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Holy Trollers: How to argue about religion online
They are the same cast of characters that surface during every online debate about religion. Do you know a "Holy Troller?"
October 5th, 2013
08:00 AM ET

Holy Trollers: How to argue about religion online

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) –"Yo mama..."

Whenever I heard those two words while growing up in inner-city Baltimore, I knew something bad was about to happen. Trading insults was a childhood ritual. But everyone understood that one subject was off-limits. You didn’t talk about anybody’s momma unless you were prepared to start swinging.

Now that I’m all grown-up, I’ve discovered a new arena for combat: The reader’s comments section for stories about religion.

When I first started writing about religion for an online news site, I eagerly turned to the comment section for my articles, fishing for compliments and wondering if I had provoked any thoughtful discussions about faith.

I don’t wonder anymore.

When I look at the comment section now, I see a whole lot of “yo mamas” being tossed about. Readers exchange juvenile insults, condescending lectures and veer off into tangents that have nothing to do with the article they just read.

For years, I’ve listened to these “holy trollers” in silence. Now I’m calling them out. I’ve learned that the same types of people take over online discussions about faith and transform them into the verbal equivalent of a food fight. You may recognize some of these characters.

You might even recognize yourself.

The Street Corner Prophet

When the Belief Blog ran a recent article on a television host who declared that atheists “don’t have to live here,” a commenter identified as “Karie” got into a heated exchange with someone who called themselves “Bible Clown.”

Karie called Bible Clown a “disgusting, deviant perverted virus,” and a “Bozo,” before ending with this prediction:

Hell is coming for you love. Special dungeon just for u and u won’t be able to die. LOL.LOL.”

The street corner prophets often act as if they’re deeply concerned about the fate of souls they disagree with, but you can tell that they relish the prospect of eternal torment for their online enemies.

Some don’t even try to hide their true motives:

“I hope you like worms because you will have your own personal worm to feed off your fat drippings in hell for all eternity…”

That’s what a commenter called “HeavenSent” said to another following an article on evangelical Pastor Rick Warren. HeavenSent ended his malediction with one word: “Amen.”

Okay, so that’s the wrong way to argue about religion online if you’re a street corner prophet. Now, here’s the right way:

Not everyone who disagrees with you deserves eternal torment. People rarely listen to someone who is in perpetual attack mode.

“We change no one’s mind by attacking,” said Charles Camosy, an ethics professor at Fordham University in New York City.

Camosy has made a career out of bridging religious differences. He’s part of a “Contending Modernites” group, which finds common ground between Christians and Muslims. He’s also the co-founder of a website devoted to dialing down the heat in religious arguments entitled, “Catholic Moral Theology.”

Camosy says that online discussions about religion are difficult because they are not in person. Tone and nuance gets lost online.

“You can’t look them in the face,” he said. “You can’t shake their hand or give a hug. You find it very difficult to have that sort of embodied trust.”

The Provoker

There isn’t any notion of “embodied trust” with the next online character: The provoker.

The provoker doesn’t even pretend to care about the final destination for someone’s soul. They come out punching, and they love to say things that they probably wouldn’t say to someone in person.

In the recent article on Warren, a reader who went by the surname of “Just the Facts Ma’am,” tells another:

“Thanks for once again confirming how vulgar, uneducated and delusional you are Meredith.”

In an article about millennials leaving the church, a reader who identified herself as “Jenna,” tells another: “Jesus never said any of that mess. You are a false prophet if I’ve ever seen one.”

How to argue about religion if you’re a provoker:

No one will listen to you if they don’t like you, said Joe Carter, an evangelical blogger and author of “How to Argue like Jesus,” a book that explores how Jesus verbally tangled with his enemies and persuaded his friends.

Carter said Jesus was such an excellent communicator because he told stories that provoked emotions, took surprising twists and forced people to draw their own conclusions. But he also connected with people because of a simple reason: he cared about them.

“When people know that you care about them, they’re more likely to be persuaded by you,” Carter said. “We tend to be persuaded by people we like and trust. Jesus had that in spades.”

The Atheist

One of my best friends was an atheist. Whenever we ran into one other, we’d launch into these long, philosophical discussions about religion.  I loved it. Like many atheists I subsequently met, I discovered that he knew more about the Bible than most people who claimed to be religious.

It’s too bad that many of the exchanges between atheists and people of faith in our comments section don’t follow the same script. In fact, they have some of the nastiest religious arguments I’ve witnessed online.

A sample:

In a recent Belief Blog article about atheism, a reader identifying himself as “Sam Stone” says to another: “Free people do not need a savior, Kate. Only slaves need saviors.”

Another reader who identifies himself as “CamDEn1” tells a Christian, “You are an uneducated fool. Ever you heard of Richard Dawkins? Sam Harris? Atheists have more respected scholars than Christianity…”

I get the source of frustration for some atheists. They have longed been caricatured by people of faith as moral degenerates who don’t care about morality. Some of them, in turn, have caricatured people of faith as weak-minded hypocrites who believe in fairy tales.

Here’s how to argue over religion if you’re an atheist:

Get beyond the stereotypes and actually spend time with a person of faith. And if you’re a person of faith, do the same with an atheist. You might be surprised.

That’s what happened when Camosy, the Fordham University ethics professor, embarked on a speaking tour with the renowned atheist and philosopher, Peter Singer, who is seen by many as the founder of the animal rights movement.

Camosy said the speaking tour forced him to read and pay attention to Singer’s arguments. He discovered that they share concerns over global poverty. He saw Singer as a person of good will.

“That created the space for us to have an honest, open and fruitful exchange with one another rather than exchanging barbs,” Camosy said.

It also created the space for personal transformation.

“Actually reading him converted me to being a vegetarian,” Camosy said. “But it was only being open to his arguments that made me see.”

The Scholar

I have a friend who is smart – scary smart.  He’s a genial, funny guy who happens to be a theology professor. I try to hang with him when we talk religion, but there’s always a point in the conversation when he loses me. I compare that moment to watching the starship Enterprise go into warp drive. He just goes into hyperspace and my brain just isn’t big enough to follow.

There a lot of big brains in our blog’s comment sections. I call these readers “the scholars.”

Some of them are self-appointed biblical experts. They talk as if they have God’s cell phone number: God has revealed great mysteries to them. They know the divine plan.

In a recent article I wrote about contemporary Christians feeling as if they were persecuted, a reader identified as “Tom Skylark” let me know what all this persecution was really about.

 Skylark said:

“Christians will face continued persecution then 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 will happen right before the 7 year tribulation when Israel burns Russia’s weapons for 7 years. (Ezekiel 39:9). Those who are not taken in the rapture will have the opportunity to receive Christ during the 7 year tribulation but will be beheaded for their testimony. (Revelation 20:4). How far is Russia towards its prophetic position which means the rapture (! Thessalonians 4:16-17) is even closer?

Actually, I did not know that, and I’m still not sure what it means.

Sometimes the scholar is someone who believes all religion is hopelessly derivative: it’s all based on something that came before.

A reader by the name of “Seyedibar” responded to my article on Christian persecution with this:

“A little study of history and comparative religion goes a long way. Abraham is based on an Egyptian figure. His god was Ptah, not El, and his vision was of Memphis, not Israel. Jesus was likely based on a Merkabah mystic, one of a hairdresser and carpenter. .. And if you back a little further, Uguritic archaeology shows us that the book of Genesis is based on the ancestor kings of the Canaanites. Most Christians and Jews aren’t aware that the creator of the Garden of Eden, El, is recorded to have died of a wild boar attack.”

 Like I said, hyperspace. I just can’t go where “Seyedibar” has gone before. I love the scholar’s passion for religion, but some of them lose me when they try to deploy all their knowledge of history and religion in any effort to change someone else’ beliefs.

How to argue about religion if you’re a scholar:

Accept that there is a limit to knowledge. I’ve never seen anyone say in response to a religious argument: “You are right. Your argument is irrefutable. I’m going to jettison a lifetime of beliefs on the spot right now because I obviously have no coherent reply.”

It just doesn’t happen.

Gordon Newby, a professor of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies at Emory University, said most people change religious beliefs “not because of one argument” but only after long conversations and intimate exposure to another faith.

“Logical arguments are nice but they're not going to change someone’s life,” Newby said. “We’re way too complicated for that. We’re not programmed machines. We have this whole limbic system of emotions and appetites and everything else.”

The Peacemaker

There are some readers who give me hope when I go to the comment section. They are the “peacemakers,” and they surely bless me with their attitudes.

Peacemakers try to keep arguments from getting personal. They are the online referees.  They turn the other cheek.

An exchange between someone called “Bootyfunk” and “KatieRose” shows a peacemaker in action.

“Bootyfunk”  gets upset with “KatieRose” because she says  “we must respect all ideas in the world, no matter how crazy.”

Bootyfunk says people don’t have to respect all ideas, and tells Katie Rose she shouldn't tell people not to debate religion on a blog about religion.

What does KatieRose say in response? She doesn’t go to war. She makes the peace:

“Okay! That works for me,” KatieRose said. “I’m sorry if it sounded like I was ordering people not to talk about an issue: I just disagreed with the focus of the discussion.”

“Bootyfunk” ends the discussion with a smiley-face symbol and a “smooches, Katie.”

How to argue about religion if you’re a peacemaker:

Keep on doing what you’re doing.

If only the rest of the comment section had more peacemakers. I actually e-mailed readers like “Bootyfunk” and “KatieRose” to get their perspective, but all I got was silence. Not one commenter wanted to talk on the record for this story. Only one person – an atheist – responded to my invitations to chat, and he didn’t want his name used.

But I have a feeling I’ll hear again from these holy trollers when I scan the comment section of Belief Blog. So will you, even if you don’t read that much about religion. These holy trollers show up in our lives and our workplaces. Many of them will sit next to us at the dinner table when families and friends get together for the upcoming holidays.

When the conversation turns to religion, you may meet your holy troller, and you will have to make a choice.

Do I make the peace, or do I go the war?

What kind of holy troller will you be?

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Ethics • Internet • News media • Nones

soundoff (3,856 Responses)
  1. briantericson

    I'm not gonna bash anyone on their beliefs, it's their right to believe in whatever they please. But I truly believe that our world would be so much better off if everybody focused on the development of society and the preservation of our beautiful blue planet. If Humanity had never invented religion and could only accept the disappointing fact that this is the only chance we have to live, I believe more people would focus on the future for themselves, and their children, and their children's children here on Earth..

    But unfortunately religion is a disease, and it's symptoms include hope, something that can make people do things they would never do.

    October 5, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • Tom

      pretty much summed up the tenets of reform judaism right there. maybe it's not all religions that are the enemy.

      October 5, 2013 at 9:55 am |
      • lagergeld

        Reform Judaism is liberal politics with a religious coating.

        October 5, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • lagergeld

      Secular liberalism is a bigger disease, and that's really saying something, especially since I'm not even religious.

      October 5, 2013 at 10:41 am |
      • I've changed

        If not for the influence of what you like to call SECULAR LIBERALISM,we would be in a world of hurt,as theocratic dogmatism would be imposing strict Biblical or Koranic law.How much,do you think,you would enjoy living in a world with a hard line pope or ayatollah calling the shots?How long would we last?Be very careful what you wish for my friend.

        October 5, 2013 at 10:52 am |
        • lagergeld

          Instead we have the secular version of it; politically correct hysteria, speech codes, ideological persecution. What's the diff? Free speech is one thing that is NOT popoular among secular liberals. I've been attacked solely for my opinions by way too many "progressives" for me to believe that. I've also been attacked for speaking of scientific issues incompatible with the dogma as well.

          October 5, 2013 at 11:07 am |
        • psuguy1

          Seems to me that the pope, ayatollah, and securlar liberalism all share something in common – attempting to control people with outside force. New Testament Christianity on the other hand seems to seek to cause change from the inside out. If I'm not mistaken, there is not a single instance in the New Testament of Christianity working through government to achieve its ends.

          October 5, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
        • Eric

          there are many example of christianity working through government. Read acts. Paul with Felix, Festus, King Agrippa, Cesar The Athenian council.

          October 5, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
        • psuguy1

          Eric, sorry I didn't make myself clear. We may be talking two different forms of interaction. You seem to be referring to the type where government imprisons Christians for practicing their religion, something like what you find today in Muslim countries. I was referring to the type where Christians use government to force Christian behaviour on all citizens, for instance, government sponsored charity.

          October 5, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
      • Fred Evil

        The Founding Fathers were liberals.

        October 5, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
        • dorianmattar

          The founding members where secular.

          October 8, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
    • Realist

      ............

      The Judeo-Christian-Islamic ...

      ........ http://www.GODisIMAGINARY.com ..........

      ... and thank goodness because he emanates from the ...

      ....... http://www.EVILbible.com

      .............

      October 5, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
    • theorycraft

      but just because I don't believe in a god doesn't mean I want to be charitable and help out my fellow people on earth/maintain the planet.... I could still say live for today and pollute because its easier etc

      October 5, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
    • nomis

      Because of my faith I agree with you!

      October 8, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
    • Kimberlee

      Briantericson, you really make a very good point! In my faith we are told that the purpose of religion is actually to unify mankind and uplift civilization; and when it becomes a cause of division and hatred, we are better off without it. Our focus is on making the world a better place through education and cooperation, and though small in number, we are widely spread around the globe. Rather than arguing over religion or belief, we try to build bridges of understanding and peace, so we can all work towards the betterment of mankind.

      October 11, 2013 at 11:47 pm |
  2. AMIAMRAM

    The comments section on CNN is a waste of time. One cannot expressly speak the truth. As soon as the truth is spotted, then the vile creatures that call themselves moderators remove it under the heavy burden of shame that they bear upon their own shoulders. They exhalt filthiness and oppress righteousness. They call right wrong, and wrong right. How do they sleep at nights?

    October 5, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • CoolCMo

      Off your meds again?

      October 5, 2013 at 10:01 am |
      • AMIAMRAM

        Have I spoken a lie? Have I mentioned anything but the truth? It is quite evident that you do not believe in the Most high God nor his Son. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss your delusions but I already know that you are knee deep in confusion and it would take more that the censored ramblings here on the Confusion News Network's blog to bring you to your senses. This your joy, is filled with sorrows through much ignorance.

        October 5, 2013 at 10:11 am |
        • Kristophe Schneider

          AMIAMRAM, it appears you have spoken a lie. If the post I am replying to is "truth", then by your statement, it is to be removed by the moderators - yet it is still here, ergo, it must be false.

          October 5, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
        • GetFiddle Man

          LOL ... that was one of the best impressions of the bible-belt brigade i have experienced. Bless you, er, excuse me...I mean thank you.

          October 5, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • lagergeld

      Secular liberals run CNN, thus expect politically correct censorship accordingly.

      October 5, 2013 at 10:42 am |
      • AMIAMRAM

        In other words ~ perverted individuals who have lost their way, followers of the devil and debased beasts are in control of what the masses think and are also in charge of fabricating wars and rumours of wars for gain and fame at the cost of innocent lives of women, children and nations. It is true then, the Word of God has been confirmed then. We are surely sojourning in the Sodom and Gomorrah capital of the world and we all stand at the gates of hell and the hottest fire know to mankind burns the devils. May The Most High God have mercy on our souls in this place.

        October 5, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
        • The Christian

          and who is your most merciful God, oh enlightened one?

          October 5, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
        • nd

          Do you realize that your belief in devil and hell does not stem from an accepting judeo/Christian book. Ancient jews, including jesus, did not believe in hell or a devil. Hellenist converts incorporated eleysium (heaven), hades (devil) and the realm of hades (hell). The story of fallen angels comes from the book of enoch, which you will not find in your bible at home as it was never included as doctrine.

          When you think about it what sense does it make that an omnipotent god could be rebelled against by a creation that does not have free will (angels don't have free will). And why would god make a universe good, read genesis and you will see that everything is good, and make a place of torment that is obviously not good, and not even mention it in the creation story. Because hell was invented by pagans, who converted to Christianity without abandoning all their older beliefs, and we still teach it in bible school despite it not being in the bible (the word hell is but that is mistranslation of ghenna and other Hebrew words).

          October 5, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
      • MM

        See, this is an opinion that deserves no respect.

        October 5, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
        • Bet

          Exactly> Once someone introduces their politics into comments, it's downhill from there.

          October 6, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
  3. Matt

    you forgot the classic neo-nazi in your article.

    October 5, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • lagergeld

      As well as "progressives" and similar. One of the biggest groups of angry people who recoil in horror at science they don't like is secular progressive liberals.

      October 5, 2013 at 10:43 am |
      • MM

        [citation needed]

        October 5, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
      • Bet

        You have GOT to be kidding. Is it opposite day here, lagergeld?

        October 6, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
  4. lagergeld

    Amusing article; I've seen much of this myself. Indeed, the media are prolific in doing it – including CNN – especially on matters of race. Anyone who deviates from the mythological doctrine of equality is met with condemnations and hateful labels, even if they present decades of valid scientific research on the topic of global IQ averages.

    Of course, unsurprisingly, CNN only sees fit to keep the discussion within narrow ideological boundaries that do not hurt liberal feelers, such as religion.

    October 5, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • NorthWestPundit

      Asians are smarter in the sciences than white people. Get over it.

      October 5, 2013 at 9:52 am |
      • lagergeld

        "Asian" isn't a race, and you're only referring to northeast Asians, as southeast Asians have an average IQ substantially lower than whites. If northeast Asians are better at science, then I would like you to explain why the technology flow is west to east.

        October 5, 2013 at 10:49 am |
        • Rett

          Are there studies that have been done to compare IQ's of different regions? Can you point me to your source? I would be interested in reading it. We adopted my middle child from China when she was 13 months old and she has proven to fit the stereotype of the Chinese....brilliant in math.....when she gets bored she does long division for fun and has for years....i have always been amazed at that because her tendency toward math is certainly not environmental.....she was not in China long enough for that environment to have much effect on her and my math track record is abysmal as is my biological kids.....so, my question is, Is there scientific studies that show that Eastern and northern asians are intellectually superior or is it just a stereotype based on select observations?

          October 5, 2013 at 11:52 am |
  5. RTend

    I thought it interesting that you recommend atheists "get beyond the stereotypes and actually spend time with a person of faith." Seriously? We're so vastly outnumbered, it's not like we have a choice – especially here in the bible belt. I've been surrounded by theists my whole life, having a religion I knew was false shoved down my throat, as has every other atheist I know. Why do you think we're so angry? We would be inclined to live and let live, but theism is forced on us from all sides and it's oppressive. After 40 years of this, I still think believing in a god is a sign that someone is weak and easily duped. I accept this in the same way I accept friends who believe in psychics, wish on stars, buy products from infomercials, or think they've seen a ghost – just like I expect them to accept my occasional delusion that I may win the lottery. But sometimes it is tempting to go online and be completely honest in what I think, because I sure can't be that way in real life.

    October 5, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Henry

      Agreed 100%

      October 5, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • cowabunga

      okay.

      October 5, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • Trying

      I hear you. At 18 I determined that I no longer believed (and after a year at a Bible college no less). For the next ten years I was a staunch agnostic. (I always refused the label atheist as it seemed to me as much a statement of faith.) As you suggest, during this time I had many almost universally disappointing encounters with believers. This isn't the place for a 'testimony' so I'll just report that I chose a decade later to again believe. It was and is a difficult choice as i particularly love reason. (I'm an academic economist.) I only share this so you'll know that there is one believer out there who completely understands where you're coming from and respects you. But I also hope you'll forgive me if I pray that God might give you a nudge the other way sometime. Oh and by the way, I also play the lottery knowing I have no chance of winning : ) your friend, Steve

      October 5, 2013 at 10:34 am |
      • Rett

        Steve, i read your post with interest. I am curious.....was your original departure from faith based on a negative experience with professing believers? I know you said this was not a place for testimonies but i am very curious about the path that led back to faith and why you stated that it was hard since you value reason. Do you find your faith to be unreasonable? I am a christian, just so you know, but your post intrigued me. Thanks for sharing.

        October 5, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
        • Trying

          I suppose yes and no. Certainly I became jaded by the particularly un-Christian (i.e. un-compassionate, self-absorbed, etc) behavior of the students at the bible college. But I believe even then I could discern the distinction between the messenger and the message. What probably did the most harm were the apologetics lectures. They left me with the mis-guided notion that faith had to be built upon reason. And, please excuse my own pride, but I found the arguments presented very lacking. Only when I much later discovered that faith is a choice and a gift rather than a conclusion was I able to begin rebuilding my own – a work still in progress another 20 years later.

          October 5, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
        • Rett

          Thanks for sharing. I can certainly understand your point about faith not being based on reason, at least not human logic. Even the scriptures teach that foolish things were used to confound the wise and that the teaching about the cross was foolishness to some and a stumbling block to others....i take that as an indicator of how that teaching flies against human logic. It is completely logical and consistent with God's character as revealed in scripture, in my opinion, but it sure does go contrary to human reasoning. Anyhow, I hope your journey has brought you to place of peace of mind. Thanks again for sharing.

          October 5, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
        • nclaw441

          Rett and Trying–
          What a great discussion, both form and substance. The whole question of the nature of faith does not, in my view, receive nearly enough attention. I hear and read of people changing their faith, losing their faith, converting to another faith, etc. I don't think faith is subject to being "chosen" or even reasoned out, by its very nature. I do believe it is borne of inquiry and introspection, but ultimately it is a matter of personal revelation. As Romans 2:8 states "... it is the gift of God..." Those who think that they "choose" to believe are missing something along the way– in my lowly view.

          October 5, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
      • Mike

        Awesome Steve, just awesome! I'm only 23, so I don't have much life experience, but I grew up going to church, and stopped when I was around 12. When I turned 16, I started to doubt all of it. By the time I was almost 17, I stopped believing completely. The next 6 months were awful, I just felt like something was missing in my life. I started reading the Bible again, speaking to family about it, and realized that God was the one thing I was missing in my life. I haven't looked back since. It's funny how God can let you go, only to do something to bring you back again.

        October 5, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • Rett

      Rtend, i am sorry about your negative experience with Christians but am curious about how they shove christianity down your throat. Also, even though you view religious belief of the same ilk as psychics etc.....you have to admit some brilliant people have been believers in what many refer to as fairy tales.....

      October 5, 2013 at 11:42 am |
      • ishkabidle

        Hmm, "How they shove...?" For an example, my senior year in high school I lived with my grandmother in Alabama. My 'rent' for staying with her was having to go to a Christian church every Sunday despite my lack of belief. Being a non-believer (although I never brought it up in company) at a church almost got me pounded into the ground when the quarterback got drunk and decided to express himself all over me. Just because I never said, "under god" in the pledge of allegiance (the original version until the Soviets inspired reactionary revision).

        October 5, 2013 at 11:52 am |
        • Rett

          Your example of having religion thrust down your throat is a drunk dude abusing you....and grandma making you go to church as a teenager?

          October 5, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
      • Arthur Bryant

        Spent a bunch of years in a literally one-stoplight town in Oklahoma. We were subtly but unmistakeably ostracized because it was obvious were were not believers. In this town, if Halloween fell on a Wednesday, they would actually MOVE it to the previous or the following day since, to them, Wednesdays were as religiously significant as Sundays. The only reason our exclusion from what passed for society there was subtle is the fact that we had money. My experience of believers in my nearly 62 years of life has rarely – if ever – been a positive one. And if changing around holidays isn't "shoving it down your throat", I don't know what is. By the way, when they did so, no one informed us that it was being done.

        October 6, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
        • Trevor

          Sure hope that what seems to be your unbelief wasn't dictacted by fallable humans... Your negative view of relationship and belief in God shouldn't be dictated by other people... BTW, there obviously were "positive" experiences with people of genuine faith, what did you do with that experience?

          October 10, 2013 at 11:02 am |
    • GetFiddle Man

      RTend, you are a true friend. You have clearly explained the heart of it. I hope some of those god-fearing souls out there will read your piece and maybe begin to understand the bible-belt insanity brigade.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Mike

      LOL. a Religion you KNOW is false. Okay, give me 100% proof that Christianity is BS. Another one that shoudl have been added to this article are those atheists who say they know for a fact religion is a bunch of BS but yet never give any evidence. I'll say it this way, there is no way you can prove to a 100% fact religion is BS, nor can I prove to 100% fact that it's all the truth. So instead of saying we know that something is fake, or saying something is the truth, why don't we say "the religion I BELIEVE is fake, or the religion is BELIEVE is truth. Instead of goign around acting like you know all, which you don't, trust me, just say the religion you believe isn't real. Instead of saying you KNOW it isn't real. You don't have proof, therefore can't say its not real. You believe it's not real in your mind, unless you have proof that it's not real, and 100% proof, don't say you KNOW it's not real. I really dislike atheists like this, and atheists who think they know more about my religion then I do. If I had my way, if what I believe is the truth, I wouldn't mind sharing heaven with everyone regardless of what they believe. Maybe they have to live in a part of heaven that's like the inner city and the believers would live in the suburbs. Just as a punishment for not believing, but in reality, I believe if you don't believe, you'll be a slave for the rest of your life.And if you say Christians are slaves, you're wrong. Slaves have NO say in what they do. We CHOSE to believe this, we weren't forced to believe this. Look at the people who say they're christians, most drink, all the time, cheat on their spouses, and lie. If all of us who believed were slaves to our religion, we wouldn't be doing all of the stuff our religion tells us not to do. Atheists want proof, so they throw out scientific proof, but yet don't use logic at all in their arguments. Sometimes logic, and common sense are worth far more then science. I mean, hasn't science been wrong many times? Yeah, thought so.

      I'm done. Bye guys and girls.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
      • Robert

        1) You can't prove a negative ... so I cannot disprove a fantasy.

        2) I can offer numerous things that disproves tenets of religion of the year.

        3) You cannot offer even one shred of evidence for anything in religion that is "godly"

        October 5, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
        • nclaw441

          Calling something a fantasy does not make it one. Any honest Christian ought to confess that what he/she believes is a matter of faith, not proof.

          October 5, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
        • Robert

          Which pretty much makes it fiction .. a fantasy ... something imagined, not real.

          October 5, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
      • Adam C

        If you watch a magician palm a coin, and then he "magically" makes it appear from someone's ear, do you know 100% that the trick is not magic? Perhaps not, maybe the coin disappears and reappears as the magician moves his hands around. But most people would agree, based on the life experiences, knowledge of physics, common sense, etc., that the magician tricked the audience.

        The same is with religion. When you study history and you see all of the religions that have been on this planet before Christianity, you begin to realize that Christianity is simply more of the same. Primitive man's way of explaining things that they do not understand. As science shines a brighter and brighter light, the things man cannot explain gets smaller, and thus there is less room or need for religion.

        October 7, 2013 at 11:55 am |
  6. Fred Evil

    I have at times been most of these characters. And likely will again.
    Throwing Holy Hand Grenades is too much fun for non-believers. We've been vilified and oppressed for so long, a little turnabout feels like fair play. Though childish, I must admit.

    October 5, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • lagergeld

      How are nonbelievers vilified let alone oppressed? This isn't the Dark Ages. Are you having delusions of persecution or are you so thin-skinned that you interpret disagreement with oppression, like so many modern liberals do?

      I'm not a Christian, but on rare occasion when told I'm going to hell in a religion discussion, I'm certainly not so braindead and spineless that I cry that I am being persecuted. Gimme a break already. Also, your projecting your hostility on innocent people because some guy in your memory hurt your feelings is a call for a visit to the psychiatrist.

      October 5, 2013 at 9:45 am |
      • Fred Evil

        "How are nonbelievers vilified let alone oppressed?"
        I can only assume you've lived under a rock the majority of your life, or you're under 20, and the freedom of the internet seems commonplace to you.
        Spare us the silly attempt at internet psychoanalysis, you only make yourself look foolish.

        October 5, 2013 at 9:57 am |
        • lagergeld

          Good morning Fred. I'm a 43 year old woman. Unfortunately, ad hominem is not a response so perhaps you may wish to rewrite your comments into something that can be responded to?

          October 5, 2013 at 10:50 am |
        • Fred Evil

          Odd that you demand an ad hominem-free response considering your initial post was nothing but, I take it hypocrisy is your SOP?

          October 5, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
      • LivinginVA

        Try running for political office in one of the two major parties and telling people you are an atheist.

        October 5, 2013 at 9:59 am |
        • lagergeld

          People do it and have won office.

          October 5, 2013 at 10:51 am |
        • RyanWI

          People not wanting to vote for you isn't what I would call "persecution." The simple fact of the matter is that people want to vote for someone who represents their views. If the vast majority of an electorate is Christian, they are going to tend to vote for Christians. In a given congressional district with 80% Democrat voters I wouldn't say a Republican candidate who was defeated was being "persecuted" by the Democrats.

          A better example of atheists being persecuted in the US would be that they didn't have access to public ground for "religious" holiday displays until quite recently. This isn't a specifically Christian failing though. All belief systems tend to suppress others if given a sufficient level of majority in democracies, or a level of power in autocracies. The atheists who controlled the Soviet Union certainly oppressed religious people. Many Muslim nations have seen minority sects oppress the majority when they found themselves in power. Iraq is a recent example. Catholics oppressed Protestants early on during the reformation. When Protestants took power, they oppressed Catholics just a brutally.

          October 5, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • snowboarder

      "and the number shall be three"

      October 5, 2013 at 9:48 am |
  7. Jesus Christ Son of God

    Allright, enough is enough. Everyone needs to quit giving these pea brained moronic believers a hard time.

    October 5, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • The Brutal Truth

      Make yo a deal–I'll stop attacking them when they stop thrusting their religion into my bedroom, legislation, shopping malls, and face.

      LOL! Pretty much guaranteed I will never need to change my behavior, eh?

      October 5, 2013 at 9:46 am |
      • Jesus Christ Son of God

        Peace. I was kidding. These sheeple should all be put on crosses and then burned on it. Will get them started to heaven a little sooner.

        October 5, 2013 at 9:47 am |
        • The Brutal Truth

          While I can agree it is what they have earned by their actions, wouldn't that make us as bad as them?

          I don't want to kill them, I just want them to learn that those of us who don't adhere to their religion don't need it forced upon us–especially via the legislature.

          They want to stand on some street corner and act like fools by telling everyone how anyone not with them is going straight into the Pit, I applaud that... Makes it easier for people to see their true nature.

          October 5, 2013 at 9:56 am |
        • GetFiddle Man

          In case you really are Jesus Christ Son of God, I just want to say here that I am sorry about all the things I said about not believing in God. Please forgive me. Up to this point I have not been a man of faith, but now I am. Thank you for finally showing up. I do have just one question, though, if you would permit me. After all these years of hiding out, you and God, why do you now show up still hiding out behind the anonymity of a blog? Can't you and God just show up, put it all out there and get it over with, for God's sake? Oh, sorry, I mean for mankind's sake.

          October 5, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • cowabunga

      hahahha – aww – wonder what you feel when all by yourself – in your room – door closed – sitting alone in the dark/quiet? Do you have peace? Joy? Feel loved? Or maybe fear – loneliness – ANXIETY (oh oh) – and depression (wah wah poor baby.

      October 5, 2013 at 10:14 am |
  8. Coolius Caesar

    All hail our dark lord Satan!

    October 5, 2013 at 9:40 am |
  9. Wildmangreen

    The only problem with this article is that it proves beyond any doubt that anyone who is a believer is a moron and incapable of understanding e ultimate assinity of views like yours.

    October 5, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • Jesus Christ Son of God

      Wildman speaks the truth. Can you sheeple even read? Not sure, because I know you can't think for yourselves.

      October 5, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    •  Butthead

      Wildman said assinity.. huh huh huh huh

      October 5, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • lagergeld

      Wildmangreen, do you really think CNN would publish an article otherwise?

      October 5, 2013 at 9:47 am |
  10. Get Real

    The truth:

    God is imaginary.

    Believing in god is like having a make-believe friend.

    October 5, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • Bob the Builder 45

      What would you call perpetually and actively being offended that someone else has a "make believe friend"?

      October 5, 2013 at 9:40 am |
      • The Brutal Truth

        If they tried to force the ramblings of their imaginary friend into every aspect of other people's lives, I'd call the people offended by that, "normal".

        October 5, 2013 at 9:47 am |
      • CoolCMo

        We are not offended that you have an "imaginary friend." We are annoyed and outraged that you and your cohort attempt to use secular legal systems to enforce the bizarre mandates the voices in your heads issue.

        October 5, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • lagergeld

      You can no more prove God doesn't exist than religious people can he does. Thus, if you're going to mock them for their belief, you condemn yourself, because you have no more proof than they do.

      October 5, 2013 at 9:53 am |
      • Phil the monster

        Exactly! When you go back far enough (to the origin of man or the universe) both theist & non-theist have to take their theories on faith. I find it ironic that many non-theists that post believe science is infallible, when in reality, there are exceptions to many of the "Laws" in science. However, theists need not be ignorant of science either. For example; while I would disagree with macro-evolution, micro-evolution happens in nature just by "survival of the fittest".

        October 5, 2013 at 10:16 am |
        • lagergeld

          Non-theists don't really believe in science, anyway. Their progressive philosophy is #1, science a far 2nd and even only then as long as it doesn't violate their religion of progressivism.

          October 5, 2013 at 11:10 am |
      • a reasonable atheist

        That's why I mock aunicornists.

        October 5, 2013 at 11:18 am |
      • Realist

        ............

        The Judeo-Christian-Islamic ...

        ........ http://www.GODisIMAGINARY.com ..........

        ... and thank goodness because he emanates from the ...

        ....... http://www.EVILbible.com

        .............

        October 5, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
  11. Henry

    Yo mamma... Just kidding. Online comment sections are usually used to experiment with anonymous name calling and arguments... Most of these people wuld likely not be like this in front os a real person... most.

    October 5, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • Bob the Builder 45

      this is true.

      October 5, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • Bob the Builder 45

      ... I bet your name isn't Henry, is it!?!

      October 5, 2013 at 9:38 am |
      • Henry

        Actually it is. Nice to meet you Bob Builder.

        October 5, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • Kris

      Most. But the ugly written word is crossing a line of what was always considered acceptable behavior. One thing I've learned over the years is that once a line is crossed, it becomes easier to cross again (and the fact that it was crossed can never really be forgotten. Acts can't be undone.) If the outcome of cross the line seems acceptable, which can happen if it is met with an equivalent comment, or if the writer enjoys the fray that he/she creates (and, potentially, a sense of power that goes with generating an emotional response from someone else; or a sense of self-worth from putting down someone else), it is easier to cross the line again. Does crossing a line in print make it easier to cross another line, such as verbal? I think so. The impact can be to increase the divide of the "us" vs "they" that is permeating our nation. Do I think this is caused by message boards? Of course not. Do I think message boards, anonymous message boards, where this appears to be acceptable behavior contribute to this divide, this name=calling and this unwillingness to accept either the potential for areas of agreement, or the need to compromise? yes.

      October 5, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • lagergeld

      In my experience, people resort to namecalling when they cannot keep up in a discussion and have run out of intellectual ammunition, assuming they ever had any to begin with. And frankly, some people use ad homninem as a staple because they believe in a plethora of things they cannot substantiate or explain. In other words, they have low IQs.

      October 5, 2013 at 9:54 am |
      • Bet

        You are quite convinced of your superiority, aren't you?

        October 6, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
  12. Chris

    And it appears midwest rail is "the provoker"...

    October 5, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • midwest rail

      You could very well be right, Chris – does that change the accuracy of my original post ?

      October 5, 2013 at 9:34 am |
  13. Bob the Builder 45

    Most Christians I know are smart enough to not argue religion online, like every other religion.

    You know what they say about arguing on the internet, right?

    October 5, 2013 at 9:31 am |
  14. Sane Person

    Nuh uh. Cause god said so.

    October 5, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • lagergeld

      I'm an agnostic, however it's more logical to put stock in an ancient religion than it is a secular political movement.

      October 5, 2013 at 10:09 am |
      • Bet

        You are quite wrong in your assertion that progressives are not religious. Many are.

        October 6, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
  15. Jesus Christ Son of God

    You sheeple need a story to help you get thru the day? God made me do this, so what is the problem? Are you questioning your god? I can understand, because I question the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, many others...

    October 5, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • Faith isn't a Preacher

      You make my point.

      October 5, 2013 at 9:30 am |
  16. The Brutal Truth

    Maybe we are sick of 2,000 years of religious intolerance by Christians.

    Maybe we are sick of them doing whatever they can to try and keep the Dark Ages via their fairy tales in our legislation.

    Maybe we are sick of them smugly telling us *our* religious beliefs are wrong.

    Christians want to be treated better? They need to act better. A LOT better. For a LONG time.

    They have a lot of crimes and hate directed at us to atone for before we will give them the benefit of the doubt..

    October 5, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • The Brutal Truth

      PS. Systematically molesting thousands of children and then protecting the abuses against prosecution was not a good start.

      October 5, 2013 at 9:33 am |
      • Faith isn't a Preacher

        And thank goodness it isn't the State Religion and gets a pass.

        Consequences are being meted out. Justice can still be had when groups are subject to Laws and Regulations that demand that the people be let be. Trouble is that the Statist Social Doctrine is getting a pass on being held accountable.

        October 5, 2013 at 9:39 am |
      • lagergeld

        Wow Brutal. Blaming a whole group for the behavior for a small percentage of perverts secret behavior and the poor handling of their behavior by some leadership....

        Look at black crime rates and apply you logic there. I DARE YOU.

        October 5, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
        • Bet

          He was only blaming the heirarchy, not the congregants. Wow, you leap to amazing conclusions.

          October 6, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
    • Bob the Builder 45

      I actually agree with this.

      However, there are a lot of good people doing a lot of good work around the world that I think you'd group into this statement. It's almost like saying every Muslim is a terrorist, which most people (Sans Fox News) know to not be true.

      October 5, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • Faith isn't a Preacher

      Now we're accepting the imposition of the Social Doctrine of the Governing Elite? (For example the ACA. And Morsi's attempt to impose Sharia; Even Turkey is being besieged by an imposition of a Caliphate.).

      October 5, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • BLAKE

      Brutal truth is Jesus died for our sins and whether you agree or disagree you will be judged one day. Simply casting what Jesus did out and saying you don't believe does not exclude you or anyone else.

      October 5, 2013 at 9:44 am |
      • The Brutal Truth

        There you have it.

        And you wonder why we hate them???

        October 5, 2013 at 9:48 am |
      • CoolCMo

        The "brutal truth" is that the Jesus of your belief system is a complete myth derived from previous mythologies. There was no "historical Jesus" and even the "biblical Jesus" is a complete work of fiction.

        October 5, 2013 at 9:57 am |
      • Soapy Smith

        Nobody is meaner than someone being mean for jesus.

        October 5, 2013 at 11:18 am |
    • lagergeld

      But you secular liberals do the same exact thing. That you only rail about Christians doing it indeed tells me you are a secular liberal. One way street morality is a huge giveaway.

      October 5, 2013 at 10:12 am |
      • Bet

        Wow Brutal. Blaming a whole group for the behavior for a small percentage of some people's behavior....all because you have a different political view. You are every bit as bad as those you seek to undermine.

        October 6, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
  17. Faith isn't a Preacher

    Why argue.
    Be mutually respectful.

    The problem is Social Supremacy and a lack of Civility.

    October 5, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • The Brutal Truth

      Sure, Christians have killed, tortured,and legislated in the name of their fictional god for 2,000 years, and now that *they* are on the decline, they want civility and respect.

      Maybe in 2,000 years we will give it to them.

      October 5, 2013 at 9:31 am |
      • Faith isn't a Preacher

        And your threats and ridicule is any better?

        October 5, 2013 at 9:34 am |
        • The Brutal Truth

          Better than all the murders done in the name of Jesus? Better than the torture? Better than trying to force everyone to believe and act as they do?

          Do I even have to dignify your question with a pile of dog doo?

          October 5, 2013 at 9:50 am |
      • lagergeld

        Brutal, you have a serious issue of misplaced hostility, celebrating the weird idea of attacking those of a group today for the actions of those of a group hundreds of years ago. Keep it up and you'll be eternally angry.

        October 5, 2013 at 10:36 am |
        • Bet

          I don't know....you seem awfully angry at the progressives. You do realize that the US is a SECULAR country, right?

          October 6, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
    • Bob the Builder 45

      I agree, people should learn how to disagree on something and not a) Feel threatened and b) respect the other person.

      October 5, 2013 at 9:34 am |
      • The Brutal Truth

        Christians first.

        October 5, 2013 at 9:51 am |
        • lagergeld

          Mr. Angry, why Christians first?

          October 5, 2013 at 10:36 am |
  18. trollol

    Wow, such a long article about trolling. It just shows how big of a joke religion is.

    October 5, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • joejeffrey

      Wow, I'm impressed. A guy writes a column about how to have a conversation, instead of throwing ink-filled balloon fights between pro- and anti-religion fanatics, and you respond with a balloon! (And BTW, I'm not religious in any way.) Aren't you embarrassed?

      October 5, 2013 at 9:34 am |
      • trollol

        You, sir, are participating in the trolling event. Congrats.

        October 5, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • chadwulf

      Yo Mama

      October 5, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Brandyjack

      Faith is a matter of faith, an individual decision to believe or not believe. Religion is the dogma, theology, rites and rituals that develop from faith. Throwing salt over the shoulder is demonstrating faith, to avoid bad luck, by performing a ritual. Once, you get beyond the physical, i.e. religion, there is only faith and what each person thinks and believes. There the realm is smaller, stuck on love an hate, correct and wrong, good and bad; and how the individual feels about it. Brandyjack is a Unitarian Universalist. All who believe that the effort to recognize and do good for self and others is a way, are welcome.

      October 5, 2013 at 9:51 am |
      • doobzz

        "Faith is a matter of faith"

        Thanks for clearing that up.

        October 5, 2013 at 10:39 am |
      • nclaw441

        Brandy, I don't believe faith is a choice. Romans 2:8 says it is a gift of God...

        October 5, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
    • lagergeld

      How's that for a whopper of a case of hostile attributional bias? Namecalling is done by people of all beliefs. You know this, right? Thus, what does it have to do with religion in specific?

      October 5, 2013 at 10:37 am |
      • Bet

        What do secular progessives have to do with religion? Yet you persist in bringing them up.

        October 6, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
  19. Frank

    The Street Corner Prophet
    People posting have abused another person's screen name, the most commonly abused handle is "Heaven Sent". The original "Heaven Sent" is not an atheist. Any reference to an over zealous post is obviously an atheist trying to put words into the mouth of a believer. The words "feed off your fat drippings in hell" is a dead giveaway of the "Heaven Sent" imposter.

    October 5, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • MercuryCrest

      "Any reference to an over zealous post is obviously an atheist trying to put words into the mouth of a believer."

      Right. Because "Christians" can do no wrong, are never condescending, and, in fact, aren't even judgmental in the slightest. Ah, I get it now.

      Everyone, anything bad sad about anyone is the fault of some evil, Bible-denouncing atheist. You can all relax now.

      /sarcasm

      October 5, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • Beltline

      Wow!

      What a true representation of atheists.
      a
      Every single one of those categories singled out with "snippets" of conversation is a perfect caricature of atheists posting here.

      October 5, 2013 at 9:40 am |
      • Freud Canton

        Finally, atheists have been represented well!

        😉

        October 5, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • snowboarder

      oh no. we've read the real heavensents posts. that dude is nuts.

      October 5, 2013 at 9:44 am |
      • Colin

        I got the imprssion he was a she. I crazy old lady.

        October 5, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • Rick

      John Blake you have been punked!!!

      You quoted a post by phony HeavenSent.

      October 5, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • Bet

      You would be wrong. I remember when she said that, after she posted the appropriate Bible verse. She was speaking to TTTPS, I believe. Oh, no, Frank: it was her. And if you're going to talk about name-stealers, talk about faith, who stole Meredith's name to bash atheists...and Meredith is a Christian 9/11 widow, but that didn't stop faith hhaari tex and all of her other names.

      I know the HS imposter you're talking about, and that wasn't him. It was the real deal.

      October 6, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
  20. midwest rail

    Are you genuinely THAT unfamiliar with what is going on in your own comments section ? You have posters who freely admit to using multiple names, hijacking other poster's screen names, and nothing is ever done. Is it really that difficult to prevent those kinds of abuses on your comments section ? Good grief, talk about clueless...

    October 5, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • nergal

      Hello, I'm from the internet. You must be new here. That's ok. Here let me show you how to internet.

      October 5, 2013 at 9:53 am |
      • Trying

        Thanks Nergal. That's great!

        October 5, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • Bet

      We need a registration system/passward accounts. This is garbage. I don't know any other site that allows this, but then I'm not on many other sites...

      October 6, 2013 at 9:59 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.