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Famous atheists and their beliefs
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. Ken Margo

    The one thing Austin, chad, Bill Deacon and their ilk fail to understand is that god HAS to use logic. If god doesn't use logic, then god is as illogical as humans. He's no better than me or you. Since god HAS to use logic, then the bible should be the most logical book out there. If you agree some of the passages in the bible are illogical. Why would you worship someone/something that is illogical? If god is as illogical as humans, it would explain some of the nutty behavior of those that follow him. (ex. Westboro Baptist Church, People who say the world is going to end. etc.) And finally if god is as illogical as humans, then he's no god.

    July 25, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
    • Jim P.

      "God" just makes it up as he goes and when called out on it simply tells people 'MY ways are not your ways" or tells someone (Job in this instance) that unless that person can tell God the location of God's secret snow and hail warehouses (I'm not kidding), he, God. doesn't have to answer him or explain anything. (Job 38:22)

      July 25, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
      • PDXSerric

        So God enacts plausible deniability? That makes a lot of sense, actually...

        July 25, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
  2. Austin

    skytag
    "More proof religion is a fraud and that it makes people stupid."

    Hey Sky tag, no i was not telling you you have a demon, i am illustrating a person who's eyes are focused in a sick way. someone who is locked in to the wrong idea. like hitler. You are conversing with someone here who has a real life, supernatural gift. I am not going to state the gift because you will taunt and label me and take the gift out of context, but my point is that you are the one with the delusion that you think you KNOW that God and satan are ficti.tious. as someone else said, you cant prove a negative? idk. My experiences are real time honest representations. My dreams were written down at the time of the dream, with zero bias or fill. If I skewed the experiences in my brain, this is the only chance for me to be deluded. and I am perfectly healthy and am real life proof that God is prophetic and sovereign and present right now.

    You just don't understand yet. I am sorry for that, I am going no where. We can talk this out. you need to pay attention to details and listen to what I am telling you.

    July 25, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • jazzguitarman

      Austin; Why can't you understand that many here feel you're the delusion and immature, and maybe even a fraud?. I'm glad you're myths work for you but why the need to ask others to believe them? My wife and I are very happy with what life has given to us and what we have worked for.

      July 25, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
      • Austin

        maybe we need to have a sit down and you can see my papers and we can go through them one by one. and you can see my facial expressions and put me on a lie detector.

        July 25, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
        • jazzguitarman

          People that said they have talked with aliens from outer space can pass a lie detector test. I.e. delusional people really believe that what they think they have experience really happened. Another definition for this is insanity.

          I have no interest in determining your mental state.

          July 25, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
        • skytag

          I used to date a woman who had eight dogs. All of them had papers.

          July 25, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
        • Ken Margo

          I used to date a woman that could barely read the paper.

          July 25, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
        • skytag

          @jazzguitarman: Sometimes in these discussions I feel like I'm talking to aliens.

          July 26, 2013 at 10:23 am |
      • Ken Margo

        @Jazz.....................Yeah meet up with Austin. Then you can see for yourself he's a salted nut.

        July 25, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
    • Austin

      I have a bout twelve different examples. lets start with the one that happened tenth in line.

      I had allready had five or six spirit led dreams when i was in jail. I had a list of 100 people that I shared Christ with and had shared the miracles with, and led them in the Word. I was in a work pod in jail with about 25 guys in the dorm. a few of them had started throwing trash at me , and one of them racked me with a roll of t.p. when I had a stomach virus. I was asleep when it happened so I was mad and threw my headphones at the wall. and looked over at 4 guys who were taunting me. I said in my head "I wonder if that kid has the light in his eye"

      22“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,c your whole body will be full of light. 23But if your eyes are unhealthy,d your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

      the next morning, on of the kids comes up to me and says, " i had this dream last night that i was going around looking in peoples eyes to see if there was a special light, to see if they were posessed or not"

      a few days later, one of the kids who was vitriolic and filled with hate for me because of the gospel, lost his money. I written down a dream 30 days earlier that he lost his money. this kid only had money a hand ful of days, he was always broke no visitors. when he lost it, is said "watch this" and i pulled out the dream about it, as he had for 2 months heard me talking about the tile patio dream and called me crazy. a few days later, the kid sleeping next to me pulled out a blue print he drew of a house, with an above ground pool , a deck around it and a privacy fence. and I had the dream of touring this place two days earlier, and I had the dream written down.

      want proof? ask Sheldon Clay, send the FBI.

      I have 8 other examples of this stuff, these instance being the ones that were not completely centered in the Word of God. the other ones were dreams i was having the night before i would read the scripture the next day, and this is stuff I had zero knowledge of. The book of Jeremiah, I could not have even told you the story because I had never read it.

      When it happens ten times in 4 months, you start to realize that (why was i writing them in the first place.? the cat dream. the st. louis arch dream............. I have proof of God my friend. why me? I have no clue but my situation resembles the God you hear of in the bible.

      Peace to you and spirit filled truth. Seek the Holy Spirit.

      July 25, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
      • Damocles

        Hmmmm.... strange that a deity sends you dreams about above-ground pools instead of something useful. Ohhh... I see, it sent you dreams of patios as well. Truly remarkable.

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

        Austin,

        Get ahold of yesterday's newspaper and see how accurate your horoscope was. Amazing!

        July 25, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
      • skytag

        There was a guy recently at a Cleveland Indians baseball game who caught three foul balls and picked up a fourth in a single game. The odds of that happening are probably no better your dream experiences being coincidences.

        July 25, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
      • skytag

        Apparently God gives proof to criminals and losers while the people sacrificing and trying to live his teachings don't get squat. If God is real and that's really how he works, you're welcome to him.

        July 25, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
        • Ken Margo

          LOL

          July 25, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
      • Paul

        "I had allready had five or six spirit led dreams when i was in jail."

        No, that is you applying the label spirit led dreams but you merely have selective memory bias.

        Various psychological processes have been offered to explain experiences of apparent precognition. These include:

        –Selection bias where people remember the "hits" and forget the "misses," remember coincidences more often than other non-coincidences, or when they were correct about a future event rather than instances when they were wrong. Examples include thinking of a specific person before that person calls on the phone. Human memory, it is argued, has a tendency to record instances when the guess was correct, and to dismiss instances when the guess was incorrect.

        –Unconscious perception by which people unconsciously infer, from data they have unconsciously learned, that a certain event will probably happen in a certain context. As with cryptomnesia, when the event occurs, the former knowledge appears to have been acquired without the aid of recognized channels of information.

        –Self-fulfilling prophecy and Unconscious enactment in which people bring events that they have precognized to pass, but without their conscious knowledge.

        Some psychologists have explained the apparent prevalence of precognitive dreams in terms of memory biases, namely a selective memory for accurate predictions and distorted memory so that dreams are retrospectively fitted onto subsequent events. In one experiment, subjects were asked to write down their dreams in a diary. This prevented the selective memory effect, and the dreams no longer seemed accurate about the future. Another experiment gave subjects a fake diary of a student with apparently precognitive dreams. This diary described events from the person's life, as well as some predictive dreams and some non-predictive dreams. When subjects were asked to recall the dreams they had read, they remembered more of the successful predictions than unsuccessful ones.

        July 26, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Ken Margo

      What time is your next psychiatrist examination? You have a supernatural gift? I guess you're the guy with red tights and an "S" on your chest. You're one of the reasons atheists exists because you make absolutely zero sense. Lets leave Christianity out of it for a second. look at the middle east and check out another whack job religion. Islam.

      In the middle east under Islam:
      There's no abortions, birth control, gay marriage or stem cell research.
      Divorce is rare and 95% of the people follow Islam.
      Those are conditions the catholic church would KILL for in this country. How has it worked out for Muslims?
      Are Muslims happier than the rest of the world?
      Do Muslims have more money? More success?

      THE ANSWER IS NO. WHY? Because Allah is as real as your Christian god. Neither does anything for anybody. We have hunger, disease,wars, poverty, homelessness, illness, earthquakes, floods and every other disaster you can imagine since this planet has existed, Since Jesus died for our sins and you know what NOTHING HAS CHANGED. You would think all these powerful gods would stop something from happening. BUT IT'S TOUGH TO STOP ANYTHING WHEN YOU DON'T EXIST.

      July 25, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • Observer

      Austin,

      As far as I know James Randi is still offering tons of money for ANY supernatural feat you can demo and prove.

      Go for it. You can then afford to find something better to do with your time than talk to us.

      July 25, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
    • Observer

      Austin,

      Powerball jackpot is $196 million. Will you share some of that with your blog buddies?

      July 25, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
    • skytag

      The problem you consistently ignore is that history is full of examples of who talked just like you, where just as sure as you, and what they believed was not real. There are people today in other religions who would say pretty much exactly what you're saying.

      You ignore an important implication of the fact that there really are delusional people out there, that if anyone can be deluded the possibility exists that you are deluded, and the deluded never realize they are deluded, so the upshot is that your unverifiable claims prove nothing to anyone else. I have only your word that anything you tell me is real. Given that people can be deluded or more often, allow their desire to believe something destroy their objectivity to the point their conclusions aren't reliable, your claims about private, personal experiences no one outside your head can verify simply aren't enough for anyone but you.

      The best case scenario for you is that you are one of the few people God cares about and the rest of us don't matter enough to him to give us any reason to believe in him. If that's the case I see no practical difference between not believing in God and believing in one who doesn't give a rat's behind about me. Don't bother regurgitating a lot of Christian platitudes about God loving everyone, because I gave him my best for four decades and if that wasn't good enough for him he can screw off.

      I believe the real answer is that he just doesn't exist, but frankly, if I'm wrong I don't really care.

      July 25, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
  3. The one person on this that is not a troll

    Nothing which means no exist-able matter explodes. That is scientifically wrong. Yet the only way atheist cling to their faith. Throw all the theoretical (thought up by humans) explanations you want but if things are truly constant around the universe Nothing would exist. {0 = 0 not 0 = 1}Please, people die of starvation and a thousand horrible things by people regardless of religion, yet your well spent time is on a computer arguing. Why not prove (if you think religion is below you) and go volunteer your life to ending the pain and suffering of others rather than arguing. dawkins can be as rich as he wants but what real good has he ever done? Write a book, well good for him. Did he use his money to end homelessness? Human trafficking? If he has made a few donations than good for him. Why not put your fervor into helping the world (like most true religious people do). In the end it does not matter how much you argue, every one dies. Please use the little time we each have to bettering the world not ranting and arguing in circles. "Do to others what you would have them do to you" -Jesus. So the next time you are handing a poor man a lunch, or helping a disabled person you can say "I did this with the same amount of energy it took to argue" Because as for me I'd rather pay for a lifetime of meals for a homeless man than read another of these pointless comments.

    July 25, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      If only I could be more like you.

      July 25, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Lets see... do I give a crap what you just typed? Answer: Nope.

      July 25, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
      • John

        You took the time to type a response so apparently you do, no offense

        July 25, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
        • Lucifer's Evil Twin

          I skimmed it and commented, so what?... What are you the 'caring' gestapo?

          July 25, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
    • redzoa

      Two points:

      1) That we do not precisely understand how the universe began does not logically default into causation by agency, which then necessarily invites the infinite regress into the string of causation capped off with a special pleading argument by definitional fiat of "uncaused cause."

      2) Although the advice to actually contribute to the betterment of the world is admirable, you simultaneously commit a "No True Scotsman's Fallacy" in alluding to "true religious people" as actually making this effort while inferring that non-religious people do not. Furthermore, it can be argued that confronting particular belief or non-belief claims with the potential of shaping individual behaviors (and at the larger scale, government policy, regulations, and laws) can, in fact, provide benefits. On one side, theists would argue that a world directly shaped by god belief drives more beneficence, mercy and charity. On the other, atheists would argue that a world directly guided by reason and evidence is more effective in addressing both general and specific issues affecting the rights and quality of life of individuals and societies. Although these threads often degenerate, the simple act of engagement in the discussion provides a means to examine one's position and how it relates to what we might agree is a shared goal in mitigating suffering and improving the human condition.

      July 25, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
      • ME II

        @redzoa,
        Well said!

        July 25, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
      • Dave

        It is difficult to think of any vocal atheists who also head charitable causes, while nearly every major charity can be traced to a religious origin. A world without religion would be one with much less care shown for fellow human beings. This is particularly true for advocates of the evolutionary theory, which has frequently been used to justify acts of mass genocide when one race is regarded as being superior and more highly evolved than another.

        July 25, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
        • ME II

          "This is particularly true for advocates of the evolutionary theory, which has frequently been used to justify acts of mass genocide when one race is regarded as being superior and more highly evolved than another."

          1) Religion is frequently used to justify acts of mass genocide. Shall we convict religion for that?
          2) Atheism does not equal Science and Science does not equal Atheism.
          3) What group to be targeted for mass genocide is most frequently mentioned or most often cited? Jews, a religious group.

          July 25, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
        • skytag

          "It is difficult to think of any vocal atheists who also head charitable causes, while nearly every major charity can be traced to a religious origin."

          So? If you think this is evidence for God's existence, it is not.

          "A world without religion would be one with much less care shown for fellow human beings."

          This may or may not be true, but either way it isn't evidence for the existence of God. The only thing needed for religion to encourage people to do good works is that they believe it's true. In fact, perception almost always trumps reality in life. In some cases it's referred to as the placebo effect.

          "This is particularly true for advocates of the evolutionary theory, which has frequently been used to justify acts of mass genocide when one race is regarded as being superior and more highly evolved than another."

          More proof religion makes people stupid. Religion has been used to justify acts of genocide as well. Furthermore, even in cases where "survival of the fittest" has been used to justify genocide, the people doing the actual killing have not been atheists. To the best of my knowledge the only person Hitler killed during the time the Nazis ruled Germany was himself. Everyone else killed under Nazi rule was killed by his followers, most of whom were Christians.

          July 25, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
        • redzoa

          While evolution has been used to justify various racist and eugenicist atrocities, the actual science of evolution clearly indicates that a species' fitness increases in proportion to their genetic variability. There are few people who don't recognize the deleterious effects of the in-breeding required to maintain pure-bred organisms. Similarly, ecology recognizes the deleterious effects of mono-cultures and their susceptibility to predation, disease, and other stochastic events. Suffice it to say, your attempt to link the science of evolution to some inevitable apathetic genocide betrays a miscomprehension of the actual science.

          July 25, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
      • chance

        @redoza your first point is merely suggesting we don't know the start of the universe but we do agree there was a start and the universe is not infinite. What is your explanation to this? do you simply hide behind ignorance? or do you have a idea/theory?

        July 25, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
        • redzoa

          Whatever idea or theory I might have is pure conjecture in the absence of evidence . . . as would be your own ideas or theories.

          July 25, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • knowmoststuff

      Then shut up and go feed the needy.

      July 25, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
    • Hodor

      I think that is fascinating. Railing against the merits of argument by partaking in the argument. How delightfully warped.

      July 25, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
    • jazzguitarman

      You're the biggest troll here. The only person of your post was to call other a troll NOT to discuss the article related to this site. Then you claim you are out helping people all the time BUT, you took the time to post as a troll. What a fraud.

      July 25, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • Hodor

      You're making the argument that argumentation is a waste of time. That makes my head hurt.

      July 25, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • Mudface68

      Maybe we could all just pray

      July 26, 2013 at 10:37 am |
  4. Elliott Carlin

    I'm glad we've awakened a 'sleeping giant' which affirms......well, nothing really.
    Sounds like a tempest in a tea pot.
    When you guys get together, do you sit around and stare since there's really nothing to talk about religion-wise, because, well, God doesn't exist?

    I'm sure you crafted your 'liturgy' from the Unicorn Society. LOL

    atheism has two tenets: 1. God does not exist, and 2. I hate Him.

    July 25, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
    • redzoa

      I would slightly revise your two tenets:

      1) God(s) and all claimed supernatural events are unsupported by any empirical physical evidence providing the basis for the reasonable conclusion that they likely do not exist.

      2) The god(s) frequently claimed to exist, as depicted in the various holy books, reflect logical and moral inconsistencies such that they deserve neither deference nor respect. Similarly, apologists who would defend such abhorrent depictions of deity behaviors as justifiable deserve the disdain of any reasonable person who accepts empathy as the principal component of any viable moral framework.

      July 25, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      You're right on #1 but stupid on #2.

      July 25, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      atheism has two tenets: 1. God does not exist, and 2. I hate Him.

      You're absolutely correct. I just hate things that don't exist.

      July 25, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin

        I thought it was: 1. God does not exist, and 2. Believers are idiots

        July 25, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
        • skytag

          You got it.

          July 25, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
      • skytag

        I live in central Florida where it's hot most of the year, so I hate Ra, the Egyption sun god.

        July 25, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
    • skytag

      More proof religion is a fraud and that it makes people stupid.

      July 25, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
  5. Mitch

    Short explanation of some common religions...

    Judaism – The first religion God gave to mankind. Abraham's second born son Isaac was chosen to establish a group of chosen people.
    Christianity – The second religion God gave to mankind, this time to bring salvation to everyone.
    Islam – A religion founded by the descendents of Abraham's first born son Ishmael, who were angry that his birthright was 'stolen' and detest Jews for this reason. They feel that they are God's true chosen people.
    Hinduism – Hindus recognize God but are hopelessly confused about how to reach him. They may not have had contact with him since the Babel incident.
    Buddhism – A philosophy founded by a man who urged humility, now treated as a god.

    July 25, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
    • MM

      How incredibly patronizing. Thank you.

      July 25, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • skytag

      A short description of all religions: A fictional narrative intended to help people avoid dealing with some of the harsh realities of life and encourage them to be better citizens and members of the society in which they live.

      July 25, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
      • morning dawn

        skytag, how is it the humans have this built in impulse to worship and see a god in powerful actions? why the animals don't do this also, some are nearly as smart.

        July 25, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
        • skytag

          In the earliest stages of a religion people are typically looking for ways to explain the unexplainable, such as why it rains, why natural disasters happen, why people get sick, there are seasons, what the stars are, and countless other questions for which current science had no answer thousands of years ago. Even today in some parts of the world there are cultures where people believe evil spirits and demon possessions cause illness.

          I believe people are driven to find answers for these questions because understanding the world around us gives us some hope of controlling it. This is the basis for medical research, for example. The more we understand what causes a disease the more hope we have of finding a cure or a way to prevent it, or in the best case scenario, of wiping it out as we did smallpox. Unfortunately, our need for answers is so great that oftentimes when we can't know the explanation for something we just make one up to fill the void. This is common in religion, but you also see it a lot in politics. Actually, you often see it in science, the difference being that in science it's just a theory until you can confirm it, whereas in religion and politics it tends to be elevated immediately to the status of fact and truth without any verification.

          Once people make the leap to concluding there is a god or a collection of gods behind these events, they typically want to find a way they can influence the actions of those gods. If you understand a disease you can control it with medicine or other treatment, but if a god is responsible the only way to control it is to influence the relevant god.

          So for example, if you were an early American Navajo indian you would have believed Tonenili was the god of rain. Once you believe that the obvious next step is to speculate about how you can influence Tonenili to make it rain, and in the right amounts. The most natural assumption is that gods like what people like: to be noticed, respected, revered, and feared. With that in mind worship is a no-brainer. If human leaders like people to bow to them, wouldn't a god want that as well?

          Along with this comes a desire to understand bad things, such as floods, plagues, and other natural disasters. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to speculate these things are the actions of angry god. Now you just have to figure out what makes the gods angry, what appeases their anger, and what makes them happy. Of course you're flying blind on all of this because Tonenili doesn't exist, so he's not going to be able to tell you what makes him angry. You just have to muddle along the best you can and hope you get it right.

          The process of creating a religion tends to be a slow one involving a lot of gradual steps. The major religions we see in the world today have evolved over hundreds or thousands of years, but they most follow the pattern I described, so for the most part they all involve some form of worship, the concepts of rewards, punishments, and obedience, and so on.

          Note that this explains why there have been so many different religions and why there is nothing they all have in common. If people are making up religious belief systems entirely out of their imaginations it only stands to reason that what one group of people in one part of the world come up with will be different than what a different group in some other part of the world come up with independently.

          If God really existed then it's reasonable to assume all or almost all religions would be established with some degree of guidance from him, and hence share significant commonalities. It would be like asking a thousand eyewitnesses to an event to write up a description. They wouldn't all agree on the details, but there would be significant agreement on certain aspects of it. For example, if you asked a thousand people to write a short paper describing a football game they attended, they'd all describe a football game and probably agree on who won it, as well as which teams were playing. There might be some variation in their memory of the final scores, their account of the half-time show might vary, and so on, but no one would describe a baseball game.

          On the other hand, if you told that same thousand people to write a fictional short story, you'd get a thousand different stories with virtually nothing in common. The reason there have been thousands of religions with nothing they all have in common is that they're all works of fiction created by people who had no interaction. The only time you get any significant commonalities is when two religions share a common root, such as the various Christian denominations.

          Does that at least partially answer your question?

          July 25, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
    • Mark

      Good job Mitch on the descriptions

      atheism= nothing exploded and magically exploded for no reason, creating everything and then rearranged magically for no reason into magic goo that became the dinosaurs.

      0=1 I am not a professor in physics but it seems that the people that have the most faith are atheist.

      July 25, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
      • LinCA

        @Mark

        You said, "atheism= nothing exploded and magically exploded for no reason, creating everything and then rearranged magically for no reason into magic goo that became the dinosaurs."
        You are clearly clueless. Atheism is a lack of belief. Nothing more, nothing less. Atheism says nothing about the start of the universe, or life on earth. Rejecting the obvious insane assertion by religiots that there must have been some creature that farted it all into existence, doesn't automatically mean a firm belief in anything else. Most atheists are open to natural explanations, but will, for the time being, accept "we don't know (yet)".

        That said, a universe that started from nothing requires far less faith than any religious explanation. Any god that could have created this universe present a problem far greater than the "universe from nothing" problem. By asserting there must have been such a creature, you create a problem of where this creature came from, and where is resides, and how it came to be so complex that it was capable of doing what you claim it did. What's more, you make these claims without the first piece of evidence in support.

        You said, "I am not a professor in physics"
        That much is blatantly obvious.

        You said, "but it seems that the people that have the most faith are atheist."
        Ignorance is at the root of your misunderstanding.

        Believers are no more advanced in their beliefs than a five-year old that still believes in the Tooth Fairy. The support for either claim of existence is equal. Their respective "theories" have equal merit (none whatsoever, just in case you missed that part).

        To be a believer you have to be ignorant, willful or otherwise.

        July 25, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
      • ME II

        @Mark,
        Christain: Same thing, but add a magical being who magically knows everything and magically can do anything, but doesn't do anything.

        July 25, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
  6. skytag

    In my mind there are two variations of the question "Does God exist?" One is the obvious, literal question as I just stated it.

    The other goes something like this: Is there anything one could reasonably call a god that cares one whit about anything that transpires on this planet or in any of our lives?

    For example, suppose Christians are right, up to a point. Suppose an all powerful being created the universe, terraformed this planet, and created the life on it. According to the Bible we know God was so disgusted with the results of his first effort at creating the human race he slaughtered all but eight of them so he could start over from scratch and try again.

    What if he decided the second attempt was just as big a failure? After all, there is nothing in the Bible suggesting he made any revisions to the human design, so any fundamental flaws in people before the flood would still be there after the flood. What if God just gave up on us at some point and just abandoned us to try again from scratch on some other planet entirely?

    If that were the case, one could say God exists, but for all practical purposes here on Earth he doesn't. He's not listening to our prayers, changing anyone's heart, working any miracles, or paying any attention to us at all.

    I would point out that this scenario is entirely consistent with Christians' #1 argument for God's existence, which is that the universe and life must have had a creator. The above scenario allows for a creator, but not for banning abortions or gay marriage.

    Before I'm going to be willing to "seek God" I need some evidence he isn't on some other planet in another galaxy where I can't possibly find him.

    July 25, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
  7. skytag

    In the past, epilepsy was associated with religious experiences and even demonic possession. In ancient times, epilepsy was known as the "Sacred Disease" (as described in a 5th-century BC treatise by Hippocrates[87] ) because people thought that epileptic seizures were a form of attack by demons, or that the visions experienced by persons with epilepsy were sent by the gods. Among animist Hmong families, for example, epilepsy was understood as an attack by an evil spirit, but the affected person could become revered as a shaman through these otherworldly experiences.
    [...]
    In Tanzania to this day, as with other parts of Africa, epilepsy is associated with possession by evil spirits, witchcraft, or poisoning and is believed by many to be contagious.[92] In ancient Rome, epilepsy was known as the Morbus Comitialis ('disease of the assembly hall') and was seen as a curse from the gods. — Wikipedia

    Being wrong in attributing epilepsy to demons or evil spirits is obviously not proof every claim attributing something to the supernatural is wrong, but it is proof believers can be wrong when they make such claims. These claims are never supported by any evidence. Many, such as this one, have eventually been shown to be false, and none have ever been proven to be true.

    That means in every case where the validity of such a claim was established by objective evidence it was determined to be false. Not a very impressive record. Given this reality, why should I give any of these claims any credence?

    Note: "Because I believe them" is not a valid reason. Sorry.

    July 25, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
    • niknak

      No, the fundies have graduated to speaking in tongues as their latest creep show religious proof of their magic man.

      July 25, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
  8. Henry

    One of the large groups missing from the typology is what I call "Temper Tantrum Atheists" - that is, people who call themselves atheists because they are mad at God. Most eventually go back to believing, so I suppose it's not a surprise that none of them would have been available for the study, but in any given group of atheists there are always a good number who say they don't believe while secretly looking for a reason to go back. You find this with many Christian apologists who claim to have been an atheist earlier in life, such as C.S. Lewis and Lee Strobel. You read their reasoning for having doubted, and it's pretty shallow.

    July 25, 2013 at 11:14 am |
    • Saraswati

      What evidence do you have that these people are "mad at god?" Is this something you have actually heard them say? since atheists don't believe in god, it is unlikely that they would say any such thing, which makes this just your interpretation, based, quite likely, on your own believe that these folks must still sense god's presence. This always seems a convenient little story for the theist, because otherwise you have to accept that a person could feel a god's presence and then become aware that it was all a delusion, much like the awareness that many feel about the voices in their heads when treated with antipsychotics.

      July 25, 2013 at 11:19 am |
      • skytag

        I assume he's thinking of people who got mad at God because he failed to do something they believe he should have done and decided he must not exist. In The World at War a holocaust survivor tells a story of a Jewish Rabbi who prays for God to save the Jews being put to death in the camps. and when nothing changed he said, "There is no God."

        July 25, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
      • Saraswati

        You may be right. I've never met these people but certainly heard they exist. I'd say it would be a pretty tiny group in any of the religions that take God's goodness as a preamise.

        July 25, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
        • skytag

          Typically they're people who have experience some tragedy they believe God would have prevented if he existed, based on their understanding of him. It could be his failure to save the Jews dying in the death camps, protect innocent children from predators who molest them and kill them, or some such thing.

          Believers always have an excuse for the fact that God never does squat, but not everyone is buying all those excuses.

          July 25, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      I dont know anyone who is an atheist because they are mad at an imaginary being. You make no sense.

      July 25, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Where is your evidence for atheists or most "Temper Tantrum Atheists" eventually go back to believing?
      Where is your evidence for a god?

      July 25, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • dimensio0

      I believe that you have confused the wishful thinking of religious apologists with a demonstration that the class of "atheist" to whom you refer is "large" or even statistically significant.

      July 25, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • Vic

      That type is actually listed on the following wiki (2) :

      http://atheism.wikia.com/wiki/Types_of_atheists

      July 25, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
  9. skytag

    @Austin: "My situation is absurd on first glance"

    Your story is interesting, but was barely coherent and there are alternative explanations for what you claim you experienced. Someone posted some good thoughts on this earlier, but in the time I have been composing these responses a block of comments has been deleted, including your comment and his.

    You said you had a Christian family, which likely means you were raised as a Christian. Even when you later rebelled those teachings and values were still in your head somewhere, even if you rejected them or ceased to be conscious of them. But having been put there when you were very young, impressionable, and trusting, they would have real staying power.

    The struggle you described took place entirely within your own head, a battle between deeply rooted values and images from your past and the more recent thoughts and images of your — at that time — rebellious present. Eventually your old values won out.

    "i want to help you see. maybe you would be to scared as of yet. dont you recognize the evil that is a destroyer?"

    I recognize a nut job talking nonsense when I see one. God and Satan have something very important in common: There is no evidence or reason to believe either one exists. Satan is just something believers made up so they could have a mystical explanation for bad things they couldn't explain otherwise and didn't want to attribute to God. The example I usually give is the belief once commonly held that disease was caused by evil spirits. Epilepsy is a good example:

    In the past, epilepsy was associated with religious experiences and even demonic possession. In ancient times, epilepsy was known as the "Sacred Disease" (as described in a 5th-century BC treatise by Hippocrates[87] ) because people thought that epileptic seizures were a form of attack by demons, or that the visions experienced by persons with epilepsy were sent by the gods. Among animist Hmong families, for example, epilepsy was understood as an attack by an evil spirit, but the affected person could become revered as a shaman through these otherworldly experiences.
    [...]
    In Tanzania to this day, as with other parts of Africa, epilepsy is associated with possession by evil spirits, witchcraft, or poisoning and is believed by many to be contagious.[92] In ancient Rome, epilepsy was known as the Morbus Comitialis ('disease of the assembly hall') and was seen as a curse from the gods. — Wikipedia

    This allows you to give God all the credit for anything good that happens while blaming Satan or other evil spirit for everything bad.

    July 25, 2013 at 11:13 am |
  10. skytag

    @Austin: "As I sit here and tell you the truth about the proof I have, you are dancing around in your head on auto offend.
    and you are nice guy but what is normal and decent to you, is based upon unchecked UNbelief."

    If you mean my judgment isn't influenced by fanciful tales of miraculous events and mystical powers no one can show are real, I agree.

    "While you form intelligent sentences appealing with sense you are probably doing the one thing you despised about the crusaders and adolf Hitler."

    When you start comparing people to Hitler you know you've lost the argument.

    "Matter of fact, you are probably receiving silent voice impulses demonically."

    ROFLMAO Yes, logic and rationality are of the devil. God gave us brains, but never intended for us to use them, is that it?

    "as in your thoughts may be molded by a demon that you have never seen. If you only knew what he looked like. or knew how many people it controls. or who his boss is."

    You are so pathetic. I have posted countless of well-reasoned comments and you've never had the courage to address anything I say. You respond to my comments, but not to their content, because you have no counter arguments. Your responses are always more unprovable claims intended to reinforce your brainwashing. Quote scriptures, regurgitate the same claims over and over again, all without ever acknowledging I have valid arguments. You are nothing more than a brainwashed bot doing what you've been programmed to do.

    Now you're making up stories about demons controlling me. As sad as that is, from where I sit it's the funniest thing I've heard in a while. Yes, demons are making me think rationally and logically with my brain. I'm surprised Thor hasn't already struck me with lightening for my sin. Do you know a good prayer I can use to ask God to forgive me for using my brain?

    "imagine a demon who has his eyes way too close together because he has tunnel vision and his mind is stuck with obsession, like he cant unfocus on the lies. all he can do is focus on a lie and so his whole head resembles obsession."

    It's probably not a good idea to tell people here what you look like.

    The reason you can't refute my arguments is not that demons are helping me compose them, but that they are based on sound logic and knowledge of human behavior, not fairytales and wholly unprovable claims.

    "do you understand that being stuck like that is the absolute freakiest imaginable scenario, and that the masses are this way?"

    Do you understand this doesn't make sense to sane people?

    July 25, 2013 at 10:47 am |
  11. skytag

    @Austin: "You have a tone that brings respect. buit, when you do go far enough to make a judgment and you say something is deluded you go over the line of prejudice and act out at and one a person."

    I don't coddle people. I think you've deluded yourself. Look, either people can delude themselves or they can't. If they can, almost by definition they cannot discern between what is and isn't real with respect to that event or experience. Since I assume you're a person, you are capable of being deluded, and if that were to happen, you wouldn't be able to recognize it.

    Similarly, people who have been brainwashed never recognize they've been brainwashed. If they did the brainwashing didn't work. So with respect to these two conditions, self-assessments are meaningless.

    "That person will always be plural when you talk to someone who walks with the omnipresent spirit of God."

    Yeah, pretty much, since I think anyone who believes this is deluding himself.

    July 25, 2013 at 10:43 am |
  12. skytag

    Once again it appears the people running this blog have purged a large block of comments. I find that to be obnoxious and reprehensible. When people take the time to compose and post reasonable, thoughtful comments here they should not be trashed for no reason. Shame on whoever is doing that.

    July 25, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • OTOH

      Yes, skytag, the purgings are troublesome, for more reasons than one. This blog has become quite uncomfortable to navigate and to participate in.

      I wish that you, as such an excellent writer and presenter of fact, would try to communicate with the blog Editor, Daniel Burke. He's the one who has recently been active here.

      If you have a spare few minutes you can reach him either at:
      Twitter: @BurkeCNN
      or
      Email: daniel.burke@CNN.com

      July 25, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
      • OTOH

        p.s. Daniel has said that he *wants* feedback, so you will not be imposing on him. It's his job.

        p.p.s. This plea also goes out to any and all of the other able posters.

        July 25, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
  13. rh

    Sick and tired of saying that atheists are "nonbelievers". If the comparison is to Christianity, then you better roll in all non-Christians as nonbelievers as well.

    I believe in a lot of things, but I don't believe in a God. You have no right in making the judgement call that my beliefs are non-existent.

    July 25, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • Saraswati

      Yes, they should say non-god-believers if that's what they mean.

      July 25, 2013 at 11:20 am |
  14. bostontola

    Looking at the comments on the belief blog I can see some general patterns. These general patterns don't apply to any individual.

    Atheists are often intellectual bullies, but I rarely see them making up things to support their points. Insults are common.

    Religious posters often make up outrageous things to make their points, they often ignore facts that are difficult to square with their truth. Insults are common.

    That combination makes a civil, reasoned discussion quite a challenge.

    July 24, 2013 at 11:19 pm |
    • rh

      Don't know why so many people feel the need to generalize – all Christians are this way, all atheists are that way, all whites are this way, all blacks are that way, all women are this way, all men are that way, etc.

      If someone is offending you, that's not cool. Religion and politics are two subjects that civilized people don't talk about unless they know the person well, and know how far to go. The problem that many atheists have, whether they are vocal or not, is that religion is continually thrust upon us (Federal holidays that are Christian only for example), and it gets really really tiring explaining to our children what is truly the US and what is Christian infiltration of our government.

      I think it's great if you are religious. I don't think it is great that there are militant atheists, but then again, I don't like that there are militant people of any religion. Most Christians don't think the Westboro Baptist Church speaks for them. But the Westboro Baptist Church thinks they speak for God and all Christians. I suppose atheism has "made it" if there are now militant atheists.

      July 25, 2013 at 9:29 am |
      • bostontola

        rh,
        A general observation does not mean you think all are that way.

        July 26, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
    • lol??

      lol??
      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      Your facts are the scientific type?? facts/2??

      July 26, 2013 at 2:34 am |
  15. john paul wright

    A NASA physicist uses 3 dimensional analysis on the Shroud of Turin to prove it is not a fake, a T A&M botany professor prove through pollen and other botanical research that the Shroud was from the time of Jesus, Roman, Greek, and Jewish records attest to Jesus. You cannot ignore the fact that Christ was real. You may think he was not the Son of God, if so I ask you this, would you be willing to be crucified for a "parlor trick"? Would you be willing to be stoned to death or crucified for a lie, prank or practical joke? Of course any reasoning person would not, those of you who would argue this are only, at this point ad hominem or ad argumentum. Those of you with functioning frontal lobes will realize that the denial of Jesus is fallacious paranoia. You must, since you know he is real, know his works are real . The idea alone of Jesus as God made man for our redemption is too radical for a sin soaked worldly mind to handle. All sin and fall short, all our good works are as menstral rags. Jesus is also the embodiment of God's love for us. Through a personal relationship with Christ, God is our refuge. Life rings have been thrown out to you time and time again, but you are free to continue to choose to drown in this ocean of death. I will pray for all those not coming to Christ for whatever reason, and that God's love, mercy, and grace will open the eyes of your heart, awaken the intellect of your mind, and fire your spirit to accept His blessings.

    July 24, 2013 at 10:21 pm |
    • Observer

      john paul wright,

      Tests by laboratories at the University of Oxford, the University of Arizona, and the Swiss Federal Inst-itute of Technology, placed the shroud as from about 1,200 to 1,350 years AFTER Jesus died.

      Please try to do more complete research in the future.

      July 24, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Actually, there is not a single contemporary account of Jesus or any of the miracles of the bible. You are making claims that are nothing more than lies. You should really do your homework before breaking commandments. Unless, of course, you think that you know better than your god.

      July 24, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
    • skytag

      I haven't researched what's known about the shroud as it's not relevant. Even if Jesus existed it doesn't prove any of the supernatural claims made about him. I am certainly open to the idea that they New Testament contains a lot of fairytales about a man who actually existed.

      July 24, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      It's relatively clear that Jesus was real. And it's also obvious that all of the miracles attributed to him were lies. Why? Because people wrote the gospels; people lie; and the "miracles" in the Bible have all been repeated by modern magicians, hucksters, and frauds.

      Just because he existed, it doesn't follow that he performed miracles.

      July 24, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
      • tallulah13

        I wouldn't say it's that clear. I suspect that there was a real person or real persons that the myth of Jesus was based upon, but that's just my opinion. There is no actual evidence.

        July 24, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
    • MM

      "Those of you with functioning frontal lobes will realize that the denial of Jesus is fallacious paranoia."

      Such big words to say so little.

      July 25, 2013 at 7:32 am |
  16. PDXSerric

    Hmmm. I am neither a nihilist nor an atheist. I believe in the principles of religion but abhor the practice. I can not imagine there is not something 'greater' than ourselves in the universe but do not call it God. There is no such thing as prophets or predestiny. Religion, to me, seems to be a tool for the lost and the weak. The lost, searching for everyday answers of life, choose to searching outward, towards something that makes sense, rather than searching inward. If th9is brings them peace and causes them to do acts of goodwill then fine. It is a great thing! If it causes them to commit acts of hatred and prejudice, then it is nothing more than a cultish perversion.

    For the fearful it seems to be a tool to quell the natural, innate fear of death. What happens to our consciousness after this body dies? Will those who do evil be held accountable and will those who do good be rewarded? It's a natural fear and one that is easily understood. From this come two types of leaders – those who wish to bring pace and solstice to the fearful and those who wish to gain from them. I keep saying religion is a tool and I mean this literally. Like a hammer, if used properly it can build strong and lasting foundations, walls and a roof to keep you safe. Used improperly, it can be used to destroy, demolish and kill. It is far too easily abused in the name of righteousness.

    With this in mind I happily consider myself an Agnostic rather than an Atheist. Religion is a funny thing. it is no longer synonymous with faith. Faith exists in everyone, whether it is in something as grandiose as a mythical being of awesome power or that the sun will simply rise in the morning and fall at night. Faith in your partner, your spouse and yourself. Faith exists without religion to confine or define it. However, religion can not exist without faith.

    Even my Atheists friends have faith – a faith that no god-like being exists. After all, if they did not have faith they would not be able to cling onto any belief (or non-belief) whatsoever. once you separate faith from religion, everything starts to become more clear.

    July 24, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • tallulah13

      It actually doesn't take faith to not believe in something for which there is no evidence. What is required is common sense.

      July 24, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
      • PDXSerric

        Very well. But the belief that you are right is considered a type of faith. If there is no evidence to prove something then there is no evidence to disprove it, either. The faith that you have that God doesn't exist is equal to the faith believers have that He DOES exist.

        As I said, religion and faith are no longer synonymous. The world, I think, is waking up to that realization.

        July 24, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
        • tallulah13

          So is not believing in leprechauns a great leap of faith for you?

          July 24, 2013 at 10:47 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          So there is Pascal's Wager, which works for those people who feel a chill when they realize that there might be leprechauns after all.

          July 24, 2013 at 10:54 pm |
        • tallulah13

          Humans have worshiped literally thousands of gods throughout history. Those gods have ALWAYS reflected the morals and the aesthetics of the cultures that invented them. Most of those gods represented natural phenomena that our relatively primitive ancestors had no way of understanding. Why else would so many disparate cultures have gods of thunder? It is no coincidence that there is no need for thunder gods now that we understand the mechanisms of lighting. Gods are/were a way of appealing to and controlling the unknown.

          No single specific god ever developed simultaneously in two unrelated regions. No god has ever gone where humans did not take them. It took the christian god 1500 years to do something so simple as cross an ocean. He had to wait for humans to take him to the New World.

          I'm not even touching on the scientific reasons not to believe in gods. Do you honestly think that it takes faith not to believe in something that is so blatantly a human invention?

          July 24, 2013 at 11:02 pm |
        • tallulah13

          Hey, Tom. I wouldn't mess with those little bastards. Not for all the green beer in Boston.

          July 24, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
        • PDXSerric

          tallulah13, if you really want to bend the debate to the extreme, I can play with you.

          Have you ever seen a leprechaun? I don't think so, but you insist, adamantly, that they do not exist because they have not been proven to exist. This is, as you say, common sense, and I appreciate that fully. In fact, I am not arguing that point whatsoever. What I am saying is that your common sense gives you faith in your conviction about leprechauns, unicorns and God. You know you are right because everything inside of you tells you that you are right.

          That's faith, regardless of what you want to call it. Once you strip away the mysticism of (F)aith and begin to contemplate (f)aith things just make more sense. It happens all the time in the scientific fields. Scientists develop a hypothesis based upon certain known and unknowns. They pursue this hypothesis until it can be confirmed or denied. Their belief in their knowledge and understanding of the universe, combined with the wonder and curiosity which propels them forward, is faith.

          Remove faith from religion and that religion crumbled into dust. Faith, on the other hand, persists, whether we believe in something or in nothing, that God exists or He doesn't, that the world will still be here when you wake tomorrow... that's all faith. We all share it. We just perceive it differently from each other.

          July 24, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
        • PDXSerric

          " Do you honestly think that it takes faith not to believe in something that is so blatantly a human invention?"

          That is EXACTLY what I am saying. Any time you feel conviction in your belief, regardless of what that belief is, you are exhibiting faith. Not for some deity or practice, but faith in your knowledge and your understanding of the world and the universe.

          July 24, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
        • tallulah13

          PDXSerric: Let me reiterate. It takes absolutely no faith at all to not believe in something for which there is no proof. There is no proof that any god exists. Therefore any faith required would be on the part of those who insist on believing in fantasy, despite the facts.

          July 24, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." That's faith as defined by one of the NT writers. Another kind of faith, you may call it that if you want, is the substance of things that have substance and the evidence of things we know and of things that have worked for us in the past. The biblical kind is wishful thinking.

          July 24, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
        • Saraswati

          tallulah, there's some ambiguity in your statement about "not believing" in gods. Do you mean:

          1. It takes no faith to lack belief in gods, or
          2. It takes no faith to believe that there exist no gods

          ?

          July 25, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
        • tallulah13

          Actually, Sara, what I mean is that faith doesn't even come into play. When one looks at the complete lack of evidence to support the existence of any god, common sense is the deciding factor.

          July 26, 2013 at 1:53 am |
    • skytag

      There is nothing wrong with faith based on reason and historical evidence. I have faith the sun will come up tomorrow because it has come up every day of my life. I have faith in people I know to act in ways consistent with their past behaviors.

      If you want to call my belief there is no God faith I don't care. At least it's a belief that's consistent with the facts and doesn't require an elaborate web of unsupported theories and claims to justify it.

      July 24, 2013 at 11:39 pm |
      • Austin

        taurus is in the stars. it is also a car. they are different.

        July 25, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • Karen

      That's a goofy thing to say that people who are atheist must have faith to not believe something. It doesn't make sense. We all 'not believe' lots of things, it's not a matter of faith.

      July 25, 2013 at 6:56 am |
      • rh

        Faith is not a religious term. I have faith in my fellow man, I have faith in the people I trust. Belief is not a religious term either; I have never been to the Galapagos, I have not read Darwin's original works, but I believe in evolution.

        July 25, 2013 at 9:31 am |
        • In Santa we trust

          It has multiple meanings
          1) complete trust or confidence
          2) strong belief in a religion based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof
          3) a system of religious belief

          July 25, 2013 at 10:24 am |
  17. skytag

    @Rachel: "I am 23 years old and was raised Catholic, and my convictions stand firm."

    I'm 58 and have never seen any evidence that what you believe is true. Religions brainwashed people, and people who have been brainwashed cling to what they've been conditioned to believe even when there is no reason to believe it. And frankly, given the Catholic church's history I'd say their credibility is about as low as it gets in the realm of Christianity. The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, excommunicating Galileo for saying the Earth revolved around the sun, forgiving sins for money through the selling of indulgences, pedophile priest, it's really not a pretty picture. Most of Hitler's followers were Catholics.

    You're a Catholic because you were raised Catholic. If you'd been born in India you'd almost certain stand firm in the convictions of Hinduism. If you'd been born in Saudi Arabia you'd stand firm in the convictions of Islam. Standing firm in your convictions is not evidence what you believe is true, only that the brainwashing process was thorough.

    "Even some atheists agree that religion is good to instill values, if just for that. So who cares if I believe in God."

    Some of us believe the truth is better than delusions, even when it's less pleasant.

    "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?"

    Because I believe truth is better than fiction. You are free to disagree.

    "I would imagine that it would get tiring to constantly argue that there is no God."

    I spent four decades of my life as a Christian. Trust me, it's far more work trying to justify a delusion and rationalizing why what you believe isn't consistent with what you see in the real world than having one answer for all the questions you people flail about trying to answer and be able to rely on simple logic and facts to conclude 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."

    I would never suggest that everything atheists do makes sense or is good, just as I hope you wouldn't try to claim everything Christians do makes sense or is good. For example, aren't there better ways to help humanity than protesting soldiers' funerals as the Westboro Baptist Church people do?

    Look, you're 23. Realistically you didn't even start really thinking about the weighty issues of this life until a few years ago. Don't be so arrogant as to believe that at 23 you have everything so figured out that if you don't understand it it can't possibly make sense. If you don't understand something, all you can say for sure is that you don't understand it.

    July 24, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
    • M

      In order to be christian you have to experience the truth for yourself. It's no use believing in something because a church told you to or because your parents taught you to, you have to experience it for yourself to truly believe.

      July 24, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
      • skytag

        History is overflowing with examples of things people truly believed that weren't true. If you think Christians are the only people who have religious "experiences" you are truly naive.

        July 24, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
      • tallulah13

        Every true believer of every one of the thousands of gods that humanity has worshiped throughout history "experienced" the truth about their gods. They all had conviction as strong as any christian that their god was real. What every true believer of every god (even your god) lacked/lacks is evidence that that god exists. You can believe as hard as you want. It doesn't make your god real.

        July 24, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
        • Soron

          Atheism is a very new concept. It doesn't have thousands of years of history to back it up yet.

          July 24, 2013 at 10:11 pm |
        • tallulah13

          Certainly atheism has been a very dangerous position in a world dominated by religion. I doubt we'll ever know how many atheists have ever existed, because pretending belief was a lot safer in a world where not believing could get you killed for heresy.

          July 26, 2013 at 1:56 am |
    • Maani

      Skytag: "Religions brainwashed people, and people who have been brainwashed cling to what they've been conditioned to believe even when there is no reason to believe it." What about the millions of Christians who were not "indoctrinated" as children, but came to faith in young adulthood, middle age, older age, etc.? And keep in mind that not all of these people came to faith as the result of some sort of psycho-emotional or other "need." Your error here is in presuming that all people of faith, or even most, are believers because they grew up in religious households. Nothing could be further from the truth.

      July 26, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
  18. jazzguitarman

    Mark from Middle River; I just don't see how anyone can say a person of faith are open minded. If one has faith they feel they have the answers. That they know things I believe mankind can NOT know in this lifetime. How is that being open minded? I assume you mean they are open to there being a god. That isn’t being opened minded unless they are open to there NOT being a god.

    I’m agnostic. I’m open to there being a god. I just need some actual evidence. I just believe that there are questions science cannot answer. One isn’t open minded by just accepting answers (believes) because they have been passed on from generation to generation.

    July 24, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
    • Dave

      What if the only evidence you're going to get is to be told that everything you see was created, and what if that becomes embarrassingly obvious when you get to the afterlife?

      July 24, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
      • jazzguitarman

        Well then I have to hope that 'god' is a loving god and not the Christian god that care more about being worshiped than the character of his subjects.

        Anyhow, you appear to be taking the old; well what does it hurt to pretend I believe and worship a god just to be safe POV. I find that POV to be folly, since a god should be able to spot a phony.

        July 24, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
      • skytag

        Being told something is not evidence, especially when the person telling you is just repeating what someone else told him, and that person is just repeating what someone else told him, and so one for dozens of generations. Rational people call such things myths and legends.

        July 25, 2013 at 5:51 am |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        That rebuttal was amazingly well reasoned and correctly succinct, jazz. Props.

        July 25, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
    • Maani

      Re comparative open-mindedness, it is simple. There is more room for science and empiricism in the worldview of many believers than there is room for the believer's worldview in the mindset of most atheists. That makes many believers more open-minded than many atheists.

      July 24, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
      • skytag

        More religions nonsense. I am an atheist, but I am more than willing to believe in God if you can give me any objective reason to believe one exists. That makes me open-minded. The fact that I'm not willing to just take your word for something, which conflicts with the word of a Muslim, and both conflict with the word of a Buddhist, is not evidence I am closed-minded. It only means I'm not naive and gullible.

        July 24, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
        • Mark from Middle River

          More religions nonsense. I am an atheist, but I am more than willing to believe in God if you can give me any objective reason to believe one exists. That makes me open-minded.

          Hmm... when faced with something that logic can not explain, are you open to the possibility that it is God or Gods? Heck, could it be Santa Claus, could it be spirits of your past ancestors?

          July 24, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
        • skytag

          @Mark from Middle River: "Hmm... when faced with something that logic can not explain, are you open to the possibility that it is God or Gods? Heck, could it be Santa Claus, could it be spirits of your past ancestors?"

          It's more than something logic cannot explain, it's something there simply is no rational reason to believe. There is no objective evidence for it whatsoever, and far too many seeming contradictions.

          Occam's razor ... is a principle of parsimony, economy, or succinctness used in logic and problem-solving. It states that among competing hypotheses, the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions should be selected. In other words, the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. — Wikipedia

          When faced with a multitude of questions — such as why is there no evidence God exists? Why are there so many religions and nothing all of them have in common? If God can change men's hearts why didn't he change Hitler's or Stalin's? If the unborn are so precious to God why does he let millions of them die every year from miscarriages and spontaneous abortions? and countless others — the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions by far is: There is no God.

          Sorry, but all things considered the only rational conclusion is that there is no God. The only reason to believe in God is that you prefer a comforting fairytale over harsh realities.

          July 24, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          Mark, Open to the possibility but realistically would we even consider a god a possibility if our ancestors hadn't interpreted natural phenomena as signs from gods. Science has a reasonable explanation back to Big Bang. If there was a pre-Big Bang that's where a god could fit in. I don't know so but none of us know.

          July 24, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
        • Mark from Middle River

          Why are there so many religions and nothing all of them have in common?

          I will say that the manifestation of God or Gods does have it similarities in many aspects but I am of the belief that they all are possibly the same God. Or just the simple thought of since God did not create all of us to look and talk the same, he or she has a greater joy for diversity than a Hillary Clinton supporter. Not to put common human thought into God or Gods, can you imagine if all the houses of worship were the same? Maybe God likes to see the various forms of Religion.

          If God can change men's hearts why didn't he change Hitler's or Stalin's?

          I am open to hear scripture on this statement. I won't be able to respond until later though, but I am not remembering God changing a persons heart. I do remember it was up to us, to change our own heart. You are dancing around the Free WIll debate.

          If the unborn are so precious to God why does he let millions of them die every year from miscarriages and spontaneous abortions? and countless others

          Since I believe that all life is precious, I can not single out the unborn or aborted from the 95 year old setting on his or her death bed. People die, babies to old souls who have lived a full life. If this is you proof that there is no God, because people die, you will now understand why it respectful is a weak excuse.

          Harsh realities is that God never told us that we will not die a earthly death or not suffer here on Earth.

          Ok, movie time. L'Chaim skytag.

          July 24, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
        • skytag

          @Mark from Middle River: Why are there so many religions and nothing all of them have in common?

          "I will say that the manifestation of God or Gods does have it similarities in many aspects"

          Not really. What does the God of Christianity have in common with the gods of Norse mythology? In point of fact, the most fundamental belief in all of Christianity is one unique to Christianity.

          "but I am of the belief that they all are possibly the same God. Or just the simple thought of since God did not create all of us to look and talk the same, he or she has a greater joy for diversity than a Hillary Clinton supporter. Not to put common human thought into God or Gods, can you imagine if all the houses of worship were the same? Maybe God likes to see the various forms of Religion."

          Lots of speculation, no answer. My answer is much simpler: There is no God. Since there is no god, there was no god guiding the development of any religion. Whatever the people imagined when they created their god or gods was not limited in any way to what anyone in some other part of the world imagined when he created his god.

          It's not like a thousand eyewitness accounts of an event, where they'd vary in the details but generally agree on the most important aspects, it's more like a thousand people who were asked to right a short story about anything they wanted.

          If God can change men's hearts why didn't he change Hitler's or Stalin's?

          "I am open to hear scripture on this statement. I won't be able to respond until later though, but I am not remembering God changing a persons heart. I do remember it was up to us, to change our own heart. You are dancing around the Free WIll debate."

          You are dancing around reality. The simplest, most obvious answer is: There is no God.

          And if Christians believe God can't or won't change someone's heart, why do so many Christians pray for God to change the heart of a wayward child, friend, or relative?

          If the unborn are so precious to God why does he let millions of them die every year from miscarriages and spontaneous abortions?

          "Since I believe that all life is precious, I can not single out the unborn or aborted from the 95 year old setting on his or her death bed. People die, babies to old souls who have lived a full life."

          This is reasonable, but it begs another question, which is why create millions of lives that will never be born? Does God need more folks to work the fields in Heaven?

          The point that I was making though, which apparently God failed to help you grasp, is not that Christians don't have answers for these kinds of questions. On the contrary, they generally have well-rehearsed answers. The point is that Christians need so many answers, none of which is supported by any evidence at all, whereas the atheist only needs one answer for all of them: There is no God. Basically, what you have is a conspiracy theory.

          July 24, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
        • skytag

          @Mark from Middle River: "Harsh realities is that God never told us that we will not die a earthly death or not suffer here on Earth."

          You must thrive on saying stupid stuff. The harsh realities are things like death is the end. You don't exist after it, you won't see your loved ones again, and they aren't going to a better place when they die. They just cease to exist.

          Another important one is that life isn't fair. There is no afterlife in which God will correct the injustices of this life. The serial killer who is never caught will not face God in the afterlife because there is no God and no afterlife.

          You don't have an all-power friend who watches over you or your children or controls the forces of nature for your benefit.

          These are the harsh realities from which people hide in their religions.

          July 24, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
      • tallulah13

        Not really. Believing in a particular fantasy isn't being open-minded. It's simply choosing to believe a particular fantasy because you like it more than reality.

        The real world is full of amazing things, things that would not have been discovered if humanity had limited itself to "god did it".

        July 24, 2013 at 10:08 pm |
        • skytag

          Imagine if everyone accepted the idea that evil spirits cause disease so no one bothered to discover bacteria or viruses.

          July 25, 2013 at 12:38 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Mark from Middle River; I just don't see how anyone can say a person of faith are open minded.

      Our mind is open to the option that miracles can happen and that God be a viable option. The Atheist has to close and limit themselves that it can be anything but God or Gods. That is being closed minded.

      If one has faith they feel they have the answers.

      Maybe the 700 club types or the extremist go through life saying that they have all the answers to what is God and that their interpretation is the only truth. Most of do wonder at God's actions good or bad. Sometimes it is that unanswered prayers or a simple "Why God did this...."

      That isn't being opened minded unless they are open to there NOT being a God.

      You are straying into turning away from personal Faith, not in the application of analayzing a positive or negative incident. But, I do aknowledge your point which just goes to further prove my point. As a person of Faith, I can accept all options, where as an Atheist is forbidden to accept all options. Such is why being a Atheist is, I feel, limiting oneself.

      I’m agnostic. I’m open to there being a God. I just need some actual evidence.

      Uggh... Agnostics, the bi-se'xuals of the CNN Belief Blog. Choose a side or both Atheist and the Faithful will take turns punching you in the arms until you can no longer type post. :)

      July 24, 2013 at 9:03 pm |
      • jazzguitarman

        Well Mark we can agree to disagree here, but you appear to be an A-OK person. Yea, I'm known for sitting on the fence. Both libs and Cons also punch me in the arm! Take care, got to go.

        July 24, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
        • Mark from Middle River

          L'chaim my friend. Same here, I have a few movies to watch in my last night off from work.

          July 24, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
      • skytag

        @Mark from Middle River: "Our mind is open to the option that miracles can happen and that God be a viable option. The Atheist has to close and limit themselves that it can be anything but God or Gods. That is being closed minded."

        This is a dishonest assessment. You aren't just open to those options, you actually accept them as reality. That's the problem. As an atheist I'm willing to believe those things if you can give me an objective reason to believe them. That is not being closed-minded. That's being sensible and rational.

        The claim that requiring evidence shows someone is closed-minded is just pure BS. Rubbish. If you were on a jury you'd be expected to be open-minded and open to the possibility the defendant is guilty, but not return a verdict unless the evidence supported it. You're approach to all this is like returning a guilty verdict even though there is no evidence to support it. You've been brainwashed to believe that's a superior way of reasoning, but not everyone agrees with that way of thinking.

        July 24, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
      • skytag

        "where as an Atheist is forbidden to accept all options"

        This is an idiotic claim. It is simply not true. Your need to believe this kind of nonsense and spread these kinds of lies only makes it clear you're desperate to prop up your delusions.

        July 24, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
  19. skytag

    @Rachel: "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?"

    I hope you don't think all the kids with problems have atheists for parents and that all Christians are good Christians. That would go beyond naive and into delusional. The percentage of the population who are atheists is significantly smaller than the percentage who are having sex outside of marriage, drink, gamble, watch porn, cheat on their spouses, and so on. Bristol Palin got pregnant as an unmarried teenager and her mom is a Christian fanatic. Welcome to the 21st century.

    Look, I agree that one of the good things that has come from religion is giving people an incentive to be good citizens. That's one of the most important reasons religions exist, to control the population. But that doesn't mean what they teach about God is true, people just need to believe it.

    You can get kids to behave telling them Santa Claus will bring them presents if they're good and coal if they aren't. You can scare kids into staying in bed telling them there are monsters under the bed. Something doesn't have to be true to motivate good behavior, people just have to believe it's true.

    "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 agree, or at least it's a lot easier to rely on simple myths than trying to explain the real reasons to a child. My only point is that it's no more true than stories about Santa Claus.

    There was a case a while back in which a guy wrote a memoir people found very inspiring. Oprah recommended it. Then it came out it was all a lie. He'd made the whole thing up. Then Oprah was not happy and ripped into him. LOL But as long as people believed his story was true it inspired them. The Bible is the same way. It's not true, but as long as people believe it, it inspires them.

    July 24, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
  20. skytag

    @Rachel: "Does the world seem to be heading in the right direction with the decreasing amount of Christians?"

    Post hoc ergo propter hoc, Latin for "after this, therefore because of this," is a logical fallacy... Post hoc is a particularly tempting error because temporal sequence appears to be integral to causality. The fallacy lies in coming to a conclusion based solely on the order of events, rather than taking into account other factors that might rule out the connection. — Wikipedia

    Your argument is a post hoc fallacy.

    The world and the societies in it are changing in far too many ways to discuss in detail here. It would be really dumb to ignore all of those factors and simply look at the percentage of us who are Christian. Any conclusion you would draw from as a result of ignoring so much important information would be meaningless.

    For example, for most of human history people lived most or all of their lives in relatively small communities where everyone knew everyone and your livelihood and welfare depended on your reputation. If your neighbors didn't like you or trust you they'd be far less likely to hire you, do business with you, or help you when you were in need.

    Today in America most people live in large urban centers, not small communities. People don't really know their neighbors and reputation offers far less incentive to be a good citizen. You don't need people to think you're a good person so they'll help you rebuild your house if it burns down because you have insurance. People are much ruder on the Internet than they are in person because of the anonymity it affords. Their behavior here will almost certainly not cost them friends or their job because those people have no idea what they're doing here.

    And so, much of the social structure that provided an incentive to be good, moral, generous, honest, and so on in the past simply doesn't exist in society today. This isn't the whole argument, of course. That would require much more discussion, but hopefully you get the idea.

    "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?"

    Post hoc argument. See above.

    July 24, 2013 at 8:20 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.