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July 30th, 2013
02:17 PM ET

Why are millennials leaving church? Try atheism

Opinion by Hemant Mehta, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Articles and books about why millennials are leaving Christianity often focus on what churches are doing "wrong."

They're anti-gay, anti-women, anti-science, anti-sex-education and anti-doubt, 
to name a few of the most common criticisms.

I don't disagree with those critiques, but there's another side to the story.

While Christians have played sloppy defense, secular Americans have been showing off some impressive offense, giving young Christians plenty of reasons to lose faith in organized religion.

For instance, atheists dominate the Internet, rallying to thriving websites and online communities in lieu of physical meeting spaces.

Even a writer for the evangelical magazine Relevant admitted that “While Christianity enjoys a robust online presence, the edge still seems to belong to its unbelievers.”

Atheists outnumber Christians on popular discussion forums like Reddit, where subscribers to the atheism section number more than 2 million. The Christianity section is not even 5% of that.

The Internet-based Foundation Beyond Belief, which encourages atheists to donate to charitable organizations, just celebrated raising $1 million for worthwhile causes. (Disclosure: I serve on its board of directors.)

Moreover, blogs and websites espousing non-religious viewpoints and criticizing Christianity draw tons of Internet traffic these days. For every Christian apologist's argument, it seems, there's an equal and opposite rebuttal to be found online. I call that "Hitchens' Third Law.”

READ MORE: Why millennials are leaving the church 

Christians can no longer hide in a bubble, sheltered from opposing perspectives, and church leaders can't protect young people from finding information that contradicts traditional beliefs.

If there's an open comment thread to be found on a Christian's YouTube video or opinion piece online, there's inevitably going to be pushback from atheists.

There has also been a push by atheists to get non-religious individuals to "come out of the closet" and let people know that they don't believe in God.

Among other things, this proves that anti-atheist stereotypes aren't accurate and, just as important, that atheists aren’t alone in their communities.

There's the Richard Dawkins Foundation's Out Campaign, with its Scarlet A badges.

There are atheist-encouraging billboards in 33 states financed by groups like the United Coalition of Reason.

There's even going to be an 1-800 hot line for people "recovering" from religion.

READ MORE: Atheists to start 1-800 hot line for doubters

And last year, an estimated 20,000 atheists turned out for the Reason Rally in Washington, a tenfold increase from the previous atheist rally in 2002.

But more than anything else, atheism's best advertisements may be the words of Christian leaders themselves.

When Pastor Mark Driscoll belittles women, Rick Warren argues against same-sex rights or Rob Bell equivocates on the concept of hell, we amplify those messages for them - and it helps us make our point.

(It goes without saying that the pairing of Pat Robertson and YouTube has been great for atheists.)

Pastors are no longer the final authority on the truth, and millennials know it.

Even if they hold Jesus' message in high esteem, the Bible as it has traditionally been preached by many evangelical pastors is becoming less and less attractive to them.

A 2012 study by the Public Religion Research Institute (PDF) showed that many Christians aged 18-24 felt that Christianity was hypocritical (49%), judgmental (54%) and anti-gay (58%).

In addition, Christianity Today reported last year that fewer than half of born-again Christians under 35 opposed same-sex marriage.

When millennials' pastors and hearts are going in different directions, church leaders should be worried.

Can churches win back the youth?

Barring a complete shift in beliefs, that may not be possible. Some of the proposed solutions seem ludicrous to millennial atheists like myself.

For instance, there's been talk of finding a better way to reconcile science and religion. Whenever that battle takes place, religion loses.

There are some questions we may never know the answer to, but for the ones we can eventually answer, the scientific explanation will devour the religious one. Mixing science and religion requires a distortion of one or the other.

READ MORE: Behold, the six tribes of atheism 

What about focusing on the message and life of Jesus?

While this sounds good philosophically, the myth surrounding Jesus is part of the problem with Christianity.

To believe in Jesus means believing that he was born of a virgin, rose from the dead and performed a number of miracles.

There's no proof of any of that ever happened, and atheists place those stories in the same box as "young Earth creationism" and Noah's Great Flood.

To be sure, if Christians followed the positive ideas Jesus had, we'd all be better off, but it's very hard to separate the myth from the reality.

In short, there are many reasons the percentage of millennials who say they've never doubted God's existence is at a record low, and nearly a quarter of adults under 30 no longer affiliate with a faith.

The church has pushed young people away, yes, but there are also forces actively pulling them in the other direction.

It appears that atheists and Christians are finally working together on the same task: getting millennials to leave the church.

Hemant Mehta blogs at The Friendly Atheist. The views expressed in this column belong to Mehta. 

Photos: Famous atheists and their beliefs

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Church • Culture & Science • Faith • Internet • Nones • Opinion • Science • United States

soundoff (5,653 Responses)
  1. Harry Cline

    Where do these authors of these articles over the last few days come up with their conclusions about why this generation is leaving the church ? I mean they where never in the church to begin with. So I find it rather odd how they draw those conclusions.

    We have atheist on the various threads commenting about something they absolutely no knowledge about. Their views are from the internet, watching the scandals unfold in various churches, a fleeting passage they read in the bible and cheery picked and taken out of context because they don't understand the meaning.

    And those who think Christians are still under the law of Moses.

    Let me be perfectly frank here and say this to all you non-believers out there who ridicule those who do believe. I agree with you. But not about the ridicule because the average church going believer is as ignorant about a God as you are.

    I agree with you that religion sucks. Please try your best to keep your hate filled rhetoric about organized religion away from a God. This is not in defense of a God. Because like you I am a mere mortal with no more authority to judge then you. And if my belief system about some God is correct there is no defense needed.

    I find no other group in the world so animatedly defense when it comes to the things of a God as the atheist. Is it out of fear of what you can't comprehend ? Or all the nonsense from so called believers we see and hear about all the time ?

    If you are trying to find the meaning of life through an organization i.e. the church/religion or through mankind that's is perhaps your first big problem there. As you claim the believer is instructed to believe you too have been instructed not to believe.

    Find out for yourselves if your curious, stop letting others do your thinking for you as that claim you so boldly proclaim as well. Most of you here are from across the pond in the U.K. and we both know who was pulling you chains before he died. A very bitter sounding person, and I suspect we will never know why.

    Don't blame a God for mankind's weakness's and or vises nor failures or deceptions. We are a corrupt and very deceitful selfish species. Everything mankind touches he poisons. Including minds and hearts.

    July 31, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      Ummm, statistics?

      July 31, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • JC

      I don't speak for all atheists, but I feel inclined to respond.

      "I mean they where never in the church to begin with."
      False. A very large portion of the atheist community are former Christians. Most of these people know the Bible very, very well – better than some current Christians, I'd wager.

      "I find no other group in the world so animatedly defense when it comes to the things of a God as the atheist. Is it out of fear of what you can't comprehend ? Or all the nonsense from so called believers we see and hear about all the time ?"
      No, it's out of the outrage we feel when we see the injustices committed in the name of religion, from open genocide to denying people marriage rights. To be fair, religion has done some good with charity work, but when spreading the word becomes more important than feeding the people you're helping, there's something wrong with that.

      "If you are trying to find the meaning of life through an organization i.e. the church/religion or through mankind that's is perhaps your first big problem there. As you claim the believer is instructed to believe you too have been instructed not to believe."
      It's not about finding meaning, it's about finding truth. And no one is instructing us, we simply see no evidence to require belief. You're the second person on this comment section I've seen who seems to imply that we're being driven by some evil force – you don't seem to realize how ridiculous that sounds. All I can do is shake my head, because you're likely too set in your own fantasy to see otherwise.

      "We are a corrupt and very deceitful selfish species. Everything mankind touches he poisons. Including minds and hearts."
      And it's that kind of unhealthy view of mankind that we try to fight. We are capable of doing harm, yes, but we are also capable of doing good, so long as we foster compassion. You don't need mythology to coerce you into kindness.

      I hope you've found this response civil enough and that you perhaps have some rational response of your own – feel free. In any case, have a nice day.

      July 31, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
  2. I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

    There's no earthly way of knowing
    Which direction we are going.
    There's no knowing where we're rowing
    Or which way the river's flowing.
    Is it raining?
    Is it snowing?
    Is a hurricane a blowing?

    Not a speck of light is showing
    so the danger must be growing.
    Are the fires of hell a glowing?
    Is the grisly reaper mowing?
    Yes! The danger must be growing
    For the rowers keep on rowing.
    And they're certainly not showing
    any signs that they are slowing!

    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH

    July 31, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • flying spaghetti monster

      Oh man that scene terrified me as a kid. What were they thinking putting that part in a "kids" movie? Gotta love gene wilder though.

      July 31, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

        The more I watch it, the less I think that movie was aimed at children. Obviously, that scene stands out as being overtly creepy, but there's a dark undercurrent lurking beneath the fluffy exterior throughout the whole movie. Wonka is seriously disturbed psychologically.

        July 31, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
        • flying spaghetti monster

          True. He lures a gaggle of unsuspecting children into his lair with promises of candy, then leads them through a twisted horror-scape, whistling and laughing as they get picked off one by one, or stolen away by his orange skinned, green haired midget slaves... And not to mention that he set the whole thing up with his henchman to be some kind of sting operation where if they take the offer of money to steal his candy, they've proven unworthy.

          oompa loompa doopity doo...

          July 31, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • Andrew

      ... in a world of your imagination...

      July 31, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

        That part always cheers me up. I still watch Willy Wonka every Christmas.

        July 31, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
  3. AK

    Funny you should say...last night, both my millenial sons – generally agnostic,sceptical but open-minded, said they unsubscribed from Reddit's atheist board. Reason? Obnoxious, arrogant, obviously dysfunctional clientele. Kinda like the local fundies that drove them to check out atheism. Both are now expressing interest in both the traditional faith (whihc is NOYB) of their early upbringing. No influence from me save my being an example. Leave kids alone and they, on their own, (re) discover the right path. To God. Have anice day.

    July 31, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • jwt

      Seeking god may be the right path to them but it is not the right path for everyone.

      July 31, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • Atheist Forever

      Yet every statistic shows that LESS AND LESS people are going to church, and that less and less believe in mythology.

      July 31, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • Vinchy

      Lol. Sure thing, "Dad".

      July 31, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      There is a groundswell of interest among a lot of young people who are disaffected by the Madison Avenue approach of some modern churches with their polished messages and rock band worship groups. These kids are finding the traditional, old and venerated faith offers a respite from the noise and calamity of modern life and has meaningful things to say to them. God bless your children

      July 31, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
      • AK

        Thanks Billl...appreciate it.

        July 31, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
      • CMoses

        Well put. Anyone with questions should see photos of 3 million people on the beaches of Brazil during World Youth Day for further details.

        July 31, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • Tundra_Yet_Again

      Hey AK,
      As an athiest/agnostic whatever they want to call me on a given day, I understand where you are coming from. I personally do not believe in god, but I have no problems with what someone else does or believes. I honestly feel that one has to find that within themself. However I am ashamed by many of the people who do not have a faith in something else, but abuse those that do. This article is almost proud and happy that it is removing people from following a religion, there is nothing for me to gain by anyone else leaving a church.

      July 31, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
      • Tim

        Great post Tundra! I believe in God but do not persecute those who do not. That should be the message we all try to live by. I will gladly share my faith with anyone who wants to know why I believe but do not force it on anyone.

        July 31, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Funny how "leaving kids alone" results in almost all Alabama kids becoming Baptists, those in Utah ending up as Mormons, the ones in Jerusalem as Jews, those in Riyadh as Muslims, the ones from Dublin as Catholics, and those from Uganda getting either kidnapped into or fleeing in terror from the Lord's Resistance Army — all examples of how accident of birth has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with the unchanging truth of God's revealed word.

      July 31, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'Leave kids alone and they, on their own, (re) discover the right path. To God. '

      the only way they would find their way to a god is for someone to tell them about it, which is hardly being left alone.

      July 31, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
  4. Atheist Forever

    It cracks me up that religious people aren't willing to believe in what quantum physics is showing us, but have no problem believing in invisible sky fairies actually being responsible for everything. Does that really make any sense from a logical standpoint when we look back at history and see that every time many thought a sky fairy was responsible for something, that science actually proved otherwise?

    July 31, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • JR

      It makes their head hurt when they read anything about science. It's much easier to believe that a sky fairy sprinkled pixie dust and created everything.

      July 31, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      What does quantum physics show is about the remission of sin?

      July 31, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
      • Atheist Forever

        Are you talking about the invisible sky fairy guide book? I don't read mythology.

        July 31, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          No, I'm talking about my ignorance of quantum mechanics. I want to know how it deals with my temptation to sin and resolves my failure to be a good person.

          July 31, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
      • cedar rapids

        different area of science. you want psychology i think.

        July 31, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • AK

      Most religious man I know is a Ph.D in physics from the U of Colorado. Many published, peer reviewed papers.

      July 31, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
      • cedar rapids

        bet he believes in the big bang

        July 31, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
  5. N. Velarde

    While there are a lot of millenials leaving the church today, there were millions deseperate to see a minister of Jesus in Brazil over the weekend. Even if I have been raised in chuch,I utltimately make the choice to follow Jesus each day. This is not easy. It is the constant denial of my self. I mess up all the time.
    The early chruch was made up entirely of doubters and non-believers. Chief among them was the apostle Paul who was killing Jesus followers, and then took his message all over the Roman Empire.

    July 31, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • Atheist Forever

      Why follow an invisible spirit who never shows any proof of his existence, and shows TONS of signs of neglect for "his people"? If there is a god, he is cruel, and neglectful of his people (especially the most innocent). Therefore, if he does exist, I most certainly refuse to worship or follow such a nasty creature. Why do you? Why don't you have some courage and face modern science, and have some dignity.

      July 31, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
  6. do dat

    CNN is pushing atheist alone with at least one online article a day about atheist. Another attempt at CNN to continue to destroy the fabric of what is America.

    July 31, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • JR

      If you're interested in only drinking the kool-aide and despise knowledge then I suggest you head back over to FAUX "news".

      July 31, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • Atheist Forever

      Mythology doesn't do anything positive. Good riddance to religion.

      July 31, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
      • Would You Look at That

        If you live in the USA, just deal with it and let people be who they are. Much like you claim it to be nonsense in believing in a God, it's nonsense to troll on web forums. Also, if you live in the USA, get used to it, for "In God We Trust" will always be on our currency, "One Nation under God" will always be in our pledge, and "God Bless America" will always be a coined phrase by every president...

        July 31, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
        • Atheist Forever

          I honestly see suits to remove those words within my lifetime.

          July 31, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      Oh please. If you don't like these articles then don't even make a comment about it just leave.

      July 31, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • Madtown

      Actually, I think they just publish these articles because they get a lot of comments. Those comments equal higher web traffic numbers, which pleases advertisers, which results in more revenue. It's all just business.

      July 31, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  7. Kenneth

    Here's a thought,
    How about everybody just quit acting like this is a big deal?
    Religious people practice their faith without trying to legislate it on everyone else.
    Non-believers just accept that other people choose a different path in life without being obnoxious about it.
    I know it's hard, but it's the 21st century. People should be free to make their own choices about their lives and pay any consequences that might arise.

    July 31, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • Atheist Forever

      Maybe the growing number of atheists out there is tired of seeing how mythology drags everyone down?

      July 31, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
      • Kenneth

        Thank you for proving my point.

        July 31, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • Voodoo Idol

      Dead wrong. Religious people DO try to legislate their faith – hence NC trying to allow preaching in public schools again (but only if it's Christian – all other religions can go take a flying leap), trying to have creationism taught alongside evolution, trying to have evolution pulled out of science text books entirely, outlawing marriage equality, and trying to outlaw abortion.

      This is why religion needs to go the way of the dinosaur, which is where it rightly belongs. They are stone age myths co-opted by bronze age men who barely had a concept of the world around them.

      July 31, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
      • jason

        And atheists don't? Look, I too am an atheist but I have no problem with what other people believe in. I never saw the need in demeaning others because the believe in God. Why? Does it actually physically hurt you to hear the word "God" or anything religious? Move on if it bothers you. I have firends and family who are religious and when they start talking about it, I leave. I don't sit there and argue to them, telling them that they are wrong. That's just stupid.

        July 31, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
        • cedar rapids

          'And atheists don't?'

          no, they dont. You dont get atheists fighting to have atheism taught in schools, you dont have atheists fighting to get an atheist 'prayer' as part of the school day.

          July 31, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • jason

      Wow!!!! This is probably the best statement I have ever seen on these boards. Live your own lives and stop worrying about what others believe or not believe. It's pretty simple.

      July 31, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • istenno

      IF religious folks (Christians in the United States) DID quit trying to drag their religious beliefs into the law of the land, i am certain you would see much less ballyhoo from secularists.

      July 31, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
  8. Carlos Chino

    Reblogged this on Carlos Chino.

    July 31, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
  9. Tim

    Until I see proof. I'm sticking with a creator. I hear a lot of atheists(which is a religious belief) use science as proof but unless i have missed something please show me where science has proven that the human race happened by chance?

    July 31, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Where did you go to school??? In a barnyard, by chance??? It's called evolution and there is a vast amount of evidence supporting it. Now all you need to do is provide evidence of this creator you speak of, until you can do that (and without using the bible) there simply is no reason to believe it. Just because you don't wish to believe what science says does not make it false.

      July 31, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
      • Tim

        So you have proof through evolution that a creator does not exist? Please tell me your proof, because the more I study evolution the more I still see a creator.

        July 31, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
        • Truth Prevails :-)

          Prove this creator exists!!

          July 31, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
      • bmkinz1510

        You are absolutely wrong. Even archeologists say the evidence for evolution, the fossil record is "scant."

        July 31, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
        • Voodoo Idol

          No they don't. Where do you get this garbage from?

          July 31, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
        • Truth Prevails :-)

          Wrong!! The evidence supports evolution regardless of what you may think. DNA evidence alone is enough to say that it is true. So unless you can provide evidence to support your claim that it is wrong, it is safe to say you have no clue as to what you speak of. It wouldn't matter how scant the evidence is, you still have nothing to back a creator. Evolution is what is accepted and what can be taught in schools. Creationism is not accepted and can't be taught in schools. Try reading a science book instead of the bible...it might actually wake up that barely functioning brain of yours.

          July 31, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
        • Joay

          Yeah, that's just not true. Evolution is scientific fact. I love when people say they don't "believe" in evolution, it's like saying you don't believe in gravity. The evidence if overwhelming. I'd love to read something from one of these "archaeologists" you're referencing.

          July 31, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
        • cedar rapids

          'Even archeologists say the evidence for evolution, the fossil record is "scant."'

          Well they dont actually because for starters archeologists arent the ones that study fossils.

          July 31, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      "Until I see proof. I'm sticking with a creator."

      OK, you're big on proof, you claim. Where's your proof of a creator?

      Don't just cite the existence of the universe. Any of a hundred different creation myths purport to explain how everything came to be, and the mere EXISTENCE of the universe doesn't favor any one of them over any of the others — or over competing explanation like (a) it's always been there, (b) it sprang into being spontaneously, or (c) it doesn't really exist, it's all in your mind.

      So, big on proof, you say. Well, then, you'll probably feel flattered when I say "prove it!"

      July 31, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • JR

      I see home schooling isn't working out for you. You see, people laugh at flat Earther's like you now.

      July 31, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • Atheist Forever

      So until you see even more science (there is already plenty suggesting the big bang), you will continue to believe in imaginary invisible fairies. Have you really applied logic to that decision?

      July 31, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
      • bmkinz1510

        I have never seen you so you must be a fairy too:-)

        July 31, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
        • Atheist Forever

          Have you seen your sky fairy posting on the internet also? Lol.

          July 31, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • lol??

      Science always has an out. It's disingenuous to attack the revealed God with science.

      Scientific fact:Noun 1. scientific fact – an observation that has been confirmed repeatedly and is accepted as true (although its truth is never final)

      July 31, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • CW

      Please study evolutionary theory (note, theory used in this context is scientific theory). There are VOLUMES of evidence that human beings came about in a manner that does not require a "Creator".

      July 31, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
      • bmkinz1510

        Volumes??? That's a new one:-)

        July 31, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
        • Voodoo Idol

          No, it's not a new one. The body of evidence behind the scientific theory of evolution has been growing for over 100 years. I'm pretty sure that this would easily equate to "volumes".

          July 31, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • JK

      That is so far off from reality – atheism is not religious, quite the opposite. Atheists rely on scientific information and don't take anything "on faith". Skepticism and a demand to prove assertions through empirical evidence is in no way religious. 1,000 years ago science couldn't prove the earth revolved around the sun... until it did. 600 years ago science couldn't prove the earth was round... until it did. Scientific information is there, but we as humans have not been able to answer every question even though we're making progress every day.

      July 31, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
      • lol??

        Pwogwessive destruction.

        July 31, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
      • Tim

        So that means you have no proof that God does not exist correct? I just want to hear one person who does not believe say that. It seems like you are all taught never to admit that. That is where I have a problem atheism.

        July 31, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
        • cedar rapids

          But you cant prove a negative. this is a standard problem regardless of the context of atheism or not. Its not a problem they cant admit, its something that is known and pointless to ask for.

          July 31, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • Voodoo Idol

      This is one of the most outrageous comments I have ever seen. Science has TONS of proof. Religion has nothing but words.

      July 31, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
      • Tim

        Please tell me where to look for the TONS of proof that science has that God does not exist?

        July 31, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • Jake

      Talkorigins should answer your questions. Evolution has been proved for a long time.

      July 31, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • Dougals

      That's a very dangerous perspective to hold on to for long.

      You can't use logic to win an emotional argument, and the same is true here with proof versus belief.

      Sure, you can claim that since there is no proof that there is no God, but that doesn't quite translate to "atheism is faith." While some atheists cling to their beliefs with what amounts to unwarrented belief, they are not doing this *as* a matter of faith. They are doing this as a misapplication of logic (specifically, faulty scientific methodology).

      Most atheists, however, don't make that claim. They simply choose not to believe in something they see no proof of. Some even reduce that down to "no evidence of." This is not a matter of faith at all, and is clearly not a "religious belief."

      The other side of that coin is that proof of God's existence would utterly destroy faith (and thus religion) more suredly than any simple application of belief ever could. The road this logic takes is too long for a simple post, though – but I encourage you to consider what meaning any religion would have if proof of God's existence were to be found.

      The absense of that proof, and even evidence to the contrary, is what grants faith it's power. Two plus two equals five only when you can go beyond the proven, and you can only change reality by going beyond reality itself. This is a philosophical perspective of course.

      One popular example is given in the book 1984 and then played out in Star Trek. Captain Picard was asked how many lights he saw in the room, when there were 4. When the interrogator can get the captive to *believe* that there are 5 lights in the room, he knows that he has fully replaced the captive's reality with his own. God is telling us to believe in something that the worldly view knows to be wrong. Our belief is proof that we live in God's reality rather than our own. Non-believers will choose not to believe, and probably call this circular reasoning.

      July 31, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
  10. Che

    "The church has pushed young people away, yes, but there are also forces actively pulling them in the other direction."

    If only atheists new what forces were REALLY controlling them. This article lacked much that most of the top atheists tend to deliver. Intelligence, fluidity and sense. There are the atheists who speak of what they have heard from those with intelligence and really do more BULLYING when speaking of Christianity than persuasive and dignified rebuttal. Then there are the atheists who despite how emotionally fueled their atheist religion and faith is can discuss and reason. I don't know what separates the two since both are but man but I can honestly as a Christian woman say I have respect for the latter despite my lack of agreement on the essentials.

    I do find this article quite humorous though. It was a fun read. I'll enjoy showing it to friends at church tonight and watching them read it with both confusion and pain of not comprehending the thesis or main point at all.

    May God bless you all with salvation.

    July 31, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • JC

      "If only atheists new what forces were REALLY controlling them."

      By all means, elucidate.

      July 31, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
      • Bill Deacon

        It's mostly noise JC. Try sitting alone in a quiet room and see what happens.

        July 31, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
        • JC

          I have meditated many times – it doesn't lead me to believe in any divine beings, good, evil or otherwise.

          July 31, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • Blair

      "Read it with both confusion and pain of not comprehending the thesis or main point at all".

      Funny, that's how I feel when I read the bible.

      July 31, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
  11. Blah

    Hail Satan!

    July 31, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
  12. dissidentfairy

    What an empty article-just like Atheism itself. While Atheists may be extending a hand in it I feel that the hypocrisy of religion has done it to themselves. They have veered away from the teachings of Christ and have tried to appease and cajole their members into donations by diluting the word of God. Greed and corruption is the operative word.

    July 31, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      As an atheist, I will agree that atheism is empty. Inasmuch as it is a condition — a state of being — and NOT a belief system, it neither has nor needs all the consequences that come WITH a belief system, such as doctrines, dogma, creeds, tenets, maxims, ideologies, holy books, orthodoxies, shibboleths, oaths, pledges, vows, incantations, imprecations, prayers, curses, rituals, traditions, holidays, vestments, hymns, chants, entrance requirements, or membership fees. It's a state of mind, not an inst¡tution.

      July 31, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
      • dissidentfairy

        Neither does it have eternal life....

        July 31, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
        • Atheist Forever

          Your mythology and invisible and imaginary creatures don't give you immortality either dimwit.

          July 31, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
      • Silly1

        You have atheists selling books and making millions speaking about it. They have created organizations to promote and evangelize their opinions and beliefs. Really, not much different than Scientology in terms of progression and design. You don't think atheism is a religion yet...it will be.

        July 31, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
        • dissidentfairy

          Why make it a religion? What is there to believe?

          July 31, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
        • Silly1

          Greed, the same thing you could argue has motivated the creation of every human organization throughout time.

          July 31, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
        • dissidentfairy

          Dimwit? I can assure you I am far from a dimwit. "Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don't believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don't understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God." 2 Corinthians 4:4

          July 31, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
        • joe

          take your pills. You suffer from a mental delusion.

          July 31, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
        • dissidentfairy

          Joe-I'm very analytical. After looking at all the facts on both sides of the spectrum the Bible wins hands down.

          July 31, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • adibese

      How's the article empty? How Atheism empty? Would your non-belief in Leprechauns be considered empty then?

      July 31, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • Atheist Forever

      Uh, no, we just don't believe in invisible / imaginary sky fairies. You however, seen to believe in such mythology. Hello....this is 2013, not 1013!

      July 31, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
  13. lol??

    Ever heard an atheist say, "How could the chimps have gotten it so wrong by coming out of the trees?? We better be careful!"??

    July 31, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
  14. Plato

    Is it just me or does this guy have the "Dat @ss" face going on?

    July 31, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
  15. tevii

    "Atheists outnumber Christians on popular discussion forums..."
    That means the younger generation is realizing how ridiculous and preposterous religion is. Thats WONDERFUL NEWS!!!
    The more information we share via the internet, the more people will see through the lies and BS of religion and the control of the church will dwindle.

    July 31, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • AE

      Or... instead of spending all day long just talking about themselves, some people are actually doing something to make a difference.

      Please don't tell me you actually judge your life based on message boards of faith and belief and other popular blogs???

      July 31, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
  16. Blah

    There is no Jesus, there is only Zuul!

    July 31, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      And remember, if someone asks you if YOU'RE a god, the answer is "YES!"

      July 31, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
      • lol??

        It's the default.

        "Jhn 10:34 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?"

        July 31, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • flying spaghetti monster

      "there is only Zuul"

      False! There is only Cthulu!!

      Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn

      July 31, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
      • lol??

        Ease up on the spaghetti sauce, err just plain sauce.

        July 31, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
  17. Bryan

    I would caution any atheists/agnostics to avoid smugness. Too often a sense of self-assured arrogance seeps into the conversation which is just a turn-off to those of us (regardless of religious view) seek to elevate the discussion and achieve a higher civility. Even the author of this article seems to outright dismiss as fantasy several likely historical truths, which have been mythologized in Judeo-Christian tradition (the great flood stories, for example, found in all Mediterranean traditions). Without ending the discussion at Noah, it is better to compare these stories to determine which begat which? Is there a historical truth to the tales, or are they allegory? Millennial certainly have greater access to ideas and debate than ever before in history; but they are likely just as turned off by the unkind words of non-believers as those coming from the clergy.

    July 31, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • JR

      After hearing uneducated gullible Christians tell you that you're going to burn in hell for eternity a thousand times and do all they can to prevent the advance of science and human existence, a free-thinker can just take so much.

      July 31, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
      • AE

        I've never had a Christian tell me I am going to burn in hell for eternity.

        I've seen it in movies. I've seen tv evangalists say it, and I change the channel.

        And I hear atheists say it a lot.

        But I have never personally had a Christian say that to me.

        July 31, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
        • ME II

          @AE,
          But aren't you a Christian, a believer – why would other Christians say that to you?

          July 31, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
        • AE

          I've been a Christian for about 3 years.

          20+ years I was an atheist.

          July 31, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
        • cedar rapids

          i've had it said to me, on a few occasions actually.
          not to mention on a regular basis on these forums

          July 31, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
        • ME II

          "20+ years I was an atheist."

          What kind? strong, weak, agnostic? And,, without the testimony if possible, what changed your mind?

          July 31, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
    • ME II

      @Bryan,
      "Even the author of this article seems to outright dismiss as fantasy several likely historical truths, which have been mythologized in Judeo-Christian tradition (the great flood stories, for example, found in all Mediterranean traditions)"

      While there may have been a large-scale regional flood that instigated the "Great Flood" myth, I think the author is talking about an actual world-wide flood described in the OT for which there is no evidence at all.

      July 31, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
      • Bryan

        For the people of that age, there locality was the world entire. No one living on the shores of the Mediterranean had any concept of the Pacific Ocean. But yes, the myth of a "great flood," wiping out all (but spare few) of humanity exists throughout the region. Each culture took the story and put their own spin on it. Like all natural phenomena, it was ascribed to an act of God(s) as punishment for evil ways. Social Order always demands obedience by threat of life or soul.

        July 31, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • AE

      Be on the look for conceitedness, arrogance and hypocrisy.

      These are human flaws. Not religious or atheist in nature. But all people exhibit these, especially when online.

      Humility, tolerance and respect are keys to a civil conversation.

      July 31, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • Lebowski

      In this case "smugness" is quite constructive in these sense that it is a form of laughter at those who wield real authority in the world we share. Laughter at authority has always been good for us as a species. it is one of the many tried and true ways we as a species have been able to emancipate ourselves from authority figures (religious or otherwise).

      July 31, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
  18. Silly1

    Yay, atheist tub-thumpers are making a difference...just what the world needed. Now we have a another radical group of imbeciles to dodge on soap boxes on the lawn.

    July 31, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
  19. Atheist Forever

    Since the dawn of man, he has used invisible mythological creatures to explain what he could not understand. The god of thunder, the god of the sun, the god of rain, the god of the sea....etc..

    Now finally, most people are facing up to science and reality, that there is no invisible sky fairy in a cloud city pulling our strings. Yet, some mental dinosaurs still cling to their fairy tales, out of the fear of facing the reality of their own limited mortality.

    July 31, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • Look at all the ad hominems

      Clean up your bias filled tripe child. Try using something called facts with citation.

      July 31, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
      • Milton Platt

        Probably not much need to list a long list of scientific evidence that effectively refutes the supernatural world. The fallback position is always "faith" when it comes to any of the religions. The evidence has been presented again and again, and is readily available to all in any library in the NONfiction section.

        July 31, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • ME II

      Atheist Forever, or at least until death

      July 31, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
      • ME II

        Clarification, until death since there is no "forever", not that you would then believe.

        July 31, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
  20. JDMArkansas

    Why are atheists angry at religion? How about thousands of years of mass murder, persecution, suppression of science and other non-religious thought? ALL of the wars currently going on in the world today are caused by religion. The overwhelming majority of the wars in history were caused by religion. The overwhelming majority of the ethnic and racial persecutions in history were (and are today) caused by religion. That said, we do NOT hate all religious people, but we do not respect their religion. There are many good people in the world of every religion on earth. This puts the lie to the claim that "all good comes from (MY RELIGION'S) God". There are also many truly evil religious people in the worl of every religion on earth. There are also good and evil people who have no religion. As has been often observed, "Without religion, good people would continue to do good, and evil people would continue to do evil. Religion makes good people do evil." I do NOT0 believe that all Serbian Orthodox people are evil, but THEIR RELIGION caused large numbers of them to massacre tens of thousands of Bosnian Muslims. I do NOT believe that all Muslims are evil, but THEIR RELIGION has caused them to torture and kill people in the name of their religion. The real villian is FAITH, the false belief that one's own opinions are infallible and beyond all possible refutation. Political faith IN ANY POLITICAL IDEOLOGY can be as bad as faith in religion. The evils of Bolshevic USSR and North Korea are caused by POLITICAL FAITH. What is needed is to recognise that all opinions are based on observation, reasoning, and a strong dose of wishful thinking, NONE of which leads to an infallible conclusion. All opinions on every subject should be regarded as temporary hypotheses to be repeatedly tested by observation and reasoning. If the opinion cannot stand on its own, you should reject it. Faith consists of considering our opinions to be infallible because we WISH that they were infallible.

    July 31, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • Atheist Forever

      It's more like being frustrated....at how mythology holds humans back. Wherever you find war and poverty today, you find fundamentalism. It's no coincidence.

      July 31, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
      • JDMArkansas

        Not entirely true. There is mass poverty and suffering in North Korea. The political faith in Marxism and the Kim dynasty have lead to a vast amount of human suffering even without religion. The real culprit is faith in general. The Kim dynasty has suppressed any opinions other than their particular brand of Marxism, and brutally exterminated any political opposition. This is an act of faith, the baseless conviction that one's opinions are infallible, regardless of what evidence supports or refutes them. I honestly don't know if the Kims really believe their own propaganda, just as I don't really know if Pat Robertson really believes his hate-spewing diatribes. The problem is that too many other people have either chosen or been forced to follow their faiths.

        July 31, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
      • Milton Platt

        I'm with you on that, but it is sometimes hard to know which followed which, the poverty first or the fundamentalism.

        July 31, 2013 at 1:05 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.