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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. minardi

    Colin – excellent analogy, and stated in a way that promotes personal reflection.

    October 5, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • Colin

      Thanks. I have never understood why so many link morality with a belief in the supernatural. My first girlfriend in the USA was a committed Catholic from a very religious household. The subject of religion came up during my first dinner with her family. I told them that "of course" I didn’t believe in the myth of Adam and Eve. I mentioned this as nonchalantly as I might have mentioned that I didn’t believe in Tarzan and Jane.

      I later learned that her father openly expressed concerns to the family about whether his daughter should be dating me, given that I did not share the family’s religious convictions. Essentially, he feared there might be something wrong with me because I DID NOT believe the World was 6,000 years old and began with one man, one woman and a talking snake!

      October 5, 2013 at 10:13 am |
      • unbeliever

        You should have brought up the plot hole in genesis, where adam and eve have cain, abel and seth, cain slew abel, so only seth was left to populate the world. the bible says seth met with the daughter(s) of men (where did the 'daughters' come from?)

        kind of a big plot hole, don't you think?

        October 5, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
      • theorycraft

        well I don't think your parents would want you dating her if she was a neo-nazi or something, (extreme example i know but since i don't know you personally I don't know what moderate things your family might be against) its all about carrying on the lineage.

        October 5, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
      • Sanity

        sadly you should research more, you have vacuous claims and the RCC doesn't have an infallible teaching on the dating of Creation but it is paradoxically always the best

        October 6, 2013 at 2:56 am |
    • WasGivenProofForYou

      I’m not really sure what exact age I was when I went through the sacrament of confirmation. I think I was 14. Getting the exact date right isn’t important. It is, however, important for me to establish some context on my emotional state that day.
      I was brought up Catholic. I went to church every Sunday with my father and sisters. I was baptized when I was an infant and had my first communion when I was in elementary school. I didn’t go to a Catholic school, but went to religious instruction classes for many years up until being confirmed. I kind of, believed in God and all of that, but in the same way that many Catholics, Methodists, etc, do. It was what I had been brought on.
      On the day of my confirmation, I was with a group of friends and my sister. I was not in any emotional turmoil or duress that day. There was nothing like that. My friends and I were hamming it up. In fact, you could almost say that we were all there because our parents wanted us to be there. We really didn’t care one way or the other about being there.
      So we all went up to visit the bishop in a line for the sacrament of confirmation. One of the guys that was with us was high on pot. He was either right behind me or two people behind me. I can’t remember that for certain. What I can’t tell you is that he was giggling over the bishop’s funny looking hat.
      So when it was my turn to step before the bishop, I was basically in a situation where I was trying to keep a straight, non-smiling, face while I had this idiot behind me in line giggling over the funny looking hat that the bishop wore. I was trying not to laugh.
      I don’t really remember if the bishop and I were supposed to exchange words. What I do remember is that he anointed us each with oil, dipping his thumb in it and painting a cross on our foreheads with the it. When he did this to me, something happened. It’s very hard to put into words but I’ll do the best I can.
      When the bishop made the figure of the cross on my forehead with the oil, the Holy Spirit entered my being. There was this spiritual warmth that entered my soul. It was only there for a couple of seconds. It was very intense. I can tell you with complete certainty that I didn’t imagine it. It wasn’t anything as subtle as a chill going down my spine. It was much more intense than that. It was very strange. There was this sense of righteousness and peace to it. I don’t know how to explain it any better than that.
      But after that day I went onto a life of partying like crazy for the next 25+ years. During those years, I probably told only a handful of people what happened to me on the day of my Catholic confirmation sacrament. It wasn’t that I was embarrassed or anything. In fact, if anything, I have been told that I tell too many weird, disturbing stories about past events from my crazy days.
      But I got saved after all of those years. It was only after being saved that my purpose was revealed to me. I’m supposed to tell people what happened to me. I’m supposed to give this testimony. So, here I am telling you all.
      Thanks for listening and may God bless you all.

      October 5, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
      • The stuff

        Can you be 100% sure that spirit was not a Wicked Spirit? According to the bible the Demons can also posses people by Spirit. Satan the devil keep transforming himself into an Angel of light. 2 Cor 11:14. All the Pagan Idols that exist in the Catholic Church, You can be sure, that feeling was not from an angel in heaven.

        October 5, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
        • Sanity

          Sole Scriptura is bankrupt as a Rule of Faith. You've been taught half truths and or lies about the Catholic Church. Remember to never throw a baby out with the bathwater. Most of the OT is a common ground, the written NT is common ground, but I pray that you will find the fullness of the Christian Faith in the Catholic Church. Christ is/was both God/Man, the Word is both Oral and Written, The Church is Christ's body on earth and therefore must be in physical and spiritual unity, and denomination and splinter upon splinter will not help unify but only hurt the Body of Christ and the world's need to see clearly which is God's Church that Christ founded. Christ was/is the Davidic King, the Davidic Kings always had Queen Mothers and Christ being the fulfilled davdic king would not have less kingdom-ness, the D. King also had a prime minister with a royal cabinet to rule when the king left and for better and worse this structure helped maintain unity/strength as so in the NT, the Same Keys spoken of in Isaiah were given to Peter and then the rest were given a unifying but lesser/ (no keys) authority. This comes from an incredibly beautifully both/and way of reading sacred scripture i.e. the literal and the typological. Blessings. http://www.catholic.com

          October 6, 2013 at 2:35 am |
        • The stuff

          The bible is clear............ Flee from Idolatry (1 Cor 10:14). I realize this scripture is something the Catholic Church tends to overlook because of the Many Pagan Idols that exist in that Church.

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

        Thanks for sharing. I am not sure if you are joking but I tend to believe you because I had a similar experience. It was like God saying I can give you more joy and a better experience than any drug and booze can give you and no hangover!!!

        October 5, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
  2. Boisepoet

    The author obviously is not concerned with "truth" as shown by the example of the scholar who notes the origins of the Christian religion's myths as evidenced by scholarly works, and the authors answer of taking belief over knowledge. That is what frustrates atheists, that people would rather believe in their particular Santa Claus and all the attendant baggage than look at facts and seek solutions to humanity's problems using logic rather than ancient myths.

    October 5, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • E before I

      Seems like you missed the entire point of the article. It is simply about the unproductive antics people employ when discussing the topic.

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

        I got that, but his dismissal of engaging in a fact filled discussion shows to me that he will take his belief over facts any day and twice on Sundays; at this point tactics don't really matter as he has no interest in engaging in an honest discussion.

        October 5, 2013 at 10:59 am |
  3. Jerry Kirby

    To start with...comment trolls are out in force no matter the topic. Why make people think this is a phenomena only related to religion? Also, I hope no body thinks that the comments being left by these trolls necessarily reflect their own position - I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the comments are the target of social engineering. Comments are interesting to read but you need to do it like tallying a score at the Olympics - throw out the high and low ones– almost always they are tainted by considerations not related to the original article.

    October 5, 2013 at 10:07 am |
  4. Chris Sadler

    How to argue about myth and delusion? Is Zeus really the prime mover as everyone tells me? I think not, but it seems many need the assurance of religion no matter the truth of it. I look to a day where reason and critical thinking are practiced by the majority of humanity. Won't happen in my life time, but I come on here to show people just how man made books like the bible are. They are evil myths from the bronze age. Its time we outgrew them.

    October 5, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • LogicalOne

      Tru Dat

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

      'Evil' is rather an absolute judgement don't you think? If you look at what societies were like when Jesus was a jew, it was an improvement appropriate for the environment where and when it occurred. Yes, it seems a bit past the sell-by date a couple millenia later, but it, essentially, fills an emotional need regardless of how true it is. Bravo for you if you've figured out a way for logic to fill an emotional need a lot of people have. After all, different people are *gasp* different. You would 'de-convert' more people by sharing such a miracle (pardon the pun) in finding emotional satisfaction.

      October 5, 2013 at 11:01 am |
  5. weedouthate

    Weed Out Hate, Sow the Seeds of Peace....

    October 5, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Chris Sadler

      Then that removes religion straight away.

      October 5, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • lagergeld

      "Weed out hate," a perfect example of secular liberal tyranny. Firstly, they define "hate" very narrowly in that which does not conform with their beliefs, and secondly, you cannot weed out thought you don't like, even if you slaughter millions.

      Stalin tried that, remember?

      October 5, 2013 at 11:14 am |
      • Gabriella

        Why do you hate atheists so much? I did nothing to you, and forcing your religion down peoples throats makes you no better than the so-called evil atheists you hate so much. And using insults does not validate your comment, it just makes you look like a childish person ( I read some of your previous comments.)

        October 9, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
  6. Clear as Fog

    I guess Konrad Lorenz was right: Aggression is an undeniable human trait. It seems the digital world of social networking provides another outlet for bashing someone without a club.

    October 5, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • lagergeld

      Aggression is a part of nature and psychology studies it includes humans. This is one of many examples where secular liberal/progressive types are in denial of nature and science and insist on turning people into mass socially herded sheeple; essentially wet balls of passive clay to be molded into the ideal man by the progressive vanguard.

      October 5, 2013 at 11:16 am |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        I get the distinct feeling that if your writing were coherent I would disagree with your main points.

        October 5, 2013 at 11:35 am |
        • marks320

          He managed to take a simple statement, "weed out hate, sow the seeds of peace", pervert it into "a perfect example of secular liberal tyranny", and then invoke Stalin. I wouldn't be holding my breath awaiting any coherence on his part. In fact, "educated beyond his intelligence" comes to mind.

          October 5, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
  7. PJ

    Thank you for the thought-provoking article. This comment section illustrates every point you made. (and I only read 35, so far)

    October 5, 2013 at 10:01 am |
  8. Steve is not my name

    Given that I have experienced the preacher and the Bible and solitary prayer, I made a choice to believe in what I believe. No amount of arguing will change my experience. I can be taught, but not arm-twisted. My faith is mine.

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

      Sagan said it best, in two famous quotes. "Belif comes not from reason but from a deep seeded need to believe." and "Reason did not lead the believer too their faith, so no amount of reason will dislodge them from it."

      Voluntarily credulity is a cheap and easy hole to bury one's head in.

      October 5, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • FreeFromTheism

      That's fantastic, I'm really happy for you.
      Last night, I had a dream and while I was acting in the dream as if it was real, at the same time I remember telling myself "this can't be true, this is nonsense" or something to that effect. When I woke up what I said to myself was not "oh, that proves that the content of the experience was true", au contraire, when I woke up I realized that what I suspected all along was true: it was just a dream; my mind was playing tricks on me.

      October 5, 2013 at 10:09 am |
  9. Malefique

    I think it is a shame that in this day and age people are still arguing about bronze age war gods. Those god concepts do not jive at all with modern society, and yet people still die for those beliefs. Pure insanity.

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

      Yeah, as shameful as the people who hate smoking but can't stop. They know the logic of stopping but there is a need in them that overrules logic.

      October 5, 2013 at 11:06 am |
    • lagergeld

      If I had to choose between people willing to die for a bronze-age God or a people willing to kill you because you aren't progressive atheists like them, guess which one I'd choose?

      October 5, 2013 at 11:17 am |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        Let's hope it doesn't come down to just one of those options. Do you happen to know of any atheists willing to do as you describe?

        October 5, 2013 at 11:32 am |
        • lagergeld

          Yes, they tend to call themselves Communists. Some Progressives. Their body count is far worse than any religion has inflicted on this planet.

          October 5, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
      • unbeliever

        Can you cite one athiest or athiest group that promotes or uses violence for the purpose of promoting athiesm?

        October 5, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
  10. samsart

    WHY argue about religion? There are no resolutions to the arguments/conversations, etc. It's a never ending, never ceasing, ever wearying topic . There is the historical aspect, the 'faith' aspect, the better than/less than aspect and of course the 'if you don't believe as I do , then ......' aspect.

    October 5, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  11. Lila

    Considering what the religious people and creationists have done to all the Science sections(never see them on the front page anymore) when they get smacked around in their section I have zero sympathy.

    October 5, 2013 at 9:54 am |
  12. lolCAT2000

    When is this atheist propaganda on CNN going to stop?
    What other religion in the world gets so much space to proselytize its "truth"?

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

      Atheism = lack of belief in theistic god. Lack of belief is not a religion.

      October 5, 2013 at 10:00 am |
      • MasterWooten

        Lack of belief CAN be a religion if you approach it using all the tenants of religion.

        October 5, 2013 at 10:04 am |
        • RW2

          What, exactly, are these alleged tenets (yes, tenets, not tenants, we don't rent out) of atheism?

          October 5, 2013 at 10:10 am |
        • FreeFromTheism

          then it wouldn't be atheism itself that is a religion, unlike, say, Catholicism or something, it would be "the religion of atheism" whatever IT would be called.
          So, let's not confuse things if we don't have to.

          October 5, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • FreeFromTheism

      Well, given that CNN is a private company and they get to do anything they want, within the limits of the law, and given that atheism is NOT a religion, I believe you should simply adjust your expectations.
      Either way, what are you afraid of? If you are a theist (see, theism is NOT a religion {think about it}) there really shouldn't be anything that atheists can say that can convince you of something you "know" (e.g., the existence of your deity).

      October 5, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • truthprevails1

      First off there is no Atheist Propaganda. Second, Atheism is strictly the disbelief if a gods or god. It does not define anything more. Just as Theism defines a belief in a god or gods, it does not define which god or set of beliefs you follow.
      Given that Atheism in and of itself does not have a set of doctrine, it can not be defined as a religion. Theism is defined as a religion due to the numerous holy books that depict the god(s) of the belief system.

      Knowing your definitions is always a good thing, that is what dictionaries are more.

      October 5, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Gypsy

      Atheism is not a belief, it's a conclusion.

      October 5, 2013 at 10:08 am |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        Arent religious beliefs conclusions, too?

        October 5, 2013 at 10:27 am |
        • unbeliever

          You can't form conclusions without reasoned argument, which requires logic. Religion is a matter of faith, and is devoid of reason.

          October 5, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
    • ishkabidle

      Religion has had its turn. Remember the Inquisition? Now it is time for 'the rest of the story'. Time will be the final judge.

      October 5, 2013 at 11:08 am |
    • lagergeld

      CNN is quite amusing. If it posts an article slamming religion, you can bet Christinanity is in the middle of it. The pro-Islamic apologietics are endless, and those that criticize the validity of the faith are smeared as phobics, bigots, Nazis, and worse.

      October 5, 2013 at 11:18 am |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        No. CNN does not behave in the way you describe. Sorry for your persecution complex.

        October 5, 2013 at 11:30 am |
      • marks320

        Whereas as you remain above the fray by smearing with Stalin.

        October 5, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • sam stone

      do you seriously want to compare the amount of space atheists get with the amount tv evangelists get?

      October 5, 2013 at 11:22 am |
      • lagergeld

        Sam, athetists be oppressed? Buy the airtime Chrsitians do or stick a sock in it.

        October 5, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
  13. Jesus Christ Son of God

    Normally, these shooting fish in a barrell articles for the sheeple don't come out until sunday. If we can get them more often, all the better.

    October 5, 2013 at 9:53 am |
  14. HappyGirl1952

    As an Atheist, I actually see the good that religion can do for humanity. It was the first human attempt at explaining the world around us, religion created our laws and taught us to love one and another, to care for our neighbour etc. It is only the twisted few who take it to the dark side. Religion is a powerhouse for good and evil. Unfortunately there are those who can't stand anyone having a different point of view than themselves to the level of wanting those people dead. I do not believe in God but I respect those who do...I respect those who believe in a kind, good and positive force...these people make the world a better place...I believe in being good and kind and helping others too just without the baggage but I recognize that religion helped shape these views.

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

      Thank you. This was awesome, real and compassionate. What a beautiful response!

      October 5, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • Monroe DeVos

      HappyGirl 1952......You have so eloquently expressed exactly how I feel. Religion and faith have a place in humanity as do philosophy and non-religous personal belief. The commonality? Do good, respect one another, and always acknowledge that personal belief is just that....personal.

      October 5, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • John

      HappyGirl, the world needs more people like you!

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

      Wow. Unbelievably well stated. We could all learn from your post. Stay happy!

      October 5, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • arthur webb

      Happygirl 1952
      Good post, I am not religious but I find it difficult to understand why so many vociferous professed atheists are so intent on getting rid of Christianity. This is the subject of this blog "Is this just an idea or are Atheists suicidal"? athurwebb.blogspot.com

      October 6, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
  15. LivinginVA

    What about the No True Scotsman/"if you don't agree with my version of Christianity, you must be a tool of Satan" variety? When people post "Christians believe" – I like to point out that there are MANY versions of Christianity and not all believe that, for example, gay marriage is wrong or the Bible is to be read literally. I frequently get "then they aren't real Christians, then" as a response.

    October 5, 2013 at 9:52 am |
  16. mjbrin

    "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."

    thanks for pointing that out so well.

    October 5, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      But how boring would it be if they all followed the same script?

      October 5, 2013 at 11:28 am |
  17. liz meholovitch

    I don't expect to change peoples perspective and belief in God but it is required of me to witness to others as a lay speaker in the Methodist Church. God has answered my prayers with miracles. We can get an earthly miracle or a heavenly one if we love him. The devil gives us the troubles in life. READ JOB a book in the Bible.

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

      Job, wasn't that that the book where God slaughtered an entire family on some sort of sadistic bet with Satan?

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

      Just make sure that the person you are witnessing to wants that kind of attention. Most times this has happened to me, a polite 'I'm not interested' gets a fire and brimstone response...

      October 5, 2013 at 10:05 am |
  18. Salty Bob

    Nothing new to say about religion here other than doing well without it, I find hope and faith in the people I meet that exhibit good sound character, that really care about the other guy without relying on some made up belief system with no grounds in reality. May science save us all, and the next time you hear someone sneeze the proper response, Be Well.

    October 5, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • MasterWooten

      "I find hope and faith in the people I meet that exhibit good sound character, that really care about the other guy"

      Until said people as do ALL people from time to tome do, disappoint you, some in manners too great to try to comprehend.

      "May science save us all,"

      Well science which is merely a field of human endeavor is not and cannot save us all, nobody no true scientist would ever make such a claim or expect that, clearly you are no scientist.

      "and the next time you hear someone sneeze the proper response, Be Well."

      Well here you are being petty and such behavior does not announce you as being intelligent, rather a silly little school boy. Perhaps you'd prefer someone to damn you? Grow Up Bob!

      October 5, 2013 at 9:56 am |
      • ishkabidle

        What a good example you make of yourself MasterWooten The Provoker. My take on Salty Bob's commentary is that it was peacefully hopeful and agnostic. Perhaps you just take it differently since you are obviously a believer. If it is impossible for science to save us, then you obviously define salvation with an element beyond what science can handle.

        Now if you read this article again you will see that such a hateful response will not convince Salty to Believe, it will only push him, and other readers, away from your dogmatic approach. "Why would I want to join such haters?" can sum up the overall response. Or perhaps you are actually an atheist who is using reverse psychology to drive people away from religion?

        October 5, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Sanity

      you don't have a merely a scientific view of science though. you have a dogma that mere science is a/the Good. be more courageous in stating what is GOOD and define your doctrines if you truly believe all Religion to be evil etc.

      October 6, 2013 at 2:41 am |
  19. nullhogarth

    The author seems to think that atheists just need to "spend more time" with christians to understand them, or that some imaginary middle ground exists between faith and atheism. Nonsense. Just as much nonsense as believing in an invisible "god" or that the "soul" exists separate from the body. Give it up. No amount of namby-pamby make-nice blather changes the truth. There is no god.

    October 5, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • MasterWooten

      You're just the type of disagreeable troll he's talking about. You may not believe in God but God's counterpart, the devil sure believes you. Just as a side, can you prove that there is no God?

      Yeah I thought so....

      Trying to disprove the metaphysical makes you sound very very stupid, not smart like you think you are.

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

        are you the other type of troll?

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

          "The other type of troll?"

          Now you're making no sense and the whole premise of you non-believers is that you're smarter than believers, yet I constantly find guys like you wanting in the common sense department.

          October 5, 2013 at 10:02 am |
      • I've changed

        Can you prove there is no Big-foot?Can you prove that I've not seen a purple dragon in my garage?Thousands of folks will swear they've been abducted by aliens,can you prove them wrong?I thought not.People that make extra ordinary claims,must provide extra ordinary proof.Go for it.

        October 5, 2013 at 10:06 am |
      • Trevor

        Can you prove there is a god? And I mean prove, not just some "I see good everywhere" crap.

        October 5, 2013 at 10:07 am |
      • Chris Sadler

        "God's counterpart, the devil sure believes you."

        Dude, Satan, heaven, hell and your version of god are imaginary. They were created in the minds of your fellow mammals, who knew nothing more about the universe than you or I. You suffer a delusion. You need to grow up. Just read your bible, its the best way to become a non believer.

        October 5, 2013 at 10:11 am |
        • John

          Fahgodsakes here we go again with the non-stop "is there or isn't there a God" and the tired old "sky fairy, invisible man, spaghetti monster" routine where atheists blasts believers and believers inevitably defend their faith.

          Just for once shut the crap up with this circular argument which ends with the same old fights & insults on both sides.

          October 5, 2013 at 10:15 am |
        • Chris Sadler

          You got it John. It's all imaginary unless you can actually provide *evidence*. No... you can't, say what? And it's not circular, that would be the bible. You should read it sometime.

          October 5, 2013 at 10:25 am |
      • Robert

        Someone with even a basic understand of logic knows that you cannot prove a negative.

        I can no more prove that god does not exist than you can disprove that the Giant Spaghetti Monster did not create the universe and is the actual "god".

        To prove something requires evidence. You can ONLY have evidence that something exists. You cannot have evidence that something does not exist.

        October 5, 2013 at 11:54 am |
      • unbeliever

        How many times does "the devil" appear in the old testament? I'm curious to hear your response...

        October 5, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
    • LivinginVA

      The middle ground is "We may not share our beliefs about God, but we share many of the same ideals/principles. Let's respect our right to different beliefs and work together to improve the world."

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

        Sure but in America, the modern atheist wants to belittle attack and blacklist the faith that most Americans hold. If I can't shove my faith down someone else's throat telling me that any and all expressions of my faith in public is shoving my faith down someone else's throat is gonna mean we're going to have an irreconcilable problem.

        October 5, 2013 at 10:08 am |
        • Chris Sadler

          "the modern atheist wants to belittle attack and blacklist the faith that most Americans hold"

          Yes, its the obvious push back for all the years that religion came to us when they were strong making an offer that we could not refuse. Hitchens said it best:

          “Many religions now come before us with ingratiating smirks and outspread hands, like an unctuous merchant in a bazaar. They offer consolation and solidarity and uplift, competing as they do in a marketplace. But we have a right to remember how barbarically they behaved when they were strong and were making an offer that people could not refuse.”

          October 5, 2013 at 10:15 am |
        • Robert

          We do consider it weak minded that a person believes in religion in the same way you would probable consider it weak minded if an adult believe in Santa Clause.

          We "attack" if you wish to use those words because we understand the damage that religion ultimately does and how it acts as a barrier to the diverse human interaction that has a chance to improve life on this planet.

          We "attack" when we see unenlightened "Christians" ... mostly with a right bent, deny that we are slowly cooking the planet having some sort of god related denial complex.

          We "attack" when we see the backwards brain washing and misogyny of much of the Muslim faith.

          We "attack" because we would like to live our lives where logic, compassion and common sense drives our decisions, not book written at a time when we thought the earth was flat, the center of the universe, there was gods in the sky, our neighbors were witches, demons were regular occurrences, lightning terrified us, a solar eclipse was the end of the world, and women were at best 3rd rate beings.

          October 5, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • ishkabidle

      All right Mr. Scientist, follow your own creed and Prove It. Prove that none of the plethora of gods with followers today is even slightly correct. That is the scientific method after all. If a hypothesis is to be considered true, there must not be even a single case where the hypothesis is wrong. Attacking with your comments only puts the religious on the defensive and prevents any rational thought. You only drive them into their shells and prevent any meaningful change or an end to the conflict.

      October 5, 2013 at 11:28 am |
      • Robert

        You cannot PROVE a negative. To have proof you must have evidence. If there is evidence, then something must exist. You can only prove the existence of something, not that something does not exist. One takes evidence, the other is a fairy tale.

        October 5, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
  20. Colin

    I will borrow an analogy used by Sam Harris to make a point.

    Imagine if you lived in the Dark Ages when most people believed in witches. A good deal of daily life was spent engaged in rituals to fend off withes. All diseases were believed to be caused by witches and their spells and mental illness was attributed to possession by witches.

    Now imagine if you were part of a small (about 10%) of the population that did not believe in witches. Instead, you believed that disease was caused by an unknown, but entirely natural cause and that the rituals performed every day or week by your community did not have any effect to alter natural events (such as bringing the rains) nor did they ward of witches.

    Now imagine if the 90% of the population also believed it was immoral or at least highly suspect not to believe in witches, that "In Wizards We Trust" was printed on your money, that community leaders made regular allusions to witches in their speeches and that you were viewed with a jaundiced eye for being skeptical of the whole witchcraft thing.

    That is how it can feel to be an atheist in a large part of the USA. I can perfectly understand why some of my atheist colleagues fine the anonymity of this blog as a convenient and safe way to vent a little.

    That said, I, as one of the more frequent and, at times, hotheaded, posters on here, do wish we atheists were a little more adroit in making our points. Rarely does one close a sale by calling the client a “moron.”

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

      wow, now that is an interesting analogy!

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

      Great comment!

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

      Colin – excellent analogy, and stated in a way that promotes personal reflection.

      October 5, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • I've changed

      I feel your pain C.We atheists will be much better off making our points if we do not lower ourselves to level of those that relish the thought of seeing us tortured for eternity.

      October 5, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • lagergeld

      Athetism and agnosticism are expressed freely everywhere. I see far less Christian bashing of them than vice versa. If your friends think this country is 90% witch hunter, they need meds.

      October 5, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • ishkabidle

      Analogy? I thought that was a European history lesson.

      October 5, 2013 at 11:31 am |
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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.