to exist. If i am threatened by you or if I threaten you, this is a threat to do harm in this life... as in the present.

          Basically, we are comparing:

          "Skytag, I am going to kick you butt tomorrow down at the dunkin donuts after work tomorrow. "

          compared to...

          "Skytag, when I see you at the pearly gates I am going to beat you senseless with a cherub."

          Since, we both can agree that there are dunkin donuts, the first threat I can see you having a concern. Since you do not believe in Heaven, then where is the fear of me beating you over the head with a small Angel with rosy cheeks? :) If a person declares that you as a Atheist will burn, then you should have no fear at all that you will burn.

          July 24, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
        • skytag

          @Mark from Middle River: "The thing is that you did not say that they were saying that "they" would cast you into a burning lake of fire. You failed to mention even a Salem Witch trials threat of burning you at the stake."

          It was not my intention to write a dissertation on the subject.

          "What you are seeking sympathy is that they are threatening your existance in a afterlife"

          Rubbish. Your need to fabricate nonsense to support your position only makes you look weak. The rest of your comment is too stupid to even warrant a response. History offers many examples of laws and persecutions based on religious beliefs. I've you're afraid to discuss the issue honestly just don't respond.

          July 24, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
        • Ken

          What you consider "negative" on the part of atheists often amounts to just asking questions that the faithful find difficult to answer. That's a far cry from the message coming from many Christians, that anyone who doesn't believe what they do deserves to be tortured forever.

          October 1, 2013 at 8:02 am |
    • In Santa we trust

      There is nothing to distinguish "god's mysterious ways" from the randomness and uncertainty inherent in the flux of life. Humans adapt and rationalize problems so it may seem that there was a reason something happened when it was just happenstance.

      July 24, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
    • tallulah13

      "And don't forget the devil is on your back telling you. Oh you have no proof of God therefore Hes not real."

      Hey Aimee: There's no proof that the devil exists, either.

      I find it sad that any adult would believe anything without considering the validity of what they are being asked to believe.

      July 24, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
  2. skytag

    @Rachel: "Many atheists say that when they die, they hope to just leave a better world for those they leave behind. So, to the atheist, a better world is a world without a God."

    These are the kinds of arguments that make Christians sound stupid. It is what it is. A world with a god might be better than a world without one, but if no such god exists that's just how it is. I think the world would be better with the transporters and matter replicators from Star Trek, but those don't exist either. Just because the world would be better if something were true doesn't make it true.

    "Does preaching how God does not exist make you better?"

    Yes, standing up for the truth makes me feel good.

    "Does it make anyone better?"

    That would depend on whether you think it's better to believe comforting fairytales to avoid dealing with harsh realities to accept reality for what it is, even when it's harsh.

    July 24, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
    • Saraswati

      It looks like she wants you to create a god. In a test tube maybe? Or by force of belief, Terry Pratchett style?

      July 24, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
      • skytag

        I know, "Why wouldn't you believe in god? It's such a great idea!" Religion makes people stupid.

        July 24, 2013 at 9:40 pm |
  3. Voice of Truth-Censored by CNN

    Behold!!!!! I give ye the one TRUE God!!!!!!

    All kneel before Him!!!!!


    July 24, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
  4. skytag

    @Rachel: "Man will never prove or disprove the existence of God as long as they are alive. Christianity is based on faith."

    We are well aware it's based on believing things for which there is no evidence. We just don't agree that believing something is enough to make it real.

    "So what are you arguing for? Is it because science is more logical to you? Science does not disprove God."

    Doesn't disprove unicorns either.

    "We are evolving, and we are much smarter than we were centuries ago."

    Not really. We are more technologically advance and know a lot more about the world around us, but our basic capacity for intelligence hasn't changed noticeably.

    "No, I do not believe in the Adam in Eve story, I believe the OT was written as an effort to make primitive people understand that simply "God created man." I will not discredit those who believe it, however, because I have no proof of it. I wasn't there."

    Atheists are less selective. They see all of it as a fairy tale.

    July 24, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
    • Voice of Truth-Censored by CNN

      That was some lengthy drivel there, sport.

      July 24, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
      • skytag

        That's a really childish response there, sport.

        July 24, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      We are more technologically advance and know a lot more about the world around us,

      I do not know, before I was born Man went to moon and back ... quite a few times. Now, we have a space program of robots and drones. Teleconferencing and the internet have shown us more of the world but only in the screens of our Dells, Apples, and various google tablets.

      Also, with the drones, we are advanced to the point that the person in the car to the left of you just performed a hostile take over of a company on the other side of the planet. In the car to the right, that guy just flew a drone strike in the country next door.

      July 24, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
      • tallulah13

        I'm not sure that you realize this, Mark, but your lifetime is a very tiny slice of all the years of human history.

        July 24, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
  5. skytag

    @Rachel: "Is it so wrong to want to believe that there is something else other than this?"

    Of course not. But wanting something doesn't make it real. The danger in wanting something to be true is your desire causes you to lose your objectivity. You embrace evidence you believe supports what you want to believe and reject evidence that doesn't. You buy fallacious arguments supporting what you want to believe and reject valid arguments that don't. It's well known and history is full of examples showing that when people want to believe something badly enough they can almost always convince themselves it's true.

    For the record, I think the Christian narrative sounds great. I have just never seen anything to suggest any of it is true.

    "You argue that believing in God is like believing in Santa Claus and unicorns. Yet your argument is flawed since those can be proven not to exist."

    Sorry, but no, you can't prove they don't exist. Same for leprechauns and vampires. All you can say is no one has ever seen any evidence they exist, but that's easily countered by imbuing them with an appropriate supernatural power. For example, I can claim unicorns are magical creatures who only reveal themselves to people who truly believe in them.

    This is what you do when you imbue God with such fantastic traits and powers he can circumvent all powers of detection. You can't see him; he's not bound by the laws of space, matter and time; he's all-powerful; all-knowing — by the time you folks are done with him you've created a being so unlimited you can make up any excuse you want to explain why there is no evidence of his existence and justify anything you want to believe about him.

    The same thing can be done for Santa Claus and unicorns.

    July 24, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
  6. jazzguitarman

    Now this was funny coming from Ron: You may have actually convinced yourself of your own self delusion.

    I just cannot stop laughing!

    July 24, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
  7. skytag

    "You guys constantly attack Christianity while arguing that we preach our beliefs on to you. Yet, it makes more sense to try to preach about God and salvation then to preach that there is nothing."

    How does it makes sense to preach lies to dupe people into following false religions? It makes sense and seems much healthier to accept reality and learn to cope with it, even when it's less pleasant than fairytales that make a lot of promises there is no reason to believe.

    We all know you folks have no evidence to support anything you preach. Nothing to show any god exists, and nothing to show that even if there is a god that the Christian understanding of him is correct. All you you have are unsupported, but comforting claims.

    "What do you even stand for then?"

    I stand for truth. I stand for advancing the human condition by opposing bigotry, oppression, partisan bickering that paralyzes government, ignorance, and promoting mutual respect, tackling the challenges of life with facts, logic and reason instead of beliefs and theories that ignore facts, logic and reason. Sorry if you think that means I don't stand for anything.

    July 24, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      You covered it all right there!

      July 24, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      We all know you folks have no evidence to support anything you preach. Nothing to show any god exists,

      And we say the same when Atheist preach that there is not a God or Gods. But, since you just made the claim, I will wait for you to prove your belief.

      July 24, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
      • Ken Margo

        Where was god on 9/11? He didn't prevent it. He knew it was going to happen and did nothing. No show, nada, nothing. I can safely say GOD WASN'T THERE! enough proof for ya?

        July 24, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
      • jazzguitarman

        Oh, Mark; Your so called logic has been addressed many times here with the Santa Claus paradigm. No one can prove Santa Claus doesn’t exist either. So are you saying you believe Santa Claus may exist? How about the tooth fairy? Be honest; if an adult told you that really believe Santa Claus exist, what would you think of them? Can you now understand how non-believers view those that say a so called ‘god’ exist?

        July 24, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
        • Mark from Middle River

          Where was God on 9/11? He didn't prevent it. He knew it was going to happen and did nothing. No show, nada, nothing. I can safely say GOD WASN'T THERE! enough proof for ya?

          9/11 happened and the miracles that came afterwards and even a few before would be an absolute counter to your where was God argument. From the stairs that led folks up to twin buildings collapsing on a morning where both towers were not even close to normal capacity. I would also point to So, one "where was God" can be easily countered but, I ask, did God ever tell us that such evils will not ever visit our doorstep?

          JazzGuitarman. Trust me, I can understand logically how Atheist view God or Gods as being the same as Santa Claus but in the end the statement of non-belief is just as wide of a gorge as belief. The problem is, that it forces Atheist into forever explaining things that continue to remain un-explainable with theories alone. A further shackle is to declare it could absolutely anything but ..."fill in a deity". A person of Faith is open minded and not stifled into such a box. Some of the greatest thinkers and scientist have been able to carry both Faith and Science within them.

          To be honest, I do not judge people on what they believe but in their character and how they work. There are countless people who have killed. Some have killed millions, who if they came up to you and said that they did not believe in Santa Claus.... what would you think of them JGM? Would their "lack of belief in Santa Claus" in any way change your opinion of them over a adult who comes up to you and declares that he or she believes there is a Santa Claus?

          July 24, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
        • Observer

          Mark from Middle River

          "9/11 happened and the miracles that came afterwards and even a few before would be an absolute counter to your where was God argument."

          So it was a miracle that God ONLY watched nearly 4,000 innocent Americans die? A miracle would have been if the terrorists FAILED. Certainly no miracle about that.

          July 24, 2013 at 8:10 pm |
        • Ken Margo

          9/11 happened and the miracles that came afterwards and even a few before would be an absolute counter to your where was God argument.

          So god performed miracles BEFORE the attack when miracles weren't needed. Then performed miracles AFTER the attack. I guess for the Christians that believed in god and were killed on impact. Screw em. You make god sound like a coward. When he was needed the most. Zippo.

          July 24, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
        • Mark from Middle River

          So it was a miracle that God ONLY watched nearly 4,000 innocent Americans die?

          There are estimated an 146,357 deaths each day, with 6098 people dying each hour, is you believe Ask.com. The CDC is claiming a death ever 14 seconds. Is it that the best Atheist response simply boils down is to ask why do we die? Sorry but folks do die. In the rest of the world they suffer terrorist attacks daily, us hardly ever. Think about it, the last time we were hit, like 9/11 was Pearl Harbor.

          Let me ask this question...since you are defining innocent lives. Where the 150,000–246,000 killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Ja'pan also innocent?

          July 24, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
        • Mark from Middle River

          So God performed miracles BEFORE the attack when miracles weren't needed.

          Miracles could be interpreted as simple as the countless people who were not in the towers at that time. The terrorist who did not make it on to the plane in Boston. That after the attack the building held so long before collapsing.

          I guess for the Christians that believed in God and were killed on impact. Screw em.
          No, not even "screw em" the Muslims, Jews, and Atheist who died that day. All life is precious Ken. :)

          PS: you can italicize by putting .... lacking the space between the . That way it looks like:

          I am a Atheist and I love 700 Club Christians :)

          July 24, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
        • Mark from Middle River

          Wow, thought the code would not work with the spaces.

          What you want italize

          July 24, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
        • Observer

          "Let me ask this question...since you are defining innocent lives. Where the 150,000–246,000 killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Ja'pan also innocent?"

          I'm sure a lot of them were. Most of the Ja.panese troops weren't hiding in the middle of the 2 cities. By the time Bush became president, we were already welcoming with open arms, many thousands of Ja.panese tourists. Guess maybe they weren't ALL bad after all. Bush thought enough of them to leave Washington to welcome their leader to Graceland.

          July 24, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
        • Mark from Middle River

          A few weeks ago GW Bush was rebuilding hospitals in Africa. Obama just went to South Africa ...in case Mandela passed, he could be there to photo-op.

          But this week Obama is back in Martha's Vineyard....while Chicago is drowning in gun violence and Detroit is sinking into the great lakes.

          July 24, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
        • Observer

          Mark from Middle River,

          Obama isn't remotely close to Bush's total of vacation days when he shattered the previous record set by Ronald Reagan.

          Speaking of 9/11, Bush was already on vacation for most of the month leading up to 9/11.

          July 24, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
        • Ken Margo

          @Mark...................When all else fails attack the president. Old republican tactic. Running out of answers huh?

          July 24, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
        • skytag

          @Mark from Middle River: "A few weeks ago GW Bush was rebuilding hospitals in Africa. Obama just went to South Africa ...in case Mandela passed, he could be there to photo-op.

          But this week Obama is back in Martha's Vineyard....while Chicago is drowning in gun violence and Detroit is sinking into the great lakes."

          Why am I not surprised you're a brainwashed right-winger? Nothing you say here disparages Obama to anyone still capable of thinking for himself. All presidents do these things. Whining about Obama taking a vacation just makes you look like an even bigger fool than your other comments.

          The amount of time Obama has spent on vacation is not out of line with that spent by other presidents. Bush holds the record by a wide margin. He spent more time on vacation than FDR, and FDR served three terms. Only fools brainwashed by the likes of Rush Limbaugh try to make an issue of Obama's vacations.

          As for what is happening in Chicago and Detroit, those are not national issues, and the president — every president — can do his job from wherever he is. There really is no such thing as a vacation for the president in the sense that the rest of us think of a vacation.

          July 25, 2013 at 6:10 am |
      • skytag

        I'll prove God doesn't exist as soon as you prove Santa Claus, leprechauns, vampires, and the Loch Ness monster don't exist.

        That argument only makes you look stupid. If god exists there should be some kind of indication. If not, why would any rational person "seek God" anymore than he'd seek leprechauns? You can claim anything. Just because you can claim God exists is not a reason for me to believe it. People who are willing to believe without evidence believe all kind of nonsense, and have since the beginning of time.

        July 24, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
  8. Aimee

    @ Ken

    What, you don't think that God knew you were going to be born? And he did it because He knows we are human not a superior being, so we are not going to be perfect. He designed us with the free will to think for ourselves. Otherwise we would be robots. He died for you because he wants you to come to His kingdom and live in paradise. He loves you as you would your own child, if not more.

    July 24, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Will I get the virgins like the Muslims?

      July 24, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
    • skytag

      All standard Christian platitudes. No objective reason to believe any of it.

      July 24, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
  9. Aimee

    @ Ken
    What you dont think that God knew you were going to be born

    July 24, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • jazzguitarman

      The issue isn't what a so called 'god' may or may not know, but if said god does anything to impact what happens on this earth. For those that believe god does impact things e.g. causes fires, cures some blind people but of course not the majority etc. One has to address why this god is so selective and why 99% of the time he takes no action.

      If one believes in man's free will than what purpose does god serve (expect if there is an afterlife which is a whole other can of worms).

      July 24, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
    • R.M. Goodswell

      Believers really need to think about their god.... Omniscient and Omnipresent, meaning this has already ended for him and it hasn't begun yet. When you have those two abilities, why would you need to play anything out?

      Btw – you can really have fun with this stuff.....eternal, existing at every point in time and every possible place.....even for a 'god' this situation would be beyond absurd.

      July 24, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      God didn't know YOU were going to be born. So i guess god gives children autism? Cancer? Drug addicted parents? Yet this great person can't prevent the common cold!

      July 24, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
  10. Ken Margo

    If religious people were to refer to god ONLY AFTER someone passes away they probably wouldn't get the resistance they get. But when people say god knows all, sees all and smells all of people that are still alive. When we can obviously see god has no influence on our lives, that's a little hard to take.

    July 24, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
    • jazzguitarman

      What you mention is the issue that was covered well in the AZ Firemen death forum. In that forum even some Christians had to admit the folly that a so called 'god' was in control since they didn't wish to admit that this god killed those heros (or just looked the other way why they were killed).

      The concept that a so called god helps some but not others, when both equally worship said god, causes Christians to change the subject!

      July 24, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
      • Ken Margo

        I'm surprised they didn't say "god works in mysterious ways"

        July 24, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
  11. Ron

    Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. ....Jesus (Mathew 11:28)

    July 24, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Isn't that what those pedophile priests say to the young boys?

      July 24, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
      • Ron

        We can see where your mind is.

        July 24, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
        • Ken Margo

          It's not my mind that mol'ested young boys!

          July 24, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Bacon is good! ... EnjaySea (15:23)

      July 24, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
      • tallulah13

        At long last, a gospel that can be trusted!

        July 24, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
    • skytag

      This prove you can quote Bible verses. Are we supposed to be impressed? Is that more impressive than someone who can quote the Koran, the Book of Mormon, or the Torah?

      July 24, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
  12. Ron

    I am the resurrection and the life; he that believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. ...Jesus (John 11:25)

    July 24, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • Ken Margo


      July 24, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
    • Angry Agnostic

      What on earth compelled you to parrot Bible verses? The Holy Spirit? Furthermore, did this strategy yield the desired effect? Is this how you fulfill your Christian duty to disseminate the truth?

      Did Jesus ever say any of this? Of course he did, because it's in the Bible, and we all know that everything in the Bible is true because the Bible says the Bible is true and that's all the proof Christians need. Well, only if its KJV......

      July 24, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
      • Ron

        Angry, oh boy. I wouldn't know where to begin with you. lol

        July 24, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
        • Angry Agnostic

          Well find a place to begin with me! I realize my last comment must have came across as condescending, especially with, I fully admit, my use of strawmans, but if Bible verses were enough, you wouldn't need people like WL Craig and Dinesh running around trying to revive and modify arguments defeated long ago.

          July 24, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
        • Ron

          Angry, ok, let me try to help then. LIsten, you don't have to be so angry. I was angry and frustrated before I received Jesus as my Savior. Now I have peace and joy inside. The more you run from Him, the more you resist Him, the more frustrated you will be. Jesus died for you. He loves you. Receive God's forgiveness through Jesus. He is aaaaaawwwwwesome!

          July 24, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
        • Ken Margo

          @ron................Why do you have peace and joy? Give us some examples of how Jesus did it for you.

          July 24, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Don't eat with your mouth full. ... EnjaySea(27:7)

      July 24, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
    • skytag

      Yet another Christian simpleton.

      July 24, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
  13. Ron

    I am the light of the world...he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness. ....Jesus (John 8:12)

    July 24, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Are you a flashlight?

      July 24, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Don't look at me in that tone of voice. ... EnjaySea(1:6)

      July 24, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
  14. Ron

    I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father, but by Me. ...Jesus (John 14:6)

    July 24, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • Observer

      Yes. Tough luck for the millions of native Americans and others who never heard of him.

      July 24, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
      • Ron

        You are worried about others? Or are you seeking to justify your own rebellion? The others do NOT concern you or me, that is God's business. What is your concern is your response to the gospel. That, you will account for.

        July 24, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
        • jazzguitarman

          Well I openly reject the so called gospel and you’re silly and immature attempt to put the fear of a so called hateful ‘god’ into me. And don't start with the BS that when one is on their death bed they change their POV.

          July 24, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
        • R.M. Goodswell

          In other words, don't point out things we feel uncomfortable answering...indeed have no decent answer for....

          July 24, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
        • Observer


          "You are worried about others? The others do NOT concern you or me, that is God's business."

          It must be pretty frozen inside your heart to not care about millions of people who had no shot at heaven no matter how good they were. Without any doubt there were many who practiced the concept of the Golden Rule far better than you appear to have.

          It's easy to see how you support a God who torturously killed EVERY pregnant woman, child, baby, and fetus on the face of the earth.

          July 24, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
        • Ron

          Observer, let me help you out here. Lets see, you reject the gospel because not everyone has heard it, is that right? Do you really expect people to believe that is the reason? I don't believe you. I don't believe that you are concerned about the eternal well being of anyone. I think you are rebellious and seeking to justify yourself.

          July 24, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
        • Observer


          "Observer, let me help you out here. Lets see, you reject the gospel because not everyone has heard it, is that right?"

          Wrong. I reject it because I've actually read it.

          Unlike CHRISTIANS LIKE YOU, I actually care about people. I don't write off millions (billions?) of people by saying that's their problem if they happened to be born supposedly in the wrong place or time.

          Have you ever heard of the GOLDEN RULE? It's what the "law and the prophets are all about". Look it up. You'll be shocked what it says.

          July 24, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
        • Ron

          Observer, still sticking with the self-righteous approach? lol wow You may have actually convinced yourself of your own self delusion. Thats scarry.

          July 24, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
        • Observer


          Obviously you don't follow the Golden Rule. Anyone who cares so little about billions of souls says a lot about themselves and from here, that doesn't look too good.

          Consider getting a heart implant.

          July 24, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
        • Observer

          – Galations 5:14 “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”

          – Luke 6:31 “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.”

          – Matthew 7:12 “Treat others as you want them to treat you. THIS IS WHAT THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS ARE ALL ABOUT.”

          July 24, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
        • Ron

          Sorry Observer, you can't just qoute the parts you like. You seem to believe the "golden rule". Good for you. But if you reject Jesus as Savior and Lord and then try to quote the Bible to others, somehow my friend, you don't have much credibility. Sorry. You are rebellious. Interesting though. You are a self-righteous rebel. lol

          July 24, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
        • Ken Margo

          Ron.....................Observer can quote a boat load of stuff from the bible (good and bad) So i wouldn't want to go toe to toe with him. He'll have you running home to mom.

          July 24, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
        • Observer


          No one believes every word of the Bible. They just pick and choose what they like and ignore the rest. That's why there are so many Christian hypocrites who pick on gays or delude themselves into claiming that the Bible opposes abortion.

          July 24, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
        • skytag

          @Ron: "Observer, let me help you out here."

          You are clearly too much of a simpleton to help anyone.

          "Lets see, you reject the gospel because not everyone has heard it, is that right?"

          Wrong. His point was obvious to anyone who can still think for himself. Since that obviously wouldn't include you I'll explain his point.

          Christians would have us believe God loves all his children. At the same time, the Bible clearly states a condition for salvation that much of the world's population over the course of human history could not satisfy. If accepting Jesus is the only way to salvation then everyone who has ever lived and not heard of Jesus were not or won't be saved.

          Quoting Bible verses in a discussion like this makes you look like a simpleton. They are not magic incantations that will cause anyone here to suddenly make anyone here buy into your delusions. Atheists aren't atheists because they've never heard a Bible verse, you twit. I was a Christian for four decades. I've read the Bible from cover to cover and much of it more times than I can count. Back when I was a Christian I could quote scripture as well as most Christians. So the notion you can convert people to what you believe simply by spouting some Bible verses is just foolishness. If you think you are serving God by making Christians look foolish, far be it from me to stop you.

          July 24, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Don't believe what you read in the Bible. ... EnjaySea (45:45)

      July 24, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
    • The Author of John

      Do you want to go to heaven? All you have to do is believe in Jesus. And die, of course. That's why there's no evidence that heaven actually exists, 'cos no one has gone and returned. Ya just gotta have faith, but don't worry. I wouldn't lie to you.

      Except, of course, I never actually met Jesus. He died before I was born, but I thought as long as I was plagiarizing the book of Matthew (also written after His death), I'd just add this whole 3:16 part in because those silly jews don't think Jesus was actually the messiah (who cares if he didn't really fulfill all the required prophecies. We need a messiah to get this religion off the ground, so why not invent one?). I also don't want to tell you my name, because how could you possibly believe this book was divinely inspired if you knew that it was written by someone with a personal agenda?

      So anyway, believe in Jesus if you want to get to heaven. Because our religion needs all the followers it can get, and you look pretty gullible.

      July 24, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
  15. Ron

    Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. ....Jesus (John 3:3)

    July 24, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      So we should die then?

      July 24, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
      • Ron

        Ken, your not real spiritual are you? oy. Jesus is referring to being born again now, in this life. We all die. We must be born again, or born from above to enter the kingdom of God. Flesh and blood will not inherit the kingdom of God. We need to acknowledge our need of God's forgiveness. That we are sinners. And be willing to repent, and receive His gift of eternal life through faith in Christ. When we receive His forgiveness and His gift of eternal life, then we are indeed born again.

        July 24, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
        • Ken Margo

          How do you know who a sinner is? Is George Bush a sinner? He killed thousands of innocent Iraqis that did nothing to us!
          Is Newt "Three wives" Gingrinch a sinner? He calls himself a christian. What about the westboro Baptish church. Are they sinners? They celebrate the deaths of American soldiers. All the people I just mentioned are Christians JUST LIKE YOU. And you wonder why people don't blindly follow you.

          July 24, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
        • Ron

          Ken, are you a sinner? Don't concern yourself with the rest of the world (you sound like Observer). You will not give an account for the rest of the world. But be assured, you will give an account for you.

          July 24, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
        • Ken Margo

          @Ron....................Married wife, 2 kids, don't drink, smoke or do drugs. Have been working since 16. I'm now 50. Do you think I'm a sinner?

          July 24, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      If God created the universe, then he was probably killed in the explosion. ... EnjaySea(1:1)

      July 24, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I'm not actually interested in the "kingdom of God". I'm not interested in an afterlife at all, but if I'm going to be stuck with one I'd much rather go to Valhalla. It sounds much more fun. The good news is that there is just as much evidence that Valhalla exists as there is evidence for heaven.

      July 24, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
  16. Rachel

    Why do atheists care what Christians believe? You say that Christians live in a fantasy world, yet we live our lives happy. You guys constantly attack Christianity while arguing that we preach our beliefs on to you. Yet, it makes more sense to try to preach about God and salvation then to preach that there is nothing. What do you even stand for then? Is it so wrong to want to believe that there is something else other than this? You argue that believing in God is like believing in Santa Claus and unicorns. Yet your argument is flawed since those can be proven not to exist. Man will never prove or disprove the existence of God as long as they are alive. Christianity is based on faith. So what are you arguing for? Is it because science is more logical to you? Science does not disprove God. We are evolving, and we are much smarter than we were centuries ago. No, I do not believe in the Adam in Eve story, I believe the OT was written as an effort to make primitive people understand that simply "God created man." I will not discredit those who believe it, however, because I have no proof of it. I wasn't there. It's just my belief, yet I show respect.

    Many atheists say that when they die, they hope to just leave a better world for those they leave behind. So, to the atheist, a better world is a world without a God. Does preaching how God does not exist make you better? Does it make anyone better? Does the world seem to be heading in the right direction with the decreasing amount of Christians? I mean, God was taken out of schools years ago. Would you say that our children our heading towards a more meaningful and moral life? Or is that not important to you? Parents let their kids be “who they want to be” which basically means “they are too busy to lead them in the right direction.” Where else will these kids obtain morals and values? As many times as you can say that kids do not need the Bible to have values, I will say is that it helps. I am 23 years old and was raised Catholic, and my convictions stand firm. Even some atheists agree that religion is good to instill values, if just for that. So who cares if I believe in God. Jesus’ main message was to love one another, regardless of whether they are atheist or from another religion. Who cares if I try to live based on what Jesus taught? Why are you so desperate to change that? I would imagine that it would get tiring to constantly argue that there is no God. Wouldn’t your time better be spent helping humanity rather than putting up atheist monuments near Christian ones? Or are you simply still looking for an answer? I really do not understand it. All I know, is that it takes courage in today’s world to be a Christian, and to stand up for what you believe in when it's unpopular. Respect those who do, just as Christians should respect atheists. Your point would be much better respect and understood if you just focused more time on humanitarian efforts rather than being anti-Christian.

    July 24, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Why do Christians care what atheists believe?

      Why has the Christian Church historically scoured the earth looking for people to convert to their religion?

      Why do Christians think their dogma should shape the way public schools educate my children?

      Why do Christians think that every politician in this country is required to be Christian?

      Why do Christians arrogantly claim that it's impossible to be moral without believing in their deity?

      Don't pretend your are a victim, when it is the Christian Church that has been victimizing, persecuting, and marginalizing non-Christians for 2,000 years.

      I don't post here to change the minds of Christians. I post here to offer alternatives to those who are as yet undecided.

      Don't like it? Don't read it.

      July 24, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
      • Ken Margo

        Don't forget this............................. Why do Christians think their dogma should shape the laws?

        July 24, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • ME II

      Many Atheists are simply trying to counter-act the influence of Christians in their lives, such as science in science class, gay marriage, stem cell research, women's choices on reproduction. While it may seem to you that they "preach that there is nothing", what they are often doing is simply pointing out beliefs that are portrayed as fact, which can impact the laws with which we live, e.g see above.

      For example, you say, "Yet your argument is flawed since [Santa Claus and unicorns] can be proven not to exist."
      How exactly can they be "proven" to not exist? Because they are stories? That proves nothing.

      July 24, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Oh, and while we're on the subject...

      Crosses are ugly, did you know that? Crucifixion was a method Rome used to execute people! What gives Christians the right to erect hideous 40 foot tall crosses on hilltops, despoiling natural vistas, all across America?

      How would you like it if every hilltop in America had a 40 foot tall guillotine on the top? Wouldn't that be pretty!

      Don't get me started!

      July 24, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • Aimee

      Amen sister. I love the way you defended us believers and you are right on point. God bless

      July 24, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
      • Aimee

        well Enjay. the cross is a symbol of what Jesus had gone through to save you from your sins and they are beautiful. Jesus dying for your sins is the greatest gift you will ever receive. God bless you too. Even though you may not believe He loves you too

        July 24, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
      • niknak

        Yeah Shaimee, because you believers are under such attack.

        Hey, when will your believers start having your houses of myth start paying their fair share of taxes?

        Us non believers are tired of having to pay more to subsidize your various myths.

        July 24, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
      • Ken Margo

        Aimee...............Please educate me. Why would he die for my sins when I wasn't even born yet? How can he sacrifice for people 100 years from now? 1000 years from now? Please don't tell me to read the bible. It's a book, no more no less. I want YOU a person that has read the bible to give me YOUR logical reason why we should believe.

        July 24, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
        • niknak

          She won't be back Ken.
          She is just like most believers, they only want to have a discussion with others who share their delusion.

          July 24, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • niknak

      And the best part is Retched, you won't even be back to follow up your cut and paste paragraph you posted.
      I have seen it before, here and on other blog sites of this nature.
      Your anti atheist rant is not original, just like your myth.

      July 24, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • L

      It's not a matter of caring about belief. It is a matter of caring about truth. I don't particularly care if you personally believe that the world is flat. But I want to live in a world where people generally know that the world is not flat, and where science and knowledge can advance without having to overcome religious obstacles.

      Unicorns are extremely unlikely, but not absolutely disprovable. It is always possible that there could be a unicorn somewhere we never looked. God, on the other hand, is everywhere, according to some definitions. He should therefore should be detectable everywhere, and God's existence would be provable or disprovable if someone could offer an authoritaive definition.

      The only real impediment in disproving the existence of God is that the word is so poorly defined that we can't really be sure if we're talking about the same thing. If "God is love," for example, then I would agree that God exists because I believe that love exists. On the other hand, a God who is all-good, all-knowing, all-present, all-powerful, and eternal definitely does not exist, because bad things happen sometimes. QED

      July 24, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Concepts discussed in root post generalized past the point of usefulness.

      July 24, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • Maani

      Rachel: You are well-named. Bless you. You are obviously brighter and more mature than your 23 years would otherwise tell. Thank you for your thoughtfulness, humility, and righteous indignance. Keep the faith. Agape.

      July 24, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • skytag

      "Why do atheists care what Christians believe?"

      I can only speak for myself. I value truth. If there is no god, which is what I believe to be the case and would be consistent with all observable evidence, then Christians are spreading lies, fairytales, myths, whatever you want to call it. You can't make me feel bad for standing up for the truth.

      In case you haven't notice, Christians, and other believers are frequently not content with just believing their myths and fairytales. Because they delude themselves into believing they know what their God wants they often seek to impose those beliefs on others. This is well documented throughout history, whether its the Spanish Inquisition, blue laws forcing businesses to close on Sundays, anti-abortion laws, laws prohibiting gay marriage, prayer in schools, religious persecution and so on.

      I'd be a lot more willing to accept your need for delusions to be happy if you weren't using those delusions to control other people's lives. This is why Christianity is so heavily targeted in these discussions. We don't have any laws in this country that pander to Muslims, Buddhists, or Hindus. In American the Taliban is known and the conservative Christian right.

      July 24, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
    • skytag

      "You say that Christians live in a fantasy world, yet we live our lives happy."

      In my experience Christians may be a little happier because of their delusions, but they aren't as happy as they want everyone to believe. For all the time and energy they expend praying, reading scriptures, attending church, Sunday School, Bible School, whatever, that aren't all that much happier. They get lots of divorces, cry a lot when loved ones die, fight tooth and nail to postpone going to that better place they claim is waiting for them, can get pretty obnoxious when their beliefs are challenged, get angry, and so on.

      I accept that you might prefer a pleasant lie to a harsh truth, but atheists believe the truth will set you free, even if the truth isn't as pleasant as we would like.

      July 24, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
      • Tom, Tom, the Other One

        I don't know if truth can set people free, except free from some particular lies perhaps. The truth is what it is. It's sometimes accessible, some times not. Sometimes what you'd like to know, sometimes not.

        July 24, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
    • Rachel

      I think it's important to see the general idea of what I am trying to say. Not just comment on individual statements. First of all, I am not arrogant in the least. I said there are things I agree with and things that I don't agree with, but that I show respect. The same can be said about many atheists, since they believe in science, which is constantly changing, being updated, being proven wrong, and being proven correct. What was proven 50 years ago is not the case today. Second, I am young at 23 years old, but it does not diminish my credibility or my opinion. I live in the real world, am in graduate school, and I work. I think I can say my opinion; I am not some stupid kid that has no life experience. Third, the reason I say that Christians are generally happy is because usually on these kinds of boards, I see Christians proclaiming their faiths and atheist says we are "delusional" and living in a fantasy world. I am not delusional. I am human and I have logic. Of course I've had my doubts, but I have remained a Christian. I am not arrogant to say that I am right and you are wrong because, like I said, God will never be proven or disproven. I understand when atheists say that they do not believe in God and rely on science and what can be proven. Of course I understand. I just do not get why this arguments gets so heated on how “crazy Christians are”. Many of you love to focus on the negative of the Catholic church’s history, not the positive. Most love to mention Westboro Baptist church. I cannot speak for the radicals, and I do not know why they do what they do. From personal experience, and I think we can all agree, anything in extreme is bad, including an extreme Christian. Westboro, corrupt Catholic priests, crusades, etc. do not change my beliefs in God or Christ. That clearly is not representative of what Christianity is supposed to be. We can all see that I hope. If you took the time, you could see all the positives that Christianity (and Catholicism) has done too. But of course, no one likes to focus on the positive. Either way, I am not about to change my beliefs based on the past decisions of corrupt leaders. Yes, I still believe that being raised in church instills values. It’s not crucial, but it helps. Someone said that if I were raised in other countries, I would practice Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, etc. I can’t say whether that is true or not, I don’t have the judgment to answer the “what if’s?” This is the life I was given though, and obviously, Christianity is a choice. Furthermore, it’s not an argument that supports what I am trying to say. That’s what I mean when saying that Christians are generally happy. You ask us all these questions that we do not know the answers to, but we still live our lives. Many us of us remain optimistic and hopeful. I may be wrong, but I see more comments from atheists on these boards than anyone else, and most are aggressive and spiteful. Are you trying to convince us to be more like that? It doesn’t help your case, it only pushes me closed to Christianity. Christians (and other religions) use their religions and beliefs to argue politics (“to control other people lives”). What do you expect? If we have certain beliefs, of course that’s the case we are going to argue. You have your beliefs, and that’s the case that you argue, as well.

      I am not trying to convince you. I am not arguing that God should stay in school (though I think it could help, I agree that there is too much diversity of among cultures, religions, etc to bring back such a system). I am not even trying to generalize all atheists in saying that they are aggressive towards religion. All I am saying is that though it may seem appealing to comment on every single post about how Christians are delusional and this and that, maybe humanity would fair better if we just respected one another. Have a conversation about our difference respectfully, not necessarily just attacking each other. I am guilty of becoming aggressive too (in my head, since this is my first post ever). I get heated when I see all these comments attacking my beliefs. I just feel like anything that is said is simply said to injure and to silence the other side, not to discuss. Christian cannot prove God. Atheists cannot disprove God. Christians cannot prove that there is a hell. So who cares? I don’t care if you’re atheist, muslin, scientologist, Satanist, etc. I show respect. And if in the end, my beliefs are in fact fantasy, then at least I was kind to those I knew and those I didn’t know, and I lived happy being faithful and positive. I would hope that that in itself is a positive for Christianity.

      July 25, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
      • EnjaySea

        I'd be interested to read your comment, but I don't have a free 15 minutes lying around. If you'd be willing to write something more concise, and cover a few hundred less points at a time, I'll give it another try.

        July 25, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
      • Maani

        Rachel: Will you marry me?

        July 25, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
  17. mdwesterngrl

    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 [341–270 B.C.

    July 24, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      I will answer it for them. Read the bible. All the answers are there, listen you will believe, you will hear his voice, he will speak to you. eternal salvation (you get the point) etc etc etc. yawn yawn yawn

      July 24, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
      • niknak

        Wow, for a minute there I thought you had gone over the dark crazy side.
        But then got to the end and saw you were just mocking them.

        July 24, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
  18. bostontola

    Maybe I'm an unusual atheist. My level of disbelief varies with the topic:

    I'm as certain that the big religions' gods and beliefs are all man made, as I am that the earth orbits the sun.

    But I'm less certain that there is no god of any form, but I believe that to be true (if there is one, it doesn't seem to matter much).

    I'm less certain of the fundamental atheist defining principle that there is no god, than I am that the big religions are balderdash.

    July 24, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      I agree to a point. The problem as I see it is in the definition. I disagree with any and all definitions of any of the many gods that exist today. I am certain that if we discover that there is a "god" or "gods',any definition we currently use will prove insufficient.
      Trying to define something we do not even have any evidence of its existance is where much of the arguments come from.

      July 24, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Heliocentrism? HERETIC!
      Please turn yourself in to your friendly neighbourhood inquisitor. They should be listed in the yellow pages.

      July 24, 2013 at 11:59 am |
      • Richard Cranium

        Heretic, theretic, everywhere a tic tic.

        July 24, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
  19. palintwit


    July 24, 2013 at 9:45 am |
  20. skytag

    @Vic: If you want to believe something badly enough you can convince yourself of almost anything, because when you want to believe something you evaluate potential arguments and evidence through the lens of a very strong bias. You accept evidence supporting what you want to believe and reject evidence that's inconsistent with what you want to believe. You conclude arguments are valid or invalid based on whether they support what you want to believe, not on whether their logic is sound or not. This phenomenon appears in religion, politics, economics, even science, although when it happens in science we call it bad science.

    Given the total lack of any objective evidence for God's existence, the only reason someone would do what you suggest and devote time and energy to prayer, reading the Bible, and so on is that he wants to believe there is a God. As soon as he wants to believe there is a God he is no longer someone seeking the truth, he's someone trying to convince himself that what he wants to believe is true.

    Mormon missionaries often quote this verse from the Book of Mormon:

    Alma 32:27
    "But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than a desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words."

    This is pretty much exactly what you're saying. What this verse is really saying is that you should allow your desire to believe color your interpretations of fact, evidence, and events until you can convince yourself to actually believe.

    At this point I won't invest time or energy seeking God for the same reason I won't invest time and energy digging up my yard seeking buried treasure, traveling to Ireland seeking leprechauns, or traveling to the North Pole seeking Santa Claus: Until I see some evidence any of these exist I see any of these pursuits as a complete waste of time.

    July 24, 2013 at 4:44 am |
    • Vic

      We are all biased, one way or another, I concur. However, there are things that escape our bias and get to our hearts and minds if not our belief.

      How about resonance?! That's what happened to me when I heard about Jesus Christ. I was not seeking Him, yet, hearing about Him resonated with me and got my attention, long story short, got my belief in Him.

      July 24, 2013 at 9:33 am |
      • tallulah13

        So basically, you heard a story you liked and decided to believe that story, regardless of the fact that no evidence actually supports that story. How very human of you.

        July 24, 2013 at 9:42 am |
        • skytag

          Yep, typical conversion story.

          July 24, 2013 at 9:50 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        When I was young, Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land" resonated deeply with me.
        The tale of the Man from Mars trying to make sense of humanity (especially s.ex, love, and religion) struck a deep chord in my adolescent psyche.
        The book has obviously resonated with a great many people since there is a real life Church of All Worlds inspired by it, even if I never grokked the fullness of their devotion to a sci-fi novel.
        Just beause something elicits emotion, that doesn't make it factual.

        July 24, 2013 at 9:54 am |
        • Lucifer's Evil Twin

          Doc – I read every Heinlein book I could get my hands on when I was a kid... they were all in the public library by mid-70's early 80's... "The Moon is a harsh mistress" and 'The number of the beast" are my all time favorites. Excellent use of the word "grok."

          July 24, 2013 at 10:35 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          I've got a bookshelf full of Heinlein!
          My kid turns 7 next month and we're gonna start on the juveniles like Have Space Suit, Will Travel, Red Planet, etc.
          I've lost count of how many copies of Stranger I've loaned out and never got back – but I can't begrudge it since that's how I got my first copy.
          Now that I look at my office bookshelf, I see that I've got "I Will Fear No Evil" and "The Number of the Beast" right in front of me. ;-)

          July 24, 2013 at 10:52 am |
        • Lucifer's Evil Twin

          Citizen of the Galaxy, Starship Troopers (the original, not the horrible movie... probably not a good choice for a 7 year old), Tunnel in the sky, The door into summer and Orphans of the sky... all great books. I read all of those before I was 15.

          July 24, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
      • skytag

        Every religion is a narrative or belief system if you will, based on premises that cannot be proven. Christianity is a collection of narratives that have a few common elements. Islam, Buddhism, Shintoism, the gods of the ancient Greeks, Hinduism, and thousands of other religions man has created over the course of human history all have their own narratives.

        People who embrace one of those narratives do so because they find that narrative to be the most appealing out of all the narratives they have a chance to seriously consider. Not because any evidence supports it, but because they like what it tells them. Christianity offers a particularly appealing narrative.

        It tells you you'll never really die and that loved ones who die go to a place more wonderful than you can imagine where you'll get to see them again one day. It claims to wipe out all injustice because if justice isn't served in this life God will enact it in the next. It tells you that no matter how many mistakes you make, how many bad things you do you can avoid any and all eternal consequences for this simply by believing something, with no penalties, no retribution, no sacrifices, nothing; just believe in Jesus and all is forgiven. Righteous living is optional because salvation is a gift, not something you earn be living righteously.

        It tells you a being powerful enough to create the universe from nothing is your friend, that he listens to your prayers, watches over you, protects you and your loved ones, and so on, like having your own personal Superman on steroids. What's not to like?

        Yet it gets better. To make the Christian narrative even more appealing there are hundreds of variations from which you are free to choose to ensure you get one tailored to your personality and lifestyle. There are denominations that condemn homosexuality and denominations that marry gays and admit them into their ministry. There are those that require significant sacrifice in the way you live your life, such as the Amish. There are those that are heavy on ritual, such as Catholics and Mormons. There are those that preach strict Sabbath day observance and those that are happy if you'll just show up for services on Sunday morning. There are some in which people handle snakes and speak in tongues. There are some that prohibit the consumption of alcohol and tobacco and others that don't.

        Christianity isn't a religion, it's a religious smorgasbord, ideal for the church-shopping crowd, people who want all the benefits of the core narrative but want to be able to pick and choose how and to what extent they have to incorporate it into their daily lives. Some Christians are part of no denomination whatsoever. This ability to pick and choose is a major reason Christianity is so popular, this and the fact that it offers so much while asking so little.

        So you heard one of the Christian narratives and it appealed to you. Shocker. Still isn't evidence any of it is true.

        July 24, 2013 at 10:28 am |
        • niknak

          I agree that there are tailored versions of each of the big myths to fit your personal choice, but the vase majority of people did not choose.
          The vast majority, and I am talking in the high 90 percentile range, are only in their respective myth because of birth, not choice.
          Very few people actually examine them all then make a choice.
          That is why it is so funny when the xtians come here and say how theirs is the correct myth, since none of them were anything else except that.
          Had they been born in Saudi Arabia they would be muslims and think the bible was wrong.
          Same with a person in Saudi Arabia, had they been born into a xtian home in the burbs here in the US they would think allah was some made up bull.

          July 24, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • lngtrmthnkr

      Wow, you devote a lot of time and energy to this (4-45 am?). all I know is I was in a dark place ,in a deep hole of despair,drowning in hoplessnes,I asked God if he was there,would he help me? He did, I healed, I learned, I grew as a person,father, husband and friend. He is with us even if we do not know it and he is ready to catch us as we fall if we will reach out our hand .

      July 24, 2013 at 10:32 am |
      • skytag

        You healed, you learned, you grew. The operative word here is "you." God didn't do any of this, you did. That said, if you believed there is a God and he as "there for you" that could certainly have aided you in digging out from your hole. The placebo effect is well documented.

        July 24, 2013 at 11:07 am |
        • lngtrmthnkr

          Skytag, obviously you are completely satisfied with where you are and have NO desire to go anywhere else.If this is satisfactory and comfortable for you then maybe this is where you should be .

          July 24, 2013 at 11:21 am |
        • skytag

          @lngtrmthnkr: "Skytag, obviously you are completely satisfied with where you are and have NO desire to go anywhere else.If this is satisfactory and comfortable for you then maybe this is where you should be ."

          Reality is not dependent on my satisfaction level with it. Nevertheless, it's where I should be. If you can't cope with the real maybe a fantasy is where you need to be. It's not ideal, but it's better than having you snap and do something rash and destructive.

          July 24, 2013 at 11:52 am |
      • niknak

        Instagram, why is it that you believers all have the same "evidence" for your believe that always involves some personal revelation that can never be verified?
        If you god was real, why does it hide itself and reveal itself the way you all claim?
        And the people who follow allah or shiva or Buddha all say the same thing, that their god revealed themselves to them in the same way, yet you say their gods don't exist.
        But we are to believe you, that your revelation is proof that yours does.

        Mass delusion does not prove that god(s) exist, regardless of how much the deluded believe it to be true.

        July 24, 2013 at 12:31 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.