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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. Universe

    Quran says (Islamic Scripture)

    “The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]

    It does not befit God that He begets a son, be He glorified. To have anything done, He simply says to it, "Be," and it is. [19:35]

    “No soul can carry the sins of another soul. If a soul that is loaded with sins implores another to bear part of its load, no other soul can carry any part of it, even if they were related. ... [35:18]

    “They even attribute to Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims.” Quran [6:100]

    “Recall that your Lord said to the angels, "I am placing a representative on Earth." They said, "Will You place therein one who will spread evil therein and shed blood, while we sing Your praises, glorify You, and uphold Your absolute authority?" He said, "I know what you do not know." [2:30]

    “They say , "We live only this life; we will not be resurrected. If you could only see them when they stand before their Lord! He would say, "Is this not the truth?" They would say, "Yes, by our Lord." He would say, "You have incurred the retribution by your disbelief." [6:30]

    “We have honored the children of Adam, and provided them with rides on land and in the sea. We provided for them good provisions, and we gave them greater advantages than many of our creatures.” Quran [17:70]

    “O children of Adam, when messengers come to you from among you, and recite My revelations to you, those who take heed and lead a righteous life, will have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.” Quran [7:35]

    “O children of Adam, do not let the devil dupe you as he did when he caused the eviction of your parents from Paradise, and the removal of their garments to expose their bodies. He and his tribe see you, while you do not see them. We appoint the devils as companions of those who do not believe.” Quran [7:27]

    “Losers indeed are those who disbelieve in meeting God, until the Hour comes to them suddenly, then say, "We deeply regret wasting our lives in this world." They will carry loads of their sins on their backs; what a miserable load! [6:31]

    Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to visit whyIslam org website.

    October 7, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      ^^ religious gibberish ^^

      translation:
      believe in god or suffer eternal damnation and torture

      amen.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
  2. hee hee

    His advice to atheists: "spend some time and get to know people of faith".

    Really? Does he really think there are atheists who haven't got to know a person of faith? I mean, really? Given the demographic distribution of religious beliefs, he thinks that this is possible? And that this is somehow the cause of misunderstanding?

    October 7, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      exactly. get to know people of faith? who does he think raised most of us? most atheists were raised in a religious household. it shows the authors bias and willful ignorance on the subject.

      October 7, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
    • Matt

      I know you like to paraphrase so let me help you out a bit here. This is the rest of the "quote" you just didn't read, according to your post anyway.

      "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."

      Do you speak for all atheists that exist? Can you say with absolute certainty that ALL Atheists have gotten to know, I mean REALLY gotten to know a person of faith? I can't. And I can't say they haven't either. And that's vice versa for people of faith. Context is worth having in a conversation...all while avoiding generalizations.

      October 7, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
      • Bootyfunk

        Matt, do you have reading comprehension problems?
        Matt wrote:
        " Can you say with absolute certainty that ALL Atheists have gotten to know, I mean REALLY gotten to know a person of faith?"

        yet i had already written:
        "get to know people of faith? who does he think raised most of us? most atheists were raised in a religious household."
        +++ notice how i used the word "most" and not "ALL" as you did. no one said all atheists know persons of religion well - just that most do. that's not a sterotype, that's a fact. most atheists were raised in religious households, which means their parents are religious - which means they know someone of faith well, their family.

        now, can you say people of faith usually know an atheist well? because yes, atheists, generally, know a person of religion well.

        October 7, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
      • heehee

        (1) I did read the rest of the post;
        (2) I made a statistical point, which was that since religious folk are so common, with high likelihood a random atheist has in fact become close to a person of faith;
        (3) you cannot cite the existence of a low probability event to discount a statistical statement (let me walk you through it: if I had said most people have not been struck by lightning, saying "have you met everyone? do you represent all people who stand outside?" would not be considered by most people to be a reasonable response).

        (1) here is a new point: I have got to know people of faith, many times, and I continue to;
        (2) to be surprised, I would have to see or hear something which I haven't already.

        What do you people imagine? That we've never been to church? Never talked in depth with a religious person? Never had a religious friend? It seems that you – and the author – are the ones who have some learning to do.

        October 7, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
      • heehee

        Whoops, I did say all. My bad. Please replace "all" by "99.9 percent". The .1 percent allows for people living in caves.

        October 7, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
  3. uh..

    Granted he caught the most common kinds, but there are so many kinds of people he totally missed.

    October 7, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
  4. Brian

    I agree with your claims, but feel like you misrepresented us by labeling all atheists as angry atheists. I think your other categories could have easily worked as secular examples, and that you oversimplify them because you are trying to speak to believers specifically. If that was your intention you probably should have left atheists out of it.

    October 7, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      How about if he had said "The Angry Atheist"?

      There certainly are plenty about on the Belief Blog.

      October 7, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
      • Bootyfunk

        it would have done much not to put all atheists in a single box. "the atheist" makes it sounds like all atheists fit his oversimplified and silly description.

        October 7, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
  5. Smarter than ewe

    An agnostic is just an atheist hedging his bets.

    October 7, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      Agnostic = hedge fun manager...

      October 7, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      An Agnostic is someone how does not claim to know.

      An Atheist is someone who does not believe.

      These terms are not mutually exclusive

      October 7, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
    • Madtown

      Agnostic is the most realistic position to take. Despite whatever anyone believes, all across the spectrum, no one really "knows" the answers to any of these questions.

      October 7, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
      • Bootyfunk

        sort of, Madtown.

        agnostic says, "i'm really not sure."

        atheists say, "there is almost certainly no god."
        atheists basically say, considering the complete lack of evidence for a god, there is no reason to believe on exists.
        basically, atheists ARE agnostics in the sense that yes, even atheists can't prove a negative.
        it means that when the whole picture is examined, that the chance of a god existing is so small, it it's worth consideration.

        October 7, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
        • Alison

          No, agnostics are quite sure. They are quite sure they don't know, and neither does you or anybody else.

          October 7, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
        • ME II

          Best Bumpersticker:

          "Militant Agnostic: I don't know and NEITHER DO YOU!"

          October 7, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
      • Madtown

        Well, all I'm really saying is that while people believe all sorts of things, and believe them with a degree of certainty that has them convinced........in the end, no one really actually knows the truth. So, maybe it's more correct to say we're all agnostic in the end, even if we define ourselves differently.

        October 7, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
        • Bootyfunk

          yeah, it's just that some ideas/beliefs, like that in a god, are silly and not worth serious consideration. the reason atheists seem convinced there is no god is because the chance is so miniscule that, as i said, it's not worth consideration.

          for instance, what if i said my left nut was god? you can't make a definite statement that my left nut isn't god. but should you actually spend time considering the possibility? is it worth your time? no, of course not. well, i see the same exact chance that the christian god is real as my left nut is god - it's not worth consideration.

          so yes, in a way, all those who don't believe in the chrsitian god are agnostic, as there is no way to prove a negative. but i guess that means christians are agnostic too, when it comes to belief in my left nut as a deity.

          October 7, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
        • Madtown

          "I'm pretty sure my left nut isn't God."

          – Lance

          October 7, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
        • Bootyfunk

          but lance may be wrong. perhaps his left nut is god and just hasn't revealed his glory to lance yet.

          this illustrates why atheism is the better default position over agnosticism.

          October 7, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
        • Madtown

          I think Lance's left was the cancerous one they cut off! Maybe it ascended into heaven?

          October 7, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
        • Bootyfunk

          good enough for me - all hail the Left Nut of Lance!!!

          October 7, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
    • wayne

      You can be an agnostic atheist or Gnostic atheist
      You can be a agnostic theist or Gnostic theist

      Since you didn't know that you have no credibility on the topic

      October 7, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
  6. Bootyfunk

    To John Blake:

    Mr. Blake, you mentioned me in your article: 'Holy Trollers: How to argue about religion online.' You have made the mistake of assumption.
    "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." You assume we read your 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. That’s bad journalism. You shouldn’t assume answers to questions, for you may be wrong, as you are in this case.

    I didn’t know you emailed me. After I saw my handle in your article, I went and looked through my junk email address for your email. I couldn’t find it. It was not under “John” “Blake” or “CNN.” But I had thousands of emails in there, so perhaps I missed it.

    And your choice of words were purposely inflammatory: “all I got was silence. Not one commenter wanted to talk on the record for this story.” How would you have any idea what we wanted since you didn’t successfully make contact with us? Your choice of words said we dodged the hard questioning, that we got your questions but they were just too hard-hitting for us to handle. You are guilty of exactly what you accuse others of. Your slights were subtle and not overt, but they were there. No one is afraid to answer your emails. Perhaps next time be a little more honest in your journalism and say just say you didn't receive a response to an email.

    I would very much like you to resend your email. I will answer any questions you put before me. I’ve made a new email, just for use on the CNN Belief Blog: bootyfunkcnn@yahoo.com. Please resend your email to that address and I will be happy to answer you.

    btw, you listed 5 kinds of 'Holy Trollers' - you missed one: The Subtle Censor. I'll tell you more about this insidious troll when you write to me.

    October 7, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      I wanna hear more about the Subtle Censor!

      October 7, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
      • Bootyfunk

        i'll give you a hint - John Blake is very familiar with The Subtle Censor...

        October 7, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
        • Akira

          That wouldn't be faith/hharri, would it? He did mention her twice as "Karie" and "Meredith". No, it can't be her you're talking about...that one is anything but subtle.

          October 7, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
  7. The Truth Fairy

    “Logical arguments are nice but they're not going to change someone’s life"

    This should be the tagline for how closed-minded you need to be in order to follow religion.

    October 7, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      That is another way of saying,...

      "You can't reason someone out of a position that they didn't reason themself into".

      October 7, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      logical arguments don't save lives?
      does scalia have a brain? a lawyer/judge that disproves of logical arguments...?

      logical arguments made the cigarette industry stop lying to the public about the risk of smoking
      logical arguments are used to determine the safety standards of passenger vehicles
      logical arguments are what lead to women and minority voting rights
      the list could go on infinitum

      October 7, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
      • Bootyfunk

        logical arguments don't save lives?
        guess he's never been in a murder trial where a defendant facing the death penalty is proven innocent by logical argument.
        scalia doesn't think before he speaks.

        October 7, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
  8. Gol

    "I actually e-mailed readers like.."

    Crap, I use an old email that I never check anymore. Oh well.

    October 7, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
  9. Mark

    Is science the only type of knowledge? Science measures physical objects interacting with other physical objects. How then would you measure goodness, goodwill, evil, truth, beauty, justice, fairness, and love? Even though science can't accurately measure the love you have for your child or pet, does not disprove your love for them.

    October 7, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Those things are all subjective, therefore you are asking an illogical question. "How can you objectively measure the subjective"? Answer: You can't.

      October 7, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
      • Mark

        Then why do you try and disprove an immaterial God using material measurments?

        October 7, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          Mark,

          That is not an accurate comparison. goodness, goodwill, evil, truth, beauty, justice, fairness, and love are all concepts. If you were to ask me, and I would guess most atheists, does the "concept of god exits", the answer is yes, god as a human concept is real.

          But that isn't what is being argued is it? The issue is "is god actually real". I admit I don't know. I will argue that there is not a definition of god that makes much sense and no reason to believe any of the proposed gods are anything more than manmade. In contrast humans generally agree on the definition of the definitions of the subjective concepts you are trying to compare "god" to. Where as the term “God” as you use it has no real meaning because everyone’s definition of God is different.

          I also don't really believe you when you claim god is immaterial, unless you are using god purely as a concept. Love, justice, ect. do not create anything by themselves and yet I am assuming you are claiming "god" does create things by himself. Can you explain how an immaterial "thing" creates material? It seems to me you are comparing apples to oranges when you compare "god" to concepts and emotions like "love" and "justice".

          October 7, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
  10. louie

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

    she said she had no idea, but the stooges were real

    October 7, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • WD

      I wondered when "louie" would show up. Can "huey" be far behind...?

      October 7, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
      • huie

        y would your god force people to help the poor, wd? he supported slavery 4 pete's sake, woman.

        "People can actually admit that they don't know." that's true and that's what he said u said.

        and y worry about hacking now? we have months of ur crimes already sealed on disc

        October 7, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • louie

      now my song is getting thin, i've run out of luck!
      time for me to retire now, and become a duck

      –llama llama llama duck

      October 7, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
    • Nance

      All different names for the insidious troll that is named "Karie/faith/hhari". Called out by Mr. Blake. Where's your lawsuit now,< louie? You're a cartoon character, all right.

      October 7, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
  11. Psalm 40:4-5

    4 Blessed is the one
    who trusts in the Lord,
    who does not look to the proud,
    to those who turn aside to false gods.[b]
    5 Many, Lord my God,
    are the wonders you have done,
    the things you planned for us.
    None can compare with you;
    were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
    they would be too many to declare.

    October 7, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
    • Ezekial 23:20

      There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.

      October 7, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
  12. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    @John Blake,

    great article.

    The tone of an internet bulletin board is also influenced by the moderation process. Where there is no moderation, or automatic moderation that cannot distinguish between profanity and "const.itution" yet is easy to "circu.mvent" results in the wild wild west, which we see here everyday.

    Even Google is now attempting to corral the wild wild western landscape that You Tube comments have become. Conceivably, that is a less contentious place than purely religious views.

    October 7, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • Commenter

      Yes, and add the automatic moderation of having only "down" votes counted (Report Abuse) and posts being removed on the basis of a few people's whims.

      October 7, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
  13. Psalm 33:12-15

    Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
    the people he chose for his inheritance.
    13 From heaven the Lord looks down
    and sees all mankind;
    14 from his dwelling place he watches
    all who live on earth—
    15 he who forms the hearts of all,
    who considers everything they do

    October 7, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • Psomeone

      I'm sure that the waxing-rhapsodic language in these psongs and psonnets gives you a thrill.

      They say nothing regarding the legitimacy or reality of this "God" character from old Israeli writings.

      October 7, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
      • Psalm 19:1

        The heavens declare the glory of God;
        the skies proclaim the work of His hands.

        October 7, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
        • Psalm 137:9

          Happy the one who takes and dashes
          Your little ones against the rock!

          October 7, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
        • Wm.Russ Martin

          Cripple fight!
          South Park 5:3

          October 7, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
  14. Psalm 63:1

    You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.

    October 7, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • Psong

      Hey there Delilah
      I've got so much left to say
      If every simple song I wrote to you
      Would take your breath away
      I'd write it all
      Even more in love with me you'd fall
      We'd have it all

      Oh, what you do to me
      Oh, what you do to me

      October 7, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • Rush 21:12

      ... "The massive grey walls of the Temples rise from the heart of every Federation city. I have always been awed by them, to think that every single facet of every life is regulated and directed from within! Our books, our music, our work and play are all looked after by the benevolent wisdom of the priests..."
      We've taken care of everything
      The words you hear, the songs you sing
      The pictures that give pleasure to your eyes.
      It's one for all and all for one
      We work together, common sons
      Never need to wonder how or why.
      We are the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx
      Our great computers fill the hallowed halls.
      We are the Priests, of the Temples of Syrinx
      All the gifts of life are held within our walls.
      Look around at this world we've made
      Equality our stock in trade
      Come and join the Brotherhood of Man
      Oh, what a nice, contented world
      Let the banners be unfurled
      Hold the Red Star proudly high in hand.
      We are the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx
      Our great computers fill the hallowed halls.
      We are the Priests, of the Temples of Syrinx
      All the gifts of life are held within our walls.

      October 7, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Psonnet

      How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
      I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
      For the ends of being and ideal grace.
      I love thee to the level of every day's
      Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

      October 7, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • AgnostiBytes 1.1

      I will keep searching for answers. Meanwhile, I am not overly troubled with answers that escape me, and I am encouraged by each new experience and discovery.

      October 7, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
  15. Michael

    If you don't beleive than that's ok God is only wanting to keep those that dont rebel
    Who among you want to live forever with those that rebel againts you ?
    To say there is no God is to say there is no good so if there is no good then there is no evil.
    So with that said go into the world and do as you wish and no harm will befall you.
    Stand in front of the judge and say that was not evil because God and good does not exist .
    And the judge will place you in the dungeons where good are evil does not exists .
    I tell you you are all judged no one will not be judge.
    Good will judge evil and evil will fall .

    October 7, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Observer

      "To say there is no God is to say there is no good"

      That's the same God who supports slavery, right?

      October 7, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
      • Fred

        Biblical slavery and plantation slavery are two different things. Biblical slavery is along the lines of indentured servitude.
        Plantation slavery was slavery for life and slavery for your offspring. See the difference?

        October 7, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
        • Nope

          Fred,

          Leviticus 25:

          "Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly."

          October 7, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
        • Observer

          Fred,

          Try again. You don't OWN your house servants.

          October 7, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
        • Dude

          Want to know what it was like to be a slave? Stop paying your taxes. And you'll see you are not free today.

          October 7, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
        • Just the Facts Ma'am...

          I think the only way Christians can prove their moral biblical version of slavery is to offer to be non-Christians slaves. When you show up on my door Fred and ask me to be your master I swear I will treat you according to ancient Israel law regarding slaves. So when should I be expecting you?

          October 7, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
        • Alex

          "Biblical slavery and plantation slavery are two different things. Biblical slavery is along the lines of indentured servitude."

          Only for fellow jews, and then again if the man took a wife as a slave, and the wife belonged to his master, the jewish man could go free if he wanted after 7 years, but must leave his wife and potential children behind. If he wishes to stay with his wife and children, then they all become property and all their children after them forever.

          " If you buy a Hebrew slave, he is to serve for only six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom. If he was single when he became your slave and then married afterward, only he will go free in the seventh year. But if he was married before he became a slave, then his wife will be freed with him. If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave, and they had sons or daughters, then the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master. But the slave may plainly declare, 'I love my master, my wife, and my children. I would rather not go free.' If he does this, his master must present him before God. Then his master must take him to the door and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will belong to his master forever. (Exodus 21:2-6)

          If anything, it turns out that plantation slavery was MORE moral than biblical slavery!

          October 7, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
        • R.M. Goodswell

          Indentured servitude and your 'plantation slavery' are exactly the same thing: Slavery
          What happens to that indentured servant should they get sick of the 'master's' crap and decides to leave?

          holding someone against their will and forcing them to clean your damn toilet and bring you tea at 2:00pm is wrong- I don't care how much money they owe you.

          October 7, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
      • Topher

        1. You do know that the slavery in the Bible is not the same we had in this country, right?

        2. Could you please show me/tell me the verse in the Bible that supports slavery?

        October 7, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
        • ?

          Topher look it up yourself, too lazy or nor competent.

          October 7, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
        • Just the Facts Ma'am...

          "However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way." Leviticus 25:44-46

          Even the Israelites understood the difference between indentured servitude where you may be paying off a debt and getting to own a person as property that you get to pass onto your children as an inherritence. They themselves did not want to be slaves so they had a nice double standard written in.

          October 7, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
      • Fred

        Observer,
        Try again. It was still not a lifelong slavery. You could serve and eventually be free.
        In fact, the law of Moses had a prohibition AGAINST returning runaway slaves to their owners.

        Nice try, but no soup for you.

        October 7, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
        • Observer

          Fred,

          Can't you read?

          "You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life,"

          Too blinded to see reality?

          October 7, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
      • Fred

        I think you're the one who chooses not to see. Nowhere in the verse you cited does it say, "slavery for life."
        That's the interpretation you want and so you will it to be there.

        October 7, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
        • ME II

          Ummm.... isn't that exactly what it does say?

          "...and can make them slaves for life..."

          October 7, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
        • Observer

          Fred,

          Is English a second language for you? Do you have a severe reading comprehension disability?

          (Lev. 25:44-46) “Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can MAKE THEM SLAVES FOR LIFE, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.”

          Have you ever read or even seen a Bible?

          October 7, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
        • Madtown

          Leviticus 25:46 indeed says that.

          October 7, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
        • Lawrence of Arabia

          Just an observation here... But those slaves in the passage that you quote from were to be made from pagan nations that Israel was to either drive out or destroy... Slavery was a rather humane option.

          October 7, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
        • Observer

          Lawrence of Arabia

          "Slavery was a rather humane option."

          Slave owners were free to break the bones of even elderly female slaves WITHOUT ANY PUNISHMENT if they didn't die "in a day or so".

          Try again.

          October 7, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
        • Justin

          Actually, from the bible commentary that I consulted it says in the Hebrew that the word "slaves" is not used. Since it is implied the English translators use the word "slaves." So actually Fred has a point. What we normally think of a slave might be something different since the word "slave" is not used in the Hebrew.

          October 7, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
        • Just the Facts Ma'am...

          "You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance."

          "permanent inheritance" = "slavery for life", it's just a different way to say the exact same thing.

          October 7, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
        • Lawrence of Arabia

          Justin, was that "dulas?"

          October 7, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
        • Observer

          Justin,

          So people were free to use rods to break the bones of other women WITHOUT ANY PENALTY if they didn't die in a day or so?

          So this is just another ERROR in the Bible, right?

          October 7, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
        • Get Real

          Justin,

          " they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life"

          I don't care if you change the word "slave" to bfgghyuege or any other dang thing you can think of. They were allowed to OWN people for life and to pass them down in their wills.

          October 7, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
        • Madtown

          from pagan nations that Israel was to either drive out or destroy
          -----
          By pagan nations, you mean other creations of God? Other humans? Right, this is where we hear that God allegedly commands one sub-set of his equal creations to go kill and take the land of another sub-set of his equal creations. That sounds just like the desires of a loving and just God. Wait.......no it doesn't. It sounds just like human rationale.

          October 7, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
      • Dude

        If you were in debt and had no means to support your family, you could sell yourself into slavery. Many did. That is how the world worked back then. Today, the same thing happens.
        Slavery still exists. This country supports it. If you follow the source of the goods, foods and materials you consume, they probably were produced by slave labor.
        It is underground today. You are just as guilty of slavery as the god you say supports slavery.

        October 7, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
        • pharisee DM

          athies are treated far worse than the slaves purchased by god's chosen. and athies long for their punishment. they crave it. they demand to reap the evil sown from their enslavement to sin. and the wages for engaging in their love for sin is death.

          October 7, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • Madtown

      God is only wanting to keep those that dont rebel
      ------
      How do you know this?

      October 7, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
  16. Reality # 2

    Putting the kibosh on all religion and hopefully this blog in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    • A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinkerbells? etc) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "

    October 7, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • Tom

      You must be the "street corner prophet" described in this article!

      October 7, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
      • Dude

        hahaha. Don't talk to the crazy guy!

        October 7, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • Reality # 2

      Backing up the kibosh:

      Only for the those interested in a religious update:
      1. origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

      “New Torah For Modern Minds

      Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions – the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years – have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity – until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine docu-ment. “
      prob•a•bly
      Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell.

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

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

      earlychristianwritings.com/

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

      Current RCC problems:

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

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

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

      3. Mohammed was an illiterate, womanizing, lust and greed-driven, warmongering, hallucinating Arab, who also had embellishing/hallucinating/plagiarizing scribal biographers who not only added "angels" and flying chariots to the koran but also a militaristic agenda to support the plundering and looting of the lands of non-believers.

      This agenda continues as shown by the ma-ssacre in Mumbai, the as-sas-sinations of Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh, the conduct of the seven Muslim doctors in the UK, the 9/11 terrorists, the 24/7 Sunni suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the 24/7 Shiite suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the Islamic bombers of the trains in the UK and Spain, the Bali crazies, the Kenya crazies, the Pakistani “koranics”, the Palestine suicide bombers/rocketeers, the Lebanese nutcases, the Taliban nut jobs, the Ft. Hood follower of the koran, the Filipino “koranics”and the Boston Marthon bombers.

      And who funds this muck and stench of terror? The warmongering, Islamic, Shiite terror and torture theocracy of Iran aka the Third Axis of Evil and also the Sunni "Wannabees" of Saudi Arabia.

      Current crises:

      The Sunni-Shiite blood feud and the warmongering, womanizing (11 wives), hallucinating founder.

      4. Hinduism (from an online Hindu site) – "Hinduism cannot be described as an organized religion. It is not founded by any individual. Hinduism is God centered and therefore one can call Hinduism as founded by God, because the answer to the question ‘Who is behind the eternal principles and who makes them work?’ will have to be ‘Cosmic power, Divine power, God’."

      The caste/laborer system, reincarnation and cow worship/reverence are problems when saying a fair and rational God founded Hinduism."

      Current problems:

      The caste system, reincarnation and cow worship/reverence.

      5. Buddhism- "Buddhism began in India about 500 years before the birth of Christ. The people living at that time had become disillusioned with certain beliefs of Hinduism including the caste system, which had grown extremely complex. The number of outcasts (those who did not belong to any particular caste) was continuing to grow."

      "However, in Buddhism, like so many other religions, fanciful stories arose concerning events in the life of the founder, Siddhartha Gautama (fifth century B.C.):"

      Archaeological discoveries have proved, beyond a doubt, his historical character, but apart from the legends we know very little about the circu-mstances of his life. e.g. Buddha by one legend was supposedly talking when he came out of his mother's womb.

      Bottom line: There are many good ways of living but be aware of the hallucinations, embellishments, lies, and myths surrounding the founders and foundations of said rules of life.

      Then, apply the Five F rule: "First Find the Flaws, then Fix the Foundations". And finally there will be religious peace and religious awareness in the world!!!!!

      October 7, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • Fred

      Nice try. Thanks for playing, but EPIC FAIL.

      If you'd like, you can now attempt to debunk evolution. (There's a lot of bunk there to debunk.)

      October 7, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
      • Reality # 2

        Why would anyone want to debunk evolution?

        October 7, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
        • Fred

          Case in point: they recently found the fossil of an ancient fish with a jaw.
          Some scientist actually said that all creatures with jaws were descended from that fish.
          That's hilarious. I can tell that nerd doesn't understand reproduction: all things reproduce after their own kind.
          People are not descended from ancient fish.
          Thanks for the laugh, Mr. Nerd Scientist!

          October 7, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
        • Alex

          You didn't do too well in science class, did you?

          When scientists say that all mammals descended from fish, they don't mean literally we all descended from that one single fish fossil we found. It means we descended from species of fish with jawbones, and if it's not exactly the same species as that particular jaw-boned fish we found, it's something closely related to it.

          October 7, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
        • Observer

          Fred,

          Please give us your educational and professional backgrounds to show you know more than professional scientists. So far, you've shown that reading apparently isn't a strong point.

          October 7, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
        • ME II

          "People are not descended from ancient fish."

          You are incorrect.

          October 7, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
        • Lawrence of Arabia

          Is that why humans taste like fish?

          October 7, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
        • ME II

          @Lawrence of Arabia,
          "Is that why humans taste like fish?"

          Didn't know we did. It may be why we have jaws, although parallel or convergent evolution wouldn't rule it out otherwise.

          October 7, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
        • Reality # 2

          For a well-researched time-line for human evolution, see

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_human_evolution

          October 7, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
      • Little Timmy

        Why?

        October 7, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
  17. SkepticalOne

    The author left out a frequent type of post. The incoherent ramblings of the obviously mentally ill.

    October 7, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
    • GuyWhoIsActuallyAScientist

      Absolutely true. I had the same impression when I was reading the post by the first "scholar." I have had discussions with scholars of theology, but that "scholar's" post smacks more of a street-corner preacher who knows some select Bible verses (usually about the apocalypse), and peppers his/her incoherent ramblings with them. All of the end-times talk in that post leads me to believe that "scholar #1" is more likely to be a street-corner nutbag than a theologian. Or to be more specific, the person is mentally ill.

      Before anyone says that preaching about the end-times does not make one a nutbag by default, I don't disagree with you. There are many otherwise rational, mentally-healthy people out there who worry (or rejoice) about the apocalypse because of what they believe are Biblical connections to current events. But – and this is an anecdote – the great majority of end-times preachers seem to be mentally-ill. And/or... they aren't that bright. And/or they are on a hopeless mission to scare college undergraduates into... attending church? Avoiding frat parties?

      October 7, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
  18. dewie

    Liar

    October 7, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • Doris

      Some things are just not evident at all, but then other things become quite evident where you might not expect it. Like Tourette's syndrome, only manifested on a blog.

      October 7, 2013 at 11:52 am |
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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.