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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. Lionly Lamb

    God is One... His people are many... We who are of the celestially terrestrial are God's buildings which harbor many of God's people...

    October 5, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • ScottCA

      God is the fictional creation you choose to fill the gaps in your understanding with.
      An utterly unfounded belief with no evidence to support it.
      A creation that answers no questions, but only compounds them with more senseless and ludicrous ones that are far more perplexing than the initially simple question.

      A senseless belief of a lunatic divorce of any anchoring in reality. And without any grasp of rational deductive reasoning.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
      • justageek

        What do you fill you understanding gaps with? What is your belief of where everything came from and what is the proof?

        October 5, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
        • fin

          let's see. a believe that is non-sensical to begin with and a believe that is reasonably sound and just. you are saying you would prefer the first and not the latter?...

          October 5, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
        • justageek

          @fin – What exactly is reasonably sound and just?

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

          you would need to find that out yourself. if you can't even figure that out, then our level of discussion is already way ahead of you.

          October 5, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
        • justageek

          @fin – LOL...nice punt...thanks for at least proving intelligence is a luxury.

          October 5, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
      • Hopeful

        Scott,

        God is a fictional creation? I would be curious to hear the rational deductive reasoning behind this or the evidence that supports this claim.

        October 5, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
      • Lionly Lamb

        Sired Scott CA...

        1. How many Big Bang Universes are there to be found within the vastness of Spatial Nothingness..?

        2. Could not a single Big Bang Universe be similar in shape and form to say an Atomically made structure we call a living cell,,?

        3. Who among us Celestially Terrestrial Life Entities has the mentally adaptive reasoning awareness to understand the simplistic complexities of Fractal Cosmologies..?

        October 5, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
  2. Martin Michael

    Let me tell you a story of a little Vietnamese girl who watched her family die and has grown up and now see's some of the people that took her families life here in America no longer a private or Sargent seen in high regard can I fault her for taking the now generals life since she saw what he did to her mom and may still have a taste for well lets say forced situations. If she kills him.

    October 5, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
  3. Deke Martin

    Sorry, but if you're going to inject God and religion into a political discussion, then bashing God and religion and fair game. I'm pretty sure you won't find any references in the Bible to Jesus running for the Jerusalem City Council or the Roman Senate. So if the holy rollers are going to put God/Jesus in the mud with politicians, then prepare yourselves to get dirty. My advice? Keep God and religion out of politics and then I'll respect so-called "Christian" a hell of a lot more.

    October 5, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • robstumpf

      Nobody cares about your "respect". It means nothing to anyone. If I want to talk religion, I will, and if anyone doesn't like it, it's too bad.

      Naturally, you can do the same with whatever you believe.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
    • Live4Him

      So, should atheism be allowed in politics? And the cornerstones of atheism – evolution and big bang – should these be allowed in political discussions, taught in schools, etc.?

      October 5, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
      • John P. Tarver

        Atheism is a violation of the First Amendment.

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

          You better start explaining that one. Or admit to being an outright liar.

          October 5, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
        • John P. Tarver

          Freedom of religion is in the First Amendment as a piece of Freemason social engineering. You are not a complete person without faith.

          October 5, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
      • Shane

        Those are not the "cornerstones of atheism"; atheism is simply the lack of belief in a deity. That is all, those other things are scientific theories.

        It is the case that scientific theories are taught in school already, because that is what is taught in science class. Many schools also provide theology classes. In fact, you can take a class on most anything! That is how school works in most places.

        Our political system is already open to whoever wishes to try to run for office! Silly!

        October 5, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
      • HotAirAce

        Atheists do not need anyone's permission to engage in politics. And we've already won on the Big Bang and evolution. While you delusional believers can still gather and chant your mumbo-jumbo in schools, off in a corner so as not to disturb others, you can't teach your Babble crap and creationism. Grow up and face the fact that your superst!tions are unravelling before your very eyes.

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

          Big Bang 'theory' is hardly a win. Leading accepted scientific theory...yes. But an outright win...no.

          October 5, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          The context was allowed in politics, taught in schools, not whether or not the theories are complete.

          October 5, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
        • justageek

          Ah. Got it. The context makes sense but I guess my answer makes sense for that as well. We allow things to be taught that are not 100% proven so why would religion be any different than a scientific theory. Allow them both or deny them both in school.

          October 6, 2013 at 10:44 am |
  4. GreatSaveJesus

    God created Atheists and therefore it is our job as good christians to care and love them and show them the true way to God's love. Atheists are a test used by God to test our faith. I love all atheists and only hope with all my heart that they find the love that Jesus provides all men and women who embrace him.

    October 5, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • Chris Sadler

      "Atheists are a test used by God to test our faith."

      You know this *how*? Always suspect someone that claims a god exists and that they know its mind.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
    • fin

      in the mind of Atheist God doesn't exist, so your statement is your own folly.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
    • Shane

      Atheists are not "tests", they are human beings like you; that deserve to be treated with the same respect you expect to be treated with.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
    • tallulah13

      That's very nice. In return, I hope someday that you can embrace the reality that there is no proof that any gods exist, and that you don't actually need gods to have a happy, fulfilling and valuable life.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
      • John P. Tarver

        Einstein's Copenhagen Interpretation of 1935 says, "Quantum Mechanics and Relativity require a sentient being outside the universe to make the universe real." proven.

        October 5, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
        • Shane

          Well, I guess that settles it.

          October 5, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
        • tallulah13

          Cite your references, please.

          October 5, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
        • John P. Tarver

          Did and done.

          October 5, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
        • GreatSaveJesus

          I was only kidding. My other post didnt get posted. I only said what I said because I fall into the unlisted category of poster "Smuck" and only wanted to get a rise out of you guys.

          October 5, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
  5. JM

    Very good article. In the end, we are all the same. We are all people born into this world and going forward. If there is a God, I hope He is a God of love and that He reveals Himself to all of us and shows us the Way so that we don't miss out. Peace to all.

    October 5, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
    • tallulah13

      So far there haven't been any gods revealing themselves. Just a lot of humans making wild claims. If there is a god, it appears that this being has no real interest in human affairs.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
  6. Yared Ben Ysrael

    Atheism is a faith as well.. as a matter of fact if the satanic governments said they they wanted to kill Christians then the Atheists has to go as well. right Now the atheist are be as proxies.. But, Christians it's also your fault that there are so many unbelievers because you teach that Gods law is done Away with.. serious why would you expect to make believers when Christians does every thing the Bible not to do ? you can't walk into a church with out falling over an Idol. the Gays are leading your praise teams and is the head of your choirs.. the Bible says don't do what the Gentiles do.. the Bible tells us not to worship On the same day as the (SUN)day worshipers, not to eat Pork, don't practice interest, don't wait two weeks to get Paid,. the Bible tells us, not to break the first four commandments which is what you do when you celebrate Babylonian Holy days( you called them ( holi days) such as X-mas and Isther(Easter) ... And if An Theist is Smart enough to know you can't "spiritually identify with a people that's still walking the earth.. the Bible is a historical account of Black Hebrews and the prophecies concerning the seeds of Abraham which today are scattered thought out the world Via slavery awaiting for God to recover them..

    October 5, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
    • Chris Sadler

      The delusion of a religious mind on display. So pathetic. So scary.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
    • Reality # 2

      Seeds of Abraham? Au contraire !!

      origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times review and important enough to reiterate.

      New Torah For Modern Minds

      “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. (prob•a•bly
      Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell).

      The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.

      The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."

      October 5, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
    • Pfft

      So why is it ok for you to keep chiming in on this debate, and yet you tell the non-believers to move along? Do you enjoy only giving your opinions to people who only agree with you. Take your own advice then. Don't worry about what the non-believers think, go teach your kids what you want (shudder), and move along. Why waste your time? This is what you told us right? (rolls eyes)

      October 5, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
  7. Reality # 2

    Only for the new visitors to this blog:

    Putting the kibosh on all religion and "holy trolling" in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    • A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinkerbells? etc) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    October 5, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      Easter in an English anagram created by John Wesley, the Dutch printer; more commonly spelled Ishtar today.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
      • Tarver's 4th grade teacher

        Wow – you get a red star today, John.

        October 5, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
        • Tarver's 4th grade teacher

          But please try not to hurt yourself too badly on current science.

          October 5, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • Question reality

      * Why would the non existence of one guy mean I can't have
      a mental relationship with an equally invisible dude?

      * Why? Because one guy didn't exist therefore we should
      all eat pork?

      * Gabriel=angel=alien=unprovable point

      * Easter = Ishtar= alien= unprovable point

      * Moroni = angel =alien = unprovable point

      * Does weight gain or loss equal existence?

      * Why not?

      October 5, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
    • Hopeful

      I would be curious to hear more details with respect to there being no Easter.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
  8. james

    I believe in god and Jesus and the message. But I do not force it on anyone. I invite them to church, no obligations. But yes, humanity is horrid. Man can learn much from family pets. They do not judge you for your race, ethnic background, religion, creed, or origin. They love you just the way you are if you return that love to them.

    October 5, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • Reality # 2

      And the Koreans find dogs to be quite nutritious.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
      • agnar150

        You are worse than the fact that they eat dogs.

        October 5, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
    • True

      We are the worst species on the planet

      October 5, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
    • Pfft

      It is love or is simple social pack behavior when dealing with a person who has established themselves as the 'leader'? Hmmm... you can learn a lot from animals, indeed. I don't think you've learned as much as you think, however.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
  9. Hopeful

    Great article. I love a good dialogue but often I find that people are less interested in making solid arguments and finding common ground than they are in being disrespectful of another person's position.

    October 5, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      Is that not the human nature we turn to religion to overcome?

      October 5, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
      • John

        Or the law, or ethics, or education. Religion does not have a monopoly on good behavior.

        October 5, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
      • Hopeful

        Is religion an antidote for human nature?

        October 5, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
        • John P. Tarver

          Religion is the cure for normal human psychosis.

          October 5, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
  10. grouch

    I personally don't care what you believe as long as your belief isn't shoved in my face. That goes for Atheists, Christian demoninations, Especially Muslims, Hindus, Budists, etc...

    October 5, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
  11. MIJohn

    Well if the people who keep bringing religion would get their noses out of the clouds long enough to look around, they might realize why they get into so many fights. Namely that they aren't the only game in town and the other guys also have answers for all the big questions like "what happens we die" that are just as valid. Yet so many online posters, especially the so-called Christians, belittle every other religion as evil and a lie. Never mind that the books they profess to follow and claim as an excuse are the product of millennium of carefully crafted propaganda by rulers and their supporters intended to cement their power.

    October 5, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
    • grouch

      I find you are correct about a few Christian getting in peoples faces. The vast majority of them keep pretty much to themselves or only discuss it with like minded Christians. When it comes to posting insults or intolerance I need only look at posting boards and Atheists. I only hope the insulting posters professing to be Atheists are also a small minority.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
  12. Level Truth

    http://www.leveltruth.com

    October 5, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
  13. wjmknight

    I'm agnostic, so I don't know and I don't care.

    October 5, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • grouch

      And I can totally respect that!

      October 5, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
    • agnar150

      Religion is the worst man made invention. It has caused more misery and death and should be banned.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
      • grouch

        I'm sorry I can't respect that!

        October 5, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
  14. Jim Ricker

    What is truly the hallmark of the 'holy troller' is that the person THINKS they know more about the subject matter than they do and THINK that people who think otherwise are morons. This is not limited to either the believer or the unbeliever. What is apparent is there are many who know what passages SAY in the Bible but don't understand the near or far contexts in order to understand what those words mean. Conversations with those we disagree with can certainly help us understand the object of the other person's faith but it usually helps us understand that person's faith moreso. Knowledge is rather useless without understanding.

    October 5, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • Ben

      The people who would be the best judges of biblical context would be the scholars specializing in textual criticism, right?

      Those sources are the ones that atheists tend to cite, while believers tend to rely on theologians, whose profession it is to spin religious beliefs to the masses.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
  15. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    It is hard to debate with people who actually want to be fools for the sake of Christ:

    "Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise."

    But then, the local believers aren't really trying to live up to what they believe to be true.

    October 5, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • Ben

      There are also the calls to become "like children", meaning completely trusting in everything that authority says. They're also supposed to be good sheep. All this says is that Christianity doesn't value intelligence, experience, or knowledge very much in its followers.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
    • grouch

      The problem is I don't want to debate. I believe what I believe. What I don't want is someone constantly calling me names because of what I believe be it an Atheists or other religions. Someone that can't grant someone else basic beliefs, and Atheism is a belief, is a bigot and by modern definition a fool.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
      • Chris Sadler

        You claim to have an invisible friend. We do not. Think about. These are not at all equivalent.

        October 5, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
      • Ben

        grouch
        Atheism is the rejection of belief in gods. There really shouldn't be a name for it, like there isn't a name for people who don't believe in astrology. Tell me, if you were trying to get married, but your parents told told you that they couldn't approve of your fiance because your signs weren't compatible, how would you feel?

        It's the same kind of crazy.

        October 5, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
  16. Martin Michael

    So if helped may bounce back if someone drops the ball when helped or resembles an enemy and go back to what they know.

    October 5, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
  17. grouch

    Atheist (or any other finite being) divided by Infinity = 0. That translates mathematically into: You never existed, you don't exist now, and you will not exist in the future. Simple Newtonian calculus. A science dude.

    October 5, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
    • Do what?

      Why would that equation mean I don't exist?

      October 5, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
      • grouch

        I think it's a straight forward law. Zero mean nothing or the lack of something. Again, this applies to anything finite.

        October 5, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
      • Ben

        Why divide into infinity when we don't have any evidence of anything being infinite?

        Just because you can string words together into a sentence that obeys grammar, it doesn't mean that what you said actually makes sense, you know?

        October 5, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
  18. ScottCA

    It is not possible to have a rational discussion with the faith based religious who have abandoned all reason for fuzzy warm feelings that help alleviate their fear of our inevitable death. You cannot discuss logically or rationally with madmen who have abandoned rational deductive reasoning for their insanity.

    October 5, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
    • don't lie to yourself

      and the funny things is,, they think their god is a nice one. Now that's scary

      October 5, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
      • ScottCA

        Utterly. The fictional being Yahweh Sabaoth, the god of war, is anything but a nice character, he is far more wicked and vile than voldemort.

        October 5, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
      • Kevin

        @dont lie: Stereotypes are soooo 20th century. I can tell you didn't even read article

        October 5, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
    • Live4Him

      Here are the premises that I base my conclusion upon for the Biblical God / Jesus.

      Natural Origins or Supernatural Origins?
      __ a) Matter, energy and time exist. Where did they come from? There are currently not naturalistic explanation
      that only has supporting evidence for this issue.
      __ b) Life exist. Where did it come from? There are currently not naturalistic explanation that only has
      supporting evidence for this issue.
      Therefore, this implies some supernatural being or event is necessary.

      Which supernatural being or event answers the above issue?
      __ a) Multiple religions address the creation of life, but only three begin with the creation of matter, energy
      and time.
      __ b) Given the Biblical account that begins with the creation of matter, energy and time,
      __ c) Given no other religions (other than the Abrahamic branches) begins with the creation of matter, energy and
      time,
      Therefore, only the Abrahamic religions answer both of the basic issues.

      Did the Judaism God Do It?
      __ a) Given accurate transmission of the Jewish Bible,
      __ b) Given the fulfillment of foretold specific prophecies (incl: Eze 37) in the Jewish Bible
      Therefore, the God of the Jews is a viable contender.

      Did the Islamic God Do It?
      __ a) Given inaccurate transmission of the Koran Bible,
      __ b) Given the factual inaccuracies (i.e. members of the Trinity)
      __ c) Given the lack of specific prophecies in the Koran
      Therefore, the God of the Muslims is not a viable contender.

      Did the Christian God Do It?
      __ a) Given accurate transmission of the Christian Bible (i.e. Jewish / OT and NT),
      __ b) Given the fulfillment of foretold specific prophecies (incl: Eze 37, Rev 13) in the Christian Bible
      Therefore, the God of the Christian is a viable contender. Since it includes the Jewish beliefs as well, it is
      the better answer.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
      • Doris

        "Therefore, this implies some supernatural . . . ."

        No. Conjecture. God of the gaps.

        October 5, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
        • Live4Him

          Where's the gap? I can see matter, energy and measure time. Can't you? If so, where is the gap?

          October 5, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
        • Doris

          This should help others with that question, L4H. You and I have been through it enough times together. It's from an astrophysicist:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxiLnC7ikw8

          October 5, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
        • Spindle

          Sir. the "gap" is most certainly between your ears. Try this. No bible for a week, no food, just water. Get in touch with your mind. Be well (without fictional magical creator things)

          October 5, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
      • Level Truth

        http://www.leveltruth.com

        October 5, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
      • Reality # 2

        Only for the new visitors to this blog:

        Some 21 century answers-

        The Apostles' Creed 2013: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

        Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
        and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
        human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

        I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
        preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
        named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
        girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

        Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
        the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

        He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
        a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
        Jerusalem.

        Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
        many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
        and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
        Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
        grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
        and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
        called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

        Amen
        (references used are available upon request)

        October 5, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
      • wjmknight

        The question of whether there is a divine being cannot be ascertained through a multiple choice test...particularly one that assumes there is a God to start with.

        First, each question resolves itself in your mind with a reference to scripture or the bible. When you suggest that the proof of a Christian God is found in the Christian bible, that's classic circular reasoning, and consequently faulty reasoning and invalid logic.

        Second, there are many other religons that have creation stories that begin with the creation of matter, energy and time.

        Third, your List" such a sit is, seems to be more that of someone who has doubts about their own faith desperately trying to convince themselves they're not wrong.

        Finally, if there is a test that proves the existence of the deity, it is likely to be an essay exam, not, for Christ's sake (literary) a multiple choice test.

        Well, at least it wasn't a true/false test, I'll give you that.

        October 5, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
        • Live4Him

          @wjmknight : particularly one that assumes there is a God to start with.

          No assumption was included. It is a fact that matter, energy and time exist. It is also a fact that the Bible tells of their creation. Thus, no assumption was included, just facts.

          October 5, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
        • sybaris

          Saying that the bible is evidence for the christian god having created whatever is no more evidence than me saying that I did it.

          October 5, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
      • Spindle

        This argument above could be the poster child for becoming a non theist.

        I mean look at it! Look at the mind bending of "facts" that the poster is able to twist to convince themselves of their tiny little view. It would not be possible to have a rational discussion with someone like this who has effectively brain washed themselves for the simple satisfaction of not feeling alone and non-purposeful in a chaotic universe.

        god is dead son, let it go 🙂

        October 5, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
      • sybaris

        The flaw in your logic is that your bible is the only source for the answers. Nothing else corroborates it not even the absence of "evidence" in other religions. Remember extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, there is none.

        So if another religion pops up with the same answers that you think are provided by your bible but are built around a dozen gods are you going to follow that religion too?

        October 5, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
        • Live4Him

          @sybaris : The flaw in your logic is that your bible is the only source for the answers.

          Why do you think this is a flaw?

          @sybaris : So if another religion pops up with the same answers

          I would do the same with any other religion (atheism, Islam, Hinduism, etc.) as I do with Christianity – I consider the evidence.

          October 5, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
        • sybaris

          circular logic is a flaw

          Whoever created the bible just happened to insert some lines that led you to believe the subject created everything is not evidence.

          October 5, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
      • Chris Sadler

        "Natural Origins or Supernatural Origins?
        __ a) Matter, energy and time exist. Where did they come from? There are currently not naturalistic explanation
        that only has supporting evidence for this issue.
        __ b) Life exist. Where did it come from? There are currently not naturalistic explanation that only has
        supporting evidence for this issue.
        Therefore, this implies some supernatural being or event is necessary."

        We don't know so 'god dun it'

        That was once the explanation for a LOT of things. We know better now. This argument is called god of the gaps, or the argument from ignorance. Never a good idea.

        October 5, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
      • Yared Ben Ysrael

        The Bible has nothing to do with religion.. no where in the bible did The Most High assign man a religion. Instead he gave 613 laws , commandments and precepts to Black people called Hebrew Israelites. he gave then the Laws to teach the other nations who practice all kinds of abominations in the Sight of God.. He made a covenant with them laying out the Blessing for obedience and the curses that come with disobedience. the Black Hebrews decided to disobey once they got to the Promise land. Over the centuries God send Prophet after prophet warning Israel that God was getting fed up and was going to send the other nations after them and enslave them. Israel didn't that heed the prophets warnings. Israel split into two nation. the House of Israel( the northern ten tribes) and the House of Judah aka the JEWS( remember these are Black People) . the House of Israel was taking into slavery first by Assyria. 200 years later the Jews Fell to Babylon. over the Jews return to Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple where they stay up until 66 AD ( 70 years after Christ was Hung ) until Rome Invaded and Killed Millions of BLACK JEWS. the survives took refuge in Africa. were they Hid until the Islams Muhammad capture and exported the Hebrews in what is Known as the TRANS Sahara slave trade. that lasted 1000 years. then Europe came and created the trans Atlantic slave trade. this is how the Hebrews Got to the Americas.. thats right the People you have in your jails and in your Ghettos are a remnant of the tribes of Israel.. and the bible says he WILL return for them. Matthew 1:22 "Jesus" came to save his people from their sins" not to save "Christians" ... The Bible is nothing more then the Past present and future os the seeds os Israel who were scattered across the world.. the Jews that are living in Israel are imposers . That explains why there is no peace in the Middle east Former Egyptians Prime Minister Qouteed " the Jews left Isarel black and came back white" God Don't love Christians or any one else in this World. in fact God Only Loves The Israelites and Gentiles who keeps his Laws..

        October 5, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
  19. aaron3moore

    What I find so sad about most of these comments is how they exemplify precisely what the author is talking about. The vast majority of you people are just talking past each other. This is why our very American obsession with debate and rhetoric is so pointless. The only way we really come to challenge our own blinders is through relationship with people. I have found that my own faith has become far more nuanced, empathetic and unoffensive since I have made atheistic friends. Meanwhile, some of those friends have come to appreciate how meaningful spirituality is to many of us religionists. Just spouting off "It's obvious there is no God!" or "Where did matter come from then, eh?" isn't going to convince anybody of anything.

    October 5, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      I have found that parrots are very affective in this debate.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • Kevin

      100% correct. As long as there is a reasonable possibility that there is a higher power exists, or does not exist (which is the case), the belief, or lack thereof is not insane.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
      • John P. Tarver

        Either choice is a leap of faith.

        October 5, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Belief is not a choice. Lack of belief merely requires critical analysis; no faith is involved.

          October 5, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • Pfft

      You're right that people are likely not going to change their opinions, but to state that the conversation/debate is useless because of that is incorrect. In fact, it says a lot about human behavior regarding subjective beliefs and how we communicate those beliefs to one another.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
  20. Brad

    I do believe they are all devil's advocates, and none of them actually care that much about what they're debating.

    October 5, 2013 at 3:02 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.