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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. The Christian

    I have a friend who is a Christian. He often rides on the blogs and online entertainment – often like an internet crusader. Myself, not being very familiar with the concern of propagating my beliefs to others, am often curious in his seemingly compelling need to tell others about God and the importance of Love. I often wonder what reality this friend of mine lives in, not to persecute him, but to better understand him in my own worldview. I ask him, "Why do people go on the internet during natural disasters and say it was Gods work that killed thousands of people and caused harm (where is the love in that)?" Also, I ask him about the Christian bus accident, and why the Pastor felt compelled to tell families that the children were accepted into Heaven, instead of telling those families about death. After much dialogue between my friend and I, I came to the realization – actually, both of us really – that it is because most people are unable to talk about death. It may also be the driving force compelling some to theorize and become fanatic about a God, or even NO God. So, while we are on the topic of these seemingly un-welcomed arguments towards the existence of God, it may also be prudent to discuss the equally un-welcomed steadfast opinion about the existence of God. Thank you.

    October 5, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • denver

      I think any number of psychologists and philosophers will readily acknowledge that god is both a way of coming to terms with our own deaths and that deaths of our parents. God is the wise parent who will never die.

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

    AMEN....Wait a minute...

    October 5, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
  3. Sock-Ra-Tease

    One major correction: Genesis 1 through 11 is situated in Sumer (i.e. southern Mesopotamia). Mesopotamian names are used for men, gods (even a specific Mesopotamian God is mentioned) and geographical locations, like Eden (as in the garden or) and Babel (as in the tower of).

    In the Epic of Gilgamesh (written over a thousand years before the first evidence of Jewish writing, the hero Gilgamesh goes in search of Eternal Life and he finds it. It is available in a magical plant that confers Eternal Life rather than a magical plant that prohibits Eternal Life. Gilgamesh isn’t sure he wants to eat the magical plant and he’s exhausted from his labors, so he takes a nap. While he is napping a serpent eats the magical plant.

    The snake in folk mythology is known for two contradictory qualities: Eternal Life because it sheds it skin and appears shiny and new, and a quick and deadly bite. Today the Rod of Asclepius has historical associations with the caduceus (the medical symbol – Staff of Life entwined with serpents) with commerce, theft, deception, and death. This is all MYTHOLOGY, folks!

    In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the flood story shares 15 similarities IN EXACTLY THE SAME ORDER with the Biblical Flood, including the Arc landing on a mountaintop and the builder of the Mesopotamian Arc releasing first a Raven and then a Dove. “Gopher wood” (a word used nowhere else in the Bible) refers to “birds nest” (the Mesopotamian Arc was built with Reeds) and the word for “pitch” is a Mesopotamian word.

    Think the Jews originated the seven-day creation week? Think again! The Mesopotamian Gods were tired of growing their own food, so they created man on the sixth day SO THE GODS COULD REST.

    It isn’t Evolution (one of the most confirmed theories in all of Science) that is bogus; it’s Creationism. Creationism isn’t just mythology, it borrowed mythology from a pagan source. Get it right!

    October 5, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
    • denver

      To whom are you responding here?

      October 5, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • tony

      Creationism doesn't require a single god either. Everything designed on Earth usually has one of more different men and women responible. So "in god's image", is a bit of a conundrum for creationism.

      October 5, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
    • Andy B

      You are absolutely correct. It's a shame that Christians aren't aware of this and that their Preachers and Ministers have not told them about how many aspects of the Old Testement were copied from earlier Religions. The problem is the religious will cover their ears because knowing things like this might make them start doubting their religion. The Epic of Gilgamesh is what starting my journey away from Christianity. When you actually start learning about the history of the Bible you start to understand that it's just stories written by primitive and superstious men.

      October 5, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
  4. Sience_Is_God

    You guys are all stupid if you believe in the power of religin. God is just some guy invented by the Catholics and republicans to control us and get money. Sience has proved god wrong. Just asked all the sientists you know you guys all suck because you beleive that there was ever a "jesus". He's made up. Uneducatid gullable morons (this is satirical).

    October 5, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • denver

      Your satire is reductive and can only engender more butt hurt on the internet. Was this your goal?

      October 5, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
    • theorycraft

      haha well thanks for the clarification at the end, you probably still will end up opening up a can of worms though... :/

      October 5, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • Andy B

      How's your spell check working?

      October 5, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
      • denver

        He has the best spell checking that sience can produce!!

        October 5, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
  5. caesarbc

    Whatever happened to tolerance of others?
    Somehow that basic message is lost in all discussion of religion vs. atheism.

    October 5, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • tony

      How can you have tolerance for understanding and believing facts?

      October 5, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • Atheist Activism

      Every study ever conducted show that atheists are more intelligent and have a better sense of morality than religious people. I tend to let that get to my head sometimes, and I start condescending to people. I've been working on this lately.

      October 5, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
  6. RydMizar

    Keep worshiping the wkl1 gene cyst and lesion the brain jews your just perpetuating these masonic earth born nephilim lulu's further. and their learned protocls of the elder of zion manifesto plan. you people are going to lose in the end when these hybrid lulu's go extinct. so keep loving your childmolster son of a chester 3 time kid killer died at the masonic age of 33 jesus, and the rest of his talpiot tomb masonic solomon temple people. your kabballah false god religeon will not win. Weebly.com-thewhitetruthmatrix.com

    October 5, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
    • denver

      Hmmm... I don't remember asking the waiter for a Word Salad.

      October 5, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
  7. in god we trust

    well its like this, fear of the lord is knowledge, its like if you get into bad trouble wouldn't your blood father or mother be upset? thats kinda the example.

    October 5, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
    • denver

      So people who aren't afraid of god don't know about him? And to know god is to fear him?

      ...that's interesting.

      October 5, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
      • theorycraft

        well kinda, that is what many churches teach, it isn't a fear of being afraid though, its more a fear like respect and understanding your place in the world. Like when a scientist looks at a picture from the hubble telescope; he doesn't see a vast land to be conquered, he sees how small and insignificant he and all of mankind's scientific progress actually is in the grand scope of things and that's scary... to know that no matter how high you go you can never truly be in control of your destiny

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

          Religious faith sounds a lot more like an existential crisis than I'd expect it to.

          October 5, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
        • denver

          On the topic of "controlling destiny"- a fun one to be sure, what does that imply for you? Can a man in control of his destiny remake the universe around him on his own terms? And what exactly is that man's "destiny?" I find the notion of destiny to be among the more deceptively complex things around.

          If you define destiny as "whatever happens next", the destiny is beyond control by definition and should not be feared. People who fear uncontrollable things are wasting a lot of mental effort.

          October 5, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
    • Atheist Activism

      That's the kind of logic that scares atheists. Would you not know right from wrong without the Ten Commandments? Morality is something you're born with, and can only be corrupted by religious texts.

      October 5, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
      • denver

        I think we all know (atheist and theist alike) that people aren't not murdering simply because the Bible says not to murder. We're all the product of cultural ethics- all of us apart from sociopaths, I guess- that we absorb unconsciously w/o really realizing what's going on at all.

        October 5, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
      • theorycraft

        morality as we understand it is not something you're born with... have a kid be raised in the woods and you'll see how feral he is even into adulthood. But that's an extreme

        toning it down this is what I mean, we know not to kill our friends because they're nice to us, but without being taught most people would not be against harming our enemies. Even as we are taught actually, many of us find indirect ways to harm those who've hurt us and bring justifications on why we were right to do so. Furthermore, some people believe that killing animals is morally wrong, even for food, or raising food in unpleasant conditions is wrong. But not everyone in the world would agree with this.... if we were born with morality we would all share an equal standard of morals. The only difference between christian cultures and secular ones is that more of the rules and expectations are spelled out in christian circles and taught in church whereas in other circles each person is left to just kinda figure it out, what the social rules are amongst the people around him.

        October 5, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
        • denver

          Just out of curiosity, where would we find a secular culture? I was under the impression that essentially every human population in existence had some sort of religious practice.

          October 5, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
        • Maxwell's Demon

          It's patently untrue to say secular cultures do not explicitly spell out rules. It does and in much the same way religious cultures do. It does so in the form of laws and in the form of societal pressures.

          October 5, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
  8. H. E. Baber

    Nice try, and much appreciated. But just scrolling through the first page of comments suggests that it's hopeless. The online "dialogue" consists of fundagelicals arguing with village atheists. Educated, articulate upper middle class people don't dive in because they have more sense. It's the trailer trash evangelicals vs. the pimply nerd-boys who imagine that making the approved noises about flying spaghetti monsters and the like makes them intellectuals–which I suppose is some consolation if you can't get laid.

    I so wish that those on both sides could recognize that we Christians aren't all Evangelicals, or conservatives or any sort.

    October 5, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
    • Atheist Activism

      You do realize that the thesis of this article was about not throwing insults around?

      October 5, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
    • theorycraft

      yeah that makes no sense, I mean yes you're trying to be fair and good but your ignorance kind of shows in the process. None of these people here are hick christians or virgin goth atheists, demographically people who engage in these types of debates online are in the middle class, decently educated and by all means normal.

      October 5, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
  9. Bernard

    DON'T!!

    October 5, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
  10. Atheist Activism

    Humans evolved in small tribal units. It was essential to each individual's survival to trust their tribe and to distrust foreign tribes. We see tribalism every single day in the form of patriotism, sports rivalries, skin color, and religion. It's actually written in our DNA to act this way. My question to you, dear author, is how could religion NOT arise? And how could we NOT argue about it?

    October 5, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
  11. Casey

    Dude, awesome article! The best part of the comments though, is looking at what those that have no faith say. Just cracks me up. :o) Hey y'all if you don't believe in anything, why on earth would you attack those that do? Makes me think that secretly you do believe and are scared. Yes?

    October 5, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • Atheist Activism

      Well Casey, I've spent a large portion of my life thinking about philosophy. Philosophy is rooted in logic, and when you read enough books you are able to come to the conclusion that there is no logical basis for the existence of a god. 75% of professional philosophers are atheists, and we are making great strides in our field. We voice our opinions, because we feel that they really do matter. In a world civilization that only has a 50% chance of not annihilating itself within this century, we feel that religious fighting is a major area of concern.

      October 5, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
      • theorycraft

        ????????????????? what?????????????????????

        there's no logical basis for a god??????????????

        I can understand there's no scientific basis for a god but philosophically? philosophically speaking there isn't a logical basis for life on earth......

        October 5, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
        • denver

          Let's be honest, there's no "logical reason" to believe anything. Quick, prove you aren't a brain in a jar!!

          ...with that in mind, things can be arranged into certain "hierarchies of plausibility" and where you'd put god in that arrangement is really up to the individual. As you say, there's no scientific, naturalistic reason to believe in god but you can philosophically justify belief in anything. Even being a brain in a jar.

          October 5, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • denver

      Honestly, Casey, everyone "believes" things but not all beliefs are theistic in nature. I believe in the social contract and my ability to derive a working morality for myself. I believe in the beauty and wonder of the physical world. I believe that pie is delicious.

      I just don't believe in gods.

      October 5, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
      • theorycraft

        mmmmm i do like pie 🙂

        but my pie is better than your pie, your pie is wrong and needs to be destroyed... let us do battle!

        October 5, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
        • denver

          APPLE PIE SHALL REIGN SUPREME!! DEATH TO THE PUMPKIN EATERS!!!

          October 5, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
        • theorycraft

          dam, i love apple pie too... i was hoping youd do cherry.... never had pumpkin pie but if it tastes anything like pumpkins I'd imagine its gross

          October 5, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
        • denver

          Ummm, darn... BUT WAIT!! I recently converted to Sconetarianism!

          SCONES ARE THE BEST!! DEATH TO PIE EATERS!

          October 5, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • One one

      Yea, you caught me, deep down I really believe an invisible magic man who lives in the sky came to earth to impregnate a human virgin with himself so he could later be tortured and executed then rise from the dead into heaven in order to lift an eternal curse he put on all mankind so long as they believe all that, but if they don't , he sends them to hell to be tortured forever after they die.

      October 5, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
    • Maxwell's Demon

      It's always wonderful when I see someone try to shame a minority into silence.

      October 5, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • tony

      To save our children from the likes of you. It's not doing that, that is the scary aspect.

      October 5, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
      • theorycraft

        I think its safe to say your child will have a fair chance to choose his own beliefs as there is already no prayer in school allowed and the occasional westminister baptist church (i think theres a bourough in there somewhere too) won't exactly turn your kids religious.

        All of these arguments stem from fear. We feel we must protect something. Neither christians or atheists or republicans or democrats or pro gun or anti gun or rock and roll people are trying to break into your house at night and kidnap your family. Everyone deep down is just trying to live their life and protect their own. We have common enemies we should focus on, like real criminals... no christian is going to say 'oh you can't arrest that guy for killing 25 people, he's saved by christ!' and no atheist is going to say 'oh they set off a bomb and killed 8 kids but its okay because it was a church' (though I can't be too sure about that one since there have been comments similar to that as replies to recent tragedies)

        October 5, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
  12. Mandingo

    Yo mama must be really stupid if she raised you to write an article where you seem to be suggesting that 'we should all listen to each other' as if religious people and atheists are made of the same ilk. One is based on pure pure pure fairly tale for the simplest of simple minds while the other requires actual thinking. Your poor poor mama

    October 5, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
    • Mandingo

      And by this I mean atheism is the fairy tales. rather than face accountability more fairies opt for a so called atheism

      October 5, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
      • Mandingo

        hahahaha well played, guy with too much time on his hand

        October 5, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
        • Mandingo

          Fairies are often romantically involved with their hand before they find or create other fairies to pervert with.

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

        But you don't need your hand, you've got Jesus to play with

        October 5, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
  13. Pale Tiger

    I believe that arguing with a person who is unwilling or unable to enter into a reasonable and objective discussion about religion, is less receptive to do so in an argumentative exchange. Many people have convictions that impairs their ability to comprehend, thus it also impairs their ability to present their point of view in a rational manner, therefore fail to convince others who may not know anything about religion, and mislead their impression of religious persons as obtuse fanatics. It is rare to meet persons who's faith is their guiding principle in life, and that because of that, are surely better persons. They are out there, but they are a silent minority who like me, don't engage into arguments over religion.

    October 5, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
  14. WeWereOmTheMoon

    Modern psychology (see Daniel Kahneman) shows that people need reason and explanation, a simple chance or uncertainty does not fit in our conscientiousness very well. So every time we don't have an answer to something we come up with one, it is in our nature. I'm not saying that god does not exists, no one can prove or disprove that, but it is totally feasible that the concept of god was created to fill in all the unexplainable phenomenon and to give reason to preaty much anything. Note how all throughout history the more we understand, the less god seems to be involved. Only when knowledge is deliberately oppressed, god seems to gain power.

    October 5, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
    • WeWereOmTheMoon

      It might seem very lonely and cold to be the only intelligent beings in our solar system that came to be by pure chance for no particular reason. But don't forget that as it happens, we give reason to things, we create meanings and so, the more we know the "truth" the more meaningful we can make it. We the people are true creators, that much is clear. All this is besides the point that god or creator might actually exist but lets be honest there is not much doubt about our own existence and creativity.

      October 5, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
  15. Journey

    In my experience, and at the risk of sounding a little intolerant (I get that a lot nowadays), you really have to take the atheist group for what it really is. Most of these people pray and read the Bible when nobody is looking. They hide it under their bed at night. Sort of like that person every knows that absolutely hates gay people...but secretly...

    Same principle applies to most of the atheist on this board. Unfortunately It is what it is.

    October 5, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • One one

      You have it backwards. Many who profess to believe, deep down inside really don't .

      October 5, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • One one

      That is as absurd as saying, when no one is looking, most Christians worship Allah.

      October 5, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
      • One one

        I pride myself in stupid

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

      Er... no.

      October 5, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • Chimp

      I don't think intolerant means what you think it means.

      October 5, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • zieroh

      And how, exactly, do you know this?

      October 5, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
  16. m12345

    Oh he's such a hero
    especially at the home of religious intolerance CNN
    All the hatred spills out from brain dead atheist trolls
    What a special lot they are

    October 5, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
    • zieroh

      I think there's plenty of insults coming from both sides.

      October 5, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
  17. zieroh

    The fundamental problem is that debating convictions is fruitless. The believers and the nonbelievers are firmly entrenched in their positions, and no amount of debate or discussion is going to budge those positions. You might be able to convince someone that they could really actually enjoy brussels sprouts. You will never, ever convince your opponent of the merits of your religion or non-religion.

    It's that simple. Why even bother? Why even have a comment section on these kinds of topics? It always ends the same way.

    Oh, right. Advertising revenue.

    October 5, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
    • Pfft

      And yet, here you are, posting your opinion noone should care about according to you. Take your own advice, brainiac. I've pointed out why debate is still good, regardless.

      October 5, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
  18. seri0us

    CNN seriously publishes this stuff and puts it on the front page? An article by a man who is so sensitive and proactive about his pseudointellectual spoutings that he seriously reads the feedback and hopes for meaningful communication over the internet?

    This is the world we live in, where people who are obviously emotionally and mentally pathetic, as evidenced by his sincere concern to be understood and intellectually respected over an inappropriate medium, fail to see the very paradigm under which their communications operate. The fact is, no one is here you punch you if you say "yo mama" and if this is sudden news to you, then you are pretty slow. You are on the internet, boy, this is where anarchic discussion and uninhibited communications occur.

    Please, John Blake, we know you can't think for yourself but please stop looking to Prof. X and Dr. Y to corroborate your ideas – if you are a real man, you will be secure in your own logic and intuition. At that point, you will be impervious to "trolling" because you will actually have some self-confidence.

    October 5, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
  19. denver

    This was a fun article with some good insight; better than the Belief Blog normally offers, honestly.

    I think the real problem in all of this is that people simply lack empathy. Blame the internet, social media, a culture of interpersonal isolation, or whatever... but people seem to have a really hard time relating to foreign ideas. You start to approach the importance and value of empathy when you allude to the need to get beyond the stereotypes and actually spend time with people on "the other side." It's good advice and I endorse it!

    I'm an atheist and, while I can't understand religious faith or a worldview which necessitates gods, I constantly remind myself that other people find my perception of reality as odd as I find theirs. It's a frustrating impasse to be certain but, if you can't even acknowledge it, you'll probably just end up undermining any possibility of useful dialogue.

    ...That said, when someone tells me that we need to make some law because their scripture dictates it, I'm often left scratching my head in the search for an amicable solution. If a person can't accept that government represents all faiths (or the lack of faith) in a population and that this simple fact precludes the possibility of sound governance derived from a single religious tradition, there's not much I can say to be constructive apart from suggesting more empathy.

    October 5, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
    • tony

      You can test your version of reality.

      October 5, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
      • denver

        A fair point. But let us be honest, if a thing is by definition beyond the reach of science we can't study it; it can neither be confirmed or denied. That's not to say that we have to (or even should) blindly accept what other people who also can't examine that thing tell us about what that thing does or doesn't want, of course.

        I value naturalistic oberservation as the only clear method by which to understand the world but some people have other priorites and desire other forms of "knowledge."

        October 5, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
  20. Stan The Man

    Humans will stand in line for the next I-phone. But will dismiss God with a slight wave of the hand. Who is pulling your strings? Verizon?

    October 5, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
    • David Davey

      Because the IPHONE is real and GOD is not!

      October 5, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
    • denver

      Simply for pragmatic reasons, most people place materialistic concerns above ethereal ones. I can go buy an iPhone right now because it delivers immediate and obvious utility. If I go pray I may or may not have a religious epiphany- and that's totally cool to do- but apart from being philsophically satisfied I wouldn't have much to show for my effort.

      October 5, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
    • Pfft

      Yeah, all atheists just waved their hands and dismissed God without really thinking about it too much.

      Idiot.

      October 5, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • Me

      Your comment makes no sense what so ever. What does standing in line have to do with believing in an invisible being in the sky? Religion needs to go back into the church and homes only. I don't need religious weirdos telling me and mine how to live. Don't want an abortion? Don't get one. Don't like gay marriage? Don't have one. It IS that simple. If you honestly feel god's wrath will come down then you'll be safe. Don't worry about the rest of us as we are just fine 🙂

      October 5, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • Drekor

      iPhones are real devices that provide practical benefits. God apparently does not show himself at all to us so for all intents and purposes he does not exist and does not provide any practical benefits. According to Romney's tax returns God also wants a LOT more money than a few hundred bucks out of everyone.

      October 5, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
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About this blog

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