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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. meki60

    Its simple, Muslims are garbage, Christians are wonderful.

    October 6, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      I fail to see the difference. Muslims, Christians, or any other religion...no difference.

      October 6, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
      • Bootyfunk

        yep, all look same.

        October 6, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
    • Really?

      Everybody is an individual why don't you get that?

      October 6, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
  2. James R Ruston

    When a Christian claims that the only way to get to heaven is to accept Christ, which is pretty much what Jesus said, I don't see much point in further discussion, at least about religion or theology.

    October 6, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      Exactly, no one is going to convince a die-hard (of either flavor), so there is not sense in continued engagement.

      October 6, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
  3. Alan

    Why should we play by different rules when it comes to talking about religion compared to other topics?. If I claim that the Master Monkey God has a beautiful place waiting for me in his jungle when I die because I believe that the Lion King died for me, virtually every Christian will not only tell me that I'm wrong, but people would try to commit me to a psychiatric ward. But if somebody tells me that a place in god's heaven awaits those who think that Jesus died for them, I'm supposed to nod politely.

    October 6, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • Live4Him

      @Alan : Why should we play by different rules when it comes to talking about religion compared to other topics?.

      We shouldn't. Would you like to discuss your views on "How we got here" vs. my views on it?

      October 6, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
      • YeahBut

        @Live4Him. "We shouldn't. Would you like to discuss your views on "How we got here" vs. my views on it?"

        This is a rhetorical trap. Obviously you think that everyone must have a view on how we got here. Then you can turn the tables on your opponent and argue that his view is more flawed then yours. You are mistaken. No such view of "how we got here" is required, so this is a useless line of argument.

        October 6, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      Do people tell you that often?

      October 6, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
      • Robert Brown

        That was to Allen & let me qualify it with in person.

        October 6, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
  4. Reality # 2

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

    Amen
    (references used are available on p. 11 of the commentary section)

    October 6, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
  5. Austin

    Topher, is that me?

    October 6, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
  6. Christine Smith

    Reblogged this on Moving Beyond Belief.

    October 6, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
  7. Lionly Lamb

    Could there truly be a dimension of spatial relativity where all the Gods live out their years in harmony seeded deeply inside our physical dimension of spatial relatives..?

    October 6, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Hey, If you want to go harmonize with your space relatives, knock yourself out.

      October 6, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
  8. Jesus Christ Son of God

    Anyone not in church right now, worshiping me, singing to me, giving money to me, will be damn-ed to H3LL.

    October 6, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
    • Justin

      Actually, that isn't what gets you damned to hell. It is your own personal choice to turn away from God and refuse to acknowledge the wrong you have done and to make reparation for it. The inability to acknowledge one's own evil deeds and to ask forgiveness are the top damnable offenses. Humans are uncanny in their ability to rationalize their own behaviors no matter if they believe in God or not. I actually think it would be easier to be an atheist because you choose what you think is right or wrong...in essence you become your own god deciding right and wrong and ignoring the rest. However, that is dangerous to do because you are a finite, limited creature who doesn't know much when given the vast amounts of knowledge and wisdom that are knowable. How can you as one person make a good decision when you don't know everything or know most of anything? You just have bits and pieces of knowledge that you try to glue together to make a decision. At least believers know they are reliant on others, including God to direct their paths because they don't know everything.

      October 6, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
      • Richard Cranium

        Since it is a sin to allow someone else to take your just punishment ( it is illegal, and most people agree that we want to punish the right person), isn't it a sin to accept Jesus taking your punishment?

        The whole of the religion is based on the idea that we are all sinners, doomed to hell unless we accept Jesus, and repent for our sins. But it is a sin to allow someone else to take your punishment, so I must sin in order to follow Christ.
        How do you reconcile that? Also, we are allegedly sinners for original sin, but since genetics has proven we did not all come from one genetic set, the story of Adam and Eve is clearly Mythincal, so there was no original sin to be saved from, so there would be no reason for god to send someone to "save "us from the punishment of hell, which god created in the first place.

        God doesn't want you to go to hell. He just created this place to threaten you with.
        Like the schoolyard bully. He doesn't want to make you punch yourself in the face, you just won't give him your lunch money so he HAS to make you hit yourself.

        October 6, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          Aren't you calling sin a crime against gov law instead of a crime against God's law.

          October 6, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
        • Richard Cranium

          Are you saying that it is in line with gods law that someone else take your just punishment?

          October 6, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
        • sam stone

          robert: why do you feel you have the authority to speak for god?

          you have said in the past you don't intend on sounding arrogant

          but that is precisely what you do

          October 6, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          Yes Richard, thank God, Jesus took our punishment so that no one has to get what they deserve.

          October 6, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          All believers are commissioned to spread the good news. Why don't you feel I have the authority?

          October 6, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
        • Richard Cranium

          RB
          There's a BIG part of the problem. Your religion teaches things that are clearly immoral. We go to great lengths in this country to make sure we punish the guilty...not a proxy.
          Not surprising you would see it that way, since to say differently would basically throw out the entire need you have for your religion, but our laws clearly indicate that it is wrong, so wrong we made laws against it, proving while you may think it is OK, our society as a whole rejects it, so logically, should reject christianity for the immorality that it represents.
          Your punishment should be doubled for allowing an innocent to suffer your just punishment.

          October 6, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
        • sam stone

          So, all believers have the authority to speak for god?

          Why are there so many different views within the christian community?

          October 6, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          Gods forgiveness is a difficult concept. Another example is jubilee.

          October 6, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          Sam, born again believers are supposed to spread the gospel. There are differences in opinion on interpretation and doctrine.

          October 6, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
        • sam stone

          again, robert, you miss the point totally

          i don't know if you are a POE, or you are really this dense

          if ALL believers speak for god, and they disagree, which opinion is truly god's?

          October 6, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          I'm not pretending Sam. Who has the correct doctrine? I believe that Jesus is the son of God, he was crucified, buried, & rose again.

          October 6, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
        • sam stone

          fair enough, robert

          you are not faking it

          you really are this dense

          you dance around a question like gopher does

          and do not answer it

          if all believers are god's spokesmen, and they disagree,which of them is right?

          October 6, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          Sam, you have to decide who is correct. The only way to determine if someone has sound doctrine is to read the word of God and pray, then God will let you know.

          October 6, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          "The only way to determine if someone has sound doctrine is to read the word of God and pray"

          Well 10 people can do that and come up with 10 opinions....so really that determines nothing.

          October 6, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
        • sam stone

          So, Robert: "sound doctrine" is a subjective thing? If so, how is it sound?

          October 6, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
      • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

        "At least believers know they are reliant on others, including God to direct their paths because they don't know everything."

        But apparently they "know" that there is a god, they "know" which god and they "know" what that god likes and doesn't like....none of which they can objectively demonstrate. What they do is essetually the same as atheists, they just pick the "god" that feels right, which is the same as making it up themselves. The difference is they claim their morality to be superior because it comes from their "god". And since their "god" does not have to rationally support "his" morality, they as believers don't have to rationally support theirs and that is in no way superior.

        October 6, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          Yes, we believe in God and that his morality is superior to ours.

          October 6, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          Robert,

          I know you believe it...that wasn't my point and you know it. That is why you ignored the part about demonstrating the superiority of your "gods" morality. A muslim would argue the morality of Allah is superior to the Christian god....but of course both of you are just making claims with no logical support. So instead of just making the claim your god is morally superior how about you justify that position?

          October 6, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
      • sam stone

        justin: if god knows what we are going to do before we are born, and god is omniscient, there is no free will

        nice try, though

        October 6, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          You aren't a robot Sam.

          October 6, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
        • sam stone

          again, robert, you show a tremendous abillity to miss the point completely

          if god knows what i am going to do before i am born, and god CANNOT be wrong, how can i do otherwise?

          let's make it nice and simple.

          if i apparently have two choices, A or B, and god, being omniscient (and, unable to be wrong) knows i am going to choose B, what are the chances I am going to choose A?

          October 6, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          Sam, we've had this conversation before, so let's keep it simple. You think because God knows the future you don't have a choice. I think God knowing the future doesn't prevent you from making the choice.

          October 6, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
        • sam stone

          i know, robert. we have had this discussion before, and you have posted the same irrational tripe. if god is omniscient, i have NO CHOICE but to do what he, being omniscient, knows I am going to do. the more you dance around the logic of this, the more you look delusional

          October 6, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
      • sam stone

        justin: believers don't know everything, but they know the mind of god?

        why do you not call yourselves "knowers"?

        does that seem a bit pompous?

        October 6, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          What do you call it when you are acquainted with someone Sam?

          October 6, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
        • sam stone

          when i am acquainted with someone, robert, i call it an aquaintence

          October 6, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          Yes Sam and the more you become acquainted at some point you start saying you know them.

          October 6, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
        • sam stone

          Again, Robert, the delusional thing rears its ugly head

          You KNOW god.....

          You don't have faith, you have KNOWLEDGE

          Tell me what is not pompous about that

          October 6, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
  9. AnesthesiaDave

    I like the part where he quotes the guy that says logical arguments are useless because people are too emotional. If I have to tell someone they will suffer for eternity if they don't believe me, how strong could my case possibly be?

    October 6, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • bostontola

      That case is not only weak, it is immoral. The penalty is extraordinarily out of proportion to the transgression. The bible is full of out of proportion "justice". For a docu ment that is supposed to define morals for all people it is rife with immoral ideas. Maybe that's because it is not divine, but the law of people thousands of years ago.

      October 6, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
  10. Rynomite

    So wait....

    This author categorizes various "trolls" by their characteristics, but then decided to lump all unbelievers into one group he calls "the atheist" as if atheists are merely trolls by the simple fact that they exist. Are you kidding me?

    October 6, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      It is obvious that they don't pay any attention to the blog since some of those he notes in the prose are the same troll. Kate, Katie, merideth, are the same as faith/harri/mary and whatever name it decides to steal from others. Now it is using the neil degrasse tyson name. If they paid any attention, they would know hostile posts aimed at that individual are common as the troll NEVER has anything of value to say and has been threatening this lawsuit for many months now, but won't even say what laws were supposedly violated. or in what court the lawsuit was filed. I know it is BS but that particular troll just won't stop.

      October 6, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
      • Commenter

        Richard Cranium,

        Correct. I thought the same thing upon reading the article (and a few others noticed it too). I hesitated to mention it, thinking that, in the initial barrage of posts, John Blake would not see it. I hope he sees your post.

        October 6, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
  11. Michael

    I wish these longer articles had an audio version. As a college student, I never have the time to sit down and read through an entire 2,000 word article, but I definitely have the time to listen to one while commuting to class. I'm a big NPR fan for this very reason. I wish CNN had something similar.

    October 6, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
  12. Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

    I once spoke with a professor of education who told me about a project he was working on in a troubled school system. He told me that when they removed the 3-4% of the kids that were causing trouble and needed special help/attention, the entire school became "normal." So, civility is a step we can all practice, but pressing the "Report abuse" button helps to remove that 3-4% of the uncivil posters so the rest can have "normal" exchanges. With free speech comes responsibility.

    October 6, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • Commenter

      " pressing the "Report abuse" button helps to remove that 3-4% of the uncivil posters so the rest can have "normal" exchanges."

      The "Report Abuse" button is itself abused, though, and simply disagreeing posts are axed. I like the system that I've seen on other sites where too many "down" votes just shrinks the thread and greys it out, but it is still accessible and open for comment.

      Be aware that reporting abuse causes all responses to that post to disappear also.

      October 6, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • poopmeister

      You might want to be careful with that notion. One persons valid point could be considered "offensive" to another. If you are talking about name calling, sure I can understand that but where is the limit? Online you don't really have that moment of "who threw the first punch" because nothing is physical. It seems to be that things escalate and emotions run high, those 3-4% might not normally escalate until it is something that they are passionate about and I think we can all agree, those are the people that keep things lively in the comment section. I just can't stand the name callers with nothing pertanent to say.

      October 6, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      @poopmeister and commenter. I agree and that's why there is a moderator to assess the complaint. Up and down votes are can turn into popularity contests or worse, so I can't go with those. If you look at some of the hateful, racist comments that appeared on the CNN blogs during the Zimmerman trial, some of those had more up votes than down votes. My guess is that CNN allowed it so they could observe the nature of the posters.

      October 6, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
      • Commenter

        Youtube – Neil DeGrasse Tyson – The Perimeter of Ignorance,

        The way the "Report Abuse" button is set up here causes posts to automatically go dark after a certain number (?) of reports - without going to the moderator. The moderator manually deletes certain posts too.

        The "popularity contest" problem is ignorable or simply taken for what it's worth if the posts are allowed to remain. It's highly doubtful that there would be many people who would go in and vote up lawsuit boy's posts so that those posts would become highlighted again.

        October 6, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
        • Commenter

          * by "go dark" I mean go away, viewable only to the original poster as "under moderation".

          October 6, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Personally, I think that freedom of speech is an all or nothing deal. If we wish for the right to say what we want, we must grant the same right to others, even if what they say is crazy, terrible or irrelevant to the topic. We can express our disdain for their comment, or ignore it, but censorship is a dangerous road to start down.

      If people act on some of their more repugnant comments, then that is a whole 'nother thing.

      October 6, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      And I'll use this phrase to cement it, "If we build it, they will come," meaning that if posters put forth the effort to create a civil discussion, the many, other people who are watching, but not participating, are more likely to engage, increasing the dialogue, and that's tremendous.

      October 6, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
      • Truth Seeker

        Well stated.

        October 6, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
  13. poopmeister

    Well, at least one thing was accomplised with you article....people aren't being as nasty as I would normally see. Being someone that does not believe in God, at all (it took a lot of self reflection and study of religious history to come to my own conclusion), I certainly appreciate debating with religious folk. I would not be able to hold my own moral stances without strong opposition and I would assume that religious folks are looking for the same opportunity to strengthen their faith with strong opposition. Both sides have their own validity, I just question their motive. I'm not looking to convert people, I am looking for them to question their own morals. I can't stand the notion of blind faith....I feel like it was invented by the church to keep their flock at bay from questioning the church. As long as everyone questions everything...I'm cool with that. Even if you are an atheist, you should keep in the back of your mind that there might be a God and make your comments accordingly. I would expect the same with believers. I'll end with this as a food for thought; we have seen a world with religion and belief in God, and we all know how that looks. Unfortunately, we have not seen a world without God or religion, so we have no idea what that would look like. It could be complete anarchy or it could be peace on Earth, I think it is worth a shot...for reference sake.

    October 6, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
  14. House

    Opinions 50% Off! confirms heaven is real.

    October 6, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
  15. doobzz

    It's telling that the author lists various "trolls" by their characteristics, but then puts all atheists into one group. Of course, with the tag line that one of his best friends "was" an atheist. Reminds me of the old "some of my best friends are black" cliche from the '60s.

    Also, he makes a big point about not receiving responses to his emails. Perhaps they went right into junk mail or to an account created for posting purposes. I have an email account that I use for shopping/posting comments etc., so my real account doesn't get spammed, and I suspect a lot of others do as well.

    October 6, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Yep. After my email was spammed, I created another account for friends and transactions I trust to be discrete. I use the old one to sign up for stuff like this blog.

      October 6, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
  16. Apple Bush

    Wouldn't it be wonderful if there were a heavenly father to care for each of us and look out for us? It would be ideal if religion helped make the world a better place. It would be so cool if we could ride Unicorns to work, and work is play. Wouldn't all that be great?

    October 6, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • bostontola

      Option 1: Heavenly Father snaps finger and the universe exists, looks after us...
      Option 2: universe comes into existence, expands, cools, atoms form, gravity forms stars, galaxies, groups, stars exhaust creating heavier elements, planets form in star systems, some star systems have the right non-equilibrium balance for organic chemistry, complex chemical self-catalyzing loops form dominating resources (survival of the fittest chemical systems), self-replicating chemicals form, metabolisms form, life forms, solar energy life forms, symbiotic life emerges (nucleus, other organelles), solar cells create oxygen rich world, single cell animals form that hunt, populations explode creating competi tion for resources, only the most fit survive, mutations occasionally stumble on better survival tools/skills, repeat uncounted times in a dynamic physical environment with significant pressures (e.g. Meteor strikes, global freezes, global warmings, etc), ...

      I find option 2 much more beautiful. Option 1 trivializes the extraordinary accomplishment of nature, becoming self aware.

      October 6, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
      • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

        But it's not what about which is most beautiful, it's about which has the evidence to support it. Both believers and atheists may claim beauties, as they are in the eye of the beholder.

        October 6, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
        • bostontola

          Did you mean to say, "But it's not what about which is most beautiful to me"?

          October 6, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          No, what I am saying is that "beauty" is not what we consider evidence for the acceptance of something. Creationists regularly point to the "beauty" of the intricacies of the universe as evidence of its creation. But I admit that nature and evolution are indeed awesome and beautiful.

          October 6, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
        • bostontola

          Except I define beauty to be evidence based constructs (as does many others).

          October 6, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
  17. The truth

    If there weren't trolls hurling insults in here I'd never show up.

    October 6, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Silly, prideful atheist. Spewing lies about Jesus to become your own mini-god. I keep the flea and tick shampoo in the shower. It is time for you to start your walk with Jesus or enjoy the fires of hell.

      Amen.

      October 6, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
      • delius1967

        The plausibility of a threat is in inverse proportion to its magnitude.

        October 6, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
  18. Phil

    This is Muhammed

    O-]-<

    October 6, 2013 at 11:36 am |
  19. Youtube - Dan Dennett - Breaking the Spell

    One of the greatest thinkers of our age tackles one of the most important questions of our time: why people believe in God and how religion shapes our lives and our future. In this lecture, based on his new book of the same title, Dr. Dennett shows that for the vast majority of people there is nothing more important than religion. It is an integral part of their marriage, child rearing, and community. Dennett takes a hard look at this phenomenon and asks: Where does our devotion to God come from and what purpose does it serve? Is religion a blind evolutionary compulsion or a rational choice? In a spirited investigation that ranges widely through history, philosophy, and psychology, Dennett explores how organized religion evolved from folk beliefs and why it is such a potent force today. Deftly and lucidly, he contends that the 'belief in belief' has fogged any attempt to rationally consider the existence of God and the relationship between divinity and human need.

    Dr. Dennett is a professor and director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, and the author of the highly acclaimed Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Consciousness Explained, and Freedom Evolves. ( Published on Apr 24, 2013.)

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZYv2WYbK1o&w=640&h=360]

    October 6, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • Robert Brown

      Hey Dan,

      Which seems like a better idea to you, allow someone who believes in God to explain why they do or have someone who does not believe explain why those who do believe, believe?

      October 6, 2013 at 11:50 am |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        The answer to those questions depend on the belief, the believer, and the cultural environment.

        October 6, 2013 at 11:58 am |
        • Robert Brown

          It would still be opinion wouldn't it?

          October 6, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
      • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

        Which seems like a better idea to you, allow someone who has schizophrenia to explain why they do or have someone who does not haveschizophrenia explain why those who do have schizophrenia, have schizophrenia?

        October 6, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          Ok, I forgot some think believers are mentally ill.

          October 6, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
      • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

        And also as valuable are the reasons for those who did believe but now don't, and those who did not believe and now do. I suspect that some of the posters have held views as both believer and non-believer.

        October 6, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          Yes, everyone has reasons and opinions.

          October 6, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
      • sam stone

        how about this?

        god is personal

        no one's view is any more valid than anyone else's view

        when someone claims theirs is the objectively correct view of god

        they should be publicly ridiculed

        October 6, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
  20. heehee

    Here is something for people those agree with the author to contemplate. Here is a point of view (shared by many atheists) which is considered to be very offensive by most religious people. It's that belief in the abrahamic religions is precisely as valid as belief in Thor and Odin. (At one time, many Europeans worshiped Thor and Odin). When we say this, it is regarded as offensive. But it's a straightforward comparison.

    I once watched Penn Gillette discussing his atheism on Piers Morgan. Gillette made the statement which I made above about Thor. Morgan simply could not fathom that Gillette meant this point sincerely, and refused to accept any explanation other than that Gillette meant to give offense by the statement.

    I find this very telling. It turns out that this sincerely held view is by its very nature offensive to many people. It seems atheism is just offensive to many people – polls back me up here. In fact, simply to be an atheist is to be a troll, according to the author's categorization. How is it that the author can make a view point the definition of a trolling category, and not see any problem with it?

    I am curious to see what people think about my point – particularly religious people.

    October 6, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • heehee

      oops, cut and paste error: meant to say

      ...something for those people who agree...

      in the first sentence.

      October 6, 2013 at 11:19 am |
      • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

        You are right. Some people will be offended because they see such a statement as blasphemy. But, we see similar things with people who are sports fanatics, or political fanatics.

        October 6, 2013 at 11:25 am |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          Sports and Political fanatics are not claiming to be working under the authority of the creator of the universe. If a political idea is thrown out, it will be criticized and stand or fall on the merits of the idea, where as religious ideas are put in a special catagory that some people (you included it seems) think they should be given automatic respect and to criticize them is equivalent to "personal offense".

          October 6, 2013 at 11:49 am |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          His question, though, is about why people get offended merely with the conveyance of information. And that has to do with someone being a zealot, a fanatic, seeing the information as blasphemous.

          October 6, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • tallulah13

      People believe that their faith makes them special, therefore they are offended when their "specialness" is threatened. When atheists point out the flaws of religion, believers take it as a personal attack. In this culture, stating facts is often considered "trolling", while mythology is sacrosanct, and it really is too bad. The rest of the developed world is moving forward, while the United States is busy dividing itself over fairy tales.

      October 6, 2013 at 11:45 am |
      • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

        When I was religious, I never saw my religion or myself as "special," but I did see offensive remarks as blasphemous, and that's mighty offensive to a religious person because it hits at one of their most core beliefs.

        October 6, 2013 at 12:47 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.