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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. dewie

    so far we no that athies believe the 3 stooges, zeus could be god, i don't no, plus everything is eternal

    so, any other atheist care to explain her beliefs?

    October 6, 2013 at 10:55 pm |

    • Not really. faith it's too difficult to tell if you actually understand what you are asking or what's said.

      October 6, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
    • Observer

      dewie

      "so far we no that athies believe the 3 stooges, zeus could be god"

      Do you have a reading comprehension problem or just a lack of intelligence?

      NO ATHEIST said that here. I said it and I clearly stated that I am an agnostic.

      OOOOOOOOOPS as usual.

      October 6, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
      • dewie

        U answered a question posed to athies

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

          faith,

          "U answered a question posed to athies"

          I clearly stated that, but you ignorantly claimed that I was an atheist. Ooops.

          October 6, 2013 at 11:15 pm |
        • dewie

          So, tell us more about how it could be the 3 stooges. As an agnostic who believes they could be god, how did u come to that conclusion?

          October 6, 2013 at 11:22 pm |
        • Observer

          faith,

          "So, tell us more about how it could be the 3 stooges. As an agnostic who believes they could be god, how did u come to that conclusion?"

          There are an INFINITE number of possible explanations how the universe started so this is one. It's just one. Besides, we have PROOF that the Stooges were real and you have NONE that God is real. Where is your proof? Still waiting.

          October 6, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
        • dewie

          they were real. l c. anything else?

          October 6, 2013 at 11:39 pm |
        • Observer

          faith,

          There is proof that the stooges existed.

          You have NONE that God exists.

          October 6, 2013 at 11:45 pm |
        • dewie

          fine. fine

          October 6, 2013 at 11:49 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      My beliefs are that there is but one "energy" that both exists and does not exist and is folded back upon itself in infinite geometries and complexities that are slowly unraveling and re-raveling in an infinite number of ways. This process gives rise to an infinite number and methods of experience of which our particular perspective and chemical combination is one.

      October 6, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
  2. Bootyfunk

    anyone know where to get the author's email address? tried to find an email for John Blake at CNN but could not.

    October 6, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Careful, he's banned me. I've had to go to a different IP address block. I was critical of him, but not abusive. He's not a particularly stand up guy.

      October 6, 2013 at 10:48 pm |
      • Bootyfunk

        it's obvious from the article that he doesn't like to hear opposing opinions unless they are sugar coated.

        October 6, 2013 at 11:06 pm |
      • Commenter

        Tom, Tom,

        John Blake banned you? Today? Or was it Daniel Burke a while back?

        October 6, 2013 at 11:08 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          After I returned from dinner this evening. I found I couldn't even post "ping". I changed my IP and I'm on for now.

          October 6, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
    • Jeanie

      Argue about religion - how silly!

      October 6, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
  3. Concrete

    Don't bother.

    October 6, 2013 at 10:34 pm |
  4. Craig

    This is really simpler than presented, and doesn't require that "launching into warp speed" to understand.

    Religion is based upon faith, not fact. We can, should we choose to do so, discuss facts. We can debate whether A led to B or was C more responsible for that. We can, within limits, analyse what we think Prophet X was talking about, even though all of that text has been translated, miss-translated, and then modified time and again. We can, as did the Council of Nicea even debate if Jesus was divine.

    However, none of that discussion matters because the foundations of our differences are not facts. Faith requires a person to accept something without tangible proof. We don't even have good eye-witnesses for much of it, not that eye-witnesses are very reliable anyway. Somebody claimed that the sun stood still. We know factually that cannot possibly happen. Doesn't matter since it's in that book. We know that there were Adam and Eve and Cain and Able. That's it. However, somehow Cain ended up with a wife. Where the heck did she come from?

    As soon as a discussion is based upon beliefs that cannot be compared to facts the discussion is all over. Nobody likes to think their ideas are wrong, and in the absence of facts you can just continue to claim whatever the heck you like. Personally I'm big on believing the whole world was created by the FSM. You can tell me my views are wrong, but you cannot point to a single thing that says it wasn't. Even science can't. Science says there was a Big Bang. I agree. Science doesn't say why there was a Big Bang or who caused the Big Bang. I say it was him. You say otherwise.

    It really is that simple...and that stupid. I've never met the FSM, nor have I talked with him. If he's talked to me I'm unaware of the conversation. Maybe he's talked to somebody else. Maybe that person didn't realize it was him talking. Heck, maybe he talked to Joseph Smith. After all, you can serve spaghetti on golden plates.

    October 6, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
  5. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    Anyway, before my ban I meant to reply to Youtube – Neil DeGrasse Tyson – The Perimeter of Ignorance on the call for extraordinary evidence:

    Indeed. Often people ask why the reality of someone like Agamemnon is accepted, or Socrates, but not, on the basis of more plentiful written accounts, the resurrected Jesus Christ. The answer is we don't believe in those people as we are asked to believe in Jesus the Christ. The implications of belief and unbelief are not the same. Of course we want extraordinary evidence if we are to believe that Jesus is living and also God.

    October 6, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      Yeah, I think it's that simple.

      October 6, 2013 at 10:39 pm |
    • George

      "The level of faith involved in making any assertion is inversely proportional to the amount of evidence supporting the assertion."

      October 7, 2013 at 12:10 am |
  6. Bootyfunk

    hahaha, didn't know i was mentioned by name in the article. he says i didn't email him back. true. because i didn't know he emailed me. it's a junk email account. but i'll go email the author right now.

    October 6, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      "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."
      +++ this author makes the mistake of assuming. he assumes we read his email and decided not to respond. i have a junk email associated with the blog here. it's not that i decided not to respond - i didn't even know you emailed me.
      bad journalism.
      also, i looked through the junk email and didn't see that you had sent an email. definitely not under "john" or "blake" or "cnn". but there are thousands of emails in there, so i may have missed it.
      i just opened a new email account. write to me there and i will absolutely respond. i'll go look for mr. john blake's email address now and try to contact him - anyone know where to look? haven't contacted anyone at CNN directly before.

      October 6, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
  7. Yark Narf

    Funny that the blog is about how we talk about religion online and most choose to disregard the topic offered and instead do the usual same arguments they probably always give.

    Part of the problem is that there is absolutely no definitive answer coming ever. You can try to talk about the effects of religion, or any element of religion, or even how we talk about religion but it always comes back to the same existential question that can not be answered ever. There is nothing like people who are totally sure of themselves and are bullet proof to disproof to make for inane argument.

    Secondly, it is almost impossible for offense to be taken. I'm an atheist. My whole argument is based on my belief that holy books are shared delusions. I don't feel I need to dilly dally around that or pull that punch. That's what I believe. Many religious people believe that by me holding my beliefs I am damned to eternal torment. Why should they hold that back? That's what their book tells them. Those two positions, by their very nature are pretty dang inflammatory.

    I figure, know what you are clicking.
    Who thinks the question of God will be resolved on YouTube?
    If you are sensitive, don't log on and wage war with the caps lock on and QQ's aplenty.

    But then again, I laugh at people being offended in the comments section because I'm an atheist and don't really feel I have "skin in the game". I feel you can't really touch me so maybe I'm insensitive.
    I am offended, however, when the war spills out to "civilian" videos and blogs. If the poster didn't come to start a fight then don't engage, I say.
    Good blog Mr. Blake TY

    October 6, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
  8. Lionly Lamb

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUiymTG2v9s&w=640&h=360]

    October 6, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
  9. John Blake's only friend

    What John meant by "calling them out" is he will block people who disagree with him. Kind of like Daniel. CNN runs a cheap little bully pulpit for them.

    October 6, 2013 at 10:11 pm |
  10. Lionly Lamb

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7udwyxgvVc&w=640&h=360]

    October 6, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
  11. tony

    Arguing religion vs not, is like negotiationg with a pregnant woman so that she can become only partially pregnant.

    October 6, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
  12. deep blue

    If you are looking for good philosophical discussion about theology, an online blog on CNN probably isn't the place to start.

    October 6, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      if only Christopher Hitchens were still with us ...

      October 6, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      On the contrary, this is the only place the religious can actually learn.

      October 6, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
  13. Dyslexic doG

    If God is powerful enough to create the universe, don't you think he'd have a more foolproof way of getting his exact message across to future generations than this endlessly translated, edited, confused, modified, twisted, corrupted book of stories that is changed by religious power brokers to suit each generation?

    Wouldn't god's word be carved on the moon, unchangeable and for all to see? Wouldn't it be spoken unchanged by a species of animal? Wouldn't it be written microscopically on every stone or every tree? Wouldn't there be some space age material that had god's voice recorded, uncorrupted over the centuries and there for everyone to hear.

    Wouldn't there be parts of God's word that reflect computers or artificial intelligence or DNA or modern medicine or future medicine or electricity or space travel to other parts of this amazing universe he created? Wouldn't there be talk of gender and race equality? Wouldn't there be talk of Asia and Australia and the Americas and Europe and Africa?

    Instead the bible is limited to horses and carts and herbs and grain and swords and shields and misogyny and racism and slavery all set in the deserts of the middle east. The Bible is so obviously a product of bronze age man, you must be in denial to even argue that it is the word of god. There may or may not be a god or gods, but this book of bronze age voodoo and oppression has nothing to do with him, her or them.

    And stop it with this "not the word of god but words inspired by god" cop out. That just means it was written by greedy, evil men who got their way by claiming that god told them to do something. That's a self serving scam that should be scorned, especially by anyone claiming to love an omnipotent god. That scam is an abomination and an insult to your god ... as is the bible!

    October 6, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      exactly.

      October 6, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
    • 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 10:53 pm |
      • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

        This life matters more, it is the only one we get, you feel this is a just a dress rehearsal

        October 6, 2013 at 11:54 pm |
  14. Dyslexic doG

    Jesus was just David Koresh 2000 years earlier. A sociopathic conman with a good story and lots of charisma. All this foolishness, without a shred of proof, has sprung up from there.

    utter, mind numbing nonsense.

    October 6, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      No, as an atheist I have to say that's a poor comparison, and you've provided no facts to back it up – you're just asking us to believe.

      October 6, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
      • HotAirAce

        Booty has exactly the same facts for her claim as believers do for some demented desert dweller known as jesus.

        October 6, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
  15. bp

    The Christian God is all-powerful and all-knowing. And, he needs my money NOW!

    "I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires." – Susan B. Anthony

    October 6, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
    • Bet

      Funny how she made it onto the dollar coin.

      October 6, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG

        in Susan we trust!

        October 6, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
        • Bootyfunk

          an atheist all women in the U.S. should feel grateful to.

          October 6, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
  16. dewie

    any athie care 2 explain her beliefs? no? wattsamatter?

    any ideas on how all this got here? any particular rationale 4 the experience we call life. random chance 4 everything? go right ahead. feel free to be first tom

    October 6, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      any ideas on how your god got here? Then take that explanation and apply it to everything else but leave out the imaginary sky daddy.

      1. There is no accident!
      2. The universe has always been and will always be, cycling between expansion and contraction with gravity being the force governing all.
      3. there is no creator because if you name a creator then who created your creator? and so on ad infinitum!

      October 6, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • uh oh

      looks like some 1 got back from the liquor store earlier than expected 😦

      October 6, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • Observer

      dewie,

      Read the answer to your question below.

      October 6, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      We don't know what created the singularity or definitively how life formed, but that does not mean that a god did it. Where did your god come from?

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

      Yes, it's faith/hhari/karie/et all under another name. Face it, dewie, you don't want answers. You're just here to provoke.

      October 6, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
      • sam stone

        faith/hhari/karie/tex/bethany/etc is a diseased gash

        come on, faith, have some guts and eat your 12 gauge

        October 6, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
  17. Dyslexic doG

    Yesterday morning there was a knock at my door. A pleasant and enthusiastic young couple were there.

    John: "Hi! I'm John, and this is Mary."

    Mary: "Hi! We're here to invite you to come kiss Hank's ass with us."

    Me: "Pardon me?! What are you talking about? Who's Hank, and why would I want to kiss His ass?"

    John: "If you kiss Hank's ass, He'll give you a million dollars; and if you don't, He'll kick the guts out of you."

    Me: "What? Is this some sort of bizarre mob shake-down?"

    John: "Hank is a billionaire philanthropist. Hank built this town. Hank owns this town. He can do whatever He wants, and what He wants is to give you a million dollars, but He can't until you kiss His ass."

    Me: "That doesn't make any sense. Why..."

    Mary: "Who are you to question Hank's gift? Don't you want a million dollars? Isn't it worth a little kiss on the ass?"

    Me: "Well maybe, if it's legit, but..."

    John: "Then come kiss Hank's ass with us."

    Me: "Do you kiss Hank's ass often?"

    Mary: "Oh yes, all the time..."

    Me: "And has He given you a million dollars?"

    John: "Well no. You don't actually get the money until you leave town."

    Me: "So why don't you just leave town now?"

    Mary: "You can't leave until Hank tells you to, or you don't get the money, and He kicks the guts out of you."

    Me: "Do you know anyone who kissed Hank's ass, left town, and got the million dollars?"

    John: "My mother kissed Hank's ass for years. She left town last year, and I'm sure she got the money."

    Me: "Haven't you talked to her since then?"

    John: "Of course not, Hank doesn't allow it."

    Me: "So what makes you think He'll actually give you the money if you've never talked to anyone who got the money?"

    Mary: "Well, maybe you'll get a raise, maybe you'll win a small lotto, maybe you'll just find a twenty-dollar bill on the street."

    Me: "What's that got to do with Hank?"

    John: "In this town, Hank is the same as good luck. All good things are attributed to Hank'"

    Me: "I'm sorry, but this sounds like some sort of bizarre con game."

    John: "But it's a million dollars, can you really take the chance? And remember, if you don't kiss Hank's ass He'll kick the guts out of you."

    Me: "Maybe if I could see Hank, talk to Him, get the details straight from Him..."

    Mary: "No one sees Hank, no one talks to Hank."

    Me: "Then how do you kiss His ass?"

    John: "Sometimes we just blow Him a kiss, and think of His ass. Other times we kiss Karl's ass, and he passes it on."

    Me: "Who's Karl?"

    Mary: "A friend of ours. He's the one who taught us all about kissing Hank's ass. All we had to do was take him out to dinner a few times."

    Me: "And you just took his word for it when he said there was a Hank, that Hank wanted you to kiss His ass, and that Hank would reward you?"

    John: "Oh no! Karl has a letter he got from Hank years ago explaining the whole thing. Here's a copy; see for yourself."

    From the Desk of Karl
    1. Kiss Hank's ass and He'll give you a million dollars when you leave town.
    2. Use alcohol in moderation.
    3. Kick the guts out of people who aren't like you.
    4. Eat right.
    5. Hank dictated this list Himself.
    6. The moon is made of green cheese.
    7. Everything Hank says is right.
    8. Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.
    9. Don't use alcohol.
    10. Eat your wieners on buns, no condiments.
    11. Kiss Hank's ass or He'll kick the guts out of you.

    Me: "This appears to be written on Karl's letterhead."

    Mary: "Hank didn't have any paper."

    Me: "I have a hunch that if we checked we'd find this is Karl's handwriting."

    John: "Of course, Hank dictated it."

    Me: "I thought you said no one gets to see Hank?"

    Mary: "Not now, but years ago He would talk to some people."

    Me: "I thought you said He was a philanthropist. What sort of philanthropist kicks the guts out of people just because they're different?"

    Mary: "It's what Hank wants, and Hank's always right."

    Me: "How do you figure that?"

    Mary: "Item 7 says 'Everything Hank says is right.' That's good enough for me!"

    Me: "Maybe your friend Karl just made the whole thing up."

    John: "No way! Item 5 says 'Hank dictated this list himself.' Besides, item 2 says 'Use alcohol in moderation,' Item 4 says 'Eat right,' and item 8 says 'Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.' Everyone knows those things are right, so the rest must be true, too."

    Me: "But 9 says 'Don't use alcohol.' which doesn't quite go with item 2, and 6 says 'The moon is made of green cheese,' which is just plain wrong."

    John: "There's no contradiction between 9 and 2, 9 just clarifies 2. As far as 6 goes, you've never been to the moon, so you can't say for sure."

    Me: "Scientists have pretty firmly established that the moon is made of rock..."

    Mary: "But they don't know if the rock came from the Earth, or from out of space, so it could just as easily be green cheese."

    Me: "I'm not really an expert, but not knowing where the rock came from doesn't make it plausible that it might be made of cheese."

    John: "Ha! You just admitted that scientists don’t know everything, but we know Hank is always right!"

    Me: "We do?"

    Mary: "Of course we do, Item 7 says so."

    Me: "You're saying Hank's always right because the list says so, the list is right because Hank dictated it, and we know that Hank dictated it because the list says so. That's circular logic, no different than saying 'Hank's right because He says He's right.'"

    John: "Now you're getting it! It's so rewarding to see someone come around to Hank's way of thinking."

    Me: "But...oh, never mind.

    from Jhuger.com

    October 6, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      lol. love this. perfectly illustrates how silly a belief in god with zero evidence is.

      the author of this piece will say this is exactly what he's talking about, being disrespectful to someone's beliefs, tthat no matter how silly or cruel an idea/belief is, it's worthy of respect.
      untrue. that's a defense engineered to shut down opposing opinions, to silence them. it's an encouragement of censorship.
      some beliefs are worthy of ridicule and derision. it's okay to poke fun at beliefs. don't get your panties in a bunch when we call your god an "invisible sky fairy." there is as much proof for god as there is for fairies. is is a good comparison. and you can add bigfoot and santa claus to the list.
      if you want people to respect an idea/belief, put forth an idea/belief worthy of respect.

      October 6, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG

        amen!

        October 6, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      very well stated

      October 6, 2013 at 9:41 pm |
  18. Dyslexic doG

    Holy Trollers: How to argue about religion online

    CNN Writers: How to write a puff piece that will get lots of page views and generate ad revenue.

    October 6, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
    • Commenting Now

      Yep.

      October 6, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      No, it's a real problem for people that want to engage in civil conversations.

      October 6, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
  19. dewie

    any athie care 2 explain her beliefs?

    any ideas on how all this got here? any particular rationale 4 the experience we call life. random chance 4 everything? go right ahead. feel free to be first tom

    October 6, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      takes too long for anyone to "explain their beliefs" - narrow your question down.

      October 6, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      no, no particular 'reason' for humans to be here.

      October 6, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
      • dewie

        u have no clue. no reason.

        and u no that no one else can have a reason. sounds divine. how heavenly.

        October 6, 2013 at 9:40 pm |
        • Bootyfunk

          you think making up an answer is better than saying 'i don't know."

          October 6, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
    • Observer

      dewie,

      I'm an agnostic, but I think I can answer your question. Just because someone can find the Bible full of errors, contradictions, hypocrisy and nonsense does not REQUIRE that a person have a definitive idea on how the universe came about. People can actually admit that they don't know.

      October 6, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
      • dewie

        not a thought about life's mysteries, origins, meaning? nada. well thanks. fascinating.
        u have no idea.
        never really thought about the kinds of things that most people seek to answer during their lives.

        einstein attributed his success developing e=mc2 to a thorn in his flesh. it forced him into doing something most people do at a young age. he said, since i was... what? what was he?

        October 6, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
        • Observer

          dewie

          "not a thought about life's mysteries, origins, meaning? nada. well thanks. fascinating.
          u have no idea."

          Everyone thinks about life's mysteries. Since non-believers have no simple packaged answer, they likely do more thinking about life's mysteries than believers. You comment shows you have NO IDEA.

          October 6, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
        • dewie

          y change ur answer? u have no idea. thanks.
          2 bad

          October 6, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
        • Observer

          dewie/hharri/faith,

          Once again you have FAILED MISERABLY. You got an answer to your question and have nothing to refute it.

          Pathetic again. Grow up.

          October 6, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
        • dewie

          "Everyone thinks about life's mysteries. Since non-believers have no simple packaged answer, they likely do more thinking about life's mysteries than believers. You comment shows you have NO IDEA."

          this is ur answer

          u have no idea.

          problem?

          October 6, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
        • Observer

          dewie,

          Nonbelievers have LOTS of ideas about how the world came about, but just like believers they have NO PROOF on any particular one. The difference is that they are honest and ADMIT it. You should be so honest.

          October 6, 2013 at 10:09 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      any ideas on how your god got here? Then take that explanation and apply it to everything else but leave out the imaginary sky daddy.

      1. There is no accident!
      2. The universe has always been and will always be, cycling between expansion and contraction with gravity being the force governing all.
      3. there is no creator because if you name a creator then who created your creator? and so on ad infinitum!

      October 6, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
      • dewie

        u believe everything just is and always was. no nothin besides, here it is.

        October 6, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
      • dewie

        u believe everything just is and always was. no nothin besides, here it is. fine fine. that's your best answer. super. thank u very much

        October 6, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
      • dewie

        and measurements of the length and age of the universe based on c r irrelevant. everything, everything, absolutely everything is here cause it always has been here. matter never wasn't and it always will be, apparently.

        any examples of matter just existing, appearing, poof, from nothing material, besides the entire universe? any human beings arrive at your place one day from no where?

        fascinating. have her post hello

        October 6, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
      • Observer

        Believers' Hypocrisy:

        (1) Atheists are wrong because for anything to exist, something must have created it.
        (2) God exists.
        (3) Nothing created God.
        (4) God then created everything from nothing.

        October 6, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
    • Bet

      This sounds like faith/hharie/karie to me. Pretty soon the insults will rear its ugly head.

      October 6, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
  20. Lionly Lamb

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDCf-Et2_Mc&w=640&h=360]

    October 6, 2013 at 9:11 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.