home
RSS
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. Steve

    I gave up struggle against faith shortly after I turned 41. I began praying everyday. My life began changing drastically, for the better, shortly thereafter. For 14 years now life is, for the most part, better. I cannot prove this. I don't care to. I have argued in these comments lists in the past. Mainly because atheists have a very rude way of calling faith stupid. Today I am uninterested in arguing about or against the atheist fantasy. I'll do my thing, everyone else can their's. Today I want to take my wife's little Russell Terrier for a walk in the hills.

    October 5, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
  2. A

    This article is very intelligent. Religious debates should not have to be like this. However when pointing out that we can never really change someones mind through an online debate with logical arguments, then we have to question whether there is really a point to this. I suppose the point would be to try to better understand others arguments, and become more open-minded. Whenever debating somebody, avoid getting personal, keep it logical and polite, and try your best to respect the others view. For example, I do not believe in God. However I am not completely certain about it, because I don't think we can ever know for sure. So I keep an open mind to religious people's opinions. And in fact, I find that religion is overall a good thing. It gives people a secure sense of belonging, self-worth, comfort, a moral compass, and a friend. I happen not to need religion for all of that, but when people do, it is highly respectable. Then there are people who come along and express their dogmatic views. They cannot believe anything else, and they can't come to terms with others opinions. That is unfortunate. Certainty and dogma are not conducive to a healthy debate environment.

    October 5, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • Pizzawolf

      i wish more people on both sides of the fence would understand this. I've had some of the most insightful conversations with people who do not see things as i do.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      It's okay, I guess, to really respect people who are unable to debate their own position because of dogmatism and certainty. I think for many of us, that's not the issue; the issue is the egotism and superiority complex of those who want the critical thinking, nondogmatic, noncertain people to just be quiet and let them have their way in society's laws and practices.

      In other words, why respect those who want special treatment without qualifying their ideas through rigorous debate and rhetorical challenge?

      October 5, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • thefaceoftheword

      The problem is religion people are lost sometimes you have hit them with all you have to be a street corner prophet a provoker a peacemaker you have to make atheist into believers the truth hurts unfortunately all the players are being used as pawns. The weak minded resort to guns and bombs and continue to find the grave only to wake up to a reality they denied the truth is scary it hurts.

      October 5, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
  3. Carl Olson

    Honest discussion of any subject starts with agreed-upon definitions. Unfortunately, this is not yet the case with the term "God" among believers and non-believers alike.

    Such a definition would include, among other things

    1. Does God exists everywhere in the universe at all times; both inside and out
    of matter (atoms and other particles); expanding and contracting with the
    universe? Inside and outside every living being.

    2. Does God communicate with all humans equally? What languages does he use?
    How long does he communicate with each human? How does he communicate with
    millions/billions of humans at the same time? Does God have to communicate with
    anybody who asks? Does he sometimes just "hang up"?

    3. Did God cause the "big bang" start-up of the physical universe? How does he
    create energy, forces, and matter?

    4. What does God do with humans who repent their sins? Does he forgive them
    all? What does it take a human to convince God that he/she has repented? What
    does God do with humans who do not repent, including those who don't even know
    about God's existence?

    5. How does God interact with the matter of the universe (atoms and other
    particles)? Can he move these around at will without disturbing their
    characteristics (including their influences/forces on all the other particles in
    the universe)?

    6. Do humans truly have free will?

    7. Why does God make cruelty and evil exist in this world? Is not everything
    in the world proceeding according some plan that God completely controls?

    8. Does God monitor every single point of the universe continually? Does he
    monitor every single living being all the time?

    9. How does God create a "soul" for each human? When does it attach to a
    human? Do any other animals/plants have souls?

    10. Does God have a Hell? What does he do with those there?

    There are plenty more aspects to answer.

    How about your blog conducting a contest for a complete definition of God? Then an honest and reliable debate can proceed.

    This would be a terrific accomplishment for the world of reason. This should
    get a huge reaction.

    October 5, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • Doris

      Thank you, Carl. I think if people really examined those questions, then they might think differently about, for instance, some of the Deists who were founders of the U.S. Constitution.

      "The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.

      Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind."

      –John Adams from A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America (1787-1788)

      October 5, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
    • ScottCA

      Thanks again for showing that you have utterly no understanding of rational deductive reasoning or logical thought.

      There are numerous fallacies of logic in your statements, but the most glaring is that you begin with an Argument from ignorance otherwise known as an appeal to ignorance.

      And to elevate your ignorance a little, the existence of life does have a theory with ample evidence to back it, it begins with self replicating molecules that begin a process of better and better random replicators forming, otherwise known as the process of evolution.

      As for matter and energy, their existence is also well understood now, and we understand the mathematics that enable the formation of the universe.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
      • ScottCA

        (Post ended up in the wrong place)

        October 5, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
      • Doris

        As a highly agnostic atheist, I would just like to see more theists consider their own differing views more than I see here – and just recognize how differently they think from the next theist.

        October 5, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • ScottCA

      Carl the problem is that your discussing a subject of which there is no evidence of existing at all.
      You might as well be discussing the issue of whether papa smurf exists in all places at once. Does Darth Vader communicate with all humans equally? What languages does he use. Did Snoopy cause the "big bang" start-up of the physical universe? How does he create energy, forces, and matter?

      God and these other characters all share the same state of being, that there is no evidence to support they exist in reality. to discuss your questions is senseless.

      There would be more logic behind the question of, does Honey Boo Boo inhabit all space at once, since at least we have ample evidence that honey Boo Boo exists

      October 5, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
    • ScottCA

      Carl I think a more sensible place for people to start questioning is with the subject we have evidence of existing, and that is the universe. We can see the unviverse, we can measure it, we can explore it in many methods.

      The first and most logical question in a examination should be

      1. Does the universe display signs of being designed or constructed? Is there evidence to support that the universe has been designed or constructed by a sentient being?

      This is where our innate psychology often leads people astray, we see signs of design where they do not exist, simply because we see signs of order.

      The fact is that there are utterly no signs of the universe being designed or constructed by any purposeful being.
      There is no evidence to support the hypothesis that the universe was designed or constructed.

      Thus there is no logical reason to begin searching for a designer.

      October 5, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
  4. Doris

    I ask some questions recently, and a couple of responders approached the questions. This seems to be a larger audience this afternoon, so maybe I'll get some more interesting answers.

    Questions that fundamentalist theists seem to avoid in general:

    1. Why is it so reasonable to believe that what men wrote millenia ago about their alleged supernatural experiences be taken seriously when many things (generally, not necessarily Biblically), much more real and present to them, were often so horribly misunderstood? –things that were later corrected or clarified via some science.

    2. A belief in the Abrahamic God involves the notion of "objective truth" – that is, certain objective and moral truths that allegedly come straight from God. The question is, where can anyone point to such a truth and claim they came by it objectively? One might claim they did from a voice from God or a thought entering their mind, but they can never produce evidence. They can only ask their audience to believe. (Subjectivity enters the room.) I have yet to have anyone show me any purely objective truth – something that does not involve some kind of consensus. And yet many theists seem to judge other people based on something they consider a "pure" or "objective" truth.

    Questions that some fundamentalist Christians seem to avoid in general (or at least ones where the answers are quite empty):

    1. Some Christians unsurprisingly refute that Christianity borrowed some of its story from similar messianic stories that were floating around during the Gospel and post-Gospel periods. But why then did some of the prominent early Christian apologists (Justin Martyr and others) come up with this excuse that Satan, via "plagiarism in anticipation", had planted earlier "fake" stories to come before the "real Gospel" stories (to confuse the devout)? Some say the only evidence we have that has survived are the Christian accounts, so that must indicate they were the true accounts. But why the strange excuse by several of early Christian apologists?

    2. There do seem to be many things wrapped up nice and neatly in the New Testament – ideas and ideals that look back on one another. But each time we get to a place where we might expect the stories there to hook well to something on the outside that would give good verification of the stories, we seem to come to a dead-end. How much do historians agree over who Peter was and what he actually wrote? Who exactly are the 500? What are their names? Did they write anything? Who actually wrote about them where it was not just a hearsay account? Who really authored the Gospels?

    October 5, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • Reality # 2

      Digging deeper for the new members of this blog:

      1. origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

      “New Torah For Modern Minds

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

      2. Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations (or “mythicizing” from P, M, M, L and J) and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Ludemann, Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects.

      The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hitt-ites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.

      earlychristianwritings.com/

      For added "pizzazz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "filicider".

      Current RCC problems:

      Pedophiliac priests, an all-male, mostly white hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!

      2 b., Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

      Current problems:
      Adulterous preachers, pedophiliac clerics, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals and atonement theology,

      October 5, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
    • Live4Him

      To answer your questions in their entirety would take too much verbage to be justified here. So, I'll start with the first one. Hopefully, you are willing to debate and not just ask questions to mock other's views.

      @Doris : Why is it so reasonable to believe that what men wrote millenia ago about their alleged supernatural experiences be taken seriously when many things (generally, not necessarily Biblically), much more real and present to them, were often so horribly misunderstood?

      1) The Bible has had no material falsehood proven against it (i.e. I'm excluding the many scribal errors often pointed out like word order, verb tense, etc.).

      2) Much about what the Bible declared has been proven scientifically after the Bible (i.e. the sub-books) was written. For example, plate tectonics, spherical earth, mountains under the sea, etc.

      3) Much of the prophecies that can be tested have been fulfilled in recent times. (i.e. rebirth of Israel, creation of the UPC code, etc.). Note that I'm excluding all prophecies that would have been fulfilled prior to around 200 AD, since they cannot be proven in modern times.

      Here's my question for you – Given the Biblical explanation for the existence of matter, energy and time, why would you reject it in lieu of "no explanation, but god doesn't exist"?

      October 5, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
      • Pfft

        There are a plethora of websites dedicated to the inconsistencies, fallacies, mistranslations, errors and contradictions in the bible. Sounds like you prefer to get all your 'facts' from creationist sites.

        October 5, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
      • brian

        "creation of the UPC code"

        LOL! Well, there goes anyone taking you seriously.

        October 5, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
      • Robert

        Let me get this straight ... the bible prophesied UPC codes????

        Oh I just got to hear an explanation of this one. I know what it is, but I have to hear it from you .....

        October 5, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
    • Dan English

      I have a much shorter reply yet to me much more meaningful then many things I've read. You can take away many many things from people. Life, material possessions , health, etc etc.

      There is one thing you can never take from anyone and that is their faith.

      October 5, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        With some creative instruction, it could probably be done. But if we agree, just because you say so, do you consider it good or bad that a person (according to you) cannot have their faith taken away? Does it matter how the faith was acquired, or no? Any faith in any thing brought on by any reason....still applies to your statement?

        October 5, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
  5. Reality # 2

    And we are off and running as CNN features "holy trolling" on their CNN News website!!

    To continue the discussion:

    It is very disturbing that religious narrow- mindedness, intolerance, violence and hatred continues unabated due to randomness of birth. Maybe, just maybe if this fact would be published on the first page of every newspaper every day, that we would finally realize the significant stupidity of all religions.

    October 5, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
  6. JA

    Some advice for religious people: Please don't use arguments or positions that were debunked or answered years/decades ago. These include, but are not limited to, the 'god of the gaps' argument, the 'cosmological argument', the "there are no transitional fossils" argument, special pleading, shifting responsibility of burden of proof, quote mining (ex: the famous Darwin quote about eye evolution), arguing from authority, arguing from ignorance, etc, etc, etc...

    October 5, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
    • A in Pa

      or my personal favorate is quoting large portions of the bible as proof the bible is true. It presumes that I've never attended a church or heard a sermon or read the bible or that I can't understand. Quoting the bible will not suddenly have the effect of striking me into belief.

      October 5, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
  7. John

    Some people will use a
    symbolism of the relationship of God to the universe, wherein God is
    a brilliant light, only somehow veiled, hiding underneath all these
    forms as you look around you. So far so good. But the truth is
    funnier than that. It is that you are looking right at the brilliant
    light now that the experience you are having that you call ordinary
    everyday consciousness–pretending you're not it–that experience is
    exactly the same thing as "it." There's no difference at all. And
    when you find that out, you laugh yourself silly. That's the great
    discovery. Alan Watts

    October 5, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
  8. Shirley

    I think it goes both ways. Both sides of this remind of Congress and the bipartisanship. See where that got us all!!!

    October 5, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
  9. Live4Him

    @Chris Sadler : Because the creation story in the bible is garbage

    Ahhh.... Someone who claims to know all things. How do you know the story is garbage? What evidence do you have to support this claim?

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

      Our scientific understanding of the formation of the universe does not support The Babble and there is no evidence for any supernatural beings so calling the ridiculous creation story in The Babble garbage is being kind.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
      • Live4Him

        @HotAirAce : Our scientific understanding of the formation of the universe

        But, what's your evidence?

        October 5, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          Damn! Trapped by the old "you can't prove a negative ploy!" You are right, there is no evidence that creationism is not true. But of course, there is no evidence that it is true either. But there is huge body of scientific knowledge that supports a non-Babble explanation, which you will now claim is not evidence, and fall back on "if you can't prove it was not a god, then it must have been a god." . . .

          October 5, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
        • Pfft

          @HotAirAce that's pretty much the circular argument(if you can call it that) that he's been bringing to the table for awhile now. "If we don't know what it was, it must have been the Hebrew God, and that's the only answer that makes sense". smh

          October 5, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
      • Reality # 2

        What we do know: (from the fields of astrophysics, biology, biochemistry, archeology, nuclear physics, geology and the history of religion)

        1. The Sun will burn out in 3-5 billion years so we have a time frame.

        2. Asteroids continue to circle us in the nearby asteroid belt.

        3. One wayward rock and it is all over in a blast of permanent winter.

        4. There are enough nuclear weapons to do the same job.

        5. Most contemporary NT exegetes do not believe in the Second Coming so apparently there is no concern about JC coming back on an asteroid or cloud of raptors/rapture.

        6. All stars will eventually extinguish as there is a limit to the amount of hydrogen in the universe. When this happens (100 trillion years?), the universe will go dark. If it does not collapse and recycle, the universe will end.

        7. Super, dormant volcanoes off the coast of Africa and under Yellowstone Park could explode cataclysmically at any time ending life on Earth.

        8. Many of us are part Neanderthal and/or Denisovan.

        Bottom line: our apocalypse will start between now and 3-5 billion CE. The universe apocalypse, 100 trillion years?
         http://www.universetoday.com/18847/life-of-the-sun/

        solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/profile.cfm?Object=Asteroids‎

        http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/30/us/wus-supervolcanoes-Yellowstone

        Search for Paul, book by Professor JD Crossan

        Rabbi Paul, book by Professor Bruce Chilton

        https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com/

        http://theextinctionprotocol.wordpress.com/2011/08/22/study-finds-star-formation-declining-throughout-the-universe/

        http://www.un.org/disarmament/WMD/Nuclear/

        October 5, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
        • ScottCA

          Thanks again for showing that you have utterly no understanding of rational deductive reasoning or logical thought.

          There are numerous fallacies of logic in your statements, but the most glaring is that you begin with an Argument from ignorance otherwise known as an appeal to ignorance.

          And to elevate your ignorance a little, the existence of life does have a theory with ample evidence to back it, it begins with self replicating molecules that begin a process of better and better random replicators forming, otherwise known as the process of evolution.

          As for matter and energy, their existence is also well understood now, and we understand the mathematics that enable the formation of the universe.

          October 5, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
        • ScottCA

          (My post was not meant for this comment – dismiss it)

          October 5, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • John Woods

      It falls upon the person making the original claim (creation) to prove what they are saying is true before necessitating the backing of a rebuttal. Otherwise, I could asssert, "We came from aliens who first populated earth." When you say, "That's not true," I can't say, "Prove it isn't true." Make your case first.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • Eisenhorn

      I can't prove the Garden of Eden didn't exist, then again you can't prove I am not talking to God right now and he said that was just a story. See...you lack proof yet claim you're religion is real. I can prove that genetically it's impossible for all humans to come from one man and one woman. I can also prove that it's highly unlikely that said persons could be animated from clay.

      The universe is a wondrous place, you don't need to make up nonsense stories just because you can't explain it all...

      October 5, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
  10. Martin Michael

    Hard to figure this one? http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/04/world/asia/vietnam-general-death/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

    October 5, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
  11. fjaowpef

    There isn't any way to argue rationally for religion. If they could think critically then they wouldn't believe in "God" in the first place.

    October 5, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
    • Live4Him

      Where did matter, energy and time come from?

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

        Don't know – a far superior answer than some god did it.

        October 5, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
        • Live4Him

          @HotAirAce : Don't know – a far superior answer than some god did it.

          Logic dictates that unless you know one, you cannot know the other.

          October 5, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          Are you claiming that you *know* some god did it! If yes, what's your evidence?

          October 5, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
      • John P. Tarver

        Atheist suppression of General relativity leaves us with little more understanding of Time than we had a century ago.

        October 5, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
        • Frank

          Come on -put your teeth in and get up so speed, Tarver.

          October 5, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
        • John P. Tarver

          I am trying to be less insulting, in honor of the author. Rachael is herself insulting, so there was no need to self moderate my posts.

          October 5, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          You've made this claim before and never backed up your claims with anything but silence. Should we expect anything else now?

          October 5, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
        • John P. Tarver

          I have quoted Einstein's Copenhagen Interpretation a number of times, mostly because only the competing Copenhagen Interpretation from the fascists is part of populist science; that was also proven false decades ago.

          October 5, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          So, are you alleging that atheists are suppressing Einstein's views on QM? Yes or no, what is the significance of the disagreement over QM? How is it preventing anything?

          October 5, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
      • nope

        where did god come from?

        October 5, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
      • SaltinyourEye

        You're really beating that dead horse aren't you?

        I think you might be a good poster child for why certain non-critical thinking folks are so easily swayed by deity myths.

        "If Zeus didn't create the Universe, then who did?" It's just stupid non-logic. Why not give Humans a few more thousand years of learning and see what we come up with, hmmm? We only just discovered dark energy and dark matter within the last 3 decades!! process that! 😉

        god is dead, let it go.

        October 5, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
      • KevininAtlanta

        We as humans have yet to figure that out. But that isn't an argument in favor of God.

        About 200 years ago, humans had no idea how/why the tides of the ocean moved in and out on such perfect intervals. Many people at the time contributed that to God. Now that we know that the tides are controlled by the gravity of the moon and sun, the God argument doesn't hold up anymore.

        October 5, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
      • Pfft

        Again, I don't know. But if I'm going to entertain the story in Genesis as an origin, you might as well also entertain the creation myths of other cultures. I know one thing for sure. Just because someone wrote in a book, "The Hebrew God did it", isn't proof of any kind, and I'm not sure why you keep admonishing us to take this sort of logic seriously. I guess if I just come out and claim I did it, and write it in a book, it should be taken just as seriously.

        October 5, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
      • John Woods

        There have many many, many things past people have attributed to a god simply because they didn't understand that thing, but later scientists were able to explain those things rationally. Just because something exists does not mean that some archaic deity created it. And don't say, "Prove it wasn't god." I say, "You prove it WAS created by god as that is your claim."

        October 5, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
      • Eisenhorn

        No, logic dictates that all else being equal, you don't just make stuff up.

        October 5, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
      • Live4YOURSELFandOTHERS

        quantum fluctuations lead to the creation of tiny universes out of nothing. Most collapsed, some reached a critical point and inflated. Our universe was one of those.

        October 5, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
  12. ScottCA

    The faith based religious squirming in fear of the flood of knowledge and reason that will wash away their archaic superst-it-ions. They desperately seek some way to silence it, for some hole they can hide in, a trick they can use to make us feel pity for them. It is very pleasing to see these lunatics reduced to this desperation. Their breed of superst-it-ious irrationality cannot fade from the earth fast enough.

    October 5, 2013 at 3:36 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 3:40 pm |
      • Pfft

        You can repeat this over and over, but all you're doing is showing that you don't have very good critical thinking skills. SO because we don't know why life exists, or where energy originated, this implies a supernatural origin? I seriously don't want whatever you're smoking. As others have said, you are doing a disservice to other critical thinking theologians by continually parroting this sort of ignorance.

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

        So many holes......good luck with your "quest for god". I think you're beliefs are ridiculous, but as long as you're nice to people and don't do anything stupid on the basis of "the bible said so" it should all work out.

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

        Thanks again for showing that you have utterly no understanding of rational deductive reasoning or logical thought.

        There are numerous fallacies of logic in your statements, but the most glaring is that you begin with an Argument from ignorance otherwise known as an appeal to ignorance.

        And to elevate your ignorance a little, the existence of life does have a theory with ample evidence to back it, it begins with self replicating molecules that begin a process of better and better random replicators forming, otherwise known as the process of evolution.

        As for matter and energy, their existence is also well understood now, and we understand the mathematics that enable the formation of the universe.

        October 5, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
  13. Tim

    I like how cnn encourages the persecution of Christians (But oh no, we got to bend over backwards for Muslims). The only thing my Christian friends and I ask for is for tolerance of one's views and religion, regardless of what religion you are. You or I may not agree or accept what each other thinks or believes, but that doesn't give anyone any right to pass judgment or trampled on another's religious beliefs, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist .etc or whether you're Atheist or you don't believe in anything.

    October 5, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
    • Holy Man

      You don't even know what the word "persecution" means. Are you told you cannot practice your religion? Are you told your family will be killed if you continue to practice your religion? No, you're not.

      "Christians" love to claim they are persecuted, but they don't have a clue what persecution means. Typical of people with such low IQ as Tim.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • Pfft

      If you think this is persecution, you should have been around for the Inquisition and the Crusades, and the two thousand years where you could not even question Christianity or there would be dire consequences.

      Love thy neighbor, turn the other cheek, show tolerance, don't judge. I don't see much of this in the history of your religion, unfortunately.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • Eisenhorn

      Tim,

      You speak of persecution yet I have never heard of anyone denying a Christian the ability to run for or hold office. Athiests often are persecuted this way. Perhaps you have heard of people talking smack about the POTUS being a "dirty Christian"? No? Probably because they use the word "Muslim" as a slur.

      Face it, Tim. Anyone with a brain is calling shenanigans on your victim routine.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
  14. Martin Michael

    Hmmmm.... http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/04/world/asia/vietnam-general-death/index.html?hpt=hp_t2 Now it's over?

    October 5, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
  15. hughbert

    “we must respect all ideas in the world, no matter how crazy.” This is absolute nonsense.

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

      Yeah, what a stupid notion. Everyone does have the right to believe what they want. But I also have the right to call them an |d|ot for it.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
  16. J.R.

    Lmao. I am 5 of the people named in this article. Fools.

    October 5, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
  17. FDGHGH345345

    CHANGE OSEOS SERVICE ERRASING CANCERIGEN AGENCIES SERVICE.
    QQQQQQQQpgiorg.blog.comQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQ
    CHANGE OSEOS SERVICE ERRASING CANCERIGEN AGENCIES SERVICE.
    QQQQQQQQpgiorg.blog.comQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQ
    CHANGE OSEOS SERVICE ERRASING CANCERIGEN AGENCIES SERVICE.
    QQQQQQQQpgiorg.blog.comQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQ
    CHANGE OSEOS SERVICE ERRASING CANCERIGEN AGENCIES SERVICE.
    QQQQQQQQpgiorg.blog.comQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQ
    CHANGE OSEOS SERVICE ERRASING CANCERIGEN AGENCIES SERVICE.
    QQQQQQQQpgiorg.blog.comQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQ
    CHANGE OSEOS SERVICE ERRASING CANCERIGEN AGENCIES SERVICE.
    QQQQQQQQpgiorg.blog.comQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQ
    CHANGE OSEOS SERVICE ERRASING CANCERIGEN AGENCIES SERVICE.
    QQQQQQQQpgiorg.blog.comQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQ
    CHANGE OSEOS SERVICE ERRASING CANCERIGEN AGENCIES SERVICE.
    QQQQQQQQpgiorg.blog.comQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQ

    October 5, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
  18. hughbert

    " Yep. "weak-minded hypocrites who believe in fairy tales."

    October 5, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
  19. Carl Olson

    Honest discussion on any subject starts with agreed-upon definitions. Unfortunately, this has not yet happened for the term "God" among believers and non-believers alike.

    Such a definition would include, among other things

    1. Does God exists everywhere in the universe at all times; both inside and out
    of matter (atoms and other particles); expanding and contracting with the
    universe? Inside and outside every living being.

    2. Does God communicate with all humans equally? What languages does he use?
    How long does he communicate with each human? How does he communicate with
    millions/billions of humans at the same time? Does God have to communicate with
    anybody who asks? Does he sometimes just "hang up"?

    3. Did God cause the "big bang" start-up of the physical universe? How does he
    create energy, forces, and matter?

    4. What does God do with humans who repent their sins? Does he forgive them
    all? What does it take a human to convince God that he/she has repented? What
    does God do with humans who do not repent, including those who don't even know
    about God's existence?

    5. How does God interact with the matter of the universe (atoms and other
    particles)? Can he move these around at will without disturbing their
    characteristics (including their influences/forces on all the other particles in
    the universe)?

    6. Do humans truly have free will?

    7. Why does God make cruelty and evil exist in this world? Is not everything
    in the world proceeding according some plan that God completely controls?

    8. Does God monitor every single point of the universe continually? Does he
    monitor every single living being all the time?

    9. How does God create a "soul" for each human? When does it attach to a
    human? Do any other animals/plants have souls?

    10. Does God have a Hell? What does he do with those there?

    There are plenty more aspects to answer.

    How about your blog conducting a contest for a complete definition of God? Then an honest and reliable debate can proceed.

    This would be a terrific accomplishment for the world of reason. This should get a huge reaction.

    October 5, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
  20. ima_robot_beepbeepbeep

    the writer of this article and his followers believe the world is 6000 years old

    kinda hard to take them seriously when they refuse to accept basic reality even when the facts are staring them straight in the face

    October 5, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      Did the voices in your head tell you to write that?

      October 5, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47
Advertisement
About this blog

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