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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. StageRip

    I apologize for this but I honestly think CNN and religion should separate itself. CNN doesn't know shot about religion so why are they posting it? if you are butthurt due to comments it just goes to show how pathetic CNN really is. If they are trying to be funny this same analogy was made several years ago in MEME form. Please CNN go fork off.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
  2. Jacquelynn

    Sometimes, a troll is just a troll. Some people like stirring controversy, and where better than a comments section on religion? They may or may not really believe what they are posting; the goal is not to share an opinion, but to be confrontational and sit back to watch the fireworks.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
  3. Been There Done That

    Clarity calls out the ignorance for what it is. Ignorance is afraid, and is trying desperately to hide that from others. I don't see the need to "argue any facet of religion". But I do see the need for an accurate and honest assessment of what's really going on when one person states their thought or feeling or belief, only to be fried alive by an attack troll. Being blind-sided or meanly bullied, comes from a source that is clear as day.
    Being desperate to distract yourself from those God Awful THOUGHTS AND FEELING THAT WON'T GO AWAY on their own, is a description of long term undiagnosed clinical depression.
    Not facing that fact of your existence, but treating depression, by willfully ignoring it's affects on your person, is being immersed in the stew of your own making. Of COURSE there's temporary relief if you pick on some poor sap who's all sincere and isn't suffering like you are. Of COURSE you stop feeling the pressure of being a failure to yourself by distracting yourself when you eviscerate someone you never need account to. THEY are ONLY the release from pain, you give yourself, so they mean nothing. But, man do you carry the weight of that memory, and need to be that ciber bully more and more don't you? Until you get a clue and grow the strength to face the fact, that you are held hostage by a disease unlike any other ... and quit fooling around with trying to HANDLE it by ignoring it, or pretending nothing's wrong YOU can't handle, until then ... your ARE the problem, and not even trying to be pert of the solution for humanity.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
  4. MrLogicMan

    Son: "Dad, why did God make people?"
    Dad: "So that He could torture most of them in hellfire for all eternity."
    Son: "But why would he do that?"
    Dad: "Because he wants us to love his son."
    Son: "Who is His Son?
    Dad: "He is His own Son."

    October 5, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • chiefsadler

      When your logic is based on faulty logic you heard from people that are faulty, it leads you to post comments that are faulty – everything, and I mean everything, you said was faulty because you haven't done any real research into the matter. I'd recommend that you study a few different religions before your generalize you comments on all religions. God does not want to torture us, He doesn't torture us because he wants us to believe in His Son, and He is definitely not His own Son.

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

        no research you say? let's see, the bible says the holy trinity(God, jesus, the holy ghost) is three but one, meaning jesus is god, and vice versa. an omnipotent all knowing creator would know that if he created humans he would one day decide to burn most of them in hellfire. and the bible just goes on and on about how we should love jesus.

        So tell me, where is the fault in my logic?

        October 5, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
        • Topher

          MrLogicMan

          "let's see, the bible says the holy trinity(God, jesus, the holy ghost) is three but one, meaning jesus is god, and vice versa."

          Yep.

          "Dad: "So that He could torture most of them in hellfire for all eternity.""

          No. Not even close.

          ""Because he wants us to love his son.""

          True, but that's not why people go to Hell. They go because they deserve to be punished for breaking His laws.

          "Dad: "He is His own Son.""

          No. Jesus is not the offspring of God. "The Son" is a ti.tle that represents the role of the person in the Godhead.

          "an omnipotent all knowing creator would know that if he created humans he would one day decide to burn most of them in hellfire."

          There's a problem with your theology here. God didn't "one day decide" give people the punishment they deserve. It's only just that He do that and was part of the plan all along. But it was also part of the plan all along to send Christ to pay our fines so that we don't have to go to Hell. He's glorified for giving people what they deserve, and He's glorified for saving those who doesn't deserve to be saved.

          "and the bible just goes on and on about how we should love jesus. "

          Of course we should! How can you not love someone who would die for you?!

          October 5, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
        • chiefsadler

          Yes, no research, and you didn't even bother rereading your post b4 reposting as I can tell from your response. But that aside, your fault is that you don’t have a clue about what you are talking about. It would be like me talking about quantum physics because I took physics in High School once but didn't learn anything about it since. The Bible does not say that the holy trinity is three but one. In fact it doesn't mention the Trinity at all. That is a term that was created years after the Biblical prophets were all dead. I can’t do your research for you though. You won’t believe anything I write anyways. However, if you decide you want to educate yourself on what you've attempted to make fun of, read John chapter 17 a few times, the whole thing, but paying special attention to verses 11, 20 – 23. As to your 2nd and 3rd comments on your recent post, sorry to say but we haven’t got the time here, nor do appear to really care, to go over them…

          October 5, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • Moogirl

      Well, you're half right.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • southernsuga

      Nice reply.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
  5. Scott

    Haha, some people must have just skipped reading the article and gone right to the comment section to start throwing haymakers. Loved the article John, very thoughtful and well written, accepting of both view points and focusing on the positives of each type of person. Well done!

    October 5, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
  6. dianetrotter

    Hey! I like this article. I prejudged it but am glad I read it.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
  7. Jesus Christ Son of God

    I went to work out, gone for an hour or so. Did I miss anything? Did Jesus come back? Did any of the sheeple receive a brain?

    October 5, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
  8. Atheist

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slKULc8W7lM&w=640&h=360]

    October 5, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
  9. chiefsadler

    Sir – excellent article. It is something I've been thinking about for some time now. It is really too bad how anonymity breeds disrespect. Too many people, that purport to be pious, can't see that their behavior will be called into question when they are before the judgment bar of the God they worship.

    I admit when I was much younger that I sometimes could not see/accept the points of anyone that had a view that opposed mine. I am thankful now that I can see their points (even if I don't agree with all of them) and have come to better understand my religion by talking to others – even others that I had considered very different from my religion. I’ve even changed my belief by talking to others, realizing that what they helped me to understand was actually what my religion believed – I just hadn't understood the principle fully until talking deeply with my friends of other faiths.

    The more I see it, the more I think that religious differences are just an excuse to have us vent our life’s frustrations and help us feel holier than thou – and a temptation from Satan to bring us even further away from the helping influence of the Holy Spirit and the faith we believe in. Having compared the views of various Evangelical Christians, Baptists, Mormons, Catholics, Jehovah Witnesses, and yes, even Muslims when I was stationed in Muslim-dominated countries, I was quite surprised how similar all our beliefs were and the differences, with the exception of the Islamic view of Christ being only a prophet, were not that big – and certainly not big enough to bring myself further away from God by allowing hate speech to be the order of the day. We don’t have to change our beliefs by talking to others, but we will never be able to understand them as a person, and possibly help them if they need it, until we come to know their religion – which for some people is part of who they are.

    Oh, and if you email me John, I will get back to you…  I find it quite strange that people who would put comments into this forum wouldn't want to converse about their views outside the forum…quite strange….

    October 5, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • Jesus Christ Son of God

      If I wanted to read a book, I would pick up the bible. Sheeple don't have brains, so there is no way they will be able to read this work.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
      • chiefsadler

        Do you write so fast in order to troll as much as possible? You made absolutely no sense... And using names like "sheeple" do you think that helps your argument? I'd argue that it makes you sound uneducated and looking to annoy/offend, which means you won't be taken seriously, proving that if you did read the article, it was a waste of your time as you didn't get it and your trolling comments were a waste of your time and mine.

        October 5, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
  10. nlg

    The same kind of banter ensues in the political arena as well. Using words like ignorant, unfounded, dumb, etc... to describe someone else's beliefs is combative. In the spiritual arena, Many people (like myself) have experienced a dramatic change in perspective through belief in a deity that becomes their personal truth and they want to share it with others with altruistic intent. Some people who hold these same beliefs feel that they are right and everybody else is wrong; making sure that they express this in every online dialogue they participate in. Again....this is characteristic in the political arena. In either if these arenas, trolls incite tumultuous emotions and adolescent behavior reminiscent of babies pounding on their highchair tables when someone disagrees with them. I have noticed lately that the comment sections are being censored with a high frequency. I wonder how this is influencing the dialogue du jour. While I admit that I have been quite offended by some of the comments made in these "religious" discussions, I feel that people should not be censored as this hinders the ability to study the behavior of others; especially with regard to the relative anonymity that the internet provides. I quite enjoyed this article and was interested in the categories that the author placed on discussion participants; although I do not think all of these are "trolls". I also agree that the lack of face-to-face dialogue facilitates people to say things and express themselves in ways that they would not dare en vivo. I enjoy reading both political and religious discussions, but find myself hesitant in "jumping in" to the conversations as my emotions fluctuate with the degree of incendiary comments made. Past generations have said that politics and religion are subjects that people should steer away from in friendly conversation.....I concur.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
  11. allenwoll

    "It’s too bad that many of the exchanges between atheists and people of faith . . . . . "
    .
    Neither Theists nor Atheists have ANY backing at all EXCEPT for their FAITH in their ideas.
    .
    Therefore, Atheists are ALSO "people of faith" !

    October 5, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • Chris m

      "neither Theists nor Atheists have ANY backing at all EXCEPT for their FAITH in their ideas."

      Nope, Theism is the "faith based idea" and atheism is a rejection of that. It takes faith to not believe in unsubstantiated god claims like it takes faith to not believe in unsubstantiated Dragon claims.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • Bob LaMonta

      Thank you, but no. This is perhaps the most widespread and fallacious comment aimed at atheists, and it shows up in every comment section. Let's all be clear: The lack of a thing is not itself that thing. The absence of faith is not faith. Period.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
      • Daniel

        Hi Bob,

        I think the point is this:

        The absence of faith in God does not prove that God does not exist. Nor does faith in God prove that God does exist. That's why people say you need faith regardless of whether you accept or deny God's existence. It may not fit the grid of perfect logic, but it does make sense.

        October 5, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • Maxwell's Demon

      What faith is required to not believe in something that has no evidence for it?

      October 5, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
  12. Religion is dangerous for little boy's butts

    The author can't possibly be talking about the CNN religious blog.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
  13. Moogirl

    I believe in God, I believe Jesus is His Son, I believe the Bible is the word of God. My beliefs are not based fairy tales but on personal experiences. I am neither weak-minded nor in need of a crutch.

    I am, however, an imperfect human being, capable of human emotions and, dare I say it, being wrong. I don’t, however, believe I’m wrong in my faith in God.

    But “Christians” make me tired. If I were to base my beliefs on my fellow Christians’ actions, I too would be an atheist. “Christians” are some of the meanest, most hateful, judgmental people in the world. I know, I rub shoulders with them every day.

    This does not affect my faith in God, just my faith in people.

    Please stop basing your faith in God (or lack thereof) on the behaviors or actions of so-called Christians. People are people and we all have the ability to bring forth good and evil. Every group/religion/political party/family has members that are an embarrassment and give the rest of us a bad name.

    I find it impossible to defend some of the things that are now, and have in the past, been done in the name in the name of God and Christianity. But I know what is going on and why.

    So I put one foot in front of the other one. I pray. I try to be a better person and forgive myself and others when we fail. If you are a decent person and you don’t purposely do evil and hurt others, you can be my friend, regardless of your religious beliefs. You don’t have to agree with me or be like me. I won’t try to convert you but will not back down from what I believe is true.

    Atheists are some of the smartest, most interesting people I know. Some of them have forgotten more about the Bible than I will ever know, which I’ve always found quit confusing. Why study something you don’t believe it?

    But I digress.

    Here’s what I want. If you call yourself a follower of Jesus Christ, then act like it. If you believe in God, stop spending so much time trying to cram your beliefs down others throats and concentrate on being a walking demonstration of your beliefs.

    If you preach Jesus Christ then stop cheating on your wife.
    If you preach Jesus Christ then stop cheating on your taxes.
    If you preach Jesus Christ then stop giving in to your lusts.
    If you preach Jesus Christ then stop telling me who to vote for.

    And for the love of God, if you preach Jesus Christ, stop telling others they are going to hell because they don’t share your faith and simply be kind and pray for them.

    People watch how Christians act. And a bunch of you are a walking sandwich-board for Satan.

    Shut up and stop it. I fully believe Jesus would rather hang out with an atheist than a hypocrite.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • Gawd

      Believing something doesn't make it true. Grow up.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
      • CG

        Well if you're going to follow that philosophy I guess Neil Armstrong never really walked on the moon.

        October 5, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
      • Curt

        Ah, The Provoker!

        October 5, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
      • Moogirl

        Lol I’m TRYING to grow up. I fail miserably every day but I’m tyring! Thanks for the advice, Gawd. I'm workin' on it!

        October 5, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
      • tallulah13

        Believing that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon does not make it so. It's all the hard physical and photographic evidence that proves that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon that allows us to believe.

        October 7, 2013 at 2:20 am |
    • chiefsadler

      Wow – where the heck is the "like" button when you need it??

      October 5, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • Topher

      Hi, Moogirl.

      Let me ask you this: In your whole life, how many times have people come up to you and said, "There's something different about you ... a certain sparkle in your eye. Tell me about that."?

      October 5, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
      • Moogirl

        Topher,

        No one has ever said I have a sparkle in my eye, but when the crap hits the fan, people do tend to gravitate to those who believe in a higher power. For some reason they think we have all the answers, or maybe they’re just seeking some of the peace we have.

        Kind of like that old saying “There are no atheists in foxholes”.

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

        Right. But my concern is that people who reject God are perishing. How will they know unless we tell them? I was a false convert for more than a decade. I thought I was a Christian, but wasn't. If I had been killed in an accident during that time, I'd be in Hell right now. Hoping they see our actions/way we live or waiting for them to ask us is far too risky. None of us are promised another die. Our lost loved ones, friends and even strangers might die on their way home tonight. How can we not warn them of the wrath to come?

        October 5, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
        • Moogirl

          Topher,

          Perhaps you are called to preach, have you ever thought about that? You seem to genuinely care about the eternal lives of others and you should do something about it! Perhaps you are being gently prodded to preach the Gospel because you are right that none of us knows what tomorrow holds.

          If I were honest, I would admit that I’m a little uncomfortable with unsolicited Gospel-sharing. I’m not saying I don’t share my beliefs with others, because I certainly do. The people I work with know what I believe, my family, my friends. But I believe it is God who puts people in our path and gives us the opportunity to share our beliefs with them. I don’t believe I’m supposed to condemn people to hell if they don’t change their ways. I don’t believe God wants people to believe in Him out of fear, as that is probably not real faith.

          But “Christians” have done such a disservice to non-believers with hypocritical lip-service that I would prefer to either wait to be asked or simply try to live by example, warts and all. If there is someone I am supposed to share my faith with, then God will give me the perfect opportunity and words to say that the person will accept and understand.

          For example, I’m a manager of a store. My people watch me. They know that, while I’m totally imperfect, I have strong faith. I am what I am and don’t try to be Sister Super-Christian because I’m not out to impress anybody. Sometimes I don’t act very Christian-like (I deal with the public) and they see the struggle I have in trying to do the right thing and act the right way. Sometimes I fail. But God still loves me.

          I believe this speaks volumes of my faith and the true nature of a loving God. I don’t want to see anyone die without the opportunity to accept God, but I am not called to preach the Gospel, only to share my beliefs when the opportunities arise.

          Seriously Topher, you should think about that fact that you are probably blessed with the gifts to preach the Gospel.

          October 5, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          Topher, even this heathen atheist realizes you entirely missed her point. Are you really too stupid to shut up, listen and learn? There just might be more evidence for your unproven god than there is for you having a functioning brain.

          October 5, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
        • sam stone

          gopher we do not care about your empty proxy threats

          you have no credibility

          you are a coward

          go home, boy, and get your shinebox

          October 5, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • nlg

      ❤ ❤ ❤ what you posted.....thank you!

      October 5, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • stargirl

      Very well said. Thank you!

      October 5, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • MrLogicMan

      You see, the problem with this is that your religion specifically instructs you to "cram your beliefs down others throats."

      October 5, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
      • chiefsadler

        Maybe consider changing your name to illogicalMan? You don't appear to use the Logic-stuff that often – just berating people without understanding what they wrote...

        October 5, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
      • Moogirl

        Mr. Logic Man,

        You are half right. We are instructed to share the Gospel (our belief in Jesus) with others. But we are supposed to SHARE not CRAM. If you are being crammed, it doesn’t mean that the message that is being crammed isn’t true, it simple means that the messenger is out of line.

        Jesus never crammed one word. He simply spoke, taught, and most importantly, led by example. It is impossible for crammers to lead by example. That’s why they cram. It is much more difficult to lead by example than it is to cram because leading by example is hard and will cost you something. Usually the cost is that you should be walking what you’re talking.

        Crammers have issues, but please don’t discount the message simply because the crammer is the messenger. If a message is turning you off, it is the fault of the messenger, not the message.

        Unfortunately you don’t need God’s approval to preach the Gospel. Anyone can do it. You only need His approval to be effective.

        October 5, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
        • chiefsadler

          Moogirl – I think you missed his point. He considers you evening mentioning that you believe in God to be "cramming" it down his throat...

          October 5, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
    • Daniel

      I've often thought too that Jesus would rather hang out with atheists than hypocrites who are self righteous and critical. But don't you think his reason for this would include calling atheists to believe in Him? Several of his parables do discuss hell and judgment. I don't think Christians should shy away from these topics. Perhaps we could be more gracious when talking about them though.

      October 5, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
  14. Skipper Hanzel

    I was a Christian. When I finally gave up believing a wonderful thing happened for me. Suddenly there was no guilt about being a normal erring human. I was a good person, I am still a good person. I have my faults and I make bad moves....but I have no Guilt that I am being judged by some unseen force, no eternal torture awaits me for not meeting certain requirements.
    I do not attack religion. I only ask that the religous do not attack me.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • tc

      Well said – God Bless You

      October 5, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • dianetrotter

      In all sincerity, how do you stop being a Christian? Christianity is about eternal life so how do you undo that? Thank you for answering.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
      • mike

        Christianity is about eternal life . . . and how the concept of eternal life in Heaven or Hell is used by Christians to control other Christians.

        If you can't think for yourself, religion will step in to control your thinking.

        October 5, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
        • mike

          Religion is a mental cage.

          October 5, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • Moogirl

      Skipper,

      I feel you. I am also so far from a “perfect” Christian that I hesitate to wear that label. But if you were being made to feel guilt and condemnation every time you screwed up then you were not being taught the true Gospel of Jesus.

      You don’t have to be perfect to be a Christian. You don’t have to be close to perfect. You don‘t even have to TRY to be perfect. In fact, if you were perfect, why would you even need God? Why would God have created forgiveness?

      I don’t believe we are supposed to experience crippling guilt when we screw up. There is a huge difference between guilt and condemnation and feeling convicted. Yes, as a believer we should feel convicted when we screw up. If you didn’t feel bad then you would be a sociopath. But if you were experiencing complete condemnation for every little mistake, then you were being tortured by the devil (yeah I said it, bring it on, trolls).

      God does not condemn but He will convict us when we sin. If you feel bad about screwing up, well, that just means you’re a decent guy who is trying to live right. Normal people feel bad when they make mistakes. If you were feeling condemned to the point of leaving your faith, well, that’s coming from somewhere else.

      You can make the same mistake 1000 times and God will be right there, loving and forgiving you. God has delivered me from many bad habits and behaviors, although I still have a few to go. But I don’t feel guilt and condemnation. I feel sorry and sometimes frustrated that I keep doing the same thing over and over, but I sleep well at night knowing that I’m the daughter of a loving, forgiving, and long suffering God.

      Bottom line is, Romans 8:1 plainly says: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

      If God is not condemning you, why would you listen to a bunch of religious people who are probably doing far worse things?

      Com’on Skipper, shake it off and get back in the game!

      October 5, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
  15. tecolote

    "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."

    Interesting perspective. I find those who profess to be Christians and then immediately head in the other direction to be the nastiest and scariest. Reading commentors who (theoretically) start from "love one another" and immediately devolve to hateful speech is particularly unnerving.

    My concluding thought? "Jesus wept."

    October 5, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
  16. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    Posting and arguing here could be a sort of sport, but for the fact that the position of believers is untenable from the start. Even they do know that their belief is not justified in any way that can be shown. They can only proclaim that they know the truth about their God and our world. They are unable to demonstrate that they know anything about such things. Personally, I don't enjoy a fight I've won from the outset. I view it as an exercise in education, and not a fight at all.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • joe

      Posting and arguing here could be a sort of sport, but for the fact that the position of believers is untenable from the start
      ------
      Pretty much my take too. One side has 100% of the evidence and the other side has 0%. What's to debate? If anything, I think that is why the atheists get frustrated and resort to calling Christians names like stupid and ignorant because even though there's nothing left to debate here the Christians come marching, noses in the air acting as if they are right. It's incredibly offensive. It's really a mental disorder the Christians suffer from.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
  17. VladBudapest

    The more hysterical holly trollers are the zealots themselves.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
  18. lwjr

    sneaky magate page toget Christians to overreact to CNN's antichrist crusade. never stops

    October 5, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • Unholy slider

      I know, I know...you're the Provoker, right?

      October 5, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • Michael

      This page can't *GET* Christians to do anything. I suppose it could influence them, if you're acknowledging that they're easily swayed and have little control over their own thoughts or emotions. I think you're really just upset that there's someone calling on Christians to be accountable for their behavior. which, ironically, is something that the entire Bible does.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
  19. Food fight

    Holier than thou with tomato sauce.

    October 5, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • tecolote

      Spaghetti, anyone?

      October 5, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
  20. mikeaceshadow

    Why talk about something that is not true! Jesus is not God because there is no God!!

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

      And The Atheist chimes in!

      October 5, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • paul diers

      Where does your proof lie in? Why cant there be Intelligent Design? Just because your mind and ego cant comprehend there could be a creator, there is no need to pronounce to the internet you know it all. Open your mind when you get a chance, there is a world of knowledge to be had. Guess what...the big bang theory is just that..a theory..not fact. Evolution could be a creation of Intelligent Design and a Creator...it doesnlt have to be one or the other.

      October 5, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
      • mikeaceshadow

        Only the sheep needs a Shepard! Now you can be a sheep or a human with some brain to think for yourself. Because science does not have an answer on something, the default is not God!

        October 5, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
      • mikeaceshadow

        Don't forget that 60 million died in WWII alone. Was your God taking a nap or was it his intelligent design??

        October 5, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
        • Maxwell's Demon

          Ugh... that's not an argument against the existence of a god. That's an argument against a benevolent, omniscient, omnipotent god.

          October 5, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.