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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. lh

    Matthew 7:13-14

    13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:

    14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and FEW THERE BE THAT FIND IT.

    Yep- you atheists have more followers than Jesus in this lost and dying world. Just like the Bible said you would. It must be frustrating to constantly prove the Word of God is true. I mean, all the time!! Oh wait- He did. Might want to read a Bible sometime and see how it's all going to pan out in the end.

    Psalm 2 describes you perfectly:

    Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?

    2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying,

    3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

    4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.

    5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.

    6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.

    7 I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.

    8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.

    9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.

    10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.

    11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

    12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

    July 30, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      All that is gold does not glitter,
      Not all those who wander are lost;
      The old that is strong does not wither,
      Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

      From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
      A light from the shadows shall spring;
      Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
      The crownless again shall be king.

      The Fellowship of the Ring

      July 30, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
      • Thinker...

        Love it! At least in that mythology there was no pretence of free will while at the same time allowing for prophecy (well specific prophecy anyway, general prophecy pretty much always comes true.)

        July 31, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • Phil

      We don't believe in what the Bible says, so why would we take any threats from the Bible seriously? Might as well say, "Santa says he will give you coal, aren't you really scared now?"

      July 30, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
  2. bobbyj

    just live life people, religion is the cause of most war's, chillax peace out

    July 30, 2013 at 9:16 pm |
  3. lionlylamb

    1. God's spirit is the Nothingness we perceive as being Outer Space. With no known beginning, Nothingness was a forever-ness and will go on being Nothingness far after our corner of the physical Cosmos dissipates.

    2. Big Bangs are a common factor within the vastness of Nothingness and as they once were a happening they still are happening and will go on happening. The absolute numbers of Big Bangs may well be equivalent to the immeasurable numbers of sand we see upon all the beaches' oceanic shores. Science seems to be very fickle in their limitations by upholding to but one Big Bang... Silly are today's scientists who seem unwilling to fathom billions perhaps trillions or more Big Bangs...

    3. The Celestial Cosmos is so vast we will never be able to see it all. For as the distances between Big Bangs are most likely trillions of light years apart from each other, their light has yet to travel the distances for us to see the light being emanated. Science is held into believing that our perceived universe is all there is, is not only a stupid perspective, it flies in the face of constructive reasoning...

    4. The Atomic Cosmos is divided between the Celestial Caverns of galaxies and nebulas while also being interwoven into being Cellular Formations within the very natures of Terrestrially woven Life... Atomically formed are all things Celestial and Terrestrial... Life is the final products of permeably made atomically ordained issuances of atomized temporal conclusiveness...

    5. We are this world's earthen finality of indemnified cellular omnipotence made from evolving tides of cellular conditionings ever consolidating within improving lusters of trial and errors upon the basic fabrics of cellular dimensioning attributes..

    July 30, 2013 at 9:16 pm |
  4. Austin

    Austin
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    if non believers are allowed to steer governments directly in opposition to biblical morality and virtue, then we beg God to level the land around us, with us in it.

    July 30, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
    • sam stone

      You sure do like begging, don't you Austin?

      Good for you. You will be comfortable on your knees, servicing Jesus for eternity

      The government is not here to enforce biblical principals.

      Choke on it, b1tch

      July 30, 2013 at 9:15 pm |
      • Austin

        Yes it is Sam. and deception is not alive. its a dead work .

        July 30, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
        • sam stone

          No, it's not Austin

          Jeebus is waiting on you, do you have tall buildings or speeding busses where you live? Have some ba11s and go meet your slavior

          July 30, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
    • Ali

      The Christian Al Qaeda: Austin. Wishing death on millions of people who don't' believe precisely as he does.

      Demonic possession that he's always talking about? Has it taken HIM over? I believe so.

      July 30, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
    • Observer

      Here's some of the "biblical morality" that Austin may be referring to:

      Support slavery
      Discriiminate against women
      Discriminate against gays
      Discriminate against the handicapped
      Beat your children with rods to teach them discipline and how much God loves them
      Beat your slaves with rods without any punishment (in many cases)

      July 30, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
  5. Age of Reason

    .if Napoleon, Thomas' Jefferson & Paine, Bertrand Russell, Sir Edwar Gibbon, Friedrich Nietzche, Francois Voltaire, President John Adams, Bishop John Spong et al. all stated that this "JESUS CHRIST" NEVER existed, therefore, all should leave the christian churches, because "JESUS" never existed! This is not rocket surgery!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 30, 2013 at 9:11 pm |
    • Austin

      another reason why the seperation of church and state does not appeal to me.

      because Jefferson was a rosicrucian, and God's word is authoritative and that transcends borders and languages. so really, we are just playing games by cooperating. but i for one, do not consider myself an american because of the seperation of church and state.

      July 30, 2013 at 9:15 pm |
      • Ali

        Jefferson wasn't the only FF who espouced separation of church and state; we are in complete agreement of one thing: I do not consider you an American, either.

        You want a theocracy? Move to Iran. Move to the Vatican.

        You want your freedome as you would deny other people theirs. Shame on you.

        July 30, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
        • qo

          +1

          It's amazing folks like the one you responded to exist in a supposedly free society.

          July 30, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
    • Vic

      How do you know that Napoleon, Thomas Jefferson, Paine, Bertrand Russell, Sir Edwar Gibbon, Friedrich Nietzche, Francois Voltaire, President John Adams, Bishop John Spong, et al, EVER EXISTED?!

      July 30, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        Because they wrote their ideas down. Because they are referenced in independent sources.

        Really Vic, do you think your argument holds any water at all?

        July 30, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
        • Vic

          Apostles Matthew, John and Peter, who wrote a good portion of the New Testament were present with the Lord Jesus Christ during His Ministry on earth. Jesus Christ also appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus where He commissioned him, and later became Apostle Paul, who wrote half, if not more, of the New Testament!

          July 30, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

          The Gospel of Peter? As I recall that one was considered apocryphal and is non-canonical (ie not the word of God according to Christians).

          So, how did Peter get it wrong then?

          Matthew likely copied from Mark. As did Luke.

          July 30, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
        • Vic

          Answer to my original question is simply "Recorded History." Just like the persons the poster Age of Reason mentioned, who were recorded and handed down from generation to generation, so is Biblical History. The "Dead Sea Scrolls" speak volumes.

          July 30, 2013 at 10:09 pm |
        • redzoa

          Well, in Jefferson's case, in addition to the recorded history, we still have many pieces of physical evidence which corroborate the specific details of the recorded history, not least of which are his genes in the lineage Sally Hemings' children . . .

          July 30, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
        • Junior

          The Gospel of Peter is apocryphal because there is no proof Peter wrote it as it emerged many years later.

          July 30, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
    • Junior

      They were born centuries after His death so how could they possibly know?

      July 30, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
  6. Austin

    Austin
    King James Bible
    For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.

    July 30, 2013 at 9:10 pm |
  7. Austin

    Austin
    John 8
    New International Version (NIV)
    8 1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

    2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

    But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

    9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

    11 “No one, sir,” she said.

    “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

    July 30, 2013 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    Austin
    King James Bible
    For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.

    July 30, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
  8. Austin

    Austin
    : "then we beg God to level the land around us, with us in it."

    ok Ali, i see where we misunderstood eachother. when i use it in that phrase "then we beg" its like a figure of speech and basically means we taunt God, we rouse His anger. not literally beg as in an overwhelming desire. that is not my desire at all.

    July 30, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
    • sam stone

      Austin.....your god is a vindictive, petty pr1ck. That is why you find such comfort, because you are also a vindictive, petty pr1ck. Letting others take the punishment you deserve is about the most immoral stance one can take, but you christian punks not only flock to it, you fvcking brag about it. If you had the slightest bit of morality, you would deny this supposed sacrifice of your "savior" and take your punishment. But you won't, nor will anyone like you, because you are a punk, and a coward. You just traded one drug for another. Take another swig of jeebus juice, pen-day-ho

      July 30, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
    • Ali

      No, you meant it exactly as you wrote it. You would rather see the world destroyed than let others believe as they wish. The fact that you reposted it above without editing it tells me that you meant every word as written.
      People like you are *precisley* the reason that articles like the above are being written: myopic views and the "my way or the highway" mindset.

      July 30, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
  9. NoSacredCow

    Now there is one thing that needs to be done. Require religious groups claiming a 501(c)3 tax exemption to file the IRS Form 990 like every other 501(c)3 charity. After that nice little loophole is gone let's see how many of them will still be around after a year or two. Religion receives tax incentives that no other organization receives and religions are businesses make no mistake about it. They are held to the same level of scrutiny and there is no onus on them to prove they are actually doing charitable work.
    Then they send out emails BS emails about the Red Cross while Joel Osteen is out there raking in dough. Enough is enough.

    Good without god should be everybody's mantra.

    July 30, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
    • NoSacredCow

      Should have been "Aren't held to the same level of scrutiny". I guess today I'm not all thumbs. but at least they are opposable. Isn't evolution grand?

      July 30, 2013 at 8:59 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Quit your whining, be a citizen and write to your congress rep if you feel so strongly about this.

      July 30, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
      • Austin

        The fact is, every Christian would still want to praise the Lord, who is our Banner on the field.

        Jehovah Nissi
        The Lord our Banner

        July 30, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
      • NoSacredCow

        I have many times. But it takes more than one person.

        July 30, 2013 at 11:41 pm |
    • Vic

      You do realize that the congregants themselves who contribute all that money are taxpayers, and revoking tax exemption status from those organizations will cut food and shelter for the poor and/or homeless, don't you?

      July 30, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
      • Johnny

        If you really care about the poor and homeless you can just donate a little more to the church.

        July 31, 2013 at 11:50 am |
  10. Austin

    your perversion is more untolerable than those you refer to.

    July 30, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
  11. Your comment is awaiting moderation

    I haven't given up yet, but with only 1/6th it's tough. I would like to have the other 5/6th, or more. I can keep at it until the cows come home... sitting in the barn, maybe set up a weight bench.

    July 30, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
  12. flying spaghetti monster

    Hearing voices in your head that no one else hears? If it's jeebus, congratulations, you're blessed!! If it's anybody else, sorry, you're psychotic!

    Gotta love religion.

    July 30, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
  13. R.M. Goodswell

    Finally – an article that nails it.

    July 30, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
  14. Stephen

    I feel very blessed. Having received Yeshua/Jesus as Messiah, The Son of God who atoned for my sins, I have great peace inside. I know my sins have been forgiven. Now, I don't follow what man has to say about morality and spiritual matters, I listen to what He says. He has not left us without revelation. The Bible speaks to pretty much any subject I have sought out. I feel so blessed because so many are wondering around without a moral compass or spiritual direction, while I know exactly where I am going. Baruch Hashem Shalom "Seek and you will Find" ....Yeshua/Jesus

    July 30, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      yea did jesus say to beat disobedient slaves "with many stripes." all hail the messiah!

      July 30, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
    • bostontola

      "I don't follow what man has to say about morality and spiritual matters, I listen to what He says."

      Everything said in the bible was written by men. Just look at all the contradictions, a perfect being wouldn't write so poorly.

      July 30, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
    • W00ster

      Tell me what happened at the tomb.

      The gospels disagree on this topic and they can not all be correct. Can you sort this out?

      July 30, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
    • breathe deep

      So does that mean that you don't have to account for your life since jesus died for your sins?

      July 30, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
  15. Bootyfunk

    they're leaving the church because of education and the internet. religion hates facts. industrialized nations are increasingly more secular. only 3rd world nations have an increase in religiosity. it's going away, but it'll take a while. people have more sense these days than to believe in an invisible sky fairy that made the world by magic. "magic" is a very unsatisfying answer to any question.

    July 30, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
    • Lycidas

      "religion hates facts."

      No it doesn't. I doubt religion hates anything or for that matter likes anything.

      "to believe in an invisible sky fairy that made the world by magic. "magic" is a very unsatisfying answer to any question."

      I know very few people that believe in magic. I know no one that believes in a invisible sky fairy.
      Exactly how many people do you know that have said they believe in fairies?

      July 30, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
      • Bootyfunk

        "religion hates facts."
        "No it doesn't. I doubt religion hates anything or for that matter likes anything."
        +++ yes, it does. that's why scientists through the ages have been jailed or executed for their scientific beliefs. science has been squashed many, many times by the religious. so it's kind of silly for you to say religion isn't anti-science when history shows different.
        also, the bible says to kill g.ays, but i guess you can h.omphobically murder someone with love in your heart as long as you have jesus...? try examining religion honestly for once.

        "to believe in an invisible sky fairy that made the world by magic. "magic" is a very unsatisfying answer to any question."
        "I know very few people that believe in magic. I know no one that believes in a invisible sky fairy.
        Exactly how many people do you know that have said they believe in fairies?"
        +++ the idea of any god is ridiculous. do you believe in ra, odin or zeus? the idea of a god is akin to fairies or any other silly mythological thought. invisible sky fairy that created the world by magic or invisible god that created the world by magic - it's the same. religion promotes lazy thought. "why look for the real answer when i'm telling you it was made by magic!"

        July 30, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
        • Lycidas

          "yes, it does. that's why scientists through the ages have been jailed or executed for their scientific beliefs."

          No it doesn't. All you have shown is that some people within a religion has treated some of those who are scientists badly. That is all you have shown.

          "science has been squashed many, many times by the religious."

          And yet science also has supported education and science. So your point is mute.

          "so it's kind of silly for you to say religion isn't anti-science when history shows different."

          I'm sure it seems like that to you. But then again you are cherrypicking at history, so there you go.

          "try examining religion honestly for once."

          I examine religion quite honestly. I suggest you give an honest look at history for once.

          "the idea of any god is ridiculous."

          You are welcome to your opinion as everyone else is.

          "do you believe in ra, odin or zeus?"

          What does my personal preference has to do with this? This isn't another lame attempt to try and take this from the general to the personal is it?

          "it's the same"

          No it's not because of intent. I could say that your significant other does not love you, they just are following their animal instincts to let you screw them. And I could be very correct in this but that wouldn't be the intent. The intent would be to insult you or try to bring you to anger.
          When you decide to take a person's faith (which you agree means a lot to a person) and belittle it on purpose, you have pretty much chucked your position out the door.
          If you are unable to at least treat the fact that a person's personal belief is important and should be given a little bit of respect. a mature debate cannot be conducted by you.

          July 30, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
        • Bootyfunk

          "If you are unable to at least treat the fact that a person's personal belief is important and should be given a little bit of respect. a mature debate cannot be conducted by you."
          +++ i'll respect you, but i don't need to respect crazy ideas. just like you wouldn't respect someone that said his cat was god and that everyone should obey his cat. his cat and your god are the same to me. i'm free to debate any idea anyone has. you are attempting to censor that because you don't like what i'm saying. you're voting against free press. i could make the argument that saying i shouldn't voice my opinion on the matter is disrespectful. try practicing what you preach.

          "And yet (religion) also has supported education and science. So your point is mute."
          "No it doesn't. All you have shown is that some people within a religion has treated some of those who are scientists badly. That is all you have shown."
          +++ so by your own standard, religion has not supported science, only " some people within a religion", right? don't take the cheap way out. that you completely ignore the long running war religion has waged on science just shows you skip over facts that go against your personal view of religion. heard of the scopes-monkey trial? oh, but that's not religion attacking science, it's religious people, right? the bible says humans were created in their form by god - science shows we evolved from monkey-like ancestors. so that's clearly the bible saying evolution is wrong, religion vs. science. stop playing naive, you seem much smarter than that.

          "What does my personal preference has to do with this? This isn't another lame attempt to try and take this from the general to the personal is it?"
          +++ don't get your panties in a bunch, your personal belief in a god is relevant in a religious conversation and a basic question. you obviously have a religious bias so i asked what your beliefs were - nothing sinister there. lol.

          "No it's not because of intent. I could say that your significant other does not love you, they just are following their animal instincts to let you screw them. And I could be very correct in this but that wouldn't be the intent. The intent would be to insult you or try to bring you to anger."
          +++ w.t.f. are you talking about? don't get silly or way off the point. i never insulted a family member or whatever you're accusing me of. stay on point, old chap.

          July 30, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
        • Ali

          Why do people have such a hard time differentiating between "mute" and "moot"?

          July 30, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
        • Lycidas

          "i'll respect you, but i don't need to respect crazy ideas. just like you wouldn't respect someone that said his cat was god and that everyone should obey his cat."

          I think there is a problem with "respect" and "belief". Just because you respect a person does not mean you have to believe like them. I do not believe in Ganesha like my neighbors do but I respect them enough not to compare their faith to that of childish make believe characters like many atheists tend to do christians.

          "his cat and your god are the same to me. i'm free to debate any idea anyone has. you are attempting to censor that because you don't like what i'm saying."

          I have no god. You are free to debate and I am not trying to censor anything. Leave the drama behind. And no, I do not like your disrespect of people with a faith and I will use my freedom of speech to point out how childish to behave as you have is. I have no problem in pointing out that belittling a person's personal beliefs is wrong.

          "i could make the argument that saying i shouldn't voice my opinion on the matter is disrespectful. try practicing what you preach."

          Critique isn't the same as censoring. Hey, if you want to be a jerk on here, you can. I will merely point that out...which is my right.

          "so by your own standard, religion has not supported science, only " some people within a religion", right? don't take the cheap way out. that you completely ignore the long running war religion has waged on science just shows you skip over facts that go against your personal view of religion."

          Oh my gosh you sound like a Tea Party person. War on science? Anything like the war on terror? You are falling into sensationalism. I have never said there hasn't been those in religion that fought against science. But it's not universal and there is no evidence to show that even the majority of those in a religion goes against science.

          "heard of the scopes-monkey trial? oh, but that's not religion attacking science, it's religious people, right?"

          Of course I've heard of it. Ever heard of Monseigneur Georges Lemaître? Oh but that's not religion supporting science is it?

          "so that's clearly the bible saying evolution is wrong, religion vs. science. stop playing naive, you seem much smarter than that."

          Disagreement is not "war". I am afriad there is a naive person here and it is not me.

          "don't get your panties in a bunch, your personal belief in a god is relevant in a religious conversation and a basic question. you obviously have a religious bias so i asked what your beliefs were – nothing sinister there. lol."

          Nice ad hominem. I was pointing out a flaw from going to the general to the specific. Obviously you were not able to strike a winning blow to the general argument and wanted to try to take it to the personal.
          And no, my personal beliefs or non-beliefs are not relevant to the comments I have made.

          "i never insulted a family member or whatever you're accusing me of. stay on point, old chap."

          You have insulted people's personal beliefs that can be just as important to them as family relations. For some reason many atheists on here don't see a problem with comparing a person's deep belief to obviously insulting childish fiction. It proves nothing and it's only purpose is to try and get the opposition mad. It's a sign of weakness on your part.

          July 30, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
    • Vic

      Christians founded all "Branches of Modern Science" as well as the "Modern Scientific Method."

      Francis Bacon, founder of "Modern Scientific Method," was a Christian.

      Here is a site I found recently listing Christian Founders of "Branches Modern Science" as an example:

      http://www.christianity.co.nz/science2.htm

      July 30, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
  16. Theta

    Try atheism? You mean as in becoming an atheist? ok, but what has atheism got to offer?

    Name a few things that atheism offers a person. (please be specific)

    Also, are you offering atheism for people that are leaving the church? Are you suggesting people become more active online and become socially active on the internet instead of being part of groups within their church?

    July 30, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
    • Nick

      What does atheism offer?

      How about 'doubt'

      July 30, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
      • Lycidas

        I think doubt is part of being human. One does not need atheism for that.

        July 30, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
      • AE

        Read the Psalms – plenty of doubt.

        Learn about Jesus' closest friends, his disciples – so much doubt.

        July 30, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
        • Bootyfunk

          yep, and the moral of the story is that they were wrong to doubt. they're always shown to have made a bad choice by doubting. the bible constantly reinforces to doubt is bad.

          July 30, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
        • AE

          I try not to read things in the Bible and look for a moral to the story.

          I think they can reveal truths about human beings. Truths that are still relevant today.

          July 30, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
        • AE

          And no matter how much they doubted – God still loved them.

          July 30, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
        • Bootyfunk

          mmm yes, the love of a non-existent being. that's worth a lot.

          July 30, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
        • AE

          How about you – can you show me what a loving creature might act like – in your words and actions?

          July 30, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
        • Bootyfunk

          sure, fly out to hawaii and i'll give you a hug!

          July 30, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
        • AE

          Ok, that is nice. See, you aren't so bad.

          July 30, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
        • Bootyfunk

          i'm really not. i love all my brothers and sisters, so much that i want them to leave the cult and think for themselves.

          July 30, 2013 at 7:46 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      the biggest thing it offers is truth. if it can be said that atheists "worship" anything, it's truth. it also takes away the "big brother is watching" feeling of religion. it allows you to truly makes choices yourself, not because of the reward of heaven or threat of hell. it allows you to have progressive thinking, instead of believing the world is 10K years old or that there's an invisible sky fairy. there's many, many more benefits...

      atheists have a lower divorce rate than christians
      atheists have a higher rate of education than christians
      atheists have a much lower crime and incarceration rate

      July 30, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
      • AKA

        Atheist also have a *much* lower abortion rate thn Christians.

        July 30, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
        • Saraswati

          Atheists generally come from a higher SEC. I doubt it has much to do with religion.

          July 30, 2013 at 9:03 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      btw, there are plenty of socially active atheist groups. you're perpetuating a bad stereo-type. check your local humanist chapter for instance.

      July 30, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
      • Saraswati

        Plus, atheists are normally involved in secular groups, such as the Sierra Club (a random example) rather than "atheist" groups. Atheists are usually happy to socialize with and work with others of similar interests regardless of the diverse personal beliefs.

        July 30, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
    • Warren

      I am yet to find a church that is anti-gay, anti-women, anti-science, anti-se x-education and anti-doubt. It is interesting how some people think they are intellectually superior based on their limited understanding of what 'facts' really are and accuse others of ignorance. Isn't that arrogance?

      It is very interesting when people think of anti abortion as being anti-woman. Our youth pastor is a woman. We have scientists, doctors, engineers, academicians, celebrities and executives in our congregation. How very ignorant of someone to assume otherwise.

      July 30, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
      • Bootyfunk

        "I am yet to find a church that is anti-gay, anti-women, anti-science, anti-se x-education and anti-doubt."
        +++ according to your standards, perhaps. a very easy example would be the westboro church that famously terrorize g.ay funerals. all churches do it, usually to a less degree than westboro, but all churches teach that god is real, a claim for which there is zero proof. they teach that god made the universe, which is contrary to all evidence. they teach that noah's flood was real, which we know was not. they teach jesus came back from the dead, but we know zombies only exist in horror movies (see World War Z). they bible gives the wrong order for creation of our solar system as well as the order of the animals/plants. all that is taught in church but you say church isn't anti-science? haha, that's funny.

        July 30, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
        • Warren

          Which church did you go to that was all those anti ..... that were listed?

          July 30, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
        • Warren

          God made the Universe, when did you successfully disprove the existence of God?

          It is a fairy tale to believe that somehow a tornado can blow through a junkyard and assemble a jumbo jet.

          July 30, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
        • Bootyfunk

          warren, how do you prove a negative? tell me how to do that and i'll get to it. prove thor is not real. prove the tooth fairy isn't real. prove my left nut isn't god. see how you can't do any of those things? does that make them true?

          the burden of proof is on the one making the claim. if i claim my left nut or my dog Spot is god, it's up to ME to prove it - not up to you to disprove it. see how that works?

          July 30, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
        • gdwthiwwtw

          Warren, please prove thor isn't the real god. If you can't prove he isn't, then he is. You probably shouldn't try, you'll just look worse. Oh and if you reject thor as your supreme leader, you go to eternal hell because my book says so.

          July 30, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
      • breathe deep

        They have to be anti-all of those things at the same time?

        July 30, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      More free time on Sunday mornings?

      July 30, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
    • redzoa

      Following on Bootfunk's notion of progressive thinking, there is research that indicates moral reasoning is better when it is based in explanations of costs/benefits to society/individuals rather than as a simple authoritarian edict. The details of one such study are in Oliner and Oliner's "The Altruistic Personality." Essentially, they looked at "rescuers" and "nonrescuers" in Nazi Germany to try and explain why some would help Jews and others refused. One critical divide was the nature of their upbringing. Children raised under authoritarian rule sets (i.e. don't ask why, just follow the rule) were far more likely to be "nonrescuers" whereas children raised in households where they questioned underlying rationales and were given the reasons behind the rules were far more likely to be "rescuers."

      This has direct application when considering the unquestionable alleged divine edicts accompanying most religions. I can't count the number of times I've heard/read apologists defending the slaughter of Amalekite children and infants, thereby effectively staking out a Nuremberg Defense.

      Further still, outside the realm of morals, those who accept a divine edict as unquestionable will simply not question which is the case with ID/creationists and why they pose a real risk to science education. Because their proposed explanation can explain anything and everything, it effectively explains nothing. But worse still, because the alleged supernatural mechanisms are unreachable by science, ID/creationism is effectively a science stopper in that there would be no point in investigating, rather we would need to wait for a revelation. Cancer, infectious disease, birth defects, etc, all just part of the mystery of God's design and who are we to question. Besides, why worry about such issues when you're only passing through on your way to heaven . . .

      July 30, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
    • Nathan

      What does atheism offer?

      Lack of fear of reprisal for following human instinct.
      Lack of guilt and shame imposed by those who would use religion as an attempt to grab power.
      Relief of anxiety regarding what happens after death by acknowledging and embracing the idea that there may not be anything waiting for us after this life and smiling at the realization that if there is nothing then you won't be around to notice the potential boredom.
      Freedom from excuses for why things happened to you by admitting that the results of the choices you have made and the actions you have taken in life are not at the hands of 'God' but only YOU.
      A potential kick in complacency regarding figuring out why things happen the way they do or why they form the way they do; no longer saying 'God made it that way' can encourage someone to find out why ice crystals form the way they do if they are so inclined, for example.

      That's what atheism offers me, anyway.

      July 30, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • JimK57

      Isn't this comment thread intesting. The OP asked a simple question to atheits and it never got answered. The whole thread descended into bickering.Maybe we should learn from it.

      July 30, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        I answered it.

        July 30, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        Nathan answered it.

        July 30, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
      • redzoa

        I'd offer I answered it too, i.e. atheism prevents us from claiming a supernatural, external and unquestionable justification for our moral decisions. We become personally responsible for both good and bad outcomes, but we are then capable of evolving in light of this information in ways which potentially reduce harm and suffering.

        July 30, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @Theta, I think you may be misunderstanding what atheism is. It's like asking what a-unicornism has to offer. Atheism is just the lack of belief. It isn't a religion like Catholicism with a social group and an ethical system. Atheists who want those things join other groups, from Unitarian groups to the Sierra Club or whatever. Some atheists even believe in life after death. By definition, they are just people who don't believe in gods.

      July 30, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
  17. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    When Ms. Rachel Held Evans wrote the following in her recent piece
    ( http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/07/27/why-millennials-are-leaving-the-church/ )

    "In fact, I would argue that church-as-performance is just one more thing driving us away from the church, and evangelicalism in particular.

    Many of us, myself included, are finding ourselves increasingly drawn to high church traditions – Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church, etc ...

    she left out another alternative as both motivation and destination – unbelief.

    Thanks Hemant Mehta for stating it so clearly.

    July 30, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • Lycidas

      While unbelief could be a result, I see what she is talking about. When it comes to topics about spirituality or ineffable topics...we humans want some depth involved. Yeah there will always be those that want a show but most at some point want something more to their beliefs or philosophy than just a show.

      July 30, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      I didn't have any argument with Ms. Held Evan's assertion that by trying to woo Millennials with 'hip' worship services, Evangelical churches are missing the point. I think that she is spot on there.

      I have two objections to her column:
      1. She is a 'wannabe' Millenial. She's 32 and likes Nirvana and Pearl Jam.
      (This makes her squarely a GenX – if you use these labels.)

      2. She ignores what I see as a bigger reason Millennials are leaving Evangelical churches and that is the point of this article – it is all about the rise in non-affilliation in Millennials, including an increase in atheism/agnosticism. This is not an opinion. There is plenty of data to support it.

      http://www.pewforum.org/2012/10/09/nones-on-the-rise/#growth

      Fully 34% of younger Millennials are in the "nones".

      July 30, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
      • Ali

        GOPer, my kid is 19, and likes Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Soundgarten...she is most definitely a Millennial...Millennials are anyone born in the 80's and 90's. That would make RHE, born in 81, barely a Millennial, which she states in her first sentence.

        July 30, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        She fits the cut-off, which while imprecise usually 'early 80's' and sometimes '1981'.

        I maintain at 32 she's still a wannabe Millennial / hipster.

        Have you read any of her other posts, or her goofy books?

        July 30, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
  18. Shannon

    I've yet to meet a twenty something that is interested in church. I wasn't at that age either.

    July 30, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
    • jeff

      Well lets be honest there isn't anything much more boring then sitting in church.

      July 31, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • Thinker...

      I met several when I was in college. Well I am not sure if they were actually interested in church, but they went several times a week. Didn't really associate with anyone else unless they were proselytizing though.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:26 am |
  19. lol??

    Dawkins said whaaaaaatt?? ".....................Judeo-Christian god........................" Is this some kinda new age marriage between Jesus and the ULTIMATE ANTICHRIST BEAST?

    July 30, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • M.R.

      Manners unprovides lol??, sequestered maggotry.

      July 30, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
  20. Lukas77

    You cannot be an atheistic and an agnostic. To claim you are is oxymoronic.

    Also, atheism is an independent belief system that unilaterally and predatorily promotes its one and only unprovable tenant - that deity absolutely does not exist.

    Atheism is also a secular humanistic pseudoreligion, simply because it takes incredible faith to believe, unilaterally, that deity absolutely does not exist.

    July 30, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • redzoa

      Please see my response to this argument below. Despite your repeated monolithic requirements, atheism is a spectrum:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism

      July 30, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • Neo Atheist

      An Atheist doesn't believe in a higher deity or power. But can still have a spiritual side. Atheists believe that one can have moral values without the need or intervention of a God to do so. You describe atheism as psuedoreligious. It is just alike any other belief. Christianity and other religions can also be called that. You can be religious as an atheist and not believe in a God to do so.

      July 30, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
      • Edward

        Exactly. I find the core teachings of the philosopher, Jesus, to be profound. Love, peace and sharing. I see great merit in his teachings but find his delusion of godhood quite disturbing.

        August 5, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Of course you can and agnostic atheism abounds. You want to insist on your own definition of atheism. Words don't work that way.

      Several people have explained this clearly to you.

      Perhaps this will help:

      Theists believe in God. Atheists don't. Therefore, anyone who does not believe in God (or a higher power) is an atheist.

      Anyone who doesn't know – to the extent that they don't, or no longer believe – is by definition an atheist.

      Some people are reluctant to accept that concept because of the baggage people like you try to put on the word.

      July 30, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
      • Lukas77

        Pseudoatheists redefine/remold atheism as the wind blows.

        July 30, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
        • G to the T

          Then who gets to define "atheism" or "agnosticism"? You? Who gets to define "Christian" for that matter?

          July 30, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Lukas77

      You said, "You cannot be an atheistic and an agnostic. To claim you are is oxymoronic."
      To not understand atheism and agnosticism is typical for a believer.

      Gnosticism and agnosticism are about knowledge. Theism and atheism are about belief. They are not mutually exclusive.

      Whether you choose to believe, or not, based on the available evidence, or as the case may be despite a complete lack of it, is the realm of theism. Atheists tend to come in two flavors. Those that don't believe in god(s) (weak atheism), and those that believe there are no gods (strong atheism). You may even be both at the same time.

      You can, in light of the absence of even so much as a shred of evidence, simply not believe there are any gods, like most people will not believe Loch Ness houses a monster, or that the Tooth Fairy is real. While these creatures may have a non-zero possibility to exist, there is no reason to believe they do. A belief in them is unreasonable.

      You can at the same time be strongly atheistic about gods that are impossible to exist. Contradictory attributes commonly attributed to the christian god, for instance, make it outright impossible to exist. A belief in it is not only unreasonable, but irrational.

      The complete absence of any evidence in favor of any gods, makes everyone agnostic, whether they will admit to it, or not. Some simply choose to believe the fairy tales they were fed as a child and claim to have knowledge of their favorite god. Funnily, these people tend to be strongly atheistic regarding every other god.

      You said, "Also, atheism is an independent belief system that unilaterally and predatorily promotes its one and only unprovable tenant – that deity absolutely does not exist."
      Bullshit. See above.

      You said, "Atheism is also a secular humanistic pseudoreligion, simply because it takes incredible faith to believe, unilaterally, that deity absolutely does not exist."
      Of course not. The more specific the traits assigned to specific gods are, the less likely these gods are to exist. For example, the christian god is often said to be both omnipotent and omniscient. These two traits are mutually exclusive. Mutually exclusive traits, means that this particular creature is impossible to exist. Anyone with a elementary ability for reason should be strongly atheistic with respect to this particular imaginary friend.

      July 30, 2013 at 10:39 pm |
      • The Lord is my Shepard

        Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.Do not be conceited. Romans 12:14

        All the people out there who are trying to not see God for who he is I will pray for you, it is very sad that you feel the need to downgrade yourselves then to except what is really waiting for you. God gave us science Yes but to prove his existence. He is a sovereign God and has Mercy and Grace to be given to all. There are plenty of things of this world that can be disproved but yet we still believe them. Yes many churches and pastors give the Christian outlook to be not what it really is. Jesus came for the people like you not for the ones who were already believers but the sinful. Whether you as an atheist of not want to admit but that feeling of guilt, or doubt or any other feeling of emotion that you get is due to an inner spirit telling you what is right and wrong. No matter how fallen you are the Lord also will stand by you waiting for the day when you decide that his Love is more important than the other people around you. The SHOW that you put on by trying to get others to believe what you believe is very childish. Real Christians like to share their spirituality but not force others to believe what they do which is where you need to look at your motives again to determine if it is really something you believe or something that someone convinced you is true. It's also very sad to think that so may people believe that there is a Satan but not a GOD how does that make sense at all? As humans we all believe in some sort of Good and Evil because we add it to our movies, new, and any media but where do you think that sense comes from, some accident? May God have Mercy on the atheists and I pray that they all come to their senses before it's all too late. Sad to think that even atheists believe in a end of the world but think nothing comes after. GOD BLESS

        “‘In the last days, God says,
        I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
        Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
        your young men will see visions,
        your old men will dream dreams.
        18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
        I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
        and they will prophesy.
        19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
        and signs on the earth below,
        blood and fire and billows of smoke.
        20 The sun will be turned to darkness
        and the moon to blood
        before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
        21 And everyone who calls
        on the name of the Lord will be saved.’[c] Acts 2:17-21

        Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. Rev. 2

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

          Please write a letter to Santa Claus..instead of praying to your God.

          July 31, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
        • Umbren

          You do realize that atheists don't believe in Satan either, right?

          July 31, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
        • jbest8283

          How does it feel to be a mindless zombie to something other than government?

          July 31, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
        • grafactor

          Spam: reported for abuse.

          July 31, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
        • Edward

          OYG! Not another person who will pray for us! Don't waste your time..........

          August 5, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
    • Odds

      Yes and no. Agnosticism isn't really a system of belief. The fact that one identifies themselves with such a term to begin with suggests that the issue is relevant to them. Yet agnostics claim to be waiting for knowledge one way or the other before choosing to believe. It's a little disingenuous for a person to claim not to have some inclination on an issue they find relevant and have taken the time to research, don't you think?

      However, I don't believe agnostics are liars and that isn't what I'm suggesting at all. Instead I believe agnostics, like theists, fail to make a distinction between knowledge and belief. The agnostic requires knowledge in order to form belief because, to them, they are one and the same. Theists are no different. You will never hear a person identify as an "agnostic theist", yet by definition "faith" requires that we believe in absence of knowledge.

      I am an agnostic atheist. That is to say that I don't claim to know that God does not exist. Of course, that would be impossible. By definition, there can be no proof of a negative. But I strongly believe that he doesn't exist. Why? Well, to keep the explanation short, I don't typically believe in a concept without a shred of proof to support it when there is plenty of evidence to support perfectly plausible alternatives.

      So, if we're being honest, we're all "agnostics", but agnostic theists universally identify as "theists". Everyone else is somewhere along the spectrum of atheism. You either believe in God or you don't. Waiting for proof is still a "no", even if it isn't necessarily an emphatic one.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:18 am |
      • Odds

        Sorry, that's a little judgmental. I don't really follow the beliefs of others so much. I may have applied some assumptions to various labels that aren't accurate, but the stuff about the distinction between knowledge and belief is the root of all this. I couldn't care less about how we self-identify!

        July 31, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • Amor DeCosmos

      No, you are wrong, atheism and agnosticism are two different things. Theism refers to belief, gnosticism refers to knowledge.

      July 31, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • TheFantasticMrsFarts

      you're mental. Atheism is the lack of believe in god(s). BELIEF. As an atheist, I am at the null position with regard to belief in deities. Until such time as compelling evidence is provided regarding the existence of deities, I will remain at this null position. No faith required. Remember, faith in the religious sense is belief WITHOUT evidence.

      Agnosticism deals with knowledge. A person who says they either know god exists or knows god doesn't exist is a gnostic. Someone who says one can never know for sure that gods exists or that gods don't exist is agnostic.

      It is absolutely possible (and is the more frequent case) for an individual to be an agnostic atheist.

      July 31, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
    • Min

      I find it very funny when people say, "Well, it takes faith to be an atheist!" as though it is some kind of definitive argument.

      Do you believe that Thor exists? No? That's exactly how much faith it takes to believe that your god doesn't exist, either.

      July 31, 2013 at 4:32 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.