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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. Topher

    Austin, is that me?

    October 6, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
  2. Ralph Monkman

    I liked your article but it is impossible to have an intelligent discussion on religion without the loonies and half-loonies invading the posting space. I believe God is constantly revealing himself according to our understanding and, according to our understanding, we are all at different levels of spiritual development. One of the problems is that the mainstream organized religions have not kept up with spiritual development of their flocks. For instance, the Roman Catholic Church still denies the ordination of women. How can the Pope criticize Islamic subjugation of women when the Church has been guilty of this for years? On the other hand, the Anglican Church took a giant leap forward several years ago with the ordination of women priests and this has worked out well. The faithful understand now that angels have no gender and souls have no gender until they enter human physical bodies. The priesthood should have no gender either. This would solve two pressing problems in the Roman Church: 1) It would alleviate the shortage of priests. There are many devout, even saintly women in the Church that would make excellent priests. 2) It would drastically reduce the chance of pedophiles entering the priesthood. All mainstream faiths shoud acknowledge the equality of women in their faith and in life as Christ did when he chose to be born of a woman and when he befriended them as equals. The religious hierarchy have to realize that they can no longer control the lives of the faithful. The faithful are not ignorant anymore. For them, attending church, etc. is only one way to help realize a personal relationship with God. Peace.

    October 6, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
    • Lamb of Dog

      I often wonder why a man didn't give birth to Jesus.

      October 6, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
    • Lamb of Dog

      The highest state of spiritual development is atheism. See you when you get here.

      October 6, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
      • Pope Francis

        "intelligent discussion on religion" " I believe" – You contradict yourself in the second sentence. Religion is belief without evidence. Intelligence is disbelief without evidence.

        October 6, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          True – it's as simple as that.

          October 6, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
        • Just Me

          Pope Francis-Your statement is an opinion, not a fact. And if it were fact Intelligent conversation about religion is not a contradiction. Even if you do believe religion is a fairy tale- you can still have intelligent conversation or debate about it. It happens all the time in lit classes in colleges all over the world

          October 6, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
    • Cheryl

      Ralph, god has never revealed himself. He doesn't exist, at least not in any form like the Christian fairy tale book presents.

      October 6, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
      • Ralph Monkman

        If you would meditate, you would realize that God exists within you. Your soul is a tiny spark of God Himself. When you die that tiny spark returns to Him.

        October 7, 2013 at 12:18 am |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      I don't know that Jesus befriended women as equals – all of his disciples were men, right. What kind of credibility does that give to a god or savior who would make this simplest oversight. He doesn't appear so all-knowing or all wise.

      October 6, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
      • Ralph Monkman

        The 12 Apostles were men but Christ had many, many women disciples – Mary Magdalene, Martha and Mary to name just three. After His death, His women disciples became teachers and leaders in the early church. The Roman Church put a stop to this in the 5th century, relegating women to minor roles.

        October 7, 2013 at 12:13 am |
        • The story of Jesus

          The twelve closest people to Jesus were all men – it's that simple. What you are trying to do is create an explanation to explain obvious Biblical discrimination. I mean, come on. What you have just done is a perfect example of what many believers do – "We take this to mean..." You take the example of three women who were not apostles and try to raise them in stature just to make the Bible work. They easiest thing for God to have done is to make half of the apostles women – that would have been a real wake up call to the men of the time. But it's just not true.

          October 7, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • sybaris

      Love that bit about "a personal relationship with god"

      i would know my sister anywhere but you couldn't even pick your god or jesus out of a crowd.

      Personal relationship with god, please, there'd be 12 monkeys flying out of my butt first

      October 6, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
      • Commenting Now

        Now there is a video that Lionly Lamb could post that I would watch...........................

        October 6, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
        • pothead

          Lol

          October 6, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
  3. are122

    Physics and logic aided to solidify my belief in God. Particularly one book by physicist Paul Davies. Logically gas balls and rocks cannot create laws as those that govern the universe. A rock didn't one day decide gravity might be a good idea. Everything in the universe is mathematically governed. As for evolution from some cosmic gob, it is inconceivable two cosmic gobs would develop simultaneously male and female, times some 5 million species...that cannot interbreed. Physicists that say the universe is eternal, expanding and contracting fail to acknowledge even that would be a design plan.

    October 6, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
    • bostontola

      Not much logic in your position, lots of opinion though.

      October 6, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
      • jp

        Made lots of sense to me. I have met many scientists that have become believers in God during their research. I don't see how science can ever prove that God DOESN'T exist. It's just a tool for explaining "how". But science can never explain "Why". It wasn't designed to. But I supposed you need to study philosophy of science to realize this on your won.

        October 6, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          Well, the fact that 93% of the best scientist do not have a personal god would disagree with your statement of many scientists becoming converts, as well as the recent growth of "nones" among the general population. And as a society, we prove things are, not that they are not. We certainly have mathematical proofs known as contradictions, and that is where we prove something is because we have disproved it's total opposite. I see your statement as an adaption by religion in the face of science, that in order to survive it has to find ways to accept more and more of the truths uncovered by science. But, I would settle for just one bit of evidence from you that God does exist...anything. After all, can anyone disprove that Hiflogus does not exist? No. If I propose it, the burden should be upon me to convince people with evidence.

          October 6, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
    • Lamb of Dog

      Translation:
      Since somethings can't be explained yet it must have been God.

      October 6, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      In mathematics, when we solve a differential equation we have transient and steady state responses. The universe is constantly moving, constantly changing – a transient response. The same science and math that got us to the moon, created microchips, advanced medical technology, etc., are the same things are telling us this design, as you put it, is coming to an end.

      October 6, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      Amen, God is.

      October 6, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
      • bostontola

        God is imaginary.

        October 6, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
      • Ted

        Robert Brown, present any modern evidence for the existence of your god.

        October 6, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          Will you accept witness testimony?

          October 6, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
        • Gwen

          he said modern, stupid.

          October 6, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
        • bostontola

          Robert,
          Witness testimony is evidence, but it is very weak. How about some objective evidence.

          October 6, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          Gwen, if you have been born again you are a witness. Unless you mean current believers are some how not modern.

          October 6, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          Boston,

          Would the evidence qualify as objective if you witnessed a demonstration of the power of God yourself?

          October 6, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
        • Supernova123

          I think that by "modern" evidence he/she is referring to evidence accepted under the scientific method. Anecdotal witness accounts are not permitted as scientific evidence for lots of different reasons.

          October 6, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          Super,

          This is just my opinion, I don't think you are going to get that type of evidence.

          October 6, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
        • Peregrine

          Robert, do you accept witness testimony of alien abduction, Islam, Hinduism etc... If not, isn't that a bit hypocritical?

          October 6, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
        • Supernova123

          Robert Brown, that's fine with me and with objective science: opinions are not invalidated by science at all. Maybe someday scientific proof of God or the non-existence of God will present itself (although it is admittedly much harder (if not impossible) to prove that something doesn't exist than that it does exist). Until then, everyone has their perfectly valid opinions.

          October 6, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          Good point peregrine. I suppose it would be more beneficial if the testimony was from someone you know and trust.

          October 6, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
        • sam stone

          Robert: Are you weak on the concept of Objective Evidence?

          October 6, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
      • sam stone

        Of course, Robert it is only YOUR god who is, right?

        October 6, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
    • Supernova123

      Any physicist who tells you that the Universe is continuously expanding and contracting doesn't know what they're talking about. Observations of Type Ia supernovae in distant galaxies in the 1990's proved that the Universe is not only constantly expanding, but is expanding ever faster all the time, due to "Dark Energy". The Universe is doomed to either be ripped apart by this accelerated expansion, or die a "heat death" where all the gas that could form stars is used up and every last star dies to leave the entire Universe in an ever cooling, expanding dark wasteland. Some plan.

      October 6, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
      • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

        Exactly. We know our sun will burn out (no explanation in the Bible), we discovered the Andromeda galaxy is on a collision course with our galaxy (no idea in the Bible about that), and found out asteroids/comets can cause mass extinctions (nothing in the Bible about that). How are any of those a "good design." Honestly, I don't know that those who believe in intelligent design have bothered to explore the arguments against their position. Rather, they are just claiming it without proof of an omnipotent being in existence to make this all possible.

        October 6, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
        • Supernova123

          I guess it's not an issue if Armageddon and the Rapture will happen any day now.

          October 6, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          Which is actually a big beef I have with religious folks. Since they believe in an afterlife, the here-and-now don't mean so much to them, right? It's all temporary to them. So our population, environmental, energy, pollution, limited natural resources, etc., are of no consequence. Maybe believers should ask themselves, "What if they are wrong?"

          October 6, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
        • Supernova123

          I would hope believers and non-believers alike would care about the world they leave behind for the sake of their children and their children's children (and so forth). Unfortunately alot of people are incapable of even thinking a month ahead, much less decades or centuries ahead. I don't think it's a religious issue, but a human issue: instant gratification is far to rewarding.

          October 6, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          I completely agree – not all religious folks think that way. We are indeed disconnected by our experiences. For most of our lives, tomorrow has been a lot like the many yesterdays that have already passed. We were not present during the ice ages, the asteroid/meteor/comet strikes, so why should we have an appreciation for those things? And our modern technological society allows us to be distracted ever more – smart phones, computers, the internet, cable tv, video on demand! Don't get me wrong, I like these things – I can't count the number of Youtube videos that have given me different insights into things. But, at the same time, we can also choose to shelter ourselves from our problems with just a push of a button.

          October 6, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
        • Supernova123

          Yes, well said. We're so focused on the day-to-day details of our extraordinarily short lives (a brief moment in the long history of the Universe so far), it's very difficult to see the larger scheme of things.

          October 6, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
    • Maxwell's Demon

      Your inability to understand what evolution actually is or to conceive how it happens is not a problem for it.

      October 6, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
      • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

        You know, with all of the examples we have of evolution, I don't think it's an inability. Rather I think it's just a fear that they will be punished for having these thoughts. I would know, I was once a Christian. But I think the very simple example of bacteria evolving through mutation to become antibiotic resistant would be enough. I mean, that bit of evolution has happened right before our eyes.

        October 6, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
  4. MIchael

    It's impossible to have a discussion with right-wing fundamentalist because they're too busy using the Bible as a weapon to actually listen to facts.

    Sorry, but as a gay person who believes in God, I've encountered too many people who quote Corinthians but when you point out it was condemning mastur bation instead of hom ose xuality less than 100 years ago they do NOT care. They'll continue to act as if it's been condemning gay people since day one. You can't point out the only reference they can use in Sodom is attempted gang ra pe and they can't fathom how this might be a problem. Or how they're quoting the Holiness Code, and not the Moral Code, when they cite Leviticus and they don't care to fathom the difference between the two codes.

    October 6, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • Lamb of Dog

      But why would God make so many stupid people? I just think that if I were to have a chance to create something I would want it to be really great. Maybe we are a work in progress.

      October 6, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
      • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

        "God" did not make stupid people. People with a distribution of intelligence yes, with different educational opportunities yes, different home environments yes. It takes something to see beyond those limitations to further one's self. Neil DeGrasse Tyson pointed out that 7% of this countries brightest scientists are believers. He said the story is not that 93% of the nations brightest scientists are agnostic/atheist, it's that 7% are! He poses an interesting question – maybe there is something fundamentally different about some people that, not matter how much logic you provide to them, they are always going to be believers. Now, I would say, it would be interesting to see how that poll changes in 20 years. Maybe that 7% will go to zero – we don't know, but as he says, that's the story.

        October 6, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
        • aldewacs2

          I'd venture to guess that the percentage will change drastically – albeit not necessarily to 0% – if the indoctrination of small children stops, and comparative religions can be freely studied by kids as they grow up and become able to think and reason things out. But that won't come about if religions can prevent it – only if secularists are able to level the playing field.

          October 6, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          Yeah, I agree. The increase in the number of "nones" actually surprised many, even to the point that they were moved to action. A secularist society would move that faster, but I think the freedom of speech that proponents now enjoy and the lack of punishment for those who wish to at least consider something different is moving things forward.

          October 6, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
      • Lamb of Dog

        If I was all powerful and could create anything I wanted. I would never create people. Because of the very thing you pointed out.

        October 6, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      You have to keep in mind for whom you are writing when you respond. Are you writing for the person in the conversation, or the people that may be watching (the nones and soon-to-be nones). The saying, "keep your eye on the prize," has much merit here, if only people could put aside emotional responses and utilize respectful ones. Otherwise, as an atheist, I agree, the atheist here sound angry. Is that really who we are?

      October 6, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
      • dewie

        athies posting here r wonderful.

        neil, how about athies who tretin to rpe governors?

        October 6, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • bostontola

      There is so much B S in the bible, I'm surprised that is all that bothers you.

      October 6, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
      • dewie

        true boothswanna. what specifically do u have in mind?

        October 6, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Why do you believe in God, Michael? What you wrote suggests it's the God of Christians. Why choose that one?

      October 6, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
      • MIchael

        Sorry but I do not buy into the Christian theory the Christina God is the only true God. It's not that hard to figure out, if there's a God, God is the same Deity of the Hindu, Jews, Islam, etc, etc.

        The scripture used by Christians, the "I am the only way" is taken out of context and is such an obscure line to base such a belief off of. There's research on that scripture which suggest Jesus was only talking to the people before Him, that He was not talking to the general population at hand. It's been a while since I've read that research but it's all out there.

        IMHO, it's no one's business if someone believes or not. That's your own personal choice. The issue is when someone who believes feels they have a right to enforce their beliefs and brand of so called morality onto others.

        October 6, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          True. When people start trying to bring their religious beliefs into law, bringing harmful discrimination, everyone must stand against that. As time has passed, people have always learned to love more and not less.

          October 6, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
      • dewie

        what do u believe tommy?

        October 6, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
  5. bostontola

    Personally, I prefer the diversity of styles on blogs like this. If everyone was a peacemaker, PC discussion would probably be very boring in a short time. Let the jerks, idiots, nice people, smart people all go at it. Even trolls can be amusing if they don't overwhelm the place.

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

      No. He can see the degree of argumentation and debate that occurs – it's low. There are plenty of folks watching who don't want to be involved with such childishness, but otherwise might have something really interesting to contribute.

      October 6, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
      • Lamb of Dog

        Then why watch?

        October 6, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          I think it's more of passing by thing, rather than standing and watching. What kind of people want to stand and continue to watch neanderthals slugging it out? Who would want to step into the middle of that. I don't remember seeing Hitchens using that style, because he loved to engage people, and he knew people would engage in sophisticated dialogue. I mean, look at the lengths he went through to bring that engagement.

          October 6, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
        • Lamb of Dog

          Ok. But it is childish to take the time to watch people acting childish.
          I guess that goes for myself as well.

          October 6, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          You don't have to spend a lot of time doing something to note that something has been going on for a long time – sample the data – don't measure the population because it takes too long.

          October 6, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
      • bostontola

        I said I like it here. If you don't, then go elsewhere. How can you say no to an opinion I expressed? Do you know my likes better than I do?

        October 6, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          Oh, I'm not going anywhere because I manage to draw in folks for some interesting discussion. Why are you on this thread – because it is mindless? Because it is vitriolic? Or is it because an interesting conversation is actually occurring.

          October 6, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
        • bostontola

          Your answer is right in the OP, I enjoy the full diversity. Perhaps you could benefit from a reading comprehension course at your local community college.

          October 6, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
  6. To Mr. Blake

    You forgot to add one important category to that list!

    October 6, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • Reggae

      What is that?

      October 6, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
      • To Mr. Blake

        The "The pothead enthusiast:

        October 6, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
        • Reggae

          What does the "The pothead enthusiast" post?

          October 6, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
        • To Mr. Blake

          You Tube videos.

          October 6, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
        • Akira

          Well, Lionly Lamb is in a category all his own.

          October 6, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
  7. Lionly Lamb

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVhCRlG3xvQ&w=640&h=360]

    October 6, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Really, LL, it's starting to seem like you want to discuss marijuana. Could I be right?

      October 6, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
      • Lionly Lamb

        Tom...

        I am very hopeful to see Marijuana legalized in Florida for medicinal usage because I see no personal benefit for its recreational use except as a medicinal precursor against diseases & illnesses... And yes, I have used it recreationally and now am too phobic to use it recreationally...

        I have a tumor growth on my neck that's been there for some 5 years... I will not use chemotherapy based ointments nor radiation therapies which have a 95% rate of failure... Rick Simpson's Hemp oil or an oil based upon high concentrations of CBD or cannabidiol is the medicine I seem to understand as being a real cure for many cancers and other illnesses...

        I no longer wish to use Cannabis to get high on... Unless of course the state I'm in does so legalize it for recreational use... Medical Marijuana is anyone's best bet for their cancerous growths to be cured naturally instead of the barbaric ways of cutting it out of the body or even radiation which kills any kind of cell which Cannabis use kills only the cancer cells and leaves the good cells alone...

        October 6, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          What have pathologists said about the growth on your neck? Have you seen an oncologist?

          October 6, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
        • Lionly Lamb

          Tom...

          I have not seen any doctor as yet Tom... I have a doctor's appointment this coming November 19th and then will probably be sent to see a cancer specialist who will most likely send me to have a magnetic radiation image taken which as of now I stand against... Today's barbaric ways to treat any cancer while federal laws are banning the medicinal uses of Cannabis goes against one's free choices in a land of supposed freedoms...

          October 6, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
        • Lamb of Dog

          Lionly Lamb I have never really agreed with you on much. But I wish you all the best. And I agree with you 100% on your current topic.

          October 6, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
  8. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    I'm curious. Why would John Blake call some of us out and then disappear? He must be around. He said he's been lurking here for years. Perhaps his courage deserted him.

    John: "For years, I’ve listened to these “holy trollers” in silence. Now I’m calling them out. "

    October 6, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • midwest rail

      If he truly paid any attention at all to these comment sections, he would not have quoted some of the posters he did. No one could possibly be as clueless to the real trolls as he appears to be.

      October 6, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      If you write and article, you want to see how people respond. If you the immerse yourself in the dialogue, the nature of the dialogue necessarily changes. Part of good reporting is about observing and gathering information, first.

      October 6, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
      • Tom, Tom, the Other One

        He wasn't disengaged when he said "Now I’m calling them out." But, OK, let's call it bad journalism and not someone wanting to actually be a badass.

        October 6, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          No. He's been watching comment boards on his articles and others being hijacked with vitriol and idiocy. Now he's reporting his observations. I think he would like to see respectful dialogue.

          October 6, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
        • midwest rail

          Let's say you're correct, and those are his true motives for the article. How could anyone consistently watch these boards, and then quote some of the painfully obvious name-stealers as if they were legitimate comments ? His observational skills certainly are suspect, but I'll grant you the possibility that his motives are genuine.

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

          I think that's the thing – I don't anyone has to consistently watch these boards in order understand one is seeing primitive argumentative skills at best. He's not writing a dissertation – we all know that – it's an article.

          October 6, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
    • Ted

      John Blake is a spineless coward.

      October 6, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
  9. John Vance

    Nobody likes the peacemakers.

    October 6, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      To the contrary, nobody likes trouble makers – people who just love to see things burn.

      October 6, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      To the contrary, peacemakers allow useful dialogue to occur. Those who don't enjoy a civil environment are, as Alrfred put it in Batman, "the kind of folks that just like to see things burn." Is that who you are? Where do you think that will get you in life?

      October 6, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
  10. Behold, the six tribes of atheism and its "holy troller" equivalence!

    Intellectual atheist/agnostic is "The Scholar"

    Activist is "The Street Corner Prophet"

    Seeker-agnostic is "The Peacemaker"

    Anti-theist is "The Provoker"

    Ritual atheist is "The Atheist"

    October 6, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • Monroe

      Perfect match 😉

      October 6, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
  11. PeterVN

    It's cool to see religion finally getting the criticism that it deserves. Here's one of the really great blog quotes that the article should have cited. It's very accurate:

    "Religion is for the ignorant, the stupid, the cowardly, and the gullible, and for those who would profit from them."

    October 6, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
    • ironman59

      That quote nails the 2 core items about religion. It is about controlling others & profiting from them as well. Just think of all the money that would be available for the people if we didn't have a church on every corner.

      October 6, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
      • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

        As an atheist, I have to ask, "Do you really understand what you just said? Have you run those experiments to show the world would indeed be better if religion was eliminated tomorrow?" You may want to think that over a bit.

        October 6, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
        • GodFreeNow

          You might as well be asking "would the world be a better place if we all had electricity in electricity?" in the early 20th century. You could argue either way and there's no way to prove the negative of the path not taken. I for one believe that we are better off with electricity but not by much. You don't stop evolving and trying to improve life based on empirical evidence that your steps will yield a 100% positive result. That's just silly.

          October 6, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          Daniel Dennett would disagree with you. If something is removed, you need to think about what replaces it. Like it or not, church is where a lot of Christians get the morals, a lot of good ones, but some bad ones as well. It is a place where those are taught once a week. Have you thought about the kind of people that need to have things taught over and over to them? Do you think they are intellectuals? If there is no religion, then that leaves our school systems to teach moralities, "Don't fight, don't push, don't spit, don't yell (could use that one on this comment board). It's not as black and white as it may appear.

          October 6, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
        • GodFreeNow

          I live in a secular country and I can tell with certainty that it is better than it was when I lived in a religious country. Does that satisfy you? I doubt it.

          I don't doubt the fact that everything done has a consequence. I think that goes without saying. But to suggest that we need to, or even could know the extent of those consequences for choices of intellectual advancement would be, is the part I call silly. We should be conscious and relatively cautious, but we would never know the result until it is gone. THAT would be the experiment. If we needed it again, I'm sure humans in their ingenuity would replace it with something else.

          October 6, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          I don't know your country, but most civilized countries have religious roots, and therefore morals. Perhaps your country has moved away from religion faster, and that's a good thing. I am not a proponent of expanding what religion there is, but turning off the switch I think could have some unknown, downside risks, as does Mr. Dennett. It's a philosophical question more than a reality-based one – everyone isn't going to abandon their religion tomorrow, and given the growth of the nones as an indicator, we will probably end up where you country is now, but it will take some time to get there.

          October 6, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
  12. rick

    I'm glad the author of this article is smart enough and has enough insite to see who does and does not know the Bible. The Bible is a tool that teaches how to live a good life, not what to do, but how to do it. It doesn't force anyone to do anything. It teaches the very things we as children were taught. Things like respect for your parents, respect for other people and to believe in one God, to name a few. If everyone followed the Bible like they should, like it was taught in school so many years ago, this country would be far more prosperous than we are today. The Bible is a tool, not a weapon.

    October 6, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      Do you mean a tool as in, "the Bible can tell us how old the earth is?"

      October 6, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
    • Bob

      The bible is one of the most hateful and violent books ever written. It includes explicit instructions supposed to be the word of the Christian ass hole in the sky AKA god, to do murder, rape, and torture. It's a horrid, bigoted collection of fairy tales. Time for humanity to put it aside.

      October 6, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
      • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

        Ok, if that was your plan A, I can tell you that did not work, so, what's your plan B?

        October 6, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
        • Gwen

          Say wa?

          October 6, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
      • Gwen

        Say wa?

        October 6, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
        • The Reverend

          wa

          October 6, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

          My point was that abrasive conversation turns people off from wanting to engage. If that was plan A, then what is plan B since plan A never works.

          October 6, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
    • ironman59

      That's why atheists know it better than those who spout it. Fools through out random quotes & those that don't believe in that nonsense look it up to show how wrong they are. When the fools get the exact wording then they start more spin about "interpreation", "gawds word", "infallible", etc.

      October 6, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      The Bible can justify any position, good or bad, which is why it is an aweful "tool".

      October 6, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
      • Gwen

        Yep.

        October 6, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
    • The Reverend

      rick mindlessly blathered: " If everyone followed the Bible like they should"

      Rick, I don't have your "insite". Clearly you know everything.

      October 6, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
  13. Henryo

    Ah, interesting article. The only thing it left out was the troll. The troll comprises the majority of the commenters on these boards.

    I'm not saying that to be a provoker. I'm saying that because it's true. You're all looking for a new belief board article, just so you can make a comment, in order to feel important in an over-crowded world.

    October 6, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      I would agree with you. It's as if Facebook is not enough for them, so they come here with middle school taunts to amuse themselves.

      October 6, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
  14. mike

    Reality is not unique. Imagination is more than reality.

    October 6, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
  15. Mark

    If you believe God doesn't exist, does all your effort to convince people to believe like you really matter? After you and I die, nothing happens. Science says the sun is going to engulf the Earth in a billion years. It's all going to end for everyone one way or another. Why such passion? Yet, if you believe in God, then everything does matter, in this life and the after life!

    October 6, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • Irrelevance

      It doesn't to me. I also do not feel that people should be lumped into categories based on their beliefs or lack there of. I do not feel that those who believe in Santa Claus are any more of a "nation" than those of us who do not. For example you and I do not believe there is a fairy in my mail box. Do we have anything else in common besides that fact? Maybe or maybe not.
      If my next door neighbor thinks there is a fairy in my mail box and so does President Clinton does that make the two of them a "team" somehow?

      October 6, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
  16. BUDDHADREAM

    Be aware of this cult online religion discussion form: http://www.religiousforums.com

    It is organized by a group of evil people, be aware!

    October 6, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  17. Noname

    Anyone who has any type of religion is a moron.

    October 6, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • Really?

      Did Jerry Springer pay you to type that?

      October 6, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • theridge

      religion is belief. atheism is religion if you start your reality by say i dont "believe".... I believe cnn and other mainstream outlets tell me the truth. i believe police officers are allowed to stage checkpoints on highways and search my car. what you believe is your reality. the Truth however is a totally different story. Few will find it though since they get their info from these mainstream outlets and mainstream "cooked" science

      October 6, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
      • Maxwell's Demon

        No, atheism is not a religion.

        October 6, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
      • Felix

        So, if you say "I don't believe... in Santa Clause", that qualifies as a religion to you?

        October 6, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
  18. YeahBut

    All this talk about how to be civil is window dressing. It misses the main problem.

    The main problem is that not all ideas are worthy of respect. I don't think we should bully someone for believing nonsense, but we do not have to respect the nonsense. The problem is that when you don't respect someone's nonsense, they think you're not respecting them, and they react badly. There's some feeling of "fairness" that gets hurt when we call nonsense for what it is.

    You can believe in magic all you like, and I won't mock you for it. But I refuse to be shamed into respecting such nonsense.

    October 6, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
    • YeahBut

      Atheism is useless.

      October 6, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
      • Bootyfunk

        the mentally enslaved certainly believe so...

        October 6, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
      • YeahBut

        What punishment will your deity require for lying?

        October 6, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      "The main problem is that not all ideas are worthy of respect."
      +++ VERY well said.

      October 6, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • YeahBut

      I like how the honest and charitable Christian has to steal handles in the service of their deity. Rather than fairly and honestly debate in the marketplace of ideas, the Christian must use deception and mendacity to confuse the reader.

      You lose, shapeshifting Christian.

      October 6, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
  19. Mark

    There must be some evolutionary reason for religion. All cultures in all times have had a religion of some sort. Evolution is smarter than all of us so why fight it. So I believe in God!

    October 6, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      yes, there is a great reason for religion:
      primitive people that can't explain natural phenomenon fall back on "magic" for an explanation.

      October 6, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      And as natural phenomenon are explained by science, a rational thinking person would drop the supernatural explanation and adopt the proven natural one. But no, believers remain largely stuck in the 1st century.

      October 6, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      You claim to have information on ALL cultures that have EVER existed? Wow, I know a lot of people that would love to have that information.ANd you claim that they ALL worshipped gods? OK...how about Clovis man, what religion did they follow then? Lucern man? How about all of the cultures, societies etc, that we have no record for at all, for the thousands upon thousands of years men have walked this planet, yet YOU know about ALL of them , right down to their religion.

      Please oh wise one, enlighten us.

      October 6, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
  20. Bootyfunk

    this author doesn't want a lively debate. he wants a timid one where everyone walks on eggshells and no one's feelings get hurt. he wants all discussions to wear kiddy gloves. this author wants his own opinion of how people converse enforced. sorry, Blake, you don't get to choose the rules.

    "“Free people do not need a savior, Kate. Only slaves need saviors.”
    +++ he thought that was bad? so no one can bring mental slavery into the discussion? doesn't matter if it's true - you can't say it because someone might cry.

    October 6, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
    • Live4Him

      @Bootyfunk : this author doesn't want a lively debate.

      You call slandering others "a lively debate"?

      October 6, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
      • Richard Cranium

        Lie4him
        Slander is spoken...libel is written.

        October 6, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
        • Live4Him

          An excellent example of why this is not a "lively debate".

          October 6, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
        • Richard Cranium

          Lie4Him
          There never was any debate with you because you misrepresent and distirt science and even twist the meaning of the bible to your own purpose. To debate, one must be honest, somethingyou have proven you will not do.

          October 6, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
      • Bootyfunk

        i call pointing out ignorance a lively debate. no need to sugar coat it.

        October 6, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
        • Live4Him

          @Bootyfunk : i call pointing out ignorance a lively debate. no need to sugar coat it.

          There is a difference between CLAIMING ignorance and PROVING ignorance. Proving is done in debates, while claiming is for the ignorant.

          October 6, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
        • Bootyfunk

          agreed. and that's why i like to debate.

          October 6, 2013 at 4:32 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.